Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pitza Time

Now posted on Local In Season as well!  Check it out.  

Although we don’t associate this time of year (tell me how it came to be the end of November again?) with bountiful harvests from the garden, there are still some edible gems left in the surviving vines that keep us going throughout the winter. They are the brave warriors who withstand the cold fall nights when other vegetables bow out until next season. I’m talking about winter squash of course, and they’re about to take center stage on your table during the holiday season.

If you think about it, even our favorite ways to cook winter squash remind us of their seasonality; roasted slowly in a hot oven that first warms our homes from the cold outside, and then warms our bodies once we devour the soft, sweet, and nutty roasted flesh of the squash. It comforts us as we hunker down for ski-jacket and window scraper season.

Recently though, I have been thinking about how we tend to be set in our ways on how we use winter squash. Butternut squash? Soup. Acorn squash? Stuffed. Pumpkins? Jack-o-lanterns and pie. I realized it was time for a little more culinary exploration of these cold weather combatants.

Enter the Curry Pumpkin Apple Pitza. I created this recipe one night when I wanted something different and delicious, but without requiring a large amount of time or energy. The solution? Mini pizzas made out of pitas instead of dough (hence Pit-zas…get it! gosh I love food word puns) and topping them with flavor combinations that you’re definitely not going to find at your local pizza joint. Pairing ingredients like pumpkin and apples with curry, coconut, and lime, I went around the world and back with my first taste. Now you can enjoy an exotic spin on classic fall flavors too with every bite of this pita-pizza hybrid.

Pair with a fresh green salad.

Serves 6


¾ cup pumpkin puree 

¼ cup ricotta cheese 
¾ teaspoon curry powder 
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/8 teaspoon salt

¼ cup coconut milk 
1 teaspoon lime juice 
½ teaspoon lime zest

6 whole-wheat pitas (see Tip)
1 medium apple, thinly sliced (about 1/8” thick) 
1 ½ cup grated gruyere cheese 
3 tablespoons chopped scallion


Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Set oven rack to middle position.

In a bowl combine the pumpkin, ricotta, curry powder, cayenne, cinnamon, and salt.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, lime juice, and lime zest. Set aside.
Spread pitas out on a large baking sheet and place in preheated oven. Toast pitas until slightly crisp and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes.

Remove pitas from oven. Evenly spread 2 tablespoons pumpkin mixture onto each pita, following with a single layer of apple slices, and topping with cheese. Place pitas back into the oven and cook until the cheese melts and starts to bubble, 3-5 minutes.

Remove pitzas from oven and place on serving plates. Let cool at least 5 minutes. Drizzle each pitza with 1-2 teaspoons of the coconut-lime milk and evenly top with chopped scallions. Serve immediately.

Tip: Cut a small 2-inch slit on the side of each pita so steam can escape while in the oven.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bread & Cookies

Sometimes I go through food streaks.  They come over me every once in a while, and there's no stopping once they've started.  I zone in on one type of food or dish, and I cant stop making it in every form it comes in.  Recently I've been on a baking streak, and I fear the end is not in sight.

On baking streaks I read every book on baking I have, fascinated by all of the complex processes that occur when heat meets batter.  I think that every recipe I pass over MUST be tried, as if there was no other alternative.  I MUST try it and I MUST bake it.  Or else I will NEVER know what it's like to make it or what it tastes like.  (!!!)  You can imagine the anguish.

My oven gets a workout and my kitchen becomes dominated by smells of browning sugars and butter.  Before I know it the counters are overflowing with full cooling wracks and dirty measuring cups.   I feel kind of like the Cat Lady...  But instead of cats and milk bowls all over my house, they're treats from the oven.  Maybe that just makes me the Crazy Food Lady?  Anyway, all I have to say is God bless the freezer.

My latest fixations have been Bread and Cookies.  I think that the smell of freshly baked bread is next to hallucinogenic, let alone eating a warm slice, and cookies... well, cookies are just delicious.  If you don't like cookies, I don't know if I can trust you.  That's all.

With these food streaks come marathons of photo shoots of the final products.  The other day I baked a loaf of bread and ended up with 75 photos on my once blank memory card.  What?  How did that happen?  I didnt know whether to be embarrassed or impressed.  Not many people could have 75 different visions of a loaf of bread.  We'll call it special.

The following are some of the recent recipes I've made with their respective photo shoots.  Enjoy, and seriously try these recipes out.  Theyre as delicious as they look.

Multigrain Molasses Bread

1 large loaf, 14 slices
Active Time: 
Total Time:


  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour, (see Note)
  • 1 cup bran flakes cereal, crushed into fine bits (see Tip)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon yellow or white cornmeal, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant, quick-rising or bread-machine yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water, (see Tip), plus more as needed
  • 1/3 cup mild molasses, (not blackstrap)
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil


  1. Mix dough: Thoroughly stir 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, bread flour, bran cereal, 1/3 cup oats, 1/4 cup cornmeal, salt and yeast in a 4-quart (or larger) bowl. Thoroughly whisk ice water, molasses and oil in a medium bowl. Vigorously stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. The dough should be moist and a bit sticky, but fairly stiff. If the mixture is too dry, stir in just enough additional ice water to facilitate mixing, but don’t overmoisten. If the dough is too wet, stir in just enough whole-wheat flour to stiffen slightly. Lightly coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  2. First rise: Let the dough rise at room temperature (about 70°F) for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, stir once partway through the rise. For convenience (and improved flavor), you may refrigerate the dough for 3 to 12 hours before starting the first rise.
  3. Second rise: Generously coat a 9-by-5-inch (or similar large) loaf pan with oil. Vigorously stir the dough to deflate it. If it is soft, stir in just enough whole-wheat flour to yield a firm but moist dough (it should be fairly hard to stir). Transfer the dough to the pan. Lightly coat the top with oil. Smooth and press the dough evenly into the pan using a well-oiled rubber spatula or your fingertips. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon each oats and cornmeal and pat down. Using well-oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, cut three or four 1/2-inch-deep, evenly spaced slashes diagonally in the top of the loaf. Cover the pan with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise at warm room temperature until the dough nears the plastic, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. (For an accelerated rise, see Tip.)
  5. 15 minutes before baking: Position a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 400°F.
  6. Bake, cool, slice: Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Bake the loaf on the lower rack until the top is lightly browned, 60 to 70 minutes. Continue baking, covering with foil if necessary to prevent overbrowning, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until an instant-read thermometer registers 204-206°), 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the loaf out on the rack and let cool to at least warm before serving. The loaf is good warm but slices best when cool.


  • Make Ahead Tip: Wrap airtight and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
  • Note: Milled from high-protein wheats, bread flour develops strong gluten, resulting in well-risen loaves. It helps give breads with a high percentage of whole grains better structure and a lighter texture. Find it near other flours in most supermarkets.
  • Tips: The easiest way to crush bran flakes is to put them in a small sealable plastic bag, close it tightly, then press down with a rolling pin or the palm of your hand.
  • To prepare “ice water” for this recipe, add a heaping cup of ice cubes to cold water and stir for about 30 seconds before measuring out the water.
  • You can turn your microwave into a warm, moist environment to help accelerate the second rise of the bread dough. Begin by microwaving 1/2 cup water in a 1-cup glass measure just to boiling. Set the water in one corner of the microwave, place the pan of dough on the other side of the turned-off microwave and close the door. The dough will double in size in 45 minutes to 11/2 hours.


Per serving: 163 calories; 4 g fat (0 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 275 mg sodium; 207 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Iron (15% daily value).

Homemade Oreos

Let’s talk about the sugar for a minute, shall we? This is a sweet cookie. A good, sweet cookie. Yet, if you think of an actual Oreos, the wafers are fairly un-sweet and actually on the slightly salty side, which contrasts with the super-sweetness of the filling bringing harmony, happiness, yada yada. If you want your cookie closer to that original, you can take out a full half-cup of the sugar. If you want to make the cookie by itself (as I did a while back for ice cream sandwiches), go ahead and use the full amount.
Makes 25 to 30 sandwich cookies

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar [see recipe note]
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.