Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

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I have a pizza stone and a peel so I really have no need to make pizza in my cast iron skillet. But now that I’ve tried it, I’m sold. The crust didn’t get as brown as when I use the pizza stone. But it’s so much easier – it makes weeknight pizza a no brainer.

1) Preheat the oven to 475. Brush the cast iron skillet with olive oil.

2) Stretch out the dough (I bought pre-made dough at Trader Joe’s) until it’s about as big as the pan and lay out. Stretch the dough as needed until it covers the whole bottom of the pan.

3) Spoon on your sauce. I used pesto for this pizza. Add cheese. I used fresh smoked mozzarella which I sliced. Add toppings. I used two kinds of salami, and mixed olives and peppers from the olive bar.

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4) Put skillet in oven and bake until brown. I checked after 11 minutes, then rotated the pan and baked for another 4 minutes.

5) Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. (I got impatient and took the pizza out of the pan after 5 – I bet the crust would have gotten browner if I let it sit in the hot pan a little longer.) Transfer to cutting board with tongs or a large spatula,

To gild the lily, I added arugula to the top after I took the pizza out of the pan.

Here’s a mushroom pizza I made on another day:

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Cookbook Review – L.A. Son

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You don’t get Roy Choi’s cookbook L.A. Son because you want ideas of what to make for dinner. You don’t even get it because you want to replicate the delicious food you’ve had on his truck or restaurants. You get his book because you love Roy Choi and love L.A. His book is part memoir and part cookbook. I loved the memoir part. He did a great job conveying the immigrant experience – an immigrant growing into an American kid trying to embrace or at least fit in with two cultures. Coincidentally, I just read Gary Shteyngart’s memoir, Little Failure, which covered much of the same ground. Bet you never thought you’d get that comparison in a food blog, right?

I love Roy Choi. I had been hearing about his Kogi truck but never wanted to stand in the long lines that he always gets. And then miraculously, the Kogi truck showed up in front of my house! It turned out that our neighbors were having a party and invited us to join. The Kogi truck food was amazing. The strong flavors of Korean barbecue beef on a taco – it was a natural. The blackjack quesadilla – amazing. It seems simple to say, but the food is so good because the flavors are so strong.

And then there was the time that I went to Choi’s restaurant Chego…on the day Jonathan Gold was reviewing it. Talk about food celebrity! If you look at the L.A. Times online photo gallery with Gold’s review, you can see a blurred out picture of my friends and me. The next time I went to Chego, I saw the man, Roy Choi, himself. He was sitting outside looking at his phone. Here is my lunch companion’s selfie that just happened to have Roy Choi in the background – how did that happen?

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Back to L.A. Son. Since the book is really a memoir, the recipes make no sense unless you read the chapters. I tried some of the recipes and they’re a little crazy but some of them were very, very good. The recipes call for a lot of ingredients, many of which are Asian and must be found in an Asian market. On the other hand, some of the recipes with a lot of ingredients are very easy. It seemed like Choi’s basic instruction is throw all of these ingredients into the blender, pour into a pan, add protein, cook, done. I made an eggplant curry dish this way (he had you add raw diced eggplant into the sauce and cook for about 10 minutes or so – it worked – it tasted no different than if I had sauteed the eggplant first). Same for Korean short ribs – blend a bunch of ingredients, pour into pan, add short ribs, cook for a few hours, add some veggies and cook a while longer. Delicious. Even his crazy dish of chili spaghetti was fantastic. Why don’t we always put chili on spaghetti? I will definitely make that for a Super Bowl party.

Beware of several things, which you’ll notice right away. His recipes seem to be scaled for large quantities so you may have to adjust. Also, the dishes are delicious because they’re highly flavored. Sometimes the recipes get carried away, like the one which called for copious amounts of cayenne pepper. (I don’t think so.) Or he’ll have you throw the whole serrano pepper, stem, seeds and all, into the blender.

I found that I couldn’t find that many recipes that I wanted to cook out of the cookbook. But the ones that I tried were so boldly flavored that my regular weeknight fare seems so bland in comparison. I’m glad I read and cooked out of L.A. Son, but it’s not going to be my go-to cookbook any time soon. Sadly.

A Shameless Plug

This is a shameless plug for my new companion blog, Good Enough Life Coach.  Like Good Enough Gourmet, it will provide hacks for getting through life the easy way.  However, while I’m actually pretty good at cooking, I’m not all that great at the things I plan to write about on Good Enough Life Coach.  But that just makes it more fun, right?

Pizza with Tomato, Prosciutto, and Greens

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This pizza was amazing. I got the recipe from my CSA (Farm Box LA) newsletter.

Ingredients:

  • pizza dough (homemade or store bought – I used Trader Joe’s brand for this)
  • cornmeal
  • olive oil
  • garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • salt (optional)
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • fresh oregano (optional)
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • greens of your choice (e.g. chard, kale)

Instructions:

First a note on quantity.  A tub of fresh mozzarella balls (get the medium or large sized, not the tiny ones), a 4 oz package of prosciutto, and a bunch of greens will be enough for two pizzas.  So make two pizzas! Double the very approximate quantities listed above.

1) Preheat oven to 450 (preferably with a pizza stone in the oven but ok if you don’t have one).

2) Cut or tear the greens and add them to a baking sheet, tossed with olive oil and salt.  Put in oven for 10 minutes, until they’re a little brown and dried out, but not completely dry (i.e. not as dry as kale chips). Remove from oven and set aside.

3) Roll out pizza dough and stretch it to a roundish shape.  Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel or a baking pan.  Transfer the dough to the peel or pan and adjust shape.  Brush some olive oil on the dough.  Add chopped garlic and brush it around to make sure all the garlic’s not in one place.  Then – my secret pizza technique – sprinkle a little kosher salt on the dough, especially the outer edges that won’t be covered with toppings.  Slide the dough onto your pizza stone or put the pan into the oven and bake for 4 minutes.

4) Slice your tomatoes.  After the dough has baked for 4 minutes, add the tomatoes.  The tomatoes don’t have to cover the whole pizza – just make sure there’s tomato in each bite. Bake for 10 minutes.

5) Slice the mozzarella balls.  After the pizza has baked for 10 minutes, add the mozzarella balls and bake for 5 more minutes until the crust is nicely brown. Remove from oven.

6)  Slice prosciutto into thin strips.  Scatter the prosciutto strips over the pizza and then scatter the greens over the top.

Enjoy.

 

Cookbook Review – VB6

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Ah Mark Bittman, why don’t I like your recipes more?

I like Mark Bittman.  I like his approach to cooking and eating and I like what he has to say about food.  I have his “How to Cook Everything” and “Minimalist Cooks Dinner” cookbooks.  “How to Cook Everything” has pages falling out of it because I refer to it alot – it really does have recipes for pretty much anything you want to make, with lots of variations.  None of the recipes are the best one you’re going to find for that particular dish but they’re passable.  I only cooked from “Minimalist Cooks Dinner” a few times because the recipes were, meh.

I first heard about Bittman’s VB6 diet at a lecture he gave in 2012.  I arrived early, hoping to stalk him – I mean make chit chat with him, and get a good seat.  He was sequestered away in a private room so stalking was not possible but I did get an excellent seat.  His talk was about the type of food Americans eat (bad) and where it comes from (also bad).  I kept forgetting that I wasn’t listening to Michael Pollan — their messages are similar.  During the Q&A, he talked about his diet which he calls VB6, or Vegan Before 6:00.  (The VB6 cookbook hadn’t come out yet.) He needed to lose some weight and had some health problems so his doctor recommended that he become a vegan.  His compromise was VB6.  He eats vegan for breakfast, lunch, and any midday snacks and eats what he wants for dinner.  The diet was successful for him and over time, his dinners became less meat heavy and healthier. He still has the flexibility to eat what he wants or splurge from time to time, but his overall diet is good.

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I found the VB6 cookbook to be a bit overwhelming.  To follow the suggested diet, you’d have to cook breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  Bittman gives alternatives, for example when you’re eating in a restaurant, but I get the impression that this should be an exception.  I generally eat toast (no cooking involved) and coffee with frothed milk (one of my reasons for living – coffee with frothed Clover whole milk – no way am I giving that up) for breakfast, I go out for lunch when I can (my opportunity to take advantage of the wonders that is Los Angeles) and dinner is the meal that I cook every day. I went on a three-week cleanse once and had to cook all three meals and snacks and although the food was delicious and healthy, it was alot of work.  I was so happy to go back to my morning toast and coffee.

However, I did cook some recipes from VB6.  I liked that the recipes, even the ones with meat, were veggie-centric. I make a vegetable-laden pasta sauce that yielded enough for two meals — I froze half (sauce was ok, nothing spectacular), baked falafel (bad idea or maybe it was just my execution), a vegetable-laden frittata (very good), muesli (excellent and simple, a worthy replacement for my morning toast), and baked ziti with greens (by this time, I had returned the book to the library and had to remember the recipe along with some improvisation).

Bottom line, I did not love any of the recipes.  However, I do like the VB6 approach if you’re the type that needs rules to guide your diet yet also don’t want to be denied the foods you love.

How to Build….Risotto

Risotto is easy if you follow the basic formula. Read the formula all the way through before starting to cook — when you add the vegetables depends on which you choose, and you have to heat your broth at the beginning of the process.

1) the onion: all risotto starts with onion. You can use a shallot or onion. Melt 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil in a dutch oven and add chopped onion and cook until softened.

2) the rice: Arborio. No choice there. Add 1 c rice to the onion and cook for a minute, stirring to coat.

3) the liquid: white wine and broth of your choice. Add about 1/2 c. of white wine and cook for about 2 minutes. Heat 4 c. broth so it’s warm when you add. Set timer for 35 minutes. Over the course of the 35 minutes, add warm broth 1-2 ladlefuls at a time, stirring frequently.

4) the vegetables: use any vegetables you want. When you add the veggies depends on which you choose. If I’m using asparagus or peas, I add them near the very end because they need minimal cooking. Mushrooms or butternut squash might be added at the beginning, after sauteeing the onions. Alternatively, you could cook the vegetables separately and add them at the end.

5) the extras: After the 35 minutes, add 1/4 c. Parmesan or a similar (e.g. asiago) cheese, 1 T. of butter, fresh herbs (e.g. thyme or parsley), salt and pepper.

Recap of ingredients (for your shopping list):
butter
olive oil
onion or shallot
1 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
4 c. broth
vegetable of your choice
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
fresh herbs (optional)
salt and pepper

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Good Enough Gourmet Goes “Down Home” – Lukshen and Cabbage

I grew up eating this so I feel sort of silly blogging about it. But it was easy and delicious, and if you get cabbage in your farm box for three weeks in a row, this recipe might come in handy.

Ingredients:
butter (and a little olive oil)
2 red onions
cabbage (I used 2/3 of a cabbage)
salt and pepper
1 16 oz. package of egg noodles (lukshen, if you grew up a a Jewish household)

Instructions:
1) Cook the noodles according to package instructions. FYI, I bought Whole Foods’ 365 brand extra wide egg noodles. Who knew Whole Foods made lukshen?! My Bubbie would be amazed.

2) Melt butter (around 2 T.) in a large skillet and add a little olive oil so the butter doesn’t burn. Slice the onions thinly and add them to the skillet. Cook on medium low heat for at least 10 minutes, until the onions get brown. Stir frequently.

3) Slice the cabbage thinly. Add cabbage to the skillet. You may have to add half the cabbage, let it wilt a little to make room in the pan, and add the rest. Add salt and pepper. Cook until onions and cabbage are soft.

4) Drain the noodles and add to the skillet. Add a little more butter if too dry, and toss until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Add salt if needed.

Good Enough Gourmet, keepin’ it real.

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