Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|PIZZA FRIDAY: TOPPINGS| 06/29/2011

Filed under: BASIL,cheese,OREGANO,Pizza,Savory,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 8:52 pm

Well now, I’ve gone and given you pizza dough without anything to put on it! {hand slap} But before we get to that, a word about the right equipment. I can’t tell you how many times I spent the wee hours scraping blackened, sticky, gooey “piles of would-be-pizza” off my really lovely W-S pizza stone. Ah, the trials and tribulations of the home chef… My mother has always sworn by a well-oiled stone. Not for me. I always found the more I oiled, the more rancid the smell which permeated the kitchen/oven/other baked goods. [If you know that rancid smell of which I speak, and have a high quality stone, you can actually clean the stone quite well by running it through the self-cleaning oven cycle.  The super high temp bakes the crappies right out of the stone. Looks practically new!]

The best way I’ve found to get pizza on and off the stone is to actually assemble the pizza and cook it on tinfoil. I still get the crispy goodness that pizza crust is capable of without the mess and residue on my stone (plus you can wrap leftovers in the foil). The key is to heat the stone up with the oven. Putting cold dough on a cold stone then putting it in the hot oven just fuses the dough to the stone. THAT’S where I was going wrong all these years. You will need to use a peel (that paddle thing that pizzerias use to slide their pizzas in/out of their pizza ovens) to get your tinfoil/pizza combo onto the stone. I don’t have a peel so I use an air bake cookie sheet. Presto!

So rolling out your dough is key. Liberally flour a clean space on your counter, and dust your dough ball. Flatten the dough by hand into a thick disk (or square if you prefer) and then get out your rolling pin. The dough will have a tendency to shrink back into itself as you roll if it’s too cold, so make sure its close to room temp. Roll the dough out into your desired shape, flipping the dough to roll on both sides. Transfer to your peel lined with enough foil to cover your stone and fit your dough. And now, we top…

If I discover a really good recipe for homemade pizza sauce I’ll share it {mental note to look for one} but I’ve found a favorite store bought sauce that I adore so I keep it simple [remember, it’s PIZZA FRIDAY!]. I’ve experimented will all kinds of pizzas flavor combos and that’s the great thing about having pizza every week- experimentation! I sometimes even smear the dough with pesto before I add the sauce.

I like to sprinkle a little grated parmesan  over the sauce and then on top of the pie before it heads into the oven. Gives it a nice, cheesy depth of flavor. I like experimenting with mozzarella (store bought and from-scratch), pizza cheese combos from the market, and goat cheese. Those are my go toos.

As for toppings beyond the basics, I’m all for |Fresh Herbs| like basil, but I make a dried herb topping that I call “pizza shake” that’s an eyeballed mixture of:

dried oregano
garlic powder
dried basil
dried thyme 

I shake that all over every pizza I make. So grab your sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, leftover chicken, artichokes, caramelized onions, peppers, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers… you get the picture.  Experiment, have fun!

Do I run the risk of eating too much pizza? Of taking the fun out of looking forward to pizza because I know its coming every Friday? Maybe, but I’m willing to take the risk…what are you having for dinner this Friday night? Cook often and eat well!

 

|PIZZA FRIDAY: DOUGH| 06/25/2011

Filed under: BASIL,Pizza,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 10:13 am

Yup, yesterday was Friday and that means pizza was the menu last night. As a kid, I was always envious that some of my friends had pizza EVERY week. We had pizza, sure, but it was a treat — an unpredictable, joyous occasion. When I put it like that, it certainly doesn’t sound like I had a tortured, non-pizza childhood that I perceived at the time, but man I LOVE PIZZA! The cheesy, gooey, crispy, eat-with-your-hands miracle is never an unwelcome meal. I suppose the point is that I just never seemed to get enough of it.

Nothing made this clearer to me than when I started writing this post…yesterday! I was going on…and on… and on… about pizza. It was just silly. So I’ve broken this up into two posts so that you don’t poke your eyes out before you get to the end. A pizza is made up of really two components — DOUGH + TOPPINGS — so that’s how I’m going to lay this down for you.

Because I love pizza so much it’s kind of surprising to me that I literally JUST realized (ok, within the last year, not a minute ago) that I now run my own household, and feed myself, so I CAN declare a weekly pizza night!! {Cheshire grin}

TOP 5 REASONS TO LOVE PIZZA (FRIDAY)

  1. It is (relatively) healthy – especially if you top it with |Fresh Herbs| and veggies.
  2. It’s a great way to use up veggies that are on their way to the compost heap and even cheeses.  You can always experiment with flavors based on what you have.
  3. It’s fast.  I can go from dough ball to dinner in about 15 minutes — and 11 of those that are in the oven so I can set the table, grab a beer, and wrangle my hubs to the kitchen. Multitasking!
  4. I can count on it. I don’t ever have to think/plan/shop specifically for Friday evening’s meal. I know it’s coming so I always have ingredients on hand and it totally fits our energy level on a Friday after a long week of work.
  5. It’s flexible! In the event that an occasional apres work happy hour ensues, I know the dough will keep and I can always make a pizza lunch or dinner on Saturday.

The declaration of Pizza Friday is courtesy of the BREAD MACHINE that I found under the Christmas tree in 2009. It’s a kitchen magician and it’s become a staple appliance in my kitchen. In my ever-expending wisdom, I’ve realized the wonder that is making my own from-scratch pizza dough and I truly do think that it tastes better than anything I can buy. [oh the horror of those pre-flattened, pre-shaped, pre-cooked items that are full of preservatives and taste like cardboard. yeah, you know who you are and I’ve got my eye on you] Homemade dough is, well, fresher. It’s affordable (I’m a girl who loves a bargain) and it doesn’t involve having to get back in my car to go pick it up (we’ve never been a delivery family).

The BEST bread machine ::pizza dough recipe:: that I’ve found is the Williams-Sonoma recipe (courtesy of my mother’s infinite pile of recipes).

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

3/4 c warm water
1 Tb EVOO + 1/2 tsp for storing if you’re not using dough immediately
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp yeast
1 Tb |Fresh Herbs| (optional) – think basil, rosemary, oregano

This will make a 1 lb ball of dough (enough for one pizza). Follow your bread machine’s directions. For those of you already turned on to the magic bread machine, and therefore working with yeast, you know that it’s crazy important to keep your salt and your yeast away from each other. They need each other, they just don’t want to admit it. Don’t worry they’ll get along eventually, but when introducing all of the guests to the dough party above let salt hang out with water and keep yeast with flour. So then, it’s important to add the ingredients IN THE ORDER LISTED. Seriously. I really can’t stress that enough. [the salt will kill the yeast if they come in direct contact with each other. rule #647 of throwing a party, no death]

We’ll get to the pizza making part in a later post. {promise} I prefer to make my dough a day ahead. I give it a complete rub down with a drop (1/2 tsp) of EVOO. A little goes a long way. Cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. I like to take my dough out of the fridge about 30-60 mins. before I’m going to make the pizza. It will have risen and I find that it’s easier to pizzafy if it’s closer to room temperature.

I guarantee that this recipe will keep popping up. It’s really versatile (I’ve got several future posts swirling in my head as I type). I hope you like it as much as hubs and I do. So cook often and eat well!


 

|THANK YOU GOAT| 06/23/2011

Filed under: Apps,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 6:07 pm

…just realized I promised the recipe to my goat cheese and mushroom crostini from my inaugural post.  But first, a word on the title of my post. I have a niece who is a particularly picky eater. She likes chips, and sports drinks, and an occasional bite or three of whatever my mom-in-law has made for a family meal. So imagine my surprise when my hubs tells me that she adores goat cheese. What the what?! In fact, enjoys it so much (quite simply spread on crackers) that mom-in-law overheard her exclaim “thank you goat!” I couldn’t say it any better myself.

So a trip several months ago to a tiny little French bistro introduced hubs and I to an app that I simply had to try and recreate at home. It’s perfect with a glass of white wine (you’ll need some for the recipe anyway) and, being a texture girl myself, I just love the soft/crunchy/warm/fresh deliciousness of it all. So here’s my version::

1 fresh french baguette (I go from-scratch here, but store bought would work in a pinch)
1 small can of mushroom pieces (fresh also works, slightly different texture, but delicious)
2-3 sprigs |FreshHerbs| – I think thyme works best, parsley could be good too
1 Tb.ish of EVOO + EVOO in a Misto for baguette crostinis
1 Tb.ish of white wine (whatever you drink)
Goat cheese
little pat of butter (optional, to finish)
shallot (optional)

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utensils: cutting board | sharp knife/bread knife | tablespoon | kitchen chopper | skillet | baking sheet | spatula/knife

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Rinse your herbs and pat dry in a paper towel.

Slice baguette into about (10) 1/3 inch slices and arrange on baking sheet. Spray liberally with EVOO and broil in oven (I use my convection toaster oven). About 5-10 minutes depending on appliance used. You want a nice golden brown top.

Meanwhile, use your kitchen chopper to mince the mushrooms. If you use canned you’re golden. If you use fresh, you’re going to need to do these in batches. If you don’t have a hand kitchen chopper your ninja knife skills or a food processor will be fine.

In the skillet, heat 1 Tb oil and add mushrooms (shallots too if you have them). Saute for several minutes until mushrooms wilt (and shallots are transparent). Check your crostinis.  Are they ready? Strip or mince your herb(s) of choice and add to skillet with wine. Saute some more.

Meanwhile, take your crostinis and smear them (to taste) with goat cheese. Leave them on a pretty plate begging for warm mushrooms. Go visit your mushrooms and add a little pat of butter to finish. You’ll be glad you did.

Top your crostinis with the mushroom mixture. Pour glass of wine. Cook often and eat well!

 

|AW, C’MON|

Filed under: Sweet — |FreshHerbs| @ 5:39 pm

So here I sit, at the kitchen counter with the iBook, my after-work snack, and a sleeping ball of fur on my lap, and I’m bummed out. Had a training workshop at work today that was just really heavy. {sigh} |FreshHerbs| is supposed to be a lighthearted, creative endeavor and I’m just NOT in that frame of mind at the moment.

So, I’m thinking about what makes me happy — or trying to anyway — and it came to me. Props to Bakergirl here who recently shared this recipe for ::from-scratch-brown-sugar::. I mean, seriously?  Is it really that simple? Have I tried it yet, no, but how could you go wrong? I’m certainly going to the next time I encounter the need. Why have I been buying brown sugar all this time [thinking of that dried out crumbly mass that I recently threw in the trash after failed attempts to soften in the microwave] when I could have been making this fresh, perfect, delicious stuff? Honestly, just thought thought lightens my mood.

So comfort food, sure.  But comfort ingredients? (Apologies to those who view brown sugar as an end unto itself and not simply a means to one.) I’m all for comfort ingredients. Those things that, just by their mere presence in a recipe, make you love it before you even taste it. Cilantro, cumin, aforementioned brown sugar, vanilla, mint, cream, banana, vodka, the list goes on.

 

|JUST SPROUTED| 06/22/2011

Filed under: SPROUTS — |FreshHerbs| @ 11:05 pm

Hi, and welcome to |Fresh Herbs| my blog about recipes using fresh ingredients and from scratch methods.  So why “fresh herbs?” Well, to tell you the truth I was surfing food blogs at lunch today {drool} and I was suddenly inspired to focus my newly found blogging inclination on what I love <recipes|food|eating|drinking>. So then, of course, I had to come up with a good name and I tried things like “cilantro” or “lime” but they all seemed to be taken.  So I walked out on my deck to pick some – you guessed it- |Fresh Herbs| and I thought “Hey! Maybe that’s it! Why limit myself to just a few flavors when I cook with so many?” Not to mention that I realized {sniffing cilantro scented hands} that nearly everything I make includes herbs in some way, shape, or form. So, that’s it. That’s the story. As I was munching on my ::goat cheese and mushroom crostini:: (recipe to come, still getting that hang of this blogging thing) I did a little research, chose WordPress (SFSG), and here we are.

Why a blog? Well, that also came to me as I was surfing other foodie blogs on my lunch hour. I’m forever searching for recipes that I love and I usually find those on the web. Well? What to do when I stumble upon these masterpieces? Where do I store them? How do I share them? How on earth will I remember where I found it, what it was called, or what I did to tweak it to my taste? The answer, dear readers, is |Fresh Herbs| — my glorified recipe catalog.

And now, it’s late, I’m way past my self-imposed computer curfew (insomniacs need those, you know). I’ll log this post   as a record for the deliciousness that is about to ensue, but not before giving a little shout out to my bestie Laura, who I’m furiously texting with right now because she lives so far away.