Making Pizza at Home

You might know this already, but many of your favorite pizza places will sell you just the dough for cheaper than a slice. A large pizza dough from Shakespeare's is a dollar. A small can of plain tomato sauce is 45 cents or less from the grocery store (and you can cover two pies with one can). Cheese is what, $2 or $3? The whole thing cooks in 10 minutes, and this way you don’t have to tip anyone.

From there you have so many possibilities. I jazz up the sauce with garlic, herbs, red pepper flakes and red wine. We put cornmeal on the bottom of the pan, and brush the crust with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt. We go nuts with toppings. I recently made bacon, artichoke and mushroom. Continue reading “Making Pizza at Home”

Trial and Error with an Ice Cream Maker

Fun story about how I acquired my ice cream maker: bored in class one day, I decided to peruse the classified section of the Columbia Missourian, where I work for school. Well just my luck, someone happened to be selling a 4-quart electric ice cream maker for $15. It definitely seemed too good to be true, but I called the woman up, and two days later I had 15 less dollars, but endless homemade ice cream possibilities.

Scoops Ice Cream
From Scoops in LA: Blueberry Mango, Ginger, and Pistachio Ricotta

The brainstorming began. I thought of Sparky’s, the Columbia ice cream shop with flavors like Carrot Cake and Red Wine with Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips. I thought of Scoops, the Los Angeles shop where I had Strawberry Lemongrass and Banana Oreo. My mind went wild with ideas: Thai iced tea, peanut butter jelly, ginger coconut, Mexican chocolate, mojito sorbet…

I christened my ice cream maker with a 60-percent cocoa Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream. Rich and delicious, but not without some issues. First problem, it took FOR.EVER. to freeze. And then the next day it was rock hard!

Since then we’ve been reading about homemade ice cream and tried several methods. All of the flavors have been good, but the texture has been a lot of trial and a lot of error. A custard base makes the ice cream creamier, but takes awhile to do, then requires another stage of chilling. Lucky for us, our friend Kat loves standing by the stove stirring for extended periods of time.

So far the best ice creams have involved extra cream. We typically use half and half in our base because full cream would mean I’d have to get my butt to the rec center a lot more often than I do, and regular milk just wouldn’t be worth the hours of effort. But berry lemon cheesecake ice cream (with sour cream and cream cheese) and dulce de leche (made from sweetened condensed milk) have been the creamiest and didn’t involve making a custard first.

Another tip we’ve been experimenting with is the addition of alcohol to keep the ice cream from freezing so hard. It took us a while to learn that alcohol should be added late in the process, otherwise you go mad waiting for the base to even begin to freeze. Lesson learned. Now we add a shot after the base has thickened in the ice cream maker, just before we transfer it to a shallower container in the freezer.

If you have a fancier ice cream maker, you don’t have to worry about ice and salt, but to those with the bucket style like we do, these two things are critical. The first few times we didn’t use crushed ice or rock salt. Using crushed ice and de-ice-your-driveway-sized salt crystals has made all the difference because the metal canister can get much colder.

As spring approaches, I’m looking forward to many more experiments with the ice cream maker. We’re still trying to find our favorite base recipe. We haven’t tried sorbets or sherbets yet, but I like the idea of not making custard.

Anyone have any ice cream tips and tricks? I have plenty of flavor ideas.

What is that and why is it in your fridge?

I hate wasting things, especially food. I save the smallest amounts of sauces, wrap up tiny nubbins of ginger and freeze leftover shrimp tails. My roommates have to put up with a lot of random things in the communal storage areas, but it’s all for a good cause. To tell you about different uses for what would otherwise go to waste, I give you a new He Cooks, She Cooks feature: What Is That and Why Is It in Your Fridge/Freezer/Pantry?

whey

Sure, this liquid is a little greenish and smells like cheese, but it’s not sour milk. What is it and why is it in my fridge?

Continue reading “What is that and why is it in your fridge?”

Acid Redux

acids1In the Los Angeles Times food section today, editor Russ Parsons (also the author of How to Read a French Fry, which I started reading the other day) discussed the benefits of adding acids

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like vinegars to a dish.

How many times have you watched Top Chef, or something like it, and heard the judges say, “It needs more acid” and wondered what exactly that meant? “Needs more acid” used to be my go-to phrase for sounding like a food snob in jest. Then I started to read about more about cooking, and suddenly acid is no joke.

Acidity is sourness. As I mentioned the other day, The Flavor Bible talks a lot about balancing flavors, and sourness is one of those. The book says acid is only second to salt in enhancing flavors. There’s a quote from Sharon Hage, a chef at York Street in Dallas, “We have lemon juice right next to the salt when we cook. Acid is the most important aspect of how a dish tastes — whether it is there as subtle punctuation or an exclamation point!

citrus1

The LA Times article focuses on vinegars (balsamic, red wine, sherry, apple cider), but I use citrus fruits a lot. Anything Thai or Latin benefits from a squeeze of lime, as something Mediterranean or Middle Eastern will be enhanced with lemon. Oranges are a lot less harsh than their yellow and green cousins, and orange zest adds depth to desserts, like in an apple-cranberry pie.

Wine is great for awakening dishes too. White wine or sherry in a stir-fry marinade or a dry red in tomato sauce are almost critical to me now.

The point is, when something seems sorta blah, a squeeze of citrus or splash of wine or vinegar could be your redemption. The Flavor Bible tells me so.

Cook a Perfect Ribeye for Valentine’s Day

Brittany mentioned that besides chocolate of course, a perfectly cooked steak is quite romantic.  I have to agree, I don’t know if the color of the pink juicy cut of beef does it, seared just enough to give it flavor, or the little bit of crimson that flows out when you rested it 5 minutes after taking it off grill/broiler.  Personally, I think its a crime and waste of good meat to cook it anything beyond medium.  I’ve only had food poisoning twice in my life (thanks, Costa Rica) and I undercook food way too often, so I say let it be rare.

costa rica steak

So to cook a steak without a grill, first lets start with the cut.  My personal favorite is the ribeye cause in addition to all the fatty flavor you get a little piece of tenderloin on the side, its a nice surprise.  Now, I should point out that the fat in ribeye should be marbled.  If you know this already, great, if you don’t, marbling is when fat is equally dispersed throughout the muscle, like little white specks and fibers.  The more of this there is, the more it melts into the fibers of muscle when cooking, enhancing the flavor and mouthfeel (god, i love that word).

But not everyone likes ribeye, I get that.  A NY strip cut also works just fine, maybe more tender, but I feel has less flavor, and if you can’t tell, thats kinda what we’re all about here.  Also, don’t just pick up a pack of meat from the grocery store thats vaccuum sealed, or bright, food-dye red.  You want the meat to look natural, not feel slimy, it should be somewhat tacky, a natural red color (brown means it’s starting to go) and not smell foul in any way.  If you don’t live near a butcher, go to the grocery store deli at least, but I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Mizzou Meat Market.  It’s where we buy all our meat. It’s locally raised, locally slaughtered, and hung for 21 days.

Many of you are probably asking why that’s important.  First off, its respectful to cows and the environment to not have to truck the meat across the country, second, it’s promoting local food.  As for the hanging, I’m not going to go into the details, but the longer meat hangs, (preferably two weeks, but three to four is better), the better it tastes, just believe me on that.  I can almost guarantee every piece of meat you’ve bought from the grocery store has not been hung, and if it says aged “for up to” a certain number of days, it probably means aged in the packaging.  The sheer economics of it make it much cheaper to just butcher it up and not waste the time.  Hence, why we love butchers.  If you want to learn much more about all this, I also highly recommend
The River Cottage Meat Bookby Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  It’s a fantastic read and insight into the world of meat, and where I learned most of this information first.

Anyway, on to the recipe.  This is for cooking indoors, as I find it keeps the flavor of the steak natural, and gives an even distribution of searing, not charring (some people hate the taste of char, and find it bitter).  If you must cook your steak on a grill, the instructions are almost identical, you just won’t use a pan.

Continue reading “Cook a Perfect Ribeye for Valentine’s Day”