Seattle products make a pizza that’s hard to top

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I’ve been attending a lecture series on animals by Seattle Arts and Lectures. During one of the lectures, the speaker discussed the farming industry and mentioned that the rate at which humans consume meat simply isn’t sustainable as the population continues to grow. He mentioned finding alternate products, such as items made by Field Roast, a Seattle-based company that makes meat-like products out of grains and vegetables as a protein alternative. On my next trip to the store, I spotted some Field Roast sausage on the shelf, so I picked it up to try it. I’ve never liked regular sausage—mostly because of the texture—but this appeared to be a little different. I broke one of the links up and added it to a scramble the next day. It was really good.

I still had a link left when I got a craving for pizza last night. I didn’t want to wait too long for pizza dough to rise properly, so I opened up my Smitten Kitchen cookbook to the recipe for Rushed Pizza Dough and got to work.

As the dough was rising, I looked through my fridge for more toppings and found some locally made goat cheese and some Beecher’s Smoked Flagship cheese. I thought they’d help tone down the spiciness of the sausage a bit. I also had some fresh pesto and dill on hand to round out the flavors. It was definitely the best pizza I’ve made in recent memory, and a combination I plan on recreating.

Rushed Pizza Dough
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
Olive oil, for coating bowl

Preheat oven to warm (200-225 degrees F) for 5 minutes; then turn it off.

Pour 1/2 cup warm water into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the flour, then salt, and mix with a wooden spoon until a rough, craggy mass forms. Turn dough and any loose bits out onto lightly floured counter, and knead for 5 minutes or until a smooth, elastic dough forms.

Coat inside of mixing bowl with olive oil, place dough back in bowl, then cover with plastic wrap. Place in previously warmed oven, and let it sit for 30 minutes, or until doubled. Remove dough from oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using your hands, shape the dough into a circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Toppings
4 tablespoons pesto
1 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage
3 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces Beecher’s Smoked Flagship cheese
1 sprig of fresh dill, torn into small pieces

Spread the pesto around the shaped dough, leaving about a half inch of space between the sauce and the edges. Break apart the sausage and sprinkle onto the pizza. Do the same with the goat cheese. Grate the goat cheese over the top, and sprinkle the dill on. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned. Cut and serve.

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Beautiful black rice salad is all about texture

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I was originally going to post a soup recipe as my first entry of 2014, but something better came along. I tried a new recipe Wednesday and am still enjoying the leftovers.

I don’t often stray from more typical grains such as white or brown rice and cous cous, but when a friend moved away last year, she left behind a bag of black rice which I knew I needed to figure out how to use.

That bag of rice sat in my cupboard for about six months, up until this month’s edition of Bon Appétit arrived. In this month’s issue, some of the magazine’s staff provided recipes for dishes they cook at home. Among them was this recipe for Black and Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Squash. The accompanying photo was stunning and it included butternut squash, which I love, but most importantly it used black rice.

I wasn’t sure how much I would like this, but I really enjoyed it. The sweetness of the squash and the tartness of the red wine vinegar added delicious layers of flavor. It was even better the next day and, while it can be eaten cold, I prefer it hot.

I omitted the pomegranate seeds in the recipe because the seeds drive me crazy, though I imagine the flavor of the arils would have complemented the rest of the flavors in the dish. I also substituted sliced almonds for the pistachios, since I didn’t have pistachios; and I used curly parsley and carrot greens instead of the microgreens. The curly parsley was a bit harsh, but the carrot greens worked well.

One of my favorite things about it was the texture. The sticky rice and soft squash are balanced by crunchy nuts and rough greens. This must be the amuse-gueule, or “amusement for the mouth,” that celebrity chef Robert Irvine talked about when I interviewed him last year.

It’s not often that you find such an abundance of color, texture and flavor in one meal, but you definitely do in this rice salad. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups black rice
1/2 cup wild rice
Kosher salt
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cut into pieces
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup microgreens or sprouts
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cook black rice and wild rice in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 35-40 minutes; drain and rinse, shaking off as much water as possible. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool.

Meanwhile, toss squash with 1/4 cup oil on another baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until golden brown and tender, 20-25 minutes; let cool.

Whisk vinegar, honey, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl. Add black rice and wild rice, squash, scallions, pomegranate seeds, microgreens, and pistachios; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Broccoli bites take snacks back to basics

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I recently saw this broccoli bites recipe on Pinterest. It seemed simple enough, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a nice, basic recipe that only calls for four ingredients, which leaves plenty of room to experiment with other flavors and additions. It doesn’t require any special equipment, either. Mix it with your hands, form it into patties and bake. That’s it.

Next time I make these, I will likely use 1/2 cup of cheddar and 1/2 cup Parmesan, because I wanted more bite to them. Or, I might try a sharper cheddar — medium didn’t offer the flavorful punch I wanted.

The most difficult thing to figure out was what to serve them with. I tried sour cream, but it wasn’t quite right. So I tried a bit of mayonnaise with worcestershire, which was better; but I think ranch dressing might be the best option — I just didn’t have any on hand.

2broccolibitesFor something to snack on, these are pretty hearty and filling.

Ingredients
1 head of fresh broccoli, cut and steamed
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs
1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form small patties and place on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over patties and bake for another 10 minutes.

Let cool for up to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Experimenting with eggplant

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I never ate eggplant as a kid. Mom never made it, so for most of my life it has been somewhat of a foreign vegetable. After seeing it at the farmers market on a regular basis, I decided to purchase one and figure out what to do with it.

While browsing Pinterest a couple weeks ago, I saw a recipe for mini pizzas that used slices of zucchini for crust. I decided to see if I could do the same thing with eggplant. It seemed like a good starting point and it was. It gave me a bit of experience seeing how eggplant bakes, and I learned that it has a lot of moisture that can be cumbersome if not drained a ahead of time. I made the pizzas two ways — first in the oven and second in a frying pan. I preferred the way it came out of the oven, because it had less moisture in the end. The pizzas are simple enough to throw together on a whim, and they taste good, too. I stuck with basic toppings, but you can easily put whatever you want on them.

After getting that bit of experience under my belt, I felt ready to tackle something a little more ambitious. I had never made Eggplant Parmesan, so I decided to consult my cookbooks to see how it was done. It turns out everybody has their own version. One book called for large slices of eggplant, another called for long sticks of eggplant; one book recommended frying the eggplant in oil, and another said baking it was better because frying it made it too soggy. It sounded like each recipe had its issues, so after checking out the basic methods and ingredients, I decided to come up with my own method.

I chose to approach the eggplant like I would homemade fish sticks. I breaded it in panko, which I like because it gives foods a nice crunch, and chose to bake it in a thin layer of olive oil. It worked surprisingly well. I like a bit of heat to sauce, so the garlic and red pepper flakes took care of that. I didn’t have mozzarella, so I went with fresh Asiago I picked up at the store, and I liked how it complemented the sauce. I’m proud of how this experiment turned out, and will definitely be making this version of Eggplant Parmesan again.

eggplant2Eggplant mini pizzas
Olive oil
Sea salt
Three 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices of eggplant, drained on a paper towel for 30 to 45 minutes
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 cup grated cheese
About 12 slices of pepperoni

Put enough olive oil in the bottom of a pie pan to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with sea salt. Put the pan in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.

Once the pan is preheated, add the eggplant slices. Cook for 5 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and turn over the eggplant slices. Spoon tomato sauce onto each slice. Top with cheese and pepperoni. Put back in oven and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Eggplant Parmesan
2/3 of an eggplant, cut into 1-inch-wide sticks and drained in a colander or pan lined with paper towels for 1 hour or overnight
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup panko (or breadcrumbs)
Olive oil
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic or 1 clove fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Dash salt
3/4 cup Asiago, grated or cut into small cubes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine flour, white pepper and salt in a resealable freezer bag. Beat the egg in a pie pan and set aside.

Put five sticks of eggplant into the resealable bag with the flour mixture, seal the bag and shake to coat. Remove and repeat with the remaining eggplant, doing about five sticks at a time. Once all the eggplant has been coated with flour, dispose of any remaining flour mixture.

Put the panko in the same resealable bag. Coat each piece of eggplant in the beaten egg and set aside. Put five sticks of eggplant into the bag of panko. Seal the bag and shake to coat the eggplant. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.

Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass pan or cookie sheet. Place the panko-covered eggplant sticks in a single layer in the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until bottom of eggplant is slightly browned.

Meanwhile, combine the tomato sauce, basil, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt in a small saucepan or microwavable dish and heat until hot. Set aside.

Once the eggplant has baked for 15 minutes, turn it over and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the other side of the eggplant is slightly browned. Remove eggplant from the pan. Coat the bottom of the pan evenly with half of the sauce. Put the eggplant back in the pan in a single layer. Pour remaining sauce over eggplant. Sprinkle cheeses over eggplant and return to oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Beautiful broccoli shines in simple pasta dish

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The farmers market continues to have a variety of impossible-to-resist produce — and I keep buying it. A few weeks ago, I picked up some beautiful broccoli from one of the booths. I wanted to make those most of it, so I started looking through my cookbooks for a suitable recipe.

Since it was a weeknight after work, I wanted something I could make in 30 minutes or less. I decided to try another recipe from the “Five-ingredient Fridays” chapter of Curtis Stone’s “What’s for Dinner?” The recipe, Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts, and Basil, called for ingredients I had on hand and didn’t require a lot of cleanup. After about 20 minutes, I ended up with a hearty, delicious vegetarian dish that was great comfort food after a long day at work. The broccoli flavor really came through when paired with a simple brown butter sauce, and the pine nuts added a nice crunch that provided great contrast to the the pasta.

Though I’m not a vegetarian, sometimes it’s just nice to make something that allows vegetables to be the star of the meal. I’m looking forward to making more dinners with more finds from the farmers market.

Ingredients
13 ounces broccoli florets with 1-inch stems (about 6 cups)
1 pound orecchiette
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until bright green. Using a mesh spoon or sieve, scoop the broccoli out of the water, draining it well, and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Return the water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the orecchiette.

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and stir for about 2 minutes, or until it has turned hazelnut brown. Add the broccoli and cook, stirring often, for about 1 minute, or until hot.

Add the pasta to the broccoli mixture and stir gently to combine. Stir in the basil, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta as necessary.

Divide the pasta among four pasta bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.