Update on Dainty: Where’d June Go?

June 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

Hey, hi. Remember me?

Nope, haven’t forgotten about Dainty Dot. Truly have not. It’s been a bit of a busy month. And I’ve had other things on my mind. Dainty took a backseat for a bit.

A backseat to what, you ask? I’ll review in photos …

Boo kitten

Boo – she’s growing too fast. My iPhone can barely hold all the photos I take of her.

peony

June has so many Instagram opportunities. I can’t keep up. Pretty, huh?

I’ve been perfecting my pizza-making skills. And man, do I have mad skills with the dough.

Provincetown vacationProvincetown. Vacation. Roof deck. Water views. That really about says it.

Cucumber Cape CodderThanks, Martha Stewart, for the most-appropriate Ptown vacation drink—the Cucumber Cape Codder. I’ll post that recipe soon. Really, so good.

yoga matI’m slightly obsessed with yoga. Just slightly, but in a good way. Maybe I’ll talk to you about it someday. But for now, know that this mat has become a good friend of mine. And it’s fashionably orange.

potato flowerSo, I’m a potato farmer’s daughter. And an avid gardener. And for the first time this spring, it dawned on me: Why not grow some potatoes? And it shall be so. Technically once the flowers bloom, there should be potatoes under the ground. But I want them bigger than peas, so I’ll await awhile.

Powahouse Unit X viewOh, yeah, and by the way … we’re buying a brand-spankin’-new unit in a brand-spankin’-new building. New as in, this was a vacant lot last July. And it’s highly energy efficient and will have solar panels and is built like a German tank – and that’s with good reason. Obviously, more on this later.

JenniferAnd have I mentioned lately that I love this person? I do, and I’ll do it all again in a split second. (Ain’t she a cutie, too?)

homemade pizzaMore pizza. I might be slightly obsessed with pizza, too. Always in a good way.

But just because I haven’t been writing here doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’ve been taking a spin at fiction. More of a poetry-short fiction hybrid type of writing. And the cool thing is it’s fiction inspired by photos. The images are all iPhone Instagram pics taken by a friend who has a knack for knowing there’s a story behind a scene. Take this one, for instance. Who left the phone? Why? Who was on the other end? I took a stab at it—and a bunch of other photos, too—and am publishing them at The Skinny Fedora. The one above is “Hope Asked.”

So, give The Skinny Fedora a quick read and let me and the other skinny girl know what you think. Leave comments here or at www.theskinnyfedora.com.

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Sweet potato, goat cheese and rosemary-sage pizza

May 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

The following is a paraphrased and nearly completely inaccurate account of a recent text conversation.

Text from Nan: J’s sick, can’t use tix to tonight’s show at Club Passim. Can you use them?

Text from Dainty: Uh … wha? Tonite? Sure! Who’s playing, where’s it?

Nan: Meg Hutchison. She’s great. H Sq.

Dainty: We’re in! Coming after Baptiste yoga, could eat a cow. Do they have food?

Nan: Veggie Planet serves their food. Order Henry’s Dinner. On a pizza. Trust me.

Jennifer and I do indeed trust Nan—she’s a lawyer, after all, and we love her. We go to Club Passim, ravenous, and after a cursory glance at the menu, immediately ordered the Henry’s Dinner, pizza version. Something about sweet potato, goat cheese, asiago, rosemary and sage—oh, don’t forget the caramelized onions—all atop a whole wheat pizza.

First thought: Um … yeah. It’s really good. Things that should come together as a side dish at Turkey Time turns out to be a great topping for a pizza.

Second thought: I could totally make that.

And I did Here’s my version.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pizza doughs from the Biga-Based Pizza Dough recipe (which makes a total of four)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 sweet onion
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • fresh rosemary and sage, ground in a spice mill together, about 2 tbs each
  • a log of goat cheese
  • asiago cheese (we used parmesan)
  • salt and pepper go without saying …

-We had a gigantic sweet potato, so we spiked it with a few holes and popped it into a 425F oven for nearly an hour. After 45 min you want to keep poking a fork in it to see if it’s done all the way through. When done, let it cool enough to handle. The skin will just peel right off with your hands. Slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch think rounds.

baked sweet potatoes

Baked sweet potato

-While the potato is cooking, slice up that sweet onion. Add about 2 tbs olive oil to your trusty large skillet, set on medium high, and toss the onion in there. Add maybe 2 tbs balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Toss often. After a bit you’ll want to turn the heat down low and let it saute low and slow. Half hour, maybe. Give the onions a taste halfway through – you might want to add more balsamic to your liking. When they’re done, let them cool, too.

-Heat the oven to 480F. Got a pizza stone? You need one, seriously.

-When you’re ready, flour your counter and roll out that pizza dough – thin but not super super thin. Sprinkle a pizza peel with fine corn meal and lay that dough on there.

-Next, brush the dough surface with some olive oil. Now you can arrange your ingredients however you want. I put the caramelized onions on the bottom. Next I layer with sweet potato – I broke my potato slices into chunks and spread them out a bit. Same with the goat cheese – I just broke chunks off the log and applied liberally. Next, a generous dusting of the rosemary-sage mixture, followed by Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper on top.

-Slide the pizza onto the stone. 6-7 minutes is all you need. You should have enough ingredients for two pizzas, so while the first one is cooking, get the second one all set to go.

-Wait 3 minutes before cutting into it. You gotta let that thing set up.

sweet potato, caramelized onion, goat cheese and rosemary-sage pizza

sweet potato, caramelized onion, goat cheese and rosemary-sage pizza

Jennifer just took the leftovers for lunch and popped it into the break room toaster oven. A colleague asked, “Hey, is that the Henry’s Dinner pizza from Veggie Planet?” Looks like I got it right.

Jennifer’s Ode to a Clam (Chowder)

April 1, 2012 § 5 Comments

What we have here is a guest post. My first guest – awesome! And it’s from none other than the best chef I know personally—my dear wife, Jennifer. She’s the real cook in the Dainty household. Who needs a recipe? Not her, not really. Today’s topic  happens to be one of those recipe-less recipes that she just developed from experience. You eat enough chowder, you’re gonna know how to make it eventually.

So, without further ado, here’s Jennifer’s brilliant rendition of clam chowder.

Ode to a clam. Yes, I said clam. Many of you out there have an aversion to shellfish, which are easy to ruin in unskilled hands. Perish the thought. I know one former Eastern Long Island resident (editor’s note: That would be me) who had such an aversion, until she was able to experience what shellfish cooked well tastes like … manna from heaven. Well, actually the sea—the sweet, briny, bountiful sea.

Inspired by photos posted by dear friends who did some late-winter clamming, I suddenly remembered the quart-sized pouch of clams frozen in our freezer; harvested New Year’s weekend during an unseasonably warm morning outing in the flats of Provincetown Harbor.  I had frozen the clams along with the liquor they produced, waiting for the right moment to make a chowder. Not your typical Monday night meal, and it only took moments to whip up!

-I thawed out 4 cups of clam broth and 2 cups of fish fumet

Jennifer's clam chowder

-Diced into 1 inch cubes 3 potatoes

-I cooked the potatoes in the clam liquor along with 2 bay leaves for seasoning. While the potatoes were cooking I sautéed up a mirepoix (fancy way of saying celery, carrot and onion).

-2 medium carrots

-2 celery stalks

-1 large onion

-Once the veggies were mostly soft I added 4 oz. of shitake mushrooms. I had them in the fridge, and thought, why not?!

-When the potatoes were done (15 minutes or so), I used an immersion blender to break down the potatoes, but not completely. I wanted to leave some chunks, but also give the illusion of some cream in the broth, so I let my starch be the cream substitute. To the pot I added my cooked veggies and the quart plus of clams, warmed the mixture through and wished I had some crusty bread to serve along with it.

Man, oh man that was good!  Thank you P & J for inspiring me to bust out the bounty harvested a few months ago. Food-inspired memories!

Comments? Questions? Your favorite clam chowdah experience? Leave us a note below!

Hearty Soup: Potato & Kale

March 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

We’re nearing the end of Hearty Soup season. And I feel like it got short-shrifted this year. Bone-warming broths, stews and soups weren’t really needed so very much this winter. And it’s too bad—hearty soups are my favorite to make.

We were able to squeeze in a batch of Potato & Kale Soup earlier this week. Thank goodness, because a winter soup season shouldn’t go by without this cooking on the stovetop at least once.

Jennifer and I tag-teamed this recipe. I chopped and prepped late in the afternoon, then she came home and cooked, giving it her special touch while I lunged and downward-dogged and shavasana’d. The potatoes and kale really satisfied a hungry yogini.

Full disclosure here: Full credit goes to Jennifer, who got this recipe from a soups class she took back in the late ’90s. We’ve adjusted a bit here and there. But not spectacularly so.

Potato & Kale Soup

Potato Kale Soup

Potato-Kale Soup with a drop of sherry vinegar

  • 1+ tbs evoo
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced thin (we omitted, used extra onion)
  • 6 cups water (we used 4-6 cups leftover chickpea broth – remember that from the chickpea stew and hummus?) PLUS 2 additional cups water/broth
  • 4 medium potatoes, cut into medium-sized cubes (~4 cups)
  • 2 tbs minced fresh parsley
  • 3 carrots, trimmed but whole
  • 3 celery stalks, trimmed but whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 lb kale (we used an entire bunch of kale as bundled by the local neighborhood grocery)
  • sherry vinegar

-Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions (and leeks if you have them) and sautee until soft and translucent.

-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots, whole celery, bay leaves and 6 cups water or broth, and season with salt and pepper (several good pinches of salt/twists of the pepper grinder). Cover. Simmer on low to medium low for about 45 minutes.

-While the soup is simmering, wash the kale and remove the thick ribs. Tear the kale into a size that won’t annoy you – i.e. not too big. You’re going to steam/cook the kale in about a cup or two of water/broth in a high-sided skillet with a lid. Boil that water, add the kale, cover, and let it cook for not that long – 4-5 minutes. You want it tender but not melty-mushy. Drain out the water and set the kale aside.

-When the soup base has simmered 45 minutes, remove and RESERVE the carrots. And remove and DISCARD the celery. Puree by using a light touch with an immersion blender—you want part of it pureed but you still want some chunks of potato in there. OR, just puree half of the soup in a food processor and return it to the soup pot.

-Stir in kale. Chop the reserved carrots, add them back in there, too. Heat until nice and hot. Give it a taste – add salt and pepper as necessary.

-Here’s the last bit that is Jennifer’s touch and it’s completely optional: Add a tad – let’s say a 1 tbs – of sherry vinegar. Not so optional, uh? That’s good stuff, that soup is.

A nice “creamy” soup—and absolutely no cream! And now that I think about it, it’s vegan. Bonus.

What’s your favorite hearty soup recipe? Drop in a comment and let us know.

The Ever-Versatile Roasted Vegetables

May 11, 2011 § 7 Comments

I don’t share Dainty with my real-world colleagues as a rule. Not sure most would approve of Dainty’s exploits. But my super-awesome colleague Chris T.—the designer of the Dainty Dot logo up at the top of the page—is definitely Dainty worthy.

So when Chris T. told me yesterday that I use a lot of—too many?—ingredients, I considered it. Do I really? Salt, pepper, oils and vinegars not withstanding, I’m mentally going over my recipes and counting up. The Steel-Cut Oatmeal I’m currently eating definitely doesn’t have that many ingredients—oats, raisins, slivered almonds, maple syrup. Okay, yeah, that’s a lot for a simple breakfast. Plus, it takes 20-plus minutes to prepare. But at least you can shower while it’s cooking—that’s something.

Chris T., to show that Dainty can prepare a flavorful dish with simple ingredients and instructions, I humbly present this for your consideration: Roasted Vegetables.

It doesn’t matter what it is—beets, leeks, broccoli, and old tennis shoe—you add EVOO, salt and pepper, put it on a baking sheet or cast-iron pan in a 42F oven and you’re going to end up with something tasty. You can skip the oil maybe, but why? If anything, it helps prevent the veggie from sticking to pan. The salt and pepper add flavor, yes, but the salt also helps to draw out the vegetable’s own juices. The high heat caramelizes those juices, so you end up with a tasty savory sweetness. Want to get your children in the habit of eating veggies? Don’t serve them bland boiled bleck—lightly roast some carrots or cauliflower and let them have at it. I don’t have children and I’ve never tested this theory so it might be bunk, but you never know. Give it a try.

Roasting vegetables is my go-to method when it seems there is absolutely nothing left to cook with in the house. There’s always something—a sweet potato, an onion or leek, a pepper, something—laying around that, with a little high heat, salt, pepper and EVOO, can be incorporated into a meal. If anything, they can be tossed with penne for a simple pasta supper.

Do you need instructions? Really? Okay, here they are.

Roasted Vegetables

-Firm vegetables work best. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, winter squashes, onions, leeks work really well. Summer squashes such as yellow and zucchini, are good, too. Tomatoes … I typically use cherry tomatoes and put them in a medium-sized cast iron. They’ll burst, beware. But the flavor is phenomenal. Be forewarned—the acid will mess up your cast iron’s patina a bit. Clean immediately.

-Set your oven to 425F. I never rely on the temp gauge—your 425 may be hotter than my 425. So keep an eye on the veggies the first time you roast them to get a good idea of how your oven works.

-Veggie prep: The secret is to cut the veggies into uniform pieces for even cooking. All the sweet potatoes should be about the same size. Easily enough to do. When chopping the onion, leave them in relatively big chunks. No dicing. Broccoli and cauliflower can be kinda tricky to get into even sizes. But if some get more crispy than others, hey, that’s ok—it’s all tasty.

-Put your veg in a medium to big bowl, depending on how much you have. Add olive oil—I tip the bottle down and go once around the bowl for a small amount of veg, two to three times for more veg. Add one to two large pinches of kosher salt and several turns of a pepper mill. Toss to coat. Your hands are fine, or a wooden spoon or tongs work too. I prefer hands. Spread out evenly into a single layer in a cast-iron pan or rimmed baking sheet. Single layer! You want each veg to get in contact with the hot metal. Put in the oven and close ‘er up.

Note: What’s a large pinch? It’s a pinch that uses your thumb and your index, middle and ring fingers. It’s one finger away from a small grab. Go ahead, try it.

-Roasting time: Well, now, that all depends on what you’re roasting. Broccoli—2o minutes. Cauliflower—20-25 minutes. Beets, same thing. Sweet potatoes—up to 40 minutes. Butternut squash—35-40 minutes. Onions, leeks—15 maybe? Same with summer squashes. Asparagus, maybe 10 minutes. The softer the vegetable, the less time it takes. For softies, I check them at 12 minutes and then gauge from there. The harder the veg—like sweet potatoes—the longer it takes. For broccoli and cauliflower, I check them at 10 and give them a shaky toss. If you’re roasting a two or more different veggies—like broccoli and onions—on the same pan, I separate them so it’s easier to remove one if it’s done ahead of the other.

-When’s it done? When they turn a nice golden color, especially around the edges. Broccoli’s florets will begin to get a bit dark. That’s ok. Are the stem parts firm yet edible? You don’t want them to be floppy, but you want to be able to chew them without an awful crunch as if they are raw. Squashes—you should be able to stick a toothpick or fork into it easily but it shouldn’t be mush. Get the idea?

This weekend we made a simple pasta meal with roasted broccoli and onions and sun-dried tomatoes. We took a small handful

Roasted broccoli and onions with sun-dried tomatoes over pasta

of the tomatoes and put them in a bowl of maybe 1.5 cups of boiling water. Let them sit there while the broccoli and onions roasted and the pasta water boiled. Just before the roasting was done, we took out the tomatoes and gave them a rough chop, then threw them in with the drained pasta, a 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and the roasted veggies. We served with a bit of Parmesan cheese. Delicious. Want some meat with that, you meat-eaters? We’ve had similar dishes where we’ve added a link or two of Al Fresco chicken apple sausage cut into bite-sized pieces.

Pasta, quinoa, bulgar, rice … whatever you have, as long as you have a veggie or two around and know how to roast it, you’ve got yourself a meal. And one with not that many ingredients.

Potato Kale Soup

April 11, 2011 § 3 Comments

Dainty’s been back from California a week, but still hasn’t gotten in the groove. Catching up on work, volunteer meetings, dinners out, etc, have given me zero fodder for posting. And you’d think with a weekend just behind me, I’d have plenty to write about. I think  maybe I made a batch of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast—that’s about it. And a loaf of bread, but it was a workhorse kinda loaf—nothing spectacular.

I spent the weekend working on a homey project—painting the window well in the bedroom. Sure, I saved several hundreds of dollars doing it myself, but I sacrificed several million brain cells in the process (just say no to paint fumes). It’s a project that’s been on my list for about a year and I’m glad I got it done. And while I was scraping and painting, Jennifer was making a big batch of vegan soup to weekday lunches. And this is a good one.

Potato Kale Soup

  • 1 tbs evoo
  • 2 cups onions, chopped
  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced thinly (chuck the dark green parts)
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 2 tbs parsley, minced
  • 3 carrots – whole
  • 3 ribs celery – whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lb. kale, washed, torn and ribs removed

-Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions and leeks until soft—abou 10-15 minutes.

-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots and leeks, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Boil, cover and simmer over medium low for 45 minutes.

-While that is simmering, cook kale in 2 cups boiling water in a skillet. Cover tightly and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

-After 45 minutes, remove carrot, celery and bay leaves from soup. Reserve the celery and carrots but chuck the bay leaves. Puree half the soup in a blender. OR, an immersion blender is awesome for this—just whirr up (who says that? Jamie Oliver?) half of it right in the pot. Stir in cooked kale. Chop up the carrots and celery and return to the pot. Heat the soup through again. Salt and pepper it if you need to.

Tada! A vegan alternative for lunch. Sounds like this could use some bread. I think I’ll do that right now.

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