Saturday, September 13, 2008

Musings on a Rainy Night Salad

At times when my family gets together, we've played a what-if game titled "If you were stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life, what is the one food item you'd want to have with you?" (I guess we were short of other fun things to do that day.....)

My immediate answer was always potatoes, mashed with plenty of butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. French fries would also do if fat wasn't an issue. My dad, however, would promptly reply "a fresh green salad." I could never quite figure that out---if I was stuck on an island, I'd want something comforting. Like potatoes, obviously.

At any rate, I think my dad was on to something. When I was living in California, a friend of mine would mention the word "salad" as if she was dying and the only medicinal compound that would extend her life included greens and dressing. She apparently knew something too.

Well, folks, I just had my favorite fresh green salad (so far). It is (un)cleverly called Rainy Night Salad.

I purchased arugula salad mix in bulk, and balanced the bitterness with some grated carrot. Sliced some cucumbers.

I had half a leftover baguette, and cut it into small cubes. Tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a tiny pinch of Italian seasoning. I "toasted" them à la Julia and Jacques, by lightly frying/tossing in a pan (or wok), but you could probably bake them, instead, until crisp. I tend to like mine a little on the soft side, so that they can be pierced with a fork easily when eating.

A simple vinaigrette.
Combine the following in a small jar:
6 T olive oil, 2 T apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, pinch of salt, and a twist of freshly ground pepper. Either put a lid on the jar and shake to combine, or whisk together. This will keep for about a week in the fridge.

The dressing soaks into the baguette croutons...and now I'm craving salad, too.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dough for Two Pizzas

When the weather turns cold and it makes more sense to turn on the oven, we make homemade pizza at least once a week. I'd throw a few dough ingredients into Ye Olde Bread Machine and then take it from there.

Sad fact: the old bread machine is dying. Yes, it's true. The temperature isn't as regulated as it used to be, things aren't rising as they should. After all, it is almost ten years old.

I had to find another dough solution. There were two very important criteria: (1) ready to use in less than half an hour and (2) makes more than one crust.

Here's what worked, I found the recipe here; the beauty of this recipe is that you can prebake the crusts and freeze!

4 cups flour (white or whole-wheat)
1 T honey
3 tsp yeast
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c oil (olive or canola work best)
1-1/3 c warm water (slightly warmer than room temperature)

Combine the dry ingredients, then add oil and water. Knead this mixture for about 3-4 minutes. The dough will be soft and smooth. Let this rest in a bowl for about 20 minutes or so. It will rise slightly.

At this point, divide the dough in half and follow either (A) or (B) below. Mini-pizza crusts are possible, too!

(A) If you are using the dough right away, go ahead and roll out....add toppings...and bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. I like to roll the dough in some cornmeal for texture, and it helps to keep the dough from sticking to the stone or pan.

(B) If you would like to freeze the dough, roll out and pre-bake about 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool completely, then package (plastic wrap, then aluminum foil; ziploc bags would work for smaller crusts) and freeze until ready to use.