September 23, 2009

Peachy Pizza

Pizza by far is my favorite meal to eat and to make. Andy and I have developed some pretty tasty topping choices over the years as well, mostly inspired by The Cheeseboard.

A couple weeks ago we had Pizza Night and made three pizzas, to eat for dinner and freeze for lunches in the upcoming week.

We're big fans of the dough Trader Joe's makes, that you can roll out yourself. They have regular, herb garlic and wheat to choose from. Before I found their dough, though, I used Acme or Semifreddi's bread (ciabatta or rustic italian style) sliced in half and open faced.

TJ's also has a variety of options for sauces, from the fresh tub of sauce, to a jar of 'pizza sauce', to canned marinara sauce. We usually go for the jar or can for economy.

The mozzarella usually comes from TJ's or Country Cheese in Berkeley. I also throw on whatever cheese I happen to have lying around (usually monterey jack). Pick your favorite flavors, as cheese is just as important as the other toppings.

My new favorite topping are peaches. I had them on pizza for the first time at Cheeseboard last month, and it was life-changing.

Toppings for a Peachy Pizza
fresh peaches sliced thin
caramelized onions
leftover grilled chicken, sliced
chopped parsley
fresh sliced tomatoes

Other Favorite Pizza Toppings
lemon zest
fresh corn kernels
sauteed mushrooms
sliced bell pepper
fresh basil
artichoke hearts
green onions

Once your pizza is assembled, cook according to directions, or until crust is crispy and cheese is melted. Remember, anything in your fridge is a good candidate for pizza. I like to think of pizza more as 'garbage pie', so don't be afraid to use your leftovers!

September 12, 2009

Spicy Black Beans with Soyrizo and Chipotle Cream

When I was growing up, my mom always used to make black beans from scratch. She'd let the dry beans soak over night and then cook them for what seemed to me like all of the next day. Her version always included sauteed onions and garlic and lots and lots of cumin. They were extremely flavorful and I liked them a lot. But, when I went to make black beans as an adult, I thought, "Why spend two days making black beans when I can just open a can of them?" Cans of black beans are inexpensive and easy to doctor up. But, they are not the same as homemade, as canned-and-processed anything rarely is.

I finally decided I should try to make my own from scratch, so I bought some dried black turtle beans from the bulk bin at the supermarket. They languished in my cupboard for months on end. Then I found a black bean recipe in Bon Appetit that really intrigued me. It had me at spicy, chorizo* and chipotle cream.

And it is as good as it sounds.

  • 1 1/2 cups dried black beans
  • 2 peeled onions; 1 halved, 1 chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-7 ounces (or more to taste) Soyrizo
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced, seeded jalapeno chile
  • 1/2 (or more to taste) ground cumin
  1. Place beans in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover by two inches. Let beans soak overnight.
  2. Drain beans. Return to saucepan. Add onion halves, bay leaf and oregano. Add enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until beans are very tender, stirring occasionally--1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on age of beans.
  3. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Discard onion halves and bay leaf.
  4. Heat oil in a heavy, large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add soyrizo, breaking it up with a soon, and cook until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer soyrizo to a small bowl.
  5. Add chopped onion to drippings in skillet (adding olive oil as necessary) and cook until soft and golden grown--about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, garlic, jalapeno and cumin. Stir 1 minute.
  6. Add beans, 3/4 cup (or more as needed) cooking liquid and soyrizo to onion mixture. Stir to distribute evenly. Simmer over medium-low heat until heated and flavors are blended--3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chipotle Cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chipotle-flavored hot pepper sauce**
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  1. Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt.
* I like the taste of Mexican chorizo, but not the fact that it's made of ground up cow salivary glands (really!) and who knows what else. Soyrizo (available at Trader Joe's) is an excellent substitute, very delicious and more healthful. (Once opened, use the package within a day or two, or it will dry out.) This recipe (without the sour cream) will also be vegan with this substitution.
** I bought a small can of chipotle chiles awhile ago--once I opened the can, I transferred the chiles and their sauce to a resealable container that I stash in the back of my fridge. Whenever I need chipotle flavoring (usually recipes only call for small amounts), I have it readily available.

September 6, 2009

Cajeta and Coconut Tres Leches Cake

This was a birthday present to a dear friend. It may seem odd, gifting food which won't last past the day it is given---but, what is better? It may be easier to grab a book or something, but that doesn't require the investment of hours of your time. And it is definitely not as satisfying as producing something with your own hands. I like to give food because it is thoughtful and personal and won't clutter up a person's house after you are done. Besides, if all goes according to plan, the memory of your gift will probably last longer than some trinket anyway.

This cake came together as a cross between techniques from my Dona Tomas cookbook, multiple online resources and my own tweaking.

The Cake
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • Dash of cinnamon
  1. Line a round cake pan with a piece of parchment, then grease the paper and sides of the pan with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs and both extracts. Beat well.
  5. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, mixing until well combined.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Turn the cake onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Remove paper.
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • A rounded 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  1. Put the milk, sugar, corn syrup and cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Whisk occasionally to prevent boiling over.
  2. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in water. Rapidly whisk the baking soda mixture into the saucepan, removing it from the heat if it looks like it will spill over.
  3. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the mixture has cooked down and turned dark brown and thick.
  4. Remove from heat and pass through a fine-mesh strainer.
The Sauce and Fillings
  • 1 1/2 pints strawberries, sliced (reserve a few unsliced for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup cajeta (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 quart heaving whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • Shredded coconut as needed
  1. In a bowl, toss the strawberries with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the cajeta, condensed milk, 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream and coconut milk. Mix well. Set aside.
  3. In another separate bowl, use an electric mixer on high to whip the 1 quart whipping cream to medium peaks. Add both extracts and the powdered sugar towards the end of the whipping process.
The Assembly
  1. Slice the cake in half crosswise with a long serrated knife. Place the bottom half on the serving plate. On a separate plate, place the top half of the cake with the cut side up. Using a tablespoon, spoon half of the milk mixture over the bottom of the cake, letting it soak in evenly and completely. (This may take awhile. I used a toothpick to prick little holes throughout the cake so the sauce would soak into the cake more readily.)
  2. Using half of the remaining milk mixture, soak the top half of the cake.
  3. Spread a 1/8 inch layer of the whipping cream evenly over the bottom half of the cake. Sprinkle a good layer of shredded coconut over the whipped cream. Arrange a layer of the strawberries on top. Sprinkle with more coconut.
  4. Cover with another layer of whipped cream, coconut, strawberries and more coconut.
  5. Finish with another thin layer of whipped cream. Carefully place the top half of the cake on top of the last whipped cream layer, cut side down.
  6. Soak the very top of the cake with the remaining milk mixture. (I had some left over, which I drizzled over the slices of cake.)
  7. Cover the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream, spreading evenly over the top and sides. Sprinkle cake with shredded coconut and decorate with whole or sliced strawberries on top.
  8. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before slicing and serving. (Refrigerate any leftovers.)
* The cake part of this recipe can be substituted with any white cake that is spongy enough to soak up the milk, but strong enough to hold up and not become too soggy. I've read online that boxed white cake mix works well and cuts down on the time involved.