Rice Noodle Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

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Let’s go on a little cause-and-effect journey here. I went to Guatemala last fall to feel confident enough with my Spanish so I could lead theater classes in Spanish. (PS Guatemalan food here and here!)

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I got my current job teaching theater at senior centers because someone decided I knew what I was doing in Spanish, never having heard me speak, at least enough to facilitate theater-related conversations. (They weren’t wrong, but that was a pretty lucky leap of faith on both of our parts.)

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And so this is how I’ve come to spend the last couple Fridays at a mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican senior center, listening to salsa music and getting down with the seniors. Who all think I look like their 17-year-old granddaughters. Ay dios mio.

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And this is how I get pretty tired on Friday evenings, and end up wanting easy and filling dinners made of stuff I already have in my fridge. Especially when they combine into something more than the sum of their parts, creating an exciting and uber-fresh quick spring meal. This want is true of pretty much every week night, but it, uh, leads pretty nicely into my fabricated segway, which is…

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…and so going to Guatemala last November is basically responsible for this recipe.

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…obviously. 🙂 Rice noodles bulk up everyone’s favorite salad dressing recipe, you know, the ubiquitous orange carrot-ginger situation that always causes a serious headache, cause HOW DO YOU CHOOSE between it and miso soup??! Let’s be honest, you could dip literally anything in your fridge into this dressing and be happy about it. Even radishes. Blech, I so dislike radishes. Thanks, Guatemala! 

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Served with this awesome hot&sour soup for a better-than-takeout feast!

one year ago: black bean, mango, and corn salad-alsa

Rice Noodle Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing

Dressing adapted from pure wow

For salad
4 oz rice noodles
Toasted sesame oil
2 cups lettuce, shredded (I’ve used iceberg and green leaf)
½ a cucumber, thinly sliced (or mandolined)
1 ripe tomatoes, cut in wedges
Handful cilantro leaves

Dressing
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ of an onion, roughly chopped
½ tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
¾ cup neutral oil (like vegetable or canola)
Salt

Dressing

In a food processor, pulse carrots, ginger, and onion until they become tiny, uniform pieces. Add sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, oil, and a dash of salt and process until smooth. Taste to see if you need more salt. Set aside. Dressing will last at least a week in the fridge, and likely longer.

Salad

Cook rice noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and toss with toasted sesame oil to keep noodles from sticking to each other.

Using tongs, mix together noodles, shredded lettuce, and a 3-4 big spoonfuls of dressing in a big bowl. Top with cucumber and tomato slices, cilantro leaves, and extra dollops of dressing.

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Kasha Bowl with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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It’s always the small things you miss most when traveling. Mealtime independence (and people always respond “poor you, having to eat out three times a day”. But REALLY people, I like scrambling my own eggs and eating cold leftovers for breakfast sometimes!). Having reliable wifi in the bathroom so I can check Facebook while…brushing my teeth. Being able to flush toilet paper directly down the pipes instead of depositing it in the trashcan next to you. Cheese.

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I came home craving every trendy healthy thing in New York, aka things in bowls. Healthy grain bowls, veggie soup bowls, fruit-adorned breakfasts in bowls, tahini-y mushy eggplant in a bowl, lots of brown rice and Asian flavors and roasted veggies and toasted seeds and crunchy raw vegetables and pickled things, preferably in bowls. I am a walking stereotype of instagrammable food culture. #sorrynotsorry.

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Since my NYC return, I’ve met up with many friends who have greeted me with, “Looks like you ate so well on your trip!” I look at them, confused, wondering where they gleaned this information. Because, yes, I literally don’t know how to Not eat well (and by well right now I really just mean plentifully), but I wouldn’t say my time in Guatemala was the epitome of this. They respond that my Instagram food pictures looked amazing (which I just attribute to the beautiful woven tablecloths that adorned every table), what great vegetarian options there were, etc. What they don’t know is that Every Meal I Didn’t Post on Instagram consisted of corn tortillas, overscrambled eggs, mayo-y boiled vegetables, and bean mush. Hence my excitement in returning to the world of Extreme Bowl Culture.

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And hence this very simple lunch I’ve been dreaming about since approximately one week into my trip, or you know, since before Thanksgiving. This meal riffs on a snack I used to assemble for lunch during long shifts at Bakeri, comprised of easy ingredients we always had prepped. I bought my kasha at a Polish deli for very cheap, but I’m sure you can find it in the bulk section at any health store. Kasha is a fancy name for toasted buckwheat, which it’s a bit nuttier than the untoasted variety. Kasha is brown; if it hasn’t been toasted yet it will be green. You can assemble everything beforehand; the salad is just as good warm as it is at room temp. Feel free to add parmesan or feta to de-veganize this. A handful of baby salad greens would also be a nice addition.

one year ago: hot honey pizza with roasted broccoli and red onion and bengali egg curry 

Kasha Bowl with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

a Swanky original
serves 1 hungry person at lunch

scant 1 c kasha, uncooked (this will make more than you need; cooked kasha keeps well when covered in the fridge)
2 cups water
1 cup cherry tomatoes
3ish tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 onion, sliced thin
handful of kalamata olives
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
hot sauce if you’re feeling it
s&p

To make buckwheat: Bring water to a boil. Add kasha. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Strain.

To roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes on a baking pan and cover with a healthy drizzle of olive oil, plus s&p. Roast for 12 minutes, stirring halfway through. Tomatoes will be crinkly, puckered, juicy, and blistered when done. Mmm.

To “caramelize” onion: I am no expert on this, as I always get impatient and try to turn up the heat. But do as I say, not as I do: Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet on medium heat. Add onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook on medium-low at the highest, stirring occasionally, for EVER, or until tender and sweet. Or don’t, turn the heat up, and embrace the charred onion bits, just like me. 🙂

To assemble: Mix together about ½ cup cooked kasha (or more) (or less), cooked tomatoes, caramelized onions, and olives in a BOWL (or a platter first cause it’s pretty). Mix together about 1 tablespoon olive oil and the balsamic vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over salad. Add hot sauce if you want a kick. Commence eating.

 

Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

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You know that video that went viral a couple months back, “Too many cooks”?

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If you haven’t watched it yet, today’s the day! Come on, you know you want to. You’re welcome. Also, you’re welcome for having it stuck in your head for the rest of your life. And butting its repetitive head in where it isn’t welcome ALL THE TIME. Such as:

Going to pick up CSA veggies. For the nth week in a row, we leave with a giganto bag of collards, kale, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, you name it. (Sometimes a couple beets or beans but pretty much only greens.) All I can think (and hum and sing) as we walk home, “Too many greens, too many greens.

Or when on the train and no one is aware of how much space they take up and people want to come ON before you have a chance to get off: “too many dummies, too many dummies

Or (the generic version) when you’re at a restaurant and can’t decide what to order: “too many things, too many things”!

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Did you watch it yet?? Good. It really works for a plethora of occasions. Give it a try! You’ll soon be singing it everywhere and will become immediately annoyed with yourself!

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But really, so many greens. We’ve made soups, 1/2 kale 1/2 sausage lasagna, pasta dishes, stir fries aplenty, and an amazing number of dinners (and breakfasts) of salads or cooked greens plus rice. Brooklyn Beet CSA, come through! I’m ready for a pepper or cuke!

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Until then I will continue to attempt innovation. Earlier this week innovation came in the form of pasta sauce, with a whole tangle of collard greens braised into it. This sauce was delicious — eaten on spaghetti, mixed with leftover brown rice the next day, or just slurped with a spoon. I’m going to recommend the spaghetti route, covered with parmesan and backyard basil. Perhaps served with a side salad? “So many greens, so many greens!

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As I said earlier, you’re welcome. 😉

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one year ago: sweet potato, peach, and black bean tacos and cilantro quinoa soup with spicy shrimp and corn

Collard Greens Tomato Sauce & Spaghetti

by moi and Daniel too

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1 t dried oregano
2 t tomato paste
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 t sugar
1 t red wine vinegar
small handful fresh basil, divided
1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and chiffonaded
s&p
parmesan, freshly grated (optional, I guess)
spaghetti (or rice for a gluten-free option)

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, deep saucepan. Add onions and a big pinch of salt and cook until they turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Next, add tomato paste, canned tomatoes and all their juices, sugar, and vinegar. Add tap water to the empty tomato can until it’s ¼ full. Add water to pan. Tear up half the basil leaves and add. Cook for 10 minutes on a slow simmer.

Add your collards. Stir well to totally immerse them.  Cover pan and cook for another 45 minutes or so, until greens are soft and have lost their plasticky appearance. Add s&p as necessary.

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Once drained, add a bit of sauce (whatever stage it’s in) to keep pasta from sticking together. When ready to eat, top pasta with lots of sauce, torn fresh basil, and freshly grated parmesan for the best experience.

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Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Soup with Orzo

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As soon as that well-deserved mythical short-lived apparition called Spring in New York City appears, I notice my fellow city-dwellers in what can only be called trendy clothes. Gone are the layers of coats, grandma hats, tights-under-leggings-under-jeans, and here is…fashion. As someone not particularly privy to this world of fashion, due to a combination of genes, money, and just not caring very much, I still feel the pull to present myself as, well, presentable. And instead of rushing to a thrift shop or *gasp* an actual store with regulated price tags and employees who are really freaking good at folding, I head to the strange and wonderful world of the back of my closet.

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And so this is how, year after year, I find myself wearing this same dumb light purple, zip-up, three-quarters sleeved, stretchy-fabric abomination. Originally purchased circa 2005 at Marshalls/TJMaxx, the shirt has since made an appearance in my senior yearbook photo and whenever I try something high-waisted.

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Today is one of those days. Today I feel 10 years younger, stressing out about my geometry test and writing notes to the cute boys who would play poker during class as our batty teacher Mrs. Corbasero looked the other way and I memorized lines for my Starring Role of the Moment, and I angstily daydreamed about moving to New York City and Living the Life, which probably involved frosting for breakfast and a movie star boyfriend. Well, 10 year ago me, frosting for breakfast leads to expensive dental appointments and actors (tend to) suck as boyfriends. Try soup instead. (And programmer-climber-photographers.)

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leftover vegetable-skin detritus has taken over the table.

This soup is goooood. For dinner or breakfast or whenever. It tastes freaking delicious and doesn’t give a shit about your 15-year-old (or 25-year-old) insecurities. Also I didn’t follow a recipe, so who needs math now, Mrs. Corbasero?

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Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Soup with Orzo 

a Swanky original

3 bell peppers (I did 2 red and 1 green)
1 large eggplant
olive oil
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
3 sprigs rosemary
1 head garlic (or ¾ of a head, if that’s what you’ve got…)
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 T sherry
½ c dried orzo
1.5-2 c veggie broth
¼ c parsley, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 big T tahini

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Okay, you’ve gotta roast 4(!) separate vegetables. But don’t worry; it’s easy! Stick all trays in the oven at the same time.

  1. Arrange whole peppers on roasting tray. Stick in oven. Turn peppers every 12 minutes or so with tongs. Don’t worry when skin darkens. Peppers are done when they’re completely charred, anywhere from 35-50 minutes. Out of the oven, wrap peppers individually in foil and let sit for about 10-15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle. Peel, discard skins, and roughly chop. Two peppers will be pureed for soup; 1 should be reserved to give texture (if that’s your kinda thang…)
  2. Cut stem and bottom off eggplant. Cut in half lengthwise. Score inch-thick diagonal lines across eggplant halves, careful not to pierce skin. Working quickly, rub olive oil on scored flesh; about 1-2 t per side. Place on roasting sheet, cut side down, and stick in oven. Eggplant is done when skin is puckered and flesh is soupy and browned. Depending on the size of your eggplant, this could take anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Check frequently! After eggplant cools for 5 minutes or so, scoop flesh into a bowl; discard skins.
  3. Cut garlic head in half lengthwise. Rub with olive oil and s&p; wrap in foil. Toss in oven (on eggplant or pepper tray) for 45-60 minutes. When cool enough to touch, smoosh out individual roasted segments and add to eggplant. Discard skins.
  4. Drain canned tomatoes, reserving liquid. Cut tomatoes in half; place on a third roasting tray with rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil, and s&p. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are a bit browned and shrunken. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot with 1 T olive oil to medium-low heat. Add onions and a big t salt and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add carrots; cook for another 10 minutes. Add sherry, scraping up any browned bits that have stuck to the pot. Keep on a low flame until ready to use.

In small saucepan, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Once all parts are ready, it’s blender time! Combine: eggplant, roasted peppers (reserving one to give the soup some texture), half of roasted tomatoes, most of onion-carrot mixture, 1.5 c broth, and parsley. Puree until smooth, adding extra broth and s&p as needed.

Pour pureed soup over remaining onion-carrot mixture in big pot; add sliced roasted peppers, chopped roasted tomatoes, tahini, ¼ c tomato liquids, s&p. Simmer together until warmed through.

Serve topped with orzo and chopped parsley.

Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

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Frequent topics of conversation these days include what city we want to go to next, as based on a mini obsession with the show Street Food Around the World (despite its relentlessly annoying host), and Coffee.

Daniel recently purchased an AeroPress, which, he’ll be the first to tell you, has Changed His Life. Gone are the days of multiple daily visits to our local coffee shop, here to stay are the sink-full of coffee mugs and multiple bags of not-quite-enough-for-a-coffee-but-too-much-to-throw-away beans. I love the eagerness with which I am offered a cup in the morning (or in the afternoon, during dinner, right before bed, immediately after I get out of a shower…).

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As a barista, I am around coffee more than I care to admit. The longer I’ve worked around coffee the less appealing it has become. (Less true the summer I worked at Cold Stone in high school.)  The less I drink it, the more my “good coffee” guard slips down–I appreciate a bottomless diner mug as much as our fancy, single source, perfectly calibrated brew. Although I’ve always loved the smell and taste, coffee has held less joy for me. Until Now. Until Aeropress. I’m fancy again.

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And nothing says “I do love a good cup of coffee!” like smoked cheese, amiright?! One of our favorite post-rehearsal habits is the long walk to Chelsea Market. I’m pretty good at battling the tourists and beelining to my favorite haunts, which right now means Buon Italia. Their dried pasta section elicited girlish giggles (from both of us) and the cheese section kept me enraptured for a good ten minutes (we also have them to thank for these fregola cuties). Although I couldn’t find the soft smoked ricotta I recently tried at BK Winery and have not stopped thinking about, the smoked scamorza was a dang good choice.

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So! In summary: pasta, good; (smoked) cheese, good; coffee, also good. Keep it simple, let the ingredients Be The Best They Can Be.

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Me: Look! I actually took a nice picture of all the lovely-ly arranged ingredients! Daniel: Wait, isn’t there supposed to be cheese in this? Isn’t that the POINT? Me: You’re concentrating on the wrong thing! And, uh, shit.

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I’ve located the cheese… can’t miss it now! (please appreciate my newby photo editing skills)

Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

sorta adapted from Bon Appetit 

¾ lb. pasta, more or less (12oz or so) (we used radiatore/organetti but any fun curvy shape would be good here)
4T olive oil
½ large onion, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes (11 oz), halved (or quartered if larger)
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ c vermouth (or white wine!)
¾ c fresh basil leaves, sliced, plus extra for garnish
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried parsley (we used a “Tuscan herb blend” because we were out)
scant ½ c kalamata olives, chopped
7 mini balls smoked scamorza or smoked mozzarella (or use fresh, non-smoked!), sliced (about ½ c once sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions, erring on the side of al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large ovenproof saute pan. Add onion and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown. Add cherry tomatoes; cook for 3 minutes. Next add garlic; cook for two more minutes.

Add vermouth and give everything a good stir. Scrape up any browned onions or tomatoey bits. Next, add basil, oregano, parsley, and olives and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste sauce; season with s&p. Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir to coat evenly. Add half the scamorza and mix to incorporate. Top pasta with other half of scamorza and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until cheese gets melty.

Top with fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and crack of black pepper.

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Cheesy Bulgur Risotto with Broccoli and Tomatoes

CheesyBrocBulgurRisotto-3Home is colors and clutter, memories and fantasies. A place to be proud of, to share, to embrace.

Well-read books and paged-through magazines and background music and postcards and leftovers and clean laundry and dirty laundry and scarves and beer and nail polish and lost pennies.

This is home. Not a specific bed, or room, or apartment, or neighborhood.

A feeling, a net, a hug, a soup, a warm shower.

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Changing all that isn’t easy. You can’t just plop a whole van’s worth of boxes and drawers into a different set of walls and expect it to transform.

This time I felt like the luckiest person in the world–moving into a place I already felt quite homey in, with a loving and fantastic person who had already prepared for this transition by buying extra storage boxes, reorganizing furniture, and, thankfully, not even asking me if I wanted to drive the van.

And here we are, a few days later, boxes still scattered and corners still cluttered but I look around while drinking a glass of wine from my vantage point on the couch and see the flowery potholders my mom bought me years ago hanging above the stove, and the elephant hooks I acquired in Nepal already overflowing with scarves, and our reordered dressers so they both fit snugly against the same wall, and I know I’m home.

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And seriously what better way to celebrate that than a reimagining of a homey meal I had growing up: broccoli and cheesy rice casserole. I’m not the biggest fan of broccoli, but cheddar always makes it shine, and the fractal (romanesco) version at least provides visual excitement. I’m having a bulgur wheat moment, as it has recently appeared as a nutty-and-crunchy sub for rice in this risotto, and as a hearty wholesome addition to a salad with apple, radish, quick pickled red onions, cilantro, and poppy seeds. I wonder if in 20 years “risotto” will sound to my children like “casserole” sounds to my generation, but for now it’s a pretty good excuse to combine grains, cheese, and veggies into a quick and delicious one-pot dinner.

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Guys I know these pictures are a bit subpar but a) make this because it’s seriously delicious and b) it’s the last time you’ll see this bowl in a post since it lived at the old apartment

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apple, radish, pickled red onion, bulgur salad. recipe from plenty more!

 

 

Cheesy Bulgur Risotto with Broccoli and Tomatoes

created by me!

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 large (or 2 small) garlic cloves, minced
1-2 scallions, minced (white and light green parts only)
1 spicy green chile pepper, some seeds removed, chopped small (I used 1/2 a long hot but 1 jalapeno would work too)
1 cup coarse bulgur
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups water, divided
1 large broccoli, cut into florets (I used some romanesco) (and took a lot of pictures of it)
1 tomato, roughly chopped
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
small handful coarsely chopped parsley
s&p to taste

In a medium-to-large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, scallion, garlic, and spicy pepper. Heat until soft, translucent, and smelling good, about 8 minutes.

Lower heat to medium and add bulgur. Toast, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Then, add broth, 1 cup water, and big pinch of salt. Turn heat to high until it boils, then cover and turn heat to low.

Simmer for 10 min. At this point, most of the liquid should be absorbed. Add 1 more cup water (or broth) and broccoli florets. Cover again. 5 minutes later, broccoli should have started turning bright green. Add your chopped tomato and all its juices. If necessary, add more water at this point too. Cover, but leave lid open a crack.

Risotto should be done about 5 minutes later–the tomatoes will be disintegrated, the bulgur chewy, the brocolli cooked through but still crunchy. Add cheddar, parsley, and s&p and serve immediately.

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boxes boxes boxes

Roasted Radish, Blistered Pepper, and Olive Pizza

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Things I’d once assumed crazy and impossible and now know are doable:

  • I successfully only wore 1 pair of shoes (TEVAS iloveyou) for the entire month.
    • Daniel: You’ve been wearing Tevas this whole time?!! Shakes head.
    • Me: hehehehe.
    • Him: Stop googling your sandals at the coffee shop.
    • Me: hehehehe.
      Mom, be so proud.
  • Bike riding from Boston to NYC. My childhood friend Lauren and her lovely manfriend proved me wrong last weekend. Not sure the 180 mile trek is something they’ll try again for a while, but sounds like it was quite the adventure. We loved welcoming them with beer, Thai food, AC, and bagels.
  • Watching all 6 Star Wars movies. Okay, I still haven’t officially completed this one (and in fact fell asleep midway through the first), but I am DETERMINED. It is high time I know what my dorky imeanlovely boyfriend and his friends are talking about.
  • Making sticky dough form the same rectangular shape as the pan you’re putting it into. My mom made pizza all the time growing up, and I had one major success in college, but this was my (our) first Adult pizza-making session. In the middle, Daniel passionately exclaimed “I am never cooking again!” (as he is apt to do in moments of frustration), but then we tried a new tactic and voila pizza making led to pizza eating led to LET’S DO THIS AGAIN NEXT WEEK! An empty threat in the end.

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Roasted Radish, Blistered Pepper, and Olive Pizza

aka Pizza Experiment #1
hand held by Smitten Kitchen’s pizza section in her book or website

  • 2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large clove garlic, quartered
  • ½ t + 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 t sugar
  • 4-5 radishes, cut into thin circles
  • ½ onion, sliced thin
  • 1 small summer squash (yellow or green), cut into small chunks (optional)
  • 1 T olive oil, plus extra for drizzle
  • s&p
  • 2 peppers (I used red but your choice!)
  • dough (I am lucky enough to work at a bakery; my pizza dough came from the day’s baguette scraps. There are a million recipes on the internet to make easy dough, or ask your local pizza guy if they’ll sell you some, or just use the supermarket variety. You can’t really go wrong here.)
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • fresh mozzarella
  • black olives, one can (although most were eaten during prep), cut in half
  • prosciutto (totally optional)
  • fresh basil, torn into smaller pieces (NOT OPTIONAL….just kidding. But Seriously, DO this.)
  • olive oil for drizzle (fine, fine, optional).

Sauce

In a food processor, blend tomatoes, quartered garlic clove, ½ t red pepper flakes (or less), 1 T white wine vinegar, and 1 t sugar. Blend until there are no more chunks of tomato left. If you want to be totally anal you can strain it, but ours was more than smooth enough. This sauce is quite runny (don’t expect pasta sauce) but makes a great pizza base layer. As written, it is quite spicy; feel free to taste and spice as you go.

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Roast Radishes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sliced radishes, onion, and squash together on a baking tray. Coat in 1 T olive oil and cover with salt and freshly ground pepper. We used rosemary sea salt, but any old salt will do. Roast for about 20 minutes, until radishes are tender and sweet, and onions (and squash) get soft, sweet, and a bit mushy. Set Aside. Turn oven up as hot as it will go to prepare for pizza baking.

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Blistered Peppers

To make blistered peppers, remove grate on top of a gas stove. Cut just the very end off a pepper and spear it with a skewer (or chopstick). Turn one burner to highest flame. Hold pepper in flame (without burning your hand!), turning every so often, until skin gets blackened. This will be a fairly noisy process, as pepper actually emits sound bursts as skin gets charred! Don’t be alarmed. When peppers are totally blackened, set aside to cool. When cool, use your fingers or a small sharp knife to peel off the blackened skin. Don’t worry if some small charred pieces stick! They will just add extra flavor. Cut into thin strips.

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To assemble pizza

Sprinkle cornmeal to cover the bottom of a baking pan. (We used a rimmed cookie sheet.) Take that dough and manhandle it until it covers the bottom of the pan in a basic rectangular shape a preschooler could recognize. Use plenty of olive oil on your fingers and be patient. Gently use both hands to press on dough, inch by inch, starting at lumpy parts and pushing them outwards. If holes form, pinch them closed.

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Once this is accomplished, pat yourself on the back and move on to the fun part. Daniel and I each claimed half a pizza to do with as we wished (his meaty, mine overly cheesy). Here’s my ideal: spoon a bit of sauce over dough. Cover with roasted radish mixture. Next add pepper strips decoratively. Then tear long stringy pieces from your mozzarella ball and cover liberally. Top with halved black olives. (And if you’re Daniel, add proscuitto and hot sauce.) Pop into your super hot (as hot as it gets) oven for about 10 minutes, or until the crust bakes and cheese melts. Immediately out of the oven, cover with torn basil leaves. Devour while hot, perhaps while (finally) watching Star Wars.

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10 Summer Foodie Moments

1. My birthday: always deep in August, when summer is winding down. This year spent on Fire Island, grilling everything possible, going to the beach every day, and winning the local trivia bar night. Which led to free beer koozies, fire ball shots, and maybe some inappropriate ocean usage. Shh.

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2. My roommate had a thriving roof top garden! We ate so many fresh tomatoes and herbs in everything. Herbs make the world go ’round.

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3. My uncle turned 60 and had a surprise birthday! I was commissioned to make a cake, and you can never go wrong with a smitten kitchen classic. 

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4. Daniel and I spent the Fourth of July with his family in Texas. We went to a real bonafide Texan Rib-B-Q! This Northerner Jewish vegetarian was out of her comfort zone. (But I did consume a “cowboy cauldron” rib and enjoy it thoroughly.) (Also please note Daniel’s impressive plate.) We also went on a road trip for kolaches! Aka Czech/Texan baked donuts, either savory or sweet. (Get a really good version in NY at Brooklyn Kolache Company.)

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IMG_12995. Yesterday I ate a pretty awesome bagel, just because. From Black Seed Bagels, a trendy new Lower East Side place. It was after a pretty terrifying audition for a Chase Bank commercial, which happened accidentally by being scouted at my current employment bakery. Everyone else there was a 6′ sexy European model, so I would say my bagel was justified.

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6. In other cooking news, my CSA made me pretty darn proficient at cooking Swiss Chard. Especially here, as part of a complete breakfast. And also rhubarb! As a crucial part of this stewed honey rhubarb and fresh mint ice cream experience.

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7. My mom and sister came to town! A highlight was our dinner at Fat Radish, followed by amazing strange dessert at Mango Mango Dessert (probably the worst website I’ve come across recently and by that I mean BEST). I love nothing more that sticky sweet fruity ricey desserts in the middle of summer. Mmm.

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8. Many mid-day World Cup watching sessions turned into mid-day snack quests. Enter: the macaroni and cheese pizza. Aka the baked ziti pizza. Aka maccheeziti pizza. Yup, that entire slice happened.

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9. At the beginning of the summer, Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law joined us for a week of eating, climbing, and exploring. One highlight was mac and cheese night–we used our favorite recipe from Homeroom in Oakland as the base, and made it our own with smoked gouda, fontina, cheddar, and parmesan. Love any excuse to make mac.

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10. For recent birthday celebrations, my awesome friends joined me for a park picnic. Daniel, (at my request), popped his layer cake virginity with this beautiful creation. We had to even out the bottom layer, and so it became a cake cookie. I made Ottolenghi’s carrot salad, and my amazing friends made tomato quinoa salad, potato salad, nectarine & mozzarella salad, deviled eggs, sangria, etc. I’m a lucky lady. photo 1photo 1

Here’s to hoping fall is just as delicious! Apple-everything: I’m ready for you.