I put some of my fresh produce to good use last night -- I made pizza! I know, I've already posted about pizza twice. But there are so many ways to make it... why shouldn't I post about my ways? =)
I've done mini deep-dish pizzas, and I've made individual size grilled pizzas. This time, I made a regular old, family-size pizza. I started out with one of my new favorite recipes, "fiesta pizza" crust. I threw all the ingredients into my bread machine, set it for "dough only," and went about my business. For whatever strange reason, I was using a 1/4 cup measure to measure my flours. Call me anal, but I like the process of spooning the flour into the cup, levelling it off, and pouring it into the pan. I was pretty sure I'd put in four 1/4 cups full of bread flour, not three -- but not entirely sure. Usually I check my bread dough after 10 minutes or so to make sure it's mixing properly and the texture is good. I kinda forgot to do that yesterday, until there were only three minutes left of the mixing stage. Upon finally checking, I found a sticky mess. Guess I only put in 3/4 of a cup of bread flour, huh? Duh. I threw in another 1/4 cup with the hope that it would mix in well enough in the remaining two minutes of the cycle. Fortunately, it did, and the dough turned out great.
I got all fancy-schmancy with this pizza and actually used my pizza peel and stone (that I bought last year!) as they were intended to be used. The stone has basically just served as an oven liner since then, and I don't think I've touched the peel since I bought it. I liberally sprinkled cornmeal on the peel -- I wasn't taking any chances of that crust not coming off it! I got the dough stretched out to a size I found acceptable, and moved on to toppings. I spent a good five minutes looking for the pizza sauce I knew I had bought in the morning. I looked in the same cupboard seventeen times, searched the countertops, and even checked the grocery bags I had used. I finally resigned myself to the canned Hunt's tomato sauce I knew I had. I opened the cupboard, reached for the Hunt's, and found the sauce I was originally looking for -- right behind the peanut butter, of course. It's "Casa Visco" brand, and I really like it. It's just a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, and it's loaded with herbs. It's so much better than those big names like Ragu and Prince. After the sauce, on went the (organic!) mozzarella, a little sprinkling of (not organic, unfortunately) freshly grated parmesan, and a healthy dose of Italian seasoning. Finally, the veggies: I used some green pepper, some purple pepper, half an onion, half the tomato, and a finely sliced garlic scape. I was afraid to use any more of the scapes, because I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into. Here's how it looked just before it went into the oven:
What a masterpiece! I was so proud of myself. I was even more proud when I took it to the oven and slid it right onto the pizza stone, just like I knew what I was doing. I blasted the pizza at 475 for not quite 15 minutes, and here's what came out:
YUM! I just love those big bubbles around the edge of the crust. But who knew purple peppers turn green when they're cooked?
All in all, this was yet another successful venture. Next time, I will definitely use more garlic scapes, and I will probably roll the crust out just a tad bit thinner. Not that this one isn't really good, but everything has at least a little room for improvement... right?
Anyone who knows me knows I keep weird hours: I work Monday through Friday from 4 am to noon. This means I get up at 3 am five days a week. Needless to say, I sleep as much as possible on weekends. You know how "they" say you should try to keep the same sleep schedule all week... go to bed and get up on weekends at the same time you do during the week? Well, "they" obviously don't work the hours I work! I usually wake up around 7:30 or 8 on Saturdays & Sundays, but I'm rarely actually up and about before noon. Today was not one of those days. In a strange burst of motivation, I got up, ate breakfast, showered, went to two farmer's markets and two grocery stores, and was back home by 10. The grocery store trips were uneventful, but the farmer's markets were well worth my time.
The first one I went to is in Brewer. It's open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm. This one is hard for me to get to. If I try to go on a weekday after work, all the good stuff is gone by the time I get there. And on Saturdays, as I said, it's just hard for me to get motivated in time to get there before closing. But by God, I was there just after 9 today, and look what I got:
Beautiful onions, potatoes in three colors, green beans, a green pepper, a purple pepper, garlic scapes, and yellow cucumbers. I thought they were some kind of mutant squash until I saw the sign. They're called "Boothby Blond," and they're heirloom cukes. When I asked the woman at the stand about them, she told me that the Boothbys are a family in Livermore Falls who saved the seeds and raised the crops from way back whenever, hence the name. She said they're good for pickling, but good for eating as is, too. I will probably slice them and drizzle on a little raspberry vinegar.
I also got my first wild blueberries of the season:
There have been reports that this year's blueberry crop will be small because of the brutally cold winter we had. Fortunately, though, as I found out today, the crops that are growing aren't lacking in quality! These berries are some of the sweetest I've ever had, with just a happy little hint of tartness that makes Maine's wild blueberries so wonderful (and so famous!).
The second market of the day was the European/farmer's market in Bangor. This one is only open on Saturdays, and I just plain never think to go there. For whatever reason, I thought of it today. I'll be going more often now. It's run by a couple who also run a greenhouse and "Ingrid's German Gift Shop." My friend from Germany who used to live here visited this shop and market faithfully. She was especially excited that they carry "quark." Not the software -- the food. It's a thick yogurt cheese type of product that can be used for sweet or savory dishes. I could go on, but if you really want to know more, you can look it up in the internet. The Saturday market features local breads, pastry, meats, cheese, and produce. There was also a Hungarian woman there selling lots of hot pre-cooked dishes, and a Vietnamese(? I can't remember!) woman who makes fabulous Asian food. I know who she is, and have been to a couple of her cooking demos. She was also selling "take-out" dishes.
As interesting as this market is, I really didn't buy much. The bread had been pretty well picked over, I don't eat meat, and the only cheeses there were goat cheeses, which just taste too much like the smell of goats to me (my grandparents had a goat farm when I was a kid). I did, however, round out my vegetable bounty with these:
Sugar snap peas, some wonderfully sweet carrots, and one lonely little hydroponically grown tomato.
And I only spent about $15 the whole morning! Most of the produce I bought today is organic, which is very exciting for me. A lot of the organic produce at the grocery store just looks sad. These are all such beautiful veggies, and all locally grown, of course! I will definitely hit these markets more often through the rest of the summer and fall, and take advantage of the wonderful produce while I can. And yes, I already have plans for most of these veggies. You'll just have to check back here over the next few days to see what happens!
Here in northern New England, we are famous for some great food -- potatoes, seafood (which, being a vegetarian, I don't eat -- but I used to and I can vouch for it!), apples, and Marshmallow Fluff. Marshmallow Fluff? Yes, Marshmallow Fluff. It's an ooey, gooey, icky, sticky, sweet spread made of corn syrup, sugar, dried egg white, and vanillin. It has a light, fluffy texture. And did I mention that it's sticky? It was a staple in my house when I was a kid -- my brother and I sure ate our fair share! It's been made for more than 75 years in Lynn, Massachusetts by Durkee-Mower. You can read its entire history on its website.
I've seen Fluff (as it's referred to in my family) featured on "Unwrapped," I once saw Sara Moultonmake marshmallow ice cream sundae sauce with it (I'm pretty sure she has some Massachusetts roots), and I've heard that it's distributed all over the country, but it seems to me that's it's a pretty regional food. Very few people I know outside of this area have heard of it, let alone had it.
Fluff comes in two flavors -- original (vanilla) and raspberry. You all know how much I love raspberries, but would you believe I've NEVER tried raspberry Fluff? It just sounds too scary.
I suppose now you're wondering what the heck we do with this stuff. Well, a spoonful in a cup of hot chocolate is a beautiful thing. There's always the "Never Fail Fudge" recipe that comes on every jar of Fluff. You can even download the official Fluff cookbook, called "The Yummy Book," from the Fluff website for more recipes! But the best ever use for Marshmallow Fluff is... (drumroll, please)
It couldn't be much easier to make: spread one slice of your favorite bread with as much peanut butter as you like. Spread another slice of bread with as much Fluff as you like. Put them together, bite in, and taste a bit of Heaven! The Fluff, as I mentioned earlier, is very sweet, but the peanut butter balances this with its slight saltiness. My brother actually used to eat peanut butter, jelly, and Fluff sandwiches. That's just too much for me. I'm a traditionalist and I want a straight-up Fluffernutter! Now that I'm not exactly a kid anymore, I don't often have Fluff in the house... but once every couple of years, I get an irresistible urge for a Fluffernutter. I had one such urge a few days ago, and ran out for a jar of Fluff. It's the best decision I've made all week.
Yes, it's nutritionally devoid. It's not a significant source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, or iron. But it's actually not as bad as it sounds, either -- two tablespoons only carry 60 calories, and two tablespoons are more than enough for a good, satisfying Fluffernutter. It's also fat free. Make your sandwich with whole grain bread and natural peanut butter, and you won't have to feel more than an ounce of guilt!
Here's a weird thing: see how the sandwich in the picture is cut in half on the diagonal? I never do that! In fact, the only sandwiches I ever cut are grilled cheese, which get cut into square quarters. I'm just weird that way. But I thought the little diagonal cut would make for Good Food Photography, and it did. The sacrifices I make for my art.
I haven't been as lazy as I seem about posting lately -- I've just been busy! The weather has been beastly since last Friday (though it's quite nice today). I've spent a lot of time swimming, a lot of time with my nephew, and a lot of time swimming with my nephew. He leaves tomorrow, and I'm not ready for him to go back! =(
This will, however, be a slightly lazy post, because once again the day has practically gotten away without me and I need to think about sleeping soon.
Here's what I made on Sunday to get me through the hot, humid days of late... based on another epiphany I had while thinking about new flavors for fruit popsicles.
Pineapple-Orange Dream Pops
1 can pineapple chunks in juice -- not that icky syrup
1 can Mandarin oranges -- again, in juice, please!
1/2 cup milk, soy milk, rice milk, or whatever kind of milk you feel like using
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
I put the pineapple, juice and all, in the blender. I drained the oranges and added them to the pineapple, along with the milk and vanilla. I pulsed it all a few times, until everything was just mixed, but still chunky -- I like pieces of fruit in my fruit bars. I poured the mixture into my popsicle molds and froze them for about six hours. The above is the result. The fruit is sweet enough so that no added sweetener is necessary. The milk adds a nice creaminess. They're slightly reminiscent of Creamsicles, but not as overly sweet, and a bit more pineapply than orangy. As much as I love a good Creamsicle, these can't be beaten!
For the first time ever, I bought some purple potatoes the other day. Being from Maine, it's in my blood to love potatoes. And let me tell you, I do. But all I ever knew until very recent years were white potatoes and red-skinned potatoes. I'm not saying I was afraid of purple potatoes, I'm just saying I never really felt the need for them to be anything but white. I finally caved, though. They were so pretty, and I think you all know how much I love purple anyway. My original intent for them was to do simple roasted potatoes. I love them cut up with an onion or two, seasoned with rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, or whatever seems right at the time, and blasted in the oven until they're crispy and flavorful. But this weekend, I had an odd craving for a fritatta.
A fritatta is a lot like an omelette, but not folded over and filled -- the ingredients are mixed right in with the egg, and the whole thing is done in a skillet and left round and flat. Some recipes call for just stovetop cooking, and some call for a start on the stove, and a finish in the oven. I did mine entirely on the stove. Here's how...
I sliced up one small-ish Vidalia onion and two medium-ish potatoes (I left them unpeeled). I sprayed my 9" skillet with olive oil and arranged the onions and potatoes like so:
I love the purple and white marbling of the raw potato slices!
I liberally salted and peppered the veggies and put them on the stove, covered, on medium, for about 10 minutes, until the potatoes were tender. I beat together four eggs (cage-free organic, of course) and threw in a splash of (raw organic) milk -- yes, cow's milk. I poured this mixture over the veggies and cooked the mixture, covered, for another 15-ish minutes (I think I've sufficiently covered the fact that I rarely time anything), until the eggs were set. I then flipped the "pancake" onto a dinner plate and slid it back into the frying pan, less-cooked side down. This cooked for 5 or so more minutes, until I was pretty sure the eggs were cooked through and nicely browned. I know some people consider it sacrilege, but I like my eggs to be brown and crispy! Here's how it looked when it came out of the pan:
It may look burned to you, but that's really just a nice char for added flavor. =) The onions picked up a lot of smokiness from the initial cooking with the potatoes. The potatoes were tender, moist, and mealy. The eggs were perfectly done (for my taste!).
My lunch today:
A wedge of the fritatta, garnished with my summertime addiction -- white nectarine slices.