cheese

cauliflower cooked in pomodoro

by Heguiberto on November 25, 2011

David Rocco claims this is the best cauliflower dish ever. Hmm, I’ve heard that before. He goes on to say that lots of people find cauliflower unexciting, yet asserts that when well prepared, particularly this way, it will please any crowd.

cauliflower cooked in pomodoro

cauliflower cooked in pomodoro

Well, I never had problems with cauliflower. In fact I am a big fan of the whole famiglia Brassica. Give me collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage or cauliflower anytime and I will be a happy camper. Here’re a few of my other favorites: shabby chic roasted cauliflower, sautéed shaved Brussels sprouts and cabbage mango salad.

What drew my attention to this dish was the fact that it calls for using grated cheese as well as cheese rind and the dry leftover cheeses that you might have neglected. Who doesn’t have those forgotten little bits of cheese hidden somewhere in the refrigerator? Mine usually get lost in there or if he’s lucky, fed to Clarence, my bulldog. Them’s expensive puppy treats, so it feels good to put these “leftovers” to better use.

Oh, yeah, and after having this dish, I can say right here, if not the best ever, this is in the top three or four cauliflower recipes that I’ve ever eaten.

Do you like cauliflower? What’s your favorite ways of preparing it?

cauliflower cooked in pomodoro

1 large head cauliflower cut into small pieces, including the core
1 medium sized Vidalia onion, cubed
½ cup (or more) of old dry cheese from your refrigerator cut into small cubes. I had smoked gouda, crusty brie, Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, and some tired cheddar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ bunch chopped Italian parsley
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups jarred tomato purée
1 cup water
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Place a large saucepan on stove top, add ½ of the olive oil and onion, bring temperature to medium high and sauté onion until translucent. Avoid burning it. Toss in cauliflower, parsley, salt, pepper, jarred tomato purée (pomodoro) and water. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to medium low and simmer for 35-45 minutes. Stir every now and then to prevent sticking. In the end cauliflower will be broken apart and sauce will be concentrated. Remove from heat, mix in rest of olive oil, dry cheeses and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let sit uncovered in a warm area for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

sorry, Sweetie, no cheese for you today.  We're eating it all.

sorry, Sweetie, no cheese for you today. We're eating it all.

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New York style pizza is hard to find here in San Francisco. There is a place on 18th and Castro that I think makes something similar to what you get at those hole-in- the- wall pizza places in NYC. Sometimes when we go shopping in the Castro area I try going with an empty stomach so I can reward myself with a slice…or two.

Still, it’s not quite the same. Maybe like wine, the context matters for good pizza? There’s nothing like that hot slice fresh out of the oven burning the roof of your mouth at 2AM in the East Village after you’ve been to three parties and as many bars on a weeknight, is there?

pizza number 1 with kalamata olive and fresh basil

But I’m here on the West Coast now… the Left Coast. It’s not the same, but maybe it could be reproduced in my kitchen? I’ve always believed that it’s hard to make pizza at home, which has put me off trying. But it was finally time, that is after I’d run around a bit to get some of the basic pizza making things that I needed. Aside from getting the right kind of flour and more yeast, I also trekked over to the gigantic Target store in Colma to get a pizza stone for the oven. The stone, I’m led to believe, is the key for the right kind of crisp crust.

California pizza tends to be thin with a thin crust. The stuff is flimsy and really requires a fork-and-knife dining approach. This homemade pizza was stable enough to be eaten with the best tools on earth: two hands! That’s more like it!

I made two pies with this recipe. And though they may not have had the classic New York City terroir, or shape for that matter, they were both pretty darn fabulous.

homemade New York style pizza two ways

for the dough:

4½ tsp fresh yeast (if using dry active, cut amount by half)
1 cup lukewarm water (~100F or 40C)
3 cups of pizza flour (high gluten content) plus more as needed
1½ tsp Kosher salt
1½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more
Semolina or corn meal for sliding pizza onto stone

key ingredients: homemade pizza dough, homemade tomato sauce and two types of goat cheese

The dough is made in 3 stages.

First, using a large bowl mix together the warm water, salt, sugar, yeast and a half cup of flour. Set aside and let rest for 20 minutes in a warm, draft free part of your house. The dough will rise and look like a thick, bubbly sauce. An intense bakery aroma of yeast will permeate the kitchen. This should be a sign that your yeast got home from the store alive and that you didn’t kill it using too hot water. (I tried making a challah bread once and killed the yeast by over heating the water. That was sad)

Next, add remaining flour and olive oil to yeast mix. Mix with a spatula to incorporate then switch to using hands and knead for about 8 minutes. If dough is too sticky add a bit more flour. In the end it should be smooth, stretchy and slightly sticky. Form an even ball shape. Place in a bowl. Drizzle olive oil over to grease the entire surface. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let it rest for approximately 1½ to 2 hours or until it doubles in volume.

You can make the pizza straight away or store the dough in plastic bags in the fridge to use the following day. I made mine in the same day.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook, bring oven temperature to 485F with the pizza stone inside. It’s important to warm the oven and the stone at the same time to prevent it from breaking.

pizza number 2 with red bell pepper and sweet Vidalia onion

For tomato sauce:

28oz can unseasoned peeled tomatoes, chopped with juices
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp tomato paste
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp black pepper
1 dried red peperoncino, crushed (or chile de arbol)
¼ tsp sugar
½ tsp red wine vinegar

Simmer all ingredients but vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 35 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Add reserved olive oil and vinegar, stir and set aside. It’s best to make the sauce while your pizza dough is rising. Of course, you can skip this step if you go without tomato sauce or get something pre made.

Preparing the pizza for baking:

To shape the pizza cut the risen dough into two equal pieces. Stretch each one into a pizza shape, leaving the edges a bit thicker for the crust. Now I know that pizzas at restaurants are always circular or sometimes rectangular. But this is homemade so you can let your imagination run wild as to the right shape for you. Mine were irregular organic shapes that we both quite enjoyed when it came time to serve them.

Sprinkle a liberal amount of semolina or corn meal on a wooden chopping board or pizza board. Place the shaped dough over top. Add toppings as you like. Open up oven door and carefully slide pizza off the board onto the hot stone. Close the door and bake for 20 minutes. Repeat with second pizza.

Pizza 1: tomato, cheese, olive and basil

Tomato sauce
Goat cheese mozzarella
Bucherón cheese
Kalamata olives
Fresh basil (to be added after pizza is out of oven)

Pizza 2: tomato, cheese, olive, onion and sweet red pepper

Tomato sauce
Goat cheese mozzarella
Bucherón cheese
slices of vine ripe tomato
Kalamata olives
sweet Vidalia onion slices
sweet pepper slices

Or add your own toppings…the options are endless.

a slice that you can pick up with your hands!

2007 Kingston Family Vineyard Lucero syrah

We enjoyed these two pizzas with a chewy, dark Chilean 2007 Lucero Kingston Family Vineyards syrah.

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mac’n’cheese for adults

by Stevie on November 24, 2009

tomato covered mac'n'cheese ready to bake

tomato covered mac'n'cheese ready to bake

This is the first recipe that I ever learned. Mac’n’cheese seems to have always been a popular thing with kids, though I couldn’t stand the stuff from the box. But the homemade was something completely different. I loved it and was constantly asking for it. My mother eventually got tired of these endless demands so she broke down and taught me how to make it. About thirty years later, I still love the stuff. I’ve had to modify the recipe a little for my adult tastes. Mainly I use fancier cheeses, like blue or jarlsberg along with the traditional inexpensive sharp cheddar. I also use soy milk instead of cow’s milk.

This dish has also become popular with my friends. I just have to call some of them in the afternoon and they’ll drop all of their evening plans and rush over for dinner. This is not low-cal but once in a while we’ve all got to splurge. It’s so good that we got distracted and didn’t get a good pic for the blog. Maybe next time.

key ingredients for mac'n'cheese for adults

key ingredients for mac'n'cheese for adults

Mac’n’cheese for Adults

3 tbs. all purpose flour
3 tbs. plus 1 tbs. butter or margarine
2 cups milk (soy milk will work too)
1 tsp salt and to taste
2 to 3 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar (can mix with swiss, jack, jarlsberg or even a little blue for a more complex flavor)
1 package medium shell pasta, elbow pasta or similar, cooked al dente
one cup Italian breadcrumbs
3 tomatoes, sliced

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta following package directions.

In medium saucepan, add 3 tbs butter or margarine over medium heat. As fat starts to melt, add salt and gradually sprinkle in flour. Stir constantly until thick. Slowly begin to drizzle milk into flour mixture. Continue stirring until milky sauce is thick and leaves a film of sauce on spoon when removing from liquid. Gradually add cheese, stirring until each batch is fully melted before adding the next. Once cheese is fully melted, mix with cooked pasta and pour into baking dish.

In separate pan melt remaining butter and mix with breadcrumbs. Salt to taste. Press breadcrumb mixture over pasta in baking dish. Arrange tomato slices over breadcrumbs. Cover and bake 25 to 30minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 15min before serving.

I add ketchup and sometimes chili sauce to mac’n’cheese at the table (perhaps that’s a hold-over form childhood?) It makes four to six servings.

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oven-baked potato, tomato and zucchini

oven-baked potato, tomato and zucchini

Potato au gratin is delicious but it packs a whole load of calories and starch. So instead of making it from just potatoes with loads of dairy, why not interspersing the layers with tomato and zucchini? That’s what we had for dinner this week with red butter lettuce dressed with a simple Dijon mustard vinaigrette and a sautéed piece of tempeh. A Perfect Meal! My potato dish turned out tasty but it would have tasted even better if I had used fontina cheese on top or perhaps just a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Instead I tried a cheddar cheese made with goat’s milk which was a bit strong. I’m still so in love with Goat Song that I couldn’t help myself! Other than that, the dish was superb. After you’ve tried this you’ll also be singing “Viva la pappa col pomodoro” or “Long live potato with tomato!”

Oven-baked Potato, Zucchini and Tomato

Ingredients:

slicing vegetables

slicing vegetables

1 lb mixed egg-sized potatoes (golden, purple, red)
1 lb zucchinis
6 ripe roma tomatoes
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 large onion
3 minced garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1/3 cup cheese (cheddar, fontina, gruyere)

How to:

Slice onion thinly and sauté with garlic and some olive oil till translucent. Spread evenly on the bottom of a baking tray. Slice potatoes, zucchinis and tomatoes about the same thickness: you can use a mandolin if you have one handy. Lay slices of potato, tomato and zucchini in alternating and overlapping rows in a single layer over onions. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350F for about 50min or until potatoes are soft. Add cheese on top and bake till cheese is slightly browned. Bon appétit!

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