“Hobby Ladies”

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©cookinginmyheels.com

The other day I was speaking with a woman about a possible collaborative opportunity for Cooking in My Heels. Our chat went pretty well at the start — she, Cordon Bleu-trained in Paris; me, cook when I’m blue trained in Queens. Over the course of conversation I asked whom else she’d spoken with, so I could get a sense of what her goals were with a collaborator. Apparently we (the spoken to) ranged from ‘serious professionals’ with real culinary school training (her words), to (her words again) “hobby ladies who think that just because they love to cook they can cut it.” Hmm… 

Now obviously this person had an opinion on “hobby ladies” that crossed the border into judgment. And naturally, I made my own judgment based upon hers. Then I began thinking about my new category and my pleasant pastime sisters. To be clear, I have the utmost of respect for anyone with an earned toque on his or her head. Cooking school is no easy ride, so bravo to those who’ve made it through, and especially through an institution that trained the culinary mother-goddess of us all, Julia. Where I have a teensy bit of a problem (ok, maybe more than teensy) is someone who dismisses a large slice of the whisk-wielding public, lumping us into a category that brings to mind sewing circles and stamp collecting. Not that there’s anything wrong with hobbyists, but whoa there missy! 

I mean, think about it. Who better to excel at something than a person who chooses to do it purely for the joy it brings? Someone who is constantly trying to get better, to learn more, and looks forward to “hobbying” at the end of a long day of doing all those un-hobby things we do to get by. I’ve spent a lot of time working with entrepreneurs over the past 20 years, and a sure sign of one who has a good shot at success is a driving passion for the work, without focusing on the financial payout it will deliver. Which is really good, since there’s probably no cha-ching to focus on, in the beginning anyway. And while I don’t deny there are plenty “ladies” and “gentlemen” out there who will likely not move beyond making their friends and family very happy with full bellies, there’s no reason to discount the growing number who have or will turn that passion into a thriving business.

I really do wish Ms. Cordon Bleu the best of luck in finding her “perfect collaborator” and I’d bet that person has a pedigree like hers. I think I’d rather be happy with my “hobby ladies and gentlemen” peers anyway. I mean, with Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, Nigella Lawson, Ree Drummond and Jaimie Oliver around, to name just a few, I figure I’m in pretty good company. So COOK ON HOBBY LADIES! There’s plenty of room for us all.

This week’s recipe, Lemon and Garlic Chicken and Mushrooms is adapted from one of my favorite food writers, and as it so happens, someone who didn’t train as a cook either – Martha Rose Shulman. Based on a classic Provencal chicken recipe, this comes from Shulman’s “Recipes for Health” column in the New York Times, and like most of her recipes, is quick, easy, good for you and really delicious.

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Lemon and Garlic Chicken and Mushrooms

(Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times, March 2014)

Serves 4

The original recipe called for chicken breast cutlets, but I find boneless skinless thighs are a lot more flavorful. I like to nestle the chicken pieces in under the mushrooms for the last 5 minutes of cooking. It gives the opportunity for the juices of the chicken to flavor the sauce. Serve it on a bed of arugula dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, and it makes an elegant and healthy dinner.

For the marinade

  • 16-20 ounces boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or puréed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed, sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

To serve:

  • 1 bag baby arugula
  • Flavorful olive oil
  • ½ a lemon cut into two wedges
  • Salt and pepper

1. Stir together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cut each chicken thigh into 2 equal pieces (3 if they’re 12 ounces or more) and place in the bowl. Stir together and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

2. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry (discard marinade). Place two sheets of plastic wrap (1 large sheet if you have extra-wide wrap) on your work surface, overlapping slightly, to make 1 wide sheet, and brush lightly with olive oil. Place a piece of chicken in the middle of plastic sheet and brush lightly with oil. Cover the chicken with another wide layer of plastic wrap. Working from the center to the outside, pound chicken with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until about 1/4 inch thick. (Don’t pound too hard or you’ll tear the meat. If that happens it won’t be the end of the world, you’ll just have a few pieces to cook.) Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

3. Season the pounded chicken breasts with salt and pepper on one side only. Dredge lightly in the flour (you will not use all of it) and tap the breasts to remove excess.

4. Turn oven on low. Heat a wide, heavy skillet over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, place one or two pieces of chicken in the pan – however many will fit without crowding. Cook for 1 ½ – 2 minutes, until bottom is browned in spots. Turn over and brown other side, about 1 ½ – 2 minutes. (Do not overcook or the chicken will be dry.) Transfer to the platter or sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. If there is more than a tablespoon of fat in the pan, pour some (but not all) off into a jar or bowl.

5. Turn burner heat down to medium-high. Add mushrooms to the pan. Let them sear for about 30 seconds to a minute without moving them, then stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. When mushrooms have softened slightly and begun to sweat, add wine, thyme or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until wine has evaporated and mushrooms are tender, 5 to 10 minutes.

6. Add the chicken back into the pan and spoon mushrooms over the chicken. Simmer another 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.

7. Toss the arugula in a bowl with a good drizzle of olive oil, the juice from ¼ of a lemon, and a good pinch salt and pepper. Divide onto 4 plates. Divide the chicken and mushrooms between the 4 plates. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.

Nutritional information per serving: 234 calories; 10 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 6 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 73 milligrams cholesterol; 7 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 138 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 28 grams protein.

[Advance preparation: The chicken breasts can be pounded several hours ahead – but don’t marinate them until shortly before cooking – and kept between pieces of plastic in the refrigerator.]

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at www.cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)

Awesome

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©cookinginmyheels.com

I love to people-watch, but perhaps even more, I love to people-listen. I’m absolutely mad about accents. There’s nothing better to identify place, and nothing so comforting as the lilting sound of a nasal A, a western twang or southern drawl when you feel lost or a teensy bit homesick. Same goes for regional words. Even those who have gone to great pains to erase their vocal geography and mimic TV anchor speech give themselves away when it comes to the words of their land. So let’s play a game of guess the geographical vernacular! All-righty then, if you’re wicked smaaht you’ll probably know where to order jimmies. And if not, well, not fuh nuthin but, maybe you’re just a bag of hammers, bless your heart. Did you guess them all? That’s freakin’ AWESOME!

I’ve always found it valuable when traveling to learn a bit of the language of the location. It’s a sign of respect and always makes me feel a little less the tourist, even though I may be butchering the native tongue. I know a soupcon of français, un po italiano and enough deutsch to get by and feel like I made the attempt. When I first visited Oregon I didn’t notice much of a native accent, but what I did notice was awesome. It seems ‘awesome’ is the adjective of choice in this land. It doesn’t seem to be exclusively Oregonian, but since I’ve landed in the world of marionberries, microbrews and windsurfing, my ears have averaged about 3 awesomes a day. Which is actually pretty low considering how many things here really are awesome. There’s the land itself, stunning in it’s beauty, especially when there’s some mist rising from the river in the early morning. The river, well that’s pretty darn awesome too, when it’s capped by a rainbow or reflecting the frequent awesome sunsets. We have awesome coffee here, lots of awesome coffee. Beer too. And the wine? Yup, awesome.

But probably most awesome in the ranking of awesomeness are the people. They are a friendly lot, warm, incredibly generous, and welcoming, even to a Gotham gal with ill-hidden accent. That’s not always the reaction to city slickers, especially ones from the biggest apple. This accent carries baggage and assumptions, as I suppose most do. Yet when my story unfolds, the vast majorities respond with a friendly ‘awesome’, and then introduce me to my next new friend. Not fuh nuthin but, picking this place is looking like a wicked awesome decision. Ja, you betcha….

Starting a business anywhere is tough, so picking a good location is key. It’s feeling more and more like starting my business here was the perfect spot. Part of what I’d like Cooking in My Heels (the business) to be is a place for the culinarily curious to learn the love of cooking and baking. Sure there’s the occasionally pithy commentary and instruction contained in this blog, but to really learn, you have to get your hands dirty. Last week I had the opportunity to participate as an invited teacher in a cooking class held in the lovely Lucia’s kitchen. And it was absolutely awesome! Small bites made with Lucia’s Calabrian love, shrimp cooked on a salt block (seriously awesome technique), a finale of sweet and silky tiramisu prepared by the beautiful Claudia, and a little something from yours truly. That little something was orange olive oil cake – one of my favorites and something I’ve made a few dozen times since first having it in Rome 15 years ago.

orange olive oil cakeThis time around I decided to play a little with the recipe before sharing it with the class. The result was Awesome Orange Olive Oil Cake. A substitution of some of the flour with almond meal, and using half fresh orange juice and half thawed OJ concentrate created a new depth of flavor that was, well, awesome. This is one of those cakes that actually gets better over time, so it’s the perfect thing to make ahead and lasts several days on the counter loosely covered.

Hopefully this will be the first of many classes with my new cooking friends, and the first of many shared recipes from class. As Mama Lucia would say… Buon Appetito e Mille giornate deliziosi!

Awesome Orange Olive Oil Cake

(Adapted from The New York Times Dessert Cookbook)

Serves 12-14

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for the pan
  • 1 ¾ cups superfine sugar (if you don’t have superfine, you can make it by processing regular sugar for a minute in food processor)
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup almond flour (almond meal)
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • Zest from two oranges
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt (about 1/8th tsp)
  • Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil and flour a 10” spring form pan. I always have olive oil spray on hand and use it for this.

Wisk the flour, almond meal, baking soda and powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg until will mixed, then stream in the superfine sugar. Beat on medium speed until pale and thick and the sugar is almost all dissolved, about 2-3 minutes.

In a measuring cup with a spout mix the orange juice and concentrate with the zest and olive oil until incorporated. With the mixer running on medium low, alternate adding dry and wet ingredients into the sugar mixture in thirds, ending with the dry ingredients.

Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly. This is a relatively thin, but very rich cake. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, turn, and bake another 15 minutes. Because of the oil, the top of the cake will get brown before the cake is completely done, so after about a half hour I put a piece of foil over the pan loosely. After 30 minutes, drop the temperature to 350 and bake another 10-15 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Total baking time is about 45 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then remove the sides and let cool completely. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top. The top of this cake may crack or sink. Don’t worry about that – the powdered sugar covers it up nicely, and the cracks add to the cake’s character. Calories: about 350 per slice.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)

 

Spring has SPRUNG!

You didn’t think it was going to happen, did you? You figured that evil polar vortex just sucked it up and that was that. But it did happen. It happened today, at around noon. That’s the good thing about seasons. They are, well, seasonal.  So as I sit here staring at the big bucket of daffodils on my table, I thought I’d repost one of my favorite spring things from two years ago.

Hope the sun is shining by you, and the tulips have opened their purple smiles WIDE!

photo 1

IT’S SPRING, AND LOVE IS IN THE AIR…

And on my air conditioner. Over the past week or two I’ve noticed something going on outside my window. I’m very lucky, NYC apartment-wise. In a city filled with sounds of every imagining (usually loud), the vast majority of the sounds outside my window are bird-related. That’s because all of my windows face an enclosed courtyard. It’s a glorious oasis of bird song, punctuated by the occasional laughter of little kids playing, babbling water from a fountain in the warmer months, the occasional gardener blowing or mowing through machinery, and random acts of late night merrymaking when a weekend party moves outdoors. So as I sit at my desk by the window and write, a bird often joins me, perched happily on my air conditioner. Usually solo, my winged companion sits for a bit watching the goings on below, then flies off to some other pressing business. Lately however, my feathered friends have started showing up in pairs. One lands, then the other, and in a moment or two the dance l’amour commences.

Seems my AC has become the avian equivalent of the hourly rate motel. Usually it’s pigeons, but a few mourning doves, sparrows, and even an occasional squirrel chasing some fluffy tail have checked in. It’s a veritable porn playground on my Fedders, and in broad daylight!  You’d think they’d have the manners to do what they do in private. Or at least under cover of darkness, maybe a few candles flickering, some Barry White gently playing in the background. But at 10AM, with an audience? It’s like an episode of ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’, and I’m Marlin Perkins! I can imagine the voiceover now: “Jim will carefully turn the AC to low so we can study the effect of adding a vibration aspect to the mating zone, while we hover overhead in the copter and film the pre and post coupling behavior”. I think the birds are talking about my AC too. You know how you never see just one pigeon, there’s always a crowd? I think they are spreading the word. “Hey, you and your lady friend need a place to get busy? I know a great air conditioner with a view in West Chelsea.”

What I find most puzzling is not the fact that the birds outside are getting a lot of action. It is spring after all. But what is it about my AC that inspires them to get their groove on, right there? Surely there more romantic trysting spots in the courtyard. I’m up on the 5th floor for heaven’s sake. They could fall off! Yet they continue to pick my AC, as though it’s the feathered brain’s equivalent of an airline bathroom and schtupping on it is their version of the ‘mile-high’ club. Maybe there’s something in my karmic aura that promotes bird fertility. If so, perhaps I should invest in a couple of chickens. Fresh eggs right outside of my window would be awfully convenient. Economical too.

Ah well, whatever it is, let them have at it. Far be it from me to stifle their birdie lust. After all, the end result is more birdsong to enjoy at dawn and dusk. So here’s to the circle of life. Hakuna matata!

And since we are talking about all things Spring….

Spring Pea Soup

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots (about 2 shallots)
  • 1 tsp each butter and olive oil
  • 6 -7 ounces potato, peeled and cubed (about ½ a large russet)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups frozen petite peas
  • ½ TBSP lemon zest (from a small lemon)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 TBSP cream to garnish (optional)

Sauté the shallots in the butter and olive oil over medium low heat until softened, about 5 minutes (you don’t want color on them.) Add the cubed potato, stock and water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 6-8 minutes. Uncover, turn the heat up and bring to a slow boil. Add in the frozen peas and lemon juice. Bring back to a boil and cook for another minute or two. Turn off heat and add in the lemon zest. Puree the soup in small batches* in the blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning, add in pepper and salt to taste.

[*Remember to remove the center of the blender lid and put a dishcloth or towel over top when blending hot liquids. Start off on low, then turn to high. Green soup is not fun to clean off the ceiling, or you.]

At this point you can serve the soup hot, or let it chill and serve cold. Either way, it’s nice to drizzle a teaspoon or two of cream over top as a garnish. Calories: – approximately 60 per cup.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)

A Soda Bread, a Lamb Shank, and an Irish Toast…

DSC07527If you grew up in my hometown, the 17th of March was on the list of major holidays. Happens when the citizens number many with roots deep in the old sod. There were Meehans, and Feehans, and Sheehans (all in one class), and an O’ or a Fitz was not foreign to the front of last names. Sure there were others too with roots vast and wide, but on that day in mid-March, we were ALL Irish just a bit. So in that spirit I offer up two recipes and a toast. Bubbe’s Irish Soda Bread with Sour Cream fills the quick bread needs of the day deliciously, and what’s better than lamb and Guinness when celebrating the best of Ireland?  And as for that Irish toast? I can’t think of one more fitting than this:

May your home always be too small to hold all your friends…

photo

Guinness Braised Lamb Shanks

Per lamb shank

  • 1  cup of Guinness (I trust you’ll know what to do with any leftovers)
  • 1 lamb shank (1 – 1.25 pounds)
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium rib celery, chopped
  • ½ a medium onion, chopped
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • ¼  cup red wine
  • 1-2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 anchovy fillet, chopped
  • ½  a bay leaf
  • 2” sprig of thyme, left whole
  • 1 “  sprig of rosemary, left whole
  • water or stock
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Generously salt and pepper the lamb shank. Brown the shank on all sides. Remove to a plate, turn heat to medium and add the chopped onion, carrots and celery and a pinch of salt to the pan. (Add some more oil to the pan if it is dry.) Cook the vegetables until they begin to soften and brown slightly. Add in the garlic and cook another minute. Add in the tomato paste and anchovy, stir into the vegetables, and cook another minute. Add the red wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add back in the lamb and any accumulated juices, the bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Add in the beer and enough water or broth to come up to the top of the lamb shank but not cover. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about an hour, turning the lamb once or twice. About 10 minutes before the hour is up, turn the oven on to 325°F.  When the lamb is starting to pull away from the bone, remove the cover, baste with the braising liquid and bake, uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn shank and bake another 10 minutes. This will give the lamb a beautiful shellacked finish. Remove lamb to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Put the pan with the braising liquid over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until it is reduced and thickened a bit. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with roasted potatoes and steamed asparagus.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)

Like Darwin’s Finches

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©cookinginmyheels.com

I’m sitting here in one of the local coffee shops (of which there are several….from my window perch I can view another three over a two block span,) fascinated by a beetle walking up the window. Ok, some of you are doubtless thinking “she’s sitting in a restaurant watching a bug walk by and is NOT; 1. Shrieking and waving something squish-ready at said bug, or B.  Alerting the authorities of A BUG!  Nope, I’m not, for two reasons: first, the bug is more of the interesting than icky variety (and as an ex-biologist, I have a higher ‘ick’ tolerance than most); second, the bug has provided an interesting example for today’s blog musings. (NOTE: I feel it necessary to let you know that as I typed the above, the beetle in question began to join me on my table, and didn’t seem at all phased that I dispatched him back to his window with a gentle flick.)

The point of all this entomology? As this critter was wandering up the window, he fell off. Being determined, he began his upward journey again. And again. And, again. These Sisyphean efforts aside, what was interesting was every time the guy fell, he landed on his feet. No lying on back all legs-a-wiggle helplessness. Just dogged persistence. Seems Ringo (I’ve named him that, for obvious reasons) and his folk have adapted to a shape that always lands on its feet. Dripping metaphor aside, I kind of hope I’m the same way. Actually, I’m counting on it, or to stick with the buggy theme, squishing is inevitable.

A year ago, it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary to look into a coffee shop window on a Sunday and see me tapping away at my keyboard. Of course, my view back then was considerably different from today. The volume of everything was much greater. The people, sound, vehicles, everything multiplied at least tenfold. And it’s likely I’d have barely noticed. However, take that same keyboard-tapping gal and plop her down into small town Pacific Northwest, and I notice everything. Admittedly, it was a little jarring at first. The lack of noise made every sound louder. Lessen the number of feet on pavement and every foot is more noticeable. The types and varieties of gear, or coffee, or wine and beer — ridiculously plentiful and totally overwhelming. And Subarus. The only thing comparable in NYC to seeing so many of one type of car in so few square miles is the taxi line in front of the Garden after a Knicks game.

But like Darwin’s finches, one adapts over time. I find “awesome” coming out of my mouth more and more. Polar fleece usage is definitely up, I know what a growler is, and I’ve stopped running outside to take pictures of rainbows every time I see one, (only running out every third time now…) And hopefully, somewhere along the way, I’ve started to land on my feet too.

photo 1OK, so I know I’m pretty good at assimilating into a new landscape, there is one thing I will never adapt to…the local pizza. While I give points to a sincere effort in certain venues, for a decent back-home slice my search has turned up nada. I admit I’m a pizza snob, but anyone who grew up in the NY metro area would be. And even though they do so many things really well here,  pizza (and bagels) isn’t among them, so I thought it high time to take matters into my own hands.

Homemade pizza can seem daunting (there’s yeast involved), but it really isn’t all that difficult, especially if you find a good recipe. And what you put on it is entirely subjective to the dough thrower’s taste. I knew there was no knead (sorry) to reinvent the wheel here, so what I’ve done is take my favorite dough recipe (from Stanley Tucci) and my favorite sauce recipe (a combination of Lidia Bastianich’s and Jim Lahey’s), and adapt both to what I like. The dough recipe below is enough for two 12” round pies, or one round and one 9×13” rectangle. This dough freezes really well, and as far as the toppings, I’ve given you the basic margherita pie. Think of it as a jumping off point and evolve away!

Pizza (Without the Box)

This is the basic Margherita Pizza – in other words, just sauce and cheese. However, that doesn’t mean you can load it up with other stuff on top. Just remember one basic rule – less is more. Too much on top and it’s likely all that goodness will land on your lap when you pick up a slice.

Pizza Dough (From The Tucci Cookbook by Stanley Tucci, 2012)

Makes enough dough for 2 12” round or 9×13” rectangle pies

This is Stanley Tucci’s grandmother Tropiano’s pizza dough recipe, which is one of the reasons I love it. The other is it’s a terrific and very reliable basic dough. I did this all by hand just like grandma, but you could just as easily do it in a standing mixer with dough hook attachment.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (you may not need it all)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 2-3 TBSP cornmeal (fine ground is best)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil

In a measuring cup combine the yeast with ½ cup of the warm water. Stir until yeast dissolves.

In a large bowl (or bowl of mixer), combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Begin by mixing with a fork and then by hand while adding enough of the remaining 1 ½ cups water to form a soft, dry dough. *  (*Don’t add in all the water at once. Add half, and then more as you are mixing.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and continue mixing it with your hands. Knead to form smooth dough, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky. Form into a ball and place in a clean bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean dishtowel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled – about 2 hours.

When the dough is risen, preheat oven to 500°F.

Divide the risen dough in half. (If you wanted to freeze half, wrap well in oiled cling wrap, then put in freezer bag.) Roll one half of the dough on a lightly floured surface into a round or rectangle (depending on what pan you have.)  Sprinkle the pan with a tablespoon of the cornmeal, then transfer dough to baking sheet.photo 2

The Sauce:

Some folks like to use a cooked sauce for pizza, but since the sauce is going to cook on the pizza, I prefer to do a simple raw sauce for the best tomato punch. You could substitute the same amount of your favorite basic sauce if you prefer.

  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (use the best ones you can find – there isn’t much to the sauce but really good tomatoes, salt and olive oil. And if good fresh tomatoes are available, use those!)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp olive oil, plus 1-2 TBSP more for drizzling 

Drain the tomatoes, saving the juices. For each pie, measure out 1/3 cup drained tomatoes and 3 tbsp juice (you want a total of 5 oz.). Add 1/8 tsp salt and ¼ tsp olive oil. Stir and set aside.

The Cheese: (per pizza)photo 3

  • 2 ½ ounces shredded mozzarella (I love a combination of 2 oz. mozzarella or fontina, and a ½ oz. gruyere)
  • 1 TBSP grated pecorino romano  

Putting it all together: 

The biggest mistake when making homemade pizza is too much sauce on the dough. It gets soggy and bottom doesn’t crisp nicely, or gets way too heavy and molten sauce and cheese slide off and onto your lap when you pick up a slice. That’s why only 5 ounces of the tomato mixture is all you need. You’ll also notice I don’t use any oregano or garlic. That doesn’t mean you can’t. If you want to add both, just sprinkle a pinch of oregano over the sauce, and as much minced garlic as you like before adding the cheese.

For each pie: 

Drizzle the dough with 1 TBSP of olive oil. Spread the 5 oz. of sauce on the dough, leaving an inch all around the edges. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top, then the romano.

photo 4Bake until the edges and bottom are lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. Let sit 5 minutes before cutting and serving.  And for an authentic NY slice, have extra romano cheese and dried red pepper flakes on the side for sprinkling on top. Calories: about 200 per slice, based on 6 slices per pie.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! :-)

 

 

And the Oscar Goes To… (Again)

Last year I pondered the following question: ‘What if they gave an Oscar to food?’  This time around I’m in Oregon, so any musing on that and all the other Hollywood hullabaloo unfurls with the red carpet around 3PM. So after sitting though the marathon of “interesting” fashion choices, multiple mothers/wives/partners/agents/5th grade teachers thanking, and awkward camera zooms on those whose name the envelop didn’t contain, I’ll still have time to catch up on Shameless. That perk aside, I’m going to have to figure out how to fill 5 hours with food. I’m guessing so are some of you, and to that end, I’ve included a few nominations of nibbles below.

So settle in, get those Oscar bingo cards ready, and enjoy the annual parade of tinsel and stars!

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©cookinginmyheels.com

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen atcookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)

An Olympic Sport for the Rest of Us

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Just like many of you, I’ve spent the past week curled up on the couch watching athletes in fashion of questionable taste displaying their athletic prowess on the slopes and in the stadiums of Sochi. And while I’ve downhilled, skated, tobogganed, hurled down hills face down or feet first, cross-country skied, and shot a rifle (though not simultaneously), I never really aspired to Olympic greatness. It was always enough to sit back and watch the excitement. That was until 1998. For in that fateful year, in the city of Nagano Japan, an Olympic sport for the rest of us was sanctioned “official”. That was the year most of us discovered curling, and suddenly we could imagine ourselves as Olympic athletes. All you needed was a broom, a rock that looked like a teakettle, sensible shoes and loud pants. And some beer. Seriously, was there ever a sport better made for drinking beer? There’s even an official curling term for it – ‘stacking the brooms’.

So since I decided I could become an Olympic curler, I thought it best to learn a little more about the sport. Curling is a nice sport. As in “oh, that’s such a nice sport”. It’s a sport you could bring home to your mother. The term for a match is a spiel, which means play. No shredding, nor heats, just sweeping and play. So nice… and clean! A team captain is called ‘skip’, and the object is to get your stones closest to the ‘button’ in the ‘house.’ Adorable!

Then there are the clothes. Curling shoes are sensible, no spikes, nothing fancy, aerodynamic or engineered to nano-widths. The only thing different from your Uncle Walt’s comfy brogans is one sole has a Teflon bottom. Teflon, so it doesn’t stick. You could probably scramble eggs on it. Then there’s curling pants (yes, there are pants designed for curling). Curling pants are stretchy. Stretchy Pants! You could have a nice big meal of brats, kraut and beer, then play a spiel, and no binding waistband! Definitely my kind of sport! The final part of the uniform are some nice mittens, so your hands don’t get cold. Awww…

Of course there’s strategy to curling, players train for years to get on Olympic teams, and some spiels can get quite exciting (in a drunken bowling league kind of way.) But the best thing about curling?  With all that ice, the beer stays nice and cold. So to all those budding curlers out there — brooms up…Sweep on!

It seems the best recipe to prepare for a hot curling match would involve booze. Last weekend I was at a potluck dinner with some dear friends (in the middle of a snow storm) and the hit of the table was a dish called Drunken Noodles.  Spicy Italian sausage, caramelized onions and peppers and big fat noodles made the perfect meal for a cold and snowy night. BIG THANKS to Suny for sharing the recipe!

Italian “Drunken” Noodles (Courtesy of Suny :-) )

Serves 4

  • Olive oil
  • 4 spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 3 ½ cups chopped tomatoes, or 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided
  • 8 ounces Pappardelle noodles

Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat; add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and once the oil is hot, crumble the spicy Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side. Once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment.

Add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary).  Once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning and cracked black pepper, and stir to combine, then add in the sliced bell peppers and allow those to sauté with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden. Next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced. Add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3-4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off.  Finish the sauce by drizzling about 2-3 good tablespoons of the olive oil to create a rich flavor, and add in the chopped parsley and about half julienned basil. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Keep warm while you prepare the noodles.

Prepare the pappardelle noodles until just al dente. About a minute or two before the pasta is ready, bring sauce up to heat. Drain noodles and add to the sauce. Toss 1-2 minutes, giving the pasta a chance to soak up some of the sauce and it’s flavors.

To serve, add equal portions of the “Drunken” noodles to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining julienned basil. Top with shaved Parmesan, and an extra drizzle of olive oil. Open the wine, turn on some curling, and share with good friends!

And the gold medal for the BEST curling pants goes to:  NORWAY! (I’m thinking Aquavit may be involved…)

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If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)

The medicinal properties of a hot fudge sundae

Ok, I admit it….this is a rerun. A rebroadcast of a post I wrote about 2 years ago. Why the deja vu? Well, remember last week when I warned The Donald to move over? Be careful what you wish for. Seems that when you decide to supplement your income with the currency of truffles, people actually want you to make them in time for Cupid’s arrows next week. So since the hands are a bit preoccupied (and covered in chocolate), I thought I’d share an oldie but a goodie. A new post is forthcoming, but in the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.  I’ll give you a topic: The Medicinal Properties of a Hot Fudge Sundae…

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Years ago while enjoying some spring skiing at my brother’s in Wyoming, I quite successfully disengaged most of the parts that hold a knee together and allow it to move in the right direction. I know this because after the snow settled and screaming stopped, my knee moved in the wrong direction…VERY wrong. Luckily, I happened to be in a place where they are adept at re-hinging the unhinged. And after the surgeon knitted the various parts and put them back in their place, I was sent home to mend.

That was when I discovered the curative properties of a hot fudge sundae. Sure the drugs prescribed were swell and somewhat entertaining, but the hot fudge sundae had something more. It worked internally and topically. You can’t say that about Vicodin and Valium. I’m sure many of you know the medicinal value of ingesting the hot fudge sundae. Take the tonsillectomy. What’s the first thing they give you after they yank the little suckers out? And what about the mood altering properties delivered by that multi-temp bowl of medicine? Beats the hell out of Prozac. But when you place a big dish of fudgy ice cream therapy on top of the cantaloupe-sized joint where your dainty knee used to be? You get the best tasting anti-inflammatory you’ll ever find. After all, they say ice for swelling, right? And no co-pay!

But why stop with the hot fudge formulary? There’s more homeopathic therapeutics accessible without insurance card or script. For example, cheesecake. Who among us hasn’t gotten that late night call. The phone rings and on the other end is a sobbing girlfriend. “What’s wrong?” ‘I’ve…(sob, sniffle) got some news.’ “How bad is it?” ‘Meet me at the diner for cheesecake’. “Aw geez, that’s bad…” Some heart pains only a big slab of baked cream cheese, eggs, and sugar and can salve. Got cramps? Ben & Jerry’s. I found Cherry Garcia to have the best palliative effect, but when it was ‘rip me off the ceiling’ pain, I pulled out the big guns: New York Super Fudge Chunk. And there are countless other remedies and tonics (I prefer mine with gin), as varied as the ailments they treat. So the next time you pull, break, wrench, twist, or ache, apply one dose of hot fudge sundae liberally, and repeat as necessary. You’ll feel much better in the morning.

Below are two prescriptions guaranteed to cure what ails you. The first, a Dark Chocolate sauce with Port Wine is great on ice cream, but I’ve also served it over poached pears or toasted pound cake (and eaten it right out of the jar cold, for medicinal purposes of course.)

The second recipe, my mom’s cheesecake, is a favorite in sickness and health. It was lovingly dubbed Heart Attack Cheesecake by one of my friends when I made it for him many years ago, and the name stuck. Think of it as a treatment and not a cause, and you’ll be fine.

Dark Chocolate Sauce with Port Wine

(Inspired by a recipe in Appetit magazine)

Makes about 2 cups

  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped (I use half bittersweet and half semisweet chocolate)
  • 1/4 cup tawny Port * (you could substitute coffee, almond, orange, raspberry or other liqueurs)

Bring whipping cream, whole milk, instant espresso, a pinch of salt and  butter to simmer in small heavy saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chopped chocolate. Whisk mixture until smooth. Stir in Port or other liqueur. Taste and add a little more wine or liqueur if needed. Cover and chill (sauce can be made 2 days ahead). Warm over medium-low heat when ready to serve.

Heart Attack Cheesecake

Makes one 10” cake

  • 1 lb 3 oz cream cheese – room temp
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 TBSP flour
  • 1 pint of sour cream
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 6 eggs separated
  • 3-4 TBSP melted butter
  • ¾- 1 cup finely ground cookie crumbs (graham crackers, ginger, almond, chocolate or orange cookies all work nicely)

Beat cream cheese in electric mixer until fluffy. Add the next 5 ingredients and beat until well combined. Separate the eggs, add yolks to mixture and beat.  In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until a soft meringue. Fold into cream cheese mixture.

Melt butter and liberally brush the sides and bottom of a 10″ spring form pan, coating thoroughly. Dump crumbs into well-buttered pan and shake pan to distribute so that the bottom and sides of pan are covered in crumbs.* (*Many, if not most spring form pans can leak a little when liquids are poured in. That’s why I always wrap my pan in aluminum foil – burned cheesecake on the bottom of my oven is counter-indicative to maximum healing properties…)

Carefully pour in the cream cheese mixture, and bake 325 º F for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave cake in to cool for one more hour. Calories: Do your other prescriptions have calorie counts on them? 

Move over, Donald…

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

If you’ve been following along for a bit you know that over the course of the past year I’ve picked up and moved, right coast to left. If you’ve been following along longer than a bit, you know that what prefaced that move was the realization that what I used to do to earn a living was no longer an option, and like so many of my brethren in the unintentional leisure class, I needed to do something different. In my case, that something was completely different. Fast-forward exactly six months from pulling into my driveway in the Beaver State, and that something has turned into an officially-registered-in-the-State-of-OR business called Cooking in My Heels. Catchy name, huh?

How this all transpired is an interesting tale, and certainly not one well planned out from the beginning. Yes, there was a bit of intention on my part, and more than a bit of a plan. Without that it’s safe to say I’d soon be wondering if Prada made straightjackets, and could I please have raisins in my oatmeal and a nice view from my room in the asylum.  To attempt any of this without some structured idea of how you’d go about it is pretty much the definition of insanity. Hell, starting a business even with a plan takes a little bit of crazy. But a few things just sort of happened, the idea started to click, and crazy wasn’t looking all that crazy anymore. In other words, it evolved, just like I seem to be doing these days. Somehow the seed of a daydream metamorphosed into plan, and plan, along with a $50 filing fee, became business.  Seems fitting, since it’s very fertile ground here. I think it has something to do with the weather. And the wine. Definitely the wine.

So now I move onto the next six months, and try to take this thing I’ve created and grow it into something that will pay the bills. Becoming the Donald Trump of chocolate truffles and certain baked goods is daunting to be sure, but there are some pretty terrific people in my life who think I can do this. I find it wise not to discourage people who believe in me. So move over Donald, here I come. Maybe chocolate truffles and breadsticks won’t land me a Tower, a casino, or any apprentices, but I know one thing for sure – The Karin has much better hair.

Cookinginmyheels.com has many facets to it, easily checked out with a click. But here in the blogdom it’s all about one thing – the food. Recently I was testing out flourless chocolate cakes to find a variation I’d like to offer to the gluten-free crowd. Most often flourless cakes take on an almost pudding quality, but I was looking for something that had a little more structure and complexity. Happily, I didn’t have to go any further than good old Epicurious. This Gianduia Torte has a base of finely chopped roasted hazelnuts, giving the torte its distinctive European chocolate truffle flavor and name. They also give it great texture and a little crunch. Enrobing in a simple chocolate ganache finishes the torte. It’s incredibly rich, decadent, and hopefully a best seller!

Gianduia Torte

(Bon Appétit, December 1997)

  • 7 oz. (1 ½ cups) hazelnuts, toasted, husked, plus a few extra whole or half nuts for decorating
  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 oz. (10 TBSP) salted butter
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 9.5 oz. (3/4 cup) sugar

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

  • ½ cup cream
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8-inch-diameter spring form pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Butter parchment. Wrap outside of pan with foil. Finely grind hazelnuts in processor. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool chocolate mixture to room temperature.

Using electric mixer, beat yolks and sugar in large bowl until thick and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Fold in cooled chocolate mixture, then 2014-01-26 14.09.39hazelnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Smooth top.

Bake until cake is set and appears dry but tester comes out with very moist crumbs attached, about 35-45 minutes. Transfer to rack. Lightly press down any raised edges of cake. Cool completely. Run small knife around sides of pan to loosen cake. Remove pan sides. Invert cake onto platter. Remove pan bottom. Peel off parchment. Slide waxed paper strips under cake to protect platter.

To make the ganache glaze:  Heat the cream until just before boiling. Pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Pour onto the cooled torte, and spread out to overflow the sides. Smooth top and sides. Decorate the top of the torte with whole or half toasted hazelnuts. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.)

2014-01-26 16.08.56To serve: Slice in thin wedges, and serve at room temperature. This is a very rich cake, so an 8-inch torte will serve 12.

Variations: This cake can be made into individual small cakes in a muffin tin. Butter paper muffin liners, and fill ¾ of the way full with the batter. Bake about 20 minutes, testing for doneness at about 15 minutes. Let cool completely before removing the paper cups. Glaze with chocolate ganache and decorate with whole or half hazelnuts.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! :-)