Tag Archives: easy

Kitchen Lab, Non-Blizzard Edition


So it wasn’t the storm of the century that the news media [and Mayor DeBlasio] made it out to be, but Juno deposited a fair amount of snow on my town overnight. Thanks to the two-man team of Paul, my husband, armed with a shovel, and Nick, our neighbor, the proud owner of a brand new snowblower, our porch, front walk and driveway were clean and passable by mid-morning.

Nick and his wife, Wendy, are wonderful neighbors. Since we moved in last August they’ve been so helpful and—well, neighborly. I always thank them, but typically when I want to send a big thank you to someone who’s been extra-special wonderful, I say thanks with food. Usually, I’ll bake cookies. (My mother’s go-to-thank-you is lemon bread.)

Cookies usually do the job, unless you’re trying to thank a diabetic and his Weight Watchers-following wife. I refuse to bake with Splenda, so I had to think of something else. I had time, bread flour, and also needed to make dinner for Paul and myself this evening, so I decided to make pizza.

I’ve been conducting experiments making homemade pizza dough over the past few weeks. My first experiment was Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, which while much easier than I expected was a little too crisp and bland for my liking.

Today I made pizza dough using a recipe from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker. This is a great book for anyone who has moved beyond beginner-level cooking but still appreciates a simple, straightforward approach to baking both sweet and savory treats. Also, if you have a bunch of cooking toys like I do (such as a stand mixer and food processor), you’ll love how Ms. Field provides options for preparation. She tells you exactly how to mix and work with pizza dough by hand, with a mixer, and with a food processor. I’m a novice with dough, so I went with the easiest method: pizza dough by food processor.

I made one adjustment to Ms. Field’s pizza recipe and elected to use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour. I had a huge bag of bread flour in the house, so I figured I might as well give it a shot.

I chose wisely. The crust of this pizza baked up golden brown and crisp, with the kind of giant air bubbles you usually see on restaurant pizzas. So light and airy, but still with enough structure and strength to support sauce and cheese. Bonus: the recipe yields enough dough for two pizzas, potentially 3 depending on the size of the pan you use. I made a Margherita pizza for Nick and Wendy, one for Paul and I, and then I made third irregularly shaped pizza with leftover roasted fennel, Parmegiano Reggiano and mozzarella.


Here’s a rundown of what I did to make Pizza Dough—

1 envelope active dry yeast (OR instant/”rapid rise” yeast)
1/3 cup warm water
A pinch of sugar
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for the dough
1 cup cold water
3 and 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt (NOTE: next time I will use 2 tsp as I think this recipe would benefit from a little more salt)
About a 1/2 cup of all purpose flour to have on hand

Food Processor (12 c.) fitted with dough mixer attachment or large blade
Mixing bowls, plastic wrap, a large dish towel
Rolling Pin, preferably a French one
Pizza crisper pan, round

4 hours, largely inactive

Combine yeast, warm water and sugar in a measuring cup. Stir and set aside for 5 minutes, until a little foamy. Add flour and salt to processor mixer bowl, and pulse a few times to mix. Turn the processor on and pour in the following through the spout in this order: yeast/sugar/water mixture, olive oil, and cold water. Continue mixing until a mass of dough forms and starts pulling away from the edges. Turn the processor off and remove the dough.

Knead gently by hand until dough is soft and shiny. Then rub about a teaspoon of olive oil on your hands before gently rubbing the outside of the dough ball. Place the dough in a glass or aluminum mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cover with a dish towel and place the bowl in a warm, dry place. All of our radiators have covers (basically turning them into benches), so I placed the bowl on a radiator.

Then find something to do for the next hour (or two, in case you have to go run errands).

When you get back to the dough, it should be roughly twice the size of when you last saw it. Remove it from the bowl and place on a cutting board or marble slab. Now, if you want to refrigerate or freeze the dough, this is the time to divide, wrap and freeze (or refrigerate). If you intend to make pizza in the very immediate future, knead the dough gently for about a minute and then put it back in the bowl and cover as before. Back to the warm, dry resting place it goes—for another 30-45 minutes. By this point the dough will have grown to a lighter and somewhat puffier mass.

Remove from the bowl and divide the dough into two halves. Sprinkle flour on your cutting board. Shape the first half into a ball and then flatten with your hand into a disk onto the board, then sprinkle the top with flour. Get your trusty rolling pin and, rolling out from the center, roll the dough into a flat circle about 1/4 of an inch thick. You’ll see air bubbles, and using the rolling pin will help to eliminate the excess air. Carefully peel the dough off the board and lay it on your crisper pan with a 2-inch overhang, so you can crimp the edges. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. After the dough has rested 15 minutes, and the oven has reached temperature, apply your toppings. Go light – more toppings means more weight, which means a pizza devoid of structural integrity. You don’t want that. I used a 14oz can of Hunt’s Fire Roasted Tomatoes (enough to spread on 2 pizzas) and seasoned with generously sprinkles of oregano, garlic powder, red pepper, black pepper and kosher salt. I put the pizza in the oven and set the timer for 14 minutes.

Wait a minute, you’re thinking. You put the pizza in the oven without cheese? Whaa?

Yes. This is critical. If you want melted soft bubbly cheese—not dry, brown, leathery cheese—you have to put it on near the end of baking. So when the 14 minutes are up, take the pizza out of the oven, admire how beautiful and airy and golden your crust is, and apply thinly sliced cheese, which will start melting immediately. Put the pizza right back in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the pizza and add some chopped fresh basil. Let it rest 3-5 minutes, then cut and serve. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

As I mentioned, I had enough extra dough to make a third, albeit irregularly shaped pizza. Having run out of tomatoes and basil, I improvised and topped this one with roasted fennel, mozzarella and grated Parmegiano Reggiano. Dee-licious!


In my next round of experiments, I’ll be using only all-purpose flour to make the dough. I’ll let you know how it turns out. For the moment, a couple key tips:

Working with room temperature dough makes for easier kneading, shaping and rolling. Cold dough isn’t very pliable.

Patience is key.

Happy mixing!


I needed a cookie.

There are cravings you can suppress, and then there are the other kinds of cravings. The kind that can’t be ignored, however much you really, honestly want to ignore them. The ones that fall under the category of “I MUST HAVE THIS IF I EVER HOPE TO BE A COMPLETE/HAPPY/FUNCTIONING HUMAN”.

I have learned – and continue to learn – that when you really want something, and you have an image of this very thing in your head that’s so vivid you could just reach out and touch it, there is no substitute. You must have it. You could try having some alternate version, but it won’t satisfy that deep-seated NEED.

I’m like this about certain pairs of Nikes, burgers, and cookies. Sometimes I’ll want a cookie, and I’ll get one from Starbucks. If I catch a nice barista, the cookie will be warm and a little gooey in the middle, and it’s alright. Nothing spectacular.

And then there are times I need a cookie. A real cookie. I’m not after the sugar so much as a multi-layered experience of WOW. Crisp edges, chewy center. Maybe some melt-y chips inside. But I don’t want a lot of goo. I want crunch and spice and warmth and zing and CHOCOLATE (most of the time; I do eat lots of cookies without chocolate).

I’m back on the Weight Watchers wagon at the moment. I had myself in tip-top shape, and then I got married and went to Hawaii, and my husband and I were all about relaxing and stuffing our faces and taking a break from being consumed with our diets. It was a magical week. And then it was Thanksgiving. And then it was Christmas.

And then there were another 10 pounds on the scale. Oops.

So I’m watching what I eat, and most days I do fine. I eat my veggies, I drink my green tea, I look like the picture of self discipline & inner poise. But last night, as I approached Penn Station on my way home, I found myself wanting a cookie. So I ducked into the Starbucks on 7th Avenue & 31st and got a warm chocolate chip cookie. And a few minutes later, after I took a second bite I thought to myself, “This is really not what I wanted. It’s sugary and has no variation in its texture and it’s so disappointing. Ugh.”

Of course I ate the rest of it. I hate it when I do things like that.

Today I was determined to erase the experience of the bad cookie and instead make a cookie I could be proud of. I flipped through a bunch of my cookbooks and looked at my usual spots online, but nothing was jumping out at me saying, “Pick me! Pick me!”. I had three ingredients I really wanted to use: dark chocolate chips, tart dried cherries, and walnuts. You know, antioxidant rich and pretend-healthy.

So I decided to improvise. I looked at a recipe for oatmeal cookies in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, took it apart, and put it back together as a brand new recipe. If the raw dough is any indication, these babies are going to be fabulous, and I expect the result to be…

The Cookie I Want When I Need a Fucking Cookie


1.5 cups rolled oats
1 cup fresh walnut pieces
12 oz. bag Nestlé Dark Chocolate Chips, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 cups flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup tart dried cherries, roughly chopped


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine oats and walnuts on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until you can smell the walnuts. Remove the pan immediately and set aside to cool.

Measure out a heaping cup of the chocolate chips, place them in a microwave safe bowl. Set the remaining chips aside.

Microwave the bowl of chocolate chips for 30 seconds, then remove and stir chocolate. If not several whole chips remain, continue microwaving at 10 second intervals and stirring until you have a homogenous mixture. Set aside to cool.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. You want to allow time for air to work its way through the mixture – it will be light in color and fluffy. Turn off the mixer and add the melted chocolate. Resume mixing at medium speed, and add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Then add the vanilla and continue to blend for another 30 seconds. Stop the mixer.

Add the flour, cinnamon,baking powder and salt and mix on the slowest setting for 30 seconds – this is just so the flour doesn’t blow up in your face. Then increase the mixing speed to medium and mix until all ingredients are just combined. Turn off the mixer. Add oats & walnuts, the dried cherries and remaining chocolate chips. Mix on the lowest setting for 10-20 seconds, until everything is combined.

Remove the mixing bowl from the standing mixer, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-6 hours, or overnight. Make sure to take the bowl out of the fridge about an hour before you’re ready to start baking – otherwise the dough will be solid as a rock.

Position rack in the center of the oven and set the temperature to 375 degrees. Use a cookie scoop or large spoon to form balls of dough, and place on a cookie sheet about 1.5 inches apart. Since the dough is cold, the cookies don’t spread very much. If you make small cookies (1 scoop each), you’ll fit about 14 to a pan. If you make them larger, as pictured, 9 will fit on a pan. This recipe yielded 30 small cookies and 9 large. It could have been more, but I ate some dough.

Whatever. It was good. Real good.


Make a steak on the austerity plan? Don’t mind if I do.

I make healthy look good.

I make healthy look good.

Hot diggity damn—I made a five ingredient dinner!

Behold, a roasted cauliflower steak dressed with a sauce of olive oil, butter, red pepper flakes and chopped Manzanilla olives. Spicy, healthy and actually really cheap to make.

Set a jelly roll or sheet pan inside your oven, and pre-heat it to 450 degrees. While the oven heats, cut two one & a half inch “steaks” from the center of the cauliflower; save what’s left for another use (like steaming and throwing into your lunch salad tomorrow).  Brush olive oil on one side of the steak and generously sprinkle with Old Bay. When the oven is ready, carefully set the slices on the pan, oiled side down, and repeat the oil brushing and Old Bay sprinkling on the top of each slice. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 14 minutes.

Once your timer goes off, use a spatula to gently flip the cauliflower steaks, then continue baking for another 14 minutes. In the meantime, grab a small pan (not nonstick) and set over medium-low heat. Add about 2 teaspoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons butter, and a generous shake of red pepper flakes to the pan. As the butter melts, give 1/4 cup of small Manzanilla olives a rough chop, then add to pan. Give it a gentle shake, reduce heat, and continue cooking on low for another 3-4 minutes.

The steaks are ready when they are easily pierced with the point of a knife. Remove each steak from the pan gently [again], and dress with the sauce. Ta-daa.

Note: this recipe is vegetarian, but could easily be made vegan by eliminating the butter and just using more olive oil in its place.

Note Part Deux: One large cauliflower will yield two steaks.