Salad on a Pizza

November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

Indecision can be crippling. Seriously crippling. Should I wear the green coat or the black leather? Should I dodge this person on the left or right? Should I sit here or there? Soon enough you find yourself standing in the produce aisle for 15 minutes, not sure which head of broccoli is the one destined for your dinner table.

Don’t think it hasn’t happened to me. It has.

Today I avoided a near calamity in the kitchen—the calamity of not knowing for sure what to have for lunch. At breakfast time (and by breakfast I mean my two helpings of coffee), I was thinking I’d have a salad for lunch. And yes, I do consider lunch that early in the morning.

Then at 10am, I spied that last ball of pizza dough in the fridge. Pizza for lunch. My fave. But … there’s the salad. And gosh darn it, that pizza dough is sitting there, asking me to redeem myself for a not-so-great pizza making session last night.

Salad.

Pizza.

Salad … on a pizza? Salad pizza! Why not, right? Why not, indeed.

I’ve had arugula pizzas at fun, fancy pizza joints before. So I felt comfortable enough throwing something together despite my lack of arugula. Here’s what I eventually made, using 1/2 of one ball of pizza dough.

Pizza topped with pesto, lightly dressed greens, shrimp and goat cheese.

Since my new convection oven tops off at just 450F (a minimum of 480F is what I prefer for pizza), I baked the dough naked for 8 minutes, knowing I’d want my salad topping in the oven for just a minute. After 8 minutes, I took out the base and applied:
-pesto
-baby spinach/young greens with thinly sliced red onion and red pepper, lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette
-leftover sauteed shrimp (pre-heated while the naked dough cooked)
-goat cheese

Sneak it back into the oven for just a minute more. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.

Delicious. It was so good, it’s gone.

I’m always looking for not-your-typical pizza topping suggestions. What are some of yours? Leave a comment and let me know.

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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!

Moqueca, or a Tasty Brazilian Fish Stew

October 31, 2011 § 1 Comment

This year was supposed to be the Year of Ellen Baking, right? Or was it the Year of Ellen Reading? I was supposed to run three moquecahalf-marathons this year, read 12 books, and start the engine on something Big and Awesome. It’s turned out to be more of the Year of Ellen Waffling, and I don’t mean those maple-dripped golden squares on your brunch plate. It’s not been an all-that-great year, and I want it to be over with. I’ve petitioned the International Calendarological Society to just end 2011 here and now, and to get a move on with 2012. Apparently only Popes and Julius Caesar can do that. Officially. You can imagine my regard for “official.”

I’m declaring an end to 2011 as of Oct. 31—which conveniently makes Halloween the equivalent of New Year’s Eve. November 1st will begin a 61-day period known as Daintydays. It’s a time when Dainty and anyone who may have a thread of Daintyness in her/himself says “I’ve had enough of this, and I’m just gonna do ______” (with the blank being nothing that harms others, of course; that’s not very Dainty). Two months. Two months to do what you think you couldn’t by the end of the year. Think on it—we start tomorrow.

What does this have to do with moqueca? Absolutely nothing. Unless “Making the freakin’ best fish stew ever” is that thing you want to do by the end of the year. I first had moqueca at Edwige at Night in Provincetown in 2010. When I heard they were closing for good at the end of the Summer 2011 season, I rushed over for one last order. Last week, we made our own moqueca with a little help from Emeril Lagasse. While it’s no Edwige, it’s still damn good.

Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds  white-fleshed fish cut into 1-2 in. pieces —we used a combo of bluefish (from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share) and some shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups roughly chopped tomatoes – we used a 25 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes and gave them a rough chop
  • 1/2 cup fish stock or water
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • up to 1/4 cup hot sauce – recipe calls for Piri Piri, which is a blender hot sauce, but we dumbed it down a bit
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Steamed white rice, as an accompaniment

-Put the fish in a glass mixing bowl with the lime juice. Set aside for 20 minutes and prep the remaining ingredients.
-Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Believe me, you’ll need a larger pan than you expected. Heat up the oil, and saute the onions until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic saute for about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, fish stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine everything.
-Turn up heat a tad and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add the limed fish, the hot sauce (try half the amount first then add more after afterward) and the coconut milk. Stir it up again and let it heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and until the flesh starts to flake, about 10 minutes. IF you are using shrimp, add the shrimp separately from the fish, about 5 minutes through that cooking period.
-Remove the cover and sprinkle the cilantro over the fish. Season with the remaining salt and hot sauce, if you so choose.
-Serve with the rice. A nice basmati rice is perfect. Make LOTS of it, you’ll need it.

mocquea - brazilian fish stew

Ahhh ... leftovers.

Somerville Winter Farmers Market

February 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Somerville Winter Farmers Market has been up and active since January 8th, and why haven’t we been before this weekend?? Maybe because we’re South Enders, and making it all the way over the river and through traffic can be rough-going. Or, maybe it’s been the weather. Or … maybe we just didn’t know what we were going to find. With “farmers markets” you just never know what you’re going to get—sometimes it’s not even food-related, you know? Screen-print shirts, artwork—come on, dude.

We’re happy to say we found lots of food-related stuff in the Armory Building, which is a great place to hold an event like this. Not too big that the vendors get lost. Just large enough to encourage a good traffic flow on the floor. And an upstairs space for overflow vendors and chillin’ and listening to the musicians (Rodriguez someoneorother? Good choice).

Considering the heavens have dumped loads of snow upon us all winter, and spring harvests just seem so far off, it was really refreshing to see farmers and their produce. One farm looks like they have a connection with an organic farm down in Florida—they were selling fresh greens and even squashes that were shipped up from there. Do I have a problem with that? Not really. One cannot live by turnips alone all winter.

The Winter Farmers Market is also way more than veggies. Our first purchases, in fact, were unpasteurized apple cider and maple syrup. And there were seafood vendors, pork/beef producers, wineries, cheese makers, bakeries, orchards and prepared foods chefs in the house, as well. Lots to choose from.

All in all, we were happy with the hour we spent shuttling from booth to booth.

Our bounty from the Somerville Winter Farmers Market

Our loot: scallops, two varieties of apples, maple syrup, unpasteurized apple cider, kale, baby spinach, Rainbow Lights Swiss chard, mussels, two kinds of soft cheese (burrata and fresh mozzarella) two kinds of semi-soft cheese (swiss and hardwick stone), and a watermelon radish. I told Jennifer there had to be at least one thing we purchased that we didn’t have experience with—that would be the watermelon radish. Spicy sweet with a gorgeous dark pink coloring inside (the “watermelon” part), we julienned it and put it on a spinach salad with apple slices and goat cheese with a shallot balsamic vinaigrette. That salad accompanied our mussels last night. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Spinach salad with apple, watermelon radish and goat cheese

Spinach salad with apple, watermelon radish and goat cheese

We’ve also already used the rainbow chard, which accompanied Saturday night’s sea bass and mango cous cous.

Sea bass with mango cous cous and rainbow chard

Sea bass with mango cous cous and rainbow chard

The scallops are our Valentine’s Day meal. Can’t wait for that.

The Goose and The Gallows

January 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

I grew up on a farm. A real, working farm—one where my parents and us kids poured everything we had into coaxing things to grow from the soil, and cared for our 4-legged and feathered creatures until they were fat enough to fill our chest freezers. On a farm like this, you were clucking back at a chicken one day, and basting it the next.

The big guys—the beef and pork animals—we kept penned up, either in the barn or in the field next to it. Chickens, too, were kept in the barn lest some malevolent creature pay them a visit. The ducks, however, were allowed to roam outside the barn and through our yard. Why? Not sure, really. They weren’t a flight risk—quite literally. They could fly up to the lower branches of a tree if their lives were in peril. But, as for wanting to leave the farm, that was just plain silly—they were quite happy where they were.

Also, the ducks were really more of an accident than a part of our farm’s business model. We happened to find them—a half-dozen little ducklings—trapped in some viney, brambly undergrowth one day near our grandmother’s bungalow. It was a bit of a mystery how they ended up there, especially so when they matured and it turned out they were Muscovy ducks and not some random water fowl. That’s right, we were eating Muscovy duck in the 1970s, long before it became the culinary king.

As will happen when genders mix, we found viable duck eggs, incubated them, and had a nice little gangs of Muscovys wandering our yard for many years.

Now, one summer my mother wished to add a goose to the duck gang. We had never had a goose before, not in the barn nor on our plates. Goose for Christmas, Mom said. A little gosling was added to the bunch.

My mother named her Willeeta. As in, “We’ll eat her.”

Despite the moniker, we never had a chance to eat Willeeta. The curious goose, who was full of personality and quite a delight to have roaming the yard, met her end not by means of an axe. One day we were repaving our driveway with asphalt, and little Willeeta decided to have herself a taste of the hot and gooey black stuff. Within minutes she was foaming at the bill and not long after she was gone.

We never did eat Willeeta. The irony. And, we never did raise another goose and never had goose on our table.

Fast forward 30-some years to last Friday night. Jennifer and I stop in at The Gallows, the fairly new restaurant in the South End. The menu is meat-heavy, and not eating red meat, we’ve not made it a priority to dine there. There’s a bit of a Middle Ages feel to the menu, with mead and boar and such on listings. Drinks with dark-sounding names. Apps called “boards” and served up on small cutting boards. Wenches behind the bar. Men in furs bringing out the meals. Okay, I jest, but you get the idea.

So, considering the story of Willeeta, you’ll understand that when the boards of the day were detailed to us, the goose board did have an appeal to me. Goose prepared three ways: pate, sliced cured breast, and something I didn’t quite catch the name of but it was a type of confit (but drier). Jennifer didn’t feel the same draw as I did to this goose board—having had a horrible experience with duck once, she stays away from fowl other than chicken. But, after relating the Willeeta story to our server, she gladly served up a small serving of the goose three ways. Pate: not for me. Sliced cured breast: very good. the confit-like dish: delicious. Would I have good again? Yes, but hold the pate.

Jennifer and I did share the Ploughman’s Board, which was fish three ways. Smoked salmon – awesome. Cured trout – awesome. And some sort of lobster and red pepper pate was the best of the bunch. Was it lobster or tuna? I don’t recall, but whatever it was, I’ll gladly order it again. The board was accompanied with (not enough) hearty sourdough, a nice robust mustard and something that tasted like the beginnings of tartar sauce but was way more mayo-ey than I think they intended. Stick with the mustard.

As I said, we only really stopped in to check out the atmosphere, grab a drink and quickly peruse the bar menu. We were pleasantly surprised at the non-red meat opportunities, both on the apps and the main entrees. Next time, we’ll do a bit more dining and let you know how it goes.

Clamming?

January 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

“Clamming?”

That was the subject line of the email we received from our friend Karen. For $15, she picked up a shellfish license that allows her to walk around in the low-tide sands of Provincetown, clawing for clams and such. She picked up two licenses, actually, so she could share the experience with folks like us. My partner, Jennifer, and I were going to be in Provincetown for New Year’s weekend, and she knew we’d be up for a hunting-gathering experience.

Jennifer and Ellen enjoying their first clam-hunting experience

Clamming? Absolutely.

Armed with an official clam rake, purchased new for our first clamming experience, we joined Karen and Robin at low tide on New Year’s Eve afternoon. We picked a spot east of town. For about 30 minutes we raked around the wet sand of the flats. Nothing. Okay, I lied. We found two clams – one of which was less than 1 in. thick and we had to dig back into its home.

Apparently conditions hadn’t been ideal for clams in that spot this summer. Karen knew of another spot about 2 miles further west and we sped off to hopefully richer clamming fields.

The first sign we reached fertile ground was the mass of rake-armed people out on the flats. Second sign: full clam baskets dangling from arms of weary food gatherers. After trudging through a bit of shallow water (note to self: purchase galoshes) we spent all of a minute raking before we hit the jackpot. Robin hit the clam jackpot first, actually. Then Karen. You don’t have to dig deep to find these critters. They’re just below the surface. I’d hit a few miscues – some empty scallop shells, a hunk of asphalt – but when you hit a clam with a tine, you know from the sound and from the bulk you’ve found your treasure.

My first clam!

When I found my first clam – a quahog – I was rewarded with more than one actually. They tend to hang out in batches. My batches tended to have three. Robin found up to six in several spots. All told, the four of us walked off the flats with about 50-60 clams.

Speaking of walking off the flats, we ran into the local shellfish commissioner while calling it a day. An affable guy, he explained the quahogs we found pretty much stay near the surface. The softshell steamers are a bit further down. The longer-tined rakes, like the one we bought, are ideal for harvesting those. Rather than just randomly digging 6-in. holes hoping to hit payload, the commissioner  said to look for tear-shaped hole in the sand. Spot those, and you’ll likely find your steamers.

Don’t like clams because of the sand? Karen says there’s a trick to getting the clams to give it up. Throw them into a bucket, fill with water, add a bunch of baking soda and let them sit overnight. Not sure exactly how that works, but if she says it works, that’s enough proof for me.

I’ll let you know if it works. Meanwhile, I’m looking for my best linguine and clam sauce recipe. Harvesting and cooking – it’s so primeval.

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