31 January 2010

pizza of the week: sunchoke, squash & bacon

pizza, Jan 30, 2010

A delicious, rich pizza for a rainy winter night. In our weekly organic veggie delivery, we received the cutest, tiniest butternut squash and some gorgeously ugly sunchokes, one of my favorite tubers. I baked half of the squash for Jacky's morning squash mash. Moving on to the adult fare, and with pizza on the mind, I roasted the rest of the squash in slices along side whole sunchokes. The very handy Flavor Bible recommended bacon as a good match... and who am I to argue? This was a delicious riff on the potato pizza concept.


Sunchoke, Squash & Bacon Pizza

Do ahead: In a 400˚ oven, roast a dozen or so thin slices of butternut squash (lightly oil and salt and pepper; no need to peel), as well as 3 small sunchoke tubers (scrubbed clean and left whole). Roast until the squash slices are lightly browned and the sunchokes are tender. Chop up one slice of bacon and fry until cooked. Drain on paper towels.

To make pizza, start with basic pizza recipe. Chop one clove garlic and steep it in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. Roll out your dough and brush with garlic oil. Reserve garlic. Sprinkle oiled dough with a handful each of grated mozzarella and gruyere cheeses. Place roasted squash slices on top of cheese. Slice roasted sunchokes (no need to peel) and nestle slices around squash. Sprinkle over a few thin slices of red onion, the reserved bacon and garlic, and some rosemary needles. Lightly salt the crust and cook according to basic recipe. Garnish with chopped Italian parsley and a squirt of lemon.


pizza, Jan 30, 2010

28 January 2010

on planting and pruning

January is a time for new beginnings. Yes, a terrible cliché... but I don't refer to diets or exercise regimes or filthy habit cessation. My mind is in the garden. As I mentioned in a particularly memorializing post, my parents were gardeners. Seems the one (yes, just one) thing I absorbed from their efforts was "always prune roses in January." This rule is permanently tattooed on my brain. All through my early adulthood, during which time I never ever gardened, if you asked me what I knew about green things that grew in dirt, I'd probably have parroted back, zombie-like: PRUNE. ROSES. JANUARY.


A few years ago, I started tending roses as a memorial to my parents. They're my first real plant babies, and the 2010 pruning ritual has been carried out. My three potted roses have taken on the appearance of graceful, vase-shaped (hopefully; I'm a pruning rookie) clusters of thorny olive-green sticks. It's a yearly investment of custodial care. By which I mean standing in the January cold, Felcos in hand, pacing circles around the unsuspecting bushes, visualizing and agonizing over each potential cut. Roses (and many other plants) thrive after a dramatic, brave pruning of misguided or overzealous growth. A lesson there?

And now there are a few more sticks populating our nascent garden. Ones that I have high, hungry hopes for. We're growing three semi-dwarf apples. Or, rather, we're currently growing some pretty reddish brown twigs that will sprout a little this season, get pruned a little in a year, grow some more, get pruned some more... and on for a few years until they start to bear fruit. I'm anticipating some kind of "plant goes through puberty and becomes an adult" type of ritual. Ha. (I admit I've been doing a lot of reading on apple hormones, preparing for those first nervous pruning cuts.)

Anyway, it's a long, patient, worthwhile investment. At some point, I'll be swooning under branches of delicate crepe-paper blossoms and ecstatically counting each of the first baby fruits. First bites into first apples. There will be lots more reading and agonizing... and eventually much jumping up and down. I can't wait. For now, every few days I'm sneaking out to the back of the garden to steal glimpses of those pretty brown sticks.

image via Flickr

27 January 2010

morning hilarity

How Jacky sends Mama off to work 3 mornings per week...

wait for it...

morning hilarity
morning hilarity
morning hilarity

Cute OR crazy?

Or both? :D

26 January 2010

finally! vertical garden gear!

Ever since taking the above photo at Flora Grubb Gardens, my local fancy plant nursery, I've been scouring the web for the gear to make my own vertical succulent garden. Google searches, emailing manufacturers, eBay, posting on gardening blogs... a pathetic business. And, uh, no dice.

I actually almost got Toby to agree to making me a wooden replica, but no need! I found it, back at the original source. Flora Grubb is now selling the vertical garden frame directly. No more sad web trolling for me. For now.

25 January 2010

for lunch: pasta puttanesca

Rain is streaking down our windows again. How many days in a row now? Oh well, I can't complain. We need the water (the big "we" -- as well as the little plants out back). And besides, the streaky windows make the view out to our little valley a vaguely tree-filled, misty abstract painting.

On cozy indoor days like this, I've been opting for soup. Lots and lots of hot brothy soup. But today, I reached WAY back and pulled a lunch out that I haven't made for... oh, nine years? Pasta Puttanesca, which means "working girl" pasta. Apparently it was a cheap and satisfying dish Italian ladies of a certain profession would make between clients*. Nine years ago, I would make this delicious lunch while working freelance from home, unmarried and unencumbered. A working girl of another sort.

Today, I updated the dish for a little more nutrition: quinoa pasta for more protein, and some of last night's baked salmon.

Method (for 1 working girl or boy): Cook 2 oz pasta (I used quinoa fusilli) according to package directions and drain. Set aside in the warm pot. Meanwhile, sauté a few chopped garlic cloves with a good shake of dried red pepper flakes. When fragrant, add a few oil-packed anchovy filets, chopped. Sauté until garlic is lightly golden. Tip in 7 oz (1/2 small can) whole tomatoes and their juice. Raise heat to high and break up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add a spoonful of capers, a small handful of chopped oil-cured olives. Cook on high to reduce tomato juices. When thickened, add a few ounces of cooked wild Alaskan salmon, broken up by hand, and a bit of chopped Italian parsley. Stir in cooked pasta, mix well. Plate, garnish with more chopped parsley. Dig in and watch the raindrops.


*Hellooo garlic breath! -- right?!

24 January 2010

chorizo chicken

We're kind of on a whole roasted chicken kick. It's the perfect Saturday night meal. (That is, when we're not doing pizza.) This weekend, we made a particularly delicious variant on the usual: chorizo chicken. It's the best thing to do with a beautiful, pastured heritage bird. Crispy, smokey and succulent.

Method: Atop your prepared (olive oil or butter + salt/pepper) bird, place a half-dozen slices of fiery-red chorizo. Maybe add a couple of sprigs of rosemary. Roast. (You may need to run your exhaust fan on low during the cooking. Roasting chorizo doesn't get along well with smoke detectors.) Observe the smokey, paprika-y deliciousness permeating the chicken's skin and meat. Not to mention whatever you place below the roasting bird. (We diced celeriac, sunchokes, parsnips and rainbow carrots.)

It was wonderful. Even the breast meat was delicious... know what I mean, fellow dark meat peeps? One thing I wish I remembered to do this time: dry brine. Quite simply, the morning of the dinner day, rub the chicken with a copious amount of salt and refrigerate all day. Rinse thoroughly before preparing the bird for roasting. This simple step makes the skin go extra crispy.

So, now we have yet another chicken carcass in the freezer. We're beyond capacity, so it's time to make stock. And, with the meat leftovers? I'm thinking homemade pot pies. Yum.

14 January 2010

recipe roundup: winter squash

During Winter, I cook a lot of squashes. I love Fall food, and I really love squash. As the weather cools, I eagerly look forward to the Butternuts, Delicatas, Kabochas, and others. First, they're incredibly beautiful, like edible sculpture. But, as for eating, they're really versatile and so satisfying on cold, foggy days. Oh yeah, and they're very nutritious.

So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I'd put together a little annotated list of my current favorite winter squash dishes. But I do have an ulterior motive: How do you like to eat them? I'd love to hear your favorite recipes.

My Current Top 5 (or 6) Squash Recipes:

Roasted Squash Salad (recipe: 101 Cookbooks) -- Beginning with one of my most recent favorites, this is a wonderfully satisfying vegetarian dish. I made a big batch, took some to work, fed some to Jacky and then did it all over again. It works easily with substitutions: I swapped in red quinoa for the wild rice, kabocha squash for the pumpkin, pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower, and agave nectar for the honey. I also did a batch where I roasted the red onions with some balsamic vinegar--DO that. (They're sticky and good enough to gobble up straight from the oven.) Even with all these tweaks, this is a solid concept for using up a humongous, nutritious squash.

Butternut Squash Soup (recipe: Martha Stewart) -- With a whole bunch of ginger, this is a wonderfully warming version of a pretty much ubiquitous soup. Before I gave birth, I made a big pot of it and squirreled portions away in the freezer. I was very happy later. And, what's better, I recently found a stray portion in the back of our current freezer... a wonderful surprise on a cold day.

Roasted Seeds -- From the same recipe as above, but hardly requiring instructions. Basically, if you're going to the work of cutting open a squash and scooping out the seeds, your best bet is to spread them out, salt 'em, spice 'em, and roast 'em. They're great on everything, from soup to salad to... goat cheese canapés? bbq'd fish? savory tarts?

Butternut Squash Gnocchi (Recipe: Sunset) -- Pretty straightforward concept, and these are simply delicious. Worth a try.

Butternut Squash Pizza (recipe: Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook, paraphrased here by me) -- Indulgent and nutritious. What more could you ask for? If you go to the trouble of trying the Chez ST&F pizza dough recipe, put this one on your list.

Pumpkin Butter (recipe: Smitten Kitchen) -- This is one of those "once a year" type of recipes... so delicious, but woah... a ton of sugar. Also, it's actually made with canned pumpkin. But, it's SO good. With all the warming spices, it's the perfect thing to make in Fall or Winter, gobble it up and repeat the next year. Bonus in the recipe post is the knock-out granola recipe also therein. If you make the pumpkin butter, make the granola... and combine them as instructed. In the dark days of Winter, it's a valid reason to get out of a warm bed.

Squash Recipes I Have My Eye On:

Kabocha Squash Soup (recipe: Mark Bittman, NY Times)

Butternut Squash Risotto (recipe: Ina Garten, via Food Network)

Quinoa with Moroccan Winter Squash and Carrot Stew (recipe: Bon Appetit)

Winter Squash Soufflé (recipe: Gourmet)

Anise-Spiced Squash Soup with Fennel Chips (recipe: Gourmet)

Squash-y Thoughts, Not Yet Fully Formed:

Squash Galette: Take the concept of a potato galette--an easy but impressive-looking dish--but construct it out of thin slices of Butternut squash. I'm not 100% certain it'll work just as well, as potato starch is key to the original. But, perhaps worth a try?

Squash Latke: Pretty obvious: add some grated squash to delicious fried potato latkes. I've seen recipes including sweet potatoes, so why not squash? You could probably tweak the seasoning in a deliciously sage-y direction, too.

Squash-wrapped Salmon: Another squash-potato swap-out. The original goes like this: take a beautiful filet of wild salmon and wrap it in mandoline-thin slices of a starchy potato. Sear in a lightly oiled pan and finish in a hot oven. Crispy, delicate, delicious. So, what if you had a HUGE butternut squash (as I did recently) and could get some big, wide slices out of the neck portion? Perhaps you could wrap some paper-thin slices around the filet and achieve a little more flavor (and nutrition) than the original? Perhaps with some Moroccan spices?

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara: Essentially a skinnied-up version of the original.

Other things to do with a squash:

Save the seeds: So you can grow your own. Basic instructions here.

Take some photos: Winter squash are almost too beautiful to eat. Luckily, they keep for a long time, so you can enjoy them as decor for a while. Until you savagely hack into them with a cleaver. Or maybe that's just me.

So, how about your winter squash recipes and ideas? I need more ideas... 10 days of rain are on the way!

13 January 2010

I'm a soft shoe softy

So, the little man is growing up. Sigh. It's exciting, there are big changes every week it seems... but it's poignant. I love and celebrate every new step (literally and figuratively) but I deeply cherish all those smooshy, simple baby times. Milk-drunk newborn naps on my lap, next to me on the couch, anywhere. Tummy time. Propping him up with couch pillows so we could take his photo sitting up. Topple over... giggle.

Little things strike me, mostly unexpected. Photos of chubby cheeks, gummy smiles, first messy bites of food, hair changes (dark to none to light), toy obsessions, etc... I laugh at myself: I lay him down to sleep for naps or for the night, and we're both exhausted from the day. Some nights I veg out to the TV, some nights I wander through the blogosphere, or maybe I read some gardening books. But some nights I spend my "free/me" time back in baby land, trolling through his Flickr set. It depicts his life so far, from first breaths to what happened last week.

Tonight was one of those nights when I migrated over to the Jacky photos.... oooh'ing and awww'ing over little things, some old some new. These days, he's getting pretty proficient at walking... running almost. And he's wearing "big boy shoes" -- real shoes. Or, rather little shrunken versions of real shoes that are so cute you want to eat them.

So, perusing photos tonight, the thing that absolutely GOT me was a few pictures of him in his old soft, baby-ish, pre-walking shoes. So innocent, sooo simple. I miss them.

11 January 2010

the weekend, pictorially


- Act 1 -
Misty morning walks

- Act 2 -
Mmm, snacks!

toast, almond butter, blueberries... and toy trucks

nom nom nom

you try!

- Act 3 -
Sunday cooking...

If it's Sunday, it must be crock pot [recipe here]

citrus curd

- Act 4 -
New toddler phase

NO WAY are you going to put two shoes on me. I will carry one and wear one, thankyouverymuch.

- Act 5 -
Apples are here!

We are now the proud owners of three organic, heirloom, cross-pollinating baby apple trees: Hauer Pippin, Gravenstein and Ashmead's Kernel. To be planted out shortly.

- Act 6 -
Gratuitous cuteness



07 January 2010

pizza of the week: winter greens & chorizo

Yet another pizza that starts off looking an awful lot like salad. Ha. Well, that's just how I roll. I must say that although there are a lot of green things inhabiting the top of this dough, they are seriously counterbalanced by a few slivers of diabolically red, smokey chorizo. It's a certain type of yin and yang.


Winter Greens & Chorizo Pizza

Start with basic dough recipe. Chop one clove garlic and steep it in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. Roll out your dough and brush with garlic oil. Reserve garlic. Sprinkle oiled dough with a handful each of grated mozzarella and fontina cheeses. Chop 6-8 leaves of winter greens (escarole, kale, radicchio, beet greens, chard, etc) into 1/2" strips and sprinkle over pizza. Add a few rings of thinly sliced red onion, a couple pinches of fresh, stemmed rosemary, and 6-8 (or more) thin slices of chorizo. Sprinkle over reserved garlic. Spray or drizzle lightly with olive oil and a tiny sprinkling of sea salt. Bake. Garnish cooked pizza with a handful of frisée, ripped up and tossed with a squirt of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Slice and serve immediately.


Special bonus: if you've been meaning (as I have) to make oven-roasted kale chips, this pizza is a nice try-out. Throw some chopped kale on your pizza, and you'll get a few roasty-crispy bits of chips!

05 January 2010

America: Too stupid to cook?

I say no. Doesn't have to be that way. We are smart, capable, creative people. We can roast our own chickens, make our own pizza, whip up our own mayo dangit. And it's not hard.

Or so says Michael Ruhlman in a great post this week. Check it out. You might be motivated to go roast a bird or something crazy.

01 January 2010

goodbye 2009, hello 2010

I've had a bunch of time off for the holidays. Which apparently means... a lot of NPR listening, while cooking, while eating, while hanging out. From the endless year-end discussions, it seems that the general consensus out there is that 2009 was a pretty suck-tastic year. Bad year, bad.


Well... For us, I beg to differ. It was a fantastic year! Sure, our "portfolio"--or whatever lame word you want--is not where it could have been, but is that what really matters? I say no. I propose the following as evidence of a stand-out year...

For starters, Toby and I learned to be parents. (And, we're having the time of our lives. Shhh!) Our formerly helpless, sleepy, semi-oblivious little cutie pie now walks, talks, laughs, dances and has OPINIONS. He also learned to pet Kitty s o f t l y. Mostly. We finally moved into a house we'd been renovating since 2008. We built stuff -- heck, Toby built a retaining wall. I took six months off work for full-time baby bonding, and then went back part time--a situation that suits me perfectly. And, I managed to bake during the holidays. Score.

So, I'm real good with 2009. But, being that today is January 1, it must be onward and upward from here.

Yep, I'm talking about resolutions. I'm not spilling all my beans--I'll be keeping some to myself--but as far as those that pertain to this here blog, here goes:

  • Make the garden fantastic. Like, really major. It's still evolving out of a jungle and trash heap into a useable space made for eating and hanging out. I hope to: Grow lots edibles and other useful plants. Explore interesting herbs and other rarities. Create playspace for Jacky and a few different "rooms" for adults to hang. Use our outdoor space on those random, hard-to-predict, gorgeous San Francisco days.
  • Get better at photography. I actually took photo classes in college as part of my major. Which feels like a really long time ago. I need to find the patience again for things like reading my manuals, exploring other types of cameras (film?!?), and simply shooting more.
  • Crank up my nutrition. I already eat relatively well... Organic, lots of vegetables, the usual routine. But the motherlode of my energy in the past 7 months has been all about building the kiddo's diet. And, if I do say so myself, he is literally the healthiest-eating person I know. His diet is flat-out great. I've sort of started letting all that rub off on myself a little more--my breakfast almost matches his now--but I want to fully go for it. Use more superfoods. Explore different veggie options. Perhaps I eat less meat. Try for more variety. Jacky's diet is fabulous because it's seasonal, colorful and varied, hardly a diet of deprivation.
  • Be present. With Jacky, with Toby, with friends, with work, with play. Be there wholly, be focused. I truly believe we are all way too in love with multi-tasking.
  • Redesign blog. Yeah, not a very touchy-feely resolution. But, I feel the need to tinker seriously with the default Blogger junk. Also, use photography more and better.
  • Conquer more of the lower level of the house. On deck next: new home office, re-org garage, additional BR & BA.
  • Entertain more. Brunch, brunch, brunch!

So, how's your 2010 shaping up? Any plans?
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