Archive for May, 2009

Naan-Traditional Pizza

I love pizza – in restaurants, as take-out, or made at home.  However, making pizza at home poses a few challenges.  I don’t normally have time to make pizza dough from scratch (plus, it feels too much like baking, which isn’t my favorite thing).  I’ve tried refrigerated pizza dough, but it always ends up misshapen, uneven, and full of holes.  (Probably due to my lack of rolling and baking finesse).  I’ve also tried the store bought prepared pizza doughs, like Boboli, but the taste and texture don’t quite do it for me.

But, necessity is the mother of invention (and pizza is a necessity!).  In the past few months I’ve started noticing Naan bread in supermarkets – with the bread or fresh bakery items.  Naan bread, if you haven’t tried it, is a type of soft flatbread eaten in India and other countries – it’s available at most Indian restaurants and it’s delicious.  My husband and I started snatching it up and eating it as, well, bread.  As we continued to buy it, it occurred to me to vary its usage.

I started making Naan bread pizzas and my pizza-making dilemmas were solved.  Naan bread works perfectly as a pizza crust, albeit a non-traditional one!  The size we buy is perfect for a personal pizza, and there are usually 2-4 per package.  I’ve since made several with all manner of ingredients.  I started with the traditional red-sauce, cheese, and veggie combos but soon began to experiment.  One of our favorites included an egg on the top of the pizza (this may sound strange, but it’s fairly common in Italy) – the egg bakes to a lovely consistency in the oven, and the soft yolk is wonderful with the crust.  I used a whole wheat Naan bread, drizzled on olive oil,  a little chopped garlic and my other toppings.  Then, you crack the egg right onto the pizza and bake it at 375 degrees until the egg whites are just cooked through (roughly 10 minutes).

Another favorite non-traditional pizza topping is potatoes, also more common in Italy.  Add slices or chunks of roasted, baked, or boiled potatoes on top of your pizza (a great use of leftover potatoes).  I added mine to an olive oil and ricotta base and threw some leftover peas on top for color and extra veggies (I figured if I was going to be non-traditional – I might as well go all out!)  I seasoned with kosher salt, parsley, and oregano.  It was unusual, but delicious.  Next time you’re craving home-made pizza, give the naan-traditional kind a try!

 

Gourmet Recipe Review – Pea Pesto Pleaser

Having recently moved, I’m overjoyed to have more space in my new kitchen – this means more room to work, and more room for my gadgets and appliances!  For instance, I was finally able to take my food processor out of the box to give it a whirl.  I received it as a present over a year ago, but I haven’t had the space to use it without getting frustrated.

Since I love pesto and have been eager to make one from scratch, that seemed like the perfect maiden voyage for my new toy.  I found a recipe for Penne with Pea Pesto on Gourmet’s website, and since I love the combination of peas and pasta, this sounded perfect.  If you’re familiar with pestos, then you know that the typical pesto combines basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil.  This recipe uses most of the traditional ingredients, but substitutes peas for the basil.

Aside from the learning curve with my new food processor, I found this recipe easy to follow and tasty.  I can’t vouch for how long it took me since most of my time was spent with the users’ manual, but I suspect that the 30 minutes estimated on the recipe (including prep time and cooking time) is fairly accurate.  The recipe produced a lot of pesto, so I think in the future I will probably divide it up into batches and use only some of the pesto with pasta (perhaps with a 1/2 or 3/4 lb of pasta instead of the recommended 1 lb) because I think that this pesto would also be a delicious addition to grilled cheese, other sandwiches, or grilled meat.  It had a lovely texture and flavor.  My only complaint was that when eating the first batch (when it was fresh), I found the uncooked garlic to be a bit too strong.  However, after reheating the pesto for leftovers, the garlic flavor was no longer overpowering.  This is a great go-to recipe for busy nights, and it’s healthy to boot.

Pesto is deceptively easy to make (assuming you have a trusty food processor that you know how to use!).  Once you know the basics, it’s easy to make new combinations – and there are plenty of pesto variations online that use artichokes or greens such as spinach or arugula, and many use other nuts such as walnuts, or even pistachios.  So many choices…tell me what kind I should try next!

 

On A Blended Coffee Bender!

Nearly every coffee shop has their version of a blended coffee creation – Starbuck’s has the Frappucino, Dunkin’ Donuts has the Coolatta, Seattle’s Best has the JavaKula, and many neighborhood coffee shops have their own version – they’re all the rage!  Sweeter and thicker than a latte, they are part coffee and part frozen treat.  You’ll need a sweet tooth to enjoy these creations, but they are a cool treat and can be a nice break from your standard cup of joe, while still offering the jolt you need.

When I heard that Cold Stone Creamery had introduced their own blended coffee drinks, Sweet Cream Lattes and Flavored Lattes, I was intrigued.  Cold Stone’s Lattes are avaible iced or blended and come in three sizes - Like It, Love It, and Gotta Have It (aka small, medium, and large).  I eagerly ordered up a small Raspberry Truffle Mocha Latte Light (the light is lower in fat).   The clerk seemed confused by my order and took a very long time for my drink to be made. 

When my drink was finished, I peered into the cup.  It was a pinkish-greyish color but it appeared thick and frappe-like.  I took a sip.  At first, it tasted like nothing…then, a horribly bitter after-taste.  I refrained from grimacing in the store, but when we left I scowled.  I thought that perhaps my drink hadn’t been well-blended enough, so I stirred it vigorously with the straw and tried it again.  Still, I couldn’t detect any chocolate or raspberry flavoring - it was thick and bland with a bitter aftertaste, probably from whatever coffee product was within.  I stirred it again and my husband tried it – sure that my face was an exaggeration - but he grimaced and asked if we should go try to get our money back (we didn’t).  I tried one more sip, just to remind myself that it was okay to throw away an entire coffee drink, and then tossed it.  I drink Starbuck’s Frappucino Lites often enough to know that a blended coffee drink should not taste like this.

I headed to a nearby Borders where I ordered a Cookies N’ Cream flavored JavaKula at the Seattle’s Best Cafe within the store.  Much, much better – it was sweet, with nice flavors of chocolate and coffee and lovely bits of chocolate cookie throughout.  A perfect treat for a summer afternoon – and, as a bonus, it got the taste of the Sweet Cream Latte out of my  mouth (which wasn’t sweet or latte-like at all).  I guess the moral of the story is to stick to Cold Stone for ice cream and coffee shops for blended coffee drinks.

 

Reichl on the Road

After a long blogging absence that involved a move and a lot of packing and unpacking, I’m back to the blog!  I did take a brief break from moving and unpacking to go see Ruth Reichl on a local stop for her book tour.  She spoke in Portsmouth, NH, at the Music Hall on May 1st to promote her newest book, Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, which was released in hardcover in April.

I had never been to a book signing event before, so I didn’t know what to antcipate, but I find Reichl to be smart and witty in her books, so I was really eager to hear her speak.  Reichl opened by reading a passage from a previous book, Tender at the Bone, which describes how Reichl’s mother often cooked and served spoiled, strange, and unappetizing foods.  She went on to explain that her mother was truly taste blind, leaving her and her brother to defend favored guests from foods that could make them sick.  Unusual beginnings for someone who is now an editor of Gourmet magazine and a renowned foodie.

Not Becoming My Mother was the product of years of wanting to write about her mother’s mental illness – Reichl’s mother suffered from bipolar disorder.  However, Reichl focused much of her energy talking not about her illness, but about feminism and the times in which her mother grew up.  The title of her book refers to the fact that Reichl’s mother loved her enough to push her not to emulate her mother - she speaks of how smart and driven her mother was – and how bored.  Women of Reichl’s mother’s generation were not encouraged to have ambitions outside of the home. 

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