Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Green Tomato and Egg Pizza

Our CSA farm has been hit pretty hard by the absolute crap weather we've had this year. His cornfield drowned, his arugula is full of holes and hold the phone: we haven't even gotten any zucchini yet. Whoa.

But that's not even the worst of it. The worst of it is the paltry selection of tomatoes. Many farmers here are harvesting the much anticipated summer super star early and green just so they can keep them from rotting on the vine. Maybe you've heard of it: the dreaded late blight attacking most of the tomatoes here in the northeast and withering the stalks, leaves and fruits into dry brown skeletons of sludge. It's really, really depressing so I'm not going to dwell on it. I'll just say hey, if you need to harvest early or you find green tomatoes at the market, don't fret! Make pizza. (Or you could fry 'em up and eat them southern style.)

Green Tomato Pizza
Serves 2 as a light dinner or one hungry person

I used stored dough from my ABin5 bucket (the olive oil/pizza dough recipe with a little whole wheat flour replacing about a cup of the all purpose). I also didn't really stretch it thin enough, but I really like doughy crust. You can use your favorite pizza dough recipe;
here's a good one, and store-bought is fine, too.

Pizza dough (or a generous pound of stored dough)
1 medium green tomato per 10-inch pizza, sliced
1 egg per 10-inch pizza
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese*
olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, more if you like garlic an awful lot (I do!)
Parmesan cheese
cornmeal for sprinkling, or parchment paper

Preheat your oven to its highest setting (mine is 500 but it runs at about 550 if you give it a long enough pre-heat) with a pizza stone or upside down cookie sheet on the middle rack. You'll want to give it at least 20 minutes to heat up. If using stored dough, take it out of the fridge and give it some time to rest at room temperature; you can do the rest of your prep work while it rests.

Chop the garlic roughly, then using a little bit of salt for friction, smash and mash it against the cutting board with the flat of your knife to make a rough paste. You could also use a mortar and pestle here. Put the garlic in a small bowl and add couple tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.

Spread a thin layer of cornmeal on a pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet (or use a sheet of parchment paper, crust will not get as crispy, but that's ok with me). Flour your hands, then pat your dough flat and stretch it into a thin round, tossing it gently on your knuckles at first then stretching more vigorously until it reaches the diameter you want. Place the round of dough on the peel, and working quickly, spread the garlicky oil over the pizza, leaving a thin border. Sprinkle the feta over the garlic oil. Add the tomato slices, forming a ring in the center. At this point, if you want a fully-set egg yolk, crack an egg into the center of the tomato ring. (If not, wait until the pizza is 3/4-cooked, then crack the egg onto the hot pie and let it finish in the oven. ) Grate some Parmesan cheese over the whole shebang, and sprinkle with some black pepper.

Slide the pizza off the peel/cookie sheet onto the stone in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the heat of your oven. The egg will be fully set (unless you waited), the tomatoes starting to shrivel and the crust puffed and brown around the edges.

*This is not a super cheesey pizza, so feel free to increase the feta to 1/2 a cup or add a meltier cheese (monterey jack, or mozzarella perhaps) under or on top of the tomatoes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hatch Chiles and Hoarding

Last week while I was in Maine with Adam's parents, just us girls (his mom, my mom, and me) went out and about in my tiny little hometown to do some shopping. We hit a lovely gift store, where I bought a fruit basket for my new kitchen, and an art gallery (so small it has no website, OMG), where Adam's mom bought some beautiful jewelry. We also stopped at my mom's happy place: The Good Life Market. She is such a loyal customer that when she walks in the door, the kid behind the counter says "Hi Suzanne! You want coffee?" and when she says "Hi Ian! Yes please!" he starts making a decaf-nonfat-extra-hot-mocha-latte-with-only-one-pump-of-chocolate-and-no-whipped-cream. WITHOUT HER HAVING TO SAY ANYTHING. Seriously, if you're in the Sebago area of Maine, get thee to the Good Life posthaste. They're great people.

ANYWAY. I got some pickles while we were there. Not just dilled and garlicked cucumbers, but pickled fiddleheads and dilly beans. I've never had dilly beans before, but I love the sound and the idea of them, so I brought them on home to Boston and stuck them in the cupboard, and thought to myself, oh, I'll just bring them out sometime when people are over and we need something to snack on. I have a bit of a thing for being prepared for these spontaneous drop-bys, don't you? Do you ever buy fig jam and overpriced crackers or some frozen mini quiches thinking, hey! how cute will this be if I just *happen* to have this on hand for when people stop by? And then nobody stops by and you end up eating them yourself when even your emergency frozen pizza is gone and you can't bear to cook? No? Just me? So fast forward to Sunday evening when a few friends had stopped by to drink some beers and combat the Sunday Night Blues. Adam asks about the dilly beans in the cupboard, all casual like: hey babe, what are these? Can I open them?

AND I PANIC. But! But! If you open them, then we'll eat them! And then they won't be around when people stop by! And then what will we do for snacks???

Luckily, this was all in my head. On the outside, I'm cool as a cucumber and I'm all suuuure babe, open up the dilly beans! Yeah! And we proceeded to eat the whole jar and they were delicious. I saved the jar, and last night I put some more blanched green beans in the pickling liquid, added a bit more vinegar and some of the blanching water, and stuck it back in the fridge. I tasted one tonight - they're just as good, crunchier even. I think I've proved that you can have your pickle, and eat it too.

Which brings me to the entire point of this post (my, I CAN ramble, can't I?). I bought some hatch green chilies from New Mexico today. I do not know what to do with them. I roasted them under my broiler, a-like so:

They're currently in the freezer on a cookie sheet, and in a minute I'm going to put them in a bag so they're ready to go later in the year*. We did eat one tonight, and I sooort of get what all the fuss is about: they're smoky from the roasting and flavorful with a little bit of kick but not too much. So now I'll just have to decide what to do with them the next time people stop by. I'm partial to these chiles rellenos from Use Real Butter, or this green chile cornbread from Simply Recipes. And there are a lot of green chile stew recipes out there, too... So school me, people. What's the best way to use these puppies?

*Speaking of putting up summer's bounty for use later in the year, have you joined the Canvolution yet? Adam and I are signed up and psyched to be a part of the Somerville event happening on the 30th.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Restaurant Week Boston

Boston is a city of some truly excellent restaurants, and the twice yearly Restaurant Week comes in handy when there are visitors in town. Adam's parents are visiting from Oklahoma through Saturday and we've eaten quite well so far! Tomorrow I'll finally get to cook a whole meal for guests in the new kitchen, but until then, let me tell you my impressions from some of our out-and-about meals. Please be advised that I am not a restaurant review blogger in any way, shape, or form, and these are just recaps of meals I ate this week. I encourage you to get out and enjoy Restaurant week for yourselves!

We started with dinner at Taranta, a North End Italian restaurant with a Peruvian spin, on Sunday night. The small first floor dining room was pretty loud, but there was one (ahem) boisterous table of eight right near us. In particular, I liked that they had such an extensive Resto Week menu - six entree choices - since places I've been in the past for the prix fixe special had very limited options. I was sad to see that the espresso crusted filet mignon wasn't on the list, but at least it's still on the regular menu, so you can get it in a couple of weeks! Adam's dad ordered the skirt steak and yucca fries, which were just the right contrast of fluffy interior and crispy outside. Adam's corn crusted tilapia was butterific and tasted faintly of the tropics; perhaps they used cocounut in the preparation somehow. My orecchiette was served with a pleasantly zingy aji amarillo sausage and not enough broccoli rabe for my tastes, but I'm a green fiend. Desserts were solid but not standout. Guava and creamy ricotta cannolo, or tiramisu, both sauced with macerated berries. I could picture them in the back filling the cannolo, cutting a square of tiramisu and ladling the berries onto each plate... sadly this mental image made it feel sort of cafeteria-like, even though the desserts were pretty good. I wish dessert wasn't "required" as part of the Resto Week menu, that way people wouldn't phone it in. Regardless of the lackluster desserts, I'll go back to Taranta for sure.

Last night we got a big group together for dinner at Gargoyles on the Square in Davis. In the past, the service here has been great for couples and a little slow for groups, and that stood true last night as well. I understand they were swamped because it's restaurant week, but they took our forks with the entree dishes and didn't bring us any for dessert until I flagged someone down and asked. Not a huge big deal, but we were all sitting there, drooling on our chocolate tarts with no way to eat them... it seemed that there was only one waiter for the front room supported by lots of food runners, which could work under less hectic circumstances, but the poor guy was pretty overworked last night. So now that I've told you the tiny little negative, let's focus on how good the food was, shall we?

I must admit, I have eaten at Gargoyles before and loved it. I have eaten the duck confit with cashews and mango sticky rice before... and loved it. And that's exactly what I did last night. Our friend Ariana has ONLY ever ordered the duck confit at Gargoyles, and she's been there more than me! So it was not exactly shocking that I liked the duck last night (and the leftovers for breakfast, wee!). But the real knockout of the meal was the roasted zucchini soup with almond sour cream and shredded pork. Holy mother of flavors, Batman. This stuff was intense! Smoky from the roasting of the squash, a little sweet and spicy kick in the almond cream, and shredded pork so tender it should be illegal. I simply can't wait to try to recreate this bad boy at home.

Have you guys been enjoying restaurant week? Where have you been? What was the best dish? Where are you dying to go?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Salad (and where I've been)

My friends, I have missed you. It has been far too long since I last gave you a proper update or recipe, but if you've been following my twitter feed (recent tweets are just over there on the right) you know what's going on: I've moved house! Perhaps you are familiar with the diet of those-about-to-leave. Mainly I've subsisted these last two weeks on purchased sandwiches, pizza, Japanese take out (and the eleventh hour discovery of delicious, chewy udon in my old neighborhood) and coffee. In other words I haven't been cooking much.

Instead, I've been moving two apartments into one, grocery shopping, making giant Target runs, buying a tv, driving to New Hampshire in weekend traffic to pick up a washer/dryer from a co-worker's son, realizing the dryer plug doesn't match the dryer socket, going to Home Depot to get a replacement dryer cable, going to Ikea, putting together insane amounts of Ikea furniture (ok, Adam did most of that), opening boxes and boxes and boxes full of books (hi, we like to read) and figuring out where everything is going to go in this GIGANTIC NEW KITCHEN.

Hello, gorgeous! Please, please, please pardon the lack of done-ness in the unpacking department. Instead, maybe you'll want to focus on all those cabinets. And the floorspace. And the lovely, soft elephant gray tile and creamy butter yellow walls. And the beautiful, interesting, genuine tile floor. What if I tell you the Sicilian landlady who lives upstairs brought us a little tray of homemade biscotti umberto last night? Are you in love yet?

The first thing we made in our new kitchen was... well, it was a pot of coffee to help us get through some unpacking, but that's not very interesting. In fact, it's been four days since we officially moved in and we just cooked our first actual meal last night! (Ginger garlic marinated tofu with green peppers and udon, it did not photograph well, and I didn't try to make it.) Tonight was our CSA pickup, and I also stopped at the South Station farmer's market to pick up some tomatoes so we had a no-cook dinner of Summer Salad. I'm capitalizing it because it's not really worth making at other times of the year; the produce just isn't as good. No lettuce or salad greens in this week's share, so we just used a LOT of basil. Adding most of a can of cannellini beans makes it a meatless meal salad for us, but with or without beans it would also be a tasty side to something grilled.

Summer Salad
Serves two, as a light main course

About a pound of small or cherry tomatoes, I bought a box at the market that included five or six varieties
Half a bunch of basil, roughly torn (generous handful)
Two cucumbers
half a spring onion, or more to taste
One small bell pepper, any color
1 T dill, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
most of a can of cannellini beans
Simple vinaigrette, recipe follows

Wash all the vegetables. Peel the cucumbers, cut in half the long way and scrape out the seeds with a spoon (they make salads watery). Cut the cucumber into half moons about 1/4 inch thick. Quarter the tomatoes, or halve them if tiny. Chop the bell pepper into strips or dice it if you prefer. Slice the half spring onion thinly, reserve some greens for garnish. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl, and add the beans. Top with the feta, dill, and torn basil. Dress with vinaigrette and toss gently (use your hands, they won't pierce or squish the tomatoes). Serve with crusty bread.

Basic vinaigrette
I rarely make this the exact same way twice, but the basic recipe I use is as follows:

Mince a small shallot or part of the spring onion from the salad. Put it in a small bowl. Add a dollop of Dijon or grey poupon mustard, about half a tablespoon (I love mustard, you may want to start with less). Grind in some black pepper (5-15 turns, to taste) and some kosher or sea salt (half a teaspoon or so). Add a splash of red wine vinegar (about a tablespoon), and give that a whisk to combine the vinegar and mustard. Start adding olive oil slowly, whisking all the while. You'll add three or four times as much oil as vinegar. Alternatively, put everything in a small jar, and shake it shake it shake it like a Polaroid picture. Taste, and add more vinegar or salt or oil if you need it. Whisk/shake again. Very easily scaled up if you need more dressing, I usually make 1/3 of a cup for a two person salad.