Posts made in April, 2013

Spinach, Arugula, and Ricotta Pizza

Another favorite spring vegetable: Arugula. It’s so peppery and adds a wonderful touch to salads, sandwiches, and pizza.

Local Produce Used:

Spinach from 2 Crows Farm

Arugula from Northridge Organic.

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Recipe (which is enough for three small pizzas):

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix:

1 small container of ricotta cheese

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

red pepper flakes, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste

Spread this mixture on top of the pizza dough (make sure you leave enough for each pizza). Top with spinach leaves. Sprinkle the top of the pizza with oregano and parmesan or Romano cheese.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

When the pizza comes out of the oven, top it with the fresh arugula. The heat from the pizza will hit the arugula and give off the most amazing peppery smell. Give the pizza a few minutes to cool (if you can) and enjoy!

Photo before the arugula:

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Photo after the arugula:

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Another variation:

Add sliced mushrooms and gouda cheese on top before baking. (Photo taken before the pizza went into the oven):

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Gorgonzola Stuffed Artichokes

Artichoke season is here! I look forward to this season every year.

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Growing up, my family always served whole artichokes with melted butter to dip the leaves and heart in. In recent years, however, I learned a new way to enjoy artichokes: stuffed with a sinful amount of gorgonzola cheese (thanks for Giada de Laurentiis). It’s not often that I indulge in this much cheese at once, but trust me. This recipe is worth it.

First you must prepare the artichokes. Cut off the stem so that the artichokes can stand upright on their own. Some people also suggest cutting off the prickly tips of the leaves. I usually don’t do this and just try to be cautious when handling them. If serving guests, it might not be a bad idea.

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Bring a large pot to boil with just enough water in it to cover the artichokes about half way. Add a few lemon slices to the water, add the artichokes and steam/boil them for at least 40 minutes to an hour (depending on how big the artichokes are). When  you can easily pull a leaf off, they’re done. Drain them and set them aside to cool. You can do this step the day before, to save time.

Now to clean the artichokes. Once they’re cool enough to handle, open up the center leaves until you can see the little tiny purple leaves. Keep prying open the big leaves but don’t remove them! There’s a lot of meat on those leaves. Once you reach the tiny purple leaves, pull them out. At this point you’ll see a hairy substance (called the choke). The heart is underneath the choke. Gently scrap off the choke and discard. This is what your artichoke will look like at this point:

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And this is what the choke looks like. Don’t eat this:

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Now to prepare the stuffing, mix together:

about 8-10 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese*

2 tablespoons of half and half or heavy cream

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon of fresh or dried thyme

1 tablespoon of fresh parsley

a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper

Stuff this inside the artichoke (it should rest between the leaves and sit on top of the heart).

Bake the artichokes, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

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To eat, dip the leaves in the cheese and use your front teeth to scrap off the meat from each leaf. Once you get through all of the leaves, the wonderful heart will be at the bottom of the cheese, just waiting to be devoured.

*Not big on gorgonzola? My mom isn’t either. She’s tried this recipe using many different kinds of cheese and has yet to find one that melts as well as the gorgonzola. Goat cheese is doable, but it won’t be as creamy.

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Today’s Farmers’ Market Find: Ohio Spring Greens

Spring is truly, finally here. And one of my favorite parts of spring is the abundance of greens that start appearing at the markets. Think of this post as my ode to local greens.

Here’s a photo of the wonderful greens that I found at the Worthington Farmers’ Market today.

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What’s in the photo? Moving clockwise, starting with the top left: Italian Kale, Spinach, Bib lettuce, Chinese cabbage, Arugula, and Lettuce Mix.

Bib lettuce and Chinese cabbage are from VanScoy Farms. Everything else is from Northridge Organic.

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Classic French Onion Soup. a.k.a The Soup that Requires a Box of Tissues to Make.

A fair warning. This recipe has a lot of steps. East steps, yes, but there’s a lot of them. See, I’m in my late twenties, I don’t have a family of my own yet, so on my day off, if I want to spend over four hours in the kitchen making soup, I can do it. In fact, when I saw this French onion soup recipe, its main appeal was how long it would take.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for old classic recipes that take hours to make.

The recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated Soups, Stews and Chilis. I’ve been searching for a good soup cookbook for years and can now say that this is the one I’ve been searching for. It’s perfect. So all credit goes to the wonderful editors of Cook’s Illustrated.

To begin the recipe you:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut 4 lbs of yellow onions into slices (cut with the grain). Spray a dutch oven with cooking spray, put the onions into the dutch oven, mix with 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of butter (cut into 3 pieces). Cover it and bake it for one hour.

Sounds simple, right? Except they forget to mention one minor detail in the recipe. You’re going to need an entire box of tissues to cut 4 lbs of onions. My eyes have always been sensitive to onions. They started watering after slicing 1/2 an onion. I still had 3 1/2 onions to go, so I knew I was in trouble. The process, for me, went like this: Cut an onion. Run to the bathroom and wipe eyes. Give eyes a minute to stop burning. Go back to the kitchen. Cut another onion. Try not to cut finger off while eyes are on fire and tears are blinding vision. Run back to the bathroom again.

By the time I was done, onions and tissues were all over the floor. I didn’t feel very French at this point.

This is what 4 lbs of onions looks like:

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And this is what the onions look like after baking for an hour:

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Next: stir the onions and scarp the sides of the pot. Put the onions back in the oven, covered partially this time (leave about an inch open) and cook for another 1 1/2 hours to 1 3/4 hours. When you take them out of the oven, they look like this:

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This time, after you pull them out of the oven, you put them on the stove and cook them over medium high heat for about 20-25 minutes. Stir and scrap the pot until the liquid evaporates and there’s a brown coating on the bottom. They will look like this:

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Add 1/4 cup of water and scrap up the brown parts from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water evaporates (about 6-8 minutes this time). Repeat this process 2 or 3 times. By the end, the onions will look like this:

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See how much darker they are? And to think it’s just water, onions, and butter! Anyway, stir in 1/2 cup of dry sherry and let cook for about 5 minutes. At this point I added 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water (the recipe called for beef stock instead of water, but I obviously skipped the beef). Also add thyme, a bay leaf, and salt. Scrap the brown bits and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes.

Finish it off by topping each broiler proof bowl of soup with a piece of toasted bread and a handful of Gruyere cheese. Put under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

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So the verdict? This soup is amazing! The flavor is worth every single step. With that said, this is not a soup I will be doing more than once or twice a year.

And also: buy this cookbook or get it from the library. It is an excellent soup book to have on hand. I will be definitely trying more recipes soon (just maybe ones that don’t take 4 hours to make.)

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Rethinking the Freezer

The freezer is an essential tool for any cook interested in seasonal, homemade food. As you may have guessed, you won’t find frozen fish sticks and chicken nuggets in my freezer.

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Below is a list of my ideal freezer. Granted, some summers are busier than others, and I don’t always have time to freeze things such as tomatoes, but when possible, this is list of everything I like to have on hand:

  1. Chili Peppers. I don’t even remember the last time I bought a jalapeno from a grocery store. In Ohio, at the end of the summer, peppers are in abundance. I always buy a whole bunch at the end of the summer and freeze them along with any unused ones from my own backyard. Perfect to have on hand for winter chilies, sauces, soups, etc. And it’s not limited to jalapenos. All chili peppers work.
  2. Bell Peppers. Whether frozen whole or in slices, they freeze surprisingly well. I do a combination of both. Slices are wonderful for stir fries and pastas during the winter. Whole peppers are good for stuffing. And as with the chili peppers, in Ohio, they are in abundance at the end of the summer.
  3. Chicken and/or Vegetable Stock. Boxed stock does not even come close to comparing with homemade. Whenever I make homemade, I like to try to freeze some so that I have it on hand for quick weeknight dinners and sick days. I freeze them in various size containers so that if I only need a small amount, I don’t have to defrost a huge jar. I’ve also heard that you can freeze it in ice cube trays but have yet to try it.
  4. Breadcrumbs. Why buy breadcrumbs? Instead process stale bread and stick it in the freezer to have on hand.
  5. Beans. Often, when I cook beans, I make extra and stick them in the freezer to add to weeknight meals.
  6. Local Meat. Finally, a typical freezer food! Usually when I buy meat at the market, it’s frozen. The only challenge is remembering to think ahead and to take it out in time to defrost.
  7. Flour. Any flours that I don’t use often, I stick in the freezer, if I have space. It prevents bugs from getting into them.
  8. Waffles and/of Pancakes. Not the boxed kind. I’m talking homemade. I almost always make double batches and freeze the extras. Makes for a nice snack or quick Sunday morning breakfast.
  9. Peas. I love frozen peas. I add them to soups, rice dishes, pastas, and so on. Sometimes I even just eat them with butter and salt and pepper. A must have.
  10. Tomatoes. Towards the end of the summer and early fall, I start stocking up on tomatoes at the farmers’ market, especially Romas. Freezing them is simple. Either you can boil them in water for a couple minutes, remove the skins and then freeze them whole on a tray (move them to a storage bag after a few hours), or you can remove the skins, puree them and store them in jars in the freezer. Either way, frozen tomatoes are perfect for winter soups and stews and have much more flavor than canned tomatoes.
  11. Berries and Fruit. I’ll be honest. I always try to buy extra fruit during the summer and freeze it. I key word is “try.” I usually eat it all before I can freeze it.
  12. Other Farmers’ Market Produce: Green Beans freeze well. Corn (on the cob and off). Asparagus stalks for stock/soups.
  13. Corn Tortillas. I sometimes crave enchiladas. Corn tortillas freeze really well and are excellent to have on hand if you crave Mexican food as I do. Also good to make homemade chips.
  14. Sweets. Every so often, a sweet thing, such as Jeni’s Ice Cream, appears in my freezer. I really don’t know how it gets there. Also, leftover homemade cookies. If there are leftovers. Which isn’t often.

 

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