Charcuterie Pizza

December 18th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Pork and Beef

I realize I’m not going to win any awards from the American Heart Association with this statement, but you pretty much can’t go wrong when you make a pizza from a leftover charcuterie plate. You know — the cured meat and cheese platter you put together for your holiday party that you kept buying more for because you were positive you hadn’t ordered enough? That’s me every year for every party and last time it happened I kept picking at the leftovers whenever I opened the refrigerator (willpower in the face of charcuterie: not my strong suit), which left me feeling like the glutton of the century. This time, I wised up and made use of the treasure in one fell swoop: I chopped all my meat and cheese, dumped it on a pizza crust and served it for dinner with massive tangle of greens, which, naturally, canceled out any residual guilt.

What to do with Other Holiday-ish Leftovers:

Making a Ham for Christmas? Turn leftovers into World’s Best Pea Soup.
Making Andy’s World Famous Pork Ragu? If there’s any meat leftover, make 10-Minute Tortellini. (Could also do this with Short Ribs.)
Making a spaghetti dinner ? Be sure to make extra pasta, leave it unsauced, then go for the Spaghetti Omelet.
Leftover chicken of any kind? Shred it and add to Creamy Lemony Avgolemeno. OhBoyOhBoyOhBoy.
Leftover filet of beef? (Yeah right.) Steak Sandwiches with Gruyere, Caramelized Onions and Pickles.

Charcuterie Pizza
There are surely some combinations of cheese and meat that work better than others, but chances are if the cheese is firm and you have some bocconcini (little mozzarella balls) in the mix, you’ll be good to go.

Olive oil, for greasing
1 16-ounce ball homemade pizza dough (or your favorite storebought) I replaced a cup of all-purpose flour with whole wheat for the one you see above.
1 1/2 cups homemade pizza sauce (or your favorite storebought)
Leftover cured meats, such as salami or prosciutto, chopped
Leftover firm cheese such as Manchego, Parmesan (grated) and or Bocconcini balls (halved)

Preheat oven to 500°F. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, grease a 17-by-12-inch  rimmed baking sheet with the oil. Drop your pizza dough into the center of the baking sheet, and using your fingers, press out and flatten the dough so it spreads as close as possible to all four corners. This might seem difficult, but persist — the thin crust will be worth it.

Add the sauce to dough, spreading with a spoon. Sprinkle meat on top and cover with cheese. Sprinkle meat only on one half if you want to keep part of it vegetarian-friendly. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is bubbly. If the crust is browning faster than the toppings are cooking, cover with foil and continue to bake.

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Halloween Candy, A Second Life

November 9th, 2012 · 10 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations

Wow. So many options for titles today!

  • What to Do With Leftover Halloween Candy
  • A Problem I Did Not Know I Had
  • Tips and Tricks for Making Candy Even More Unhealthy!
  • Why Talk Presidents When You Can Talk Peppermints?

Well, you get the idea. Yesterday I packed up whatever spooky outdoor decorations had not been destroyed by the hurricane and rooted around the girls’ treat bags to see what was left: Some Crunch bars, an orange Tootsie Roll, peanut M&Ms, a bag of pretzels, and about 20 Peppermint Patties. So I did what any self-respecting mother would do: I broke out one of the girls’ brownie mixes (in this case Ghirardelli), nestled in some patties before baking (submerging them in the batter completely is key), then turned my enterprising eyes toward the rest of the loot. (more…)

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Pace Yourself

May 23rd, 2012 · 16 Comments · Dinner, Quick, Vegetarian

We’ve been talking a lot about the idea of pacing in our house. This is partly because it’s spring, which means it’s Presidential Physical Fitness Award time, which means that, among other things, the girls have been forced to learn how to run a mile without running out of steam.  (I’m both horrified and proud to discover that they take these fitness challenges as seriously as I did in 1981.) I’m also talking a lot about pacing because it seems that every interviewer I’ve spoken with in connection with my book, at some point comes around to this question: Is it OK to order takeout every now and then?

Well, you guys have been with me from the start, so you know how I’m going to answer this one. Obviously it’s NOT OK. Seriously, if you order in from that Chinese place again, God only knows what will become of your children who were doing so well in school and now — just because you were too lazy to make your own moo shu pork — they are on the fast track to failure. You know exactly who to blame when your kid comes up two minutes short on his mile run.

Sometimes I’m really tempted to answer it that way. I think everyone — including the interviewer — knows deep down that this whole family dinner thing is about balance. It’s not about everyone sitting down together every single night eating the exact same thing while deconstructing Kant. It’s about doing as many of these things (um, except the Kant part) as often as you can, and letting go when you can’t. As I’ve said before, to my daughters, and way back when I first started this blog, I’m pretty sure this whole dinner thing (this whole parenting thing actually) is about the marathon, not the sprint. Why wouldn’t I order Chinese if it means that’s the only way family dinner is going to happen that night?

Especially since the next day, I can take the leftover sticky rice and fry up a homemade crispy rice omelet.

 

Crispy Rice Omelet
Of course, this was only enjoyed by the two people at the table who don’t wrinkle their noses in disgust at the sight of eggs. That is, it was enjoyed by the grown-ups.

canola oil
2 tablespoons minced scallions or onions
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
shake of red pepper flakes (to taste)
3/4 cup leftover rice, preferably sticky Chinese takeout
3 – 4 eggs (I used 3 but wished it was more eggy)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
handful frozen peas (to taste)

Preheat broiler. Add a little oil to a cast iron or nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add scallions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute until everything is soft and fragrant. Add rice and spread out in one layer, turning up heat a bit. Don’t stir for about a minute so it gets nice and crispy. Stir again and wait another minute. Meanwhile whisk together eggs and soy sauce and add peas to egg mixture. Turn heat down to medium-low and pour egg mixture over fried rice, tipping the pan so the egg distributes itself evenly over the rice. Cook until underside is crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a broiler and bake another 3 minutes or until egg looks golden and bubbly on top. Serve with a drizzle of soy sauce and a green salad.

Then give yourself an award.

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I Got This

April 16th, 2012 · 20 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Domestic Affairs, Posts by Andy, Uncategorized

We have a bowl on our counter. It’s a wooden salad bowl that we have turned into a fruit bowl. I’m not a chemist, so I can’t tell you why this is, but this bowl has a strange and unpleasant effect on the produce we (stupidly) put inside it: it accelerates the ripening process. It possesses mysterious transformative properties. It’s like some kind of primitive oxygen deprivation chamber, a Destroyer of Life. Put a plum in there and, two days later, it’s a prune. Put a potato in it and, one week later, it has been colonized by these creepy, blooming nodules. It turns limes yellow, and lemons brown. Put a bunch of green bananas in it, blink three times, and they’ve been turned into the wizened, leathery fingers of a prehistoric animal. We end up throwing most of this stuff away. You’d think, given all this, we’d figure out a solution to the problem – like, I don’t know, use a different bowl? – but we’re people who have had a broken, leaning lamppost in our front yard for eight years, and have never quite mustered the energy to get it fixed. We’re people who bought four huge plastic storage bins to organize our family shame basement a few months ago, and have yet to move them the ten feet from the garage into the basement, let alone fill them. It can take me weeks to change a light bulb – to the point that the act of finally replacing them feels like a victory. Inertia is our default mode – or, at least, it sure can feel that way sometimes.

The bowl, though: God, it bums me out. I resent it for reminding me of my powerlessness. So, last Saturday morning, when I looked over and saw three blackened, old-before-their-time bananas sitting there, on the cusp of total putrefaction, I decided to act. I would save them from the trash.

“I’m making banana bread,” I said.

Jenny was at the table, reading. “You’re weird,” she said.

I went over to the shelf and pulled a few stalwart cookbooks down – Bittman, Gourmet, New York Times, Ina Garten — and starting scanning indexes.

“I have a banana bread recipe,” Jenny said. “It’s in the blue binder, under desserts.” I knew the one she was referring to: it was from her friend Elizabeth, handwritten on a Real Simple notecard, and we’d been eating it for years.

“No, thanks,” I said. “I’m good. I think I’m gonna try the Bittman.”

“Why? You love that recipe.”

“Do we have any coconut?” I asked.

“Coconut?”

“Yeah, Bittman calls for shredded coconut. Do we have any?”

“You’re really annoying.”

Jenny was all uppity about it, too. She couldn’t believe I was stepping out like this, looking elsewhere for inspiration. Was this a referendum on her banana bread? No, it was not. Did this mean I loved her any less? No, it did not. The truth is, she does the same thing to me all the time. I have a perfectly good stir-fry recipe, one we’d made happily together for ten years, but she had to go and improve it by adding rice wine vinegar and hoisin sauce. Partly, this constant off-roading and experimenting is due to having a food blog and always needing new things to write about; but partly, it’s about, well, you know what it’s about. It’s about showing your spouse that you are still capable of discovering something new, all by yourself. It’s about keeping that (flickering) flame of your old identity — the one that exists outside of the “we” of marriage, the one with free will – alive in some small way. So, with Phoebe’s help, I put our stand-by aside and tried a new banana bread. Was it better? Who’s to say? But was it mine? Yes.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
This is great for school lunches and, toasted, for breakfast. I added a handful of chocolate chips, and subbed out some white sugar for brown, but otherwise, this is the Bittman recipe from the original How to Cook Everything.

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 cups flour (any combination of whole wheat and all-purpose)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a loaf pan.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and beat in the eggs. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Stir in vanilla, nuts, coconut, and chocolate.

Pour the batter into your greased pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

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Melt the Bunny

April 10th, 2012 · 17 Comments · Baking and Sweets, Birthdays, Holidays, Celebrations, Rituals

I’m beginning to think that parenting is just a lifelong excuse to turn anything into a celebration. Because if you really think about it, there is always something to celebrate.  The problem with this of course, is…there’s always something to celebrate, i.e. there’s always some kind of treat that — in our house at least — seems to be central to the celebrating. It’s the last day of school before spring break: By The Way Bakery cupcakes! You just rode your bike four miles: Mint chip ice cream! It’s Daddy’s birthday: Cherry pie! No cavities at the dentist: Pain au chocolat! It’s Passover: Matzoh brittle! It’s Easter….oh dear Lord, Easter. I think this holiday — which we technically don’t even celebrate — might have officially eclipsed Halloween as the biggest treat-o-thon in our family. It begins with the obligatory air-dried Peeps, then the neighbor’s Easter Egg hunt where we are lucky to come home with only a few chocolate eggs. (Woe is the poor soul who wins the 1000 Jelly Bean Jar contest!) And then there is the long-awaited treat-filled basket from Grandma, which, to the girls delight, always includes a ginormous chocolate bunny. A ginormous chocolate bunny that ends up sitting in his plastic case in the corner of the kitchen like a museum piece: So fun to look at, yet never consumed. This year, we decided to change that — instead of letting him get all dusty and sad, we melted him down to make the healthy-ish chocolate covered banana pops that you see below. They are easy, delicious, and just the thing to cap off our dinner on Thursday, when we plan to celebrate the dog’s third birthday.

Chocolate Covered Banana Pops

There is a recipe for these in my first cookbook, but you don’t really need official instructions. Before you begin, cut your bananas in half, insert popsicle sticks or halved wooden skewers (as shown below) and freeze for about 15 minutes on a flat surface. While bananas are freezing, melt down your bunny over low heat (removing all bowties and styrofoam accessories, please), whisking as the bunny shrinks*. (You can also do this in the microwave in a Pyrex for about a minute, depending on the size of the bunny.) When your chocolate has melted, pour into a deep measuring cup or a cereal bowl. Dip your now semi-frozen bananas into the chocolate and place pops down on a wax-paper covered surface. Quickly sprinkle oats, sprinkles, or chopped nuts on top before the chocolate hardens. Freeze until ready to eat, at least a half hour.

*I added water as mine melted to get to the right consistency, but usually even a drop of water or hint of steam puts the chocolate at risk of seizing, so only do this if absolutely necessary. My friend who works in a test kitchen surmises that the reason mine didn’t seize and get grainy was because the chocolate in the bunny was not, in fact, real chocolate.

The chocolate hardens fast, so add your toppings quick like a bunny.

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