friday night pizza with onion confit

pizza5

growing up, fridays were always take-out pizza night. a night to relax the rules, rent a movie, and laze about on the sofa. no vegetables required. the whole of the weekend just stretching out ahead of you, full of promise.

this is a slightly more grown-up pie than the little cesar's extra pepperoni. but it hits all the right notes, salty and sweet toppings, chewy and crispy crust.

pizza3

making the pizza yourself is just as easy as ordering take-out – i promise. especially if you ditch the overly complicated dough recipe in the baking with julia cookbook. i tried it – and i tried to be fair.

but, ugh. kneading. rising. if i was faced with that everytime i wanted homemade pizza, i'd just buy the very very good dough from trader joe's.

people. it is so simple. flour. salt. yeast. this recipe uses sugar, but there's really no need. mix in the morning while your coffee is brewing. cover, and it'll be perfect and ready for you when you get home.

add toppings. bake. enjoy. capiche? 

pizza2

i won't pretend that onion confit is a friday night activity. it's time intense, but worth it to get the onions simmered down to a jam-like consistency. sweet with a hint of acid from a splash of red wine. a perfect complement to a scattering of blue cheese crumbles.

try that on a sunday, recapture a bit of the beginning of the weekend indulgence. i won't tell.

pizza1

Tuesdays with Dorie: Baking with Julia's Pizza with Onion Confit

Like I said, there are easy pizza dough recipes that do just as well – or better – than the one in the book and don't require multiple steps. So, I'm just going to link to my favorite. Jim Leahy. The man knows his dough. To read more, go to Tuesdays with Dorie or Boy Can Bake.

Pizza Dough

Notes for the linked recipe – you can use less yeast if you give the dough all day to rise. You don't need to bother with the sugar.

 Onion Confit

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 medium onions (about 2 1/2 pounds total), peeled, halved, and sliced 1/8to 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Fresh thyme sprigs or leaves to taste
  • 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet and stir in the onions.  Season with salt and pepper, stir, cover the pan, and cook the onions over low heat until they are soft, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the sugar over the onions, stir, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the thyme, 1 1/4 cups red wine, the vinegar, and a tablespoon or two of the creme de cassis, if you want to use it.  Stir well and cook the mixture over the lowest possible heat, stirring from time to time, for about 1 hour, until just about all the liquid has evaporated.  If the liquid has cooked off in half an hour or less, add a bit more wine.  Turn the onions out onto a flat plate and let them cool to room temperature.

The onions can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.  They should be brought to room temperature before they’re spread on the pizza.

Pulling it all Together

  • Dough
  • Onion Confit – relatively cool
  • Blue cheese or goat cheese crumbles
  • Any other topping your little heart could desire

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, fit the rack with a baking stone or quarry tiles, leaving a border of at least 1 inch free all around and preheat the oven to 475o F.  Rub a baker’s peel with cornmeal and set aside until needed.

Shaping the Dough  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (snip off a small piece of dough to save for the Mixed-Starter Bread if you want) and divide it into two pieces.  You’ll probably have to bake the pizzas one at a time, so keep one piece covered while you work with the other.  If you do not want to make two pizzas at this time, wrap one piece of dough tightly in plastic and store it in the refrigerator, where it will keep for a day or two, or wrap it airtight and freeze for up to a month.  Thaw frozen dough, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.  Bring the chilled dough to cool room temperature before shaping.  Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten it into a disk.  To form the pizza, you can either turn and stretch the dough, stopping to allow the dough to rest for a few minutes if it springs back readily, or roll it out with a rolling pin.  Either way, work the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick (you can make it a little thinner if you prefer) and transfer it to the peel.

Topping and Baking  Top with half the cooled onion confit and any or all of the optional ingredients, or the topping of your choice, leaving a 1-inch border around the rim of the pizza, and slide the pizza into the oven.  Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the topping is bubbling and the uncovered rim is puffed and beautifully golden.  Repeat with the remaining dough and topping.


farro with squash and kale

2013-02-10 20.33.14

we need to do something nice for ourselves. something healthy. something full of leafy greens. 

it is a bit of a selfish request, you see. i'm on a couch coughing my lungs up, surrounded by lozenge wrappers and half drunk cups of mint tea. i have a really divine fudgy brownie recipe, but it'll wait for later.

2013-02-10 20.33.31

this is not exactly a quick weeknight recipe. the three elements need to be cooked separately – the kale blanched, the squash roasted, and the farro is slowly simmered risotto-style. aka: lots of stirring.

but when the dish comes together, it is magically greater than the sum of its delicious parts.

2013-02-10 20.34.16

cooking the farro slowly, first by toasting the grains and then slowly adding chicken broth, results in a deeply nutty and meaty flavor. the grains stay al dente, with a nice firm bite. but the broth reduces down to an almost creamy sauce. it perfectly coats the kale. 

this all works because farro has the same starch as arborio rice. you get the same unctious mouth feel (how awful is that phrase!) but with a bit of whole grain goodness.  unless you're not into that type of thing.  i think farro might be a good grain? it's ancient, which i think is good.

ugh. nevermind, don't ask me. i've already got enough research projects for my cold-medicine-addled brain to manage.

what i do know? try to find the pearled farro. it won't take as long to cook. plus it sounds special.

2013-02-10 20.36.27

i used acorn squash here, as called for by the original recipe. but i'd bet you could open one of those super handy dandy packets of pre-cubed butternut and save yourself a few minutes of cursing as the vegetable peeler is gummed up yet again with squash skin as you're fruitlessly digging it into the narrow little acorn squash furrows.

does anyone know a better way to peel acorn squash? or was acorn squash really only meant to be halved, filled with butter and brown sugar and roasted? shall we leave the peeling and cubing for the slightly more ergonomically-inclined butternut squash? yes? good. glad we settled that.

either way you go, this is a really lovely comfort food. hearty and satisfying without being heavy. easily made vegan if you are so inclined. but also lovely with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for those of us who like a little indulgence. 

i'm feeling better already.

2013-02-10 20.35.45

 Farro with Squash and Kale

From Epicurious.  Delicious as a side for a simple roasted chicken, or a main for meatless Mondays.

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 small acorn squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into 1/2" cubes OR about a half a medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 bunch red Russian or other kale (about 5 ounces), center stems removed, leaves torn
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 1 small garlic clove, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock mixed with 2 cups water, warmed
  • finely grated Parmesan, to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan. Add squash, season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning squash every 10 minutes, until tender, 30–35 minutes.

Cook kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool; drain.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add farro; toss to coat. Roast in oven until toasted, stirring once, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; wipe out skillet.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to high. Stir until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add farro and 1/2 cup warm stock mixture. Stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes.  Continue cooking, adding broth by 1/2 cupfuls, stirring and allowing broth to be absorbed between additions, until farro is tender. This will take between 30 and 45 minutes – maybe up to an hour.  I can usually tell when it is time to add more broth when you can drag your wooden spoon across the bottom of pan and the little liquid left stays parted for a few seconds. 

Add kale, squash; stir gently until vegetables are heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

twd: baking with julia: oasis naan

_MG_6484

sometimes, i feel like fine dining is totally wasted on me when i would be perfectly happy just consuming the bread basket. sometimes (see friday night, to the somm's horror) a loaf of good crusty bread is dinner. add butter, cheese, maybe some honey. call it a day.

since the somm was in town and would prefer not to consume only carbohydrates, i decided to go ahead and try a few new indian recipes to go with the naan.

_MG_6512

there was a half-hearted attempt to find friends to come share the mountain of food, but it ended up just being us.

no complaining here.

_MG_6501

more easy chicken masala, caramelized cumin-roasted carrots, green bean, corn and coconut stir fry and raita for me.

every one of those recipes was easy and super delicious. light, and summery, not what you might think of when you think indian food, and worth sharing … or keeping to yourself.

but back to that naan. this recipe did not turn out the way i expected naan – which is usually soft, and chewy, and little charred. instead, i got a yeasted, crispy flatbread. 

_MG_6495

i tried baking them two ways: on my pizza pan that has lots of little holes that encourage crispness, and on the back of a cookie sheet, as recommended by the cookbook. no real noticable difference. 

the problem was probably too much flour in the dough, which was necessary since the recipe called for TEN WHOLE MINUTES of hand kneading. which i handled like a champ, thanks to my fabulously gay drill sergeant of a weights class instructor. no master courvoisier, i wasn't whining. i just think a traditional naan dough should be wetter. and maybe involve yogurt.

while i don't think these were really naan-enough, and i probably won't make them again because my go-to bread recipe involves no physical exertion whatsoever . . . the bread was tasty and eargerly consumed by both the somm and myself. and just as good smothered in raita as butter. the big crystals of salt made them reminiscent of pretzels.

_MG_6485

which are still so totally on my summer bucket list.

_MG_6483

for links to the recipe, visit tuesdays with dorie.

twd: baking with julia: pizza rustica

_MG_6207

this baking challenge is certainly going to get me to make recipes i never would have otherwise.

take this "pizza" rustica.

i approached the recipe with extreme caution. i knew i could get behind the ingredients in the filling: prosciutto, ricotta, cheese, more cheese.

_MG_6183

but baked in a sweet pie crust?

with a fancy-pants lattice top?

i mean, julia and dorie, are you for real?

i cut the recipe in half and baked the pie on a sunday and waited (waited! me!) until tuesday when i would have friends over to help me judge and consume what i feared would be calorie-bomb without much of a payoff.

well, i take it all back.

_MG_6209

this was a delicious recipe. i mean. ricotta. mozz. parm. prosciutto. done. and the salty filling contrasted really nicely with the sweet crust. which – and we all know my fear of rolling pins – was easy to put together in the food processor, did not require time to chill, and was reasonably forgiving when it came to assembly.

the recipe omits an egg wash for the crust, which i added when i reheated because who wants a pale pie? it ended up a little toasty around the edges and a little pale in the middle where the filling sunk during the first and second trip to the oven.

_MG_6186

lamb tagine with preserved lemons & figs

_MG_5356

dinner parties are SERIOUS BUSINESS in manchego's kitchen. they really, truly, are the time for both my and the somm's type a personalities to shine. slash terrorize our friends and loved ones. the sum of what we (or is that just me!) want to do always exceeds what is reasonable . . . or even feasible.

water spots on the glasses? the horror!

fewer than 6 to 7 homemade dishes? i must be slacking!

i kid you not. slider night featured two types of burgers, homemade buns and mayonnaise. i only didn't make the ketchup, because why mess with heinz? one year, i lovingly recreated the entire gourmet tomato feast. the bruschetta alone had about five subrecipes.

the food - i hope – is generally good. but, i've come to realize that while i'm having fun, this is not always relaxing for our (many) guests. i am frantic, wild-eyed in the kitchen, which is mostly a sea of dirty dishes. the somm tries to get everyone inebriated so they can't tell dinner's half an hour behind schedule. friends hover at the kitchen's periphery asking if they can help, but fearing to come too close.

but i think i've broken the streak. the solution? take a full week off work before said dinner party!

just kidding. sort of.

_MG_5380

said time off did give me time to put together some lovely flower arrangements. to get the shopping and some of the ingredient prep out of the way. and to sufficiently ruminate about the flavor of homemade ice cream (you see, i'm not completely cured . . . but that recipe is for next time).

but mostly, i think this dinner party was much calmer thanks to the make ahead lamb tagine.

a tagine is a stew/braise with moroccan flavors and spices. this one is loaded up with lamb!

_MG_5272

i am not sure if this photo adequately captures the insane amount of lamb that was browned and on it's way to melt in your mouth deliciousness a good 30 hours before go time.

my tagine is also loaded up with chickpeas for a one-two protein punch. lamb is such a rich, strong flavor, i thought the chickpeas helped lighten and mellow it out. tagines are easily made vegetarian if that's your thing – think mostly chickpeas with more veggies or even potatoes.

meet the supporting cast:

_MG_5343 

_MG_5275

plus some dried figs. apricots would also work. or prunes? go for it.

this was my first time cooking with preserved lemons, and they added such wonderful pops of tangy, salty flavor. olives are often added to tagines for similar effect, and you know i love me some olives, but i thought the lemons were surprising and perfect.

stews are great dinner party food – or cook once on sunday for the week food – because the flavor just gets better over time. and it reduces the running-around-like-a-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off effect it has on hostesses.

the one hitch was that since i wasn't cooking like crazy, i maybe had a cocktail too many to remember we'd planned to give salad it's own whole course to itself. 

_MG_5349

the tagine survived a warming period in the oven just fine, and with a salad like that who wouldn't mind the wait? perfect pink cara cara oranges on a bed of arugula with feta and olives. it hit all the right notes – sweet, savory, salty, and bitter. i stole the idea from this recipe . . . the dressing was fantastic.

i also roasted a big mess of root vegetables, but they all turned fushia from the beets. not photogenic. not that parsnips are particularly photogenic to begin with, as they resemble bulbous albino carrots. anyway, they and the cumin vinaigrette tasted sweet and smoky and divine, inspiration here.

_MG_5357

Garnished with some bright cilantro over a bed of couscous, and you've got yourself a hearty, filling and completely satisfying winter dinner.

Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Figs

Adapted from Epicurious - Serves 8

Note: Ras-el-hanout is a blend of spices that is often used in Moroccan cooking. It means "top of the shelf" and usually represented a blend of the best spices offered by a spice shop. Like Indian curry, there are many different ways to blend. You can buy it in specialty shops, or put together your own blend from relatively common ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, cumin and turmeric. Here's one blend - feel free to tinker with the proportions based on flavors you like or what you have in your kitchen. 

  • 4 lbs lamb shoulder, in 1 inch dice
  • 1 to 1.5 large onions diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tbsp Ras-el-Hanout
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 2 – 3 cups low-salt chicken stock
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I feel I should get credit for not making these from dried)
  • 1/2 cup dried figs, quartered
  • 1 preserved lemon, rind only, diced

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or other large (not-nonstick) skillet with lid. Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper and brown in batches. Lamb should sizzle at it hits the oil, but only take a few minutes to brown. Each batch should only be one layer of lamb in the pot to allow each piece to brown and develop the fond – the brown sticky bits on the bottom of the pot that'll add amazing caramelized meat flavor to the dish. Keep adding oil as you need to to keep the fond and meet from burning instead of browning. Transfer all browned lamb to a bowl, set aside.

Add more oil if needed and saute onion until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, spices and ginger and saute for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and lamb with any juices at the bottom of the bowl and bring to a boil. Add about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock and bring back to a boil. 

Allow to simmer until the lamb is falling apart, about 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more chicken broth if it reduces down to a thicker stew than you'd like. Add the chickpeas and simmer for about 15 minutes, then add the figs and preserved lemons and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Tagine can be served now over couscous with a sprinkle of cilantro – but it might be even better the next day!

bacon-wrapped pork

123111 286

i’m not really one for new years resolutions. i’ve come to terms with my complete lack of willpower. if anything, if i had a resolution this year, it would be to go easier on myself.

and maybe to post fewer pork recipes.

luckily, since i’m going easy on myself, we can start that resolution next week.

pork wrapped in pork. it’s healthy cause it’s on a plate with green stuff.

123111 274

i made some questionable shopping decisions, and came home with brussels sprouts and red cabbage. cabbage two ways! sounds much more intentional that way.

i think i like cooking sides better than mains. is that weird? i know mark bittman would approve. i would resolve to post more side recipes, but they’d all essentially be the same: saute in oil, add a squeeze of lemon, insert in mouth.

back to the pork! it was a manchego’s kitchen christmas this year, and i ended up giving family members some recipes to take their gifts out for a test drive.

if i were a professional, i probably would have actually written those recipes . . . or, you know, at least tried all of them out. let’s just say i got a head start on my resolution.

i DID try this recipe. and it was a simple and yummy as i thought it would be. pork + thyme, wrapped in bacon? how can you go wrong?

123111 275

the bacon-wrapping experience only turned out to be tricky because i didn’t read (slash ignored) the directions and went a little crazy with the thyme springs. over the pork! under the pork! thyme every where!

don’t be like me. remember that this isn’t a beauty contest. just put a couple of sprigs on top and wrap ‘er up.

or do be like me! go crazy! make a mess! who doesn’t love excess thyme?

alternatively, be smarter than me, and follow the somm’s suggestion of ditching the inedible sprigs and just use the fresh thyme leaves. sprinkle them on with the salt and pepper like a dry rub before applying the bacon.

123111 281

this is a great recipe to use a cast iron skillet because you’re starting stove top, but finishing in the oven. there is something so satisfying about a cast iron skillet. they’re so heavy and old-timey. they do a great job of getting a nice brown crust on your meat or veggies.

i think i’ve said it before, but the magic of really nicely cooked meat is temperature. science! a nice, lean tenderloin needs a gentle touch. cook it until the center hits between 150 and 155.

so, go ahead. buy a meat thermometer. do it. buy a fancy one. buy a cheap one. use it. impress friends and loved ones.

123111 288

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Adapted from Real Simple

  • 1 pork tenderloin, about 1 lb
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 4 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat cast iron skillet over medium high heat, add a glug of olive oil. Season pork with salt and pepper.  Top with thyme to taste.  Wrap with bacon.  Brown wrapped tenderloin on all sides in the pan, a few minutes on each side.  Transfer pan to oven and cook for about 15 minutes, until the thickest part of the tenderloin has reached 150 to 155 degrees.

Let pork rest. Slice and serve!

chicken larb gai

IMG_4290

sometimes being a grown up is awesome. you can eat a bowl of ice cream for dinner. you can spend all day saturday watching bad television in your pjs. no biggie. 

sometimes being a grown up is way overrated.  like paying bills, and missing out on christmas and summer vacations.

this year, i took back the christmas vacation.  eleven glorious days of no email, no bosses, no bed times and certainly no alarm clocks.

also, i ate a LOT of ice cream.

but i'm back. it's freezing, but at least it is sunny. time to get back in the swing of things.

here's a recipe we can all feel good about for the new year. it's easy. it's tasty. it's good for you, but doesn't make you feel like you're missing out.

chicken, lime, crunchy rice . . a way more adult dinner choice. save the ice cream for dessert, as you watch the bachelor, which is really like the dessert of tv. so good, so bad for you.

IMG_4311

if you haven't had larb gai, it is thai meat salad. that's right. meat salad. spicy stir fried ground chicken that is excellent in a lettuce or cabbage cup or just on a spoon. from the wok or fridge.

isn't this a nice little mise en place?

IMG_4269

you do really want to have your ingredients measured and at hand for asian stir fry because the point is to get your wok or skillet really hot, so the ingredients cook very quickly and you have no time to be mucking about in the back of your cupboard for that bottle of fish sauce.

here, you just heat your pan, dump all the ingredients and you're off to the races. for reals.

i love thai food because it's such a great mix of salty, sour, sweet, and spicy. it's balanced. it's usually not too heavy. and it's really easy to make at home.

fish sauce is really the most out there ingredient you'll need. it's salty, and a little bit smelly, but adds an important extra umph to lots of asian dishes. 

but, the real secret ingredient that makes this a super standout dish is the toasted rice powder.

IMG_4253

it's easy. take some rice, maybe that funky short grain stuff you bought out of desperation at your tiny local organic food mart that is incredibly hit or miss when it comes to normal groceries. toast it up in a pan until it is golden. let it cool and then pound the heck out of it in a mortar or a spice grinder.

you know how sometimes you're getting dressed for work and it's just really an eh sweater and skirt combo? but you add a belt and suddenly it's an outfit you're rockin' kate middleton style (if only in your head)? that's just me?

anyway these toasty, crunchy little nubs are the belt to this meal. promise me you won't a) judge my lame metaphor or b) make larb gai without them.

i went super crazy when i made larb gai and busted out a whole thai meal including (not so) green papaya salad.

IMG_4249

and a super funky pumpkin dish that i just can't recommend. i don't even really want to remember it. fresh pumpkin isn't that awesome anyway. it's so stringy and so inferior to the butternut.  although baby sugar pumpkins sure look cool, right?

IMG_4277

maybe my next post will be on my hands-down, favorite all-time use of pumpkin . . . from a can . . . in a baked good, like god intended.

IMG_4292

Chicken Larb Gai & Green Papaya Salad

I'm punking out and just sending you over to Spilled Milk's recipes.  No need to mess with something that works great just as is. Just don't forget the toasted rice powder!