Tuesday was a typical day at work full of excel models, fire-drills, and twitter stalking. We all know that twitter stalking is definitely my favorite of the activities, and this time, it produced a great recipe for me to try out for dinner that night. Real Simple magazine happens to be one of the sites that I religiously follow on Twitter, and their Polenta Pizza was a hit! Talk about delicious, nutritious and totally different style of pizza. I got to combine all of my favorite things in one recipe-garlic, mozzarella, mushrooms, onions, and polenta. This couldn’t go wrong, and surprisingly didn’t. The texture of the polenta crust was so not typical, and so satisfying to my mouth. I could have ate the entire recipe, but alas, Jack came home for dinner and wanted to try. Silly Jack getting home from work early.
Anyway, here is the recipe. Easy, Quick, and Delicious should be the tagline.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 cup polenta (not instant)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 head radicchio, shredded
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Heat oven to 400° F. Oil a 9-inch springform pan or pie plate; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring 2¼ cups water to a boil. Whisking constantly, slowly add the polenta. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until the polenta starts to pull away from the side of the pan, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Using a spoon, spread the polenta over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.
In a bowl, combine the radicchio, tomatoes, mozzarella, the remaining tablespoon of oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture over the polenta and bake until the polenta is crisp around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let me preface with a quick piece of my history. I grew up in what is known as “Pennsyltucky,” the area in Pennsylvania between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, better known as farm country. My high school was situated between two cornfields, and my grandparents are farmers. So I have some understanding of farming, and a great appreciation for supporting local farmers and agriculture.
In conjunction with reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have been researching a plethora of ways that I can help out the earth and buy my vegetables and fruit a little closer to home. My history, paired with this terrific book, has inspired me to look into ways that I can support myself and Jack with more local, delicious produce (and hopefully poultry and eggs soon too!) while supporting area farmers and the whole local foods movement.
I started researching CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture ) at the beginning of the week on www.localharvest.org, and surprisingly found many near our Massachusetts town. The probable issue that Jack and I would most likely face when joining a CSA was having too much produce, risking the possibility of wasting some which is something that I would not even consider.
A CSA is a farm that grows lots of produce, and divides up the bounty amongst families who purchase shares of the farm. A typical share amounts to 10-20 lbs of produce a week, which would easily feed a veggie loving family of 4. The going rate in Mass is between $500-$650 a summer, approximately a 20 week period. For a regular share of produce, a family of four can expect to spend about $40-$50 a week. The season starts in June and ends harvest in October. Most of the produce is grown organically, and the shareholder has the opportunity to assist cropping or distribute to other shareholders. A CSA is a terrific way to support a local farmer, a cultural movement, a learning experience and to make many friends who are all supporting a similar cause.
After Jack and I did some research (well really, I did), we originally decided that it would not be very economical for us to join a CSA given that it would be fairly expensive for just 2 people, and that there was a strong possibility that we would waste some produce. Then I happened to stumble upon Kettle Pond Farm’s website, via the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website. Kettle Pond Farm is a little further than I originally wanted to travel, but they had all organic half shares for only $300. I was so excited. I immediately emailed the contact, and we got a share!
After many emails back and forth, Steve, the farmer at Kettle Pond, arranged a tour of the farm for the following day. So Jack and I headed on over. I imagined Steve to be a middle aged hippie farmer who lived off of the land and loved helping out the earth. I could not have been more wrong. Steve is my age (24), went to school for Physics but decided to do something that would help others and be more fulfilling. He was absolutely inspiring. He knew so unbelievably much about farming, the earth, chemical compounds, and how to run a CSA (I guess he should know all of this given he is a farmer), but still, he was quite the amazing person. He showed us around the farm, showed us the seedlings, told us about what he was going to plant, and introduced us to the chickens that would begin producing eggs in August. I left the farm feeling so excited about the summer and all of the great produce we would eat and friends we would make, along with learning a lot of farming knowledge from Steve.
So, am I excited? Yes. Should you join a CSA and support a local farm? Yes. Will you join one or support a local farm in some way? I really hope so, because you know what, there is no better feeling in the world than to help your neighbor and the earth (and you get the added benefit of fresh produce to eat everyday!).
For more information about Kettle Pond Farm in Berkley MA, read: http://www.kettlepondfarm.com/
Twice a year, my nana makes her delicious ravioli. It is a two-day process that starts with cooking off the meat, and ends with pinching dough together by hand. The end result is a piece of heaven in your mouth. My family has regular arguments over who gets to have 10 ravioli versus 9 because it is just that good. Fortunately, Nana has been kind enough to share her recipe. Unfortunately, I have not had two days to devote to such an undertaking. So I took the easy way out so to speak, and made ricotta ravioli. The filling takes all of 5 minutes to make instead of 1 day with meat filling. It involves mixing together three varieties of cheese instead of cooking and frying three types of meat. Clearly, much easier.
That said, I did challenge myself by using Seminola Flour for the first time instead of my standard pasta making flour- the Unbleached All Purpose special. Now, I am unsure as to how seminola flour is really supposed to come together into pasta dough, but what I found was that it was much more difficult to work with. The dough itself was much dryer, even with the addition of an extra few tablespoons of water. Overall though, the process was not too difficult, given the right equipment (I need a new rolling pin!!).
First, I made the filling, and put it in the fridge to keep cold while I started making the dough. I own the pasta attachment for my KitchenAid, so rolling the dough is very simple. I divided the dough recipe into 7 separate dough balls, which were then shaped into cylinders, and then put them through the dough roller. After the dough was rolled, I placed one piece on a ravioli tray, filled the ravioli, and then placed another on top. Then the pinching started. It is best to use the back of a fork to pinch as it pushes the dough tight together, and allows for minimal breaking when boiling the pasta.
The recipe for dough that I used was from the KitchenAid pasta attachment cookbook. I was able to make roughly 4 dozen ravioli from the recipe, but certainly could have made more if some of my dough was not so dry- turns out, even with additions of water, I still did not add enough, hence some of the dough was deemed unusable.
3 ½ c. Seminola flour
2 tbsp water (or more as necessary) – I used roughly 4 tbsp of water
1 tbsp oil
½ tsp salt
Place eggs, water, oil, flour and salt in mixer bowl. Use flat beater and mix for 30 seconds on speed 2. Exchange flat beater for dough hook. Knead 2 minutes on speed 2. Remove dough from bowl and hand knead for 1-2 minutes. Divide dough into eight pieces before processing with pasta roller (or rolling out using rolling pin).
The ravioli filling recipe was taken from Mangia Bene’s website (Mangiabenepasta.com/ravioli). Again, it is very, very simple to make, and when the ravioli is cooked, the filling melts in your mouth. It is delicious!
Cheese Ravioli Filling
1 8oz container ricotta cheese- I doubled recipe, so I used 16oz
4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ tbsp chopped parsley
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
Combine ingredients in a bowl and spoon into ravioli dough.
Hopefully one day soon I will be able to make the whole kit and caboodle- homemade ravioli dough with a meat filling, but until then, the cheese variety suits me just fine!
I’m currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I know, I know, old news, but I have finally checked off other books on my book list (The Sunday List of Dreams, Superfreakonomics, Madeline Albright) and arrived at this. Talk about inspiring. I’m only 100 pages into the thing and have already declared my desire to make cheese, plant my own garden, and find local poultry to use as my meat source. Soon I’ll be asking for a dairy cow to produce raw milk. Oscar, my cat, would certainly love that idea, though I’m sure that Jack is tired of hearing my new great ideas, like cheese making and mushroom searching, and of how we can be more thrifty and earth-saving. He probably thinks that I am a goof, and he is probably right.
Needless to say, I have fallen in love of this kind of reading. It is teaching me all types of new foodie information, like how asparagus is the first to grow in a garden come spring, and that you can make cheese at home with a few cultures and citric acid. I believe that the most important point that I have learned thus far in the book, is that cooking should be an experience enjoyed by all, and that families can come together over a meal, cooking it, eating it, and cleaning up afterward. Family time is important to fostering a safe and healthy environment for children and adults alike. Thank you, Barbara Kingsolver, for writing such an inspiring and important book.
Final Point: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle should be a must read for all cooks- it will reiterate the fact that we should try and use more sustainable sources for our cooking and eating, and that cooking for ourselves and others can be a lot of fun.
This past week, I was able to find some time and take a stab at making bread, a Honey Buttermilk variety that was fairly simple, and delicious. The bread lasted the entire week, and was a welcome addition to my standard soup lunch. The entire baking/kneading process took about 3ish hours, and I was able to cook dinner and do a load of laundry in the rest time. The recipe was found on Confessions of a Tart.
Honey Buttermilk Bread
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tsp table salt
1 cup buttermilk, cold
1/3 cup boiling water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 tbsp honey
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat.
2. Mix flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. In 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup, mix cold buttermilk and boiling water together (temperature should be about 110-degrees), add butter, honey, and yeast. Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds. [If making by hand, combine ingredients as directed, turn out onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes.]
3. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 50 to 60 minutes.
4. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press gently so dough touches all four sides of pan.
5. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty oven-safe pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.
6. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into an oven-safe pan [to create steam]; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes [or until the loaf is nicely browned and sounds hollow when you take it out and tap it on the bottom]. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature
Savory Flavors became the title of my blog after a bottle of wine, a home cooked dinner in, and many debates between Jack and myself. I finally won the debate after promising to give him the title “Professional Taste Tester.” Anyway, I digress.
I am not a professional chef by any means, and have had no professional training. I am a 9-by-5er by day and an exercise and cooking nut by night. I will be sharing my cooking and baking experiences from a learning point of view. This means that I will write about both my successes and failures, and tips to fix any mistakes that I might have made during the process.
One such example was this past Sunday. It was a rainy, miserable day in New England, and I was hung-over. What better way to cure a hangover than to cook, and bake, and well, burn. I set out to make cinnamon bread from the blog of Confessions of Tart, “the best ever Mac and cheese,” from the blog of Cheese is Alive and Sautéed Chicken a la Julia Child.
The bread was much easier to make than I had anticipated. I guess I confused a long inactive time to mean difficult in terms of baking. Not so as the loaf came out splendidly.
The macaroni and cheese was extremely time consuming with loads of dicing, chopping, and shredding of cheeses. Everything was going splendidly, until the recipe called to “broil the breadcrumbs for a few minutes.” I placed the pan under the broiler, not keeping particularly close watch on it, and then I noticed smoke coming out of the burners. I called Jack in and we couldn’t figure out the issue, and then I opened the oven. I was greeted by a puff of smoke and the realization that the breadcrumbs were jet-black and burning. I was devastated. Thankfully, after scooping off the top layer of crumbs, I was able to salvage the dish, and thankfully able to enjoy the fruits of my labor (if not in the perfect form).
And per usual, Julia Child came through again, always my saving grace when cooking.
So see, I admit my mistakes and hope not to make them again. Lesson Learned #1: Actually watch the breadcrumbs broiling, and never forget to check on the oven.
Anyway, look forward to some honest blog reading along with some great recipes, pictures of recipes, and taste testing critiques.