Apples! And watermelon! And a distended belly! (and lots of adorable pictures)

This is such a weird time of year. It’s technically autumn, but the leaves haven’t yet turned and it’s warm and muggy most days. Our watermelons finally became ripe and ready, and yet it’s apple picking time. I find myself wanting to wear wool and hoodies, yet I’m still getting mosquito bites regularly. In fact, I can hardly focus on writing this post because of the brand new bite on my left arm. I find myself mentally drafting letters like these:

“Dear Mosquito: you’re welcome to drink a bit of my blood. But why, oh why, do you have to inject poison, too? I’m happy to share, but when you hurt me in return, I feel sad because I’m needing itch-free skin. Let’s work this out. Best, Rachel”

Yesterday, my boys and I enjoyed a couple of lazy hours in the orchards of Wickham’s Fruit Farm, courtesy of our friend Amy. (Thank you, Amy!) What fun! My only regret was that we did not make it back from the orchards in time to sample the homemade donuts and hot apple cider. (The boys and I mourned this the whole 15 minute drive back home.)

Here are some pictures of the happy time:

The first apple, picked by an overjoyed Aidan.

 

we spent some time contemplating how this apple had become an ant-home. very cool.
and no outing is complete without the obligatory chase-and-tackle of Mom.
Tasting was encouraged, but Graeme took things overboard.
He lifted up his shirt to demonstrate how full his tummy was.

And we asked, “Graeme! How many apples did you eat?!” His proud reply?

“Three!”

(“The toilet is going to be aching tomorrow,” he said.)

I swear, I cannot make this stuff up.

And then, our grief over the Dearth of Donuts was assuaged by our very own watermelon:

And there you have it! A perfectly mixed-up seasonal day.

 

 

 

 

How We Make Pizza Dough

We love our NY pizzeria pizza, but homemade pizza makes all kinds of sense. First, it’s inexpensive. Second, you can top it just the way you like it. Third, it’s fun.

I’ve used various recipes for pizza doughs over the years, and many have worked well, but my favorite way to make pizza is with the recipe for pita bread from the Moosewood Cookbook.

This is how to make it:

Dissolve in 1 cup warm (about 110 degrees F) water:

1 and 1/2 teaspoons yeast

1 Tablespoon honey

Sift together separately:

1 teaspoon salt

about 3 1/2 cups of flour (or 3 and 1/4 c. flour + 1/4 c. vital wheat gluten)

Gradually add flour mixture to the wet mixture, and knead well until very smooth. (I let this ancient MixMaster fitted with kneading hooks do the work, but, sadly, it died shortly after.)

{Don’t be fooled by the bottle of olive oil in the background. This recipe doesn’t call for oil.}

Divide the well-kneaded and smooth dough into two smooth balls, cover bowl with a damp cloth or with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled.

When the dough has nearly doubled, preheat your oven as high as it goes. (Mine goes to 500F.) Put a baking stone on the lowest oven rack to preheat as well.

Cut each half into three roughly equal pieces (6 pieces total) and roll each piece gently into a ball. Cover gently with a wet cloth and let rest 10 minutes.

Gently, working with one ball at a time, roll each into an approximate 10″ round, using additional flour if necessary to keep dough from sticking. Place on a flat smooth surface well-dusted with cornmeal or flour–you’re going to slip it off THAT surface onto the hot baking stone. (Yes, it’s a pain in the neck, but it’s doable.)

Top however you like; and slip onto hot stone. Bake 7-10 minutes–or until it looks done, and allow to cool a bit on a wire rack. Repeat with each dough ball. (You can freeze some of the dough for another time.)

Dollops of fresh pesto, fresh ricotta, and halved cherry tomatoes with a bit of mozzarella (no sauce). Yum! Done right (and I do not always do it right, alas) this is THE closest a homemade pizza comes to tasting like a real NY slice.

Enjoy the weekend!

Sunday Recipe (On Monday): Eggplant Dip

This week’s recipe is super-simple and totally delicious. I made fresh pita to go with it, but it would also be great with purchased pita, naan bread, or even bagel chips.

Preheat oven to 450F.

{you don’t need to cut everything neatly, since it’s going to be almost-puree anyway. if you’re using Japanese eggplants, like I did, just leave the skin on–it’s quite tender.}

Toss all of the following together in a large roasting pan:

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (or 1/4 cup fresh seeded and diced tomatoes)

Roast for 45-65 minutes, or until the vegetables are fragrant and caramelized. Cool slightly before pulsing in food processor to your desired level of chunkiness.

(We had a lot of eggplants and peppers, so I doubled the recipe and put what we didn’t eat immediately into 1/2 pint jam jars to freeze.)

{if you’re going to do the same, remember to leave 1/2″ of space at the top of the jar to allow for the expansion that comes with freezing!}

{small white bowl to the far right has the eggplant dip. my son, trying his best to look fierce.}

Delicious as an appetizer to Middle-Eastern inspired dishes. Yum!

 

Sunday Recipe: Ratatouille, Like the Movie

Chef Thomas Keller created this special version of ratatouille when he consulted with Pixar studios on the film Ratatouille. I shamelessly capitalized on the appeal of the rat-chef, Remy, to get my 5 year old to eat lots of vegetables by cooking ratatouille in a much-simplified version of Keller’s recipe so that it would look like the dish in the film.

(Just so we’re clear, I’m not recommending the film for young viewers. My young boy knew about Remy from a library book he found that was a movie tie-in—it’s got some really scary sequences.)

{Of course, this dish is best with very fresh, seasonal vegetables. And right now’s the season here in the northeast US!}

For the sauce (piperade)–

1 and ½ peppers (red, yellow, orange, or purple, seeded, ribbed, and chopped finely)
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. minced garlic.
1 sprig each of thyme and parsley (or pinch each of the dried herbs)
1 bay leaf

Cook all slowly over medium heat in

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until the onions are beginning to caramelize; then add 3 finely chopped tomatoes

Cook down for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste, the spread the sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish (about a 9” by 13” size), reserving about 1 tablespoon of the sauce.

Slice into very thin rounds (you may want to try and select vegetables of similar diameter—this is for visual appeal only.

1 long zucchini
1 Japanese (skinny!) eggplant
1 yellow squash similar in diameter and length to the zucchini
4 Roma tomatoes (or other dense, smallish tomatoes; I used Amish Paste)

Arrange the vegetables in the pan on top of the sauce, alternating 1 slice of zucchini, 1 slice eggplant, 1 slice yellow squash, 1 slice tomato—repeat, going back and forth or around and around in the dish, overlapping the vegetables so that each just peeks out behind the other. Don’t be too anxious about this part! Just do the best you can to layer the vegetables evenly.

see? mine's not perfect-looking. It was still really delicious, though.

Bake, covered with a lid or with foil, in a pre-heated 275 degree oven for 2 hours, then uncover and bake 30 minutes more. There should not be much liquid in the pan after the last 30 minutes of baking; if there is, put it on the stove on low heat to reduce the liquid. (This long, slow baking really develops the flavor of the vegetables and gives them a great texture.)

Meanwhile, combine the tablespoon of reserved sauce with:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Some fresh herbs (like chervil, thyme, basil, or parsley), minced

Season with Salt and Pepper to taste, and use as a vinagrette drizzle over the warm ratatouille. Couscous, quinoa cooked in broth, or plain steamed rice is delicious alongside; a fresh baguette would also be delicious!

Enjoy, folks!

Beets! Beets! Beets!

We’ve been a little serious around here what with two days of posts (here and here) on body image stuff, so I think it’s time for something more fun.

Like cake.

I don’t make desserts for every day meals. And I generally don’t bake cakes in the summertime. But you know? Some days, you just feel like having some cake.

On this day, I was harvesting beets to make room for the very enthusiastically reproducing strawberry plants. My son and husband were helping me:

{he's not faking that enthusiasm for the beet, either.}
{my dear husband, the real gardener in the relationship}

So, earlier in the summer, I’d pulled a few beets and grated them, raw, into lettuce salads, where they mingled beautifully with the vinaigrette and brought some lively color and flavor to our (seemingly) endless bowls of leafy greens. You can make a beet salad that’s mostly just, well, beets, but I just wasn’t feelin’ it.

I spent several hours with the beets, boiling them, slipping their skins off cutting them up to put in the freezer, and when I was done, my fingers were stained brownish and I was tired of looking at beets qua beets, so I did something really fun:

I pureed them in the food processor with some applesauce, added sugar, sour cream, some eggs, some vanilla, some flour, some cocoa powder, and some baking soda and made the most beautiful red-tinted cake batter–

And that, of course, turned into this: And we’re back to where we started.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, beets are good for you, blah, blah, blah, antioxidants and phytochemicals and fiber AND–THEY TASTE AMAZING IN CHOCOLATE CAKE, which is the best part:

“Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than it is useful.” (Robert Farrar Capon)

{Hoping YOUR day has some unnecessary goodness in it, too!}