28 March 2011

Friendship Food

I love when my foodie friends visit me and we talk about food.
I love making food for my foodie friends, then talking about it again, and again.

Last weekend I had to fulfill a special request for homemade pizza. Pizza again? No argument from me! This was of course from the friend that told all the other friends last year to request pizza when they came to visit. So once again, it's a pizza post – but this time with a bit more detail on the recipe.

I had some 50/50 boule in the refrigerator (made the same way as the artisan master boule, just substituting 1/2 of the flour with whole wheat) so I was able to make three pizzas for Sunday lunch.

Remember the War Eagle Mill flours that I mentioned a while back? I use their organic White Cornmeal to dust my pizza peel. It is silky fine, unlike some cornmeal that I've purchased at the big box stores. It makes it easy to slide the pizza onto the stone, and it doesn't give you big crunchy pieces on the bottom of the dough.

After dusting my peel with this great white cornmeal, I roll out an orange or apple sized piece of dough on a lightly floured surface (after turning it under just like an artisan roll). Once I get it nice and thin it is placed on the peel and brushed with olive oil. I like to use a garlicky magic oil that lovely Trish taught me to create. You crush up some fresh garlic, cover with olive oil and microwave for 25 seconds. Seriously, it's the best thing EVER.

After the olive oil comes the tomato sauce, then the toppings. Shimmy the pie onto a preheated pizza stone and bake for about 10 minutes in a very hot oven (maybe 475-500º).

The photo below shows our  "leftover" version of Grilled Chicken Pizza, made with marinated chicken from our grilling the night before. The hickory grilled meat (NO lighter fluid, NO chemically treated charcoal) got chopped up and surrounded by leftover grilled vegetables (asparagus and onion), a jarred organic pasta sauce, and topped with a mix of grated mozzarella, Dutch goat cheese and parmigiano-reggiano.

I don't want to honk my own horn, but (*honk*) SUPER (*honk-honk*) DUPER (*honk*) YUMMY. The smoky flavors of the grilled meat and vegetables were matched perfectly with the bite of the goat cheese.

What's next? Breakfast for dinner!

12 March 2011

The Meat Ball

Dear Deer,

I'd like to set you up with my friend, Beef. I think your qualities are quite compatible, so you'll surely make a great match. I know your recent sausage makeover dressed you up a bit spicy, but Beef is so lean and mellow that he'll balance you out (he's grass-fed, you know). I have recommendations from some local farmers, the Dixons and the Truslers.

See you at the Meat Ball! Don't worry about what to wear, I've got it covered. I've got a groovy little mushroom sauce that'll be gravy with a little heat. You're going to look YUMMY.


Mix Master Meat Eater

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
This one's for you, Jennifer R. Thank you for loving the food enough to ask about how to make it! There's no greater compliment...

Venison-Beef Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy Sauce
Disclaimer:  All measurements in this recipe are estimates, as I put it together for a friend's party and am trying my best to remember the process!  Sorry, folks. I'm pulling that "Mom's recipe guessing" card.
If you don't have a friend or relative that hunts, you'll have to find one. Remember my husband's venison chili? I used the last half of that 2 lb. tube...

1 lb. tube venison sausage
1 lb. ground beef
1 egg, lightly scrambled
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 c wheat germ
2+ tbsp soy sauce or bragg's liquid aminos (you can use worcestershire if you need to)
olive oil

*spice list follows...just eyeball it for your taste buds!
chili powder
Emeril's essence
garlic powder
onion flakes or powder (or both)
dried parsley
salt & pepper to taste

Mushroom Gravy: Trader Joe's has a mushroom soup in a box. Simmer about 5-6 cups of mushroom soup, add some white wine and a bit of cream if you so desire. Make sure it's a nice creamy consistency. You can make this ahead of time and freeze it or keep it refrigerated for a few days.

Materials: large mixing bowl, small skillet, medium saucepan, large skillet, casserole dish with lid or dutch oven

Chop up the onion and garlic and sauté in a bit of olive oil. Meanwhile, place your thoroughly thawed meat in a large mixing bowl together (both venison & beef), then gently break apart the tube shapes (or blocks) so the most of the meat is exposed. After the onion and garlic are nice and sweaty (maybe close to 5 minutes on medium-low heat) take off of the heat and set aside (start heating a separate large skillet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and reheat the oven to 275ºish). Add egg, wheat germ, bread crumbs and soy sauce to the meat. Sprinkle on your spices and once the onions and garlic have cooled, add them as well. Using your hands, start mixing the spices and bread crumbs into the meat. Don't overwork the meat, just gently push everything together until incorporated.

You can immediately begin forming meatballs about the size of a ping pong ball. Brown them in the large skillet, turning the meatballs to brown all sides. (Yes, you have to turn them). Place them in the casserole dish after you've browned them. Pour the mushroom gravy over the meatballs (to cover them) then place in the oven with the lid on for about 45 minutes to an hour. I don't even remember how long I had them in there, but I remember they were bubbling pretty good and the meatballs were given enough time to flavor up the gravy. You can also place the meatballs in a crock pot, cover with the gravy and simmer them on low for a few hours.

If you're making them for a party like I did, make the gravy and meatballs ahead of time -- freeze meatballs in layers with parchment in between. On party day, thaw, brown, then bake them in the gravy.

Have fun!!

07 March 2011

Patio Garden Experiment 2011

Can you believe it? Spring is almost here! One of our little daffodil/narcissus plants is in full bloom, the iris leaves are stretching up past 12" now, and the plum tree is about to bust out in beautiful flowering fireworks. Yay!! Plums this year!! (Our tree took a Sabbatical last year)

So, Patio Garden Experiment 2011 is underway. You can see PGE 2010 right here. We began PGE 2011 by starting some seedlings indoors. These are plants that can handle being planted before the last frost. Some of the seedlings didn't push through but we did plant what came up, in addition to a few purple potatoes that we had saved. I'm looking forward to trying potatoes in a pot! We will have to mound them up somehow. 

Here's how we began this year's experiment....

1) The seedlings were started in a compostable egg carton a couple of weeks prior. Daddy-daughter bonding time. We kept this in our kitchen until planting day.

2) I cut out a section of the carton with the seedling to plant.

3) I punctured the bottom with my trusty fiskars, to help break down the carton or help the roots escape if the carton takes a while to break down in the dirt. 

4) We planted the seedling, carton and all, in our large patio pots. My husband had added some fresh compost to the pots a couple of weeks prior and we noticed a nice number of worms in the dirt. My daughter loves handling those little guys (no, really! She loves them).

We also had to dig out the acorns (they fell by the millions this winter) as they were already starting to bust out and root. Yikes! We may have a nice oak forest on our hands this summer...we'll have to keep our eyes on the dirt and do a lot of weeding. 

Note to self: "Self, don't put the acorns you rake up into the compost pile." 

5) We had our assistant gardener make sure the plant was sufficiently buried. (Yes, I documented this moment when our assistant was convinced that a t-shirt and jeans would be appropriate planting attire. She prefers to dig while wearing a dress or tutu with pink galoshes).

6) The head gardener (that would be my husband) inserted the ring. Just like that....We're in the observation stage! 

Fun times. Be sure to check back for more fun with our experiment.

03 March 2011

Magic Bear

Every time we visit my in-laws we make a stop at War Eagle Mill. This mill is great... it has a beautiful view of the river, a bridge to walk over the water, and a couple of times a year they hold a very large arts festival on the grass fields.

One of our "must have" items in the kitchen was purchased at the mill a few years ago and frankly, it's a "must share." The Brown Sugar Bear has changed my baking life! Have you ever had one of those days when the recipe calls for a packed 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and all you can get out of the bag is a huge rock of sugar, or large clumps that won't break evenly into the measuring cup? After I made the switch to organic brown cane sugar, it seemed impossible to break up the clump. Well, my friends... Bash, crash and stash this sugar no more. Get yourself one of these babies and you'll have smooth and silky brown sugar heaven!

By the way, you can also purchase the most amazing stone ground corn meal, mixes, organic flours (the rye is really smooth), and enameled cookware. Check out War Eagle Mill's online store.