Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Summer of Pizza

This summer I’ve been craving an inordinate amount of pizza. I’m trying to avoid becoming a regular at the pizza restaurants in my new neighborhood so I’ve been making a lot of pizza. I’ve already blogged about BLT pizza on super flat bread and my failed beet pizza, but since then I’ve made at least two more interesting pizza recipes.

The first was a pizza potpie I read about in another blog I read, Plain Chicken. She made Chicago-Style Pizza Pot Pies, but I tried to make them with some veggies I had on hand. The concept is similar to an upside down cake. You put the ingredients on the bottom of a ramekin, starting with the cheese, then the vegetables and meat, then the pizza sauce. Finally, you lay a circle of dough over the top of the ramekin.

You bake it like that, then flip it over onto a plate when it comes out of the oven. We made these when my sister and her family were visiting and they were a hit. Everyone got to make their own pizza and it was a fun way to eat an old favorite.

I also tried something a little different for my most recent pizza, although I cooked this one right side up. I started by mixing fat-free ricotta with some homemade pesto. I put about a half cup on the crust and then topped that with about an eighth of a cup of pizza sauce. I topped that without a half cup of reduced-fat mozzarella cheese. Then I topped it with some chopped zucchini, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.

Because it was a heavier pizza, I used a thicker crust. I cheated again with a store-bought frozen loaf. The key was pre-baking it for about 10 minutes before adding the ricotta and other toppings. It was crispy enough to stand up to the heavy topping.

It was good the first time I ate it and made tasty leftovers for two lunches. It was definitely better than the beet pizza and in the same league as the BLT.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Balkan Spiral Pies

It’s cabbage time. I love cabbage and have no problem coming up with recipes for it. In past CSA seasons I’ve been making borscht, cabbage rolls, and sweet and sour cabbage. With my last CSA box, I ended up with two heads, thanks to the swap box.

I used the first head in Cabbage and Cashew Salad for a dinner this week with my Cooking Light cooking club. It was a perfect coleslaw made even better with cashews, but wasn’t very adventurous. That’s why the second head went into a more daring enterprise: Balkan Spiral Pies with Cabbage Filling.

The recipe was hiding away in The Cabbage Family section of my Bon Appetit Vegetable cookbook among the more familiar cabbage recipes. A couple things interested me:

  1. The word pie. I love them sweet or savory. Even with cabbage they had to be good?
  2. The recipe called for phyllo dough. I love that too. It’s one of my favorite Greek ingredients.
  3. It also called for bacon. Can’t go wrong there.

With that I was off to the grocery store to obtain the ingredients I didn’t have, namely bacon and phyllo dough. The recipe starts with cabbage and bacon, but more interesting are the spices used. In addition to sugar, two tablespoons of Hungarian paprika and a teaspoon of crushed caraway seeds, seasoned the cabbage, onion and bacon mix that is the filling for the pies.

Because I was trying to cut down on the fat and calories, I used non-stick cooking spray to soften the phyllo sheets. After ripping the first a few in half, I finally got the hang of it. I sprayed each one with cooking spray before folding it in half horizontally. It was only later that I realized I should have probably folded them lengthwise. After that, I added the filling about an inch from the crease before rolling it up like a cigar before coiling it into something that was about as big as a cinnamon roll.

Later after I ate them, I looked up Balkan Spiral Pies and found this product, which let me know that I hadn’t rolled mine up the right way. The other difference was that the recipe said it would make 12 pastries, but I only ended up with nine slightly smaller portions.

In any case, looks didn’t really matter, since they tasted the same no matter the shape or size. The filling was a nice mix of spicy, from the caraway and paprika, and sweet from the sugar and the maple-flavored bacon I used.

I’m looking forward to trying the recipe again with the cabbage filling, but I’ also am going to make spiral pies the next time I make spinach pie. I also froze a couple of the cabbage spiral pies for later. I think they’ll taste especially good on some upcoming cold winter’s night.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Food Moment

I remember the first time I ate peanut sauce. Well, not really the moment, but the taste. I have no idea what restaurant it was at or with whom I shared the meal, but what I do remember is how much I loved the taste of that sweet spicy peanut-infused sauce.

It was a food moment. I’ve had a few in my life. The first time I ate pesto. Biting into my first stuffed grape leaf. Eating a garlic blue cheese burger. Something that tastes so good and different, it changes the way I look at food.

I had always been a fan of sauces, but this one blew my mind. Sauce, with nuts in it? I was really getting exotic now! I remember that not long after my meal I came upon jarred peanut sauce and couldn’t believe my luck. I plucked it off the shelf and took it home where I scooped it out of the jar and smeared it over noodles with sautéed vegetables until I had scraped the last bit out off the bottom of the glass. It seemed a little thick and I knew it was probably not very good for me, but I was willing to suffer a few extra pounds for something so tasty.

Luckily, when I went back to the same store to find a second jar, I found that the supply had disappeared. After several more trips and the shelf not being replenished I gave up. Over time, I forgot about peanut sauce and treated myself only occasionally when I saw it on a Thai menu.

It wasn’t until I came across a recipe for Peanutty Noodles in Cooking Light that I realized I could make this dish at home. The bonus was that the sauce had to be lighter than that served in a restaurant and I’m sure much better for me than the goop I found in that jar.

Tonight I had a crookneck squash and carrots on hand but wasn’t sure what to make with them. As I paged through my recipe binder I came upon the recipe and knew I had my meal. When I looked a little closer at the dateline below the clipped out recipe I was surprised to see that it said May 2000.

As I mixed up the sauce, sautéed the squash, peeled the carrots, and boiled the soba noodles I tried to remember the circumstances of that first dish, but I couldn’t recall. As I mixed all my ingredients together and the sweet, spicy scent rose up to my nose I thought a memory might return, but I couldn’t think of anything except how good it tasted.