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Posts Tagged ‘CSA’

Home Made Pizza In The Summer

June 30, 2012 2 comments

It takes a special kind of crazy to coax a 550º temperature out of your oven in the dead of summer. Maybe I was just running out of recipes for my greens. Maybe I just had the feeling that no matter how good the pizza in my area was, I could do better. Whatever the reason, despite knowing the forecast of continuing heat and humidity, I decided to make some pizza dough the other day. 

Proper pizza dough is never a one hour rise and bake. If you see a recipe that calls for mixing flour, water, and yeast together, letting it sit for an hour, and then cooking your pizza, you’re best bet is to move along. Sure you might end up with something that resembles a pizza crust, at least superficially. It will be flat and it will support a layer of cheese. At best, though, it’ll end up tasting like drywall. If you want pizza NOW, order in. The dough you want is going to take a couple of days in the fridge to reach it’s full potential  

Today we, the intrepid, decided to soldier on. While every fan in the apartment set to spinning, we kicked the oven into high gear. 

I always like to make one pie per person. That’s just enough to leave you uncomfortably full, which is where you should be after putting up with so much just to start making pizza in the first place. Each dough has been measured out to about 13 oz. We take the dough and shape it into a ball, stretching the outside as much as we can without tearing the dough, creating a surface tension. When the yeast create CO2 during their proofing, this surface tension will capture the gas and help the dough to raise. This part is very important when cooking pizza. You tuck the dough into itself to create a tight ball, then pinch the bottom closed. Then you slap the doughball down on your work surface and slide it around to even out the seal. It’s hard to describe. There are videos on YouTube, but none of them are right. 

After a second raise, the dough is ready to be worked. You can tell if it’s ready by poking it. Seriously. If you give it a gentle poke and it doesn’t spring right back, then it’s ready to go. 

After flattening out the first pie, we dressed this with some fresh mozzarella, some blue cheese, and blanched napa cabbage. I got my mozzarella at Taste Of Italy in Tinton Falls. The flavor was good, fresh and well seasoned, but I found the texture to be watery. Creating a good ball of fresh cheese can be hit or miss. It’s a very physical activity. The milky water needs to be wrung out thoroughly without damaging the curds.

Before it goes in.

I will admit I never had cabbage pizza before, unless you count sauerkraut (don’t ask). It was good, with just a bit of grassy flavor to cut through the richness of the cheese. The dough was high hydration, approximately 67%. As you can see we got some tremendous oven spring. 

Photo

Some hobbyists can get caught up in the tools. This is true with any pass time. Sure we all like to have the nice Cuisinart for making the dough, or a professional 3 by 6 plastic container for raising our doughs. But all of those things are simply luxuries. What’s really important in pizza making is your ingredients and your oven. Without having a decent machine in your kitchen and knowing how to use it, the pizza will never get that perfect crisp/tender/chewy texture. I’m still learning with this oven here. The undercarriage is getting cooked perfectly, but the tops are still a bit blonde for my taste. If I leave them in much longer, though, I’ll risk burning the bottom. It’s going to take a bit more tinkering to get the settings just right. 

As I write this it is 90º and I do not have air conditioning. This is the time of year when you put away your break and pizza making skills for a few months. The oven is not doing you any favors. Sure, you can always make grilled pizza, and the diehards will simply build a wood fired oven in their back yards. But for me, this was a good way to end the season. In the mean time, I’ll probably take the time to explore the local pizza joints in Monmouth County, and look forward to getting back in the kitchen come fall.

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CSA Week 4: It’s Not Easy Having Greens

June 26, 2012 3 comments

Like mot things in life, I wish I had been more diligent in blogging my weekly CSA bundle. So far, it’s been an enjoyable challenge to come home with a bushel of food, mostly greens, and try to figure out a way to live on these that doesn’t require eating the same meal every day for a month. The trick is to not always insist on your CSA goodies taking center stage. Variety is the spice of life. Focus on the pork shoulder you find on sale that week, for instance, and let your veggies play a supporting role.

The first thing to do is to make a salad while everything is super fresh. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to plan your weekly meals in order of what needs the most cooking. The fresh lettuce, straight from the garden, will never taste as good as it does the day you pick it. Meanwhile, heartier kale can survive a longer wait.

For dinner on Sunday, the plan was to stir fry some greens with chicken sausage I picked up from Stop and Shop, and then toss it all with some pasta. That didn’t turn out so well, as the sausage decided to turn itself rancid. Luckily, Sunday was a nice day for a walk. Erin and I moseyed on down to the grocery store and exchanged the meat for a hunk of fresh mozzarella. On the way back we even stopped at a blues show in the park.

Greens and pasta is almost too easy, though. Sure, you can throw some random protein in there and call it a new dish, but after a while I starts to feel repetitive.

The following day we dined on carnitas. Bock choy added some crunch, but mostly it was a bit of a break. While living with limitations is an effective tool to get your creativity going, sometimes you just want something easy and greasy. Enter the carnitas.

Then today it was back to the drawing board. I have to say that I’m pretty proud of myself.

The end result is a Three Green and Sausage Casserole. It sounds very pot-luck, but it was simple and pretty darn tasty.

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The recipe, such as it is:

2 medium sized bunches of kale
1 bunch of bock choy
1 bunch Swiss chard (you can substitute almost any green)
1/2 lb sausage chunks
Bread crumbs, 1 handful
6 oz smoked gruyere
1 tomato

First, blanch the greens, shock them in some cold water, and wring them out. Cut the leaves into bite sized pieces. While those are cooking, brown up some sausage. Then cut up a tomato. Finally, mix the ingredients with some breadcrumbs and cheese in a casserole dish and pop into the oven at 350 until warmed through.

There are plenty of variations. Perhaps next time I’ll try ricotta instead of smoked gruyere. It would totally change the character of the dish. Which is fine. A technique is always more handy to have than a recipe.

Categories: Nom Tags: , ,

CSA Week One

June 3, 2012 2 comments

I wasn’t exactly born a city boy, but considering my connection with nature, I might as well have been raised on the Lower East Side. If I go too long without hearing a car I get nervous. I couldn’t tell clay soil from cat litter. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere out of walking distance from a good slice joint (we’re missing one in the West End, but that’s a whole other post). 

The point is I don’t even own a single pair of overalls. Working the earth has never been my specialty. So I was a little hesitant to get up at 6 am and go work in a field. And pay for the privilege. Still, kale don’t grow itself. Or maybe it does. As I stated, I’m still not clear on how this stuff works. 

Last summer I joined a CSA near by. Every week I would drive out there early in the morning, before the sun was it it’s most evil, and pick some greens, tomatoes, okra, whatever happened to be ready. In real life, unlike in supermarkets, crops tend to grow on a micro-seasonal schedule. You’ll have a handful of weeks when certain fruits and veggies are perfectly ripe, at the peak of their freshness and flavor. The following week anything that hasn’t been picked is looking it’s age, like a Real Housewife after her fourth Pino Gris and not enough sunscreen. Pretty soon it needs to be plowed under to make way for the next round, and something else is blooming a few rows down. 

I really enjoyed the challenge of this. How much kale is too much kale? There’s only one way to find out. See how many meals you can make out of it. Creativity always comes out of restrictions. How much great art has been created because a starving artist couldn’t afford to buy more paint and was forced to use what she had at hand? Food’s the same way, except you get to eat it afterwards. It’s a comment on transience of life. It’s also delicious. 

Last year was an experiment. This year I’m more prepared. I’ve also agreed to help out. Today I had to till the soil between rows of onions. Got to push this big plow looking thing. Worked with a downright medieval looking contraption called a stirrup hoe. And I’m proud to report the onions are no worse for wear. Mostly. 

For a couple hours of work, I got to walk out of there with a big bag of kale, some bok choy, and red leaf lettuce. Erin already has visions of kale chips dancing in her head. I’m thinking noodles with peanuts and stir fried bok choy. The hard part isn’t so much the tilling and the planting and the harvesting. It’s not even coming up with ideas on how to use bushels of greens. It’s just finding the time to cook all this. 

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