Archive for the ‘Quick and Easy’ Category

Resolution shmezolution

January 5, 2011

The new year got me thinking about the best things we’ve made over the past twelve months. Our more ambitious efforts – general tso chicken, peking duck and chicken curry with roti – were among the most delicious and satisfying. The less extensive ventures I told you about, like fish tacos and gnocchi with four cheese sauce or all Sorrentina, get my mouth watering just thinking about them. The real stand out item of 2010, though, something I would go so far as to say that I have mastered, is pizza.

We made a lot of pizza this year. Sometimes I told you about it (tuna pizza, mini pizzas and Sullivan Street Bakery’s potato pizza) and sometimes I didn’t.

Looking through photos from the past few months I came across several pizzas that we whipped up on random week nights that were all amazing. For me, a homemade pizza with a little salad (or not) and a glass of wine (or two) is one of the best meals going. Sometimes I’ll even buy Perroni and we’ll pretend we’re in Italy.

A ball of homemade dough can yield four thin crust pizzas. Usually I’ll freeze half the dough and make two pizzas in one night. With the ready-made dough, the whole job takes twenty minutes tops (cook time included – in my oven, at 400 to 450 degrees, pizzas usually cook under ten minutes). If we have leftovers, they go to work with my husband. If.

bring your lunch

I think it’s totally acceptable to eat pizza every day of the week, and I encourage you to do so. Here are some topping  ideas to get you through it.

Monday

Start the week off right with some vegetables. On a tomato sauce base, sprinkle red pepper, green pepper, red onion, cherry tomatoes and soft mozzarella. If you need a little protein, slice up some of the salami you’ll be using for Tuesday’s pizza. If you like black olives, throw em on! It’s like a greek salad, only better.

veggie pizza

Tuesday

Begin by spreading sliced salami over your tomato sauce base. Add artichoke hearts and red onion and finish with chunks of soft mozzarella.

ready to bake

Wednesday

If you’re from Toronto or have ever spent any length of time there, you’re probably familiar with the restaurant chain Terroni. I love Terroni. We had our mini wedding there. It was awesome. Whenever I go, I tell myself that I will order something other than the C’T Mang, but I never actually follow through. C’T Mang is all I want. Ever.

For this one you don’t need tomato sauce. Begin by drizzling olive oil on your dough. Place thin slices of pear down, sprinkle small chunks of the cheese of your choosing (I went with old cheddar, the restaurant uses blue cheese), lay strips of prosciutto across and litter the whole thing with walnuts. Drizzle honey on it before you bake. Heaven.

Thursday

I hope you saved some prosciutto because you’re using it again. This is a classic. Bake your pizza with prosciutto and soft mozzarella and when it comes out of the oven, cover in a generous handful of arugula. Again, just like salad, only better.

Friday

Instead of heading out to CPK, you’re making barbecue chicken pizza yourself. Start with a barbecue sauce base. I’ll put the barbecue sauce recipe we made up below. It’s good. Cook a chicken breast in a pan and then slice into chunks or strips, however you want to eat it. Coat those in barbecue sauce.  Cover your pizza with the chicken, red onion and grated gouda.

When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle a generous amount of chopped cilantro on top.

 Enjoy your week, pizza face.

BBQ Sauce

2 cups strained tomatoes (I use Pomi brand)

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

juice of one lemon

½ cup lightly packed brown sugar

½ cup water

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan on low heat, mix the tomatoes, ketchup, vinegar, mustard and lemon juice, using a flat whisk.

2. Stir in the sugar, and then slowly add the water, stirring until all the ingredients are well incorporated.

3. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

4. Allow mixture to simmer, stirring often, for 30 to 45 minutes. Sauce will thicken as it reduces. I like mine the thickness of ketchup.

Quick and easy: Asian noodle soup

August 3, 2010

Long before we entered the hottest July on record since 1999, we made several quarts of chicken stock and stuck them in the freezer.

Flash forward to two weeks ago, when, following a bachelorette party in Vegas with my nine best girlfriends and the bachelorette’s wedding in Vancouver the following weekend, I found myself with a full-blown summer cold.  A runny nose in 90-degree heat seems so out of place, but there I was.

There’s a noodle place called Totto Ramen on 52nd between 8th and 9th that is rammed whenever I walk by. Apparently their authentic soups are so good that people will line up even in sweltering heat.

Inspired by New York’s dedication to delicious Japanese noodle soup, but not to extent that we were willing to stand in line for an hour, we looked to the freezer for the nearly forgotten stock and got to work on a delicious soup of our own.

We set the frozen quart of stock in a pot on high heat and waited until it was boiling to add one large carrot (peeled and thinly sliced), two lengths of celery (thinly sliced diagonally across), a small head of broccoli (florets on their own and the stalk peeled and thinly sliced), three cloves of garlic (again, thinly sliced) and half a white onion (chopped).

Prior to adding the vegetables, we also added a handful of crispy dried seaweed that once re-hydrated had expanded 50 times its size. We took most of it out, but the remaining saltiness really punched up the flavor.

As the vegetables cooked, we set about flavoring the broth with our favorite Asian sauces. A splash of each of the following went in: soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and Sriracha chili sauce. We grated in some fresh ginger and when the vegetables were cooked to our liking we added in the dried noodles. They needed about three minutes to soften up.

The soup ate like a big moist stir-fry. As I was typing this yesterday and thinking back to how good it was I got so hungry for soup that we made another one, this time flavoring the broth with lemon grass in place of ginger.  We skipped broccoli, as well, and added peas. I was a little careless with the hot sauce; the subsequent spiciness had me blowing my nose as if I was still sick (I’m not).  We also added the dried seaweed again and found that six tiny pieces did the trick.

Dandy little pizzas

July 9, 2010

Back in May I hopped on a plane to Toronto and spent the weekend at my aunt’s farm just north of the city. It was the first really warm weekend of the spring, and while she and my mom went golfing each morning, I lazed around at the house reading and taking pictures of dandelions. Seriously. I didn’t realize how much the unrelenting buzz of New York City had got to me until I got back and found the 50 pictures I’d taken of those fuzzy little guys.

In addition to the lazing, I did a lot of snacking. I can always rely on my aunt and uncle to have great food in their refrigerator. The cheese drawer is in a constant state of packed and the shelves are filled with fresh produce and other treats. They always have a bag of Gryfe’s mini pizzas on hand. While for years I’ve thought these mini pizzas, sold at Gryfe’s bagel shop and other specialty grocers in Toronto, were pretty good, this weekend I decided they were amazing. They remind me of the bakery pizza pretzels of my childhood, only not as doughy. Gryfe’s mini pizzas are somehow more sweet than savory, and have the perfect balance of dough, tomato sauce and cheese.

Back in New York, with my dandelion photos safely imported on my computer, I set to work replicating the delicious Gryfe’s mini pizza. I’ll tell you right now: I failed. My mini pizzas, though somewhat adorable and totally delicious, couldn’t quite compete with the magic of the Gryfe’s version. I’m still going to tell you how I made them, though, in case the idea of having half a dozen mini pizzas on hand to snack on appeals to you as much as it does to me.

I took one ball (half of the pizza dough recipe I’ve told you about before) and cut it in half, and then cut each half into three pieces. I took each one and rolled it into a ball and then stretched and flattened it with my hands.

I wanted to keep the sauce sweet and strictly tomatoey, so I mixed one small can of tomato paste into a pan that had olive oil and a bit of finely chopped garlic heating up on low. I added a bit of water as I stirred to make it less pasty, and topped it off with salt and pepper. I spread a generous dollop of sauce onto each dough round and followed with a sprinkle of grated mozzarella. The pizzas baked at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. I did some on a perforated pizza tray and some on a solid one and next time will do them all on solid ones.

The mini pizzas kept for several days in a Tupperware container. They also slid perfectly into our two-slot toaster, so when snack-time rolled around I could give them that fresh-out-of-the-oven temperature and crispiness that I so crave.

Shopping list:

For Dough – flour, honey, olive oil, salt, 2 envelopes of dry yeast (I use fleischmann’s)

For Tomato sauce – 1 can tomato paste, garlic (optional), pepper

Mozzarella

Quick and easy: Cheese Straws

June 30, 2010

Whenever I mention to anyone that I blog about what I make for dinner, the initial response is usually, “Oh! Just like Julie and Julia!” and then I have to explain, no, no, it’s not like that at all.  I’m not setting out to work my way through an iconic cookbook on a deadline, and I don’t share intimate details of my married life with the internet. I’m just an aspiring writer-type who loves to whip up delicious meals with her companion, preferably using fresh ingredients that she has picked up around town (read about my elaborate fantasy of living in France here). And if someone decides to turn this, my starter blog, into a book and it subsequently becomes a blockbuster sensation, the part of me will be perfectly cast.

I’m not denying that the blog is Julie & Julia-esque. It is. And if I did have to pick the Julia to my Julie, it would definitely be Ina Garten. I can’t get enough of her French-inspired, quick and fresh recipes or her constant hilarious assurances that “my guests are going to love it.” While I don’t agree with all of her party rules – no red wine?! – I do agree that her cheese straws are really easy to make. Although my first attempt didn’t turn out very pretty, I served them at a small dinner party, and true to Ina’s word, my guests loved them!

For cheese straws you’ll need:

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, defrosted (follow directions on the box)

1 extra-large egg

½ cup grated Parmesan

1 cup grated Gruyere

1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh thyme – I used rosemary!

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. The square should be around 10X12 inches.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the egg with a bit of water and then brush it onto the pastry.
  4. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, herb choice, parmesan and gruyere evenly onto both sheets. You can press them in lightly using the rolling pin.
  5. Slice each sheet crosswise – slices should be around an inch wide.
  6. Twist each strip and lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until they are puffed and lightly browned. Turn over and cook for 2 more minutes.

You can serve them at room temperature or still warm. This recipe works really well with pesto, too. Ina also suggests trying olive tapenade or sundried tomato paste. Don’t let her catch you serving red wine, though!

Quick and easy: stuffed potato skins

March 19, 2010

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Bake a couple potatoes (1 to 1.5 hours).

3. Cut baked potatoes in half.

4. Gently scrape out potato goodness, trying not to rip the skin.

5. Mash potatoes with chives, grated cheddar cheese, sour cream/cottage cheese/butter/whatever you’ve got that’s tasty and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

6. Refill empty skins.

7. Sprinkle tops with grated cheddar.

8. Put back in the oven for 15 mins or until tops brown up. Use broiler if necessary.

9. Consume.


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