December 20, 2008

I Have A Dream....

Do you ever dream about food?

Ok, that’s a ridiculous question – OF COURSE YOU DO! Who hasn’t dreamt about a meerkat dining on short ribs that you’ve braised on an old stove at your Grandmother’s house, while you practice the piano for a recital in front of the whole 4th grade class? Or being chased by Sandra Lee into an alley, who turns into a giant white spider that gets stuck in the corn syrup you’ve cleverly dumped on the ground? Everyone does!

I have been dreaming about a sweet potato pizza. I foolishly mentioned this dream to my husband, who always gets “the look” on his face when I want to “share” my food dreams. He immediately nixed the idea, because his idea of pizza is something with meat with meat sauce on a meat crust. Topped with meat. Anybody got a recipe for meat beer?

But I figure dreams are meant to be LIVED, people! Martin Luther King doesn’t have a birthday vacation day for nothing!

There was nothing much in my refrigerator for dinner last night, but there were those sweet potatoes…some “emergency” refrigerated pizza dough…cilantro…and my dream.

Roasted Sweet Potato Pizza

Some pizza dough (I swear to God, if anybody makes fun of my Pillsbury pizza crust, I’ll spam the comments on their blog….I was in a hurry, out of flour because of those dang Christmas cookies, and absolutely did not want to go the store, ok? Can you relate AT ALL??)

Cilantro pesto – process a big bunch of cilantro, a handful of pine nuts, 4-5 garlic cloves. Slowly add the olive oil, until the consistency of…well…pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little of that Cotija cheese if you want. Or go buy some pesto. I am all about the dream - not the

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, sliced into 2” rounds, brushed with olive oil, and that you have roasted in a 350 degree oven until fork tender (but not mushy).

About 1/4 cup Mexican Crema with a little (about 1 teaspoon) cumin stirred in – or some other Mexicany spice – DREAM BIG!!!!

Cotija cheese, shredded or crumbled to toss on top – about 1 cup

So…you just press out that dough and spread the pesto all over. Slice the roasted sweet potato rounds into thinner rounds. Place on top of the pesto, overlapping if necessary. Drizzle the crema over the top. Scatter the cheese on top of crema. Bake at 425 until browned and bubbly.

Ok…the husband was scoffing and laughing at me. “Who ever heard of sweet potato pizza? That’s dumb!” This is our “special” way – him, making fun, me getting indignant and defensive. The wonderful dance of marriage. Then I have to kick his ass.

But the pizza came out of the oven at about the time my son, his girlfriend and their friends came by.
If a bunch of hungry, young 20-somethings don’t like it, my dream has failed. And I'll go watch re-runs of Top Chef and eat 9 Lindt truffles and some Chinese rice crackers.

But they loved it. LOVED IT!!! Even Mr. Smarty Pants grudgingly agreed it was "good".

"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!"

December 16, 2008

Booty Soup

About a month ago, I got quite a surprise. UPS delivered a huge box, marked “perishable”.
“Hmmm”, thought me. Who the heck would send me a box of dynamite marked as food??? (I think those thoughts because I’m very paranoid and well…there’s my history with nefariousness.)

Cautiously I pried open the package with kitchen tongs (from a safe distance of course), and found an enormous basket. “Hmmm”, thought me. Nestled in the basket was an amazing array of food and other wonderfulness. Still perplexed, I examined the box a little further. “La Tienda” – the venerable purveyor of all things Spanish, edible and otherwise. “Hmmm”, thought me, myself, and I. I was getting warmer! And my coffee was kicking in. I vaguely remembered entered a tapas contest a while ago – perhaps this was a prize!!

After some super sleuthing (I AM the Mom of a spy, you know) I figured out I was a first prize winner – not the Grand Prize winner, alas. That lucky winner received a whole tapas party at her home, complete with a tapas chef, who probably is insanely good looking and then he invites the hostess to join him in Barcelona to open a small and stellar tapas bar on his family’s olive farm that covers many acres and has 12 outdoor fireplaces and lots of cute goats. No, I’m not the Grand Prize winner. Or bitter.

But first prize was pretty freakin’ fabulous. An abundance of olives, olive oil, chorizo, a beautiful wheel of Manchego cheese, a fabulous cookbook by Jose Andres, a cool cheese board with cute cheese knives, Spanish tapa plates, a gorgeous wooden olive tray, a bunch of other stuff, and BEST OF ALL…a chefs jacket with “Olive Oil from Spain” on the sleeve! So…guess who wore the jacket to Safeway that afternoon? And pretended to be an olive oil authority in the condiment aisle? With no one listening?


" Why, yes...I DO love Spanish olive oil...and your jacket! Let's make out!"

It was all very wonderful, yet strange…I never received a call or an email letting me know I won anything. I guess that’s the beauty of a complete surprise. One minute you’ll shuffling around in your bathrobe with some Windex in your pocket, singing “I’m Bringing Sexy Back”, the next minute you’re a Spanish chef! Making out with Xavier Bardem! (But not when he was in "No Country for Old Men")

Last night I made the “base” of our most favorite soup in the world. It’s a fennel and kale concoction, and I added some of the smoky chorizo – wow. The spousal unit said it was the “best” soup he’s ever had and believe me, I’ve made that soup a zillion times. The smoked paprika was released into the broth by the brief sautéing I gave the sausage, and completely changed the soup. For the better.

Here you go. I hope you get a food surprise someday. It’s a kick in the pants.
Oh, here is the link to Olive Oil from Spain….I can’t find my recipe anywhere on the site, or even reference to the contest. It’s so weird.

(thank you, thank you, thank you, oil people from Spain!)

"Booty Soup from a Big Box from La Tienda"
6 oz smoked Spanish chorizo, cut into bite sized pieces or “coins”
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
2 bunches kale, trimmed and roughly chopped (about 8 cups, I guess)
1 bag dry cheese filled tortellini (I use Bertolli…it’s easy to find for me)
Chunks of Manchego cheese
This pot made 6 big bowls of soup…and it is better left on the stove overnight and re-heated for lunch the next day.
1. In a large pot, sauté the sausage until sizzling and releasing the oil and paprika.
2. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, red pepper, and thyme. Sauté for a few moments, until vegetables are soft, but not browned.
3. Add the stock or broth and bring to gentle boil. Add kale, stir around, bring to boil again, then let simmer for 7-8 minutes.
4. Add tortellini, bring back to boil, and cook for another 8-10 minutes are until pasta is done.
5. Serve hot, with chunks of cheese on top.

December 14, 2008

Semper Fi, Mamacita!

One the biggest cooking pleasures I have is cooking breakfast for my kids. Now that they are adults and not fighting over the toy in the Cocoa Puffs box or letting the dog lick syrup off their faces or squirting each other with milk spit. That wasn’t cooking…that was crowd management using sugar, toys, and yelling.

So now that they are gone from home, independent, broke, buying furniture at Target and trying to scam gas money from the parents…they are much more appreciative of a big ol’ plate of bacon, eggs and toast. Especially our eldest son, Mac, a Marine platoon sergeant. Yessirree, Mom’s cooking is way better than roasted mystery animal in the Iraqi desert!

Mac is home, on a long leave, just back from a second tour in Iraq. This guy can eat. Even I, who watched him devour whole boxes of Pop-Tarts as a small child, am amazing at what he can put away these days.

So this morning I couldn’t wait to scurry downstairs and cook his breakfast. Six slices of smoked bacon. Fried onions seasoned with alder-smoked salt. Four poached eggs. Four slices of sourdough toast, pan-fried in the bacon fat. (Oh yes, I’m still lovin’ on the bacon fat….is there anything bacon fat doesn’t make better?? Huh?) Topped with deli slices of real American cheese, salsa and ketchup. It’s imperative the ketchup goes on everything, evidently. But on top of salsa? I blame the Marines.

I realize that this type of cooking isn’t approaching anything creative. But it’s disgustingly good. And it’s even better just watching the enjoyment Mac has eating it.

Damn…I’m on a slide….what's next? Fried Ding Dongs with a slurry of Fritos and Mountain Dew??

BTW…he didn’t like it much when I was taking pictures. I think it’s because he’s like some sort of military spy or something.

Cause we all know terrorists read cooking blogs.

December 13, 2008

Bringin' Home the Bacon, Baby!

Well, you just knew it would be something like FAT to bring me to my senses.
It’s been a long summer, fall, and early winter, and I won’t make you clinch your teeth and roll your eyes with boredom filling you in with all the details and drama, but I find it amazing and yea, verily…natural…that a cookbook would snap me back to the truly important. Stuff like an utterly fascinating, informative, and wonderful cookbook….about fat.

Let’s think about bacon mayonnaise. Yes, you know you want to. Because I sure did…at 2:30 am, even after an Advil PM! Pondering a BLT sandwich, but not with lettuce… with arugula. And some grilled avocado. Heirloom tomatoes, that as far as I know, only exist in my 2:30 am mind, since there no decent markets around here….and some of this BACON FREAKIN’ MAYONNAISE!

Bacon Mayonnaise
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup liquid bacon fat

Combine the egg yolk, mustard, and lemon juice in the small bowl of a food processor or in a blender and process to mix. Season with salt and pepper.
Have the bacon fat liquid, but not hot. With the machine running, gradually add the bacon fat until the mixture starts to stiffen and emulsify, about 2 minutes. Once it starts to emulsify, you can add the fat more quickly. If the mayonnaise is too thick, just blend in a 1 teaspoon of boiling water to thin it. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

From “Fat – An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes” by Jennifer McLagan

I love this book. I want to cook EVERYTHING in it. Jennifer McLagan is a genius and a wonderful writer.

I am so making “Salted Butter Tart” and not sharing.
(oh yes...I do not jest..)

BTW….I’ll going to try to be diligent about blogging again, but I’m not going to be actually cooking and baking and then blathering on about how good it is with really lame ass pictures. I am thinking I’d rather pontificate about food and eating, and merely offer the truly wonderful, occasional treat from my kitchen that you may actually find…useful. There are zillions of blogs with tremendously talented work going on and those are the bloggers/cooks/bakers that have the energy…I am merely semi-energized to do the same. But I do have a passion for food, for cooking, and I do want to share observations or whatever insanity manifests itself through my writing.

Let me know how it goes down with y’all. Thank you for all the kind emails about Molly, the encouragement, and yes, ragging on me to start blogging again. I appreciate it all. Yes, Liz, YOU. I’ll get up to speed…yea, verily…soon.

And make that bacon mayonnaise.

My action figure of Obama just arrived.

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"The Dish" by Catherine Wilkinson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.