PIZZATTA, or: How to make a pizza from a loaf of stale ciabatta.

This is another easy dinner. (I’m sure you get the idea that that’s my specialty!)  A stale loaf of artisan bread makes a great pizza crust. I tried it with a fresh loaf and it didn’t work well. Just ask Rachelle and Jim. The fresh bread was too soft to hold the toppings and fell apart. You can call me if you want to rescue an old ciabatta from my freezer sometime.
You’ll need the usual things for pizza. I always use a tomato layer of some kind, but I know it’s not essential.   After that, the sky’s the limit.  I used onions, mushrooms, capers,  hot pepper flakes, oregano, mozzarella and parmesan.  The only tricky part of this meal is slicing the loaf of bread horizontally into 3 or 4 good 1″ thick slices.  You need a good serrated knife and a careful attitude.  Don’t cut your fingers! It is helpful to take off the domed top of the loaf.  Also try to shave off some of the bottom crust, because it can gets hard in the oven.

For the pizza pictured, I used these ingredients in this order:

1 pound loaf of stale ciabatta (at least 5 days old)

1 tablespoon white truffle oil from Scratch and Dent. (Thanks, ladies!)

1 1/2 cups of tomatoes (some home canned and some store-bought diced;  drain well)

3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly

1/4 onion, sliced thinly

2 tablespoons dried mushrooms, porcini and shiitake, rehydrated in warm water and squeezed dry

8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and squeezed gently

1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp mexican oregano

Here are the photos to get you hungry and motivated:

A nice, rectangular stale ciabatta.

Sliced for pizza. You will use the pieces with way too many holes to patch the bigger holes in the other slices.

This pan of sliced bread is ready for the toppings. The wastage is on the right. Mostly pieces of the top and bottom crusts.

Before baking at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven when there is some browning of the cheese.

Tried and true. Hope you enjoyed the post!

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You CAN smoke salmon… right on your stove!

Today we ate smoked salmon. All golden and succulent, flavorful and rich with absolutely nothing added and no preparation. I learned about this technique from Michael Davis and Colleen Anderson. We have done it three times, and next time I plan to try it with another type of fish. I don’t know if it would work with meat, but if you slice it very thinly so it doesn’t require too much heat, I bet it would.  It is fabulous and once you try it you’ll want to do it again!

You’ll need about 1/4 cup of clean, dry wood shavings and an ordinary, uncoated steel wok. (You’re supposed to put a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom, but today I forgot about the foil and it worked perfectly.) Place the wood shavings in the bottom of the wok. It’s nice to have a small round rack in the wok to keep the fish elevated an inch or so above the shavings.  I don’t have a small round rack, so I have always used wooden skewers to support the fish. Today I tried to find a rack and came home with a device for cooking a chicken on a can of beer.  After bending it,  worked pretty well to support the skewers.  I  use a section of a fillet with skin on and I even out the thickness by folding or trimming the thinner areas.  Place the salmon on the skewers or rack, skin side down.  Cover the wok, turn the heat to high, and leave it alone for ten minutes.  (That’s all it takes!)  If you have an exhaust fan, you’ll probably want to use it; but honestly, if the lid fits well, there is very little smoke.  I use a glass lid that came with a 10″ nonstick skillet, so it’s easy to see the fish change color as it cooks.  If you don’t have a big glass lid, the wok lid will be fine.  I don’t think the cooking time is critical, as long as you get it cooked.  Since the fish is not in contact with the bottom of the pan, the heat is quite gentle.  The pan will get very brown from the smoke, but it washes right off.

The taste is amazing.  We add absolutely nothing.  This is a favorite, and very special.  I  hope to hear from some of you who have tried it!  Here are the photos.

A little less than a pound of fresh salmon.

The wood shavings and something to support the fish in place in the bottom of a steel wok.

Salmon fillet, skin-side down, on the supporting skewers.

About 3 minutes into the cooking.

Gorgeous, succulent smoked salmon in 10 minutes!

Served with vegetables and bread. It's a really easy dinner.

Clean plate club!

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Fresh Green Beans out the Wazoo!

Mixed pole beans. The ones on the left side needed to be shelled.

You see the situation. The pole beans almost got blown down during those strong winds a few weeks ago, but now they’e doing great. I picked a sink full. After a canner load,  there were enough left to make one of my favorite recipes. It is called “Slow Cooked Green Beans” in How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.  (It’s a great all-around cookbook.)   But to me, a better name for this recipe would be “Lucious Lemony Green Beans!”   It has that delectable combination of tomatoes, lemon, and olive oil.   Give it a try.  There are lots of beans and tomatoes showing up at the Farmers Market on Wednesdays at Mill Race Park if you don’t have your own.

This is a one-pot recipe,  and there’s no reason to make it more complicated.   I have changed the ratios a little, but not the ingredients or procedure..  Into a large pot,  put 1 1/2 pounds of trimmed grean beans,  2 cups of chopped tomatoes,  2 cups chopped onion,  1/4 cup olive oil, and the juice of one lemon.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn the heat on low and cover the pot.  You want the tomatoes to give up their liquid and the whole pot to simmer slowly for at least one hour, and up to two hours.  Make sure it doesn’t dry out, but I have never had that problem.  Open the pot and cook off some liquid if needed when you’re ready to eat.   This is a simple and simply delicious thing to do with garden produce.   This recipe works well for canning or freezing also.  Hope you like it!   Here’s how it looks.

Raw ingredients before cooking.

Cooked and delicious.

Served with some good bread!

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Cool and Delicious

Although the weather has been a little cool at night and pleasantly comfortable during the day, we are bound to have several more very hot days to enjoy this jazzed up light cream cheese and fresh-tasting raspberry and watermelon  sauce dessert.

Cream Cheese-Filled Cantaloupe bowls with Watermelon Sauce

3 tablespoons light tub-style cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped pecans or almonds, toasted
1/2 of a medium cantaloupe, seeded
1/3 cup seeded, cubed watermelon
1/3 cup fresh raspberries
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon dried lavender or dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 cup fresh raspberries (optional)
Fresh mint leaves (optional)
For filling: in a small bowl, stir together cream cheese, the 1 teaspoon honey, and the nutmeg until smooth. Stir in pecans. Set aside. Ice cream scoop, scoop two large balls out of the cantaloupe (one side of each ball will be indented). Save remaining cantaloupe for another use. Set each cantaloupe ball in a small bowl or custard cup, indented side up. (If necessary, cut a thin slice from the bottom of each ball so it sits flat.)
Spoon or pipe cream cheese mixture into the indentation of each melon ball. In a blender or small food processor, combine watermelon, the 1/3 cup raspberries, the 2 teaspoons honey, and the dried lavender. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Press through a sieve to remove raspberry seeds. Spoon watermelon mixture around cheese-filled cantaloupe cups. If desired, garnish with the 1/4 cup raspberries and mint leaves.

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Chile Relleno Casserole

On Saturday I made it to the Elkins Farmers Market for the first time this season, and was excited to see some gorgeous dark green poblano peppers for sale. I bought a few to make chiles rellenos.  Later I thought about the deep frying, and the whole process/ordeal!  I have an alternate dish that tastes so similar and doesn’t require the frying. It came from a friend in Elkins by way of Barbara Weaner. So today I made and recommend Judy’s Chile

Relleno Casserole. The process isn’t difficult, but it does take time to roast and peel the chiles, and to remove the seeds. Other than that, the dish is a snap. Very delicious!

To roast several chiles, I prefer the broiler. Lay them out and turn them several times till they are charred almost all over. This took about 30 minutes.  Put them in a covered container till they are cool enough to handle. (While they cool, you could grate your cheese and measure the other ingredients.)  When they are cooled off,  peel off the tough skins and open them up to remove the seeds.  If you are using peppers with some heat, use gloves so you don’t irritate your skin with the capsacin they contain.

When you have prepared the peppers, separate the eggs and whisk half the buttermilk into the yolks.  Add the flour and whisk till it’s smooth, then whisk in the other half of the buttermilk.  Beat the egg whites till stiff and fold them into the yolk mixture.

To assemble the casserole, layer the peppers, the cheese, and the batter in an 8×8 baking pan.  I added dollops of refried beans to make it more substantial.  (I think chilies rellenos sometimes have beans inside.)  End with some grated cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.  It will be very puffy when it’s done, and the middle won’t jiggle much at all.  When it cools it will fall back down.  Here are some photos of the process.

Chilis ready to roast/broil. The dark green ones are poblano peppers, the others are assorted peppers from the Parsons Farmers Market, wednesdays from 10am to noon at Mill Race Park.

After roasting. These need to be placed in a covered container for about 20 minutes then peeled and deseeded.

Ingredients assembled. The pan with some butter, batter, the peppers, a cup of black beans, and 2 cups of grated sharp cheddar.

Ready to bake at 350 degrees for about 45-55 minutes.

Baked golden brown. It puffs up in the oven, then fall as it cools.

Served with a tomato salad.

 Chile Relleno Casserole
12 roasted peppers, skins and seeds removed
2 eggs, separated
1/3 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk or half yogurt, half milk
2 cups grated sharp cheddar or monterey jack cheese
1 cup refried beans, optional
Whisk egg yolks with half the buttermilk, then whisk in the flour and the rest of the buttermilk.  Beat whites till stiff, then fold into yolk mixture.  Layer ingredients in a buttered 8 x 8 inch baking pan.  Bake 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.
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Where are the blackberries?

Seems like they used to be easier to find. If anyone wants to share a good spot to pick blackberries, that would be swell.   I have a great berry recipe to try when I find some blackberries.    —


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Something new for garden greens.

I will venture to guess that Fresh Herb Kuku Sabzi will be new for almost all readers. We have a friend in Elkins who recently married a man from Iran. The cuisine of Iran is esteemed world-wide. This is the first Persian recipe I have made my own. If you love fresh herbs and greens, you might like to try this. It’s not a last-minute dish; but it’s pretty easy, and tastes so healthy!  Plus, it’s great hot or at room temperature.

Start with a lot of mixed greens.   Traditionally, they use a mixture of scallions, parsley, cilantro, and dill. Reza taught me to use these, plus whatever else is plentiful. Mint, swiss chard, mustard greens, kale, and basil can all be included. To make a large Fresh Herb Kuku, you’ll need 8-10 cups of chopped greens.

Clockwise from upper left: kale, basil, chard, parsley, dill

Here is a picture of the washed greens I used, all fresh from the garden. Unfortunately, I forgot to pick mint and cilantro (!) but I still had a flavorful mix.  The more herbs you use, and the less kale and swiss chard, obviously the more flavorful your kuku will be.  Dill is kind of important,  the recipe I have calls for two cups of dill, so be brave with the herbs!  They are meant to be the basis of the dish, not  an accent.  This is a good time to get out your food processor. Remove any tough ribs or stems, and process greens in batches till chopped. In another large bowl, break 10- 12 eggs and whisk lightly. Add a few crushed cloves of garlic,  two finely chopped onions, 2  tablespoons of flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Two ingredients in an authentic kuku aren’t common here.  Dried fenugreek leaves taste a lot like celery leaves to me, but they are even more aromatic.  I think you could substitute fresh or dried celery leaves, or a few ribs of finely chopped celery.  In place of 1/4 cup of the very tart dried barberries used in the middle east, you could use dried cranberries, currants or raisins.

Mix all of these other ingredients into the eggs and then pour the egg mixture over the chopped greens.

Mixture ready to cook.

The resulting mixture will resemble a brilliant green pudding.  The cooking requires an interesting new technique.  Preheat a large iron (or nonstick) skillet  with a tablespoon of butter.

Cooking the first side. I added some steamed green beans for garnish.

Pour in the greens/eggs mixture, cover the pan and turn the heat down low.  Let it cook for 25-30 minutes, until set.

After flipping the wedges.

When the kuku has set, use a thin knife to cut it into wedges while still on the stove.  Carefully flip each wedge over, one at a time,  adding more butter or oil if necessary.  ( I have not needed to add any more.)  Cover the pan again, and cook for another 20-25 minutes.  Turn out onto a platter.

Kuku Sabzi, ready to serve.

The kuku should be golden brown on both sides.    Today we ate it with yogurt and pickled beets.

Thank you Reza!

Ingredient list for Kuku Sabzi

8-10 cups chopped herbs and greens
10-12 eggs
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. celery leaves or fenugreek
1/4 cup dried craisins or barberries
1 tbsp butter
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