Monthly Archives: July 2014

Fried Tofu with Beet Cabbage Slaw

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Look at that gorgeous color! Beets are so cool. This even has golden beets in it as well as the classic purple ones, but the pink colors kind of takes over. Yum.

This is about the only way that I do tofu. When I get tired of it, I’ll probably branch out (in fact, I’m thinking I will probably run out of all my basics to tell you about here so I’ll need to really try some new things. I’ve been wanting to get some new cookbooks too which will hopefully help). But tofu soaked in soy sauce and fried is just so good, why do it any other way?

Also, you can get Maine-made tofu! It is called Heiwa tofu. I honestly don’t know much about different varieties of tofu and what makes one better than another, but it tastes pretty good to me and I like supporting a local.

The slaw recipe came from my farmers, who publish a few recipe suggestions with each CSA. It is a very fresh slaw, letting the vegetables feature rather than the dressing. Have I told you about my farm yet? It is called New Beat Farm and is horse-powered (as in, only uses horses, no fossil fuel) and certified organic and generally just awesome. It’s a beautiful spot near Knox, Maine. I get eggs from them as well as vegetables and they are delicious.

I also added an avocado to this salad-thing. Not totally necessary, and a little extravagant since avocados do not, in fact, grow in Maine, but very delicious. There is unfortunately just no local substitute for the texture and light flavor of avocados.

Fried tofu 
Tofu
Soy sauce (you can also use something like balsamic vinegar if you want)
Vegetable oil

Slaw
About 1/2 head cabbage
2-3 raw beets
(Carrots would also be a good addition)
1 cup scallions
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

More scallions
Avocado

For the slaw (you can make this ahead of time if you want): Cut up the cabbage in thin strips. My mini food processor is not small enough to do this, but if yours is, go for it. Grate the beets (same deal with the food processor). Slice up the scallions thinly. Mix together the oil vinegar, salt and pepper.

Put everything together in a bowl and mix. Let it sit, mixing every few minutes for about 20 minutes.

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For the tofu: Cut it up in small chunks. I like doing this because it is so easy to cut in straight lines and make them all the same size. Not that it really matters (although you always want ingredients to be around the same size so they cook evenly), it’s just pleasing.

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Put them in in a flat-ish dish (I like to use a pie pan, because it is flat but wide and has some sides, unlike a plate) and sprinkle with soy sauce until there is a thin layer of soy sauce at the bottom of the pan. Let it sit for a few minutes, turning them over every now and then with a spatula, until they are all brown.

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Heat up the oil – there should be a shallow layer in the pan (I use cast iron, but then again it’s my only pan so I don’t have much choice) – over medium-high heat  until quite hot. Make sure you are wearing an apron. Carefully put the tofu into the pan. It will spit! (This might be a good place for one of those spit-guards if you have one.) You can add the leftover soy sauce if there isn’t much, but don’t add a lot of it – you want them fried, not steamed, and they can get too salty if you use too much. Let them fry for a few minutes, them turn them over with a spatula, again being watchful of spitting oil. Turn every few minutes until they are nicely golden brown on all (or at least most) sides and, most importantly, crispy.

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Now you are ready! Put some tofu on the plate (leftovers keep in the fridge and are also good cold), top with extra scallions if you like, then avocado and the slaw. I ate this kind of as a salad, I guess, but I think it would also be excellent on a sub.

Fried tofu is also good with sliced kohlrabi and parsley (and some scallions), drizzled with a little lemon or a vinaigrette. Which is what I packed for lunch at the office the other day. And then I had to take a picture at work when I assembled it. Don’t worry, no one was around.

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Stir Fry: Lazy Delicious

This is another of those don’t-really-feel-like-cooking but must-use-up-vegetables kind of meals. Stir fry is awesome because you can basically cook anything and it’s still delicious and nutritious. And it takes like 5 minutes.

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As with other vegetarian meals, I do worry a bit about protein intake (although this might not be a super valid concern, I do tend to notice that I get hungry faster without it). Beans, chick peas, tofu are all great (and vegan) and I eat lots of them. But they take some time to make. Fast, easy, and delicious are eggs. Eggs are also dairy-free, in case you didn’t realize they came from chickens, not mammals. Although not vegan. I don’t really care about labels or sticking to a very particular dietary regime, and thankfully do not have any food allergies. I don’t eat a lot of meat, as has been established, but enjoy it on special occasions, which feels right to me for both environmental and ethical reasons. I think that animals are essential to any food ecosystem and eating them is a part of that, within reason (if you disagree with that, read this). A lot of my meals happen to be vegan, but mostly because I base my meals primarily around whatever fresh vegetables I have (meat has seasons too, but freezes much better and therefore is more flexible). It’s also much cheaper. Anyway, I find that I eat very well, whether vegan, vegetarian, or full-on omnivore.

And now, an ode to eggs. Those of you who know me have probably been waiting for this. But seriously, eggs are so awesome. Scrambled, poached, fried, hard boiled, soft boiled, made into an omelette or quiche or frittata, mixed with a little flour and milk for crepes or pancakes or popovers; whites can be whipped for meringue or angel food cake or marshmallow frosting (or frozen for later use!); yolks can be used for puddings, custards (even to thicken frosting…just wait), crème brûlée,  whipped up in fresh mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce… the list is endless. They are fantastic and delicious and nutritious and if you are the type of person who only eats egg whites, I’m sorry but you are silly. Unless you have a family history of cholesterol.

So there you have it. Stir fry, maybe over some rice, or pasta, or whatever else you have lying around (rice: put rice in pot. Cover with a thumbs-width of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer til soft, about 20 minutes. Same process for other grains as well as quinoa, beans, lentils, etc).

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Stir fry
Vegetables, chopped (I used Napa/Chinese cabbage here, but other cabbage will work, or carrots/onions/celery/chard/kale/beet greens/most things
Oil 
Salt/pepper/whatever seasonings you want (soy sauce, cumin, hot sauce, peanut butter...)

Eggs
Rice

Heat up oil in a pan, then add vegetables. Or just add everything all at once, it doesn’t matter that much. Medium heat is fine, although if you are in a hurry you can turn it up and just make sure to mix it a bunch; or if you need to do other things you can leave it on low and give it a stir every once in a while. Cook until soft.

To fry an egg (this will be more specific because it is actually shockingly hard to get perfect every time): Heat up the pan first with a little oil, medium low heat. Add a little salt and pepper and spices if you like (I like turmeric and oregano). Tap the egg on the counter to break it, then open with your thumbs and drop it into the pan, careful not to break the yolk. I like my eggs medium, which means cooked white and runny yolk. Let the egg cook until the white is mostly opaque, with a little translucent layer on top (shown below), then slide the spatula under the egg, making sure it’s not sticking, and flip it over in one motion. Let it cook for a tiny bit longer (maybe 30 seconds) and then slide it off. You can kind of poke the center – gently! – with the spatula where the yolk and the white intersect, since that’s the last place the whites will cook. If it’s still wobbly, leave it on a little longer (you can also flip it again if you need to, although some might call it blasphemous).

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Pile onto your stir fry, or some toast, and enjoy! Best eaten hot, although they can also be good cold. I find the yolk makes an excellent sauce. Putting eggs with some grain (quinoa is nice), veggies, and a few fried eggs into a container for lunch is also a good meal.

Strawberries, Chocolate Whipped Cream, and Pecan Shortcake

IMG_1878I know, this is late for the seasonality bit. I’m the worst. But if you have spent the fleeting strawberry season putting them in pies, jam, fresh on tarts, eating them for breakfast with yogurt and granola as a parfait, if your freezer is full of strawberries because you didn’t know where else to put them… you are missing out. Because this is the first and best use of strawberries. Well, second only to eating them sun-warmed from the field, staining your fingers with dripping red juice.

The three parts of this dessert are each delicious on their own. Even paired with only one other component they are fantastic. But all together, they are heavenly.

Shortcake is basically a slightly sweet biscuit or a soft scone cut in a circle. The pecans make it more complex and give it some texture. Flour can actually be found locally (Maine Grains makes a whole wheat pastry flour that is great, although definitely more expensive than other flours), as can butter and cream. No one grows pecans or chocolate in Maine, unfortunately. Although who knows how our climate will change in the next couple years.

Strawberries
Strawberries

Pecan Shortcake
3 ½ cups flour
½ cup pecans, toasted
2 T baking powder
¾ t salt
6 T sugar
12 T butter, cut in small pieces- very cold
1 ½ c cold heavy cream

Chocolate Whipped Cream
1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup whipping cream
Vanilla

For the shortcake: Grind pecans briefly in food processor. If you have a large processor, add flour, salt, powder, sugar. Pulse briefly, then add cold chunks of butter. Pulse briefly – the mixture should have pea sized chunks of butter. Add cold cream. Pulse briefly until dough begins to clump together, but stop before it forms a ball (this can be done fairly easily by hand, just make sure you cut up the butter a lot before mixing it in. I like to cut it up in very small chunks then put it in the freezer to make sure it stays cold). Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly so it holds together, then flatten it to ½ – ¾ inch. Cut with 2 inch round cutter.

Bake in a preheated 425ºF oven for 12-18 minutes, until they are golden and puffy.

Meanwhile, whip the cream (I like doing this by hand, but whatever you like. With very thick cream you have to be careful not to overwhip it – and it’s easier to pay attention when you can feel it) until it has very soft peaks, then add a splash of vanilla and whip a little more. Gently fold in the melted chocolate (do make sure it’s not still warm before adding it, or it will melt all your well-made bubbles). Alternatively, you can heat up the cream and the chocolate together and chill it before whipping, although you have to be extra careful not to overwhip that, as it gets very thick and can easily become chocolate butter, which is just not the same.

When the shortcakes come out, split them open and serve them warm, topped with the room temperature strawberries and then cold whipped cream.

You will end up with far too many shortcakes. Freeze them. Or eat them for breakfast (they toast well).

No time for shortcake? Whipping up some cream and folding in some melted chocolate takes about 5 minutes.

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My chocolate didn’t quite mix into the cream here, as you can see. But it was still amazing. I’m drooling even thinking about it.

Garlic Scape Pesto and More

If you are keyed in to local food in Maine right now, you are probably up to your ears in garlic scapes. Which are these funny little green snake-like fronds that I have never seen in a grocery store. You can find them at farmer’s markets wherever anyone is growing garlic. They are the shoots from garlic (more about them here if you are interested), and they’re only out for a couple weeks, but they are quite delicious. Garlicky, but fresher.

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You will not be surprised to hear that I make them into pesto. Well, pesto is really the best thing to do with them, although I’ll include a few other suggestions at the end.

If you’ve been following me, you should know how to make pesto by now. But I’ll throw on a recipe anyway just in case. I like to make is with pistachios rather than pine nuts because they’re a little sweeter. And if you don’t like a strong bite you can cook them just a tiny bit before grinding them up (I wouldn’t though – part of the fun is the sharpness. And it will mellow out with time. Or if you warm it up at all).

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Garlic Scape Pesto
About 15 garlic scapes, trimmed
Olive oil
About 1/4 cup pistachios, hulled and roasted
About 1/4 cup hard cheese (I recently used an aged provolone)
Salt

Start by putting the scapes in a food processor and grinding them up a bit by themselves. They can be a bit hard and might take longer than the other ingredients. Then add everything else and blend, tasting, adjusting, and blending more as needed.

This is particularly good on pizza. And of course edible on pasta and a huge variety of other things. Freeze whatever you don’t use to be a ray of sunshine in the winter.

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You can also mix in some kale to make kale-scape pesto!

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Pesto is all very nice, you might say, but what else can I do with these things? 

Try cooking them. They taste shockingly sweet and make a nice side dish (whether grilled or sautéed), maybe sprinkled with some fancy salt and olive oil or a little cheese (this is sounding a little too much like pesto ingredients…).

PicP1020091kles! I am giving this a shot. I used this recipe although I have never pickled anything before in my life. And I don’t even like normal pickles, one of the few foods leftover from my childhood picky-eater-ness. But, I’m super excited about these.

Put them in things. Omelettes (nom), other veggie dishes, salad dressings, salads, humus, egg salad, on pasta… whatever you would do with either garlic or asparagus. Which are not that similar. All part of the Amazing Scape Versatility. Aren’t they fun?

More suggestions here.

UPDATE: Food52 also published some great suggestions, find them here.

Steak

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I meant to post this when it actually happened. Oh well. As it is, I would like to proudly announce that I ate Olivia a few weeks ago (I originally had a random picture of a cow in this post, but this cow is, in fact, Olivia).

I’ll make this quick since I don’t have any pictures, I was too distracted by Eating. Olivia was my old roommate’s dairy cow who was no longer producing much milk (she wasn’t getting bred anymore) and became steak. I didn’t watch that process or anything, although at some point I would like to; she just appeared in my freezer. So my roommate and I decided to cook her as one of our last meals together, along with some parsnips and a salad. I don’t eat a lot of meat, as you have probably noticed, but when you know someone who knows the cow… acceptable, to say the least. And delicious.

Steak is very easy. I feel like I say that about most things on this blog so far, but it’s true. I am certainly not a professional, and I definitely believe that anyone can, and should, cook. The hardest part about steak might be dealing with raw meat. I hate raw meat. Although beef is not nearly as bad as chicken. I’m getting used to it, but I still generally want to pour vinegar over everything once I’m finished to sanitize (did you know that vinegar is a fantastic sanitizer? I’ve heard that it’s all you need to sanitize even a poultry processing center. Free of weird chemicals!).

Steak
Meat
Salt
Pepper
Garlic/shallots/whatever

Defrost the steak (this might take all day, or you can put it in the fridge the night before). Remove the package and pat it with salt, pepper, and garlic (we didn’t have any garlic, so we used shallots instead). Then put it under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your steak and your rarity preferences. Use a meat thermometer if you are worried, or just cut into it when you think it might be done.

The parsnips (which look like white carrots with extra skinny tips) we peeled and chopped up with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil in a pan, first over high heat then pretty low to soften for a little while. Kind of like home fries except sweeter. All together with a big fresh salad, the only pieces of our meal that weren’t super local were the salt, pepper, and olive oil.

We spent a good amount of time (after getting full) gnawing on the bones and enjoying all the fat from the steak. I didn’t used to eat all the fat from meat but somehow I couldn’t resist this. Fat is delicious, and is healthy in a balanced diet – the American problem is that fat is in too many processed foods these days, and that most people don’t get enough other nutrients to balance it out.

This is fantastic. I call myself a part-time vegetarian. Meat like this is why it is not full-time.

Bean Tostadas + Salad

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Sometimes one is not in the mood for something fancy. Sometimes you come home, maybe go for a run, and cannot be bothered to come up with a complicated recipe. And/or are limited by ingredients in your fridge.

A quesadilla is a good solution to this predicament. However, if you are like me, you also have a bunch of vegetables in your fridge from your CSA (a one-person CSA means you can’t skip veggies with dinner or they will take over your kitchen) and maybe even some beans that were cooked for something else (in this case, these were made for chili for an event and not used up). In which case, make it a tostada. Which is basically an open-face quesadilla with a bunch of stuff piled on top. Or large crispy taco.

This tortilla is not particularly special, although I did enjoy it. But you can get really excellent Maine-made tortillas from Portland-based Tortillería Pachanga.

This takes about 15 minutes to make. Including prep, which most cooking shows do not include in their estimated making time.

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Tostadas
Tortilla (or plural, depending on how hungry you are)
Cheddar-like cheese, grated
Beans (either pre-cooked (recommended), or from a can)
Cabbage or lettuce (I used Napa cabbage chopped thin)
Tomatoes
Cilantro
Radishes
Hot sauce/salsa
Avocados, if you have them (I didn't)

Start the tortilla by itself in a hot pan, then flip it over and put the cheese on top. I then put some beans on, but they were a little too liquidy and ended up making the bottom scorch so… don’t do that. I recommend warming up the beans separately. Or just don’t put the juice on your tortilla as well. Let it warm up relatively slowly while you prep the other ingredients. Chop up the cabbage or lettuce, tomatoes, and slice the radishes thinly. Once the cheese is all melty on the tortilla and it’s all warm and toasty, put it on a plate and pile on all the veggies. Top with salsa/hot sauce (this is essential, don’t skip the hot stuff). Eat.

You can do this with whatever. I definitely liked the cilantro and tomatoes (which will be better when they are in season, although Backyard farms does have pretty good hot-house tomatoes). I’m looking forward to having fresh corn to put on these. You can sauté some greens in some garlic first, and then top with that (there’s a great food truck in Belfast, Maine, Good ‘N’ You, which does this).

The only problem here was that I ended up with a bunch of extra chopped veggies. I had used up the last tortilla, so I decided to make the rest of my ingredients into a salad. Which was just all the veggies piled together and topped with balsamic reduction and hot sauce. And some shaved parmesan because it needed something creamy-ish. I’m going to be honest, I liked the salad better than the actual tostada. Maybe it was the vinegar, which you could definitely add to the tostada as well…

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I’m getting better at taking photos, aren’t I? And in case you were wondering, I do keep butter in a shot glass on the table. It’s actually a measuring glass. Not that I’m measuring the butter in it. But I don’t use up much butter on my own so I figured leaving out just a small container would do nicely (I hate buttering toast with cold butter. And toast is the best).

Napa Cabbage Peanut Slaw

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Wondering what to do with all that napa (otherwise known as Chinese) cabbage and use up other random veggies in your fridge? Make this now. Recipe here – it would feel pointless re-writing it. I didn’t have carrots, so I used sweet salad turnips instead (delicious), although carrots would be great if you have them. Also I used tahini because I didn’t have sesame oil, and red wine vinegar instead of rice. Otherwise, this is great. And they are very correct, it is best the day-of. Enjoy!

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Kale Pesto

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Well, I’m still behind on posts but I think I’d better post them in the correct order, because some of the ingredients are grouped. Remember the kale butternut squash pizza we made? Well, this is something else to do with your kale, and extra squash if you have it from that.

I realize this is my second pesto recipe in a total of 4 posts. No shame. As I said before, you can put anything in pesto, and it is delicious. I had a friend over the other day to make garlic scape pesto (post coming), and I took out some arugula and kale pesto to do a mini tasting. This one is her favorite. So.

Kale on its own isn’t super flavorful. I like it, and it’s all the craze right now, but I feel like pesto needs a little more pizzazz. However, I had a lot of kale and I still wanted to make pesto; it just required a few more additions: spicy radishes, because I had too many of them too and they add some zing, and the squash I had leftover from the pizza. I guess that’s kind of the way I like to cook – what do I have, how can something delicious come out of it. It’s like a puzzle. Some things don’t work out, but I’m proud of this one.

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Kale Pesto
1 bunch of kale (maybe 3 cups raw)
About 1/2 cup butternut squash, cubed
Maybe 4 radishes (depending on size), washed and in chunks
About 1/3 cup of hard cheese like parmesan, in chunks
3 cloves garlic, cooked in olive oil (15 sec in the microwave or sautéed)
Olive oil
Lemon juice from about 1/4 of a lemon
Salt and pepper

I realized I haven’t yet told you how to strip kale. Hold onto the stem with one hand (I usually use my right), then hold the base where the leaves start between your hand and your thumb (I don’t know what to call that area between your thumb and your first finger). Pull away with your right hand, and the stem should separate easily from the leaves. If that isn’t a good description, which is may not be, here’s a video that does basically the same thing. I like using the stem (because why throw it out when you can eat it), you just have to start cooking it before adding the leaves. It helps to chop it up first (this is true generally as well as for pesto).

I blanched the kale before adding it – I think you could probably make pesto with raw kale (depending on variety), but blanching makes it a little more tender. To do this, boil and salt water, and put the kale in (stems first for a few minutes by themselves) and boil it for anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, just until it is tender. Be ready with an ice bath, or just some cold tap water to run over it (I can’t be bothered to get out an extra bowl and besides, I didn’t have any ice) to stop it cooking.

P1010555Once the kale is cool, combine all the ingredients in a food processor (see Arugula Pesto to hear me rave about my Kitchen-Aid hand blender food processor). Process, scraping down the sides a few times. Taste and adjust ratios as you see fit.

I highly recommend this in a cheese melt (bread-pesto-cheese-oven). It is also delicious on pasta, like most pestos. Not bad mixed with arugula pesto, actually. Half the extra goes in the fridge for the week, the rest in the freezer for the winter. Although you could make this when it is not summer as well, unlike other pestos.

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Kale, Butternut Squash, and Red Onion Pizza

Making pizza by oneself is not difficult, but it always takes a little more time than I want it to. Don’t let that dissuade you, though, because pizza makes the best lunch at the office ever, and you’ll have enough for the whole week. Most of the time-sink comes from prepping all the ingredients before you start, and the crust. Once you have everything mise en place (put in place), the fun of putting it together begins.

This pizza (which is inspired by an asiago-squash-kale pizza served in my college dining hall) is great because you can pretty much make it from local ingredients most of the year. Kale is very hardy and can grow in unheated greenhouses through late fall and in spring in Maine (probably one of the reasons for the Eat More Kale trend). And winter squash keeps for a long time in cold storage, so although it is a fall crop, you might still have some through early spring. The red onion I bought at the grocery store, but onions also keep well for a long time.

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The crust requires the most planning, meaning that you can’t just decide an hour before dinner to make pizza. I have a sourdough starter I’ve been using (more on this in a future post on bread), so I made a sourdough pizza dough from King Arthur Flour’s website, but they also have a regular crust recipe. I like King Arthur Flour a lot – it’s a good product, they have nice recipes, and the company is also a Benefit or B-Corporation, which means that they accept social and environmental responsibility even as a for-profit corporation (other B-Corps include Ben & Jerry’s, Method soap, and Cabot cheese). Although I’ve also been trying to include Maine flour, which comes to the store through the Crown O’ Maine cooperative, who are trying to better distribute Maine products around the region.

You can also often buy pizza crust at the grocery store, which is good if you are short on time. Since there are good recipes linked here, I won’t restate  them, and if I work on my own pizza crust recipe, I’ll put that in a future post (my Italian uncle says use bread flour and a cold rise overnight).

The hard part about pizza crusts is rolling them out properly. I’ve had fairly good luck just rolling them out with a rolling pin (or an empty, washed wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin), but if you roll it too much it can get tough. So, my recommended method thus far in my pizza-making experience is based off of King Arthur’s: to make is as flat as possible with your hands in the air first, then put it on a cornmeal-dusted sheet and push out to the sides. Take a break halfway through and then continue, it will be stretchier. This takes a fair bit of time but it gets the crust nice and thin, which is what I like (I’ve tried waving it around in the air like a Fancy Pizza Man but I inevitably end up with a bunch of holes in the dough and a very uneven height. Oh well, keep practicing). King Arthur recommends pre-baking the crust a bit, and I did do that for this pizza mostly because I don’t have a pizza stone to make the bottom of the crust all crispy. Something else to add to the Kitchen Wishlist.

Kale, Squash, and Red Onion Pizza
Pizza crust (see above)
1 small winter squash (or about 1 1/2 cups of squash, cubed in 1/2 inch pieces)
Olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
About 2 cups kale, washed and chopped
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup tomme or asiago
Salt and pepper and other herbs

The squash will take the longest, but can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for a few days if you want to prepare it early. Or maybe you have extra squash from something else and you need something to do with it. Anyway, cut it in half, scoop out the guts and seeds (which can be washed and roasted like pumpkin seeds if you like) and then into wide slices (maybe 8 pieces per half). This will require a sharp knife and some elbow grease. Roast in the oven at 400ºF for at least 30 minutes, probably longer, until soft (so you can poke it with a knife), but not squishy. Remove, let cool, and then peel the skin off. Cut into about 1/2 inch chunks. You will have extra, so just put it in a container in your fridge to eat by itself or add to something like kale pesto (coming soon).

Once the crust is rolled out (don’t forget the cornmeal so it doesn’t stick) and pre-baked if you like (see above), you are ready! I made two medium pizzas from the dough. Drizzle olive oil on the crust and spread the garlic on top (this is a very light sauce. If you want more, you could make a béchamel sauce by melting butter, mixing in flour, adding a little milk and cooking it down before spreading it on the crust). Top with red onion, kale, squash, mozzarella, then the tomme/asiago and some salt and pepper (I left this out of the first one and it makes a big difference). I also threw on some fresh oregano from my fridge. I like that order because the kale can cook a little more under the other toppings and the cheese gets all crispy on top, but if you prefer crispy kale and softer cheese, reverse it.

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Ugh, blurry again. Sorry.

Bake in an oven that is as hot as you can make it (real pizza ovens get up to 800ºF or higher but mine only gets to 500ºF) for about 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and crispy and the crust is nice and brown, even on the bottom.

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Slice and enjoy! Best hot. Slice up the leftovers (it is rather easier to cut when cold) and wrap them up to take to work or put in your fridge for another dinner (I recommend a toaster oven for warm-up rather than a microwave, to keep it crispy). Careful when taking them out because the toppings might slide off the crust.

Strawberry Arugula Goat Cheese Salad

Evidently I have a lot of arugula and strawberries. Which is what happens when you have a CSA. Let me explain Community Supported Agriculture as I understand it: basically, the community (i.e. consumer) is sharing the risk of farming with the farmer. You pay upfront for a certain amount of time (say, $350 for 18 weeks) and then each week (although winter ones are different because they are storage crops, and have pick-ups every fortnight or month) you go to the farm or to your pick-up location and collect a box of whatever happens to be in season. If it’s a good season, you will probably save money based on grocery-store prices (and the produce will be fresher and more delicious), although if it’s a bad season, you may not be enjoying as many vegetables as you hoped for. There are also meat, cheese, apple, and poultry (among others, I imagine) CSAs. It’s great for the farmers, because farming can be quite a costly investment and very dependent upon the weather, and the consumer gets super fresh in-season vegetables, sees the farm, probably will save money, and doesn’t have to make decisions at the grocery store. It helps me out a lot, because I don’t feel like I have to really plan menus for the week before going shopping – I just pick up my bags and discover what the week has in store for me. It’s fun because sometimes it does require a little ingenuity, but you get to experiment with ingredients and see what recipes and combinations you like best.

Also, what grows together, goes together. Which is certainly the case with this salad. We had some hot weather and I was really feeling salads, so I found this one by Mark Bittman (who is amazing, by the way, read his things).

P1010567Arugula can be tricky to deal with. In some ways it’s just like lettuce, but it is definitely a little bitter and can be spicy too, so not always for everyone. However, even tossing it lightly with a bit of vinegar does wonders at mitigating overly-strong flavors. You’ll be surprised.

Strawberry Arugula Goat Cheese Salad
Arugula
Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Balsamic vinegar
Black pepper
Salt
Olive oil
Fresh goat cheese

Toss the strawberries, pepper, and vinegar together and let them sit for about 10 minutes, maybe while you get out the cheese and or make some toast to go with it. Add the arugula, salt, and olive oil and toss some more, then top with the goat cheese. Enjoy!

Again, no amounts. Part of preparing food like salads for oneself  is making exactly however much you will eat – once it’s assembled, it won’t last that long, so better if you just finish it all at once. Also, you may prefer more or less vinegar, so you decide. Start with a teaspoon or so and go from there. Also, I put in some mesclun (which is the baby spring mix salad green variety) because I had some that needed using up: you are not limited to arugula.

I added the goat cheese because a) it is delicious and b) it’s an excellent way to make it into a full meal. I’m not a vegetarian but I don’t eat a lot of meat (it is delicious but much more expensive; and also a lot of meat these days has a questionable source and may be full of antibiotics and other problems. I call myself a part-time vegetarian). Some of you meat-and-potatoes folks might be a little skeptical, but salads can make very excellent meals. You will probably have to eat more volume, but they can be quite filling and if you add things like cheese (or nuts/seeds/chick peas, etc), lasting as well.

If you want to make this 4th-of-July appropriate, you could add blueberries, since it’s already got the red and white. They aren’t in season in Maine right now but you can find them frozen if you do want to get local ones. I would suggest putting them straight from the freezer into the vinegar with the strawberries (go easy on the blueberries though, they can easily overwhelm the other delicate flavors). Although you may end up with a purple and white salad rather than red, white, and blue.