Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Potato Pesto Pizza

Caution: lots of alliteration in today's post! That's right, it's Potato Pesto Pizza (with optional Prosciutto). This is one of my favorite weeknight staples because it takes very little time to make AND creates very few dishes to wash. Win-win, right? I first had pizza with potatoes on it several years ago at a restaurant in Oakland and have loved the delicious, carb-heavy combination ever since. The key to this recipe is slicing the potatoes very thinly so they get nice and crisp in the oven. And I know I've raved about my mom's pesto before, but seriously, if you can get homemade pesto for this it really makes all the difference.

Here's the list:

Pizza crust (I am lazy and just buy one at the grocery store but you could certainly make your own if you're that ambitious)
3 generous tablespoons pesto
1 1/2 to 2 cups grated cheese, mozzarella or monterey jack (depending on your personal preference)
1-2 small red potatoes, thinly sliced
About 1/3 cup diced prosciutto (optional, gotta cater to my vegetarian readers!)

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees...if it'll go that high! The higher the heat, the crispier your crust will be. First, stretch out the pizza crust in a well oiled baking pan. I use a 9 x 13 glass baking pan because that's what I have, but a baking sheet or pizza pan would work of course. Then spread the pesto on top, leaving an inch or so of plain dough around the edges for the crust.

Ohh yeah, lots of pesto

Next, sprinkle on the cheese. I didn't have any blocks of cheese so I just tore up some pre-sliced cheese...improvisation is my specialty! Layer the sliced potatoes on top of the cheese, and add prosciutto if you'd like. I highly recommend it, it just adds a little more crunch and saltiness, but the pizza is still darn good without it. Finally, add a dash of salt and pepper to top it off.

So, to recap:

Sliced potatoes +

Pesto +

Prosciutto =

Pizza, ready to go!

Bake the pizza for about 10 minutes until the crust and potatoes are golden and the cheese is bubbly. Let it cool for a few minutes and dig in!

And in case you need a little healthiness with your carb-on-carb dinner, check out these kale chips! Shout out to my friend Kelsey for introducing me to kale chips - they are so delicious AND healthy. Keep the oven on at 500 degrees after taking the pizza out. In another baking dish (you definitely want this one to have sides so the kale doesn't fall off), toss together a few handfuls of kale, about a tablespoon of olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Bake for 4-5 minutes until the kale gets slightly brown but not shriveled and burned.

Last but not least, here's your weekly Poppy, looking sassy as usual.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hospital Food

The view from the hospital room...not too shabby!

Sorry for the minimal blogging this week, guys. It's been a bit of a rough one and there hasn't been much cooking going. My amazing boyfriend has sadly landed himself in the hospital with a partially collapsed lung. It happened completely randomly, scary! Thankfully he will be fine in a few more days (fingers crossed) but it's definitely been a long week. Nobody likes spending time in the hospital but he's been a real trooper. And I must say he still looks incredibly handsome even with a breathing tube in his nose and a port in his chest : ) Which I do have photos of, but I don't think he would like them publicized.

Anyway, since this is a food blog, I thought I'd say a few words about hospital food. Primarily, WTF. I knew it was bad, but being fortunate to have never spent a great deal of time in the hospital, I didn't realize just how bad. This was the dinner served to him last night:

And tonight:

Poor quality photography aside (used my iPhone, not my real camera, and fluorescent lights don't help either), how appetizing does that food look?? Yeahhh, not so yummy. Don't worry, I don't force him to eat that. I and several wonderful family members and friends have been bringing in real food including a pretty delicious couscous, veggie, and feta salad I made - maybe I'll share the recipe at some point. Ironically, I read this article just a few days before this all happened, and was feeling pretty optimistic about the state of hospital food.

All that said, I absolutely have the utmost respect for the people who work in the kitchen/cafeteria at this hospital and others around the country/world. I'm sure it's not an easy job, and certainly a pretty thankless one. So thank you, hospital food service workers, and I'm sorry my boyfriend hasn't been eating the meals you so lovingly prepare for him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mother's Day, Part 2

Now that I've covered the appetizer I made for Mother's Day dinner, we can dive in to the main course! I wanted to make something delicious but not too labor intensive and this definitely fits the bill.

Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken with Avocado and Tomato Salsa 
(loosely adapted from this recipe by Sunset Magazine)

Here's what you'll need...

Marinade & Chicken:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 limes - zest from one, juice from both
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
2 to 2 1/2 pounds of chicken (the original recipe calls for boneless skinless breasts but I like boneless skinless thighs way better, they get dry less easily and have lots of flavor).

About 1 pound ripe beefsteak (or similar) tomatoes, chopped
2 avocados, cut into small pieces (about 1/2-1/4 inch)
4-5 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste (probably 1/2 teaspoon of each)

As part of the salsa (keep reading for the recipe), quick-pickled onion and jalapeno:
1 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Ok, it sounds like a lot going on but I promise it's not complicated. Let's break it down!

About 4 hours before you're ready for dinner, make the marinade. Just combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl, stir it up, and pour it over the chicken, making sure all the chicken pieces have a good coating on them. Cover it up and refrigerate until you're ready to grill! want some photos?

I might have a small obsession with citrus zest and juice 

Cilantro, chopped 


Zest and olive oil...after this point the marinade just started looking like muddy compost 
so I figured I'd spare you the ends up tasting good though, I promise!

Right around the time you make the marinade, you'll also want to get the quick picked onions and jalapenos going. Lightly pickling them is a great way to add a little something extra to salsa, and it helps mellow out the really strong onion bite and jalapeno spice. Just mix together the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a bowl until salt and sugar are dissolved, add the chopped onion and jalapeno, cover, and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.


When you remove the seeds and some of the spines (the white part), it lessens the intensity of the spice. In this case, I have some family members - ahem, Dad - who aren't such a fan of spice, so I did my best to accomodate them.

All chopped up

Sitting in a nice vinegar bath

All right! Marinade and pickles are done, so you can get on with your day. About an hour before you're ready to eat, start getting the salsa together. Before you start the salsa, preheat your grill to 450-550 degrees, basically as hot as it gets. Again, just combine all the ingredients - tomatoes, avocados, green onion, cilantro, salt, pepper. Then gently drain the liquid off the onions and jalapenos and stir them in. Seriously, that's it!

Finally, the chicken. It helps if you have an awesome grill master like my brother:

Just set the chicken on the grill, discard the marinade, and let it get a nice sear for about 3 minutes. Turn down the heat just a little, closer to 450, and let it continue to cook, flipping occasionally, for about 15-17 minutes or until it's no longer pink inside.

Then set everything up on a plate and dig in!

It sounds (and looks) like a lot of work, but it's not really, just a lot of steps. The "cooking" parts mostly involve putting things in a bowl and mixing them, which is something I'm sure you all can do!

And I know this has been a super photo-heavy post, but if I may leave you with just one more...

I did not pose this picture, I swear. She just loves the computer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day

Mother's Day Flowers courtesy of my dad

Last Sunday, I cooked dinner for my amazing mom. Some of my most vivid memories from when I was little involve my mom teaching me how to make apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, and pancakes. My love of cooking and baking started early and I can definitely thank my mom for that! So, what better way to show someone you love them than with food, am I right?

On the menu: bruschetta with sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, grilled cilantro-lime chicken with tomato, avocado, and pickled onions, and mixed berry pie with whipped cream. We've already covered pie here so I'll fill you in on the other two! One at a time though - first is the appetizer.

Artichoke Heart and Sundried Tomato Bruschetta:

This is an incredibly easy and delicious appetizer! You will need:

6-8 slices of good bread (ciabatta, french bread, probably not sourdough)
About 3/4 cup each of sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts
1/3 cup pesto (my mom's homemade pesto is the best - I could eat it by the spoonful! but whatever you have available will be just fine)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Arrange bread slices on a baking sheet, you can brush them with a little olive oil if you want. Pop the bread in the oven for just 5-6 minutes to get it warm and a little toasty. Meanwhile, drain any excess oil off the sundried tomatoes and artichokes, and roughly chop them up together to combine them. They don't have to be very finely chopped, just enough to be manageable to chew. Combine them in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper, and even add a few chili flakes if you like.

Once your bread is toasted, spread a healthy dollop (like I've said before, I am no good at measuring - I'd say a dollop is about a tablespoon) of pesto on each slice.

Pesto, dolloped and spread

 Then use a spoon to mound the tomato/artichoke mixture on top. Then try to eat a bruschetta without spilling tomatoes all over yourself...harder than it sounds, trust me! But seriously, you might prefer a knife and fork to eat these.

Up next, tomorrow: grilled cilantro lime chicken with tomato, avocado, and pickled onion salsa! And don't worry, I didn't forget everyone's favorite part of the blog:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Avocado Mango Salsa

It's been about 75 degrees in Berkeley recently, and I think I've lost the heat tolerance I built up when I was in feels really, REALLY hot! So tonight for dinner we made one of my favorite summer meals: fish tacos with avocado & mango salsa. Super easy, delicious, and doesn't even require you to turn on your oven! I figure you all can figure out the fish (or no fish for my lovely vegan readers) and tortilla part on your own, so here's the salsa, which is kind of the best part.

Here's what you need (makes enough for two people, you can easily double or triple it for more):

1 mango, ripe but still with a little firmness
1 avocado
1 lemon
1 lime

Cut up the mango - this is how I like to do it to get the most fruit and avoid the tough pit.

Cut around the pit, creating four slices. Then score each slice horizontally and vertically, creating little mango cubes. Don't cut through the skin otherwise this won't work! Then, pull the edges away from each other and....

Ta da! 

From here, you can easily just slide your knife along the skin, cutting the cubes off and dropping them in a medium bowl. Once you finish with the mango, just repeat with the avocado.

Then zest and juice the lime and half of the lemon...or use the whole lemon if it's on the smaller side. In my opinion, you can never have too much citrus!


Mix the mango, avocado, zest, and juice together. Add just about a tablespoon of olive oil for a little savoriness, and add a small amount of salt and pepper to taste. I'm really bad about measuring, but I probably used about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mix again, and that's it!

You could also add a jalapeno, a few cloves of garlic, or about half a red onion for a little extra zip, but it's pretty darn good as-is!

So enjoy, and as will become tradition, here's a photo of Poppy. This time she is eating her hairbrush - she is quite sassy and does not like to be groomed.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Since graduating college almost a year ago, the most writing I’ve done is composing emails and filling out spreadsheets. So I thought I’d get back in the habit by combining two things I love - writing and cooking (and baking)! I’m also hoping that blogging will inspire my boyfriend and I to start creating more interesting and adventurous meals in our little Elmwood kitchen. Last weekend we had dinner with friends and I was in charge of dessert. Since spring produce is out in full force now, I envisioned a beautiful, golden strawberry rhubarb pie. Well, not to brag or anything, but it turned out to be pretty freakin delicious. 

My go-to pie crust recipe is super simple - just flour, a little salt and sugar, and a lot of butter…of course. The crust recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. She discusses the merits of all-butter crust (no shortening, vodka, eggs, nothing extra) and I have to agree, it never fails and is always soo flaky. The key is to keep the butter really cold, and to keep it a little chunky - you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

But first things first, here’s a list of ingredients:

Crust (from Smitten Kitchen), makes 2 crusts 
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (or 1 cup) of unsalted butter, very cold (I like to freeze it and take it out about 45 minutes to 1 hour before I’m ready to make the crust. It should be barely soft around the edges by the time you’re ready to use it.)
1 cup ice water
One egg, beaten

Pie filling (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
3.5 cups (1.5 pounds) rhubarb, trimmed, cut in 1/2 inch thick slices
3.5 cups (16 oz) strawberries, cut in half or quarters depending how large they are
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the crust:
Whisk together flour, salt, and sugar. Cut each stick of butter into small pieces (1/4 inch or so) and add them to the dry mixture. Here, I like to just use my hands to combine the butter into the dry ingredients - you can certainly use a pastry blender if you prefer. Using either your hands or the pastry blender, work the butter into the mixture until the butter pieces are the size of peas (some can and should be a little bigger). It’s ok to still have some of the dry mixture that’s not totally combined into the butter.
This is where I fail as a first time blogger…I didn’t take a picture of this step. The mixture should be very rough and shaggy, with lots of butter pieces hanging out. At this point, you’ll want to have your ice water ready. Slowly drizzle about 1/2 cup of it over the flour/butter mixture, then use your hands to carefully mix the dough. It should just barely start coming together in a ball. If there are still a lot of crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, keep adding a little water until it comes together. If it's wet and sticky, you've added too much water, but no worries, just sprinkle a little more flour over it. You don’t want to over-mix it otherwise it won’t be as tender and buttery.
Once the dough comes together, split it into 2 equal balls, one for the top crust and one for the bottom. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap, then flatten it out a little bit so it’s about 1 or 1.5 inches thick - this will just make it easier to roll out later.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or freeze it for up to 2 weeks wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
While the dough is chilling, make the filling! Oh jeez I’m rhyming. Anyway…

Pie filling: 
In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and sugar. The amount of sugar I listed (1/2 cup) will make for a pretty tart pie, so if you prefer yours on the sweeter side then you can add another 1/3 cup…or even a full 1/2 cup more if you feel the need. Ok, here’s the part where I remembered to start taking pictures!

Rhubarb and brown sugar

Mountain of strawberries

Once those ingredients are all combined, I recommend letting it sit and macerate for at least an hour, during which time I went shopping, but you could be more productive and wash some dishes or something boring like that. 

Soo back to means that lots and lots of fruit juice will pool at the bottom of the bowl. A lot of pie recipes have you add cornstarch or tapioca to thicken the filling and make it more firm once baked. I'm not a fan of that, I like a little juiciness to my pie but not tooo much. To avoid that, gently pour the juice from the bottom of the bowl of fruit into a small saucepan or saute pan. Then turn your stove on to medium heat and let the juice bubble and simmer until it's thickened and reduced by about 1/3, about 5 minutes.
Juice, reducing on the stove

Then, pour the thickened juice back into your fruit mixture and slowly stir it in. It'll probably be almost jelly-like...I think I reduced mine too much because it was incredibly sticky, but it worked out ok anyway.

Ok. So. Fruit and reduced juice combined. Now it's time to roll out the nice cold dough! Make sure you use a liberally floured surface for rolling. But first you should preheat your oven to 400 degrees so it's all ready to go.
Check it out, you can see the pieces of butter in the dough...mmm

Once you roll out the bottom crust, carefully fold it in half or in quarters and set it in the pie pan, unfold it, and trim the edges so they only hang about 1/2 inch beyond the rim of the pan. Then add the filling, roll out the top crust, and trim the top crust as well. Press the top and bottom edges together and crimp them using your fingers or a fork. Use a knife to add a few slits in the top crust; this will allow steam to escape during the baking process.

Almost there, I promise! Beat one egg in a small bowl and add just a few drops of water. Then use a pastry brush or a paper towel dipped in the egg mixture if you don't have a fancy pastry brush...not that I would ever do something so unprofessional : ). The egg will just make the crust more brown and shiny once it's baked. Check out the before and after:
Before, brushed with egg mixture

Bake the pie at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes...or 20 minutes if your oven is crazy hot like mine! Ideally it will be bubbling and golden brown on top.

After, golden and beautiful!

Transfer the pie to a cool area and let it rest for at least 2-3 hours. This will allow it to set and not be as juicy and messy as it might be if you cut into it right away. You'll still get a little bit of juice though.

So pink and pretty!

Definitely best served with vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream if that's your thing

Ok, so go make some pie now! I think I probably made it sound more complicated than it is. It does take some time, but it's totally worth it. Plus you can eat the leftovers for breakfast! Like I said, totally worth it.

In case you're not into making pie or reading recipes, I'll leave you with a picture of my cat sleeping and generally being adorable.

Up next: a dinner recipe for those nights when you're feeling lazy!