One of the best memories I have about growing up in Southern California definitely has to do with the summers–being able to cook with homegrown vegetables (poolside, of course) had me convinced that I would never leave. So much for that.
It’s not that you can’t grow vegetables out here… I’ll just have to wait six months to do so. But for now, I can live with southern hemisphere imports and greenhouse organics. For the most part, the weather has been fairly cracked-out. Every time I’m convinced that it’s actually winter, the heavens open up and a clear sixty degree day falls upon us, much like last weekend.
And today, it rained. Womp wooomp. Sadly, it’s December and I think the warmth may be gone for good. Outside the boundaries of my kitchen, anyway.
The roommates generally blast the furnace, thus turning my centrally-located bedroom into a kiln. In turn, I blast the oven and the dishwasher, and fog up windows all over the house. It’s hot, and always smells good–the perfect escape from the heinous rain. In the meantime, this is a little slice of a homegrown Los Angeles summer.
WHAT YOU NEED:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 package Trader Joe’s pizza crust
(let’s be realistic… whoever condemns pre-made or boxed mixes obviously doesn’t spend enough time at their day job)
1/2 cup pesto sauce (unlike dough… homemade pesto is a kitchen staple. Recipe to come soon!)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 zucchini, VERY thinly sliced
2-3 tomatoes, also very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon basil flakes
Salt and Pepper
WHAT TO DO:
I’m going to assume you are buying ready-made pizza dough, because that’s what I do. It’s way easier, and it’s cheap. So if you need to know what to do from scratch, check Epicurious.
First, pour olive oil on a pizza pan or a baking sheet, and spread evenly using your fingers or a brush. Then, spread the dough as thin as you can, covering the entire sheet. The yeast makes it hard to do–I like to pick it up from one edge and let gravity stretch it down, while rotating the edge you are pulling from. That usually does the trick.
Use a fine cheese grater to grate the garlic clove evenly over the dough, and sprinkle the olive oil over it as well. Then, top the pizza with the feta and mozzarella, tomatoes, and vegetables. Sprinkle the basil flakes over the top, and add salt and pepper as you deem necessary.
I prefer to slice the zucchini and tomatoes as paper thin as possible, for visual aesthetics, mostly. But the zucchini will definitely cook nicely if it’s cut into thin slices… we used a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini tonight, and it came out perfectly. I highly recommend keeping one of those around.
Once you’ve decorated your pizza, slide into the oven and let it bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the zucchini looks crisp and the crust is golden.
Life introduced to me to crepes only recently, when I lived in Los Angeles. My roommate had a French boyfriend that made crepes at our apartment–pretty much 24/7. So wonderfully typical of the French. I always wished he’d just make crepes in a black beret and a horizontally striped shirt, and let me sharpie a curly mustache on him. He refused. Sigh… such is life.
Since I’ve moved to the district, however, I’ve started a Sunday morning ritual with my roommates (and the friends who frequently spend the night). Our kitchen has turned into a haven for crepe experimentation–plowing through whatever ingredients that could lead us to the perfect sweet crepe that can either make or break your hangover. This morning, though, I decided to take the experimentation to the next level. You see, last night was our first soiree with me living in the house. I stumbled into the kitchen this morning to find some dwindling bottles of dark rum, which brought me back to my college days in Westwood… not only because of the excessive drinking, but because back then we were lucky enough to have a Frenchman to make crepes en flambe (is that right? I don’t speak French) with our rum stockpile. Crepes are traditionally cooked on one side only–but if you pour alcohol on top of it as it cooks, and then light the alcohol on fire, the surface of the crepe cooks as the alcohol burns away, and therefore caramelizing the sugar you sprinkled on top.
If you don’t like egg nog, substitute the egg nog for more milk. If you can’t use almond flour, substitute all-purpose flour. If you’re short on ingredients to put in the crepes, regular shredded mixed cheese and sugar is a personal favorite of mine–you would not normally expect to mix the two, but trust me on that one… it’s epic.
WHAT YOU NEED:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup ground almond flour 1/3 cup egg nog 1/3 cup milk 1/3 cup water 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 Tablespoon butter (melted) 1 Tablespoon dark rum 1 Tablespoon sugar
WHAT TO DO:
First, you might be wondering what almond flour is. You can buy it at specialty stores, but it’s actually cheaper to make it. (Almond flour is one of the main reasons why I bought a Cuisineart food processor). Almond flour is actually quite simple to make–you just grind almonds in a food processor until it forms a light, fluffy consistency. It probably will never be as fine as all-purpose flour, but you want it to be fine enough to blend into a mixture without being lumpy.
Anyway, almond flour is a staple I keep in my kitchen. It gives a good almond flavor to practically anything.
Once you have that, stir together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, milk, water, and egg nog in a mixing bowl. Then, stir in the eggs and melted butter. When the mixture is even and smooth, heat a large non-stick frying pan over the stove, and pour the desired batter amount in the pan after it is already hot. You can pick up the pan and tilt it whatever way you need to in order to let the batter spread out–I personally, prefer my crepes to be as thin as possible. But use your judgment, and welcome experimentation into the kitchen.
Immediately after, sprinkle the sugar evenly on the surface of the crepe, and then pour the rum on top of it as well. Light a match to the rum, which catches fire and caramelizes the sugar as the alcohol cooks away (the first time I did this, I had excessive amounts of rum and almost burned my eyebrows off, so BE CAREFUL and don’t use too much). When the alcohol has burned away, the fire will go out, and the crepe will be safe to eat. Fold it over as you like, and enjoy :)
P.S. Why is my layout in Spanish? Told ya, I’m still working out some bugs.
I’ve finally gotten it together–the food blog. My longing to get back into my life as a writer crossed paths with my kitchen obsession. It’s time to show off some dishes to the world.
So, let’s kick off a healthy online relationship with some good, old-fashioned, way-less-complicated-than-they-seem cookies. Alright, so that hyphenated adjective phrase might be a white lie. It’s really not that bad, though.
Yesterday, I arrived home after dealing with a frustrating independence issue. Luckily, my new Cuisineart food processor, new in the box, was waiting for me when I arrived home. Nothing gets your mind off of stress better than throwing a bunch of things in a plastic container to get shredded. You should try it. Anyway, here’s a recipe for Candied Citrus and Almond Florentine Cookies, my absolute FAVORITE recipe in the world. Hands down.
WHAT YOU NEED:
1/2 cup unsalted butter 2/3 cup sugar 1/2 cup whipping or heavy cream 4 tablespoons sifted cake flour 1 cup finely chopped candied citrus peel 1 cup ground almond flour 1 cup sliced almonds
WHAT TO DO:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter.
Slowly stir in the sugar and the heavy cream over high heat, until the mixture boils.
Then, remove from heat and stir in the flour, citrus peel, almond flour, and almonds. Mix well.
Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and drop batter in round, 1-tablespoon measurements, leaving a few inches between each one. If you have silicone cupcake or florentine molds, that would work even better than the parchment paper — I’m just too poor to buy those right now! So parchment paper will have to do.
Place the cookies in the oven, and let them bake for 10-15 minutes. The time really depends on how crispy you would like your florentines. I, personally, prefer them light and on the chewy side. But the longer you leave them in, the crunchier and darker they will be.
The batter spreads into a delicate lace pattern, which can be lethal when painted in chocolate (and perhaps formed into sandwiches with multiple cookies and a ridiculous mess).
When removing the florentines from the oven, be sure to let the cookies sit for at least 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, eat, and repeat.