Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Real Food.

I've been thinking a lot about my philosophies on food in the past few months. Having issues with low blood sugar, I have grown to see food as a fuel that is necessary for me to enjoy my life instead of viewing calories as bad. I want things to taste good because, why bother eating if you're not going to eat well? Being an artist has also made me want to eat things that are aesthetically pleasing.
photo by HelenPalsson on Flickr

I have realized that one of my life food goals is to make everything I eat from scratch, at least once. Think about all the things you buy prepackaged or premade. Often, it takes as little effort to make it from scratch, just a little extra time. I've found that most of the time things taste so much better that I don't go back to the prepackaged stuff.

Things I've made from scratch, at least once:
  • pizza dough
  • soft pretzels
  • artisan breads, baguettes, rolls
  • blackberry jam, peach jam, strawberry jam, elderberry jelly
  • dill pickles, bread and butter pickles
  • applesauce
  • salsa
  • mustard
  • spice mix - Mexican
  • french fries, sweet potato fries
  • tomato sauce
  • smoothies - peanut butter + banana
  • naan (Indian flatbread)
  • granola bars
  • trail mix
  • cakes, cupcakes, pie crusts
Things I'd like to make from scratch:
  • English muffins
  • bagels
  • macaroni, including ravioli and tortellini
  • sausage, bacon
  • chicken, beef, veggie stock
  • ice cream
  • mayonnaise
  • yogurt
  • cheese, especially mozzarella
  • wine, beer, limoncello
  • honey (with Uncle J)
  • marshmallows
Are there other things that should be on this list?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mushroom, Olive, and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Sometimes we go back to basics. It is cool out; I want the house to be warm with the smell of bread baking and cheese melting. I love using pizza as an excuse to clean out the fridge and finding new combinations of flavors. 

For a long time I didn't like olives at all; now I know that I prefer those that don't come out of a can. Kalamatas are known for their strong salty flavor and beautiful deep purple color. How can you resist purple?

This pizza features the salty and sweet combo. By caramelizing the onions, they cook down and marinate in their own sugars, browning and sweetening up perfectly. I added mushrooms but feel free to add whatever you've got handy; ham might taste good on this too.

Ingredients (makes 1 pizza)
  • 1 batch pizza dough
  • 1/2 onion, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 package white mushrooms, sliced
  • about a dozen kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • cornmeal for sprinkling the pizza stone/pan
  • pizza sauce or spicy marinara sauce
  • 2-4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • parmesan cheese (freshly grated if possible)
  1. Prepare pizza dough about 2 hours ahead of when you'd like the pizza to go in the oven. Be sure to allow it to rise in a draft free location. If your house is cold, warm the dough bowl.
  2. Caramelize onions over medium-low heat. (Cover them, and add a splash of water if you need more steam. Other than that, leave them alone, stirring occasionally. You will see them become translucent, then eventually brown as they cook in their own sugars.)
  3. About 15-20 minutes before baking time, preheat oven to 450 degrees. (If you're using a pizza stone, this should preheat too.)
  4. When oven is preheated and onions are caramelized, remove pizza stone from oven. Sprinkle stone liberally with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Stretch dough onto stone. Top with sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, olives, and onions. Sprinkle with a generous amount of parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until crust is golden.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gavin's Chocolate Cake

All the boys in Dan the Man's family love chocolate cake, but there's one catch - no frosting can be involved. They'll eat it plain, or even with chocolate pudding on the side but don't want anything to do with overly sugary stuff. I originally developed this recipe for Dan's brother Gavin because, if you're going to eat plain cake, why not eat the best? 

The recipe involves making your own cake flour (you'll see that in the strange measurement for flour, and the addition of cornstarch). If you have cake flour handy, just ignore the flour / cornstarch in the recipe, and use 3 cups of cake flour. You'll also want to have toothpicks on hand to check for doneness so you don't burn this delicious treat.

Lastly, if you've never baked with baking chocolate, be sure to get the right kind. You'll be sorry if you accidentally use unsweetened instead of the semisweet baking chocolate called for by the recipe...not that I've ever done that before. Additionally, you can substitute semisweet chocolate chips if you've got those on hand - according to the substitutions on this website, sub in a little over 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips for the 3 1/2 oz. semisweet baking chocolate required in my recipe.
five 1/2 oz squares of semisweet Baker's baking chocolate

  • 3 1/2 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 3/4 cup salted butter (equal to 1 1/2 sticks, or 12 Tbsp)
  • 2 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour (unbleached is best)
  • 6 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease 9 x 13 cake pan. Set aside.
  3. In small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate together over medium-low heat. Let cool.
  4. In medium bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, and baking soda. Set aside.
  5. Pour sugar into large mixing bowl. With electric or stand mixer with whisk attachment at medium speed, pour in chocolate/butter mixture and mix for about 1 minute.
  6. With mixer still on medium, add vanilla, then both eggs (one at a time). 
  7. Then add flour mixture gradually, alternating with cold water. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue to beat for another minute or two, until batter is fluffy.
  8. Pour batter into greased 9 x 13 pan. 
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Check for doneness using toothpick.
  10. Let cake cool at least 15-20 minutes. Serve alongside chocolate pudding, whipped cream, or any other sidekicks you might enjoy.