Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pizza, cake, Kauai

Um, it's already May?

Once, when I was much younger, I commented on how fast time flies and an annoying cousin said to me, smugly, "Wait until you get older." It bugged me at the time (because being the youngest always meant that everyone else knew everything before me) but of course it turned out to be true. This year is flying by faster than ever, and this poor blog is getting left in the dust.

It's hard to keep the momentum up with a blog, as any of you who keep one know. Thinking of things to say and dishes to make, trying to finagle a decent photo, editing it, etc, then feeling sad if you don't get as many readers or comments as you feel the post deserves--it's tiring. It can hurt your ego. And there have been times where I've felt like I've outgrown this blog--sometimes I don't think I care about writing about food anymore. And sometimes I feel like I have to be careful about what I say on this blog--it's actually weirder to have people you know read it than total strangers. (Luckily, one can have a secret blog on which they can be their full anonymous self.) Anyway, I'm back, after a hiatus. Sort of, at least.

Recently, I started making pizza.

I always resisted making pizza but now I'm kind of into it. I like the kneading part. Do I have aggressions to work out? Yes, who doesn't? Dough is a good thing to take them out on.

I also like covering the dough to rise and checking on it periodically to assess its progress. It's a miracle to me that dough rises, all because of a little thing called yeast (some call it science). 

We've been using this recipe, which is as simple and good as it promises. It makes two pizzas, and generally we've been doing one tomato-y one and one white pie. So far, the best combos are tomato with mozzarella, arugula, and serrano ham; and  zucchini with ricotta and pine nuts. I haven't really been into taking pictures much these days but I did get a Hipstamatic of a shaved asparagus and crispy ham pie we made, which was pretty delicious.


I've also been baking a lot of cakes. I made this blueberry crumb cake for Easter brunch.

It was a total hit. You should try it. But, make it in a springform pan. Silly Ina, how am I going to get a crumb cake out of a regular cake pan?

The other thing I made for Easter brunch that was a little bit interesting, although not a cake, was strawberry bellinis.  I kind of went apeshit for them. Basically, you make a simple syrup, puree it with frozen (!) strawberries, strain the seeds, mix it with prosecco, and voila! They really were good, although a bit of a girly drink. That worked out fine for Easter, though, as with the exception of the huz (good sport!) it was me, my mom, and some of my girls. I hate to encourage a cliche, but girls like pretty pink drinks.

I also recently made this cardamom and coffee pound cake for the second time. The first time I made it in a loaf pan (per the recipe), but I underbaked it. While the flavor was amazing, the center was a gooey blob. This time I did it in a bundt pan, the king of pans, in my opinion, rivaled  only by the springform (I could write an ode to the springform pan). Turned out much better. I cheated and just used regular jarred cardamom but I have no doubt going the extra mile and roasting, grinding, etc the cardamom yourself would be divine. I think what truly makes this cake special, though, is the espresso in it. And the creme fraiche. And the vanilla bean icing. Vanilla bean icing! My heart melts at the words.

This is one of those great cakes that can be dessert or breakfast.  I feel like a cake with icing can be breakfast but a cake with frosting cannot. Although, typing that now, I'm not sure that should be a hard and fast rule.


We're headed to Kauai next week. Kauai is tied with Paris for my favorite place on earth. We have talked a lot about moving to Kauai, and one of the main reasons we have had trouble taking the plunge is that it would make our flight to Paris that much longer. That isn't the only reason, but it's up there, along with having to put Soph into a short quarantine. Actually, those might be the only two reasons.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Maple once, maple twice

Around Christmas, we bought some panettone. While I don't care for the idea of fruit cake, I'll throw down on some panettone. I splurged and bought a fancy one at our grocery store, wrapped in crisp red paper and tied with a ribbon. Here is how pretty it looked (thanks, Amazon!).

My original idea was to make French toast with it, but that panettone was so pillowy and delicious it seemed a shame to weigh it down with milk and egg and syrup. So, instead we toasted it and ate it with butter and jam. Good idea, right?

The thing is, I'd already bought some maple syrup. Now, we don't eat many pancakes or French toast, and the husband isn't wild about maple as a flavor. But with a bottle of Vermont's finest, I figured I ought to do something worthy of it.

First, I made these scones.

These were good! But mostly because of the maple icing. The scone, um, body is perfectly nice, but let's face it, the glaze is what makes these scones sing.  There may be people out there that do not care for the idea of icing making its way into a breakfast item, but I am not one of them.

After the scones, I still had some syrup left. I also had pears, which always seem to go from hard and angry to mushy and sad in about 4 minutes.  I captured them right as they were sliding into their brief happy stage and made this maple-pear upside down cake.

I'd been holding on to this recipe literally for years--clipped it out of the Times the day it was printed in 2009. But see, I never have maple syrup on hand. So, finally...well, you see how this went down.

I didn't end up having enough syrup--I was 1/4 cup shy--but it didn't matter. And I decreased the sugar in the cake because I was worried it was going to be too sweet to pass for a breakfast cake (two of my favorite words when paired together). It was divine. Mine baked for around 38 minutes instead of 45-50 and was perfectly cooked--just know your oven.

With a cup of coffee, you'd be hard-pressed for a better way to start your day.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A new twist on an old favorite

Sometimes a recipe takes hold of me and I just can't shake it until I've made it. This happened this week when I read about this simple and spicy tomato bisque, heated up with fresh ginger, red pepper, and cayenne and topped with tangy goat cheese.

I made it that same night to rave reviews. On a cold evening (cold by California standards, I admit), this hit the spot and had us peeling off sweaters. More and more, the husband and I really enjoy a spicy tomato sauce, which is basically what this is. I love this recipe most of all for its flavor and warmth, but the fact that I usually have everything in my pantry (with the possible exception of the ginger, which is a key ingredient) doesn't hurt. There's also the fact that it comes together in about 40 minutes, 30 of which are just the soup simmering while you watch last night's Jimmy Fallon on the DVR, check your email, or space out.

The next day, I ate the remainder of the soup (bisque?) for lunch, but left off the goat cheese and instead served up a grilled cheese on the side. Sometimes you just have to keep it old school.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Welcome, 2014!

Happy new year!
I've never been someone who gets sad around the end of the year but by January 1, I am ready to kick the holidays to the curb and move ahead. We took down our few decorations yesterday and put our Christmas tree out this morning. Our street is littered with them, waiting for pickup. Someone drew a chalk outline around one.

2013 was a good year. We were both gainfully employed and enjoyed good health. We went to Paris, which constituted our one major trip, but I also visited my sister in New Jersey, and we had a fantastic getaway to Santa Cruz in May for our 8th anniversary. We spent the end of the year in Kentucky with the husband's family and got a good dose of Southern life (and food: beer cheese! jam cake! bourbon balls and Hoppin' John!).

We also ate quite a bit, and quite well, at home. In fact, in looking through my iPhoto library, it seems I have a lot of new recipes I made in 2013 (and 2012, gulp!) that I never posted about. My posting frequency has dropped off rapidly over the years: 101 in 2009, 90 in 2010, 48 in 2011, 26 in 2012, and a measly 16 in 2013. My cooking hasn't dropped off, though, and there are a lot of things I've wanted to tell you about.

This chicken tagine, for example, is something I have been making for close to a year, at least once a month. You can find the original recipe here, and I recommend you do. It is absolutely delicious, studded with salty Castelvetrano olives and chewy prunes and finished with lemon juice and mint. We love it chez Hungry Dog. It's great with rice, mashed potatoes, or creamy polenta.

As for 2014, I'm not one for resolutions, but I do have some things I'm interested in doing this year. For one, I'd like to take another art class. I bought all those supplies last fall and they're sitting forlornly in the hall closet. I even have some brand new wood panels awaiting my clumsy brush strokes.

Also, I probably won't do this if history is any indication, but I really want to work on my French. The next time we go to France, I'd like to be a little better at conversing. Seeing how fast time flies, our next trip will be here before we know it.

Speaking of, we are planning two trips for the year: Hawaii in the spring, and possibly Spain, or a Spain/Portugal combo, in the fall. Stay tuned.

And finally, the husband and I have started to think, very seriously, of getting another dog.  So many sweet pups need homes, and I think Soph would like having a little dog friend.

We'll see where the year takes us. I'm sure at the very least, there will be some good food involved, and I'll try to be better about posting here at The Hungry Dog.

Cheers to you all for the new year!