Saturday, August 06, 2011

No-yeast pizza crust - easy!

It was one of those nights.  I just really wanted pizza - not enough to go get one mind you.  And our options for delivery are a bit limited.  So I figured what the heck - I almost always have a package of mozzarella fresca on hand, there's basil in the garden, some tomatoes on the counter - I'll just make one.  I headed into the kitchen and soon realized I was out of the one thing I'd need to make pizza dough - yeast.  Sigh.  I often make pizzas using lavash bread but none of that in the house, no pita bread either.  I got online and searched for a no yeast pizza crust not sure what I would find.   Well I found a lot.  I just picked one and went with it and was very pleasantly surprised.  The result was a thin crust pizza that baked up crispy and brown - really just the way I like pizza.  I mean, I love a really good deep dish every now and then but my preference is an almost cracker thin crust.

This recipe made enough for two decent size pizzas.  One was topped with a simple tomato sauce (canned Italian tomatoes simmered with some garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil), fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.  The other pizza was topped with garlicky sauteed beet greens, feta cheese and kalamata olives along with the mozzarella.  Yum.

No Yeast Pizza Dough
2 1/2 cups flour
2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 - 1 cup water

Mix dry ingredients.  Add 3/4 cup water and oil.  Stir until it forms a ball. If the dough is stiff add more water. The dough will be soft, not sticky.  Knead on a floured surface for 3-4 minutes.  I did all the mixing and kneading in my stand mixer and it worked great.
Bake at 450 degrees for 15-25 minutes.  

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Twice Roasted Beets with Buttermilk, Goat Cheese and Dill Dressing

As with many meals around here, this dish came about because I had something in the fridge that I needed to use up - in this case, buttermilk.  I was flipping through the Cafe Flora cookbook and came across a recipe for Buttermilk, Goat Cheese and Dill dressing which they mentioned was good on their roasted beets. 

We may be a weird household but we really love beets.  I love them hot, cold - even canned (on spinach salad).  I know it's one of those vegetables that a lot of people hate - or *think* they hate.  Because a lot of people when pressed will admit they've never actually tried them. I've posted before about my favorite recipe to convert beet haters and it's still a favorite.  But this one is definitely a close second.  It involves roasting the beets twice - once wrapped in foil to cook them through and then a second time cut into wedges and gently tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  The dressing goes together in a minute, super easy - but I'll admit that while the beets were in the oven for the second round of roasting I was thinking to myself  "I wonder if this is worth the effort" - after the first bite I can say yes, it most definitely is. This isn't something you can make at the last minute but for the most part it is largely unattended oven time so it isn't that much work - just time and planning ahead.  Both hubby and daughter commented that it looked like having dessert first - it looked very much like peaches with ice cream!

Twice Roasted Beets with Buttermilk, Goat Cheese and Dill Dressing
For the beets:
6-8 beets of roughly equal size
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil

For the dressing:
1 4oz log goat cheese at room temperature 
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon minced onion or shallot
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill 
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the dressing combine all of the ingredients except salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.*

Heat oven to 400.  Trim the greens off the beets, leaving about an inch.  Wrap each beet tightly in foil and place in a baking dish.  Roast in the oven for an hour and up to 1 hour and 15 minutes until a knife goes easily through the beet.  Reduce oven to 350.  Let beets cool until you can handle them but you'll want them to still be warm.  Remove the foil and slip the skin off, trimming off the root and stem ends.  Cut each beet in half and then each half into wedges (4 or 5 wedges per half).  Place them in a bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil, sprinkle with salt.  Place the wedges on a baking sheet and roast again for 30 minutes.  Let cool a bit then plate them and top with the dressing.

*Note - I used a 3.5 oz round of garlic and herb goat cheese because that's what I had, I omitted the lemon zest because I had some recently squeezed lemon juice in the fridge and I used dried dill, just used less.  This makes a very thick dressing that would also work well as a dip with veggies.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

I think macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food.  I'm seeing it on the menu in more restaurants and often they have a variety of macs - like the local Jack's Restaurant and Bar, which has a choice of six different "Jack's Macs."  Over the years I've tried many recipes.  It's not a complicated concept - a roux, some cheese, some pasta. One of my favorites was a macaroni and cheese I made while on vacation.  We'd rented an apartment for a week and every morning we'd stroll to get a cappuccino, baguette and cheese.  By the end of the week we had a lot of bits and pieces of cheese so I used them all in a hodge podge mixture that was the best!  Since then I've been on the lookout for that one recipe - my go to recipe - and I think I have finally found it.  I've made this many times now and it is the dish that is requested when the college kid is coming home for some home cooked meals, it's the perfect drop off dinner for a friend, it freezes well, tastes good leftover and it's easy.  Can't ask for more.  The original recipe is here at epicurious.com - the recipe as I make it is below.  I use a bit less butter, fat free milk instead of whole milk and a little more pasta. A really strong, sharp Cheddar is the key.  This recipe makes a lot - perfect for sharing and or freezing.  I usually get two 9 x 12 pans out of this.  It's not something we have very often because let's face it - it's not exactly health food.  But it is the perfect thing when you just need a little comfort...

Macaroni and Cheese
For the topping:
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups panko bread crumbs
3 ounces coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup grated parmesan

For macaroni and sauce:
1 stick butter
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 cups fat free milk
16 ounces coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup grated parmesan
19 ounces elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in the middle

For the topping, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, Combine the panko and cheese until combined well, mix in melted butter.  Set aside.

Get the macaroni going in a big pot of boiling water.  You will want to cook it al dente and be sure to reserve one cup of the pasta water.  While that cooks melt the 1 stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat and then stir in flour.  Cook roux, stirring, three minutes and then whisk in milk.  Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally. 3 minutes.  Stir in the cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth.  Remove from heat.  

When the pasta is done, drain it (don't forget to reserve one cup of the cooking water) and return it to the pot.  Stir in the cheese sauce and the cup of water.  Mix well and then put in your baking dishes (I sprayed the baking dishes lightly with olive oil).  It is a very soupy mixture (but don't worry, it bakes up perfectly) - you may want to ladle it into the baking dishes.  Spread the topping evenly on the macaroni  and bake until golden and bubbling, 20-25 minutes.

The original calls for putting it in two 2 qt baking dishes but I prefer to use a shallower pan so I can spread out more of that topping!  You can make one large dish and then a couple of smaller ones to freeze.  It's pretty flexible.