Finnish Ruis Bread Topped with Sliced Radishes and Soft Butter


I ate my first radish after watching Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theater. Do you remember that series? Maybe it was a little dark for children, but I loved it and thought Shelley Duvall was the bomb as Rapunzel.

If you remember the story, it all starts when Rapunzel’s mother develops a serious pregnancy craving for radishes, specifically the radishes topped with blue leaves growing in her neighbor’s garden. Unfortunately, instead of just going next door and asking the neighbor for some radishes, or even offering to pay for the radishes, her husband decides that he is going to scale the garden wall in the middle of the night and steal them.

If it had been Texas or Florida, he would have just been shot on sight, but since it’s Faerie Tale-land, the neighbor just takes their first-born.

Did I mention that she’s a witch?

That really got my 7 year-old brain working. What food would be so good that it would cause you to ignore common sense (don’t break, enter and steal from witches)? I had to get one of these radish-things. They must, I thought, be amazing!

After pestering my parents, they finally came home from the market with a nice bunch of radishes. They were so pretty: bright red on the outside and snowy white on the inside. No blue leaves, but I could deal with the thought of that particular variety being unavailable at our local supermarket.

I put one in my mouth, chewed . . . and spat it right back out. Blech! Stupid fairy tale!

I pretty much avoided radishes after that until I was 14 and was served them in France. Not wanting to be impolite, I followed my host family’s lead and slathered the offensive root with butter before popping it in my mouth.

Imagine my shock: the radish wasn’t offensive at all. It was . . . delicious!

And I have loved them ever since.

These little toasts can hardly be considered a recipe; they are just something that I love to have for lunch when radishes are in season. I really like using Finnish Ruis bread made by NYC-based Nordic Breads (the best Ruis bread ever). Nordic Breads ships their rounds anywhere, but in a pinch, any good rye bread will do as long as it is sliced thinly.

I’m not paid to say this about Nordic Breads at all, I just think their bread is wonderful ðŸ™‚

Ingredients:

Finnish Ruis bread, or any thinly sliced good rye bread

Radishes, thinly sliced

Good soft butter

Good sea salt

How to prepare:

1. If using Finnish Ruis bread, cut each round into halves or quarters before splitting them through the middle. Toast the bread and let it cool completely.

2. When the bread is cool, spread the soft butter evenly over the top of each piece. Arrange the sliced radishes on top and sprinkle them with good, flaky sea salt. Eat immediately.

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Corn Meal-Crusted Soft-Shells Crabs


Do you like crab?

Would you like crab even more if it was easier to eat?

Do you like your food fried?

If you answered “yes,” soft-shell crabs are for you!

And from now until the end of summer is the time to go out and get some.

Soft-shell crabs are freshly-molted blue crabs that are plucked from the water and put on ice before their shells harden up. They are delicious. Blue crab meat is sugary sweet and you can eat the whole animal right after it molts, shell and all.

Admittedly, the first time that I cooked a soft-shell crab, I was a little squeamish. I mean, how can you not be? Ideally, you should bring the suckers home alive, but it’s pretty hard to determine if they are dead or not because freshly molted crabs never look alive . . . until they swivel one of their telescopic eyeballs in your direction. Aaaaah!

Ideally, you should clean and trim them yourself, but I don’t fault anyone for having their fishmonger do it for them. If your fishmonger trims and cleans your crabs for you, you should cook them the same day that you buy them.

To properly trim and clean a soft shell crab, first you need to snip off those swivelly eyeballs by removing its face with a good pair of scissors. Then, you need to trim the tail off its backside. Finally, you have to gently separate the top shell from the bottom shell on both sides of the crab to rip out its lungs. Why do you have to do this? Because the lungs taste disgusting, you don’t want to eat the gucky stuff in and around the tail, and if you don’t remove the eyeballs, they can explode during cooking and injure you.

I just sold you on them, didn’t I?

But prepping soft-shell crabs is really pretty simple and not as bad as I made it sound. The rewards far outweigh any ickiness. Soft-shell crabs taste wonderful and they are a quick, elegant meal to put together.

A word on frying them: make sure that your frying fat is nice and hot. Test it by sprinkling a little flour into the fat. If it sizzles and turns golden, you are ready to cook yourself some crab. Keep your frying fat hot by not overcrowding the pan. If the temperature of the oil drops, your crabs will be soggy and greasy instead of crispy and light. If you are making soft-shell crabs for a crowd, fry them in batches and keep them warm in a 300° oven on a wire rack-topped baking sheet.

Many people like to serve soft-shell crabs with a remoulade or some kind of spicy mayonnaise. If it’s prime soft-shell crab season, I like to let the sweet crab meat shine on its own with just a shower of good finishing salt and a spritz of lemon.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of yellow corn meal

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 pinch of cayenne pepper

2 soft shell crabs, trimmed and cleaned (you can watch Bittman demo it here)

4 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Lemon wedges

How to prepare:

1. Combine the corn meal, the salt and the cayenne pepper together in a large shallow bowl or plate.

2. Heat the butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat in a large cast-iron skillet. When the butter begins to foam, rinse each crab with water and dredge it through the corn meal mixture. Gently shake off any excess corn meal and add the crab — top side-down — to the pan. Repeat with the other crab.

3. Fry the crabs until they are browned and golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. They should be plumped up and firm when they are done. When the crabs are finished cooking (they will not take longer than 8 minutes total), remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for a minute or two before serving.

Serve with a spritz of lemon and a sprinkle of good salt.

Mascarpone-Polenta Cake with Rhubarb and Meyer Lemon


I wish that I was more of a baker. Unfortunately, my baking past is littered with all kinds of baking misfortunes: lumpy cakes, leaden cakes, cracked cakes, dry cakes, lopsided cakes, burned cakes, burned cakes with runny centers, runny cakes with charred tops. The list is unfortunately long!

I think it must be related to the fact that, when it comes to recipes, I am incorrigible: I rarely follow them to the letter. It doesn’t help that I am generally inclined to eyeball amounts instead of dirtying up another measuring cup or spoon. This is fine for regular cooking, but kind of disastrous when it comes to baking.

So when I decided to try to come up with my own recipe for a polenta cake with mascarpone that would make use of the first of this season’s rhubarb, I was pretty nervous.

Thankfully, it came out beautifully. The cake had a wonderfully moist and tangy crumb that beautifully complemented the rhubarb’s tartness. The idea of arranging the fruit (or vegetable? I guess rhubarb actually a vegetable) on the top of the cake batter comes from Nigel Slater’s Blueberry-Pear Cake from his Kitchen Diaries.

One more thing: be sure to remove any leaves from your rhubarb stalks before cooking. Only the stems are edible. The leaves contain oxalic acid that can make you pretty sick. It goes without saying to keep your animals away from rhubarb. More for you, I say. What a delicious way to live dangerously!

Ingredients:

About 2 1/2 cups of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

1 cup of brown sugar, plus an additional 1/4 cup

8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick), softened

1 egg

3/4 cup of mascarpone

The zest and juice of one Meyer lemon

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 cup of yellow corn meal

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

How to prepare:

1. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the sides.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, toss the rhubarb with 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Let the rhubarb sit for about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°.

4. Sift the dry ingredients (the flour, the corn meal, the salt, the baking powder and the baking soda) together into a large bowl.

5. In another large bowl, cream together the remaining cup of brown sugar and the softened butter. Add the egg, followed by the mascarpone, the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Continue beating the mixture until it is nice and fluffy. Beat in the dry ingredients, a little bit at a time, until they are well-incorporated into the batter.

6. Spread the batter out as evenly as possible onto the bottom of the springform pan. It will be thick. Arrange the rhubarb by pressing each piece into the batter in concentric circles. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the top is golden and the center has set.

Let cool before slicing and serving.

Asparagus with Fried Egg and Parmesan


It’s asparagus season! Which means it’s time for my favorite fast lunch: sweet local asparagus topped with a fried egg and sprinkled with Parmesan. To anyone who thinks that making yourself lunch takes too much time, I challenge them to find something quicker than this meal.

But, Daisy, don’t you have to steam asparagus? Or boil it? That takes time!

Oh no no, young Padawan. You can . . . microwave it!

This idea comes from Andrew Carmellini‘s Urban Italian. In the book, he recommends microwaving asparagus as a quick and terrific way to perfectly cook it without sullying up another pot. I just have to quote him on this:

“Asparagus in the microwave is awesome. Yup. You read that right. I’m sure some food snob somewhere is recoiling in horror and throwing this book across the room, but I don’t care.”

I don’t care either. I love Carmellini’s food. He’s got a Michelin star and two James Beard Awards. If microwaving asparagus is good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

This is one of those no recipe-recipes that can be multiplied by as much as you need. I give you the recipe for one but obviously, if you are cooking for more people, you will need to punch an extra minute or two into the microwave.

Ingredients:

6-7 asparagus spears, rinsed clean and trimmed of their woody ends

Olive oil

1 egg

Butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

How to prepare:

1. Spread out the asparagus in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Season the asparagus with salt and sprinkle on a little bit of water. Drizzle it with some olive oil. Cover the plate tightly with plastic wrap and nuke it for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

2. In the meanwhile, fry up an egg in butter.

3. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the plate and arrange the asparagus spears on a clean plate. Top the asparagus with the fried egg. Season everything with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle on as much grated Parmesan as you like.

Serve with a good, crusty bread.

Green Garlic Shrimp Scampi with Linguine


I am finally getting to the end of the massive amount of green garlic that I bought at the Greenmarket. Whew! It has been a very delicious process, but it still feels good to polish it off.

With the last three bulbs, I decided to go hog-wild with . . . not hog, shrimp!

Big, fat, sugary sweet Florida Gulf shrimp. Deepwater Horizon be damned. Yeah, there are some scary reports out there, but it’s not like I have Gulf shrimp every day. And I just had four. They were supposedly wild, which is supposed to be okay.

I live in New York City so I figure that the air I breathe is probably deadlier.

They were so tasty. And the green garlic was a great spring twist on shrimp scampi, that Italian-American classic. No green garlic? The original calls for regular garlic and is still delicious. Don’t want to chance it with Gulf shrimp? Go for any shrimp that make your motor run. Or no shrimp at all — the sauce for the linguine is incredible on its own.

On another note, has anyone been having a problem with the WordPress Reader? Generally, you should be able to see an updated feed of all the blogs you follow when you open it, right? Lately, it hasn’t been updating the some of the blogs that I follow. It’s really random, though. Sometimes it will just skip posts, or sometimes it just stops updating a single blog altogether.

I read somewhere that the solution is to edit the list and refollow everyone. I started doing that, but it was so annoying that I stopped.

Has anyone else had this problem? There must be another fix . . .

Ingredients:

1/3 pound of dried linguine

1 tablespoon of olive oil

3 green garlic bulbs, the white parts and the tender green stems finely chopped

1 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of butter

Red chili pepper flakes to taste

1/3 cup of dry white wine

1/2 pound of shrimp, shelled and deveined

The juice of one lemon

How to prepare:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the linguine until it is al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a heavy saucepan or a Dutch oven until it begins to shimmer. Add the green garlic and sauté it until it begins to soften and turn translucent. Stir in the butter, the parsley, and red chili pepper flakes to taste. When the butter has completely melted, carefully add the white wine and the shrimp to the pan. Cook the shrimp until they are pink on the outside and their flesh has turned white or opaque all the way through, about 3-5 minutes.

3. Add the cooked linguine to the pan and toss everything together. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice to the pasta. Toss again before dividing it up the and serving.

Fried Egg with Sautéed Ramps and Garlic-Rubbed Toast


Ramps. Just the thought of them at the Greenmarket makes me really excited. Ramps taste like the essence of spring given that they are the first greens to come up after a long winter of tubers and root vegetables.

I’m not the only one with ramp-mania either. Unfortunately, the dramatic rise in their popularity over the past few years has been raising concerns that foragers are over-harvesting to meet demand.

Ramps are notoriously difficult to cultivate. For the most part, they are a foraged food that is found and plucked in the wild. To ensure that the plant keeps growing requires foragers to leave their bulbs intact â€” problematic since most ramps are sold with their bulbs and roots attached.

So what do you do if you love them like I do? Should you stop eating them all together?

You don’t have to give up ramps as long as you stay committed to being a responsible consumer. If you forage for them, take no more than you can reasonably eat. If you can, just take the leaves and leave the bulbs in the ground. If you buy them, try to buy them from a farmer you trust. Talk to your farmer and make sure that their ramps are coming to you in a sensible and sustainable way. The Greenmarket NYC closely monitors and regulates foraged food to ensure that things like ramps will continue to be around in the future.

Celebrate their scarcity because that is what makes them special!

Once you get your hands on some sensibly-foraged ramps, this is a great way to prepare them for lunch or for a light supper. I hesitate to even call this a recipe since it is such a simple way to prepare them, but simple preparations are oftentimes the best way to showcase especially great ingredients.

Ingredients:

Thickly-sliced bread, as many pieces per person as you like

1 garlic clove

4 ramps per person, cleaned and bulbs split in half if they are on the large side

1 egg per person

Olive oil

Butter

Salt and black pepper

How to prepare:

1. Generously brush both sides of your bread with olive oil. Broil the pieces until they are golden brown. Rub a garlic clove on both sides of the bread, including the edges.

2. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the ramps to the pan when the oil begins to shimmer. When the leaves have wilted and the bulbs have begun to turn translucent, shape the ramps into a circle and crack an egg into the center. Add a knob of butter to the pan. When the butter has melted, begin spooning the hot fat over the egg yolk as it cooks. When the whites have set, use a spatula to gently remove the egg and the ramps from the pan to a plate. Season the egg and ramps with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with the garlic-rubbed toast.

Ramp Risotto with Pancetta, Meyer Lemon and Parmesan


Spring is officially here when ramps are in!

And when I think ramps, I think risotto.

Sometimes, people think that risotto is difficult. But as long as you are willing to be patient, and don’t mind giving your stirring arm a little workout, risotto is a ridiculously easy way to have an elegant dinner.

This recipe is for two, but you can easily make the recipe for more people by adhering to the following ratio: for every 1/4 cup of rice, you will need one cup of liquid.

Ingredients:

1 quart (4 cups) of chicken or vegetable stock

3 ounces of pancetta, sliced into thin strips

Olive oil

1 bunch of ramps, cleaned with stems and leaves divided

1 cup of Arborio rice

1/4 cup of white wine

The zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon

2 tablespoons of butter, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup of Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling

How to prepare:

1. Thinly slice the white ramp bulbs and roughly chop the leaves. Keep them separated.

2. In a saucepan, bring the stock up to a boil and then turn off the heat.

3. In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan, brown the pancetta over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered and the pancetta has just begun to crisp. Spoon off all but one tablespoon of fat. Add the sliced white parts of the ramps and sauté them until they begin to turn translucent. Add the rice and toss the grains in the fat for about a minute or two.

4. When the rice grains begin to lose their opacity, add the white wine. When the wine has been absorbed, begin adding the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, while stirring constantly, until you have used all the stock or the rice has lost its chalky hardness and is perfectly al dente. This can take between 15-20 minutes.

5. When the rice is creamy and the grains are al dente, turn off the heat. Add the lemon juice and zest, the chopped green ramp tops and the butter. Incorporate everything into the rice. When the ramp tops have wilted, stir in about a 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Adjust the seasoning, adding a little hot water or more hot stock if the risotto seems to be a little thick. Serve immediately topped with more grated Parmesan.

Young, Green Garlic Knots with Parmesan and Marinara Sauce


Well, I did it. I broke my oven.

After a week of intense pizza-making, my oven decided that it was having no more of this high-heat nonsense and promptly decided that it was going to go on strike.

The stovetop still works, but the oven just makes a clicking noise and stays as cold as my hopes and dreams for weekend baking 😦

If my landlord doesn’t fix it in the next day or so, this will certainly throw a wrench into my plan for this month’s Daring Kitchen challenge. It is strongly looking like I am going to have to get creative fast.

Thankfully, before my oven decided that it had lived through enough, I was able to crank out these awesome garlic knots using Patricia Wells‘ basic pizza dough recipe.

Since I used the rest of the green garlic I got at the Greenmarket, the garlic butter turned out to be more like a garlic spread. No matter, the results were still sloppily delicious. I inhaled about four in a row while standing in my kitchen. They were just so soft, pillowy and slathered with green garlicky goodness that I couldn’t eat just one or two . . . or, erm, three!

On another note, I passed that darned Spanish exam! Tequila para todos!!!

Ingredients:

For Patricia Wells’ Basic Pizza Dough:

1 teaspoon of active dry yeast

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 1/3 cups of lukewarm water (between 105°-115°)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 teaspoons of salt

3 3/4 cups of bread flour (thank you RubyandWheaky!) or all-purpose flour

For the Marinara Sauce:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (if you don’t live in the Tri-State area, you can order Jersey Fresh tomatoes here, or use the best San Marzano tomatoes that you can find)

Salt

For the Young, Green Garlic Spread:

2 bulbs of young, green garlic, white and green parts trimmed and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon of salt

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

How to prepare:

1. In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, the warm water and the sugar. Let it stand for about 5 minutes before stirring in the olive oil and the salt.

2. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour, a little bit at a time, until most of the flour has been absorbed and the dough begins to pull together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and knead it until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 to 6 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a large lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise between 8-12 hours in the refrigerator, or until it has doubled or tripled in size.

3. When the dough has risen, remove it from the refrigerator and punch it down. Let the dough rise again until it has doubled in size.

4. While the dough is rising, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the tomatoes, stirring frequently, until all the oil has been incorporated and the sauce has thickened. Adjust the seasoning.

5. Preheat the oven to 400°.

6. Divide the dough into 15 2-ounce portions. Use your hands to roll and stretch each portion into a 6-8 inch-long strip. Make a knot, and tuck the ends under the bottom of the knot. Arrange the knots on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan so that they are evenly spaced apart. Bake the knots for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are browned and golden.

7. While the knots are baking, soften the green garlic in the olive oil and butter over medium heat. When the garlic is soft, season it with about a teaspoon of salt. Transfer everything to a food processor and process it until you have a smooth purée.

8. When the knots are done, remove them from the oven and let them sit until they are just cool enough to handle. Spread the green garlic purée over the top of each knot. Let the knots cool and absorb the the melted butter and olive oil in the purée. Sprinkle each knot with Parmesan cheese and serve with marinara sauce on the side.

Young, Green Garlic Pizza


Have you seen Jim Lahey‘s new book? The one all about pizza? I have been a big fan of Lahey ever since I lived up the street from the Sullivan Street Bakery in Soho. Back then, I used to go over there almost daily for shots of Illy coffee and square slices of pizza, available in four varieties: Bianca, Potato and Rosemary, Tomato Sauce, and Mushroom and Thyme.

Since those years, Lahey has expanded the Sullivan Street Bakery and opened a pizza joint called Co. Co. is just about one of my favorite places for a pizza pie in the city. The dough is imperfectly perfect: lumpy, irregular, charred, crispy and toothsome, with just the right amount of salt and olive oil. When I saw that Lahey had published a book all about pizza, I got really, really excited.

Because I thought it would be really, really easy.

See, Lahey’s other book contained the über-recipe for no-knead bread. As long as you were willing to let the dough do its thing and rise overnight, you could have amazing bread with just about zero effort. You didn’t need a fancy oven, or a special starter, or a wooden paddle. You just needed a bowl and an oven-safe pot with a lid.

So of course, I assumed that his pizza would be just as simple.

In many ways, it is. You mix the ingredients, you let it rise overnight, you stretch it, you top it . . . and then you pull out your pizza stone, pizza paddle or pizza peel.

Insert screeching wheel sound here.

Lahey wants you to heat your pizza stone by positioning it about 8 inches from the broiler element before using your pizza paddle to slide your pie onto its hot surface. I have three problems with this:

A) I live in a tiny studio apartment and I don’t have any space left for any more pieces of specialized cooking equipment, no matter how “inexpensive” Lahey says they are.
B) My broiler has exactly three inches worth of clearance because the broiler unit is positioned underneath the actual oven. If I put a pizza stone in there, there will be no room for a pizza. If I do manage to wedge a pizza in there, chances are that I will set my apartment on fire.
C) I live in a rental.

I have no problem with letting dough proof overnight. Delayed gratification doesn’t bother me, but if there is one thing I abhor in terms of cooking it is being told that I can’t make X if I don’t have Y.

Especially when Y is a piece of equipment.

Pizza is pizza. It’s not molecular gastronomy, it’s peasant food — albeit very wonderful peasant food that has a cult following and official Italian government recognition.

Nevertheless, I refuse to be precious about pizza.

If you have a pizza stone, by all means use it. If you have a pizza peel, good for you. You are likely a more serious pizza aficionado than myself. If you have neither, you can still make a perfectly serviceable— and even an amazing pizza — without them.

I’ll worry about authenticity when I have the money, time and space to build a outdoor wood-burning oven just like they have in old Napoli.

Pizza dough is really easy to make at home. Generally, it consists of five ingredients: flour, yeast, olive oil, salt and water. Every time that I make pizza dough, I end up using a different recipe than I did before because I forgot to scribble down the proportions that I used. However, there is one dough that I keep coming back to consistently: Amy Scherber‘s “Push Button” Pizza Crust, published in The Chefs of the Times. Scherber’s dough is super easy to pull together; you just whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor for about 60 seconds total, and then let the dough rest for 60 minutes. You don’t have to toss it to stretch it, just use your fingertips to “press, prod, push and poke” the dough into place on a plain old cookie sheet. The crust gets wonderfully crispy in the oven, but it still has a little bit of give to it. It also has great flavor even though it has the same ingredients that every pizza dough has.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can just stir the ingredients together with a spoon, and then knead it until the dough feels elastic.

For the sauce, I make the simplest marinara ever using Jersey Fresh Crushed Tomatoes — which are amazing straight out of the can. All I do is heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes, and simmer everything over low heat until the oil has been incorporated and the sauce has thickened. I love it. If the canned tomatoes are really good, it’s just the purest taste of tomato that you can imagine.

The #1 most important trick to perfect pizza at home is to go easy on the sauce and the toppings.

I know it’s hard to resist the urge to slather your dough with tons of sauce and cheese, but the more you pile on, the spongier your dough will be because all those toppings carry moisture. The more toppings you add, the less chance you will have of achieving a crispy crust.

And pizza really is all about the crust. So remember, less is more!

This is also the first post this year to feature spring vegetables. Green garlic is in! Whoo-hoo!!!

Ingredients:

For Amy Scherber’s “Push Button” Crust:

Olive oil

3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of warm water (between 105-115°)

1 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast

2 cups of all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons of coarse cornmeal

2 1/2 teaspoons of salt

For the pizza sauce:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (if you don’t live in the Tri-State area, you can order Jersey Fresh tomatoes here, or use the best San Marzano tomatoes that you can find)

Salt

For the toppings:

1 ball of buffalo mozzarella

1 bulb of young, green garlic, thinly sliced on the bias along with some of the tender green stem

Special equipment:

1 half-sheet pan or a plain old cookie sheet

How to prepare:

For the dough:

1. Whizz together the water, the yeast and 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the food processor. Add the flour, the cornmeal and 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Process everything together until the dough comes together, about 10 seconds. Process the dough for about 5 seconds more before turning it out onto a lightly floured countertop. Knead the dough briefly for about 30 seconds. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour.

If you don’t have a food processor, you can mix the water, the yeast and the olive oil together with your fingers, and then incorporate the dry ingredients a little bit at a time with a wooden spoon. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop, and knead the dough until it becomes elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for about an hour.

2. While the dough is rising, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the tomatoes, stirring frequently, until all the oil has been incorporated and the sauce has thickened. Adjust the seasoning.

3. Preheat the oven to 450-475°.

4. When the dough has risen, divide it in half if you want to make two round personal pizzas, or leave it as one ball of dough if you want to make one big rectangular pizza. Line your sheet pan with a parchment paper. Lift the dough out the bowl and stretch it out slightly. Place it in the center of the sheet pan. Using lightly oiled fingertips, press the dough out from its middle to its edges. Continue to pat it out until it is thin and evenly covers the pan.

5. Spoon just enough sauce over the dough so that there is a thin, even layer. Hand tear the mozzarella over the top, half a ball per round if you are making two round pizzas instead of one large rectangular pizza. Scatter the thinly sliced green garlic evenly over the top. Bake the pizza until the crust is golden and the top is bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.

Colcannon and Irish Bacon


I’m not really the kind of person to post Irish dishes simply because it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. In all honesty, this meal came about from searching for something to accompany the nice Irish bacon that I get from my CSA.

While idea hunting, I came across colcannon, and somewhere in the dusty outer reaches of my memory came the image of mashed potatoes and winter greens mushed together. Not quite sure where I had it first; it might have been at some random inn or, more likely, some Irish pub in Boston. In any case, it didn’t make that much of an impression on me at the time. Furthermore, I would have never considered making it if I hadn’t read this from The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews:

“To serve [colcannon] in the traditional Irish manner, push the back of a large soup spoon down in the middle of each portion to make a crater, then put a large pat of room-temperature butter into each one to make a ‘lake.’ Diners dip each forkful of colcannon into the butter until its walls are breached.”

Holy. Crap.

If I had known that you were supposed to eat colcannon that way . . . well, let’s just say that it would have been dangerous. Dangerously delicious, I mean!

In his recipe, Andrews asks you to heat the milk together with chopped green onions, and then beat the hot infused milk into the mashed potatoes. I actually spaced out and tipped all my cold milk into the potatoes before I remembered that step. Regardless, it still tasted wonderful.

So if you think that a dipping “lake” of melted butter for your mashed potatoes and greens (which might as well be ornamental at this point) sounds as awesome as it does to me, than colcannon is definitely for you!

And once those “walls are breached,” Irish bacon tastes pretty darn good in the ensuing butter flood. Don’t forget the mustard!

Ingredients:

2 large Russet (or floury) potatoes, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into large dice

1 cup of whole milk

6-8 tablespoons of butter at room temperature

1 bunch of Lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (you could also use curly leaf kale, savoy cabbage, or any other kind of leafy winter green)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

About a pound of Irish bacon

Coarse Dijon mustard

How to prepare:

1. Place the diced potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they can be easily crushed against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon. Drain the potatoes well. Add two tablespoons of butter and the cup of milk to the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until all the potato pieces are crushed. If the mash doesn’t seem sufficiently nice and fluffy, add some more milk, a little bit at a time, until it has the right consistency. Cover the pot while you prepare the rest.

2. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cut kale and a little bit of water (about a tablespoon). Season the kale with salt and pepper. Sauté the kale until it begins to wilt. Tip the kale into the potatoes and stir everything together to combine. Adjust the seasoning.

3. Brown the Irish bacon slices on both sides in a large cast-iron skillet. Transfer the browned slices to paper towels to drain.

4. Mound a good amount of warm colcannon on each plate. Using the back of a spoon, make wells in the middle of each mound and put a hefty knob of butter in each one.

Serve your colcannon with a few slices of Irish bacon and grainy mustard on the side.