Friday, July 20, 2007

Pizza on the Grill

C&J had us over for dinner the other night and made pizza on the grill. I'd heard of it and we'd been wanting to try but hadn't been bold enough. Last night we gave it our own try and it was delicious.

The basil was taking over the herb garden so we plucked about 6 cups of basil leaves and made pesto for the base. I froze the rest of the pesto, we'll be eating well this winter too. I cheated and made the pizza dough in the bread machine as it makes a phenomenal dough in less than an hour and a half. Had some lamb in the fridge that we fried up (next time we'll grill it first and slice it onto the pizza) and used fresh tomatoes and parmesan and a bit of english farmhouse cheddar that we had in the fridge. We chopped up olives and sprinkled on some smoky turkish biber spice and 3 kinds of fresh oregano from the garden for the veggie pizza and carmelized some shallots in olive oil for both pizzas.
The pizza dough needs to be rolled very thin and cooked most of the way before the toppings go on. Then you put on the toppings and put the pizza on the grill to melt the cheese and warm them through. Because we have a gas grill, we used hickory chips to give the dough a bit of a smokey flavor. As you can see, we did the the lamb pizza first and started in on it before the veggie pizza came off. A glass of white wine, a salad and we were all set.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Paella Pix

Dinner with friends the other night on the patio. YUM! We've been waiting since January to use our new Paella pan. We got it in Seattle at The Spanish Table which is an adorable shop just below the Pike Place Fish Market. The paella pan is supposed to serve 10, of course I don't think they figured on the amount of cheese we ate beforehand, besides we were only 6. Luckily, leftovers are yummy.

We made the paella on the grill. It probably took us all day to make as there was lots of shopping and prep work before we could actually start cooking. We have an electric grill which is great as we can control the heat. A lot of the ingredients were cooked seperately and added at the last minute. We got fresh peas from the bean guy at the Waverly Market, if you haven't had them they are soooo good.

Apparently the traditional way of serving Paella is to put a bowl upside down and place the salad bowl on top. We made cucumber-yogurt-mint salad which was quite refreshing with the paella and made white sangria with mango and a red traditional sangria. mmmmmm.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Berries Galore!

It's great having good friends and a tradition each year where you go out and cut yourself to ribbons to obtain fruit. This weekend we had our third annual berry picking with our friend Chris. Now understand that his wife had the wonderful excuse of the child's nap to stay home in the air conditioned house on this blistering day. We garbed ourselves in long pants, hiking shoes and short sleeved shirts (big mistake as we were all cut up on the arms). We put on our berry picking hats and went to our secret spot in northern Baltimore County.

We were probably only picking for an hour but it sure seemed like four. Between the 3 of us we probably picked about 12 quarts of berries. Chris said he was going to make sauce, my sweetie said he was going to make scones. I made jam. There are some crazy people who actually spend their Saturday afternoon standing over a pot full of boiling sugar syrup for 1/2 hour in the middle of July in 95 degree heat. I guess I qualify. Take a look. I want to make schaum tortes this weekend. I think I'm going to have to serve them with frozen berries though as I doubt our berries will make it a week. I'll let you know how they turned out.

Hot summer nights

Zucchini is the pride and joy of summer. I love it, and torture my man by slipping it into everything from rice pilaf to curries, I've even dehydrated it for our backpack trips. Now the last time I tried growing zucchini all I grew was this vine that attracted moths. I spent quite a bit of time digging the zucchini worm out of the vine. Never got a zucchini. I've decided that buying them or having friends provide them is the best way of obtaining zucchini.

We went to the library last weekend and got this great Turkish cookbook in which I found a zucchini cake recipe. This is not your sweet cake type these are like potato latkes made with zucchini. As it was 92 degrees out, we decided to fry them outside on the grill.

You peel and grate 1.5 lbs of zucchini (love the cuisinart) then salt it for 15 minutes and squeeze to drain some of the water, then combine with fresh parsley and fennel (called for dill, next year I'm growing dill), some egg, feta and flour. Mix it up and fry it in small cakes.

We served it with some yogurt and asian spiced chicken and a yogurt-garlic-cucumber-chocolate mint sauce. We also made raspberry gin and tonics, squeezing the raspberries into the glass and filling it with tonic, a touch of lime and a bit of gin. Very pretty drinks.

For dessert we decided to walk to the Giant. One of the reasons we live where we do is we are able to walk 1 mile to the left and get to the Giant and one mile to the right and get to the Eddies. Very practical. It was a tough decision but we chose ice cream on a stick for the practicality of walking home. Now understand that this is no ordinary ice cream on a stick. The Dove triple chocolate ice cream bar has a 1mm thick (this is thick) coating of chocolate surrounding chocolate ice cream with a fudge swirl. The chocolate pieces break off in your hands and you eat them seperately. Ok so maybe we should have gone to the gym instead ;-)

By the way, the tomatoes have started.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cooking with Herbs

So I haven't done much in the way of gardening lately, it's mostly just been watering. The grass is cut and not growing as it's too hot out. I'm eagerly awaiting my tomatoes which I'm hoping the 100 degree heat will ripen in the next few days, in the meantime we've been experimenting with cooking the herb garden.

Friday night we made a creamy pesto with pasta and pork tenderloin. Here's what we did:

2 cups basil (packed)
5 cloves of garlic
1/4 c pine nuts
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan
a bit of parsley (the parsley is growing slowly)

Put all this into the food processer and process until it is a puree, then slowly add about a cup of heavy cream. I let it sit for about 2 hours in the fridge before using it (as that's when we ate).

We browned some rounds of pork tenderloin in butter until they were 1/2 cooked, removed them and deglazed the pan with some Pinot Grigio. Then I added about 1/4 cup of the pesto sauce and the tenderloin rounds and cooked for about 10 minutes until they were done. I boiled some shells and added some more of the pesto to that. We actually browned the pork and made the pesto around 4pm and then finished it up at 7 only taking 10 minutes or so. Presto pasta meal. Now we just have to finish the pesto, I don't think it's going to freeze well with the cream in it.


Sunday night we made a chilled cream soup with sorrel, fennel fronds (left over from grilling the fennel bulb the night before), shallot and avocado. Here's how:

Chop up the shallot and saute until soft in butter
Add fennel and about 2 cups of chicken stock (we use minors at home)
cook until fennel is tender
Add about 2 cups of chopped sorrel (removing woody stems) and let cook another 2 minutes
Turn off heat and add cream, 1 chopped avocado and a bit of lemon juice. Puree with the immersion blender being careful not to slop it all over the kitchen counter like I did. Salt to taste. Pour into bowls and chill for 1/2 hour.

The soup was still warm in the middle but cool around the edges so the dichotomy between cool and warm soup was interesting. I like mine all the way pureed but if you wanted avocado chunks you could mash it in with a potato masher, though it wouldn't be as creamy.

Next time I make something herblike I'll try and post pictures. Tomatoes please ripen!!!