Kitchen Cobb Salad

June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

When staying at our friend’s winter getaway in Vermont, the “fridge-tata” is the breakfast of choice. But it’s summer now, and our summer getaway is our friend’s bay-side home in Provincetown. No fridgetatas here. Lunches call for something lighter, something a little more summery. But just as easy.

Open the fridge. pull out the freshly harvested lettuce from the garden. Assess the leftovers. Make yourself a Kitchen Cobb Salad.

Now, a Kitchen Cobb is not an actual Cobb salad. It could be, I guess, if you just happen to have strips of turkey and bacon and egg and such. The Kitchen Cobb is much less structured, much less formal. Really, it’s anything you find in your fridge that you wouldn’t mind having atop some greens. Leftover roasted asparagus? Sure. Grilled salmon? Why not. A dollop of cottage cheese? Throw it on there. When it comes to a Kitchen Cobb, anything goes.

Today’s Kitchen Cobb benefitted from last night’s meal cooked for eight – steak, salmon, and lentil-bulgur salad, with the leftover pear and red onion green salad as a base. No steak on our salads, of course. We also threw in some roasted asparagus and goat cheese, and topped with lemon-oregano vinaigrette.

Jennifer gets credit for the name. She’s good like that.

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Greek Salad Dressing

June 23, 2011 § 3 Comments

Lettuce and spinach from the garden

Did I mention it’s salad season? We have a plot in the Washington-Rutland Community Garden, right across from Flour Bakery, and it’s spitting out lettuce at a pretty good clip now. What we have most of now, actually, is spinach. It’s late June, and considering the warm temps, its the end of the spinach season. As my garden neighbor said, we had March until Memorial Day, then we had August. No normal spring weather – cool days and nights – to get a really good spinach crop going. Just cold and wet, not very good for seeds to germinate. And when they did finally come up, the seedlings didn’t like the heat. They sent up flower stalks immediately – at just 2 inches tall. Yikes. So what fills my salad spinner now are small, small spinach leaves. But a lot of them. Along with some of my larger lettuce leaves.

And did I mention I recently trimmed our oregano plant? It’s massive, and it was about to flower. To keep an herb going strong through the growing season, I trim off any flowers that pop up. I have a big bag of oregano clippings wrapped in moistened paper towel and sealed in a ziploc bag, sleeping nicely in the fridge. My recipes this week are leaning towards oregano.

What to drizzle over my spinach and lettuce leaves? The Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette is fabulous, but we need a little variety now and then. I found this recipe for a Greek-style dressing online at The Food Network site – it’s by a guy named Ernie? Never heard of him, but he’s got a knack for dressing, that’s for sure.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup white wine vinegar (equals 2 tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt – it calls for “fine salt,” but I used kosher and added a bit more to compensate
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper or dash of cayenne, optional
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

-Use a blender to combine the vinegars, mustard, salt, pepper, red pepper, and garlic on the puree setting. With the motor running, very slowly pour in a steady stream of olive oil to make a smooth dressing. Repeat with the canola oil.

-Transfer the dressing to a glass storage container and mix in the oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Under the Bruins Flag

June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

This is not your typical Dainty post. But I have a set of photos I think you’re gonna like. Especially if you’re a Boston Bruins fan.

I was on the South End Garden Tour on June 18—I know, bummer, I couldn’t make it to the Bruins Rolling Rally. But one of the garden tour stops just happened to have a great view of the Hancock buildings. It was a gorgeous day in the city and it was a gorgeous shot of the Bruins championship flag flying from the smaller Hancock building.

Bruins flag flying proudly on the Hancock building

Bruins flag flying proudly on the Hancock building

Thinking it would make a really cool Facebook profile pic, I zoomed in and framed the flag. When I downloaded, I noticed a little somethin’ somethin’ under the flag. And it just happened to be a person.

Bruins flag on Hancock Building with man underneath

He had the best view of the Bruins Rolling Rally

So, if you know this guy, or you know someone who knows someone who knows this guy, tell him about it. He deserves to make it his own FB profile pic.

Work-Life Balance Off Kilter

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m throwing a pity party for myself. Bear with me.

My plate is full. Dripping gravy off the side, actually. A sample of what I have going on:

  • I’m an editor for a trade magazine. Full time. Travel, writing, managing freelancers and editorial schedules and advertising opps, putting out (a kickass) weekly enewsletter, being a resource 24/7 for my industry, etc etc.
  • I am a paid blogger, weekly posts.
  • I put in about 16 hours a week managing a series of gardens. Seasonal, but still.
  • I’m also a paid podcaster. Twice a month and I’m just the color commentator. But still, it’s about scheduling.

That’s the paid stuff, as meager as it is. On top of that:

  • I volunteer for my local garden tour – on the committee, actually.
  • I’m on my community garden’s board of directors.
  • I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan. That’s three hours a day right there. I know, that’s not a good excuse, but still.
  • I run and bake and cook, or at least I try to. When I have the time.

And all I really want to do is that last line. The running and baking and cooking. All I want to do is Dainty.

Get over it, we’re all in the same boat, right? I know that, but why? Because all the work gets us more money which gets us more stuff? That may be true for some people, but not I. My portion of the spoils pays for half the mortgage and monthly bills, and self-employment income tax—that’s about it. So, it’s not about the money. Okay, so maybe it’s about paying the mortgage—banks do like to get paid. But I’m not doing this for the money.

If I’m not doing it for the fortune, it must be for the fame. Ha! Okay, so, when I travel on business, people I don’t even know do come up to me and talk to me like we’re great friends. And that’s only because I appear in their inboxes weekly and mailboxes monthly and Facebook feeds randomly. Is that fame? Nope. It’s kinda nice, but still.

Then I must do it because it’s all easy, right? Wrong. On my daily to-do list, there is at least one thing (who am I kidding? Three things!) that just doesn’t happen. Even remotely. I have so much going on, I can give none of them the quality and respect due to them. Oh boy, and does that stink. My father the farmer, god love him, is and was always saying, “good enough.” The weed-choked garden was good enough. The produce with spots going into the bag for sale, good enough; the plowing job, good enough; the barn in need of repair, good enough. His health, his family, always just good enough. Dear lord, it’s happening to me. Just in order to get it done—and good enough—to move on to the next.

Why am I doing it, then?

That’s a very good question. One I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.

Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette

June 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Salad season is here. Fresh lettuce is popping up all over garden, and balsamic vinaigrettes are a little too heavy and wintry for delicate, home-grown leaves. There’s nothing that says summer quite like this Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette. Sits politely and lightly but adds a lot to a conversation—yeah, that’s exactly how I’d describe it.

Jennifer found the recipe in the “R.S.V.P.” column in a few-years-old Bon Appetit, an adaptation of a recipe found at The Signature Room. We momentarily lost it, gone in the recycling maybe. But found once again—just last night—as a grainy photo on my computer. So, here it is, hopefully never to be lost again.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp mild honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano

-Blend all ingredients except oregano in blender until combined.

-Transfer to a bowl and stir in oregano. Salt and pepper to taste.

Biga-Based Pizza Dough

June 1, 2011 § 5 Comments

Pizza is one of our fallback meals in the Dainty domicile. And it’s not delivery; not even DiGiorno. It’s made with good ol’ homemade, hand-thrown dough. With a special addition. Let’s call it Dainty Dough.

There are two things that make the Dainty Dough a bit different. First, it’s made with biga, one of many types of dough starters. It’s a yeast-based starter, not a natural sourdough starter—meaning it contains commercial yeast and not yeast found naturally in the environment (have I lost you yet? Hang on for a minute.). The biga ferments—i.e. sits on your counter bubbling away—for 8 to 24 hours or so, all the while developing a richer, chewier flavor. Pizza crust with flavor, not just used as a platform for toppings, imagine that.

The second thing I do is add a dollop or two of my Sourdough Starter, aka Milo the Baby Dough, during the dough-making process. A few months back you may recall I was experimenting with natural yeast and tried creating a real sourdough. Well, after a month or so, Milo is alive and well. I feel like I created a golem, it’s so incredibly cool. It’s totally not necessary to add this sourdough starter, but I’ll explain in a minute why I do it.

Dainty Dough: Step 1

Biga Recipe (from my Basic Baking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts)

  • 1/4 oz. yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (warm=dip in a finger and it should feel the same temp as your body)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 3/4 cups flour (I suggest all-purpose flour here. If you want wheat dough you can add wheat flour later)

-Add yeast and 1/4 cup warm water with sugar in a bowl and stir together. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Add remaining water and the flour and mix thoroughly. You’ll end up with a creamy mixture. Cover and either let sit on the counter 8 hours or place in the fridge for 24 hours. It will become creamy and bubbly. The biga will remain
-At this point you can proceed with the next step and make the pizza dough. Or, I suggest weighing out your biga into 4 oz. pieces, reserving one piece for your current pizza and placing the remaining into individual freezer baggies and popping them in the freezer. Label and date your baggies! Otherwise a year from now you’ll excavate your freezer and wonder what the heck that thing is. From this one batch of biga you will get up to 8 4 oz. pieces. And each 4 oz. biga gives you four pizza stone-sized pizzas. Do the math—that’s a lot of pizza!

Dainty Dough: Step 2
Pizza Dough Recipe

  • 4 oz. biga
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (kosher preferred)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • A dollop or two of Milo the Baby Dough sourdough starter (optional)
  • 4 1/2 cup flour (for wheat dough use 2 1/2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 cup water

-Add biga, salt, oil, sourdough starter and flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn on slow speed, let it mix together for up to a minute then add water slowly. Because I’ve added a bit of the sourdough starter, there is more moisture in the dough and depending on your weather conditions, you may not need all of that water. Yes, baking depends on weather conditions, believe it or not.

-If you’ve added all the water and the dough seems wet and watery, add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour and let it mix in. Keep adding flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer wet but not bone dry! You’ll likely need no more than four or five tablespoons of flour.

-Keep mixing on medium speed for about five minutes. The dough has a tendency to ride up the dough hook. Stop the mixer when the dough makes it above the hook’s collar and push the dough back down into the bowl. Keep mixing until the dough feels smooth and it’s started to relax a bit; i.e., it shouldn’t feel like a hard tight wad of flour.

-Oil a medium bowl. Roll the dough around in the oil so it’s slightly oily all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour. The dough won’t have risen all that much—it’s not rising like bread, we just want it to become elastic.

-Cut the dough into four equally sized pieces—they’ll likely have a triangular shape. Want an oddly shaped pizza? Then place these dough pieces as they are on a baking sheet or on the counter and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Want a perfectly round pizza? Then do this: Holding the dough piece in your hands, pull all the dough from around the piece into a central point. Go around the outside a couple times pulling it all into the center. Now, do your best to pinch that central point closed, then place the dough with that point facing downward. What you will have is a little ball with a perfectly round top, no seams showing anywhere except on the bottom. Cover these with oiled plastic wrap and let sit for about 20 minutes.

So, about adding that dollop or two of sourdough starter to the dough … here’s why I did it. I did, in fact, excavate my freezer recently and found two baggies of 13 month-old biga. Doing a little research I found that the recommended time for biga in the freezer is a max of four months. Oops. I added the sourdough starter as a way to give the dough a kick of fresh yeast. I think it worked. Plus, I noticed the crust did have telltale sourdough bread-like air bubbles. Tasty!

Hmm … turns out I have absolutely no photos of any of this. Bummer. Guess I’ll have to make some biga and dough later today.

By the way, biga can be used for more than just pizza dough. So instead of making 4 oz. balls of biga for the freezer, you can use what you have left for bread baking.

Wait, what? Am I leaving you without actually making a pizza? You bet. That’s for another day, when Jennifer can chime in on her favorite toppings. I make the dough, but she’s the pizza master.

 

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