Sunday, February 28, 2010

snapshot: spicy clam and garlic pizza

clam pizza, squared
the first time i had
clam pizza, i was in high school
and for a reason
that escapes me,
i went with my family to lunch
(on a weekday, i think...
i know that i was wearing shorts,
so it must have been summer. and,
i also remember that a few minutes
after we returned home,
my (older!) (ok, 1 1/2 years older)
ex-boyfriend from summer camp
(who was already an ex-boyfriend
and lived an hour away),
pulled up unexpectedly in his car (his car!)
and i could not decide if i wanted
to run away or skip in his direction.
and, i remember wishing that
i didn't just eat clam pizza).

the circumstances
are somewhat foggy
but that pizza is not:
a bit doughy, but still crisp
on the bottom and the edges,
it was clam-heavy,
slightly spicy and full of garlic.
it was so good, that i can taste
it right now.

the restaurant is long gone,
but thankfully, several years
ago, when i wasn't thinking
about the pizza, i came across a recipe
on epicurious* and knew that i had to
make it. clam pizza is in the rotation,
which in this house means that i make
it about once a year, and never regret it.

and, like all my favorites, at this point,
i don't measure a thing. instead,
using floured hands, i stretch out out dough
(my favorite recipe**, or if i'm in a pinch,
prepared fresh dough), to fit as squarely
as possible in a rectangular rimmed baking
sheet that i've coated with cooking spray
or a mist of olive oil.

once the flat dough
has been covered with a towel
and given a 20-minute rest,
i sprinkle it with
6 large cloves chopped garlic,
and press lightly to adhere.
next, i top with
2 cans chopped clams, drained well,
a handful or two of grated parm,
a healthy sprinkling of red pepper flakes
and a couple drizzles of olive oil.
sometimes i add oregano.

then, i pop the pan into a 425˚f oven,
for 12-16 minutes,
or until the bottom is golden brown.
i pull out the garlicky pie,
transfer it to a cutting board and
cut into squares.
every time, it reminds me of my
first clam pizza. and summer.
and when i still wore
shorts. but, usually, not

*original recipe here.
**for this pizza, i leave out the rosemary in the dough.
baked clam pizza

Monday, February 22, 2010

cottage canoes

chili table
i have been writing this
blog post for two weeks.
yes, two weeks.
at first, i was going to
tell you about every recipe
i made at the super bowl,
because, really, i thought they
were all worth it,
each deserving their own
blog post and story, because
really, each had one.

then, when it became a week
since super bowl sunday,
and still no post, it seemed
absolutely silly to talk about
the super bowl when everyone
else had moved onto
valentine's day and mardi gras.
so, i tried to condense five
recipes into one post -
a not lazy. rustic. first.
but alas, it just didn't work
and five recipes are an awful
lot to tell you about in one

and the more
i thought about it, the more
i wanted to tell you about them,
but the further we were from super bowl
and i felt trapped, because i didn't just
want to jump ahead to another recipe.
it was a terrible circle of
self-loathing and blogging inadequacy.
so tonight when i was driving home from
work, it struck me:
move on, don't look back -
it's just a blog.
so here, i finally got over myself.
i'm giving you brief stories with links,
and a recipe for what i think
was a crowd favorite.
and then, maybe, we can all
just be ok.

last year, i swore that
this year's super bowl would
be much easier on me,

i swore that i would not
spend hours stressing
over what we would eat,
or hours cooking
whatever it is i finally
decide upon and
that i would write
about it all the next day
(well that part wasn't in the post,
but in my head. clearly,
this is where i failed miserably).

looking back,
i guess i'll have to take
one out of three.
and because i think
every recipe is worth sharing,
but it has taken me an unspeakably
long time to tell you about them,
here they are,
one by one.

i decided very quickly that
i wanted to host a mini chili
party, similar to what my mom
used to do when we were growing up:
three or four soups would
simmer on the stove and guests would get
a bowl,
a table full of toppings and
an unlimited pass to the saucepots.

picking the chilies,
were easy, too.
i remembered two that i've made in the past,
both found on epicurious,
one out of bon appetit,
the other, originally, in gourmet.
diced poblano
diced sweet potatoes
the first was vegetarian,
a hodgepodge of
black beans
sweet potatoes
and garlic,
all simmered in a couple cups
of orange juice.
i chopped everything,
save for the sweet potatoes
the night before and when it
was time to make, emptied
each bag into the pot, one by one.
for some reason, this pre-planning
on my part, thrilled me to no end.
while the mixture was good the
night of the super bowl,
i really wish i had prepared it
the night before - it was much
more delicious the next day.
sauce for chicken chili
the second,
equally simple,
featured only,
chicken pulled off a rotisserie bird
and pinto beans.
these are simmered inside a blender sauce of
dried chilies,
stewed tomatoes,
chicken broth,
onion and garlic.
i couldn't find the new mexico dried chilies
called for in the dish. instead, i used simply,
dried green chilies, which worked well,
but i do not know enough about chilies
to be able to tell how how different the
final flavor was.

i knew they would be good.
they were easy.
and they were fast.
cheese, lime and scallions in halved jalapenos
this of course,
gave me plenty of time to focus
on appetizers.
both of which, again, i picked
pretty quickly.
i decided to revisit a snack i'd
made years ago for a barbecue
at larry's, when we were first dating.
i had convinced lauren to come with me -
i was way too afraid to go alone.
and, after stumbling across a recipe for
previously unheard of cottage canoes,
i decided that i would charm
his friends with my cooking.

cottage canoes,
the homemade,
non-fried version of
jalapeno poppers -
named, if i remember correctly,
for their resemblance to the boats
that line the cottage lakes
in canada -
seemed like the perfect way to
win guys over.

instead, i burned my fingers
on the peppers, could not figure out
a good method for stuffing,
or breading,
realized too late that i had to learn
larry's oven to bake them and
then, understood that while lauren
and i were very prompt for the party,
most people would not show up
to this all-day summer bash
for many more hours.

his brother, david,
and i,
ate them ourselves
and we spent a long time
discussing their name.

it had been quite a while since i made
cottage canoes -
i couldn't even remember which
cookbook i had found them in -
but i found a recipe online,
and figured that was all i needed.

i tried my hardest to slice most
of the peppers so that they
each had a stem "handle"
and when i made the cheese
mixture - to which
i added chopped onions,
lime juice and hot sauce,
i let it sit out and
soften so that i could pipe the cheese
into the cavity of the peppers.
i also convinced larry
to be the egg dunker so that
i could quickly pass the wet peppers
through breadcrumbs.
much easier this time around.

these baked much better than i remembered -
the peppers softened into pleasant bites,
the cheese melty and the very thin
breading, there just enough to count.
after a few, lauren noted that eating these
was a game of jalapeno roulette:
some had such little spice that you forgot
they could have heat and the next one
would zap you and then cling
to your tongue for dear life, refusing to
relinquish its burn-your-mouth hold.
we kind of loved it.
ready to serve
was a should-i? or shouldn't-i? add in.
as part of my job,
i sometimes teach children's cooking classes.
a couple months ago,
i had the bright idea that it would be fun
to make soft pretzels with the kids.
the day of, at the end of january,
i was a ball of nerves,
imagining burnt dough,
not cooked dough,
not pretzel-tasting dough,
or worse.
but in the end - thanks to a lot of help -
they came together beautifully.
pretzel bites
so, of course, i thought,
pretzel bites for super bowl.
i can do this, i thought:
you make a yeast dough,
set it aside to rise,
cut into shape,
boil in baking soda-laced water,
then coat with egg,
sprinkle with salt
and bake.
and these? they were easy,
but of course, they had to be
made day of.

so somehow,
in spite of myself,
it was 3pm the day of the super bowl.
i had been cooking since 8:30,
was still in my pajamas,
and my coffee - my coffee that i look
so forward to every morning - sat
mostly untouched.
brown butter and salt rice krispies squares
thank goodness i had made the dessert,
from smitten kitchen, the night before.
(side note: this is the best dessert to make
when you are in a hurry. the entire thing
takes less than 10 minutes to mix together
and everyone will love this sophisticated
version of a childhood treat.)

another year.
another super bowl.
and now, i can switch my focus
back to where it belongs -
the end of february and
the dinners that come with it.
breaded cottage canoes
cottage canoes
adapted from the canadian food network
i don't remember enough to tell you if i made the same recipe both times, but i can tell you one thing for certain: last time i did not tinker with it. this time, i couldn't stop. i just like things to pop with flavor, not just be cheesy. so i increased the scallions and added onions, lime juice, hot sauce and a clove of garlic - all things that i think made a difference in the end.

12 jalapeno peppers, halved
1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded (i used the smallest hole on my box grater)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
10 drops garlic-lime hot sauce
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned, if you want)

heat oven 350˚f. using small spoon, remove seeds and membranes from peppers. place peppers, cut side up, on a flat surface.

in bowl, combine cheese, mayonnaise, worcestershire sauce, lime juice, hot sauce, scallions, onion and garlic; set aside until very soft. transfer to a small plastic bag. twist bag to secure and snip corner. pipe cheese mixture into pepper cavities. using your finger, flatten cheese.

chill peppers at least 1 hour.

dip peppers, one at a time, into beaten egg. let as much egg drip off as possible and then coat with bread crumbs, shaking off excess. place breaded pepper on greased baking sheet. gently coat with cooking spray or olive oil spray.

bake 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are cooked through, the cheese is melted and the tops are just golden brown.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

roasted cauliflower (or brussesls sprouts) with fish sauce vinaigrette and spicy puffed rice

roasted cauliflower, fish sauce vinaigrette, spicy puffed rice, cilantro
two weeks ago,
when we went to colleen's
for her housewarming party,
the makings of a gorgonzola
and no present -
i had left it at home,
on the bed in the second bedroom.
i felt bad. really bad.

but, she gave me my holiday present anyway:
david chang's momofuku.

now, i'm not sure if she knows this,
(and i know he doesn't know it),
but i have a love-hate relationship
with david chang.

it started years ago,
with this article in
at first, it was that he posed
with a dead pig. just not for me.
but then, as i read the article,
i knew that i should be annoyed
at him for his attitude toward non-meat eaters,
basically mocking them by removing
all things meat-free from the menu after
a bad incident with a haughty vegetarian.

as someone who doesn't eat meat,
i've spent many nights in a restaurant,
choosing between the pasta primavera
and the roasted vegetable sandwich -
and i usually hate every minute of those meals.

but instead of turning my back,
i had a very strong urge
to go to his restaurant and order the
ginger scallion noodles, the only
vegetarian dish he left on his menu.
i loved the fact that he didn't care -
that he loved meat and he was not
going to change who he was to appeal
to the masses. i loved that he was
standing his ground. (can you tell
that at the time, i was feeling
very suppressed in my own life?)

but, i still haven't gone.
instead, last year for larry's birthday,
i decided to to prove i was crazy.
he was turning 30 and i wanted it
to be a great birthday. the birthday.
the one that he would remember
and talk about for a long time to come.
but, if you remember, larry's birthday
is on valentine's day and it is not easy
to plan anything that is simply a birthday
on february 14th - especially when this
particular one fell on a saturday.

so, after saying no to my initial ideas -
a wine expo,
a long weekend away in baltimore,
a barbecue festival weeks away -
i decided that i would get us reservations
willing to go to a place that was,
again, very meat-happy, to give
larry a good birthday.

i'd heard all the stories
(in case you haven't, you can read
about this heart breaker of a restaurant
here, here or here).
but, really i thought, stupidly,
it will be different for me.

reservations can only be made
online, one week before, at 10 am.
so about two weeks before
larry's birthday, i sat at the computer,
set the second hand and practiced
to make sure that my clock was
set to exactly the same time as ko's.
when it said 9:59 and my second hand
showed 8 seconds left until 10,
i clicked. the entire block was covered
in red Xs. i had been shut out
and it was 10:00:18.
i stared at the screen.
how in the....? how could...?
but it was ok, i could brush it off.
this was my first day on the job and
i just needed to get in the groove.
i wasn't worried.

now it was february 8th.
it was a sunday and i had spent
the whole week trying to get in,
only to see just two green checks
the entire time, both instances
ending when i was told
that i was too slow
in my clicking.
but this was the last day -
i hadn't gotten in the whole time
because i was meant to get reservations
for his actual birthday. i just knew it.
i closed the door to our second bedroom,
set the clock to the second hand, practiced
for 14 minutes - i was determined - and when
i hit the button seconds before 10, i saw
a sea of red Xs. i didn't realize it until after,
but i was shaking from the stress of it all.

and then, i burst out crying.
i had put all my eggs in ko's basket and now,
i was plan-less. larry walked in on me crying,
saw the second hand setting on the computer
and somehow, put two and two together.
he swore that it was impossible -
i still think it is not - and that there are computers
set up to crack the reservation system - chang
says this is not true.

in the end,
his birthday was ok
(even good, i hope he would say).
we started at perilla, with an amazing,
quiet brunch, strolled through the village,
frequented a couple of bars
with hard to find beers and ended up
but, i was angry again at chang:
how could he do this to people?
it hurt my brain.

but, it's been a year
and my feelings toward him
have been mellowing,
just as my interest in visiting
one of his restaurants is returning.
it was a perfect time to receive the book.

i opened it up,
flipped a few pages and landed
on the roasted cauliflower with fish sauce vinaigrette.
it had everything i love:
roasted cauliflower,
fish sauce
and an element of weird: rice krispies.
the next page was even better:
the same recipe, but with brussels sprouts.
the next evening, at home,
i read the entire book,
mentally remembering the recipes
that i wanted to make (there are quite
a few meatless options in there),
but deciding that the cauliflower would
be the first, and soon.

the next day,
pithy and cleaver wrote about
the cauliflower - all good things
and a confirmation that i could skip
the one step i was skeptical about,
frying cilantro.
i had already decided,
but that helped.

that weekend,
i went back to mitsuwa,
bought a tiny bottle of schichimi togarashi,
the japanese 7-seasoning spice that is
often used in sushi and that i once
enjoyed sprinkled over vanilla ice cream
in a restaurant. i picked up a head of cauliflower,
some cilantro, mint and when i couldn't
find a bird's eye chile, a serrano.
otherwise, everything was in the house.
(also purchased: beautiful brussels sprouts.
when i saw them, it dawned on me -
i'd have the vinaigrette made,
i could make extra crunchies -
the next night would be the perfect night to
remake the recipe, using the sprouts.)
i made the fish sauce vinaigrette early
in the day - chopped garlic, sliced
the serrano and whisked everything together.
a few hours later,
i busied myself, cutting cilantro stems,
slivering mint, turning a head of cauliflower
into florets and toasting the puffed rice.
i resisted the urge to salt the cauliflower
before, during or after roasting,
figuring that david chang had his reasons,
(yes, i assumed one of them was fish sauce),
but still it went against my roasting beliefs.
cauliflower florets
when the cauliflower was ready,
i looked toward the vinaigrette.
it was way too much. the recipe didn't
actually specify an amount; i tossed
less than half into the bowl,
added the cauliflower and shook it all together -
there was a lot of vinaigrette left
on the bottom. it was too late to worry.
instead, i sprinkled the roasted florets
with chopped cilantro, added the spicy
puffed rice and took pictures.
spicy puffed rice with shichimi togarashi
and then, i remembered something about
puffed rice. regardless of toasting,
regardless of adding spices,
the little morsels were still just cereal.
cereal that gets just a bit soggy
when doused with milk, or um,
fish sauce vinaigrette.
it's my fault for taking a bunch of
pictures. eaten immediately, probably,
there would have been a much
lower number of casualties.
but, still, it was a solid,
flavor-packed side that we easily
finished between the two of us.
(the fact that i put so much energy
into the cauliflower and very little
thought into a main dish,
didn't hurt either.)

the next night,
i followed chang's instructions
for brussels sprouts,
halving them,
browning them in a skillet
and then finishing them in the oven.
the vinaigrette was even better after
sitting for the day, the herbs were chopped
and the topping browned, so the second
try was even simpler.
on night two, i was smarter, only sprinkling
on a few for the picture (and dumber:
i was in such a hurry to not soften the cereal
that i did not get a passable shot - sorry),
but saved the rest to sprinkle on the sprouts
just as they were served.
trimmed brussels sprout
halved brussels sprouts, browning
we both loved this version -
the brussels sprouts soaked up the
fish sauce mixture and the
crunchy, spicy cereal did wonders
for the texture of the dish.

final verdict?
overall opinion of the book?
everything looks unbelievably good and
i cannot wait to make the next recipe.
i really shouldn't be surprised -
david chang always wins.
recipe, from momofuku
roasted cauliflower with fish sauce vinaigrette and spicy puffed rice
adapted from momofuku
as i mentioned above, i did not fry the cilantro. the recipe called for heating 1/2 cup grapeseed oil (something else i didn't have) and frying 1/2 cup of the leaves. i just did not want to fry or waste the oil (but if you do and think its worth it, tell me). i'm giving you the full version for the vinaigrette, but keep in mind that we still had some left over after making one recipe and using it twice - chang says leftovers are great on meat or tossed with noodles. when i made the mixture, i reduced the sugar and upped the garlic, which i've written below. last thing, these spicy rice krispies are delicious - i'm actively trying to decide what else i can do with it.

i've included the brussels sprouts version in this recipe. chang called for 32 ounces, but i used 20. smallish brussels sprouts are best.

1/3 cup (or more) fish sauce vinaigrette (recipe below)
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced cilantro stems
3 tablespoons thinly sliced mint
1 head cauliflower OR 2 containers (10 ounces each) brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons, plus 1/2 teaspoon canola or grapeseed oil, divided
1/2 cup puffed rice
1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

heat oven to 400˚f.

for cauliflower: core cauliflower; cut into florets. in bowl, combine cauliflower and 2 tablespoons oil. divide cauliflower evenly among two foil-lined baking sheets, spreading to separate (this will ensure that they roast, not steam).

for brussels sprouts: trim and halve brussels sprouts. in large ovenproof skillet over medium, heat 2 tablespoons oil 1 minute. add brussels sprouts, halved side down; cook 2 minutes, or until they begin to brown. transfer skillet to the oven and cook 10-15 minutes, or until tender, but not not soft.

meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together fish sauce vinaigrette, cilantro stems and mint; set aside.

in small bowl, combine puffed rice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil and shichimi togarashi. warm small skillet over medium-high heat; add puffed rice mixture and toast 2-4 minutes, or until you can smell the mixture and it has turned a slightly darker shade, shaking occasionally.

in bowl, combine hot cauliflower (or hot brussels sprouts) and vinaigrette mixture; transfer to serving bowl or plates. sprinke with chopped cilantro and puffed rice mixture.

fish sauce vinaigrette
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced (or 1 to 3 bird's eye chiles)

in small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. store in tightly covered container for up to one week.