Archive for July, 2010

25
Jul
10

phyllo dough pizza, fruity/nutty couscous

There are few things in life that terrify me – roaches, drowning, life without peanut butter – but phyllo dough may have just made that elite list. This is no slight to baklava; I’m a huge proponent of all honey soaked foods. In fact, I’ve been known to seek them out as late night drunk food in the hood. I guess my aversion stems from the fact that I finally tried to cook with phyllo dough, and I found it to be crazy laborious. It’s just so damn unreasonable. It’s this paper thin pastry that, in the grand scheme of things, takes up so little mass that it could be disregarded altogether. Then certain people (Greeks) find the most amazing uses for  it, so some decide to try their hand at it. Sooo I decided to make a vegetable pizza on phyllo dough.

First of all, phyllo dough requires you defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Ordinarily I turn my nose up at such rigid defrosting rules and try and expedite everything in the microwave, but I actually listened to the phyllo and tossed it in the fridge before I went to work. As if that weren’t enough defrosting, the phyllo dough requires you leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before you want to use. Who has this kind of time? I gave it an hour at most. Every recipe I found online suggested I layer the dough with melted butter and cheese, but I decided to go with just butter. There would be cheese on the pizza, but what kind of a jackass needs it between every layer of crust? It’s pretty greedy.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

Ingredients:

6-7 sheets phyllo dough

4 tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick)

1 zucchini, sliced

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

1/3 cup baby spinach

1/3 cup baby portabella mushrooms

fresh mozzarella, sliced

salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, and went to work. The phyllo layering was, like, so strenuous. I mean, it required me to use the force of one pinkie muscle to pry the sheets apart, but I went in with the strength of all finger muscles at once. I ripped nearly half the sheets in the package just pulling them apart, and melted butter was involved all the while. I finally managed to layer about 7 sheets of pastry in a 15X10 in baking pan. I then went about laying the toppings in there, and misted the whole situation with olive oil. I baked for about 25 minutes, until my mozzarella was golden and the crust was starting to brown.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

The end result was pretty delicious, despite all the labor. My roomie and her man each had a piece, and they reported back nothing but raves. Plus, the buttery dough smelled amazing while it was baking. I liked how light I felt after eating like three slices. Although it’s a bitch, I’d work with the phyllo again.

On the sweaty front, I’ve been trying to mix things up to keep myself engaged. After almost a decade of treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights, the gym becomes like an old ball and chain. Although there’s a heat wave in NY right now, a friend and I decided to run the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.  It was SO lovely. At times I felt as if I were running through an oven, but it was such a fun and different way to go about the same old thing. We had iced coffee in Brooklyn Heights (frickin adorable), and then ran back towards Manhattan. Sweat in the eyes notwithstanding, I can’t wait to get at it again.

I’m still not entirely over this whole Middle Eastern thing, so I made couscous for dinner last night. I decided to go spicy-sweet (shocker) with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates:

from left: nectarines, apricots, dates, pecans

Ingredients:

Near East brand whole wheat couscous with toasted orzo

1 nectarine, chopped

2 apricots, chopped

4 dates, chopped

small handful pecans, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Couscous is like the anti-phyllo, in that it requires like 30 seconds of your attention and then practically begs you to desert it for an episode of Arrested Development while it “does its thang,” if you will. Will you? That felt a little awkward…moving on. You bring two cups of water to a boil with a tablespoon of olive oil, and then add the contents of the couscous and toasted orzo. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the lid for about 15 minutes.

When the couscous was done, I added all the fruits and nuts along with cumin and cinnamon. I tossed everything together with a little olive oil, and then covered the lid for 5 minutes to allow everything to get familiar. A word about that Near East couscous. I’ve had many a-brands of couscous through the years, and I am really impressed with this one. The whole “toasted orzo” component was a nice touch, and I love what it did for the flavor. Big fan.

Um, YUM. I loved everything about this dish, and it took maybe half an ounce of effort. See below for the final product:

spiced whole wheat couscous with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates

17
Jul
10

beet and rhubarb salad, blackened salmon.

Shame, meet my face. I was someone who prided myself on proper blog maintenance, and I’d rarely go more than a month without a tail-between-the-legs posting about being neglectful. (ie “It’ll never happen again, baby. I stray because I care”). And yet, here I am, two months deep in blogless shame. I never thought I’d join the ranks of the half assed masses.

In my defense, I’ve been making time with San Francisco and Israel during my self-proclaimed “Year of the Vacay,” so I haven’t had much in the way of content these past two months. If I made time to squeeze out a blog between trips, it would have been something like, “I picked up dumplings for dinner and then forced myself to do twenty minutes of cardio.” Laaame.

I was in Israel for 10 days (birthright, obvs), during which time I had about 10 falafel sandwiches and an obscene amount of hummus. We’re talking morning, noon, and night. I lapped it up like a collie. I still haven’t had my fill, because that’s how much hummus and I vibe. Check out the last meal they served us:

Israeli hummus. love.

Amazeballs. The food was like a dream my palette once had. Luckily, my trip was extra outdoorsy, so my sweaty side was able to shine. We hiked multiple times, went cave crawling, rafted down the Jordan River, and went camel riding, all of which beat the hell out of the elliptical and free weights. I returned with a newly discovered desire to marry a mountain man and start, like, kayaking or something. I haven’t quite worked out the details.

I ended up eating out for almost 3 weeks straight, so I was in need of some home cooking upon my return. My mom always hated beets (arbitrarily, because I recently asked her about it and she admitted to never giving them much of a chance), so my sister and I shared the aversion for our entire childhood.

Beets are like last year’s brussel sprouts (aka newly trendy), so I figured it was time to give them a chance. I found a recipe for a beet and rhubarb salad on my beloved Epicurious app. Seriously, that thing is my favorite grocery shopping accessory. I’m not sure what I did before its inception, but I’m pretty sure it was something like walking around aimlessly and drooling.

Ingredients:

orange, beet and rhubarb salad

8 2- to 2 1/2-inch-diameter red or yellow beets, 4 of each color if available
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse kosher salt
3 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
3 large oranges
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon honey
3 cups watercress sprigs
1 1/4 cups coarsely crumbled feta cheese (about one 7-ounce package)

You start by roasting the beets in aluminum foil in a 400 degree oven  for an hour. Bring water, sugar, and a pinch of salt to boil in a saucepan, and then add the chopped rhubarb. Cook for 1-2 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon.

Then, you finely grate 1/2 teaspoon of orange peel into a small bowl. Cut off peel and white pith from all oranges, and then segment the oranges into a big bowl. Squeeze membranes to release juice into bowl, and then put 2 tablespoons orange juice to bowl with orange peel. Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, honey, and 3 tablespoons olive oil into the bowl with orange peel and orange juice mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay out your bed of watercress, and arrange chopped beets and orange segments on top. Add lots of feta and dressing:

The beets were damn good and earthy tasting. They’re almost potato-like, so I’m starting to get why Eastern Europeans lurve them so. My only gripe was the rhubarb, which I’d never cooked with before. I’m not sure if Whole Foods gave me a bad batch or something, but it was waaayy bitter. Not my fave.

I was feeling like some of my faves a few nights ago, so I decided to make blackened salmon, sweet potato fries and mashed cauliflower. Om nom nom.

salmon, pre-blackened

For the sweet potato fries, I mixed together 1 tsp each of fennel seeds, thyme and cumin along with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. I peeled the sweet potato, chopped into fries, and tossed in the seasoning mixture with some salt and pepper. I baked in a 450 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, turning once about midway through. Sweet potatoes, check. Onto the blackened salmon.

To start, I put together a mix of paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, Adobo seasoning, and dried basil. Then, I rubbed the salmon until it looked like this:

It was a variation on this recipe. I then drizzled with melted butter, and seared in a skillet for about 3-5 minutes each side. Black and beautiful.

So, I bought purple cauliflower because I thought it would be fun. Once mashed, the end result was a little cartoonish and strange. I’m actually physically uncomfortable admitting this. It started normal enough, when I chopped the cauliflower into florets and tossed in a pot of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes. I removed with a slotted spoon, and mashed with some salt and about a pat of butter.

Then things got a little weird…the cauliflower looked like it could be creamier, and I had no milk in the house. The closest milk-like thing in the apartment was my roomie’s vanilla soy milk, and I wasn’t about to go that route. Without fully considering the consequences, I added a ladle of salted water to the mash. So, they turned out slightly watery and weird. Not my finest moment, but they still tasted fine.  Anyways, see below for the final results:

blackened salmon, mashed cauliflower and sweet potato fries




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