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That’s amore

July 30, 2011

Can we please take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is fresh produce?

There is a rather large vegetable garden at my house this summer, and the results so far have included an abundance of several delicious specimens, including tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans and basil; pumpkins and watermelons will shortly begin their ripe bombardment.

The dilemma of finding uses for all this produce is a pleasant problem.

My first meal? Pizza! I used green peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, and freshly made pesto:

 

Freshening up a homemade pizza with just-picked veggies, paired with a whole wheat crust, makes for a spectacular summer supper. And adding cheese in the crust? You might never want to buy ready-made pizza again.

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It’s Strawberry Season!

May 27, 2011

At least it is in Kentucky. When you get a chance, go buy some, or better yet, pick them.

Sunshine in a Bowl

May 26, 2011

When it’s summertime, there are few things I love as much as fresh fruit. In the winter, I eat fruit anyway because it reminds me of summer. One of my favorite fruits is pineapple: it’s a great source of Dietary Fiber and it contains a wealth of Vitamin C. Plus it looks pretty cool.

Sometimes, though, you want to do something more with your fruit than just chop it and eat it. Well sigh no more, because I have something different for you.

First, peel, core and cube your pineapple.

Then eat some of it. There really is nothing like fresh fruit, and this recipe won’t miss a few chunks.

While you’ve got your knife out, finely mince 1-2 Tbsp. fresh ginger root. Next, in a medium saucepan, pour in just enough lemon juice to cover the bottom and add the ginger root. Cook and stir it on low heat until the lemon juice begins to boil, then continue to cook and stir. The goal is to soften the ginger root and extract some of its juices, but not to brown it. If it starts to brown, add a little more lemon juice.

After a couple minutes, add 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, one Tbsp. at a time, stirring until each is dissolved. Continue to cook until the mixture is thick and honey-colored.

Add the chopped pineapple to the ginger mixture, and try to get most of the juice that will have seeped out from the pineapple. Continue to cook on low heat, stirring regularly, for 10-20 minutes, or until the pineapple has settled and is at the same level as the liquid.

With a potato masher, mash the pineapple a little, separating any particularly large chunks.

In a small bowl, whisk 3 Tbsp. corn starch with 3 Tbsp. lemon juice. If the mixture is too thick to pour, add a little more lemon juice. Add to pineapple and stir well. It should thicken instantly. At this point, you can leave it be or thicken it more, depending on your preference. I thickened it until it was a marmalade-like consistency.

Now put it in something pretty and serve!

You can serve it warm or chilled, and you can refrigerate the leftovers in a jam jar for a long time. With all that pineapple, it won’t go bad in a hurry.

You can use it as a spread on warm, toasted bread, like I did:

Or you could use it on a dessert, like pound cake. I have a hunch you could even eat it like salsa with tortilla chips.

With the pineapple and lemon, this has a delightfully fresh flavor, and the ginger adds a slightly warm overtone that lingers behind. It tastes particularly good when eaten on your own front porch and in the company of summer breezes.

The Upper Crust

May 20, 2011
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First of all, the dear British woman in whose house I am staying has the organizational skills of a cauliflower, as she herself has proclaimed. She keeps her floral incense sticks, parmesan cheese and steak knives all in the same cabinet. See for yourself:

Nevertheless, she has a gas stove which works perfectly well, and so cooking and baking are still feasible.

When eating on a budget, as I am this summer, I realize just how easy it is to make good food without paying a lot. What is some of the best food? Homemade bread. I love bread, and I love simple recipes. Simple bread recipes? I get transported to a warm, starchy heaven. When I found this recipe, I got up immediately and made it.

It only takes four ingredients. The first three are yeast, salt and water.

For one loaf, I used:

1-1/2 tsp. yeast

1-1/8 tsp. salt

3/4 cup lukewarm water

Doesn’t that look appetizing? But wait, it gets better! Add 1-5/8 cup flour:

And you get this:

Yeast, salt, water and flour! How much simpler can you get?

Let it rise at room temperature for at least two hours, and no more than five. Use this as an opportunity to watch a few episodes of the best TV show ever:

David Tennant is the best.

Or make some microwave peanut brittle:

Or do both. I did both.

After two hours, the dough should be a little sticky; that means you’ll get a nice, crispy crust. Here is where I got a little fancy, though. First, where the Times tells you something about a baking stone, I just oiled and floured a pizza pan. I didn’t do too much to the dough–just stretched and shaped it until it looked nice and then let it rise another 45 minutes. Then just before I baked it, I brushed the loaf with sesame oil and cut a few nice, diagonal slashes across the top.

Start the oven preheating to 450F, and after a couple minutes, put in the loaf and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Eat it hot, with cheese or oil and spices, and enjoy the rewards of not too much labor.

Leafy Mother Lode

April 28, 2011

Have your lunches lacked substance lately? Do your sandwiches taste the same as they did three-and-a-half years ago? Maybe it’s time to throw out the iceberg and butter lettuce.

Try adding some spinach instead. It has a robust, green flavor, and every fiber is filled with Vitamins A, C and E, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium… You get the idea. Basically, if you want to be healthy, spinach will be your bestie.

And make a panini with pizazz!  One of my favorite combinations is ham, swiss/muenster/cheddar cheese, spinach, honey and mustard.

Enjoy, mis amigos.

Sweet Peep

April 20, 2011

For some kids, and just possibly some adults, Easter is synonymous with sugar. Some brilliant candy makers decided to take sugar, puff it with air, and then dip it in more sugar, giving us the Peep. Love them or hate them, there is something anyone can do with the colored marshmallows: make a diorama!

We took a cue from the Washington Post and held a competition, with surprising results. In first place, “Mary Peepins”:

Photo by Tyler Hoff

Following close behind in second place, “Peepception”:

Photo by Tyler Hoff

And honorable mention, “Let my ‘Peeple’ Go”:

Photo by Tyler Hoff

Look for the full article, along with some fascinating peep facts, in tomorrow’s Collegian!

En Masse Made Easy

April 18, 2011

Every Sunday, I cook food for sixty-plus people. Sometimes I go the easy route and put animal crackers in pretty bowls, but sometimes I go the fun route and concoct something a little more creative.

When you cook for a lot of stomachs, the last thing you want is to spend 6 hours on something that will disappear in 6 minutes. There are other options!

Take, for instance, this week’s Fruit Shooters. They’re light, subtly sweet and satisfying.

Start with pound cake:

And some fruit. This is where you can get creative. For something safe and summer-y, try strawberries and pineapple. If you like a little more tang, substitute kiwi for the pineapple, or for a little more substance, throw in some bananas. For today, I used blackberries and raspberries. I cut the berries in small slices to make them more sprinkle-able and to make them go farther:

And some lite vanilla yogurt. We’re making dessert healthy, folks:

Cube or crumble the cake:

And layer it in shooters. Cake + fruit + yogurt+ more cake + more yogurt + more fruit:

And repeat:

Serve with a hearty dish of warm weather and a side of spring breezes.