Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nettles! It Must Be Spring

With nettles popping up on everyone’s menu these last few weeks, I decided I had to try them myself. Or rather, try them again. When I was in middle school, I learned how to pick nettles without stinging myself (and without gloves) and set out to make nettle tea. But I forgot the cleaning step, and my tea tasted like mud. My tea was mud.
So last week, with my fearless friends, I headed out to hunt for nettles. They were young and about six inches high, which is great for eating because they are tender and you can still eat the stalks, but made them a bit hard to find. Once we got the hang of it though, we were nettle harvesting machines. Though no particular step was difficult, there were many steps.

We found them and clipped them.
This time, we decided to wash them.
Then we blanched them and squeezed out all the water.
Chopped and sautéed them, and put them on pizza. We made a few kinds. My favorite was a thinly veiled version of the nettle pizza at Delancey last week: nettles, caramelized onions, and ricotta.

Pizza Dough
This is my trusty pizza dough recipe from Martha Stewart, many years back. Never fails to deliver flavorful, crispy, thin crust. Works well on the grill or in the oven.

2 cups warm water
½ t sugar
2 packets active dry yeast
3T olive oil
6 cups flour
1T Kosher salt

  • Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl until the yeast has dissolved. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Mix flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast water. Knead for 5 minutes.  (You can do this by hand if you don't have a mixer.)
  • Turn the dough onto a floured counter, make it into a ball, and put it in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 40-60 minutes, until doubled.
  • Punch it down, fold it over a few times, make it into a ball again, put it back in the bowl, cover and let it rise for another 40-60 minutes.
  • Turn the dough onto the floured counter and cut it into 6 chunks. Knead each chunk into a ball and cover 5 of them with plastic. Flatten the remaining ball into a little disc and let it sit for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up, remove another ball and flatten it. Then roll the rested disc into a pizza crust (8-10 inches in diameter). Repeat with all the dough balls.
  • You can store the uncooked crusts, layered with parchment and wrapped with plastic, for a few days. When you’re ready to cook, oil them generously, top them sparingly, and cook as hot as you can for 5-10 minutes. My oven goes to 550 degrees, and the bbq gets hotter.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Broccoli Love

Nothing says “I love you” like broccoli. Candies are nice. Stuffed animals are cuddly. But true love comes in the form of a fresh, green head of broccoli. For starters, it makes a lovely bouquet.

And it’s very good for you. Chock-full of vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, potassium, anti-oxidants and fiber, broccoli has been credited with detoxifying, curing stomach problems, improving skin, reducing cholesterol, improving bone health, preventing cancer, and more.

And if that’s not enough, broccoli is incredibly tasty as well.

So this Valentine's Day, instead of burdening your sweetie with landfill junk or processed sugar, give them some broccoli. Straight from the heart.
Here is one of my favorite ways to prepare broccoli. It's great with steak and scalloped potatoes. The recipe comes from my friend Tom. He’s one of those guys who always has really good ideas. He’s overflowing with them. So all you need to do is hang with him and you’re bound to pick up a few yourself. Thanks, Tom!

Tom’s Broccoli
Broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets, stalk sliced thin
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Lemon juice
Parmesan cheese
  • Toss the broccoli with olive oil, salt, whole garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes.
  • Roast in a single layer at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. The edges should be crispy and brown.
  • Remove from the oven and toss with lemon juice and parmesan.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ad Hoc at my Mom's House

Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home certainly got a lot of buzz this holiday season. It seemed to get reviewed by every cookbook critic, and make every "top gifts" list.

Come mid December, demand for the book was rampant, and it appeared to be poised for a top-notch holiday run. But apparently the publisher was the last to know—Ad Hoc at Home was out of stock, everywhere you looked.

I ordered one for my brother, wrapped an IOU for Christmas, and the book just arrived this week. It’s beautiful. Coffee table-worthy. So much so that we discussed how we’ll just need to get over its beauty and get it dirty like every other cook book.
And it’s a really great resource—step by step photo instructions on how to piece a chicken, transferrable tips sprinkled in to the recipes.
We tried our first recipe last night for my mom’s birthday—Chicken Mar i Muntanya, or paella. In my family, the best meals are the all-hands-on-deck kind, where everyone’s busy and working together. Someone’s frying chicken, someone’s washing dishes, someone’s chopping parsley, and someone’s holding the baby. And this was certainly an all-hands-on-deck meal.
We loved it. And I’m excited to try some more recipes from the book, which was worth the wait. It was so good that it made up for the disaster of a coconut birthday cake that I made and ruined.
Check out Chicken Mar i Muntanya, and let me know what you think.