June 16, 2016

Playdate #7 and making pizza from scratch

Making pizza from scratch


Making pizza from scratch? I couldn't imagine doing it, even a couple of years ago. But it was the most fun I have had in a while. Even the kids made their own pizzas and gobbled it all down, while the adults waited for theirs in the kitchen.

The playdate was overdue, so when Nicole suggested a pizza party I heartily agreed. We selected New York Times Roberta's pizza dough recipe and we each made a batch of dough. The recipe called for making the dough overnight and letting it rise in the fridge.

Neither of us had time to make it the day before, so we put the dough together in the morning and let it rise through the day outside. It was soft and perfect for all the pizzas we made - mozzarella, BBQ chicken, spinach and egg and veggie overload.

Since then, we both have made a couple of batches of the dough again on popular demand.

The mix of 00 flour and all purpose flour threw me off. But Nicole was gracious to drop it off. I wouldn't have found it.

Here is how we did it:

Ingredients:

For Pizza dough
(courtesy of NY Times recipe) 
153 grams 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)
8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)
4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

For tomato sauce
1 big can crushed tomato
3-4 cloves grated
3-4 basil leaves torn

pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste

For caramelized onion and BBQ chicken
1 onions - sliced thinly
3-4 chicken thigh pieces marinated in BBQ sauce
handful of cilantro - chopped
1/2 lemon juice
salt to taste
1/4 tspoon chipotle sauce

Method:

For Pizza dough
In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.

Making pizza from scratch

In a small mixing bowl, mix about about 1 cup (200 grams) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil, then pour it into flour mixture. 

Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let it rest for 15 minutes.

Making pizza from scratch
Then, knead it again for 3 minutes. Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. 

Making pizza from scratch
Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. We let ours rise for 4-6 hours outside.

For pizza sauce
In a saucepan, mix and cook on low heat the tomatoes, with basil and garlic. Check for salt and pepper and then add the sugar too. You can then grind it to a sauce consistency or just use an immersion blender. 

For BBQ chicken with caramelized onions
Making pizza from scratch
Caramelize the sliced onions on medium heat first and then reduce the heat as it starts to caramelize. It should be very crisp.

Grill the chicken pieces for 6-7 minutes on each side on broiler and then take it out and let it rest. Mix it with chilantro, lemon juice and chipotle sauce and cut it into small pieces for the pizza.

Putting together the pizza

Making pizza from scratch

Place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, use your hands to shape it into square.

Add a little bit of sauce, cheese (I used little bit of manchego) caramelized onions and BBQ chicken.

Bake on 425 for about 10 minutes. Check for doneness (the bottom should have brown edges) 

Making pizza from scratch
Take it off the oven, cut and serve. This is a keeper.

June 11, 2016

Trying out Blue Apron - A review

I have been reading about the new trend of meal delivery service pre-portioned with all the ingredients and was curious to try one out. So when a friend gave us a coupon to try Blue Apron, we heartily agreed. And here is what I thought of it.

Before I begin, this is NOT a paid review.

We signed up for two meals for four priced at around $69.99.

A Primer:

Blue Apron, is a nation wide food delivery service that sends pre-portioned meals with recipe cards and all the ingredients. They post their menu in advance so you can choose your meals.

We ordered:
  • Oven roasted chicken and mixed mushrooms
  • Catfish piccata with linguine and spinach

Thumbs up to:


Trying out Blue Apron

  • The ingredients for the meal arrived promptly in a well packaged box. It had ice packs and all the ingredients looked fresh and was sealed. They kept well for a week in the fridge with no problem.

Trying out Blue Apron

  • They include everything.Yes everything, from flour to dust the fish in, to half a stick of butter the dish calls for, from cloves of garlic to a tiny bottle of sherry vinegar needed for the recipe. 


Trying out Blue Apron

  • The step by step recipe card:The step by step pictorial recipe card is easy to follow. One friend recently mentioned that even her husband who is not a cook has been cooking following the recipe cards. They leave nothing unsaid. 
  •  
     
Trying out Blue Apron

  • The multi-use of one pan: A lot of their recipe called for using the same pan for many things. For example, browning the chicken, then sauteing the kale and then making the sauce that goes on top of the dish. It felt economical and also built flavor even though it may take a little longer.
  •  
     
Trying out Blue Apron
  • Trying out new recipes: It took us out of our routine and gave us a new recipe to try. We loved the chicken with kale and mushrooms and are sure to try it again. The linguine with catfish? Not so much, but it did change things up during that week.

Thumbs down to:

  • Limited choices: Our family has food restrictions - food allergies and then food we don't eat. When we  narrowed it all down, there were only a few choices that we could select from.
  • Steep price:  The two meals cost us 70 dollars. That was pretty steep price point for two meals unless you are going out. Local grocery stores might have similar or semi prepared meals for less or same amount

Trying out Blue Apron
  • Recipes can be hit or miss too: The chicken was delicious. I wouldn't have put orange in that combination and it turned out great. But we were not too fond of the catfish piccata. I had high hopes from the dish (having tried out chicken first) and made it for dinner with friends. It turned out okay. 
  • An occasional user tab: I wish they add an occasional user tab too. I am sure to come back and try it once in a while. I can't justify a weekly order for my budget.

May 04, 2016

Barley salad that goes with everything

It has been a month away from blog, a month of unsettling with news from India. A loss that was hard, I needed to be away.

As I slowly begin to heal, I come back to my comfort place, a blog that has given me comfort.

The weather is changing here (even though it's cloudy and rainy), you see it in the buds of the trees, in the chirping you hear in the morning and in the energy around you. And what better way to celebrate the heralding of spring than with a refreshing salad.

Barley salad

I have been making this barley salad for a year and it's finally ready to be shared. The raw garlic that I put in the first time, has been replaced with toasted garlic chips. Chickpeas have been added, so it can be a hearty lunch in itself. It has served as a side with roasted chicken and had as a main lunch with some tandoori shrimps.

The herbs are what make it perfect for spring, it brings that freshness right in your spoonful.

Ingredients:
1 cup barley (you can also choose quick cook barley)
1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 small onion - chopped finely
3-4 radish - chopped finely
6-8 garlic cloves - thin slices
handful cilantro - chopped
handful parsley - chopped
1lemon - juiced
2 tbspoon olive oil
1/4 tspoon black pepper
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
3-4 cardamoms

Method:
Cook the barley in a saucepan in water till the barley is soft. Drain the barley and then set it aside to cool.

Dry roast the cumin and the cardamom. Take the cardamom seeds out and grind it with the cumin seeds to a fine powder.

In a small pan, add a tablespoon or olive oil and toast the garlic cloves till they turn golden. Take then out and set on a paper towel to drain.

Once all the chopping is done, the next thing is to assemble the salad.

Barley salad
For the dressing, juice the lemon, in a small bowl, then add the lemon juice, cumin and cardamom mix, black pepper and salt. Whisk till it all mixes together.

Barley salad

Now take a big bowl, add the barley, chickpeas, onions, herbs, and the radish. Top it with the garlic cloves and then add the dressing to the salad. Now mix it all together. I like to mix it with my hands.

Barley salad

 The salad is ready. Serve it with some roast chicken, tandoori shrimp (optional) and enjoy.


March 28, 2016

Making lemon bars with meyer lemons

Making lemon bars

Happy Holi everyone. I hope you enjoyed the festival of colors with something sweet.

Holi kind of sneaked up on me. I was on the phone with my parents when they asked what our plans were for Holi, and of course what was I making for the festival. I sputtered and went on overdrive.

I remembered that my moms kitchen is busy at this time - the gujias my mom would make, along with sandesh or even naroo if fresh coconut was available.

Instead all I had were two bags of meyer lemons that I had greedily picked up on my last grocery trip. I had to make a quick decision and I decided to tackle two problems with one solution. Holi mithai and meyer lemons. I initially thought of a cake with lemon curd but swiftly changed my plans for something simpler.

I settled on lemon bars. I was kind of nervous attempting it just like lemon curd last year. And just like lemon curd, this is easy to make and super delicious.

I followed the Betty Crocker lemon bar recipe substituting lemons with meyer lemons. With meyer lemons the bars weren't as tart, and had a divine floral smell.

Here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

For base:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 stick or 1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

For lemon filling:
1 cup granualted sugar
2 tspoon grated meyer lemon peel
2tbspoon lemon juice
1/2 tspoon baking poweder
1/4tspoon salt
2 eggs

Powdered sugar to dust

 Method:
Preheat the over to 350degF.

Sieve the flour and sugar together to remove any lumps. Now mix in the butter till a dough is formed. It will be soft. Now put the dough in a uniform layer in a baking pan.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, beat sugar and eggs together till foamy. Add the baking powder, salt and lemon juice and peel and beat for 2-3 minutes till it's all mixed and light.

Take the crust out and pour the lemon mix on top.

Bake for another 20-25 minutes.

16lemonbars
Cool and dust with powdered sugar. Cut into squares and enjoy.


March 17, 2016

Kasoori methi chicken -- Mohana's recipe

Kasoori Methi chicken


The best part of blogging has been meeting people. Someone's cousin is in town, would you recommend a good restaurant, or a friend of a friend is visiting over the weekend and contacts us, or connections through relatives or through another blogger.

When Mohana,  Soma's (who blogs at e-Curry) cousin moved to Ann Arbor, I made another friend. When we were at her place for lunch, she had made this kasoori methi chicken.

Usually, my kids are not big fans of curry. When I ask them, they will pour a little curry over rice, minimal I say, and eat the chicken on the side.

That is not what happened with this curry. They asked for multiple helpings and had a proper jhol-bhath (rice soaked in curry). I immediately asked Mohana for the recipe that she graciously shared with visual descriptions of how much of each ingredients.

I have made it since then and even sent it for lunch with the kindergartner.

Thank you Mohana! it is delicious.

I just add some grated ginger to her original recipe and you can decide to omit it out.

Ingredients:
(serves 4-5)
2-3 Chicken breast pieces cut in strips
2 1/2 tspoon kasoori methi
1 tspoon garam masala
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup whole milk (you can also use 1/4 cup cream instead)
1/2 tspoon grated ginger
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon chilli powder (change it according to your taste)
4 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Method:
Marinate the chicken strips in 1 tspoon kasoori methi, 1/2 tspoon garam masala salt and turmeric and let it sit for a couple of hours.

Now heat a pan with 3 tbspoon oil and brown the chicken strips on each side about 3-4 minutes on each side.

In a saucepan, heat the rest of 1 tbspoon oil. Add 1 tspoon kasoori methi sort of cruch it with your hands over the oil and then add the garam masala. Add the ginger and the crushed tomatoes and let it cook for 3-4 minutes till the chicken is done.

Now add the chicken to the saucepan, lower the heat and add the milk stirring constantly. Add the salt, chilli powder and the rest of the kasoori methi (1/2 tspoon).

Kasoori Methi chicken


Cook on low heat with frequent stirring for another 7-8 minutes or till the chicken is cooked.

Take it off the heat and serve it with some plain rice.


March 04, 2016

Simple tadka mixed dal for vacation

Simple tadka mixed dal
We had received 12 inches of snow and another 4-5 inches was in the forecast. In middle of this huddling down and going about our routine, it was great to pack our bags and head for the sandy beaches and miss the snow in the forecast.





Instead of shoveling, we soaked the sun, played in the pool, collected shells on the beach, watched birds and enjoyed the warm weather of Florida. 


Dolphin spotting

One of the highlights was going on a boat tour to watch the dolphins. We ran into a nursery of dolphins and the mother and the baby regaled us by swimming behind the boat and jumping out every minute or so. It was wonderful. Look how cute they are!

While on these vacations, we try to find a place that has a small kitchen so we can cook one meal in the room instead of eating out and it works out very well with little kids. 

The set up is minimal, few ingredients, I carry a few spices, dal and rice and we buy a few vegetables. 

In these trips, I make a simple tadka dal that we love. I just cook the dal outside (instead of a pressure cooker) and then put a simple tadka at the end. It tastes great with a quick stir fry and some rice.

Ingredients:
(serves 4-5)
1/2 cup moong dal
1/2 cup masoor dal
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin powder
salt to taste

For tadka:
1/2 tspoon cumin seeds
1/4 tspoon red chilli powder
1 tspoon oil

Method:
Wash the dals together and then boil it with 3- 3.5 cups of water, salt and turmeric and cumin powder. I just stir it every few minutes till the dal is soft to touch, somewhere between 10-15 minutes. 

 Heat the oil in a small vessel and temper it with the cumin seeds. Once it starts sputtering, add the red chilli. Immediately take it off the heat and add it to the dal.
Simple tadka mixed dal


It's ready to be served.

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