Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick post on slow-cooking!

My bro Paul got me a super-sweet slow cooker for my b-day, and I've already used it twice, to make split pea soup and then some luxuriously creamy Irish oatmeal!  I love this thing!  I fill it up, turn it on, and leave it.  It's a workin' lady's dream come true.

I have the Cuisinart 3-1/2 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker

This model is pretty perfect for a 1-2 person household.  Most slow cooker recipes are written for something in the 4 quart range, and it's also very easy to adapt other braise/soup/stew recipes to a slow-cooker.  Just reduce the liquid by 50% and double the cooking time (at least).  You always want to keep the meat browning step, but otherwise you can throw all your ingredients together in the slow-cooker and fuggeddaboudit!

Split Pea Soup (adapted from Cuisinart slow-cooker recipe book)
Makes 8 servings

6 ounces shallot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, trimmed and finely chopped
8 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 ounces carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1 pound green split peas, rinsed and picked over
6 cups water
1 ham-hock, meaty ham bone, or 8 ounces cubed ham
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/4 cup dry sherry

Put all ingredients except sherry into slow cooker and set on High for 2 hours.  Switch to Low for another 6 to 8 hours (time needed will depend on your slow-cooker).  Remove ham hock or ham bone, discard the bone, shred the meat and return to the soup.  Stir in the sherry and serve.

And this is a cucumber salad I threw together last night, as far from slow-cooking as it gets!  I wanted to share with you because the combination was lovely: peeled and sliced cucumber, pitted kalamata olives, torn mint leaves, black pepper, and a dressing made of Greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, and a bit of olive oil.  Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and savor every Mediterranean bite!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Night of Pizza

This past Saturday I recreated my own version of the Big Night food spectacle, in which excessive amounts of food are steadily and shockingly produced from a very hot and crazy kitchen.  And it was SO MUCH FUN.

It was my birthday pizza party!  I made the dough from scratch using (roughly) the following recipe:

2 teaspoons instant yeast (note: this is not the same as "dry active yeast")
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup lukewarm water

I used my KitchenAid mixer with the dough hook attachment to prepare the dough, but you can just as well do it by hand in a big bowl with a wooden spoon.  First mix the yeast, flour,olive oil, and salt, then add the water slowly, stirring as you do, until it forms a shaggy ball of dough.  Now knead until it's smooth and slightly sticky and springs back when you poke it.  Transfer to a big oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour before dividing into two balls of dough for pizza, or you can rise for 45 minutes and refrigerate 4 to 24 hours until you are ready to use it (just be sure to take it out about 2 hours before you plan to use it).  Roll each ball of dough to your liking (I made mine into about 14-inch pies) and top however you please!

Here's what I had for toppings:

The Margharita: sliced Roma tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, and torn basil leaves
The Sausage: tomato sauce, browned hot or sweet Italian sausage, thinly sliced red onion, and mozzarella
The Goat: (most popular!) pesto with roasted garlic, roasted red pepper strips, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, goat cheese, and oregano
The Popeye: Spinach sauteed with garlic and nutmeg, and ricotta cheese

Once your pizza is topped, either bake it on a sheet tray or slide it onto a pizza stone in a very hot oven - as high as yours will go.  Mine was cranked up to 500 deg. F.  Set the timer for 10 minutes, check to see if the crust is browning and the cheese melting to your liking, and if it still needs some more time, check back every 1 minute, up to 20 minutes.  My oven's sweet spot was 13 minutes flat.

Give it a try! and check out some action shots:

Friday, February 10, 2012

On being a mad scientist, MIA

I've dropped off the radar recently.  There's been a lot going on -- which is great!  Thus very little time to blog.  But that doesn't mean I've been out of the kitchen!  I've been finding new and freaky ways to create interesting flavors and smells through the wonders of lacto-fermentation.  And so, with those few words, I leave you to peruse a few pics of my latest science experiments.

Yours Truly,
Chief Mad Scientist, Apartment D6

Sourdough sponge bubbling away

My little wheat berry sprouties

Oats fermenting 

Multigrain bread dough, pre-rise

Multigrain bread dough, post-rise

The finished loaves, chock full of sprouted wheat, sunflower seeds, fermented oats, and sourdough starter