Fancy it up with Figs – Fig, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Glaze

Being a female in the science and engineering world usually means you’re surrounded by men the majority of the time. Luckily, in my field, the ratio of men to women is about 60:40. And in my class specifically, the ratio is much closer to 50/50. But even though there’s a large number of girls I can talk to, we often don’t see each other much since we no longer take the same classes and are in different lab groups. Fortunately, we all like to get together once in a while to have a girls’ night! So last month, my housemates and I hosted girls’ night at our house, complete with grilled pizzas, dessert (ice cream and dessert pizza), nail painting, and a movie!

Butternut Squash, Kale, and Goat Cheese Pizza

Grilling is definitely the easiest way to cook a pizza. All you have to do is put the dough onto the grill for a few minutes on each side and then top the second side with your desired toppings. You’ll have pizza ready in less than 10 minutes! The dough gets these great grill marks and is both puffy and crispy. Who says girls can’t grill?

Pizza topped with caramelized onions, tomato, and mozzarella

We grilled several pizzas with different toppings: 1) a butternut squash, kale, and goat cheese pizza; 2) a corn, barbecue sauce, and mozzarella pizza; and 3) a caramelized onions, tomato, and mozzarella pizza. But the best one, by far, was the pizza topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, fresh figs, and basil and then drizzled with a balsamic glaze. The pizza was devoured so quickly that I barely had a chance to snap up pictures and take a bite.

This fig pizza was so delicious!!! The sweetness of the figs and caramelized onions combined with the creaminess and tanginess of the goat cheese and the acidic balsamic glaze was a perfect balance of flavors. Also, the pieces of basil added a nice freshness to the pizza and I’m sure this pizza would pair well with a nice red wine. With these toppings, you can elevate plain old pizza into a refined, fancy dish. Perfect for dinner parties, nice brunches, or girls’ nights!

Side note: If you can get your hands on fresh figs right now, definitely make this pizza! I’m very fortunate to have an aunt who lives nearby with a very productive fig tree and this season, she’s been picking tons of gigantic figs. I’m in fig heaven right now!

Fig, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Glaze
Created from my imagination and similar to these recipes (Bon Appetit and Food.com)

Dough for 1 pizza (here’s the recipe I usually use)
Fresh figs (I used Black Mission Figs, but I’m sure you can use whatever kind you like)
1 Onion
Goat Cheese
Honey
Balsamic Vinegar and sugar (for balsamic glaze)
Basil

(I can’t really give you quantities of the ingredients since it all depends on how much you like each ingredient. Since I absolutely love figs, I put about 1 lb of figs on the pizza. Adjust the amounts to your liking.)

1. Make pizza dough and roll out flat (about 1/3 – 1/2 in thick).
2. Saute sliced or diced onions until translucent and slightly browned.
3. Slice figs and break goat cheese into chunks.
4. Dissolve a few tablespoons of sugar into 1/4 – 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Heat over low to medium heat until vinegar reduces and becomes thick. Stir occasionally.
5. Place pizza dough on to grill for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned and dough has grill marks.
6. Flip the dough over to grill the other side. Brush the top with olive oil and quickly top with figs, onions, and goat cheese.
7. Carefully remove the dough from the grill after checking the bottom has cooked.
8. Sprinkle top of pizza with shredded basil leaves and drizzle with honey and balsamic glaze.
9. Slice pizza and enjoy! (Be warned, this pizza will be devoured within a blink of an eye, so make sure to get a piece!)

This post has been Yeastspotted.

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Forgetting the Focaccia – Olive Rosemary Focaccia

My friends and I recently moved into a new house and in the whole process, we somehow inherited a big jar of green olives. I think olives are one of those foods that everyone has a different attitude towards. Some absolutely love them, some are indifferent, and some completely abhor them. Like my friend Rachel. One day, she asked her boyfriend to pick up a loaf of bread. She told him any kind of bread would be fine. However, when he showed up with a loaf of olive bread, she exclaimed, “Not olive bread!”

Now, I don’t mind olives, but I definitely do not like them enough to eat a big jar of them. I’ll eat a few on a slice of pizza or eat the olive that comes with my martini, but they’re a little too salty for me to eat regularly. So when I saw that big jar of olives, I knew I had to find a recipe that used olives. Remembering that story of olive bread, I looked up recipes for olive bread and found a few for olive rosemary focaccia.

Focaccia is actually a very simple and straightforward bread, similar to pizza dough (according to wikipedia). You just make a basic dough, add in whatever herbs (or food) you want, roll the dough out, spread olive oil over it,  and press your fingertips into the dough. Super easy, right?

Even though it was super simple, being the klutz that I am, I encountered a minor problem. While baking the bread, I was distracted and left the focaccia in the oven for a bit too long. Too long as in, burnt the bread and had the smoke alarm go off! Luckily I made two loaves and baked the other one perfectly.

I made this focaccia for a friend’s birthday dinner being hosted at my new house (which was why I had been so distracted while baking the focaccia). Another one of my friends had planned the whole menu, which included baked brie topped with raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry, mushroom pasta, tuna stuffed bell peppers, and sauteed brussel sprouts with almonds. In addition to the focaccia, I contributed a quick, but fancy appetizer of figs drizzled with honey and topped with toasted walnuts.

Don’t those figs look so fancy?

Despite burning a loaf of focaccia (I had baked the first one and served it, but left the second one in the oven while I joined my friends for dinner – a very bad idea) and having the smoke alarm go off in the middle of dinner, my friend’s birthday dinner was a great success! The food was delicious and the company was great. We all make mistakes sometimes, some more than others (like me for example). But usually it all works out in the end. Besides, how else would you learn if you didn’t make mistakes?

The only real unfortunate thing about this bread was that it didn’t use nearly enough olives since I barely made a dent in my big jar sitting in the fridge. So, if anyone has any fun recipes that use a ton of olives, please let me know!

Olive Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Epicurious

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups (about) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 black or green brine-cured olives, pitted, halved (I used green olives and sliced them)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

1. Dissolve sugar in warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast over the water and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
2. Add the yeast to 3 1/2 cups flour and salt and stir to blend well (dough will be sticky). Add in the chopped olives and some of the rosemary.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky, about 10 minutes.
4. Form the dough into ball and place the dough into an oiled large bowl. Pour a little olive oil on top of the dough and evenly coat the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Punch down the dough, knead it into a ball and return it to same bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm area until doubled, about 45 minutes.
6. Coat a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil. Punch down the dough and transfer it to the baking sheet. Roll the dough out into a rectangle with your fingertips or a rolling pin. Let the dough rest 10 minutes.
7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons oil over the dough and sprinkle the rest of the chopped rosemary on top. Let the dough rise uncovered in warm area until puffy, about 25 minutes.
8. Press your fingertips all over dough. (This was the funnest part! It made me feel like a kid again playing with playdough). Bake the bread  at 475F until brown and crusty, about 20 minutes. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature.

This post has been Yeastspotted and submitted to Bake Your Own Bread.

Berekeley’s Best Pizza – Now Made in my Kitchen

The perfect dinner: Cheeseboard Pizza

If you ever visit Berkeley and ask about a good place to eat pizza, everyone will tell you to go to Cheeseboard. It’s a cooperative pizza shop that sells a different vegetarian pizza every day, but only sells one kind of pizza each day. They’ll sell you any amount you want, from one slice to half a pizza to a whole pizza. (And they always give you an extra small slice!) Now, their pizzas are definitely not ordinary pizzas. All of Cheeseboard’s pizzas are white pizzas. So, they have no tomato sauce and are brushed with garlic olive oil and topped with cheese instead. However, it’s the (sometimes crazy) combination of high-quality toppings that make their pizzas so awesome.

Cheeseboard’s famous corn pizza

Some of the more interesting pizzas they offer include one topped with figs, arugula, and blue cheese and one topped with peaches. Since I absolutely love figs, I had to try the fig pizza. However, despite being a bonafide fig lover, it was a little too weird for me.

Cheeseboard’s best pizza, in my opinion, is the famous corn, lime, cilantro pizza. They usually sell it once a week and the line is considerably much longer on that day. Now, corn pizza may sound a bit weird, but it’s absolutely delicious! The corn is sweet, which contrasts nicely with the saltiness of the feta cheese. The best part is the squeeze of lime on top, which brightens up the flavors of all the ingredients.

Our own pizza creation

Although all of their pizzas are delicious, I usually only like going to Cheeseboard for the corn pizza. Since we had a little craving for pizza, but didn’t want the one that Cheeseboard offered that day, my friends and I decided to make our own. Inspired by our favorite Cheeseboard pizza, we made our own corn, cilantro, and lime pizza. It was just as delicious as Cheeseboard’s! Another pizza we made was topped with barbecue sauce, red onions, corn, and chicken. This one was so tasty! The sweet and tangy barbecue sauce worked great with the chicken, onions, and corn.

Even though it’s super easy to just call your favorite pizza place and have them deliver you a pizza, it’s way more fun making your own. The pizza dough is so easy to make and you can top your pizza with any topping you want. No extra charge! Now I don’t have to wait in Cheeseboard’s extremely long line that’s out the door and around the corner since I can just make delicious pizza at home. 🙂

Pizza Dough
Adapted from allrecipes Amazing Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour

1. Proof the yeast by dissolving 1 tsp of sugar in warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and set aside for 10 minutes. The yeast should become foamy.
2. Once the yeast is foamy, add the oil.
3. Mix together the 2 cups of whole wheat flour and salt.
4. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir to combine. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of bread flour as needed.
5. Knead the dough on a well-floured surface until the dough becomes smooth. Add more flour if necessary.
6. Place dough in oiled bowl and coat dough with oil. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
7. Punch down dough and reshape into a ball. Let rise for another 45 minutes.
8. Sprinkle a pizza pan or cookie sheet with cornmeal.
9. Divide dough into number of pizzas you want to make. Roll dough onto the pizza pan or cookie sheet. Depending on your crust preference, you can roll the dough pretty thin (for a crispier crust) or leave it fairly thick (for a more fluffy crust).

BBQ Corn and Chicken Pizza
1. Roll pizza dough onto baking sheet covered in cornmeal.
2. Spread barbecue sauce onto the crust and top with grated cheese. You can use whatever cheese you have on hand. We only had gouda. 😛
3. Top the pizza with corn, chicken, and red onions.
4. Bake the pizza at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned.
5. Cool the pizza for 5 minutes and cut into slices.

Cheeseboard’s Famous Corn, Cilantro, and Lime Pizza
1. Roll pizza dough onto baking sheet covered in cornmeal.
2. Spread garlic olive oil (minced garlic mixed with olive oil) all over the dough and top with shredded mozzarella.
3. Top the pizza with corn, feta cheese crumbles, and cilantro.
4. Bake the pizza at 350F for 20-30 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned.
5. Cool the pizza for 5 minutes and cut into slices. Right before eating, squeeze lime juice on top (you won’t regret it!)

This post has been Yeastspotted.

Nailing it on Pinterest – Sweet Sweet Potatoes

The most popular, most liked, and most pinned pin on my Pinterest board is this recipe for White Sweet Potatoes with Mirin and Honey from Bon Appetit. It’s a bit shocking to me that over 150 people have some how found my pin and repinned it. I mean, these potatoes do look delicious, but I didn’t think they looked THAT delicious.

I had always wanted to try this recipe, but since so many people have taken an interest in it, I decided that I really ought to try it out. So, I bought white sweet potatoes one day and tried to follow the recipe. Per instructions, I microwaved the potatoes and let them steam in a glass bowl. That’s where it started going downhill. The skins didn’t fall off easily like the recipe said they would. So instead, I had to cut off the skins, which was pretty difficult since the potatoes were rather mushy from steaming. I managed to get some rounds, coated them with the glaze, and baked them in the oven. But I wasn’t able to achieve the same degree of caramelization. Maybe it was because I used a baking sheet instead of a cast iron skillet? Anyways, the potatoes tasted good, but they definitely did not look as good as those in the picture.

A few weeks later, I decided to try again, but this time with orange yams. I modified the recipe by peeling the potatoes first and then slicing them into rounds. I placed them on a baking sheet to roast for 15 minutes and then coated them in the glaze. This time, I placed them in a glass pie pan and baked them. The potatoes seemed a bit more caramelized and looked a bit more like the picture. However, I thought they were a little too sweet.

These potatoes went well with my Asian-themed dinner of miso glazed cod on a bed of brown rice and sauteed shiitake mushrooms with kale. However, I don’t think they were really as good as they look from the recipe. And they definitely were not worthy of having 150+ people repinning the recipe. But that might be due to my poor execution since Jen from use real butter made amazing looking potatoes.  Oh well, maybe the third time is the charm? At least I tried something from Pinterest, even though I didn’t exactly nail it. 😛

Dinner Partying it up – Japchae (Korean glass noodles)

Inspired by all these beautiful recipes I’ve seen on some of my favorite blogs, I decided to try to make some of them and throw a dinner party. For some reason, I have an inclination to cook Asian dishes more than other cuisines. So, on the menu were mostly Asian or Asian-inspired dishes: japchae (Korean glass noodles), chicken fried rice, mirin and honey sweet potatoes, bean sprout kimchi, pickled vegetables, and stuffed peppers with Thai curried rice.

I had originally planned to make a few more dishes, including miso glazed cod. However, halfway through making dinner, I realized I had definitely bit off more than I could chew. So I decided to save those for another dinner party and serve the dishes I was really dying to make, specifically japchae, which turned out to be the star of the dinner.

Korean cuisine is probably my favorite. I love it so much that I can never refuse an invitation to eat Korean BBQ or go to a Korean restaurant. However, it can be a bit pricey and I’ve recently realized that many Korean dishes are fairly easy, especially japchae. After hearing one of my friends proclaim her love for the noodle dish too, I decided that I had to give it a shot and make them for her.

The recipe is basically a stir-fry of sweet potato noodles and vegetables. Usually, beef is included, but since I didn’t have any at hand, I left it out. For my veggies, I used onions, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, bell pepper, zucchini, and spinach. But I’m sure you can use whatever vegetables you like. I didn’t actually follow the recipe that closely. Like I’ve said before, I like to play it by ear when it comes to cooking. So I don’t actually know how much of the ingredients I used. I just eyeballed it and put in however much looked right to me. Also, I was a little surprised to see that the sauce was only soy sauce with sugar. How can you get more simple than that for something so delicious?

My friends loved the japchae! As we ate, they gave so many compliments that I felt a bit silly accepting them, since the dish was so easy. This is definitely a dish that I will make again and again, and so should you! Not only is it super easy and straightforward, but also super delicious (and tastes just like japchae ordered from a Korean restaurant)! Now that I can make it myself, I will probably never order japchae at a restaurant again.

That’s one of the things I love the most about cooking (and baking) – it gives you the ability to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Because you learn how to make things yourself, you no longer have to rely on other people to make it for you. It’s similar to that old adage: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Learning how to cook a dish will literally enable you to feed yourself for a lifetime.

Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

1/2 pound dried Korean sweet potato noodles (I just used the whole bag)
2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced onions (I used half an onion)
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (I forgot this! whoops!)
3 stalks green onions, cut into 1″ lengths (I only added one stalk)
1/2 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced shiitake (I used a small bag of dried shiitake)
1/2 lb spinach, washed well and drained (I don’t think I used this much…)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I tripled this)
2 teaspoons sugar (I tripled this)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Fill a large pot with water and boil. When water is boiling, add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again and toss with only 1 tsp of the sesame oil. Use kitchen shears to cut noodles into shorter pieces, about 8 inches in length. Set aside.

In bowl, mix soy sauce & sugar together. Add the cooking oil in a wok or large saute pan on high heat and swirl to coat. When the cooking oil is hot but not smoking, fry onions and carrots, until just softened, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, green onions and mushrooms, fry 30 seconds. Then add the spinach, soy sauce, sugar and the noodles. Fry 2-3 minutes until the noodles are cooked through. Turn off heat, toss with sesame seeds and the remaining 1 1/2 tsp of sesame oil. Enjoy!

Curryin’ it up – Easy Red Curry

I’ve recently realized just how easy it is to make curry. Why have I been so ignorant? Curry is basically a stir fry using whatever vegetables and meat you want with red, green, or yellow curry. Excited to try my hand at curry, I bought a small can of red curry paste from our local Asian grocery (about $1.50) and a can of coconut milk from Trader Joes (only $0.99!).

Curry is a great way to use up leftover veggies you have in your fridge. That night, I had  some mushrooms, an orange bell pepper, and bean sprouts on hand. I also added some canned baby corn and water chestnuts for a nice crunch as well as tofu, frozen peas, and broccoli.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really like to follow recipes, especially when it comes to cooking. I like to read a couple of recipes for the dish I want to make, follow the basic guidelines, and then add my own touches. I almost never have exactly all the ingredients the recipe calls for, and I’m often too lazy to go out and buy what’s missing. So I end up improvising – either leaving something out or replacing it with something else. This is one of the reasons why I love this curry dish. You can use whatever you have on hand and you won’t ever feel bad that you were missing an ingredient.

I’m also not a firm believer in accurate measurements when it comes to cooking. For baking, yes, you do need to measure ingredients or else you might end up with too dense or dry of a cake or too chewy or crispy a cookie. Cooking, on the other hand, depends only on your tastes. So I usually never measure out things when I’m cooking for myself since it’s only my tastes that I have to worry about. However, when I’m cooking for other people, I try to follow recipes, but oftentimes that doesn’t work out. Guess I’m just a rebel at heart. 😛

 

For these reasons, I’m not really posting a recipe… because I don’t really have one. Making this dish is really really simple and takes about 5 steps:

1) Cut up some of your favorite meat (or tofu) and veggies or whatever you have in your fridge that day.
2) Heat up a pan with some oil and fry some curry paste. (I’m kinda a wimp when it comes to spicy food, so I used about a spoonful).
3) Add some coconut milk, about half a can. Or you can add the whole can if you’d like.
4) Throw in the meat (or tofu) and veggies and wait until they’re cooked. You can stir them occasionally to coat the veggies in the curry sauce.
5) Cook some rice or noodles and place your curry on top. Or if you’re too lazy to do that, just enjoy the curry by itself (which is what I did and it was delicious!). Don’t forget to garnish with cilantro (unless you hate it, of course)!

So I guess that was a recipe, but a pretty vague one. Sorry to those of you who like specific instructions. If you’d like a real recipe for curry, here’s a few from 101 Cookbooks,  allrecipes, and Epicurious.

As I cook more and more, I’m realizing that cooking is a lot like life. Sometimes, you won’t always have what you want or need in a certain situation. But you gotta roll with the punches and make the best with what you have. Like they always say, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Or in this case, when you’ve got a can of curry paste, make whatever kind of curry you want.