Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pizza II: Thin and Crispy!

Have you seen my daughter, Marie's, "Little Kitchie" blog lately?  She did a fun and interesting series on pizzas and they all looked so delicious!  I did a post on pizza awhile back to tell you about the wonderful pizza yeast produced by Fleischmanns, but after reading her blog and seeing all those tasty pies, I wanted to make pizza again!
One thing we all love in our family is the thin, crackly pizza crust with the blackened, charred bottom that you get in specialty pizza restaurants.  Mostly, you can only get that charred type of crust on the grill or at the restaurants, but you can still make a pretty tasty, thin and crispy crusted pizza at home!  It doesn't take anything special at all except maybe the pizza stone.  
Here's a recipe that I came up with that results in a super crispy crust that stays crispy even for the second, and third, and well, okay, fourth piece! :)  

Thin and Crispy Pizza
1 pkg. RapidRise yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbl. olive oil to mix in the dough, then more later
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (about) flour
Toppings:  I used: mozzarella cheese, kalamata olives, sliced, fresh Roma tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, fresh chopped oregano and chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper, but use anything you like!  
Note:  Toppings that aren't watery work best-- or partially cook them ahead to remove some of their liquid.  Don't go overboard on amounts either because that makes the crust soggy too.
Parchment paper
pizza stone
cookie sheet with no sides (turn over a sheet pan if you don't have one)

Mix the yeast and water in a stand mixer bowl.  Add the sugar.  Wait 15 minutes.  You should see lots of bubbles forming in the liquid.  If not, start over (water might have been too hot, or yeast is  too old--check the date on the package) or go out for pizza! :)
Add the salt and oil to the liquid and mix well.  Add the flour a bit at a time, mixing until you have a super stretchy, very moist dough.  It will be just a bit thicker than a batter, but much more sticky and stretchy.  Don't add too much flour.  The wet, stretchy dough is the key to a thin, crispy crust.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then a tea towel.  Place in a warm area for 1 hour.
Put the pizza stone in the oven and turn the oven to 475F about 30 minutes before you will be cooking the pizza.
Cover the cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper.  Pour and scrape out the risen blob of pizza dough onto the paper.  It will be super sticky and hardly hold any shape, but not runny.  Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil on the top of the dough trying not to let it run onto the paper.  Use your clean fingertips to press the dough out onto the parchment.  The oil on top of the dough will allow you to stretch and smooth it out easily without it sticking to your fingers, but it will stick to the parchment and "behave".
Add your desired toppings.  If you're using fresh basil, it's best to add that at the end onto the cooked pizza-- tastes fresh and smells delightful!
Slide the parchment paper onto the pizza stone quickly and carefully.  I do this by placing the cookie sheet at the back of the pizza stone and quickly pulling it out from under the parchment, allowing it to fall onto the hot pizza stone.  If this makes you nervous, carefully remove the pizza stone and just pull the paper from the cookie sheet onto the stone and put it back into the oven.
Cook the pizza for 15 minutes or until brown and crisp.  Don't underbake!  Allow the pizza to "settle down" out of the oven for a few minutes, then slice and enjoy!  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Zucchini Fritters: Quick and Yummy Side!

Hello!  Well, I've been away for awhile with one thing or another!  This past weekend Ben and I were in Philadelphia and New Jersey to attend a wedding.  My good friend, Carol's, oldest son was married in a beautiful country setting.  I'd never been to that part of the US, so it was a fun and exciting trip, although short!
While we were in Philadelphia, we went to the open air Italian Market and that was really wonderful!  There were so many interesting groceries, produce, AND pastries-- it was crazy!  One thing I bought there was a "mix" for truffle risotto.  The rice isn't instant and takes the usual 20 minutes of stirring, so it wasn't a convenience type mix, but I guess really, I was a pushover for the instructions in Italian! :)  
Anyway, so I wanted to have something light and veggie on the side and I thought of zucchini fritters!  These little tasty bites are so easy and quick, but very good!  With the summer coming on and the anticipated overload of zucchini from the garden, I thought this recipe might be timely!  They aren't fancy at all, but I think you'll like them!

Zucchini Fritters (makes about 10)
2 medium zucchini, grated coarsely
1/2 red onion, grated coarsely
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/4 cup bread or cracker crumbs
a few grinds of pepper
olive oil 

Place the zucchini and onion in a colander and sprinkle with the salt.  Allow it to drain over a bowl for 15 minutes of so.  Squeeze or press out all the liquid and discard it.  
Put the drained veggies in a bowl and combine with the egg, crumbs, and pepper.
Heat a light film of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add small blobs of the veggie mixture to the skillet, making small fritters.
Cook a couple minutes, until they are nicely browned, then turn and cook the other side the same way.  Place the fritters on a rack if you're not serving them right away, or right onto a serving plate if you are.
You can re-heat them on the rack in a 200F oven for just 5-7 minutes.  
That's it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Grill-- Dad Cooks Dinner!

Happy Mother's Day, all you lovely Moms!  
We celebrated "my" day yesterday. You might have noticed that our family takes a lot of liberties with these holiday dates.  Most of the time, we prefer celebrating at home instead of going to a restaurant; so we choose the day when we have time to cook and enjoy our meal!  Holidays are more fun with flexibility and, sometimes, the dates are more of a "suggestion"!
This Mother's Day, Ben offered to be in charge of dinner!  We planned and shopped together, then he took over, including the clean-up!! Yay!  
Why is it that Father's Day is always the grilling day?  Our May Texas weather is wonderful and yesterday was a beautiful day to be outside.  Besides, Dads are usually more enthusiastic about cooking when it involves fire :)  
Our menu was:  Oyster's Mignonette (a recipe from Ben's "Men's Journal"-- or his "Stag Mag" as he terms it.....), Baby Back Ribs, and green beans with new potatoes.  I offered to make the veggies since 1.  vegetables don't usually occur to Ben and 2.  I had a lot of fresh green beans from my container garden (see a few posts back!) and new potatoes from the Farmer's Market, so I wanted to be sure to use them!  
Ben is the "Rib King" when it comes to smoking, but since we got a late start, he baked them low and slow, seasoned and wrapped in foil-- 325F for two hours.  Then he finished them on the grill to brown them well, give them the good grill flavor, and brush them down with some good barbecue sauce!  They were tender and moist!
Anyway, the dinner was delicious and the hit of the meal was the oysters!  They are now my new favorite way to eat oysters, the old favorite was Oysters Rockefeller--also yummy, but I digress......  As you can see, the oysters are first placed on the grill to get them opened.  Then a lovely, lemony, herby sauce is spooned over each oyster.  A small slice of prosciutto is place over the oyster and they are run under the broiler just until the prosciutto begins to curl and sizzle.  Oh, wow, they are super good!   
So, here's the recipe!  And again, Happy Mother's Day, Moms!  You Are Awesome!

Grilled Oysters Mignotte (adapted from Men's Journal magazine)
8 fresh oysters in the shell
1 large, thin slice prosciutto, sliced into 8 pieces
4 Tbl. olive oil
1 Tbl. minced chives
1 Tbl. minced English mint
1 Tbl. minced red onion
4 Tbl. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything except the oysters and prosciutto in a small bowl to make the dressing.  Set aside.
Heat the broiler on "HI".
Place the oysters over a hot grill fire with the deepest shell side down.  Soon they will steam and open just a bit.  Take them off with tongs or a silicon glove.  Holding them with a towel or silicon glove, use a butter knife to pry them open.   Let the oyster rest on the deeper side shell and place on a heat proof plate.  Spoon the dressing over and place a piece of prosciutto over each oyster.  Run the plate under the broiler just until the prosciutto begins to curl-- maybe a minute.
Serve immediately!  Yum!!!


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lighter Oatmeal Scones

When I see the word "oatmeal", I think "healthy", regardless of the reality.  Somehow, "oatmeal" cookie sounds better for me than "chocolate chip"!  The facts tell a different story (A lot of oatmeal cookie recipes have more butter and sugar than chocolate chip!), but I still don't feel very bad about eating an oatmeal cookie for breakfast, but chocolate chip?  Well, now you're really backsliding:)
The cold hard facts really came to light when I made the Cook's Illustrated oatmeal scones!  They were, without doubt, one of the two best scones I've ever made (the other containing bacon and cheddar cheese), but they also called for a LOT of butter (10 Tbl. to make 8 scones!), cream, white flour, and an egg for good measure!  Sometimes calories and fat are SO worth it, but for oatmeal?  Oatmeal should at least resemble something good for you!
Surely there was a way to make these delicious breakfast treats a bit lighter so they could be enjoyed more than once a year on say, maybe, one's birthday!  These oatmeal scones were light and moist and had a great oat-y flavor.  The butter did add a lot!  After some thinking, I came up with this recipe.  It doesn't use butter at all, but instead it makes use of heavy cream!  Don't roll your eyes!  Cream contains less than 1/2 the fat of butter, but adds moistness and lots of great dairy flavor!  I also got rid of the egg yolk, so less cholesterol.  I did use it, thinned with a bit of water, to brush the scones for a nice browning, but eight scones didn't use more than a teaspoon or so of the egg wash.  Some ground flax seed was added, along with whole wheat pastry flour and lowfat buttermilk.  Healthy-wise, the scone was practically transformed, but how did it taste compared to the delicious calorie-bomb from Cook's Illustrated?  They came out really good!  Moist and oat-y, I think you won't even miss the butter!  These are a real breakfast treat that are high in fiber and much lower in cholesterol and fat.  Good morning! :)

Lighter Oatmeal Scones (makes 8)
1.5 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 egg white
1 cup heavy cream
1.25 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup sugar, plus a teaspoon or so for sprinkling
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 Tbl. water

Heat the oven to 375F.  Put the oats on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven for 9-12 minutes, until they are brownish and fragrant.  Set aside to cool.
Increase the oven temperature to 450F.
Line another baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Whisk the buttermilk, egg white, and cream together in a small bowl.  In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients well, including the cooled oats, but reserve about 2 Tbl. oats.  Add the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until a dough forms.  Don't overmix.  A wooden spoon works well for this.
On a clean tea towel dusted with the reserved oats, pat the dough out into a 7-inch circle.  Cut into 8 wedges.  Brush the cut circle with the egg yolk / water mixture and sprinkle it with just a bit of sugar.  Set the wedges onto the parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until browned.  Allow to cool a bit before enjoying with some good coffee!
NoteInteresting comparison of the amount of fat, calories, and cholesterol contributed by heavy cream vs. the recipe using butter (per scone):
Butter added:  125 calories, 14 g fat, and 38 mg cholesterol
Heavy cream added:  52 calories, 5.5 g fat, and 21 mg cholesterol