May 31, 2010

Pizza with Asparagus, Fingerling Potatoes, and Goat Cheese

Sometimes, homemade is just better. Especially when it's spring/summer, and the most anticipated produce of the year -- cherries, strawberries, peas, corn, apricots and of course, asparagus -- starts making its glorious appearance into our grocery stores.

Oh yes, I could go on and on about all the sweet and juicy berries we've been stuffing our faces with lately. But first things first -- vegetables before dessert, right? Only, these vegetables are pretty darn good. And when served as a bubbling but simple white pizza (no acidity of tomato sauce to contend with), their fresh flavors really shine.

While I'd love to pinpoint the asparagus as the sole star of this lovely pie, it's really the combination of everything together that makes it so delicious. Garlic olive oil and crisp chopped scallions provide the perfect base. Tender, charred and slightly sweet asparagus contrasts the tangy goat cheese perfectly. Potatoes add a subtle richness and buttery flavor to the pie. And gooey, melted mozzarella cheese rounds out everything wonderfully.

In fact, it's so good that we actually had a couple of slices after dessert as a late night snack. Are we rebels or what? ;)

Asparagus, Fingerling Potato, and Goat Cheese Pizza
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2009 and Gourmet, July 2009

5 ounces fingerling potatoes
cornmeal (for sprinkling)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove, pressed
4 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
1 1/3 cups grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
4 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed, each spear cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces
pizza dough, homemade or store-bought
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place potatoes in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Cool. Cut potatoes into thin slices.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle rimless baking sheet with cornmeal. Roll and stretch pizza dough to 16x11-inch oval. Transfer to baking sheet. Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic in small bowl. Brush garlic oil over dough. Sprinkle 3/4 of green onions over, then mozzarella, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Top with potato slices and goat cheese. Toss asparagus and 1 tablespoon oil in medium bowl. Scatter asparagus over pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then lightly with salt and generously with pepper.

Bake pizza until crust is browned and asparagus is tender, about 18 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Sprinkle with remaining green onions. Cut into pieces.

Pizza Dough
2 (1/4-ounces) packages active dry yeast
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups warm water (105–115 degrees), divided
2 teaspoons salt

Whisk together yeast, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 cup warm water in a measuring cup and let stand until mixture develops a creamy foam, about 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Stir together salt and 3 cups flour in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture and remaining 1 1/2 cups warm water and stir until smooth, then stir in 1 cup more flour. If dough sticks to your fingers, stir in just enough flour (up to 3/4 cup), a little at a time, to make dough just come away from side of bowl. (This dough may be wetter than other pizza doughs you have made.)

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface with floured hands, lightly reflouring work surface and your hands when dough becomes too sticky, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Divide dough in half and form into 2 balls, then generously dust balls all over with flour and put each in a medium bowl. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
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May 23, 2010

Magic Bars

Got 10 minutes -- even 5?

Then you can make these magic bars. All you have to do is layer and bake 7 delicious ingredients together in a pan, and voila -- you have these incredibly rich, sweet, gooey, sticky cookie bars that are slightly reminiscent of blondies...only much more decadent from all the chocolate, butterscotch, pecan and coconut goodies piled on top. They are seriously magic, I tell ya ;)

So make these indulgent treats if it's already 10pm at night and you suddenly realize that you need something for your company's bake sale the next day, or if you're craving something sweet but are feeling just a smidge bit lazy...or if your hubby forgets to tell you that his close guy friends are flying in for the weekend until only a couple of hours before they arrive :P

PS - between the three of them, those boys killed the entire batch by Saturday night...word.

Magic Bars
Recipe adapted from the Joy of Baking

3/4 C butter, melted
2 1/4 C graham cracker crumbs (about 18 crackers)
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 C semisweet chocolate morsels
1 C butterscotch flavored chips
1 C sweetened flaked coconut
1 C chopped pecans

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Coat 13x9 inch glass baking pan with non-stick cooking spray
2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, and nuts. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over mixture.
3. Bake around 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Cut into bars or diamonds. Store covered at room temperature.
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May 11, 2010

Fluffy Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

Oh, hello -- remember me?? I used to be the girl who would cook and happily snap photos along the way, and then stop to "reflect" and blog about it afterwards. Only, something happened to me over these past couple of months...and between work, traveling and life, I decided that picking up a camera with flour-covered hands, two fryer pans madly sizzling on the burner, and a timer beeping away in the background may not be in my best interest after all!

So I did away with rushed photos and painfully composed words (yo no soy un escritor), and did what normal people do -- cook, eat, and relax. And yes, it was glorious :)

So what's up with these lemon-ricotta pancake photos and new blog post?? Well, turns out I'm borderline abnormal (surprise, surprise) because I sometimes enjoy documenting my food experiences and recipes. Especially when they are good...and this one is pretty darn good.

AC and I are not usually breakfast people, and I hadn't made pancakes in yeeaaaars -- but it was Mother's Day weekend. And even though AC's parents live in Seoul and my parents were traipsing around South Africa on's the thought that counts, right? ;)

In all honesty, we made these because we had about 3 ginormous lbs of lemons from my grandfather's meyer lemon tree that my parents had dropped off before leaving for Africa a couple of weeks ago. Half of them had already begun to spoil -- and the inner Chinese in me was definitely not going to let the rest go to waste. Plus, after walking by Bette's Oceanview Diner the other day and "bird-dogging" (as AC puts it) platefuls and platefuls of beautiful breakfast combinations, I suddenly felt inspired. So lemon-ricotta pancakes it was!

Mind you, these aren't just normal pancakes. Eggs whites that have been whipped to a meringue are then folded into a creamy ricotta mixture to create a texture that's incredibly light and fluffy. They're almost like mini souffles -- ethereal, creamy and delicate. For those looking for a perfect Mother's Day treat, these bright lemon-scented clouds won't disappoint. Just make sure to invite your mothers... :D

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Adapted from Gourmet, September 1991

4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
melted butter for brushing the griddle
maple syrup and fresh berries as an accompaniment

In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Heat a griddle over moderately high heat until it is hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200°F. oven.

Serve the pancakes with fresh berries and maple syrup.
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