Saturday, May 30, 2009

Beulah's North Carolina Deviled Eggs

"I want to eat deviled eggs, but I don't want anyone to see me eating them." -- Guy at the BBQ last night, right before devouring a deviled egg.

What it is about deviled eggs that makes people feel so...for lack of a less offensive word, white trash-y? There's no shame in mixing egg yolks with mayonnaise and stuffing them back into the eggs from whence they came, people!

I started making my Grandma Beulah's deviled egg recipe quite frequently last summer, when I would inevitably have some sort of barbeque to attend every weekend, and they're a hit every time. In fact, among my little social group, they've become sort of a tradition. You bring them to a party and everyone says, "Wow! I haven't had deviled eggs in forever!" and then person after person proceeds to pop them into their mouths like candy. Why anyone would be embarrassed to enjoy such a simple summertime delight is beyond my understanding.

Don't be ashamed to make this easy and delicious picnic classic - your friends will thank you.


Makes 23-24 deviled eggs (sometimes there's not enough filling to fill the last one or two egg whites)

1 dozen large eggs
Hellman's mayonnaise (about 1/2 cup)
Mustard (a good hefty squeeze)
salt and pepper
couple dashes vinegar
pinch of sugar
paprika for sprinkling

sweet pickle relish, if you want to make them that way (about 1/4 c.)


Boil the eggs. Remove from the hot water and place in a bowl of ice water and put them in the fridge to cool down. When they are cool, peel the eggs.


Cut the eggs in half and place the yolks in a medium bowl. Place the whites on a plate.


Mash the yolks, and add all the other ingredients. Mix together until semi-smooth. Fill the eggs with the yolk mixture. Top with the paprika as a garnish.

Once my deviled eggs became an institution, my friend bought me a deviled egg carrier as a birthday gift, which has turned out to be more amazing and handy than I ever thought possible.

Happy Summer! Thanks for reading. More soon...

Mediterranean Shrimp Bake & Spinach Orzo

4 friends. 5 (or was it 6?) bottles of wine. 3 courses. Innumerable conversational topics. One amazing night of feasting and catching up on fun that was long overdue.

When my friend Emily told me that our mutual friend Ashley was a huge fan of my blog (and no shrinking violet in the kitchen, either), and that Ashley wanted to get together to have dinner, we put it on the calendar immediately! Ashley and Katie hosted and provided the first course (sadly, there are no pictures, but they wouldn't have done it justice, anyway): grilled crostini spread with mascarpone cheese, garlic, and artichokes (yum-o-rama). I brought the main course, as you'll see in detail below, and Emily made dessert, the perennial summer favorite, Strawberry Shortcake (cold whipped cream and fresh berries on hot biscuits...mmmmmmmmm.

Since you all couldn't be there (it was a night not to be missed, I can assure you), here is a sampling of our conversational topics (well, the ones fit for public consumption, anyway): single-white-female-esque behavior patterns, trust funds and how we'd like to have some, the pros and cons of gainful employment, questionable spooning incidences, and adventures in babysitting.

Much vino was, ahem, sampled, and we even made it out on the town later...I seem to vaguely remember a dance-off or two...



1 and 1/4 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
25-30 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 container feta cheese crumbles
fresh dill, chopped
fresh parsley, chopped
fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes

1/2 lb. dry orzo
About 8 oz. raw spinach leaves, chopped into smallish pieces
1 jar piquillo peppers, drained and chopped
juice of one lemon
glug olive oil
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
dried herbs such as oregano, basil, etc.
fresh dill, chopped
fresh parsely, chopped


Rinse shrimp and thaw, if using frozen shrimp. Set aside. In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil and saute the onion until it's translucent and beginning to brown on the edges. Meanwhile, chop the stewed tomatoes into smaller chunks, making sure you keep all the juices. When the onion is almost done, add the garlic to the pan and cook for another minute, seasoning with salt and pepper.


Add the chopped stewed tomatoes and all their juices to the pan with the garlic and olive oil. Add the chopped herbs. Cook for a couple minutes, just until the herbs are wilted. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down a bit.


Place a layer of shrimp on the bottom of a semi-deep baking dish. When the tomato mixture has cooled some, pour about half of it over the top of the shrimp. Add another layer of shrimp over that, then pour the rest of the tomato mixture over top. If you want, you can pull a few shrimp out of the sauce so that they are visible in the dish.


Spread the olives evenly over the top of the casserole. Don't put the cheese on until right before you are going to bake it. Preheat the oven to 375. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, until everything is bubbly and the cheese is getting lightly brown in a few places. Garnish with lemon wedges and extra herbs if desired.


While the oven is heating and the shrimp is baking, boil a pot of salted water and cook the orzo until al dente; throw the spinach in the pot with the orzo about 3 minutes before the orzo is done, so that the spinach wilts a bit. Drain the orzo and spinach and return to the pot, off the heat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients while the orzo is still pretty hot so that it soaks up the olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside until ready to serve (I served the orzo at room temperature and the shrimp bake piping hot over the top, right out of the oven).

The shrimp bake came out great! I was really, really happy with it. I was worried that the dill or the olives or the cheese might overpower the other, more delicate flavors, but I think it worked really well. This is the perfect meal for relaxed dinner with friends: it's low-stress, low-maintenance, and it makes a lot of food without that many ingredients. And everyone seemed to really love it, yay!

The orzo was a nice side dish; I always like when a carb-y side dish and a vegetable can just coexist in one dish so that you really only have to make two things, not three. You could easily serve a salad with this, too, although the crostini were an amazing complement to the rest of the meal - I will definitely be making those soon.

It was the kind of super-fun night that makes you wonder why you don't do it more often. Thanks so much to Katie and Ashley for hosting and for the first course, and to everyone for judging and eating with gusto! (Check out the comments soon for the judges' feedback.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Muffins

Sometimes I really can't help myself.

I'll be sitting at home, relaxing, flipping through a cooking magazine, cookbook, or perusing a cooking blog - and rather than just being satisfied with some light food-related reading, I will be compelled to jump off the sofa, run to the Market, and make whatever latest recipe has struck my fancy. In the case of dinner, that's usually a good thing; in the case of baking, sometimes that can be a bad thing, because I'm almost always left with an exorbitant number of baked goods that one girl alone simply cannot consume.

On that note, muffins anyone?

I just couldn't put down my copy of Quick Vegetarian Delights, and when I came across this recipe for Oatmeal Muffins, I immediately started fantasizing about splitting them open, slathering them with cream cheese, and having them all week long with my morning tea.

Cut to me scurrying through my alley - weaving around rats like they're orange parking cones - and popping into the store for the one ingredient I didn't have on hand (plain yogurt).

I made this recipe pretty much to the letter, only I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. I also skipped the sugar/butter topping.



1 and 1/4 c. rolled oats
1 and 1/4 c. buttermilk, or plain lowfat yogurt
1 c. unbleached flour (as I mentioned, I used whole wheat)
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. raisins (didn't go there - I hate raisins)
1 large egg
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
5 T. unsalted butter, melted


1 T. unsalted melted butter
1 T. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. rolled oats
1/8 tsp. cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, beat together the oats and the buttermilk or yogurt, and let sit 15 minutes. Meanwhile, butter the insides and top of a regular-sized muffin pan.


In a small bowl, throroughly combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and raisins.


Beat the egg, brown sugar, and melted butter into the oat mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients until just evenly combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan.


Combine the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle some on top of each muffin. Bake 17 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm, not hot.*

*Since patience is not one of my virtues, I ate one while it was hot. It was delicious.

These is a nice, base muffin recipe. One to experiment with, for sure. I'm curious how they'd taste if you used vanilla yogurt instead of plain, and of course there are a zillion dried fruits to add - I'm a fan of dried cranberries and apricots. Fresh fruit would be great too - blueberries, strawberries, raspberries...

I just remembered something I saw at the farmer's market a couple weeks ago: a jar of vanilla-lavender peach compote - the vendor was sold out last time I went, but oh mama would that be good spread on one of these! This Saturday, I'm getting there early.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Tomato Pesto Yum-o-Rama!


That is all I have to say about this dish.

I admit, I followed a recipe (mostly). I got this great book at AfterWords, one of the best used book stores in the city (in my humble opinion). It's called Quick Vegetarian Pleasures - and don't let its simple name fool you: the recipes are definitely quick, easy, and pleasurable, but the ingredients are diverse and the way they're put together is inventive.

The book is very much in line with my cooking philosophy: use whole, simple, ingredients, use fats, dairy, and oils in intelligent quantities, and make grains and vegetables the stars of every meal.

This is the first recipe I've made from the book, but if they're all this good, I can't wait to make more! Anyone could make this, and I'm pretty sure anyone would like it, too.

I've posted the recipe below exactly as it appears in the book, but I'll denote the few things I changed/added.



1/3 c. pine nutes
One 6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 c. minced fresh parsley
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh basil, or 2 tsp. dried
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound vermicelli, capellini, or spaghettini (I used whole wheat)

My additions:

large handful fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper


Lightly toast the pine nuts in a 350 degree oven until golden*, about 5 minutes.**

*I totally burned mine on one side, but it made no difference. Still delish.
**I chose to finely chop my pine nuts, making the finished pesto less chunky and more like a traditional, blended pesto. You could also put all the pesto ingredients into a food processor.


To make the sauce, combine the pine nuts with all the remaining ingredients except the pasta in a medium bowl. (This step may be completed up to 24 hours in advance, covered, and chilled. Bring to room temperature before mixing it with the pasta.)


Bring a 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Before draining the pasta, beat 2 tablespoons of the boiling pasta water into the sauce. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot or drop it into a large bowl. Spoon on the sauce and toss quickly. Serve immediately.


In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil. Add the tomatoes and spinach, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve alongside capellini. (I also garnished everything with a little grated mozzarella, because, why not?)


I started with slightly more than one can of tomato paste (the whole reason behind me making this was to get rid of said tomato paste). I also increased the amount of fresh herbs, and added some fresh thyme, since it was in the fridge. I didn't really measure anything but the olive oil, and then I added just about a tablespoon more, to account for the greater volume of everything else I added. I also threw in some red chili flakes for heat.

I wanted to add more vegetable-y goodness, hence the semi-side-dish of tomatoes and spinach, but this would be great with grilled chicken or shrimp, tofu, or really topped with any meat or veggies you want. It's also delicious all by itself - it's very flavorful!

You could also swap out any herbs you like - if you're more of an oregano person, you could use that. You could also try it with different types of nuts - walnuts might be nice. I can also see using the pesto to spread on top of tilapia or halibut, then baking it to make a sort of herb-y crust. It would also be delicious spread on crostini or stirred into hummus - you could even stir a tablespoon into mashed potatoes or polenta for a special side dish.

You should all go to the store and make this TOMORROW NIGHT! Let me know how it comes out in the comments.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Monday, May 25, 2009

100th Post - Coq Au Vin (!)

Well, obviously I'm not making a one-hundred-year-old recipe for my 100th post....I'm making a THOUSAND-year-old-recipe for my 100th post!

Did I mention it's my 100th post? Yay!

Coq au vin was made famous (?) by Julia (Child, that is), but long before that, it was loved by Julius (Caesar, that is). Legends trace its origins back to ancient Gaul, but it has no doubt been a rustic peasant meal for centuries (thanks, Wikipedia!).

This recipe will be, I think, 100% organic (as I had planned to do for my 100th post originally). I got all the ingredients for it at the new, absolutely squeal-inducing Whole Foods at North and Clybourn (seriously, that place is a Foodie Palace). I have been promising myself I'd make Coq Au Vin for...I don't know, years now. I was going to make Ross pot roast tonight, per his request, but we ended up eating so much red meat this weekend that we made a last-minute change, and I decided to try to do justice to this age-old classic that the French do so well.

I did research several recipes (Julia's in particular), but I did a little editing - I am simply not in an economic state of affairs which would allow the purchase of cognac, for Gawd's sake, for one little meal (I am positive that I would never again use cognac). Plus, Julia says you have to set it on fire - um, PHOBIA! So this coq will just have to do without the cognac. There are a few other things I'm skipping, such as boiling the bacon (have I ever mentioned that I only have one functioning burner on my 4-burner stovetop? It's true), and using pearl onions (couldn't find them - so I'm subbing in a regular old onion, chopped into pearl onion-sized pieces).



1 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
thyme leaves
salt and pepper

1 large yellow onion
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
thyme leaves
1/3 c. beef broth
salt and pepper

4 chicken breasts and 6 drumsticks, bone in and skin on, rinsed and patted very dry
5 slices bacon, cut into thirds
2 T. butter
salt and pepper
1/2 T. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, mashed
3 c/ red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
1-2 c. beef broth
thyme leaves
2 T. butter, at room temperature
3 T. flour
egg noodles, cooked until al dente


Brown mushrooms in butter and olive oil with thyme and salt and pepper. Set aside.


Brown onions in butter and olive oil with thyme and salt and pepper. Add beef broth, cover, and simmer until tender and beef broth has mostly evaporated.


Fry bacon pieces in butter until crisp and browned. Remove bacon with slotted spoon. Brown the chicken in the bacon fat and butter, seasoning on both sides with salt and pepper (if you do not have a very large pan, do this in batches). Return all chicken to hot pan, and add wine, broth, tomato paste, garlic, and thyme. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through.


Remove chicken with slotted spoon and set aside on platter. Boil the wine/broth until reduced to about 2 and 1/2 cups of liquid. Meanwhile, cut the meat off the bones of the chicken. Discard bones and skin. (This isn't part of the traditional recipe; I just wanted to make it easier to eat for my guests - plus, a lot of people are skeeved out by chicken bones.)


Mash 2 T. butter and 3 T. flour until it comes to a paste. When wine/broth is reduced, reduce heat to simmer and whisk in the flour/butter paste. Simmer for a few minutes until thickened. Stir in the bacon, mushrooms, and onions. Simmer until everything is hot. Stir in chicken.


Serve coq au vin over hot buttered egg noodles. Enjoy!


TAYLOR: A great balance of flavors. It almost ate like a beef stroganoff - egg noodles with a buttery sauce - but with chicken and bacon instead. The mushroom and red wine teamed up nicely as usual to infuse the sauce with a nice earthy tone.

The meal performed so well that I actually refrained from ordering at the Wieners Circle later that night. A pretty good compliment in itself. As a review I'd have to give this one only four out of five stars, since the chef did admit to using a recipe this time.

SARAH: Amazing flavor and so tender and juicy. Mmmm bacon fat. Even though that sounds fattening, I felt really good afterwards. Nice hearty meal.

ROSS: I would say this dish grabbed hold of my taste buds and shook them like they owed money. It was extremely flavorful and I wish I had some in my mouth right now. This was my first French fricassee, so my judging skills may not be apropos, but I like tons of flavor and hearty homecooked meals, and this is one of the best. It’s probably way too hard for you to make.

MY VOTE ON MY DISH: 9 stars! Even with all the step-skipping and lame substitutions, this dish was delicious (I can only imagine how incredible it would be if I had followed Julia's instructions to the letter). It reminded me a lot of a chicken-y version of beef stroganoff. I think that it's more commonly served over mashed potatoes, not egg noodles, and that would also be delicious (believe me, I'm going to try it out with the leftovers).

I'm really glad I cooked the chicken on the bone, but I'm also glad I cut it off the bone to serve it - I'd recommend that for any situation except for a dinner party, where you may want the aesthetic element of having whole chicken pieces spread out on a serving platter (this meal would be a great meal for "company" - it's complex enough to be impressive, but not so overwhelming that it would be stressful. Some creamy whipped potatoes and a salad and you'd have your guests raving. It also makes a lot of food).

This wonderful meal topped off a fantastic Memorial Day weekend with my better half in town, filled with food, baseball games, food, and more food!

Thus begins the amazing phenomenon that is Summer in Chicago!

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lemon-Cilantro Chicken & Purple Scalloped Potatoes

Oddly, I until dinnertime today, I hadn't had chicken in quite some time. My CostCo chicken reserves have long been depleted, and I haven't gone to eat at an actual restaurant in...I don't even know how long (although my trip home to Atlanta this weekend will most certainly remedy that).

I forgot how great chicken can be when only treated to a little olive oil, white wine, and lemon. And while fresh chicken breasts can sometimes be shockingly expensive ($12 for three chicken breasts?!?), I found a great deal at my local (usually astonishingly overpriced - $7 for marinara sauce, no joke) market.

My dear friend Megan, of my agency alma mater, came over bearing a deliciously dry and crisp Pinot Grigio (which was integrated perfectly into the chicken as well as the conversation). This method of cooking chicken is, dare I say, infallible. If there are those of you out there reading this thinking, "I wish I could make that, but I'm horribly inept in the kitchen," I IMPLORE you to give this method a try.

It's actually quite fun: you get to beat your meat (yes, that's what I said). Then, it cooks up quickly, it's juicy and flavorful, and you've made a bona fide chicken dish in about 15 minutes (suck it, Racheal Ray!).

The scalloped potatoes might be a tad more on the intermediate level - only because of the bechamel sauce - but if you were to make chicken like this and pair it with salad and an easy starch like Success Rice, instant mashed potatoes, or couscous, you'd have a perfect meal. If you don't believe me, behold:




1 1/4 lb. purple potatoes (you could use any starchy variety)
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/2 c. milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. (about 1 c. grated) smoked Swiss cheese (if you can't find it, try fontina)
1 oz. grated fresh parmesan, plus more for the topping
1/4 c. seasoned bread crumbs
salt and pepper
ground cayenne pepper


2 fresh chicken breast halves (or one full breast)
2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
juice of one lemon
1/3 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. (packed) fresh chopped cilantro (you could use parsley or any herb you like)
1/2 c. flour
salt and pepper


fresh Spring greens mix
quick lemon "vinaigrette" - 1 tsp. each lemon juice, mustard, mayo, honey, and a dash of salt, pepper, and salt-free all-purpose seasoning - whisk in about 2 T. olive oil.


Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, but not so soft that they're mashable. When cool enough to touch, cut into thin slices. Layer in a shallow dish.


Preheat the oven to 375. Make the cheese bechamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Whisk in the flour, making a roux, and cook for another minute. Whisk in the milk, stirring constantly. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it cook until it begins to thicken (coating the back of a spoon). Reduce the heat a little and stir in the cheese, whisking until melted. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Remove from heat and pour over the potatoes.


Top the scalloped potatoes with bread crumbs and some more grated parmesan. Bake for about 30 minutes, until top is browned and sides are bubbly.


Assemble the dressing and salad. Slice each chicken breast half with a knife - almost but not quite all the way through (butterflying it). Beat with a meat mallet until thin.


In a shallow bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper. In a nonstick skillet, heat the butter and oil for the chicken over medium-high. While it's melting, dredge each chicken breast half in the seasoned flour. Cook until browned on the first side, adding a little more salt and pepper to the raw side. Flip and cook on the other side. Repeat for the other chicken breast half. Set aside.


Do not drain anything from the pan, and reduce the heat to medium. Add the lemon juice and white wine, stirring, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cilantro. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook for 4-5 more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.


Spoon some scalloped potatoes onto each plate. Serve the chicken, scraping the pan sauce over each serving. Serve the salad alongside everything. Enjoy!

The purple potatoes, by the way, taste exactly like regular potatoes, they're just more fun to look at. (They were a farmer's market find). The smoky Swiss sauce with a hint of heat from the cayenne pepper was luscious - I mean how can potatoes and cheese be bad? The chicken was moist and lemony, and I was actually really surprised how good the cilantro was in the sauce - cilantro takes on a totally different flavor when cooked.

I'll just reiterate that I stand behind this chicken method 110% (boy blog-readers, this goes out especially to you). Try it and let me know how it came out in the comments (NOTE: if you don't like cilantro, use parsley or thyme).


People: my very next post will be my 100th post! How exciting is that? 100 posts. A true milestone in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of the blogosphere. I want to do something special, and I've been thinking that I'd like to take a 100-year-old recipe and make it 100% organic (which, now that I really think about it, 100 years ago, ALL recipes were organic - ha).

I found a delectable-looking Devil's Food cake recipe from 1909 on the internet, which would be simple to make and fantastic to eat. I might even make a little gathering out of it, with coffee and liqueur. Who's with me?

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spring Farmer's Market Orzo

Well, my hope was to start making this little blog a little more interesting by making the dishes relevant to something in my life: a book I'm reading, for instance.

I have embarked on a personal journey to read "the classics" (no real parameters there - in fact, I'm taking suggestions), which should take me, oh, the rest of my life. Having just started Charlotte Bronte's Villette, I can't tell you with any certainty that this orzo dish has nothing to do with 1850's England, but my instinct is that Charlotte Bronte's characters have never heard of orzo.

Nevertheless, I still had an entire untouched bunch of asparagus from my farmer's market trip, and I wanted to use it. I had also bought some orzo awhile back which I was excited to use, as I haven't made orzo at home a lot.

This is a really simple dish that could be modified to fit whatever you need to use up in your fridge - the orzo makes a great base for a variety of veggies. This would be a great side dish to baked chicken or a pork chop - you could even throw some lemon-marinated shrimp on top. It would be great with black olives and feta, or with fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and basil.



6-7 asparagus stalks, ends trimmed, cut into smallish pieces
1 large bunch Spring mix salad greens, slightly chopped if leaves are large
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed, excess oil drained, chopped
1 1/2 T. capers
1 c. dry orzo
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes


Roast or par-boil the asparagus until tender. Set aside.


Cook orzo in boiling water, reserving 1/2 c. cooking liquid. Cook until slightly less than al dente, then drain. Return to pot with the reserved cooking liquid.


Stir the Spring mix leaves into the orzo and cook, stirring, until the pasta is al dente and the leaves are wilted. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Serve and enjoy!

Perhaps I should start reading Italian literature, as I seem to make some variation of pasta about 4 times a week...then again, maybe not.

I'll let you all know how my pursuit of the classics is going. Thanks for reading! More soon...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Asparagus & Goat Cheese Pizza

Yes, another pizza post! These seem to be quite popular. I actually like making pizza so much that, now that I'm unemployed, I've been fantasizing about opening my own pizza shop (in another country, mind you, where the pizza competition is less fierce).

I can see it now: Eli's Organic Thin Crust...the neon sign would be silhouetted against a tropical setting sun, palm trees swaying, reggae and the sound of waves wafting on the could happen!

I made great strides in my homemade dough today by using the bread flour I bought (King Arthur brand, btw) - a tip I picked up on the interwebs. I also used a different brand of dry active yeast (Hodgson Mill) that boasts "25% more yeast per pack for higher rises!" Higher rises, indeed! My normal pizza dough recipe that yields two smallish (6-piece) pizzas, made two less-puny pies this time - the one I made gave way to 9 adult-sized slices!

The bread flour definitely makes kneading a bit more difficult - the dough is much stickier overall - but I think the end result is worth it. The crust was crisper on the outside and chewier on the inside - mmmmmm....

I was having trouble deciding what to top the pizza with until I remembered the fresh Michigan asparagus I got at the farmer's market. I figured that goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes would make fast friends with the asparagus, and I was right!

My dear friend Kelly came over - bottle of Two-Buck Chuck in tow - and we devoured 7/9 of this delicious pizza.




2 1/2 - 3 c. bread flour
1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. honey
1 package active dry yeast
1 c. warm water (110 degrees)
more flour for kneading
olive oil for rubbing


1 large can crushed tomatoes
2 T. tomato paste
blend of dry Italian herbs, plus salt and pepper and red pepper flakes*

*I keep an herb blend around, pre-mixed, for just this purpose - I make a lot of pizzas. I just used an old empty herb shaker bottle and mixed dried oregano, thyme, parsley, and red pepper flakes in what seems to be a logical ratio. Works like a charm.


1 small log goat cheese
1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed off, cut into pieces
fresh parmesan cheese, for grating
1/2 small jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes*
olive oil for brushing
cornmeal for sprinkling

*I don't care what anyone says, I HATE dry sun-dried tomatoes. The oil-packed ones taste a thousand times better.


Make the dough according to these directions (I added the honey as my own personal touch - take it or leave it). NOTE: I find the dough much easier to roll out and work with after it's rested in the fridge for a few hours, so I always try to make it 5-6 hours ahead of time, or the night before. I just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.


Make the sauce: combine all ingredients and heat over medium-high heat; let cook until slightly thickened.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough to desired thinness on a lightly floured work surface. Brush a pizza stone or baking sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle cornmeal lightly all over. Place the pizza dough on the baking surface. Brush the dough with a little olive oil all over.


Spread some sauce on the pizza dough, then top with desired toppings. Grate some fresh parmesan over the top of it all. Bake at 400 until edges are brown and crisp. Slice with a pizza slicer. Enjoy!

Wow, who knew asparagus would make such a great pizza topping (OK, I sort of stole the idea from La Madia - so sue me)?!? It didn't need a thing - it was perfect going from raw to just roasting on top of the pizza. The goat cheese was great, as could be expected (I can't tell you how crazy I am about goat cheese - it makes me want to just hug every goat I see*).

*I never see goats.

And red wine with pizza with one of my favorite people on the planet...this exact combination of things is one of the top three best things in life, hands down. And I don't have to go to work tomorrow! And it's going to be a high of 70 - and sunny!

Ain't life grand?

Thanks for reading! More soon...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lamb Stew with Exotic Flavors PLUS Bonus Dinner!

Whenever I go to yoga, it makes me think of India. I have a small - OK large -
obsession with that country...and no, I haven't been there - yet (I'm currently accepting donations to the Send Me to India Fund - rupees and dollars accepted).

This manifests itself in a myriad of ways: a chai latte at Starbucks, microwaveable palak paneer pouches, and - if I'm most fortunate - a trip to the Indian buffet. At the very least, my yoga-cum-Indian-cravings at the very least motivate me to scrounge through my spice cabinet for interesting flavors.

I had almost forgotten about my half-pouch of ras el hanout from my trip to the Spice House awhile back. I thought it would be the perfect way to lend a transcontinental flair to the lamb stew I was planning on making this evening (from the leftover Mint Creek farm lamb that I'd frozen). Frankly, I wasn't sure how the ras el hanout would blend with the spices that I'd rubbed on the lamb before (garlic, thyme, etc.), but this being the Fearless kitchen and all, I figured I'd throw it all in and see what came of it.

Oh - now might be the time in my narrative to explain that ras el hanout is not actually an Indian spice - it's Middle Eastern. Sometimes, my Indian obsession manifests itself in ways that, quite frankly, make very little geographical sense. That notwithstanding, I present to you:



1 lb. lamb leg (mine was previously roasted and frozen; fresh would obviously be ideal)
1 large baking potato, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 red onion (or any onion), chunked
1 and 1/2 T. ras el hanout
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. cooked whole wheat couscous
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
salt and pepper


Combine all ingredients except for couscous in Crockpot. Cook over low for 6 hours, until lamb is spoon-tender.*


Cook couscous according to package directions. Serve lamb stew over couscous and top with cilantro. Enjoy!

*When cooking in a Crockpot, I never season with salt and pepper until the very end. The nature of slow-cooking dictates that you can't taste your dish all along, so I recommend waiting until the end to season, so you don't grossly oversalt something.

The lamb stew came out really well - the lamb was fall-apart tender, the potatoes were hearty, and the ras el hanout made it all interesting. The flavors of ras el hanout are so different from typical, everyday American flavors - I really encourage you to try some if you happen across it.

I wanted to include this little BONUS recipe, just because I made it the other night, and I thought it would be a great introduction to those just beginning to experiment in the kitchen. So many people say to me, "I read your blog, but I know I could never make those recipes!" Not true. Something like the beans-rice-and-sausage recipe below (inspired by the much more complex jambalaya, a favorite of mine) is something that literally an 8-year-old could make (provided he or she could safely wield a can-opener).

I whipped this up on a chill Saturday night in, and it was the perfect bowl of hearty goodness to curl up and eat on the couch, book in hand. (It would also be wonderful topped with a dollop of sour cream.) So to those of you who wouldn't know a whisk from a waffle iron, behold the following: a meal you can make at home, easily and quickly, with very inexpensive ingredients. Magic!



about 15 thin slices kielbasa sausage*
1 can "Southwest" style black beans
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 c. dry white rice
splash of chicken broth
squeeze of hot sauce
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

*I have a ton of kielbasa around due to my CostCo trip awhile back, but this is also great with chicken, shrimp, or really any variety of sausage (turkey Italian sausage would be good), or with tofu if you're a vegetarian. If you don't like tofu but don't eat meat, I'd throw in something with a neutral flavor, like zucchini. It would also be good with butternut squash.


In a large skillet, brown kielbasa. Do not drain.


Add the beans with liquid, tomatoes with juices, and rice to the skillet. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 10 minutes, adding a little chicken broth if the mixture isn't liquidy enough. Stir in the hot sauce and top with cilantro. Enjoy!

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