Wednesday, March 31, 2010

White Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms

One of the many things I love about How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is how many variations there are for almost every recipe!  

Here is how I wound up making my delicious white lasagna with spinach and mushrooms:  I had half a box of pre-boiled lasagna noodles in the pantry and most of a container of ricotta cheese leftover from last week.  So I figured I could make half a lasagna recipe out of that, which would still be two meals for us.  I started by looking at the basic Vegetarian Lasagna recipe.  Then I was tempted by the "White Lasagna" variation so I headed over to the corresponding white sauce recipe, which is called "Bechamel Sauce, 11 ways" (eleven!!).  I remembered that I had some dried mushrooms so I decided to make the "Mushroom Sauce" variant of the Bechamel sauces.  I also thought it would be cool to add sauteed mushrooms to the lasagna filling so I looked up his method for that as well.  

Good grief!  Actually, I was still really motivated because all I would need to buy were spinach and mushrooms, and seeing as this was the Sunday before payday I was not looking to spend a lot anyway.  

I knew I wouldn't have much time Monday to cook so I assembled it Sunday night, while Joe made that night's dinner of refried beans and grilled peppers and onions for burritos.  There was a lot going on in the kitchen but it was really fun!  It was SO nice to just be able to bake the lasagna on Monday and not have to get the kitchen dirty again!  

This might look a little daunting, but it helped me to think of it as several small recipes rather than one big one.  So that's how I wrote it up here.  First I started with the components (the mushrooms and the sauce) and set them aside.  Then I just had to steam the spinach really quick, and I was pretty much ready to assemble (I cheated and used pre-boiled noodles, so that saved a lot of time as well).

Sauteed Mushrooms
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or a mixture of oil and butter
About 1 pound mushrooms, preferably an assortment, trimmed and sliced
A big handful of dried porcini, or a mixture of dried mushrooms (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine or water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Chopped parsley leaves for garnish (optional, I had parsley but forgot to use it)

To reconstitute the dried mushrooms, rinse under warm water for about a minute, then soak in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes.  Save this soaking liquid for the sauce later! (I confess, I accidently poured mine down the sink, but luckily I had some mushroom broth in the freezer that I could use instead)  Set aside 1-2 tablespoons worth of the reconstituted mushrooms and mince them.  Set these aside for the sauce as well.  

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When good and hot, add the fresh and reconstituted mushrooms, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook until they are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour the wine into the skillet.  Let it sizzle for about a minute, then lower the heat to medium-low.  Stir in the garlic and let that cook for about a minute.  Taste and add more salt/pepper if necessary.  Garnish with parsley, if using, and set aside.    

Mushroom Bechamel sauce
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Makes about 1 cup

2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 to 1 cup milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup mushroom soaking liquid
1-2 tablespoons minced reconstituted dried mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the butter or oil.  When melted or hot, whisk in the flour.  Lower the heat and cook for about 3 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns tan (for some reason, I kept picturing the color of the tan M&M, remember when they used to have that color?)

Continue to whisk constantly and stir in the milk/mushroom soaking liquid, a little at a time.  After about a cup has been incorporated, the sauce will still be pretty thick.  Keep adding liquid until it's a little thinner than you'd like it to be, stir in the minced mushrooms, then cook over low heat until it thickens back up again.

Season with salt and pepper.  I just set my sauce aside until I was ready to assemble the lasagna, but Bittman suggests that you keep it warm over a pot of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally.  He's probably right,

White Lasagna with Spinach and Mushrooms
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 6-8

12 dried lasagna noodles (alternatively, you could use fresh pasta, or you could also use "no boil" lasagna noodles, which is what I used)
2 tablespoons softened butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 recipe Mushroom Bechamel sauce, see above
About 2 large bunches fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1 recipe Sauteed Mushrooms, see above
3 cups ricotta, plus more as needed
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  Add a good pinch of salt.  If using fresh pasta, cut the sheets into noodles that will fit your lasagne dish (probably 3 x 13 inches).  Cook about half the noodles at a time, until they are tender but still underdone.  They will finish cooking in the oven.  Fresh pasta will take a minute or less, dried pasta will take a little longer.  Drain and lay the noodles out flat on a clean towel.  If you are like me and using the pre-boiled noodles, skip this step entirely!

While you are boiling the noodles, steam the spinach.  Put a couple inches of water into a put fitted with a steamer basket and bring it to a boil.  Once the steam is going add the spinach (in batches) and steam for one minute, setting the cooked spinach aside in a colindar.  Squeeze out any excess water (ring it out with your hands), then roughly chop.  Add to the sauteed mushrooms and gently mix both together with the ricotta.      

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  

Butter or lightly oil a rectangular baking dish.  Add a large spoonful of sauce and spread it around to evenly coat the bottom of the pan.  Add a layer of noodles, trimming to fit if needed.  Top with more sauce, 1/3 of the spinach mixture, and a good sprinkling of Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper between layers.  Repeat 2x (remember the order: noodles, sauce, spinach mixture, Parmesan, salt and pepper).  Top with the remaining noodles, sauce, ricotta, and Parmesan (the top should be covered with cheese).  At this point, you could cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a day or freeze.  Bring to room temperature before baking.

The lasagna bakes for about 30 minutes, or until it's bubbling nicely and the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top.  Remove from oven, let rest for a few minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

Macaroni and Four Cheeses (with hidden squash!)

Who doesn't love a delicious bowl of Macaroni and Cheese?  I really felt like some comfort food, but didn't really want to splurge, so I made Ellie Krieger's version.  She uses small amounts of full fat flavorful cheeses like extra-sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan.  She also adds winter squash for a health boost and bright orange color.

I was at the store a few weeks ago when I thought about this recipe and decided I wanted to make it in the near future.  I remembered it called for frozen squash.  So I bought a couple bags of frozen, cubed, butternut squash (locally grown even!)

Fast forward to this week.  I've got my pot of milk on the stove, and I'm pouring in the frozen cubes of squash.  I heat it over low heat so they thaw, then bring it almost to a simmer, just like she says.

I'm starting to get confused though - I'm not sure why she isn't telling me to mash the cubes somehow.  Did hers just melt into the milk all by themselves?  I spent several minutes pressing the soft cubes of squash against the sides of the pot to break them up, wondering all the while why she wasn't telling me to do so.  The idea is that the squash is supposed to be disguised in the know, so kids and picky grown-ups will eat it.  I didn't have a problem with chunks of squash, but I was pretty sure it was supposed to be smooth based on the picture in the book.

So I re-read the ingredient list.

Frozen pureed winter squash.  Ah-ha!  I literally laughed out loud when I read that ingredient.

I almost got out my immersion blender to remedy the situation, but I decided to leave them as is.  I didn't have to hide the vegetable from anyone, so it didn't matter if an occasional piece of squash was visible.

Anyway, we thought this meal really hit the spot.  You couldn't even tell there was a bunch of squash in it (except for a few tell-tale pieces that I didn't mash up!).  However, if you are only craving really creamy stove top macaroni and cheese, this dish probably won't do it for you.  It has a lot of good flavor, it's just not all that creamy.

But if you want a big helping of vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, and manganese, this is a really delicious way to do it!

Macaroni and Four Cheeses
adapted from Ellie Krieger - The Food You Crave
Serves 8

Cooking spray
One 16-ounce box elbow macaroni
Two 10-ounce packages frozen pureed winter squash
2 cups lowfat milk (I used 2%)
1 1/3 cups (4 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I bought Tillamook Vintage White)
2/3 cup (2 ounces) grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Cook the macaroni according to your package directions.  Drain, transfer to the baking dish.

While the pasta is cooking, add the milk and frozen squash to a large saucepan and heat over low, stirring every so often.  The squash should start defrosting and you should be able to gradually break it up with a spoon.  Turn the heat up to medium and let it heat up almost to a simmer, stirring a few times.  Remove from heat, add the cheddar, Jack, and ricotta cheeses, along with the salt, mustard, and cayenne.  Stir until it's pretty well combined, then pour this mixture over the pasta and stir it all together until things are evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and oil.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling around the edges, then broil for 3 minutes to brown and crisp the top.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Asian Flavored Broccoli and Leafy Greens

Normally if I made a dish like this I would stir fry the vegetables in a little oil and then add in the flavorings towards the end, and probably over-cook the vegetables in the process.  This particular recipe I came across was interesting.  You steam the vegetables first for a few minutes, then toss them together with your sauce ingredients while they are still hot.  It was just as quick as a stir fry but healthier!   

The website that posted this recipe encourages steaming vegetables to preserve as many of their nutrients as possible - and since the main reason for eating vegetables in the first place is for their health benefits, this is something I really should pay more attention to.      

Steamed veggies by themselves sound, well, just plain boring, but when you toss them with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and rice vinegar...oh man, you have to try it!  We piled our veggies over some wild rice and red kidney beans. 

The actual recipe calls for broccoli, carrots, and tofu, but I wanted to use up our CSA veggies so I used a mix of broccoli, cabbage rabe, spinach, kale, and chard.  I also probably used way more veggies than it called for, but the sauce seemed to still flavor it nicely, and we had enough for lunch the next day.

Asian-Flavored Broccoli with Tofu
Serves 2-4

1 pound broccoli, florets cut into quarters
2 medium carrots, sliced thin
8 ounces tofu, cut into cubes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated ginger (I used the stuff in the jar, works great for me!)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Red pepper flakes to taste (we were out, but I think it was fine without them)
Fill the bottom of a steamer with a couple inches of water (or, if you don't have a steamer like me, use a pot fitted with a steamer basket.  Heat over medium-high.

While the water is heating, prep your veggies, either the ones they suggest or a mixture of your own.  Large leafy greens should be sliced in half lengthwise, then sliced into 1-inch strips crosswise.  Broccoli florets should be quartered, and the stems sliced into 1/4-inch pieces.  Thinly slice carrots and bell peppers.  Tofu should be cut into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes.

Combine the rest of the ingredients (oil through red pepper flakes) in a small bowl and set aside*.  

The steamer is ready when the water has reached a rolling bowl.  Turn the heat down a bit and start adding the veggies.  Hard vegetables like carrots go in first, along with tofu, if using.  Steam for two minutes.

Add the broccoli to the carrots and tofu.  Steam for 5 minutes.

Leafy greens take about three minutes, so add them a couple minutes after the broccoli, if using.  Spinach only takes ONE minute, so wait until the very end to add that (side note: I had so many veggies and a only small steamer basket so I made two batches, broccoli first, then the greens second.  I put the broccoli in a covered bowl to keep it hot while the greens steamed).

Toss the veggies with the sauce mixture.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds for a nice touch. 

*To mellow the flavor of the garlic, peel and press the cloves, then add them to the steamer in the last two minutes of cooking.  Chop them before tossing together with the sauce ingredients.  If you like spicy garlic flavor, just chop the cloves and add them straight to the sauce mixture without steaming first.          

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Frittata with kale and onions

I'm back!  My vacation was splendid and much needed, but it's really good to be home.  I've had my fill of restaurant food and I'm ready to get back to my regular diet.  Luckily, I was able to offset the heavy food with lots of walking around outlet malls and the San Diego Zoo!

Amy gave us a dozen eggs last week (her mom has chickens), so we enjoyed a lovely frittata using some of our CSA items (leeks, green onions, chives, and kale).  I've only made frittatas a handful of times, always following a specific recipe to the letter.  A few weeks ago, however, I made one with Amy and we didn't follow a recipe at all, we just added things we both had on hand and it turned out great!  So for this one I used the same basic method and got a good result this time as well!

To go with the frittata, I roasted some carnival acorn squash from the CSA.  After removing the seeds and peeling it, I cut it into approximately 1/2 inch pieces and tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a couple tablespoons of fresh thyme and oregano.  I roasted them (on a baking sheet lined with foil) at 350 F for about 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until they were nice and tender and starting to brown.  I did this while I was getting everything ready for the frittata.  When they were done, I sprinkled them with parsley and loosely wrapped the foil around them, leaving a couple open places for steam to escape.  That kept them relatively warm while I prepared the frittata (I'm not cool enough to have everything ready at the same time).

Frittata with Kale and Onions
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons butter
2 small leeks, washed and sliced
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chives, sliced
4-5 cups kale, chopped or torn into bite-size pieces (don't use the thick stems)
10 eggs, lightly beaten
3-4 tablespoons of milk (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt the butter in a large oven proof, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  When hot, add the leeks and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the green onions.  A couple of minutes later, add the chives (the more tender green onions and chives don't need to cook as long as the leeks).  Add the kale and cover with a lid.  The greens will steam and reduce down after a few minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the milk into the eggs if using, and season with salt and pepper.  When the onions and kale are nice and tender, spread them out in an even layer in the pan and then pour the eggs over them.  Lower the heat a bit - you want the egg to cook slowly, if the heat is too high the egg will burn on the bottom.  Let this cook for about 5-10 minutes.  The egg should start to set (the top will still be a little runny).

You can peek at the bottom by using a spatula to gently lift the egg away from the bottom of the pan.  The bottom should be totally set and starting to brown slightly.  When it gets to that point, sprinkle the cheese over the top and put the whole pan into the oven.  Let it cook for 15-20 minutes or so (I honestly don't remember how long ours took exactly, I just kept checking on it every now and then until it looked ready).  The cheese will be bubbling away on top and the egg should look set.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with parsley if using, let cool for a few minutes, then slice into wedges and serve.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shrimp and Squash Vindaloo

This will be my last entry for about a week; I'm going to southern California with my sister to hang out with a bunch of our fabulous relatives.  Whenever we go there to visit we always make sure to eat our fill of In-N-Out, and I'm sure this time will be no exception.  With that in mind, I made a relatively light dinner tonight.

One of the perks of being a lifetime member of Weight Watchers (or even just a member in general) is that you get these weekly emails full of motivational tips and light recipe ideas.  The one I made tonight was a stew called a Vindaloo, which means "wine and garlic".  It was originally a Portuguese dish, but it eventually migrated over to India where it evolved into a spicy curry dish.  This particular recipe is healthier than the types of Vindaloo you might find at an Indian restaurant because you use squash instead of potatoes, and shrimp instead of lamb, chicken, or pork.

This meal was tasty, but SO SPICY!  I'm a total wimp about spice, but even Joe thought it was pretty spicy (but not so spicy that he didn't like it).  If you like spicy food, then you'll probably like this recipe.  If you are not a fan, then I would suggest omitting the cayenne completely.  I ended up drinking two full glasses of milk to get through this meal (that's alright though, I usually don't get enough calcium and vitamin D anyway).  If you had cream or half-n-half, you could drizzle a little bit into your bowl and that would help cool it down a bit as well.

Shrimp and Squash Vindaloo
adapted from Weight Watchers Everyday Gourmet (via email newsletter)
serves 4

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1 medium acorn squash (I used two smallish ones)
1 spray nonstick cooking spray
3 medium shallots, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fat-free, no-sodium vegetable broth
1 pound medium shrimp (at about 35 shrimp per pound), peeled and deveined

Combine the spices (curry powder through cayenne) with the vinegar in a small bowl.  Stir until you've made a paste.  Set aside.

Cut your squash in half, remove the seeds and pulp.  Set the squash halves cut side down on a cutting board and use a knife or sharp vegetable peeler to shave off the skin.  Cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes (some of the skin will be easier to remove once you've cut the flesh into smaller pieces).  Set aside.

Apply the nonstick spray to the inside of a large saucepan.  Heat over medium.  When hot, add the shallot and garlic.  Stir often as it cooks for about three minutes.  I had to add a little olive oil (about a teaspoon) because all the oil had dried up and you don't want the garlic to brown.

Add the prepared curry paste, attempting as best as you can to break it up somewhat.  After about 15 seconds, add the squash.  Stir constantly to coat with the spices (don't worry if it doesn't really).  After about 20 seconds, add the broth and bring to a simmer (I spent a couple of minutes trying to find clumps of spice and breaking them up by pressing them to the side of the pan with my wooden spoon).  Cover and reduce the heat to low, so it simmers gently, until the squash is tender, about 40 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Add the shrimp and cover again.  Cook for about three minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and firm.

Serving size: 1 1/4 cups, 4 Points each serving

Sunday, March 14, 2010


In honor of Pi day, I made a Kale and Chard Pie for dinner!

Just in case you aren't as nerdy as me, "Pi Day" is held on March 14, at 1:59 (am or pm).  Pi = 3.14159..., which is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. 

This was also a pretty big day for me, because this recipe uses hard-boiled eggs, which have been placed in the "foods I dislike" category for about as long as I can remember.  But I'm trying to be open to tasting new things, especially those things that I haven't tried since I was a kid.  Look at me now, mom and dad!  :-)

Honestly, as I was chopping the eggs and mixing them with cooked greens and onions, I couldn't help but think how gross it looked.  But I just had to remember that this recipe came from Mark Bittman, and therefore I just had to trust that it would be good.

And it was!  If you think about it, you are really just making a frittata or omelet filled with greens and onions.  But with a tangy biscuit-like crust.  Nothing weird about that!  I even tried some of the egg by itself before I put it in the pie.  Not bad!  I may even consider packing one in a lunch someday...

I'm totally kicking myself though.  As I was typing up the ingredient list below I realized I completely forgot to add the herbs!  It probably would have added a lot more flavor too!  I'll just have to make it again sometime.

Kale or Chard Pie
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons butter, plus more as needed
About 8 large kale or chard leaves, thinly sliced (I had both kale and chard, so I used both)
1 medium onion, sliced (we were out of onion, so I used a few leeks instead)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs, like parsley, thyme, chervil, and chives
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk yogurt or sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375.

Place three of the eggs into a small saucepan and fill with cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover with a lid.  Let sit for about 9 minutes, then plunge into running cold water for a minute, dry carefully, and refrigerate.

In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and kale, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the leaves are tender, but not browned.  Off heat, add the herbs, season with salt and pepper as needed.

Meanwhile, crack and peel the hard-boiled eggs, and coarsely chop.  Add to the cooked kale mixture.  Set aside to cool while you make the batter.

Combine the yogurt, mayo, and remaining three eggs.  Add the baking powder and flour.  Mix until smooth.  Lightly butter a 9x12 ceramic or glass baking dish.  Spread about half the batter in an even layer over the bottom of the pan, then evenly distribute the kale filling over that.  Spread the remaining batter over the kale.  Use your fingers or a spatula and try to make sure there are no gaps in what will eventually be the pie's top crust (I had some small gaps - it was ok).

Bake for about 45 minutes, the top will be shiny and golden brown.  Allow the pie to cool for 15 minutes before cutting into wedges.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Homemade "Yumm" Bowl featuring Cabbage Rabe

This week in our CSA we received a bunch of cabbage rabe (also may be called raab, both pronounced like 'rob').  At the end of the growing season, cabbage plants go to seed, sending up shoots of leaves with flowers at the end.  The leaves, flowers, and thin parts of the stem are all edible and nutritious.  Kale, collard greens, and broccoli all do the same thing (though not to be confused with "broccoli rabe", which does not come from the regular broccoli plant...confusing, yes?).

We sauteed our rabe in sesame oil with a little garlic and ginger, along with a few other things (kohlrabi bulb and leaves, onion, spinach, frozen peas) and made a nice little Yumm Bowl out of it.

Sauteeing the veggies, that blur in the background is Joe toasting cashews:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Clean out the fridge night: Minestrone

Not a lot to say about this one; the title is pretty self-explanatory.  I had fun with this soup though, I kept thinking of more things to add as I cooked, which made me feel very spontaneous... even though everything I added was a direct recommendation from Bittman.

He recommends using a mix of hard and soft vegetables for optimum results.  For the hard vegetables, I used a carnival acorn squash from the CSA and I bought a huge turnip.  For the soft vegetables, I used all the kale from the CSA.  

I also threw in the last of a bag of brown rice (not even 1/2 cup) and the last of some arborio rice (1/4 cup).  I also cut the rind off our Parmesan cheese, chopped it up, and added that in with the hard vegetables (it gets really soft and chewy by the end, a very good idea if you have it).  I also added some canned kidney beans.     

I made a double batch...have you ever seen so much soup?!?  I was sorta afraid to bring it to a boil. 

Plenty of leftovers!

adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4-6 (can be doubled)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/2 to 2 cups hard vegetables (potatoes, winter squash, parsnips, turnips, peeled if necessary and cut into smaller than 1/2-inch dice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups vegetable stock, broth, or water
1 cup cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato (canned is fine, include the juice)
1 1/2 to 2 cups soft vegetables, like green beans, cooked dried beans, zucchini or summer squash, or dark, leafy greens like kale or collards, peeled if necessary and cut into smaller than 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

In a large, deep saucepan or pot, add 3 tablespoons oil and heat over medium.  Add the carrot, onion, and celery and cook, stirring, until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the hard vegetables to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, the add the stock and tomato (if you want to add rice and/or Parmesan rind, now's the time!).  Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat and let the soup bubble gently.  Stir every once in awhile as it cooks, letting the vegetables soften and the tomatoes break apart (this should take about 15 minutes).

Add the soft vegetables and parsley (and cooked beans, if using) and increase the heat to get the mixture up to a simmer.  Cook for another 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, add the remaining olive oil (1 tablespoon), ladle into bowls and top with grated Parmesan.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mixed Greens with Roasted Vegetables and Goat Cheese

I started to become interested in cooking around the time I graduated from college, which was about 5 years ago.  Since then I've accumulated PILES of recipe cut-outs from various magazines.  I have subscribed to everything from Kraft Food and Family to Gourmet.  Most of the clippings are sorted nicely into files, but I've probably only gotten around to cooking about 10% of them.

I pulled out one randomly this week, from a 2005 issue of Fitness Magazine.  I think I cut it out back then because not only was the salad eye-catching - with the purple beets and bright orange carrots on a bed of green lettuce - but also it was the kind of food I aspired to cook, though at the time the idea of cooking with something as foreign as beets was too daunting.  For me, beets were just those shredded things in a long line of salad bar ingredients at Ruby Tuesday.  Sometimes I dared to put a small spoonful on my plate, but I made sure to smother them with dressing so I wouldn't taste them.

Now, after receiving them in various CSA boxes, I've learned how to cook them, and learned how tasty they are, especially roasted!

Even if you don't want to make this exact salad, you HAVE to make this dressing sometime.  It was incredible.  It's better than any bottled cranberry vinaigrette you've ever had.  I bought some goat cheese that had honey in it to go along with the honey in the dressing.  Since the salad is warm, it melts the goat cheese a bit, making it really soft and creamy which really compliments the tangy sweet dressing.  So good.

Mixed Greens with Roasted Vegetables and Goat Cheese
adapted from Fitness Magazine, September 2005
Serves 4

2 large beets
8 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 onions, peeled and cut into 8 wedges (16 total)
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups mixed greens
2 ounces goat cheese

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Wrap the beets with foil, place in a roasting pan and roast for 30-40 minutes.  Put the carrots and onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons oil, the thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Add to the roasting pan with the beets.    Roast all the vegetables for 20 minutes more, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar, honey, and mustard in the vinegar over medium-low heat.  Add the cranberries and let simmer for 5 minutes.  Whisk in the salt, pepper, and oil and remove from heat.

When the vegetables are done, (you should be able to poke through the beets with a fork fairly easily) remove the foil from the beets and let cool slightly.  Or not.  I used tongs to hold the steaming beets while I peeled them with a knife.  It was too frustrating to use my vegetable peeler since I don't have a very sharp one.  But anyway, peel them somehow and cut them into 1-inch pieces.

Divide the lettuce among your plates, and pile the beets and the other vegetables on top.  Drizzle with the dressing, then add the crumbled goat cheese.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

First of all, I forgot to set my camera to macro that night, so this picture is not my favorite.

Second of all, if you ever happen to have leftover mashed potatoes like I did this week, I highly recommend that you use them to make this recipe.  I got it out of Natural Home, a magazine that my friend Amy works for as an editor.  

Not only did I get a great new recipe for Shepherd's Pie from this issue, but I also learned that if you mix 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar with 1/2 cup water and bring it to a rolling boil in your microwave, it will get rid of odors and loosen those stubborn baked-on bits of food so you can easily wipe the inside clean!  I haven't actually tried it yet but I'm excited!

Back to the meal;  I used a lot of variations in this recipe, only because I wanted to use what I had on hand already, but I think it's one of those recipes where there is a lot of wiggle room.  I didn't make the collard greens that it called for, because my mashed potatoes were already flecked with kale.  I used extra lean ground beef instead of turkey, and 2% milk instead of half-n-half.  Instead of chicken stock, I used mushroom broth, which smelled so unbelievably earthy and fantastic.  I think it paired perfectly with the beef.  I had frozen mixed veggies so I used those instead of just peas.  I love sweet potatoes so I want to try this again and use those (especially with the caramelized onions that get mixed in!), but I had white mashed potatoes already, as previously mentioned.

It sounds like a long list of ingredients and there are a lot of steps, but I have to say that in the end it is really worth it.  What might make it more approachable if you were short on time would be to make the potatoes (the topping) one night for a side dish, and save the rest to make this another night (you would just have less potatoes to spread over the filling).

Southern Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Natural Home
Serves 6-8

2 leeks, washed and sliced, white parts plus two inches of the green parts
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup collard greens
2 tablespoons mild olive oil
2 pounds ground white turkey meat
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste (I use one of those squeeze tubes and it keeps in the fridge for a loooong time)  
1/4 cup half-n-half
1/2 cup beer (I used Full Moon Winter Ale)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
5 pieces of fresh thyme
1 cup butterpeas, cooked

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 large, sweet onions, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
Olive oil (vegetable oil might be more economical, since you need quite a bit)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup half-n-half

Preparing the filling: 

Start a pot of water boiling so you can blanch or lightly steam the collard greens.  When they are tender, roughly chop and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pan over low heat, melt two tablespoons of butter and saute the leeks until they are tender but not browning.  Set aside with the collard greens.  

Wipe out the pan you just used to saute the leeks.  Heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat, add the meat, stirring often to break it up.  Cook until browned.  Add the salt, Tabasco, flour, and tomato paste.  Stir it all together and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the half-n-half, cook, stirring, for another minute.  Add the beer, stock, soy sauce, and thyme.  Simmer over moderate heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened.  Stir often.

Off heat, stir in the peas, leeks, and collard greens.  Taste and season with salt and more Tabasco as needed.  Spoon the mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish.

Preparing the topping:

In a large pot, add the potatoes and salt, add water to cover by several inches.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let them cook for about 20 minutes, or until fork-tender.  Drain potatoes and return them to the pot.

In a large pan, add enough oil so it about an inch deep.  Heat until hot, but not smoking, then reduce to medium-low and add the onions.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often, until the onions are very soft and deep brown (you want basically caramelized onions in the end).  

Back to the potatoes - mash them in the pot and add the butter, half-n-half, and the onions.  Taste and add salt if necessary.

Put it all together:

Use a spatula to spread the potatoes over the filling.  Bake at 375 F for 25-35 minutes.  Drink the rest of your beer while you wait.  It's done when the topping is bubbling furiously.  

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

This recipe was inspired by my fabulous friend Sarah.  She told me that when she roasts cauliflower, she sometimes slices the whole thing into planks rather than breaking it up into florets.  It helps them to cook evenly and it creates a nice presentation.  I was planning on making roasted cauliflower that night anyway, so I tried it!

I had a fairly small head of cauliflower this time, so I only got about 3 good slices out of it.  But if you had a larger one, you would probably be able to get at least 4.  The end slices will probably fall apart, that's ok, just roast them with the others anyway.

We rounded out the meal with a green salad with Yumm sauce dressing, and a couple of bread sticks with leftover pizza sauce.  Kind of a random mix, but it works for us!

Roasted Cauliflower
inspired by Sarah
Serves 4-6

1 large head of cauliflower
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons mixed fresh minced herbs (optional)
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup (or more) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Slice the cauliflower lengthwise into planks about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.  Lay them onto a cookie sheet lined with foil, along with any end pieces that might have fallen apart.  Drizzle with the oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the herbs.

Roast for about 20-25 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to flip the planks.  When they look tender and are browning nicely, sprinkle with the bread crumbs and grated cheese.  Roast for another 5 or so minutes until the cheese is bubbling slightly and the bread crumbs look toasted.  

Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon with Kailkenny

This salmon recipe will always have a special place in my heart, because it was what Joe cooked for me on the night he proposed (September 24, 2008 - I thought we were just going to be celebrating our 4 year anniversary).

I think maple syrup and soy sauce are a great pairing; together they create the perfect blend of sweet and salty flavors to compliment the salmon.  It would probably also be a good topping for chicken, pork, tofu, or even just vegetables and rice.

The side dish was inspired from a cookbook I picked up for 50 cents at the local library book sale a week or so ago called Gourmet's America (as in Gourmet Magazine).  The book is divided up by regions of the U.S., with each section featuring recipes that are traditional to that area.  I chose a recipe from the Mid-Atlantic region called Kailkenny, which is essentially mashed potatoes with kale mixed in.  Other versions I found on the internet used cabbage instead of kale.

Cuisine in the mid-Atlantic (so that would include Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, District of Columbia, Virginia, and West Virginia) has been influenced by a plethora of ethnic groups, since Ellis Island was the main arrival point for immigrants in the 1800's.  Some states also lie below the Mason-Dixon line (i.e., generally considered to be the boundary between the Northern and Southern United States, so there is also a strong southern influence in some of the cuisine as well.

We liked the Kailkenny alot!  The sauteed onions in butter really added a lot of flavor, and I loved sneaking in some healthy kale to an otherwise plain starch.  What I didn't notice before I started making the Kailkenny was that it made enough for 8 servings!  What was I supposed do with all those leftover mashed potatoes?!  Answer: Shepard's Pie!  That recipe to follow in a day or two!

Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon
Serves 4

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each), 1 1/4 inches thick
Salt and Pepper
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

Make sure you have an oven rack set to the upper-middle position, and preheat the oven to 500 F.

Combine the maple syrup and soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Cook until the mixture has reduced to about 1/2 cup and looks syrupy, about 4-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, look over the salmon and remove any pin bones (Joe did this by running his fingers over the salmon feeling for little bumps, which indicate a pin bone.  They can be removed with needle-nose pliers or tweezers).  Pat the salmon dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.  Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Place the salmon into the dish, skin side down, spaced at least 1 inch apart.  Bake for 5 minutes.

Use a pastry brush to spread a generous layer of the maple-soy glaze over all visible surfaces of the salmon.  Bake for about 5 more minutes, or until the fish has turned from translucent to opaque (we used a fork to flake open the fillet a bit).

Before serving, brush the fillets with more glaze and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Kailkenny (Kale and Mashed Potatoes)
adapted from Gourmet's America
Serves 8 (just make half if you don't want leftovers)

1 pound kale, stemmed and washed well
1 1/2 cups minced onion
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (don't freak out, remember this serves 8!)
2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes
1/4 cup scalded milk if desired (I didn't feel like looking up what "scalded" actually meant, but I figured it was just basically warm milk, so I just microwaved it to warm it up a bit)

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the kale.  

While you are waiting for that, peel and quarter the potatoes, and place them into a large saucepan.  Cover with water by about two inches and bring that to a boil.  Once the potatoes are boiling, reduce the heat and let those simmer, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes.  

Once the water for the kale is boiling, add the kale and cook over moderately high heat until tender, about 5 minutes.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the kale into a colander.  Use a spatula to press out the excess liquid, or use a salad spinner.  Chop coarsely and set aside.

Saute the onion in the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring, until softened.  Add the kale, season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, for about a minute.  

When the potatoes are tender, drain.  At this point, the recipes instructs you to run them through a food mill or ricer into the saucepan.  I don't have either of these things, but I do just fine with my potato masher, (it's even Nylon so it won't damage nonstick surfaces) so I just added the potatoes back to the pot and mashed away until they were nice and smooth.  Mix in the reserved cooking liquid, the milk if using, and season with salt and pepper (we needed to add quite a bit of salt, just keep tasting and adding until you get it right).  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Grits Gratin with Arugula, White Beans, and Garlic

Last week, when we made the Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo, I went out to the store to try to find another kind of sherry.  We only had really dry sherry, and Mark Bittman explicitly said not to use dry sherry for that recipe, but to use a sweeter one (Amontillado, or Oloroso were the two he suggested, but I couldn't remember those names at the store of course).  Well, I came home with a bottle, only to be dismayed when Joe pointed out that I had purchased a very nice bottle of sherry VINEGAR.  Crap.  I wasn't even in the right part of the store.

In the end, we used the dry stuff in the Chickpea recipe and it turned out just fine.  I picked a recipe this week that specifically called for sherry vinegar - since I bought such a nice one, might as well make the most of it!

First, you need to make Polenta, so that's the first recipe.  Next, combine your polenta with garlic, white beans, and arugula (or spinach, if you are like me and can never find arugula when you need it, but see it all the time when you don't!) and you'll get a really warm and yummy meal!

Grilled or Fried Polenta
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4

1/2 cup milk, preferably whole
1 cup coarse cornmeal

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, two cups of water, and a large pinch of salt.  Once it is just boiling, slowly pour in the polenta while whisking to break up clumps.  Turn the heat down to low, simmer, whisking often, for about 10-15 minutes or until thick.  Add more water if the mixture becomes too thick.  When it's done it should taste soft and smooth (not crumbly), and be the consistency of thick oatmeal.  Pour into a loaf pan and smooth out the surface as best as you can.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes (he says it can sit there all day, so that gives you an idea of how far in advance you can make this).

Grits Gratin with Arugula, White Beans, and Garlic
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cups arugula leaves (our store didn't have any, so we used spinach)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked white beans
2 tablespoons balsamic or sherry vinegar
1 recipe Polenta, made with grits and molded according to Grilled or Fried Polenta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Lightly oil a shallow 2-quart gratin dish or oblong baking pan (we had to use a 2 qt. square baking pan because that's all we had).

In a large, deep skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and starting to color.  Turn off the heat.  Add the arugula, beans, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir gently a couple of times.  Spread the contents of the pan onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Drizzle with the vinegar.

Turn the grits out of the pan and slice into 1/2 inch slices (I had to clean the knife off halfway through, it got all gummed up with grits).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.  Carefully lay them on top of the arugula, overlapping if necessary.  Drizzle with the remaining two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.  Serve with lots of black pepper.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lamb Chops w/ Mint Yogurt Sauce and Soy Sesame Wax Beans

I've started making my own yogurt each week, so I wanted to make a dinner that included a yogurt sauce of some sort.  This one was really simple and yummy, and it allowed me to do a major harvest of the mint in my Aerogarden.  Does anyone have a favorite sauce they make out of yogurt, perhaps for Indian or Greek style meals?

I think this was my first time cooking lamb chops.  They were nice and tender, and I felt good about buying them because they were local, grass-fed, and free-range.  I heart my Co-op!  They even provided a brochure of the farm right by the meat case so I can verify for myself (dear Trader Joe's, as awesome as your prices are, you are lacking in that department!  I am more than willing to pay more for local meat and shop at a grocer who freely discloses where and how it was raised!)

The main recipe for the lamb chop yogurt sauce was from Epicurious, but the rub and cooking method I used for the chops came from a comment that someone posted for that recipe.  I liked how the cooling, tangy flavors of the yogurt mixed with the juices of the meat and the spices of the rub as I was eating it.

To go with the chops I made Robin Miller's Soy Sesame Green Beans with Ginger.  In her cookbook (and TV show, if it's still on the Food Network?  I don't have cable anymore) she focuses on prepping ingredients on the weekend when you might have more time, such as cooking all the pasta for the week or cooking enough pork tenderloin for several meals.  There are a lot of helpful time-saving tips like that throughout the book, and she is very health conscious.

Anyway, in this recipe you can use fresh or frozen green beans, and it just so happened that we had one bag left of the beans we froze from our summer CSA!  They were actually wax beans, which are yellow, but you treat them just like green beans and to me they taste the same.

We also made some super lazy and quick sourdough toast.  While you toast the slices in the toaster, peel a clove of garlic and cut it in half.  Rub the toasted bread with the garlic, then butter the toast as you normally would.  Sprinkle with some grated Parmesan, and it will melt while you finish getting dinner together.

Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce
adapted from Epicurious
Serves 2 (just double the recipe if cooking for more people)

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2-4 1-inch thick rib lamb chops (I say 2-4 in case they are small.  The package I bought looked like two reasonably sized chops until I opened it, and it was actually 4 small ones)  
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon each of Paprika, Cumin, Salt, and Pepper

Preheat oven to broil.

Combine the mint, yogurt, garlic, and lemon juice in a bowl.  Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Combine the paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Press the rub onto both sides of the chops.  Drizzle a foil wrapped baking pan with the oil, and rub the chops with the oil on both sides.

Broil, about 3 minutes per side, until it's cooked to your liking.  For us, it was done when our probe thermometer measured 160 F in the center.  Just a touch of pink in the center and still nice and tender.  Not that I've ever had lamb chops any other way, because like I said earlier, this is my first time cooking with lamb.

Let the chops rest for about 5 minutes before serving.  Top with yogurt sauce, and pass the extra at the table.

Soy-Sesame Green Beans with Ginger
adapted from Robin Miller's Quick Fix Meals
Serves 4

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil (or substitute sesame oil, canola, or vegetable oil if that's what you have, but toasted sesame oil is a good investment; buy the smallest amount you can so it doesn't spoil before you use it all)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 cups fresh or one 10-ounce package frozen green beans (no need to thaw)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup reduced sodium vegetable or chicken broth (I like to use bouillon cubes for making up small amounts of broth like this)
2 tablespoons soy sauce, reduced sodium if you like
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  (Note: If using jarred ginger like we did, seriously consider patting it dry between paper towels if it looks very liquidy.  We had a serious spatter problem when we added it to the pan)  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute.  Add the green beans and cook for about two minutes, stirring often.  She has you add the sesame seeds here too, wanting them to toast, but our pan had a lot of liquid in it from the frozen beans and/or the ginger, so they didn't really toast at all.  I think it would be better to toast the sesame seeds separately in a dry skillet and stir them in at the end.

Add the broth and soy sauce and cook for another couple of minutes, until the beans are crisp-tender.  Stir in the sesame seeds, if you toasted them separately.  Season with salt and pepper.

The straw that broke the pizza stone

We actually made this on Sunday, I'm a little behind on blogging.

Usually we order pizza as a treat or because we've lost all motivation to cook for ourselves.  But pizza is a typically a huge splurge when you're trying to watch what you eat, so we don't do that very often anymore (I'm better than I used to be though, I used to pig out and eat about four slices, with pepperoni the primary topping).  Now if we pick it up from Papa Murphy's, our usual place, we often order the Delite pizza with just cheese and pineapple, and add our own turkey pepperoni at home before we bake it.  We also have a salad with it.)

However, we have since learned that it can be incredibly satisfying to make our own pizza from scratch, and a whole lot healthier too because we have complete control over all the toppings!  I think everyone should try it at least once.  Also...get a pizza stone!  It makes all the difference.  It creates a cooking atmosphere that is more like a stone oven.  The pizza stone helps to keep the oven very hot, and keeps the temperature from fluctuating, which results in a crisp crust.

Upon removing our delicious pizza from the oven, we realized that our pizza stone of about 3 years finally kicked the bucket.  It had cracked completely in half.  Actually, we will probably keep using it until we get around to buying a new one, it just stores more compactly now than it used to. :-)      

This time we chose a thin crust pizza recipe out of the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.  It's actually used for making "Pizza Margherita", but we wanted to just make the dough and top with other things, so we just ignored the other steps.  We already had some whole wheat flour and whole wheat pastry flour that we had ground ourselves at the Co-op so we used those instead of the flours they called for.  I'm no expert on whether these were equivalent substitutions or not, but we were happy with our crust so I would say they worked fine.  

For the pizza sauce, we used the "Quick Pizza Sauce" recipe from the same book. It was basically can of crushed tomatoes that you dressed up with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

We topped the pizza with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, kalamata olives and roasted red peppers.  After it baked, we sprinkled it with thinly sliced basil and sorrel (a new item in the CSA that I'd never heard of before, it's a leafy green but usually considered more of an herb, so I'm guessing that means you should use it sparingly).  You add the herbs after the pizza has baked to preserve their flavor.  I'm trying to add fewer toppings to pizza than I used to, because I read that if you add too many ingredients, the flavors will blur each other out.  You'll get a more flavorful pizza if you stick to just a couple of ingredients.  

This recipe makes two 12-inch pizzas, so we were all set for lunches for the next couple of days!   

To make the dough:

In your food processor (fitted with a dough blade if possible), pulse together 1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour (or whole wheat flour), 1 cup cake flour (or pastry flour), 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, and 1 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise yeast.  Keep the processor running, and slowly pour 1 cup warm water (110 F) through the feed tube until a rough ball forms, which should take about 30-40 seconds.

Let the dough rest for about 2 minutes, the process for 30 more seconds.  If at this time the dough is still sticky and clinging to the side of the bowl, add up to 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed, pulsing to combine.  Joe says he didn't need to add any more flour (I should probably add that I was actually at the store while he was making this dough).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter top and form it into a smooth, tight ball.  Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside.  Cover with plastic wrap and put the bowl in a warm place.  Take a good look at it now because you are going to let it rise until it doubled in size, so try to get an idea of what that will look like.  It will take 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Go relax, play a board game, or get some chores done in the meantime.  

When the dough looks about the right size, make sure your oven rack is in the lower-middle position and place the pizza stone on the rack.  Preheat the oven to 500 F.  Let the stone heat in the oven for 30 minutes (up to an hour at most).  If you don't own a pizza stone yet, you can substitute a rimless baking sheet, or a regular baking sheet flipped upside down.  Preheat in the same manner as the pizza stone.

To make the sauce:

Saute two minced garlic cloves in two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  When the garlic is sizzling and smells awesome (about 1 1/2 minutes), stir in one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  

By the way, I think it's funny that this recipe makes enough sauce for three large pizzas, but the dough recipe only makes two pizzas.  So, after making your two pizzas tonight, you could either keep this cycle going and make more dough, and then make more sauce, OR you could just use the leftovers as a dipping sauce for soft garlic bread sticks on another night.  The sauce keeps for up to four days refrigerated.

To assemble the pizza:  

Line a rimless (or inverted) baking sheet with parchment paper.  This is what you will prepare pizza on, and the parchment will help you transfer it into the oven.  If you have a pizza paddle, you should use that instead of the baking sheet.  We have one that came with our pizza stone.

In the bowl, divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Leave one half in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and turn the other piece out onto a lightly floured counter top.  Press and roll the dough into a 12-inch round (it doesn't have to be perfectly round).  Carefully transfer the dough onto the piece of parchment paper you laid out earlier.  Reshape as needed.  

Lightly brush the outer 1/2 inch edge of the dough with oil.  Spread about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce over the pizza, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge.  Top with whatever cheese and other toppings you want.  Slide the parchment and pizza onto the hot pizza stone.  Bake for 7-8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted/golden, and the crust edges have browned a bit (while the first pizza is baking, prepare the other one).  

To remove the pizza from the oven, slide the parchment and pizza back onto the baking sheet or pizza paddle.  Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, discarding the parchment.  Sprinkle with herbs, if using.  Let the stone reheat for about 5 minutes before starting the second pizza.  Slice and serve hot.  

Fun Memory: when my sister and I were kids, my dad would sometimes cut the pizza into weird, unconventional shapes for us, rather than the usual pie slices.  We got the biggest kick out of that, I think because kids love seeing adults "break the rules" and be goofy.      
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