Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pizza Time

Since we moved to New Jersey, we've been enjoying a significant upgrade in pizza quality. Sorry Midwest, but you've got nothing on the thing-crusted masterpieces being slung about in this area. Not to mention the ability to buy a slice here instead of a whole pie!

 Now, I say all of this with a caveat.  My wife no longer likes to order pizza out.  We started making pizza earlier this year, and honestly, it’s a much better option.  It’s cheap (you can make 2 cheese pizzas for about $5), lends itself to endless customization, and takes very little time and cleanup.  Win win!  This is a recipe of our current favorite, a white pizza that has consumed all of the arugula we receive in our CSA box.

White Pizza w/ Goat Cheese and Arugula

makes 2 pizzas

1 pound raw pizza dough (look near the cheese section or the freezer section)

5 ounces goat cheese crumbles
3 onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz arugula
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil or an herbed oil (I like Wegmans basting oil)

 Preheat oven to 500°F.  Move oven rack to lowest position, and place pizza stone on rack.  Allow oven and stone to heat for at least 45 minutes. If you do not have a pizza stone, you can use an inverted sheet tray, though it will not take as long to heat up.

 In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add onions along with some salt. Cook, stirring often, until onions begin to brown and soften, about 10 minutes.  Lower heat and continue cooking onions until very brown, 10 more minutes.  If the onions start to burn, add ¼ cup water or white wine to aid in caramelization.  Remove from heat when done.

 Roll half of pizza dough on a floured surface.  Roll thin, and if it springs back, allow it to rest a few minutes before continuing to roll.  Place dough on a piece of parchment paper (helps it to not stick) and roll to desired shape and thickness.  Brush with with two tablespoons of the herbed oil.  Top with ½ of the onions and half of the goat cheese. Bake in oven, checking after 6 minutes for doneness.  Puncture any bubbles to ensure a flatter crust.  Cook until you achieve desired crispiness.  Remove and transfer to either another oven set to low, a warming drawer, or cover with foil (or eat it while you cook the other pizza).

 Toss arugula with balsamic vinegar.  Top pizzas evenly and slice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

White Bean Dip

Have I been slacking on blogging?  Yes.  Do I know this?  Yes. Am I throwing out a new recipe for the Superbowl with the hopes of blogging more soon?  Absolutely.  Enjoy!

White Bean Dip

1 16-oz can cannellini beans, drained and washed
juice of half a lemon
1 clove garlic
dash cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon taragon, basil, or sage
3 T olive oil
basil, parsley, or sage to garnish

In a food processor, blend beans, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne, and herbs along with a good dose of salt and pepper.  While blending, add the olive oil.  Season to taste, garnish with herbs.  Serve with pita chips.  Can be made up to 3 days ahead.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Corn Chowder

One (admittedly minor) thing I was worried about when leaving Indiana was the availability of fresh corn. I had grown used to getting corn from numerous cart vendors throughout town and it always being delicious. It’s what Indiana did well. Here in New Jersey, it seems they have taken the concept of a farmers market and turned it up a few notches. I can find lots of fun foods like fruits, vegetables, fresh breads, pastries, pickles, and so much more. It’s expanded my cooking options quite a bit.

As fall sets in, corn is becoming scarcer as its season ends. Unless you were smart enough to blanch your corn and put it in baggies for freezing (I was not). One of the last times I got some, I made this “lighter” corn chowder with bacon and potatoes. It’s quite a good recipe and uses blending part of the soup as the thickener for the remainder. I have a recipe for pot roast that does the same thing with the gravy, but that’s another post.

To get a bit more char flavor in your soup (it’s quite good), I recommend cooking one or two of the ears over a hot grill and then letting them cool before you proceed.

Corn Chowder
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

8 ears corn, husked and silk removed (2-3 grilled)
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
4 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup flour
5 cups water
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
salt and pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut kernels from corn and place in a bowl (~5-6 cups).  Holding the cobs over a second bowl, use the back of a butter knife or a spoon to firmly scrape the remaining pulp from the cobs (~2 cups). Transfer the pulp and any associated liquid to a kitchen towel set in a medium bowl.  Wrap the towel tightly around the pulp and squeeze until dry.  Once dry, discard pulp and save the resulting corn juice (~2/3 cup).

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat; add onion, bacon, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt and some pepper, cook while stirring often until onion is softened and almost brown, about 10 minutes.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Add water and stir, bring to a boil.  Add corn kernels and potatoes, bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook until potatoes are soft, ~15 minutes.

Ladle 2 cups chowder to blender and process until smooth (be careful of splashing).  Return puree to the pot, add half and half and return to a simmer.  Turn off heat and stir in corn juice, sugar, and dried basil.  Season with salt, pepper, and any more sugar for sweetness.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Thanks to finally getting moved into the house, I have regained possession of my grill. It pains me that the first time I was able to grill this summer was the end of July. And I probably shouldn’t have grilled that night, as it was in the face of a huge storm that knocked a tree onto the roof of our neighbor’s house.
I wasn’t going anywhere with that, I just wanted to show the picture. Back to food. Fajitas are a staple in my house during the summer, easy to make, grill, and throw together on pretty much any night. I prefer steak, though chicken, shrimp, or veggie work quite well. If you’re going for beef, stick to something thin and designed for grilling, namely flank or strip steak. NJ supermarkets thankfully carry both; I could never find strip steak in a grocery store in Indiana. However, if you are fortunate enough to live near a Mexican grocer with a meat counter, chances are they have some and it’s cheaper than anything you can get in the store.

For toppings, I keep it simple with just grilled peppers and onions, salsa, and maybe an avocado. A fajita should stand on its own, with little to get in the way of the meat and tortilla. Hope you enjoy.

Fajitas (Adapted from Alton Brown)
Serves 4-6 

1/2 cup olive oil 
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup lime juice
2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 pounds flank steak, cut into four pieces (with the grain)
2 onions, peeled sliced into thick rings
2 green bell peppers, stems removed and seeded
15-20 flour tortillas
Salsa and sliced avocado for passing

Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Pour marinade over steak in a zip-top bag or pan and marinate for 1 hour. Preheat gas grill to high (or get a charcoal grill nice and hot). Grill onions and pepper (you can lightly oil them first if you wish) until soft and slightly blackened. Slice onion rings in half for strips, and thinly slice the peppers. 

Place steak on grill, cooking on each side for 6-7 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 125°F (for medium rare) or 135°F (for medium). Let rest for 5-10 minutes, and then slice thin. Warm flour tortillas on grill (in foil) or in a low oven. Assemble and serve.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spinach Manicotti

Hey Everyone!

After a long spell of silence, I return to the blogosphere. New kitchen, new location, new recipes! I moved out of Indiana and to the east coast, more specifically New Jersey. Both wife and I relocated here for employment opportunities (no more grad school for her!) and we bought a house, so now I have more space to cook and make a mess.

The cuisine options in NJ are extremely different than what I was used to in Indiana, and as expected, there’s a lot of Italian out here. So what better place to start? After failing to find some ingredients for our original dinner plans (enchiladas), I called an audible and decided to make manicotti.

More to come over the next weeks!

Spinach and Ricotta Manicotti 
Serves 4

1 package dried manicotti
15oz container part skim ricotta cheese
1 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
8 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 16oz jar of your favorite pasta/marinara/tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Boil pasta according to directions. Let cool on sheet pan. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, basil, oregano, and some salt and pepper. Using your hands or a dish towel, wring out most of the moisture from the spinach. Add the spinach and ~1oz of the Mozzarella to the bowl, mix to combine well. If the mixture seems somewhat dry, add 2 tablespoons water to help combine. Transfer filling to a zip-top bag and seal closed.

In a 13x9 baking dish, add a small amount of the sauce and spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Cut one of the corners off the zip-top bag and pipe the filling into the manicotti. Arrange in a tight single layer and cover with the remaining sauce. Top with Mozzarella and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, remove foil, and bake for 20 minutes longer or until cheese is bubbling.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mushroom and Gorgonzola Risotto

My wife has finally convinced me that Bitchin Kitchen is a show worth watching.  I’ve become a bit disillusioned with cooking shows (except you Good Eats, and you will be sorely missed) because they more or less offer the same style, recipe types, and ingredient base.  It’s just not what I’m looking for right now.  But Bitchin Kitchen is not a cooking show.  It’s a half hour crazy-fest that just happens to also feature food.  Even if you don’t cook, I highly recommend catching an episode for entertainment.  I especially enjoy her side kicks.

Most of the show centers around Mediterranean food, and her risotto recipes especially stand out.  This is my melding of her ingredient suggestions with my risotto recipe.  Enjoy.

Mushroom and Gorgonzola Risotto
Adapted from Bitchin Kitchen

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound portabella mushrooms, chopped
2 cups Aborio rice
½ cup white wine
2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 ½ cups water
⅓ cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper
Parsley, to garnish

In a small pot over medium low heat add the water and chicken stock until simmering.  In a heavy bottomed pan (I like a dutch oven, but any heavy pot will do), combine the butter and oil over medium heat until foaming, add the onion and some salt and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 7-8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.  Add the rice and stir constantly until the rice is slightly colored and smells toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until absorbed. Reduce the heat slightly and add about 1 cup of the stock, stirring constantly until all of the stock has been absorbed. Make sure the mixture is bubbling slightly but not boiling.  Repeat until about 20 minutes have passed and taste rice (note: you may not have to use all the stock/water). When slightly al dente add the Gorgonzola and Parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.  The risotto should be slightly runny and not extremely thick.  Garnish with parsley and serve.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Little Indiana

I recently did an interview over at Little Indiana: http://littleindiana.com/2012/02/indiana-blogs-cooking-with-wolfes/

Check out the site for extremely useful articles on what to do and where to go!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What I'm Drinking-Winterfest Edition

I attended Winterfest a few weeks ago, one of the two large beer festivals in Indiana put on by the good people at the Brewers Guild of Indiana.  If you have never attended, I highly recommend it.  Not only did I try some amazing beers, I learned a lot from the brewers taking time to actually talk about their beers as well.  It was fantastic.

In case you have not heard, Indiana cleaned up this fall at the Great American Beer Festival.  By “cleaned up”, I mean won more medals than any other state.  That’s impressive no matter how you spin it.  I’ve become more familiar with some of the breweries in the state, and it’s been quite a pleasure trying out the new varieties they offer.  Here are a few of my favorites, and most can be found at local bars or stores.

Sun King Osiris Pale Ale: Best “everyday” pale ale of any that I drink. It's dry hopped but not to bitterness. It's refreshing and extremely balanced (also, for the record, everything Sun King brews is awesome).

Bier Brewery Fuggit Stout: This won last fall's Brew Bracket II event. It's rich and creamy without being dry or overly sweet

Triton Stout and IPA: This brewery just popped up about a year ago, and I'm loving their beers. Their stout is especially good, and it's nice to see a brewery brew a stout as a house beer. Their IPA is citrusy and easy to drink. I think we can expect bottles in the near future.

People’s Hopkilla: Lafayette's own! I was hard on them when they first started up, but they have really come a long way. This is a double IPA that's easily one of the best brewed in the state. It's aggressive and full of flavor.

Upland Gilgamesh: I learned at Winterfest that I enjoy sours. Sadly, this was a one-shot only tasting for me, as this is a very in-demand and rare beer, but man was it good! Sour and fruity, it gave me the same feeling when eating grapefruit.

3 Floyds Gumballhead: A wheat beer with a nice hop flavor at the end, this is one of the best year-round beers they produce. Good for people looking for something a bit lighter.

Brugge Harvey: Another sour (I was on a roll), quite delicious and tart. Only offered at the Brugge restaurant, but you know, they have great mussels and beer, so it's easy to make an excuse to go here.

Sun King Cream Dream IV: This beer starts as a cream ale but then gets the hell hopped out of it. Not only is it amazing and flavorful, I was lucky to have it out of a firkin, which gave some more complexity from the yeast.

Figure Eight Ro Shampo: I just discovered this brewery, and this red ale is my current favorite. It's slightly bitter, which I enjoy, and the malt on it is quite good.

Flat 12 Walkabout Pale Ale: A single hop pale, this ranks up there with Osiris as my favorite current pale ale. It's wonderfully fruity and bright.

That's just a sampling of what Indiana beers are great. Next time you're out, pick one up, you certainly won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Three Bean Soup

Over the holidays I was fortunate enough to have some delicious food, and a lot of it not prepared by me (win win). For Christmas eve we had smoked turkey from D&R market. It was delicious, and thanks to my tendency to get sick during the holidays, I got to take the bones home as a consolation prize.

It’s tradition for me to make stock from some leftover Christmas animal, and turkey is no different. Stock making is something that is simple, easy, and yields healthier stocks you can freeze and use whenever you want. To make this stock, I browned the bones, added 1 quartered onion, 2 chopped carrots, 2 chopped celery stalks, 4 cloves of smashed garlic, 2 bay leaves, parsley stems, 2 sprigs of thyme, a bit of salt (not much, it’s already smoked and therefore has some salt), and enough water to cover (10-12 cups). Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 hours. Drain, let sit to skim off fat, and use for soups, stews, etc.

While searching for a quick, warm dinner, I came across this recipe from The Other Side of Fifty, another Indiana food blog. I love the idea of using the refried beans as a thickener! It turned out great, though I did add a cornstarch slurry at the end to get a bit more body out of the soup.

Three-Bean Smoked Turkey Soup
Adapted from The Other Side of Fifty

1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T chile powder
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely diced
1 T tomato paste
6 cups smoked turkey broth or other poultry broth
1 15-oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-oz. can non-fat refried beans
3 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 5 tablespoons broth or water
salt and pepper (if using smoked turkey broth, you may not need salt)
Sour cream

Add olive oil in a large pot heat over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook for 7-8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle, and tomato paste, cook for another minute. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the beans and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Add half of the cornstarch slurry and check consistency to your liking. Add the other half if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with sour cream.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tinga Tinga

I'm certainly always on a Mexican kick. With the increasing crop of quality Hispanic markets around the West Lafayette area, it has become easier to source fresh and affordable ingredients for all my needs.  It's the food I truly miss from Arizona, the pure, unadulterated foods of Mexico.

Such is the case with this recipe for pork tostadas (or tinga, if you will). It's inspired from a recipe in Cook's Illustrated, who also seem to have something for Mexican food. It's a simple recipe, it makes enough for a large family or leftovers, and has additional uses such as fillings for burritos, tacos, etc.  I recommend getting your tostada shells from a Mexican market if you can. Make sure to look at the ingredients. It should read something like "corn, water, salt" or be less than five ingredients. If it's more, walk away. Just walk away. Quality is everything here people.

Shredded Pork Tostadas
Serves 6-8

3 pounds pork butt, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 onions, 1 roughly quartered and 1 chopped
6 garlic cloves, 3 peeled and smashed and 3 minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
2 bay leaves
1 cup water

For the tostadas
tostada shells
shredded cheese (queso fresco, cojita, or mild feta)
sliced avocado
sour cream

In a large pot, bring pork, quartered onion, smashed garlic, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 6 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam that comes to the surface with a spoon. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low until simmering, partially cover, and cook until pork is fork tender, 70-80 minutes. Drain pork, reserving 1 cup of the liquid in a tall vessel (make sure to skim off the fat). Discard the onion, garlic, and thyme. Return pork to pot (no heat) and smash with a potato masher until roughly shredded. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, cook for about 3 minutes, then add pork and dried oregano, mixing and then pressing the pork down into the pan to make the pork crispy. Cook, stirring occasionally (flip the pork over) until the pork is well browned and slightly crisp, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomato sauce, reserved cooking liquid, chile powder, cumin, and bay leaves; simmer until thick and most of the liquid has evaporated, 10-15 minutes. Discard bay leaves, season with salt.

To serve, spoon pork onto tostadas, top with avocado (or guacamole), cheese, cilantro, and any other fresh toppings you desire. Enjoy.