Cauliflower and Pea Pizza???

Cauliflower, pea and pine nut pizza. Yum!

Cauliflower, pea and pine nut pizza. Yum!

So last week Art made this delicious roasted garlic, tomato and mozzarella pizza from the book Desperation Entertaining.

And I said: you know what would be good?

And Art said: Uh, no.

And I said: Pizza with cauliflower and peas.

And Art said: You’re not pregnant, are you?

But, being the trooper that Art is, he was all for trying it. We had an extra Boboli crust, and some extra mozzarella cheese, so we went for it.

Art sauteed the cauliflower some, and then added in the peas and some pine nuts. We didn’t use any tomato sauce (though I think that would also be interesting), just covered the pizza crust with some olive oil and cheese and the toppings and baked it.

And you know what? It was awesome. So if you start to see pizza places offering cauliflower and green peas as toppings, you know where they got it from.

I think when we do it again, we would also incorporate roasted garlic into it to give it a little more flavor, and maybe some red pepper flakes.

But in the meantime, I give it an A for ease, an A- for taste, and an A for creativity.

(And no, I’m not pregnant.)

Making The Most Of Our Resources

A couple of weeks ago, when we tried our hand at turkey burgers, we happened upon a “buy one, get one free” deal on ground turkey at Safeway, the get-one-free of which has been taking up space in the freezer since then. A couple of days ago, I found myself in a mood of cleaning up and cleaning out. So I sold the cats.

Hahahahahaha!

No, actually I didn’t. But I did cast an eye toward that frozen turkey — and then cast my Google search on recipes centered around that ingredient. Lots of other turkey burger recipes out there, and I almost chose one of those just to see what kind of variety we could fine. But then Myrecipes.com offered up an alternative — and once more did us right.

Mini Pesto-Turkey Meatloaves drew on several items that we already had in the fridge or the cupboard: panko, onion, egg, basil, etc. The only thing we really needed to pick up was the refrigerated pesto and the mozzarella cheese. And I was particularly pleased to see that a reviewer on the recipe’s website had suggested a way to use the balance of the packaged pesto, since only three tablespoons were used in the meatloaf: Get a package of gnocchi and mix the remaining pesto with it as a twist on the standard mashed potato side dish. An inspired idea! And avoided more half-packages of things in the fridge (slowly piling up).

This really was a delicious dish. Tara and I love meatloaf, and the turkey here provided a healthy alternative with plenty of flavor. And the gnocchi? Inspired. We loved it! The recipe does make a lot, so we’ve got at least two more meals of meatloaf for later this week (and Tara’s got a gnocchi lunch that she’s looking forward to). Make this one for friends.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No cats were discarded (or included as ingredients) in the process of completing this recipe.

A Slow Boat To Louisiana…

…or at least a slow cooker in that direction.

Last week’s early burst of winter weather prompted us to search out a comfort food recipe, and Tara and I turned once more to our Williams-Sonoma Slow Cooker cookbook. I’m a big fan of gumbo, so I zeroed in on the Chicken & Sausage Gumbo. Tara had never had gumbo, so she was more reluctant but was ultimately game to give it a try. Here’s the recipe, direct from the cookbook:

Olive oil, 2 tablespoons

Skinless, boneless chicken thighs, 4, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Andouille smoked sausages, 3/4 lb., cut into 1-inch slices

Okra, 1/2 lb., cut crosswise into thick slices [Note: We used frozen, thawed]

Red or green bell pepper, 1, seeded and chopped

Celery, 3 stalks, chopped

Yellow onion, 1, chopped

Flour, 2 tablespoons

Chicken broth, 2 cups

Diced plum tomatoes, 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) with juice

Salt

Cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon

Steamed white rice, for serving

Cook the chicken: In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker, then add the sausages. Scatter the okra, bell pepper, celery, and onion on top.

Make the roux: Return the frying pan to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle the flour in the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the broth and the tomatoes with their juice and raise the heat to medium-high. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cayenne and then pour over the vegetables, chicken, and sausage.

Cook the gumbo: Cover and cook on the high-heat setting for 4 hours or on the low-heat setting for 8 hours. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Ladle the gumbo over steamed rice and serve.

***

There’s a fair amount of chopping here, and as with most of the recipes in this cookbook, the meat is braised first, so it’s not as easy as just throwing some things in the slow cooker, turning it on, and checking back in eight hours. Still, there is indeed something nice about having the aroma of the stew slowly fill the house over those hours while we watched football. And — again with the temperatures in the 40s — the prospect of the stew warmed us mightily even before we ladled it out.

And how did it taste after that ladling? Hmmm…. Tara still doesn’t like gumbo; just not her thing, she says. I like it more than she did, but not as much as other gumbos I’ve made in the past from different recipes. For one thing, it didn’t seem quite hot enough for me — neither in terms of the temperature or in terms of the spiciness. The first problem is an odd one: Eight hours in the slow cooker apparently gets stuff warm but not piping hot, leading me to wonder if we shouldn’t pop it up to “High” in the last half-hour of cooking. (I’ll need to check on that as a tactic.) The second problem was easily remedied: A few more dashes of Tabasco did the trick! (A few dashes per bowl, I should stress — so many dashes for the full recipe.)

A while back we made Jambalaya for one of our True Blood evenings and that proved an instant favorite. This one didn’t entirely, but we’ve got plenty more slow cooking during the season ahead and will keep looking for recipes to make it really pay off.

It’s Pronounced kəˈkou!

Ever since our first adventure in homemade ice cream, Tara and I have been planning to try another batch, and as soon as we saw the recipe for Cacao Nib Gelato in Bon Appetit, we knew what our next flavor would be. Some of our favorite chocolates have been laced with cacao nibs, so that ingredient was a serious attention-getter, but we’d actually never tried them on their own — and honestly we weren’t actually sure we’d be able to find them in the grocery store.

That was our first challenge here. Safeway ultimately didn’t carry them, and there was great confusion among a group of managers who tried — valiantly — to help us. The baking section at Whole Foods also didn’t have them, and the stockperson there said that no, no, nothing like that in the store. Undaunted, Team Taylor looked in the “snacks” aisle and found not one, not two, but three different brands. One challenge down! (And a reminder to Whole Foods to know their inventory.)

Our next challenge — an easy one — was using a vanilla bean for the first time. This one was pretty easy: Cut the bean in half, slice it vertically, and scoop out the beans. No problem and sort-of fun. However, as a side point I should mention that vanilla beans aren’t cheap, so the cost of this recipe might be a factor.

Beyond that, the recipe was fairly straightforward, requiring just a little more time than our last ice cream because of steeping the cacao nibs and the vanilla bean overnight. And since you’re putting all that time in, we’d also suggest that you DOUBLE the recipe here, since we ended up with half the ice cream we expected. We had enough ingredients to make a second batch; there was certainly room in our ice cream maker for more batter; the whole thing keeps well in the freezer (needless to say!); and since we loved loved LOVED the flavor of this one, we would also have loved to have more of it to eat.

Plus, cacao is so much fun to say, as Tara learned from my repeating it about 350 times over the course of our shopping and cooking. If you need help, the pronunciation is at the top of this post.🙂

A must-make!

Pasta So Good It Made Me Cry

Some lovely people bought Art and me a pasta roller attachment to our Kitchenaid mixer, and it’s been months and we haven’t used it. I felt it staring at me, wondering why it was so neglected, and we found ourselves with a cold rainy Saturday and no real plans, so I figured it was time.

I was concerned about making my own pasta, I’ll tell you now. I didn’t have faith we’d be able to get the dough right, for one. I didn’t have faith the roller would actually roll the pasta easily into useable forms. I didn’t have faith that even if we did get that far, that the pasta itself, when cooked, would actually taste good. I thought it would be mushy, or just bland. I thought the worst.

Then we started making it, and it didn’t look so good for Team Taylor. The pasta dough seemed really crumbly and dry, so we added another tablespoon of water to the recipe which called for only one tablespoon of water to begin with. It still seemed a little crumbly, but I took it out of the mixer anyway and started kneading it by hand. The dough looked like a lumpy, shapeless blob, but it seemed like it was holding together so I let it go.

Twenty minutes later, I started cutting our pasta dough into four slices to roll through the attachment. And voila, magic happened. Following the instructions, our lumpy, shapeless dough started to take shape. It started to make smooth, flat rectangles of pasta. It was beautiful. Watch here as I demonstrate:

IMG_5707Then, once I got the dough into these rectangles, we switched to the fettuccine cutter and voila again! Magic happened AGAIN. We got actual fettuccine-looking pasta shapes. Look:

IMG_5708

Now, would the fettuccine cook well? Would it taste good? While Art slaved over the vodka sauce (also from scratch, an old favorite from this recipe here: Penne with Vodka from Southern Living), I boiled some water and tossed those snakes in. A few minutes later, I tested one out. PERFECTO. Absolutely perfect al dente pasta. Like the most perfect I’ve ever had.

IMG_5710So, needless to say, our dinner was the best ever. It might actually beat out the time I went to Nan King in San Francisco as the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. It was THAT good. It was so good I got teary-eyed. Really. I don’t ever want store-bought pasta ever again. Life is too short. (That is, of course, if we can duplicate this again and it wasn’t just a fluke.)

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Turkey + Burger Shape = Turkey Burger

As bizarre as it may sound, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a turkey burger. Despite the fact that turkey is a standard lunch option for me, despite the fact that I’ve long praised turkey as the king of the poultry family, and despite having been long urged by my health-conscious parents to try turkey burgers as a better-for-you alternative to the red meat version — despite all that, I’ve never given it a try. Until now.

Earlier this week, I’d chosen a recipe from the new book Chefs of the Triangle: Their Lives, Recipes, and Restaurants — a trio of inter-related recipes, in fact, from J. Betski’s in Raleigh, NC: Pretzel-Crusted Pork Tenderloin, Cooked Sauerkraut, and Beer Jus. But the list of ingredients for that dish ultimately seemed prohibitive: several jars of spices to buy for just a small amount of the spices themselves, and a six-pack of pricey German beer just to use a single bottle, and… And with more of that kind of experience, about halfway through the grocery store, I started putting things back, then came home and started searching for another recipe. The one thing driving me? We had some whole wheat hamburger buns leftover and I wanted to use them. So I searched sandwiches on myrecipe.com and came up with Cilantro Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup.

This one was not just easy (mix a few ingredients, pan-grill the turkey, plop it on a bun) but nicely flavorful — if you like cilantro and chipotle chiles, that is! And, yes, it tasted healthy too, which can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. While I’d personally still prefer the ground beef burger, I felt good about eating this one. Another plus: Much of this relies on things you likely already have in your cabinet or refrigerator, and Tara and I lucked out on the ground turkey too, finding a buy-one-get-one-free special at Safeway, so we have a pound of turkey in the freezer waiting for next time we make this recipe.

And we certainly will make it again.

And a Little Bit of Pork Fried, Cold Beer on a Monday Night

Mmm...like a pair of jeans that fit just right.

Mmm...like a pair of jeans that fit just right.

There are many things I love about the South, and fried chicken is one of them. However, not being from the South, I haven’t had nearly enough of it in my life. And not nearly enough really good fried chicken.

Well, this recipe pays homage to fried chicken without really being fried chicken. Here’s why: it’s a recipe for fried pork, for one, and it’s a lighter version of such dish, so we’re cutting out a lot of the fat. Well, maybe not a lot, but some. And that counts.

Found this recipe for Fried Pork Chops with Cream Gravy in Southern Living. I was curious how the non-fat buttermilk and skim milk would work in a recipe that’s all about the flavor. Art bought some really thick pork chops at the store for this recipe, and in retrospect we believe this would’ve worked better with thinner slices of meat.

However, even with the thick meat, this dish still had a yumminess factor. The spices made it flavorful, the flour and buttermilk gave it texture and the gravy drowned it in creaminess. I turned the heat down when frying these, but even so, the outside got blackened just a little too much. Next time I will turn the heat down even lower and cook the meat for longer so it doesn’t burn. Or, as mentioned above, use thinner meat and cook for less time.

We paired this with green beans and some croissant dinner rolls. Delicious! Oh, and we didn’t actually have been, but whatever. Works with the song, anyway.

Would make again, with some modifications.

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