Wednesday, April 6, 2016

My Favorite Kitchen Gadget

My favorite kitchen gadget is the Chef'n Emulstir Emulsifier.  Mine actually broke last month and since our kitchen store closed where I worked I'm going to have to get it elsewhere.  It seems you can buy it at many stores for around $15 but Amazon will be great since I have Prime now- Chef'n Emulstir.

For some reason making a perfect salad dressing always alluded me (even though I know it's easy).  I think I just didn't want to spend the time grabbing a bowl and whisk or dirtying up my food processor and if I willy-nilly slapped oil and vinegar together it never was quite right.  And I liked Newman's Dressing- so shoot me!  Anyway I got this one day at work and fell in love!  Everything is pre-measured.  Little lines on the side of the bottle.  Yup- just my speed.  Why this eluded me before who knows?  But this was great.  Soon I was making the best dressings and making little adjustments to make it taste just the way I wanted it to.

Then my husband got sick and for him I bought Bragg's Vinegar.  You're supposed to take 2 tsp. a day in water with honey.  Nope.  He just wouldn't do it.  So I get thinking- why can't I use that in our salad dressing.  Oh MY!  It's amazing in a salad dressing!  Little did I know.  It's actually a Cidar Vinegar that hasn't been pasteurized so it's REALLY good for you because it's a fermented food.  When I have my salad every night my nose lining is moist.  I know that sounds like an odd thing to note; but in Colorado it is so dry your nose dries up and you can easily have nose bleeds, besides being uncomfortable.  I ran out of Olive Oil this week and I was noticing how bad my nose felt again- aha!  I haven't been having my salad dressing!   What I wonder- if it affects my nose lining so much what other parts of my body are positively affected by it?  Once this winter I started to feel sick.  I mixed Braggs, a few tsp. with equal honey and a 1/2 tsp cinnamon (you can heat it too) and had that.  Down it real quick!  Next day I was fine, the cold was gone.

So I do follow the Chef''n bottle's directions with a few adjustments to my taste-

The Bottle Recipe-

2/3 Olive Oil
1/3 Vinegar (Braggs Vinegar is great!)
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard  (I use more like 1 Tbls.)
2 tsp. Honey ( I use more like a Tbls. because I like my dressing sweet)
1 - 2 cloves garlic finally minced (garlic is very healthy, so I tend to do 2 good sized cloves)
NO Salt (it doesn't need it)
Any pepper or spice you want to add like Italian Spice


Add into your Chef'n bottle if you have it and put the lid on and press it's handle to mix it.  Or use a jar and put the lid on and shake.  Or use a bowl and Whisk. 


Let it sit for an hour for the flavors to deepen.

                                                        Pop the lid open to pour



Please refrigerate when not in use.  It has garlic in it and because of that it has to be kept cold.  Bring it out an hour or so before you want to use it and the Olive Oil will come to room temperature and liquid again.  The Olive Oil is fine out at room temperature, but mixed with garlic it's another thing- keep it cold.

Enjoy great Salads and good health!!!!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Pizza Night!

For many years while in Saratoga, NY  my husband and I would always have a pizza night on Fridays. We would buy the dough chilled and half frozen at the grocery store and it went up fast since a chilled ball of dough pushes down very easily and makes a nice crust. I have a very dark patinaed pizza pie pan from that time decades ago that I still use. Nice deep sides, and blackened with age.

When we moved to Colorado I found that I couldn't find any pre-made pizza dough, but I did have a bread machine and over the years I've gone through many recipes trying to find "The One". The one pizza dough recipe that delivers a thin crust. I've also quized my customers where I worked at Chefs if they were buying pizza pie baking essentials. The best recipe I came across was my competitors- William & Sonoma's recipe- Williams-Sonoma- Bread Machine Pizza Dough.

Here's some tips on making a large slicing pizza- like a NY Style hold-it-in-your-hand-and-roll-it-up kinda Pizza- How to Get Large Slices of Pizza from Small Ovens or Pies

Pizza Pie Thin Crust Recipe-

1 cup Warm Water (a drop on your wrist won't scaled it)
2 Tbls. Olive Oil (3 Tbls. Olive oil works well at High Altitude & Dry climate)
1 tsp. salt
3 cps Bread Flour 
1 Tbls. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp. for High Altitude)
(High Altitude adjustments require you to add more liquid or flour while it kneads if it needs it. Too dry- add a Tbls. of oil or water. Too wet- add a Tbls. more flour till the dough is a nice smooth looking texture).

Add all the ingredients in the order listed (salt goes with the liquid and under the flour so it doesn't kill the yeast) into your bread machine. Put on Pizza Dough setting and let it do it's thing. In the High Altitude here in Colorado where it is also very dry I need to watch it begin kneading to make sure there is enough liquid or maybe I need to add flour because it's sloppy and too wet. You want a cohesive ball that rolls around with the pedal that doesn't stick to the walls. I usually do a fast large pinch of the stuff to see how it feels. Eventually it will take on the texture of your ear lobe. A classic test for bread dough. A note on the flour I use- I found all purpose flour gives the pizza dough crust a cardboard taste- not good! Bread Flour contains more protein and makes an amazing crust.

When it's done- oil 2 plastic containers and split your dough into 2 balls and refrigerate it for at least 30 mins to an hour. This is so the dough is easier to push down in the pizza pan and makes a thin crust. If that is not important to you, you can skip this step. It will rise while chilling.

Borrowed this guy's photos! He's got a great blog going so check out his in depth Pizza making with home-made hands -on pizza dough TheHomePizzeria: Recipes-Neapolitan Pizza Dough

While the dough chills oil your pans with olive oil- traditional pizza pans are best. Pull your dough out and oil your hands. Press each dough down into your pan, trying not to tear your dough- I use a push down and out kinda motion and often I will turn the dough over several times so the oil coats both sides.
 When done pushing it into your round, stand back and wait a sec to see if it creeps back towards the middle and then press down again. I find I just let the outside crust be a thicker part is better than doubling the edge over. When done getting it set in the pan- dock it! That's when you put holes in it with either a docking roller or you use a fork. This keeps bubbles at bay. I pre-cook my pizza crust at 400 degrees for 8 minutes, this is to make sure it stays crisp when finished.

Pull out. Put your sauce thinly on- too much makes it soppy! You can use spaghetti sauce (like Prego- I used for years) but, lately I have used Hunts canned tomatoes with onion and green pepper in it. Just take the can and blend it till smooth- it makes an amazing pizza sauce!

Spread lots of mozzarella cheese over. Some gourmet pizza's have fresh slices of mozzarella on it willy-nilly spaced over the top.

Photo borrowed (and there's a great looking recipe here too!) TheGrubDaily-Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Put your ingredients on your pizza. Try and not do too much because it can get soggy if overloaded- a little goes a long way! Veggies are my favorite- sliced mushrooms, thinly sliced green peppers, and red peppers are so sweet on a pizza, olives- sliced, onions (of course).... for some more exotic tastes- artichoke & crab.

                                                               Renoir- Onions

My daughter likes hers naked with just cheese- which is great too.

A great reference for types of cheese on pizza and other pizza know-how-TheHomePizzeria- Pizza toppings & cheese for pizza

Put basil on top if you wish. If it's fresh wait till after you bake (it turns black in the oven). If it is dried- pinch it in your hands, roll it around first between your fingers to revive it a bit and throw it on- go easy though- it's a strong taste.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 mins. Watch closely- pizza can look almost done and then the cheese can burn within minutes.

                                                                  Blond Pizza

For a Blondie Pizza omit the tomato sauce and put a thin layer of ricotta (whole milk has more taste), then your choice- onions, thinly sliced mushrooms, some cooked spinach- whatever you want. Cover with lots of mozzarella and parmesan. Sprinkle with basil- but go easy on it- it can be strong.

For Spanakopizza check this blog out- Port and Fin: Spanakopizza


Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Little Taste of The Southwest

Chefs Newest Kitchen

I grew up in New Jersey where the main "international" cuisines were Italian or Chinese, Greek or Jewish. Mexican or Southwest cooking was almost non-existent except for the American simple taco (and it was a boring hard taco with ground beef and a package mix). When I moved to Colorado it was literally an explosion of Mexican/Southwest cuisine here- a little overwhealming to my palate- yet I was intrigued. 

My first forray into the hot world was making my own salsa.  I quickly learned that my hands reacted badly to hot peppers. I have sinced learned to always use gloves or buy a milder canned and roasted pepper to use in my cooking.

In the intervening years I worked at Chefs Retail Store assisting Cooking Classes and I have been exposed to more diverse culinary techniques & cuisines, but because I worked often at night I haven't been actually cooking a lot. Lots of baking which is a passion of mine, but I have been remiss in actually doing a lot of Culinary explorations. So now that Chefs has closed and I'm at home I'm dusting off the recipes I accumulated over 8 years with Chefs and I'm going to explore.

So this Saturday I'm making a very simple dish, but one of my all time favorites from raiding the refrigerator during my break at Chefs. Really a very boring looking dish- that at the time I was glad no one had discovered because I fell in love with them. OK- so I caved eventually and let people know after awhile there was something awesome in that fridge! The Gazette: New Mexican Chef serves up dishes fit for a Cinco de Mayo fiesta

Feisty Pinto Beans

1/2 lb. dried pinto beans (washed & sorted) or 3-4 cans beans (with liquid)
1/4 cup olive or canola oil (I used half this amount of Olive Oil)
1 cup diced onion
1 roasted red pepper, peeled & diced
1 Tbls. chopped garlic
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
1 Tbls. Epazote (see below)
2-3 Tbls. Chopped, pickled jalapenos
1 Tbls. New Mexico red chile powder
1 tsp. Brown sugar
salt to taste

1. Cook your beans in a pot with the water covering it by an inch. Boil for 1 1/2 - 2 hours till tender- add more liquid if needed. (Add a dash of Baking soda if you want and a few diced garlic cloves and a healthy dash of Mexican oregano and a dash of salt.
2. Slowly saute the diced onion (add a dash of salt to cut the sweetness) in the oil on real low till golden (20-30 mins)
3.Add the garlic and saute for 30 secs, add the beans and the cooking liquid, the rest of the seasonings, and bring to boil.
4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for 30 mins.
5. Correct the seasonings.                                                                
                                                                  New Mexico Chili           

I will fess up- I didn't plan this ahead and I just wanted to whip it up today and I had just enough forethought to buy the pinto beans last night so I could soak them all night. So I'm fudging some of these spices and I'm sure I'll get a great result. I did save half of my beans thinking I'll try again after I find the Mexican oregano and Epazote and New Mexico red chile powder.I have a lead on the  Epazote, I found a picture of it in a Penzy's jar, so I'll visit them and see what else they have.


So the pinto beans have been soaked overnight (apparently soaking overnight keeps the nutrients in better than quick methods of a hot boil and shorter soak Cooking Beans 101) and I added a pinch of baking soda this morning (for less flatulence) and softer results (Baking Soda Tenderizes Beans).

I covered my beans this morning- added the dash of Baking soda and then I chopped up 2 garlic cloves and added a pinch of Oregano to the water so the beans would have a better taste- a depth of flavor- to them. 

To be continued as I cook this afternoon....
Onto sauteing the onions in Olive Oil for a half an hour till golden. The original recipe calls for lard and I'm a Vegetarian/Pescatarian and even if I wasn't I'd still be loath to put lard in. Up to you Chef Allen Smith insisted in the above article that it was essential for a deep traditional flavor (my arteries will thank me that that will never sway me!). 

So, Chef Allen Smith says: "A recipe might say cook onions 10 minutes or until golden," he said. "Forget about setting a timer for 10 minutes when cooking onions. These onions (which he had already started cooking) have been cooking very slowly in lard for half an hour. Be sure to add salt at the beginning of cooking onions. It cuts the sweetness. And never start cooking garlic with the onions. The garlic will be bitter."

So I have my onions slowly cooking in healthy olive oil and my red peppers are roasting away in the oven....


You know sometimes I can be a ditz! (Please no comments from my kids!) I'm trying to get some knitting done (maybe read that amazing book I'm -trying- to read), do dishes, make tea......and while I'm juggling these pastimes I smell- Oh yeah! That red pepper I put in the oven at a very hot 475 degrees to roast! Yes, did I tell you there's a roasted Red pepper in this recipe and since I don't have a gas stove I needed to resort to the electric oven. So thank God for my nose and here's the link on roasting peppers -while I run to get mine! Roasting Peppers with an Electric Oven (and other methods) Now my peppers are cooling in a bowl covered to produce steam so those skins come off. A paper bag will work as well. And if you're fortunate to have a gas stove- just spear that pepper with a long handles fork, turn on a burner and burn that baby while turning! Then put in a paper bag- my dad's technique and it makes a lovely roasted pepper.

The beans are done and my hubby likes them, but I can tell they're missing a few ingredients. So I'll give it a week or so and try again with as many of the spices I can find. But he's happy with it in a tortilla wrap-

Have a Happy Fiesta!