Pizzas

Summer Squash Blossom Skillet Pizza

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
I was at the Hillcrest Farmers Market last weekend and beautiful squash blossoms were in almost every produce stall.

I was PUMPED!!!

I love squash blossoms. They remind me of growing up in Minnesota when my grandparents had a big garden in the backyard and my grandpa tended to his gorgeous dahlias in the front of the house.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

Oddly enough, out of all the edible things they grew, I remember the elephant ear stalks and squashes the most.

Elephant ear stalks, or bạc hà in Vietnamese, are often used in our stir-fry dishes and sour-tamarind soups (canh chua). And if you’re wondering how the heck they managed to grow plants in Minnesota that are indigenous to tropical climates—-I can’t help you there.

Seriously. I have no clue how my grandparents and parents coaxed them out of the frigid ground. But they did.

OG hustlers.

Squash Blossom
As for the squashes, I remember them most because….I hated them.

Yup. Hated them.

As in, when they showed up at the dinner table, I was guaranteed to be the last one there because I would just stare at my bowl piled high with pureed squash. UGH!  I would sit there for what seemed like centuries, refusing to eat it. That is, until my grandparents had pity on me and coerced my parents to letting me off the hook.

Did I mention I was the baby of the family?

Oh…and it was probably more like 10 minutes than a hundred years but when you’re eight, 5 minutes could feel like FOH-EVAH!!

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

But as much as squash was my mortal enemy, I used to love looking at their bright and colorful blossoms. I may have also been caught plucking a few off the vine from time to time. Hey–a kid had to keep herself entertained while her older sibbies ditched her for their friends.

Yes, that’s me unabashedly trying to elicit sympathy. Did it work?

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
Fast forward to 2017 and I’m still not a fan of most squashes. I do like zucchinis but will most definitely pass on butternut squash, pumpkins, acorn squash, kabochas…..

Hey–just consider it more for you all to enjoy.

But I still love squash blossoms. They have a mild zucchini flavor and are just so darn pretty. I usually have them as fritto misto or stuffed. But my favorite way to have them is on top of a pizza.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
The first time I had squash blossom pizza was at Pizzeria Mozza and I was hooked! It’s a simple preparation of their awesome pizza crust with a light red sauce, tons of blossoms and then topped with fresh burrata when out of the oven. And I’m a sucker for burrata!

Armed with a bundle of fresh summer zucchini blossoms from the market, I went home and whipped up a quick batch of dough (1 yeast envelope. 1/4 tsp. sugar, 1 1/4 cups warm water, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 3 cups AP flour & 1 tsp salt) and turned to my favorite cast iron skillet method to make some pizza.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

These days, I lean towards pizzas without red sauce and prefer to use fresh tomato slices (or halves) instead. I brushed the dough with a garlic-herb oil, topped it with lots of fresh mozzarella, blossoms and grape tomatoes before quickly cooking it off. Once out of the oven, the pie was sprinkled with parmesan cheese and chopped chives.

Verdict?

Summerifically delish! But if you’re feeling into it, top it with some fresh burrata like Mozza does or a quenelle or three of ricotta.

Allora!   <<< Just threw that in for my Master of None peeps. ❤

_____________________________________
Summer Squash Blossom Skillet Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
5 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground corn meal
kosher salt
¼ pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
6 large zucchini squash blossoms, stamens removed
10 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

In a small pan, add the olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes and thyme. Heat over medium-low for 5 minutes to allow the oil to infuse. Set aside.

Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven to rest directly under the broiler. Place a seasoned cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.

While the skillet is heating, roll out the pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a cutting board.

Brush the infused olive oil over the dough and sprinkle salt all over the dough. Top with mozzarella cheese and place the blossoms, fanned out in a circle. Place the halved tomatoes on top.

Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Place the skillet on a burner over medium heat and allow it to begin cooking for 2 minutes. Move the skillet back to the oven so it sits directly underneath the broiler.

Close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 60-90 seconds. Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler. Once the crust is slightly charred and cheese has melted, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top with chives and parmesan cheese. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up and enjoy!

Seafood

Decadently Creamy Risotto with Pan Seared Garlic Shrimp and Peas

Shrimp & Peas Risotto
I know, I know.

I already have a Shrimp Risotto recipe posted on the blog. And it’s wonderful, tried and true.

But y’all…it’s not THIS Shrimp Risotto.

Shrimp & Peas Risotto
Because as much as the other one was delicious, I really kicked it up a few notches with this Creamy Risotto with Pan Seared Garlic Shrimp and Peas.

Shrimp & Peas Risotto

Like most situations, I just can’t leave things be.

I’m constantly tweaking recipes. Sometimes out of necessity because I’m missing an ingredient or two and sometimes because I just want to change things up.

Shrimp & Peas Risotto
So what did I do different?

A few things like use shallots and leeks. But the big game changer was the addition of peas and heavy cream.

Shrimp & Peas Risotto
My usual risottos are rich and creamy just by nature of the slow cooking and constant stirring of the rice to release the starches. But this particular day, I wanted things extra decadent and added a few splashes of heavy cream at the end.

Shrimp & Peas Risotto
How did it turn out?

Freaking brilliantly.

Shrimp & Peas Risotto

Velvety perfection.

And the peas added a nice punch of freshness and texture.

Shrimp & Peas Risotto

It makes me happy just looking at it.

But of course, I’m even happier inhaling it. ❤

___________________________________________________

Creamy Risotto with Pan Seared Garlic Shrimp and Peas
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic, divided
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
sea salt
black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup chopped shallots
1 cup chopped leeks, white and light green parts
4-5 cups seafood stock
1 cup Aborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup heavy cream
⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
additional fresh thyme to garnish

Combine the shrimp, 1 tablespoon garlic, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon thyme leaves. Season with salt, pepper and place in the refrigerator covered for 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until opaque. Remove the shrimp from the skillet. Chop half of the shrimp into large chunks while leaving the other whole. Cover and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat remaining olive oil and butter of medium heat. Add the shallots, leeks and cook until tender and translucent.

While the aromatics cook, place the stock in saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Keep the stock simmering on the back of the stove.

Once the shallots and leeks have cooked for 5-6 minutes, add in the remaining garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme. Cook for 1-2 minutes and add the rice and stir until it is well-coated and opaque.  The rice may begin to slightly crackle as it lightly toasts. Pour in the wine and stir until it has nearly evaporated.

Ladle in about 1 cup of the heated stock. Cook and continue stirring the rice until it has nearly absorbed all the liquid. Add the remaining stock, about 1 cup at a time—stirring well in between each addition. Take care to allow the rice to absorb each addition of stock before adding more. You may not need all 5 cups as the risotto should be slightly firm and creamy once done. This process takes approximately 25 minutes.

When the risotto is done, pull it off the heat and stir in the heavy cream, chopped shrimp, peas and Parmesan cheese until fully incorporated. Taste and adjust with additional salt and pepper as needed. Plate each dish with a portion of the risotto topped with the remaining whole shrimp and additional thyme. Serve immediately.

Sunday Family Dinner

An Endless Fam Din Feast for the Tauruses

IMG_0645
It was one of my favorite times of the year — my BIRTH MONTH!!!

Birth “month” you ask? Oh yes, I celebrate the entire month.

Actually our family is full of May babies….Mom, Dad, SIL and cousie –all Tauruses, which makes a lot of sense. We’re all a tad–how would you put it? Oh right–stubborn.

DSC_0242
But when it came time for L and my Fam Din— I WAS PUMPED!

What to have on the menu?

Lobster? Prime Rib? King Crab? French Fry Fest?

YES PLEASE!

DSC_0252
Sooooo many options. Maybe TOO many good ones to choose from.

In fact, the week before dinner, we still hadn’t had a full menu planned other than knowing who would be in charge of which portions of the meal.

IMG_0569
Then mid-week, it hit me-it was soft shell crab season! And I do love me some soft shell crab sammies! With new found inspiration, I volunteered to take on the main dish and its fixings!

But as for the other dishes–everything was still up in the air.

DSC_0237
We all convened with our mystery ingredients to T and R’s casa and got down to prep.

But first–some cocktails!

I whipped up a few pitchers of Sparkling Rosé Sangria and let me tell ya, it’s like summer in a glass.

Fresh fruit, ginger, mint, cognac, light rosé, bubbly….now that’s a party!

Sparkling Rosé Sangria
Quick pic with the sibbies!!

IMG_1411
And a little photobomber in the shape of Leonidas.

That little rascal….

I love that mischievous face.

IMG_1408 2
And then it was time to get back in the kitchen for some more prep.

May 2017 Fam Din
Thank goodness for R and Nini–our shuckers for the night.

DSC_0200
Because without those two, we’d just be staring at these beauties saying “Alohomora” over and over again.

Why yes–that was a little shot out to my fellow Potterheads.

DSC_0210
Now let the feasting begin!

V and L had been visiting our friends in Ventura that morning and picked up some Fresh Oysters for us to nosh on.

L made a classic mignonette for us to enjoy the oysters with and there was also lots of fresh lemon and tabasco on hand too.

DSC_0276

HELLLOOOOOO Gorgeous!!!!

DSC_0279
As you can tell, Nina didn’t like them at all.

May 2017 Fam Din
They also picked up some fresh uni and L got to work cracking them open.

Seriously, my mouth is watering just looking at the picture of it.

May 2017 Fam Din
And what did we do with them? Nini and L made adorable little bites of Uni Gunkan Maki.

Perfect morsels that just screamed of the sea.

DSC_0246
I could have easily polished off a dozen of them.

ps. Gunkan Maki are “warship sushi” or “battleship sushi” and are named such because of its shape. See? I can drop some random knowledge from time to time.

DSC_0245
N demolishes battleships on the reg.

DSC_0244
Since we were going the distance, V & L also picked up some local Yellowtail while in Ventura and there’s no better way to enjoy it than as straight up Yellowtail Sashimi.

It’s how we roll.

IMG_0595
Now most folks would just make 1 or 2 appetizers for dinner. But with my o’hana, why just have 1 when we could have 5?

Seriously, five. We had FIVE appetizers for Fam Din.

We’re uncontrollable.

To wrap up our apps course, T made clams two ways. (Are you sensing that gluttony theme?)

May 2017 Fam Din

The first version featured clams stuffed with miso butter, cheese, aromatics and panko bread crumbs. Quite addicting and hopefully will be at our football parties this fall.

IMG_0591

The second preparation were roasted clams with miso butter, rice wine, ginger, beech mushrooms, scallions and some other magical goodies.

And OH. MY. GOD.

These were so freaking good!! So savory, so rich in flavor—FULL of umami (I feel like such an idiot every time I use that word)! The clams were wonderful on its own but would also be perfect as a main dish with soba noodles or even with just crusty baguette.

IMG_0590 2

Look at my fam…..they’re cute.

I guess I’ll keep them.

I should probably admit that they look so happy because we had just spent an hour gorging on apps and cocktails (for the 21+ over).

But hey, whatever it takes.

IMG_1380
After polishing off all the apps, we were pretty stuffed. And we still had our main course left, too!

In order to make it to the finish line, we needed a breather.

Maya took a T.O. on Lamby.

DSC_0214
Leonidas got a massage.

Life is rough for the munchkins, isn’t it?

DSC_0227
And we snapped pics.

Because apparently, we don’t take enough pictures.

NOT!

DSC_0266

After a quick pause, I turned my attention to these little guys–the soft shell crabs. Since the crabs have molted their exoskeletons, the entire crustacean can be eaten after a bit of light cleaning.

DSC_0258
Sometimes you jut have to infuse your food with love……you feel me?

It makes everything that much tastier.

DSC_0232
After they were cleaned and drained, we lightly dredged them in a mixture of flour and corn meal.

And not to sound twisted, but doesn’t it look like they’re just chilling in the sand?

No? Too much?

DSC_0311
After they were dredged, Nini helped me pan fry them in butter and olive oil until they were golden brown and crispy.

DSC_0310
Once out of the pan, they all got a sprinkle Old Bay and sea salt.

DSC_0320
The crispy soft shell crabs were destined to rest inside these little Brioche Buns I had baked earlier. Nina lightly buttered and toasted the buns for that extra punch of goodness.

Aren’t they adorable? The girls said they reminded them of Krabby Patties from SpongeBob—which, now that I think of it, is kind of appropriate.

DSC_0314
To serve with sandwiches, I decided to make homemade Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips. I know, it seems like a lot of work when you can just go out and buy a bag of chips.

DSC_0186
But honestly, homemade chips are SOOO much better! It does take a bit of time but they’re really easy to make. Just be sure to fry up some extra because if your family is anything like mine, they will be gone before it’s time to eat.

DSC_0315
Assembly time!

A light schmear of Old Bay aioli on the buns, add thin slices of ripe tomato, a leaf of butter lettuce and top it off with a beautiful soft shell crab.

DSC_0332
So nice I had to show it twice!

Seriously–as good as I had hoped for when they came to mind just a few days prior. I love it when that happens.

DSC_0327
And Food Coma starts in 5…4…3…2…..

IMG_1374
But wait! We still have dessert!!

And not just any dessert but B I R T H D A Y  cake!

N was in charge of our birthday dessert and all I said is that I wanted a dense chocolate cake that tasted like a Ferrero Rocher — one of my favorite candies.

DSC_0228

And HOLY CRAP!  SHE DELIVERED!!!

Just like a Ferrero Rocher!!!

DSC_0360

The cake was super dense and rich–like a flourless cake that had ground hazelnuts in the batter. She topped it with a chocolate mousse and a “crunch” made from melted chocolate and rice cereal. It was then finished with more hazelnuts and a generous drizzle of more chocolate.

From taste to texture it totally was a Ferrero Rocher!

I’m not kidding y’all–it’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. She’s going to have to make me this cake every year now.

DSC_0352
And as if we didn’t have enough sugar, R broke out the fire so the munchkins could roast some marshmallows.

Why not, right? If not for the added sugar than at least for the experience.

DSC_0340
I can’t help but hope that when they look back 20 years from now, they’ll think fondly of our monthly Fam Dins and the randomness that often occur.

For example, the fireworks that we set off shortly after I took this picture.

And no, I’m not kidding.

DSC_0343
And that’s a wrap on our decadent Fam Din for L and my bday!

Not bad considering we threw the menu together at the last minute. And yes, it was a delicious as it looks.

IMG_1410 2

_______________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Sparkling Rosé Sangria, Various Wine
Appetizers: Fresh Oysters with Mignonette, Yellowtail Sashimi, Uni Gunkan Maki, Miso Roasted Clams with Beech Mushrooms, Panko-Miso Butter Clams
Entrees: Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches with Old Bay Aioli, on Brioche Rolls with Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips
Dessert: Chocolate-Hazelnut “Ferrero Rocher” Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

All about that Bulaon-baisse, ’bout that baisse…

April 2017 Family Dinner
When it comes to Lucasauraus and C’s birthday, we always know that there will be some combination of seafood, matcha and mint chip ice cream on the menu for Fam Din. And no–not all mixed together, Silly!

And who can blame them–I love all of it too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

We gathered at T and R’s place in Fullerton on a sunny afternoon to get down on some cookin’ and grubbin’!

And there may have been a cocktail or two before we switched over to wine. This month we went back for the Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic with Cucumber and Lime. C’mon, it’s a classic–not to mention totally refreshing on a warm Southern Cali afternoon.

April 2017 Family Dinner
And how So Cal is it that somehow succulents were involved?

Yea, I have no idea what N was doing with these.

April 2017 Family Dinner
Now let’s get back to the food, shall we?

Since our entree was slated to be on the lighter side—well….”lighter” than our normal fare, we had three different appetizers to sate our tummies.

First up, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon that brother fixed up using Eric Ripert’s recipe. I am a sucker for a good deviled egg and these were no exception. They featured the classic rich flavors and was topped with the smoky, salty salmon.

Awesome.

They’d be perfect for brunch too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

And since Lucas is a salmon-eating-monster (has been since he was barely 2) we needed MORE of the fatty fish–LOTS MORE! So we put the nieces to work and they got rolling on these beautiful Salmon Temaki.  They were filled with seasoned rice, avocados, luscious slices of salmon, daikon sprouts and of course, that magnificent “crack sauce” that Nini makes.

That sauce is seriously E V E R Y T H I N G! It’s a mixture of mayo, sambal, sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, chives, tobiko and I’d venture to say–a splash of her soul. It is THAT good.

I inhaled about 20 dozen of them. Screw that summer bikini diet.

April 2017 Family Dinner

A birthday Fam Din for Lucas and C without sashimi?? Not on our watch!

In fact, there may have been 1 or 2 plates of Hamachi Sashimi.

April 2017 Family Dinner
It does this foodblogger’s heart proud when she sees the munchkins doing this…..

Shall we move on to main course?

When we asked C what he wanted for dinner, he replied “seafood stew—bouillabaisse”. Ok then, we’re on it!

Well actually, seestrah T was on it—and hence the “Bulaon-baisse“. What’s a “Bulaon-baisse” you may be asking? It’s when T is in charge of the bouillabaisse, has a few glasses of vino while making the stock and merges her married name (Bulaon) to the classic Provençal stew.

What a dork.

But a funny dork.

All joking aside, T put some serious time and love into creating the broth of the bouillabaisse. She simmered the excess fish trimmings with aromatics such as bay leaves, orange peels, and a bouquet garni to produce a rich seafood stock. In a separate pan, she sweated the fennel, onions, and garlic and then reduced it with wine before adding in the stock, tomatoes and saffron. After what seemed like a gajillion years, the stock was strained and we were left with a flavorful and clear broth.

That broth was brought to a boil, and the fish, shrimp, and mussels were cooked in it.

Speaking of fish, my B.I.L., aka Mr. Bulaon, caught the below red snapper and cod that we used in the bouillabaisse. Isn’t he handy?

So all in all, I guess it was a Bulaon-baisse!

H E L L O    G O R G E O U S!!!

April 2017 Family Dinner
And finally – DESSERT TIME!

C loves him some matcha. I can’t remember the last time we made him a birthday dessert that green tea wasn’t involved. And I tell ya–I’m quickly running out of ideas people!

As I scoured the internet for some inspiration, I stumbled upon a Coconut-Matcha Cream Pie and decided to give it a try.

My thoughts?

I was a bit disappointed by how much the crust “shrunk” after it was baked. I let it thoroughly rest before rolling it out and even froze it for an hour before baking. I blind baked the crust and the temp wasn’t too high either. Eh…that’s how it goes with baking sometimes.

As for the filling, it was rich and had the texture of a firm pudding. The coconut flavor was very subtle and it wasn’t too sweet. I’m glad I opted to add matcha to the whipped cream to amp up the flavor.

Overall, not bad but not great.

April 2017 Family Dinner
As for my mint-chip loving nephew, a Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie seemed perfect for Lucas. The base what made out of crushed Oreo cookies and crushed Thin Mint Cookies. I then added a layer of softened mint chip ice cream (it HAD to be the green kind too!), a drizzle of chocolate sauce, a layer of more crushed cookies and a final layer of ice cream. The whole thing was put in the freezer for a few hours before topping it with whipped cream and more cookies.

I am embarrassed to say that the below picture looks rather a hot mess. We had some melting issues on the drive from Tustin to Fullerton and we attempted to mask it over with more whipped cream. But all looks aside, it was delicious and the bday boy approved!

April 2017 Family Dinner
Another scrumptious Fam Din in the books!

H A P P Y     B I R T H D A Y    L U C A S    A N D     C!!!!

_____________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Hamachi Sashimi, Salmon Temaki, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Entrees: Bouillabaisse with Toasted Garlic Crostini
Dessert: Coconut Matcha-Cream Pie, Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Sunday Family Dinner

It Ain’t Easy Being A Green Fam Din

March 2017 Family Dinner
Alright, so I’ll be the first to admit that some of our Fam Din themes are a bit more successful than others. When we’re on point, we totally nail it like with our Hawaiian Lu’au, “One Night In Bangkok”, Korean Feast, or the N’awlins Seafood Boil.

But some themes are bit tougher than others. Case and point, a certain holiday a few months ago that inspired us to try and make dishes that were green.

That’s right, the color green.

March 2017 Family Dinner
First up–appetizers!

V+L were in charge of this portion and came up with wonderfully fresh and sweet Scallops Carpaccio.

Lovely, right?

March 2017 Family Dinner
And before you ask for the green, might I direct your attention to the chopped cilantro and green platter???

Totally green.

March 2017 Family Dinner
A year or two ago, T got N a Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Block from Williams Sonoma. She hadn’t had the opportunity to use it yet and figured Fam Din was the perfect chance. So she pulled out the slab and seared some sweet scallops on them.

I think we had average results with it. Yes, it did impart a subtle flavor to the scallops and sure–the process looked impressive. But we didn’t get that lovely golden sear on them as if we had used a pan.

Don’t worry, we’ll try again.

March 2017 Family Dinner
N placed the scallops over fresh and peppery arugula. She dressed it with grape tomatoes, fresh basil and a light vinaigrette. Light, lovely and would be a wonderful summer lunch with some crusty bread.

But being the chunky monkeys we are, we had them as an appetizer.

March 2017 Family Dinner
As for our entree, T chose to slow-braise pork in a rich and luscious chile verde sauce—key word, “verde“.

As in green, folks!

The pork was tender, savory and quite versatile! The chilies are not the least bit spicy but more so mild and brought a verdant, tangy flavor.

March 2017 Family Dinner
To serve alongside the pork, I whipped up some homemade Cilantro-Flour Tortillas. The recipe is from Rick Bayless and I wrote about them here. At the very end when I rolled out each tortilla de harina, I sprinkled on some chopped cilantro before throwing them on a cast iron skillet.

Tender, flaky and perfect with the pork.

March 2017 Family Dinner
In addition, I made a big batch of my Cilantro-Lime Rice because carbs are my friends.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Last but not least—DESSERT!

Now, when thinking of green desserts, my mind kept drifting towards matcha. But since BIL’s birthday was the following month, I was bound to have to make a green tea dessert in a few weeks. So I mulled around and decided to rely on the bright green hues of the kiwi to make this Kiwi Fruit Pie.

The shell was a shortbread crust and I filled it with Cook’s Illustrated pastry cream. Next came lots of slices of fresh kiwi fruit.

Easy peasy right?

March 2017 Family Dinner

Now let me share one thing before I close this post.

Silly things happen at our Family Dinners. In truth, it’s one of my favorite things about the whole tradition. And this month, was no exception.

After dessert, the kids started doing arts and crafts for Nini’s elections—and there was a bottle of glue on the table. T, V and I started reminiscing of when we were kids and made “glue skins” from our hands.

And then this happened.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Oh yes….as we laughed, drank wine (the 21+ and over of us–that is), and sang along to Erasure–we painted layers of glue on our hands. Then, once dried, we slowly peeled them off to make “glue skin”.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Silly, I know. But I wouldn’t change anything.

It’s what our Family Dinner is all about. ❤

______________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Appetizers: Scallop Carpaccio, Scallops Seared on Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Block over Arugula
Entrees: Slow Braised Pork Chile Verde
Sides: Cilantro-Lime Rice, Cilantro Flour Tortillas
Dessert: Kiwi Fruit Pie

Breads

Mini Sourdough Bread Boules

Sourdough Bread Boules
Being the carb monster I am, it’s really no surprise that I’ve come to love baking bread–granted, it wasn’t always the case.

But now I find that there’s something about forming something so beautiful and delicious out of a few spare ingredients that most folks have in their cupboards. There’s something ritualistic about the process–and although time consuming, it is completely fulfilling.  Not to mention that we’ve been baking some type of bread, across the world/cultures for thousands and thousands of years.

Sourdough Bread Boules

Sure, some breads can be finicky and depending on the weather and moisture outside, you’ve got to adjust. But when you’ve kneaded that perfectly silky dough, it’s fantastic!

So for Maya’s birthday Fam Din where we served a delicious Clam Chowder that brother made, I quickly volunteered to bake the sourdough bread boules to go along with them. I had never officially baked my own sourdough, although it’s been on my to-do list for some time, but hey-it seemed like a great opportunity.

Sourdough Bread Boules

First off, I needed a “starter” that gives the bread that wonderful chew and flavor. Now, I’m not one of those lucky home bakers that have a starter stored in my fridge that has been handed down in my family for the past century. So I had to create my own.

It’s a fairly easy process that essentially involves “growing” a wild yeast over several days through a combination of water and flour. Every day, you “feed” your starter a little bit more of both as it bubbles away. At one point, you may begin to freak out as it starts to separate–and you may think–CRAP! It’s gone bad!

But don’t fret my pet. All is good–in fact, you want that to happen because that’s when you’ll know that you’ve got a fermentation party going on. Just stir it all up and keep on going with the process.

Sourdough Bread

For this particular batch, I chose to make a starter based on a recipe found here. The only exception is that I grew my starter for about 8 days versus the 5 listed in the instructions.

But hey–if you’ve got your own starter recipe, or even better–have some already chilling in your fridge, by all means…go with that.

Sourdough Bread
After you’ve introduced your finished starter with a bit of flour to create a “levain”, you’ll want to let it mingle together overnight before adding the final flours to proof. And boy oh boy, will it proof! All through the wonders of your starter and with no additional help of dried yeast.

Magic!

This recipe from Half Baked Harvest produced 6 good-sized boules out of the dough. However, I ended up forming them a little smaller to make 8 per batch. Since we were going to have lots of appetizers before dinner and intended to use them as chowder “vessels”, this smaller sized suited us well.

Sourdough Bread Boule
Prior to baking these little guys got brushed with an egg white wash and were quickly spritzed with water. These two additional steps gave them a beautiful golden sheen and helped to create the wonderful crisp exterior texture.

PERFECT sourdough characteristics!

February 2017 Family Dinner
As for the crumb, I wish I would have taken a pic of the interior– it was spongy with great bubble pockets. The flavor was subtly sour—in fact, I would have preferred a bit more. But it was still slightly tangy. I think next time, I’ll give Tartine’s recipe a try now that I’ve gotten my feet wet.

February 2017 Family Dinner

But overall, I definitely recommend it! The method below is quite easy to follow–even for those new to bread baking.

Happy Sourdoughing!

__________________________________
Mini Sourdough Bread Boules
Makes 6-8 mini boules

Ingredients:

1 cup fed sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp water optional
1 tbsp egg white lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
water

 

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter, water, and all-purpose flour. Mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill overnight, at least 12 hours.

Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and bread flour to the sponge. Mix until a ball of dough begins to come together. If some of the dry ingredients will not incorporate into the dough, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water to moisten them. Continue kneading the dough (on low speed if using an electric mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into eight equal portions. Form each piece of dough into a ball, and tuck any loose edges or seams underneath. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat shaping with the other 7 pieces of the dough. Transfer the shaped boules to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.

Place a baking stone or large dutch oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 425? F. Allow the pot to preheat for at least 20 minutes. Just before baking, lightly slash the top of each boule using a sharp serrated knife. Brush the exposed surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Spray the loaves lightly with water. Slide the entire baking sheet onto the baking stone or carefully place 4 boules in the dutch oven with the top on. Bake about 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is golden brown. If baking with the dutch oven repeat once the first four have been baked. Transfer the finished boules to a wire rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe From: Half Baked Harvest

Drinks

Sparkling Rosé Sangria – Happy National Rosé Day!

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

With all the craziness going on right now, aren’t you happy to know that at least we have random holidays we can celebrate and temporarily take our minds off of the insanity?

Brilliant holidays like the one today. And “what’s today” you may be asking?

Oh silly Friend….

It’s National Rosé Day—-as in, Rosé Wine!

And no, I didn’t make it up–though it does sound like something I would do.

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

To honor this illustrious day, I’d like to share with you my Sparkling Rosé Sangria. It’s filled with fresh fruit, rosé wine, cognac, orange liqueur and is topped off with chilled sparkling wine right before serving.

And my special addition? Fresh ginger root! The ginger is steeped in the sangria for a few hours which imparts a subtle but bright flavor. The whole combination is like drinking summer in a glass!

Totes Pretty in Pink

CHEERS Friends – and HAPPY NATIONAL ROSÉ DAY!

_________________________________________________
Sparkling Rosé Sangria
Serves as many as you’re willing to share with

2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled
12 cup simple syrup
14 cup fresh lime juice
13 cup cognac
13 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
2 cups sliced fresh peaches
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
4 sprigs fresh mint, more to garnish
2 750mL bottles rosé wine
ice
1 750mL bottle chilled sparkling wine

With the back of a large chef’s knife (or mallet), carefully bruise the ginger to help release some of its juices–but be sure not to break it into smaller pieces.

In a large pitcher, add the bruised ginger, simple syrup, lime juice, cognac, Cointreau, fruit and mint sprigs. Pour in the rosé wine and stir. Cover the pitcher and refrigerate for 4-5 hours. Once chilled, remove and discard the ginger and wilted mint sprigs.

Fill glasses with ice and add the sangria. Pour 2-3 ounces of chilled sparkling wine in each glass and gently stir the contents. Garnish with additional mint leaves and serve.

CHEERS!