the_plan: (Kitchen)
James and I have for the past couple years made a habit of Friday night 'Pizza and a Movie Night' - occasionally it gets moved about for something the kids have on, but as a family it's one of our favourite traditions.

For a while it was frozen pizzas, (yuck), then moved on to 'make your own' with pre-made crusts, not bad but it could get expensive with the crusts being $5 each and not the best pizza crust. Then Fleishmanns came out with a Pizza Yeast. It's an instant yeast - no wait for a rise knock down rise again routine. At the time I was still struggling with mastering yeast breads so the whole no wait thing was good. I found the product worked beautifully, with my stand mixer (goddess bless Kitchen Aid) kneading was no longer an issue. The whole weekly Pizza and a Movie night, now expanded into make your own pizza and a movie night. It became a family event - us and the kids (and the dogs - who yes do get their own pizza) gather in the kitchen and build and cook and talk together ... and then watch a good movie complete with theatre popcorn!

Since the beginning of the pizza building I've had a fairly standardized routine of what I put on pizza - a pretty standard pedestrian pepperoni, red onion, roasted red pepper, green olives (I can *never* get the jars of sliced kalmatas), and a mozzarella/edam mix of shredded cheese. However, life being what it is last week my Kitchen Aid died *sob*, she broke a gear and literally came grinding to a halt. Wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do for pizza this week. In the meantime there was a thread running on the Food Network Canada forums about "What's On Your Pizza?", and I started thinking about all the kinds of pizza sorta flavours I like. It threw me out of my comfortable rut (hey there is nothing WRONG with my standard pizza!) and got me thinking about doing something different (just to mix it up).

First the crust. I've had a lot more success with bread recipes of late. In fact I have a few that I'm becoming quite comfortable and even proud of. Some of those are 'no knead' breads. So with the mixer on the fritz and a bit of time on our hands I thought about using a focaccia dough. I'd had a lot of success with that one in the past. Ok well it wasn't a 'no knead' recipe, if I was gonna have to knead anyway why not use my standard pizza crust recipe? Well... I wanted to try something different, and if I can make my pizza crust work with standard yeast then I can forgo at least ONE bottle of yeast in the fridge (we currently have 4 - traditional, bread machine, quick rise, and pizza - I'm thinking I'm gonna drop the bread machine one pretty soon too).

So for the crust I pretty much just copied straight out of the recipe I snagged from Chef Michael Smith's Chef at Home:
2 cups bread flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp traditional yeast
1 generous cup water

cornmeal
olive oil
toppings of your choice

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. (or mix by hand and knead) till smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. (approx 1 hr). Punch down the dough and then roll out on a well floured surface to approx 1/4 inch in thickness. Transfer the flat bread to a baking sheet that's been generously sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking.


Without the mixer it was a 10 minute knead on a floured board (it did pick up a fair bit more flour - it is a sticky dough). I only did a single rise, and then punched it down, cut the dough in half and rolled each half out to fit a 12" pizza pan. I found it a bit stickier and trickier to work with, and the recipe does make a fairly thin crust pizza, (the cornmeal is the shizzle!) there was some stretching and patting and repairage of holes... but all in all it was a very nice crust.

James stuck with his usual tomato sauce, pepperoni, red onion, roasted red peppers with mozzarella/edam shredded cheese. However, this was the point where I really wanted to play. I brushed the crust with a light drizzle of olive oil, rubbed some crushed garlic into it, a couple of tablespoons of hot salsa for a sauce, some chunks of fresh tomato, some hot spanish chorizo sausage sliced thin, a good handful of rough chopped cilantro, some red onion, a bit of roasted red peppers, and some whole pitted kalmata olives, sprinkled the whole thing with sea salt and finally I sliced some mini bocconcini cheese, and just a dusting of shredded asiago.

Bake at 425°F for 16 minutes... and the results were DELIGHTFUL
This was one of the nicest pizzas I've had in a long time. LOADS of flavours, all working well together; there was some heat, but not too much or over powering. It was 'just right'.



Honestly I still like a thick crust pizza, and I will inevitably try this again with more dough for the crust. I'd also like to do this with a pizza stone. Of course I also want eventually to build a big wood/charcoal brick BBQ with a built in bread/pizza oven, but I think the BBQ pizza will be for another day. I think though that my experimentation with pizza has only just begun.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
This one was inspired by FoodNetwork.ca's June Cooking Club Challenge, which was in turn inspired by an episode of Top Chef Canada. So with that in mind, and with a nod to Canada Day this week - I took a classic Greek breakfast pastry made with phyllo pastry and Canadianized it by glazing it with maple syrup (instead of the traditional powdered sugar).



Bougatsa

2 eggs, room temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup semolina (farina)
1 cup butter, cut into bits
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 454 gr boxes phyllo pastry, thawed, covered with dampened towel
melted butter
maple syrup


Slice vanilla bean pod open and scape the seeds out, add seeds and pod to the milk. Heat milk in medium pot until hot but not boiling.

Beat eggs until frothy; beat in sugar until thick and foamy, about 4 minutes. Remove milk from the heat and whisk slowly into egg mixture.

Return the custard mixture back to pot and set on medium-low heat; cook, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle in semolina slowly whisking the whole time.

Reduce heat to low, stir constantly, until custard is thick and smooth, about 5-6 minutes. Add the pieces cut up butter, continue to whisk until butter is fully melted and beat into the mixture. Add the zest of one lemon, and squeeze in the juice too. Whisk to combine

Cover custard surface with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Unroll your package of phyllo, keep a damp kitchen towel handy to cover the waiting sheets while you build your pastry.

Place first sheet of phyllo on a work surface, with narrow end facing you. Brush lightly with melted butter. Lay a second sheet on top of the first. Brush again with melted butter. Continue until you have a layer of approximately 8-10 sheets of phyllo.

Place approximately 2/3 cup of custard into the centre of your prepared phyllo, spread out to approximately 1 1/2 inches from the long sides and 3 inches from the short sides (vaguely squarish).

Fold right and left sides (long sides) of phyllo from the edge of the custard towards centre. Fold the top and bottom (short sides) of the phyllo from the edge of the custard towards the centre - till they meet and slightly overlap.

Brush top with butter. Gently lift the pastry and turn and place folded side down on a buttered baking sheet. Brush the top with butter.

Continue to make phyllo and custard packets until you run out of pastry, or custard or both.

Bake until golden-brown, about 15-18 minutes.

Drizzle warm pastry with maple syrup and spread gently over the top with pastry brush

Let cool 20 minutes before serving.

Cut into 9 or so equal squares using a pizza wheel or mezzaluna. Use a wide spatula to transfer the cut pieces to a plate. Serve warm.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
Last night's adventure in "WHAT DO WE HAVE IN THE FREEZER?"

Chicken thighs are pretty innocuous - you can do anything with them. Sometimes that kind of choice can actually stifle creativity - you can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices.

I think I ended up with with a bit of a 'Red' theme, peppers and the port wine comes in a lovely dark red labelled bottle. (Wolf Blass Reserve Tawny Port)

It's been so cool and damp this week I'd been craving something hearty and warm and ... stew like. So I started with chicken thighs, port wine seemed like a nice choice (hey it always is!) and went from there....


Port Wine and Roasted Red Pepper Braised Chicken

6-9 chicken thighs
salt
pepper
basil
tarragon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion - diced
2 carrots - diced
1 stalk celery - diced (I was out of celery and replaced this with 1 tsp celery seed - it worked but a stalk of celery would be better)
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
chili powder
2 roasted red peppers (brush peppers with canola oil and roast in a hot oven, or on a hot BBQ grill, cool, remove skins, and slice thinly)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup port wine

season chicken thighs with salt, pepper, basil and tarragon. Heat olive oil in a heavy (cast iron enamel works wonderfully) casserole or dutch oven. Brown chicken pieces in oil, then remove and set aside. Add onions carrots and celery to the pot and cook till onions are softened and translucent. Add the red wine vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan, add garlic, bay leaves, roasted red peppers, and port wine. Sprinkle a light amount of chili powder on the chicken thighs and add them back into the pan. Roast in an 350°F oven for 1 hr.

Serve over fragrant rice like basmati or jasmine, or a broad egg noodle.

Asparagus - blanch in boiling salted water for 5 minutes or just until bright green. Plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and preserve the colour. To reheat heat 2 tbsp sesame oil in a saute pan over high heat, add asparagus and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Toss in the pan to heat through, add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a sprinkle of course salt.

For dessert I wanted a bit of warm fragrant spice as well, and reworked a simple Chef Michael Smith fruit pudding.

Place 2 cups of frozen mixed berries in a 2 qt sauce pan, add 1 cup orange juice (or as suits - I had orange guava passionfruit.. *shrug*). Add 1 small dried chili, 1 3" piece of cinnamon stick broken into two, 1 tbsp lemon peel, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 3 cloves, 1/4 tsp all spice, 1 vanilla bean pod (open, scraped and cut into two pieces), and 2 tbsp port wine. Simmer over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes or until berries are soft and disintegrating.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve, reserving the juice, and working the pulp to save as much juice as possible. Set aside 2-3 tbsp of the juice, return the rest of the juice to the pot. Add 2 tbsp of cornstarch into the reserved juice - stir well. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the pot of juice. Simmer over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and translucent. Remove from heat. Pour into 4 dessert bowls, and cool in fridge. Serve with a small dollop of whip cream, or a spoonful of vanilla ice cream
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
He knows me soooooooooooooooooooo well! He understands all my obssessive fetishish behavoirs and loves...

We went to Michael's today hunting for a bottle cutter (did not find), when he found on sale for 50% off the perfect birthday pressie for me! So I get my goodie a month early..



Tools! Baking! Decorating! Little bespoke organizational doors and drawers!

SWOON!
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
There's nothing quite as satisfying as food made from ingredients from your own garden...


Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake:

3 cups cut rhubarb
16 oz strawberries
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn starch

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter
1 cup buttermilk
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup butter

In a saucepan combine the rhubarb and strawberries, cover and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Combine the sugar and corn starch; add to the fruit mixture. Cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes, or until thickened and bubbly and the sauce is slightly translucent. Set aside to cool.

In a food processor bowl combine the first measures of flour and sugar with the remaining dry ingredients cut in the butter and pulse till the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Mix together the milk eggs and vanilla and add all at once to the dry mixture. Stir together just until well moistened.

Spread half the batter in a greased 9x13x2 baking pan. Spread the cooled fruit mixture over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter in small mounds on top of the fruit filling.

In the food processor bowl combine the 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/4 cup butter, pulse till the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs liberally over the top of the batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.

(recipe from Better Homes and Gardens -All Time Favourite Bread Recipes)
the_plan: (Seal Cove)
Let's play another round of 'Let's Guess The Flower!"





In other green news - the wild rhubarb hiding behind the stables has taken off like a mad thing again!!



Darned good thing we love rhubarb - I got some strawberries on sale this week, so I suspect there's a strawberry rhubarb crumble coffee cake coming tonight :)


Edit:
In honour of happy surprises in our little patch of forest

Wild Strawberries
By Shel Silverstein

Are Wild Strawberries really wild?
Will they scratch an adult, will they snap at a child?
Should you pet them, or let them run free where they roam?
Could they ever relax in a steam-heated home?
Can they be trained to not growl at the guests?
Will a litterbox work or would they leave a mess?
Can we make them a Cowberry, herding the cows,
Or maybe a Muleberry pulling the plows,
Or maybe a Huntberry chasing the grouse,
Or maybe a Watchberry guarding the house,
And though they may curl up at your feet oh so sweetly,
Can you ever feel that you trust them completely?
Or should we make a pet out of something less scary,
Like the Domestic Prune or the Imported Cherry,
Anyhow, you’ve been warned and I will not be blamed
If your Wild Strawberry cannot be tamed.
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
Last week's focaccia bread:


Kinda got me slash dotted when the Food Network community admins posted the picture to their FaceBook account. Cool exposure... but I looked a git when the recipe wasn't there.

The recipe was snagged off Chef Michael Smith's show Chef At Home - so I figured the recipe was already on the website.

Anyway... I'm out of trouble now, and the bread is a real winner. Chef Smith did his with fresh basil, tomato and thinly sliced parmasan cheese. I did mine with fresh rosemary (it was what I had), tomato, olive and asiago cheese.

Took this from Chef At Home - the Birthday Lamb episode from Series 1.

2 cups bread flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1 tbsp traditional yeast
1 generous cup water

cornmeal
olive oil
toppings of your choice

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. (or mix by hand and knead) till smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. (approx 1 hr). Punch down the dough and then roll out on a well floured surface to approx 1/4 inch in thickness. Transfer the flat bread to a baking sheet that's been generously sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking. Dizzle and coat the top of the bread with a little olive oil, and add the toppings of your choice. Chef Michael Smith used fresh basil leaves, tomatoes, and thinly sliced parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. I used fresh rosemary, sliced olives, tomatoes, sea salt and asiago cheese.... but you can play around with the toppings based on what you have on hand and what you like. Cover lightly with a clean tea towel and allow to rise again (approx 1 hr) till double in size or soft and puffy looking.

Bake in an oven preheated to 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and well set.


I think tonight I'll try it with the basil to celebrate the arrival of a lovely new little basil plant from D*, mostly because the scent of fresh basil in the kitchen again is driving me batty!
the_plan: (Welcome to the Kitchen)
So I've been craving a wings night for a while, and had a bag of cut wings in the fridge in preparation of the opportunity. Last night being 'Pizza and a Movie Night' - we backed it up a day for a) the Feychild being home, and b) the season premiere of Doctor Who - I really thought pizza/wings it's a natural right?

Honestly though, I've not had much success with wings at home, not those nice crispy sticky spicey 'right' wings you get at a good pub. Further, I really wasn't finding any recipes that floated my boat.

I should say I rarely, create completely from invention. Usually my creation method is to tinker with, customize, someone else's recipe. However, I knew what I *wanted* - not being able to find anything close, I made my own.

They were fabulous, perfect, crispy, sticky, BBQ, spicey but not burning so hot to kill the flavour. Everyone loved them.

Problem - I almost never measure, and I never take notes while I'm creating (bad me - I need a kitchen minion to take my notes), so what follows here is a close approximation so as always feel free to add / subtract as you go depending on the flavours you like/don't. There are a couple of critical notes: ketchup - very sweet, the sugars here are what caramelize in the oven to give that right 'stickiness', and thus you DO want to finish em in the oven, the dusting with flour and frying is what gives them the required crispiness.

OK...
wings - cut into 3 (flats, drummettes, tips - throw the tips in a bag in the freezer for making chicken stock) - I had 24 pieces.

into a large plastic baggie (zipper freezer bag works well):
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp smoked paprika (gives that beautiful bbq smell)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
wisk powdered ingredients to mix well

Heat deep fryer, or oil in a deep pan to 375°F
Rinse wings and dry, toss wings in the bag of flour and spices. Do in batches of approx 12 at a time, shake off excess flour and drop into the fryer (do not over crowd). Cook for 8-10 minutes or until toasted coloured and crispy. Drain well. Set side in a bowl lined with paper towel.

Heat oven to 400°F
In a small mixing bowl combine:
3/4 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp ginger/garlic/chili paste (or increase garlic to 4 cloves, 1/2 tsp grated ginger, and 1 tsp well minced fresh chili)
1 tsp english hot mustard (Keens)
1 tsp chipole sauce
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
(again you can and should tweak the spice mix to your own tastes)

Remove paper towel from bowl of wings, pour sauce over wings and toss to coat. Line a pan with aluminum foil and spray with non stick spray, Arrange wings in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with large grain sea salt. Cook on middle rack of oven for approx 15 minutes until sauce is sticky and caramalized.

Serve hot with a cool sauce like tzatziki, or blue cheese, or ranch.

P.S: If you try this recipe - do lemme know how it works out for you. I DO Love the feedback. In the meantime I have another package of wings, I'll definitely try it again and see if I can't get more formalized measurements

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