Friday, May 29, 2009

Don't Hate Because My Dip Is Awesome

Sometimes you're struck with an idea to make something and it turns out...meh (see tonight's attempt at Boho's farro salad). And kill it. Like serious, murder, kill. That's the deal with this dip.

Dip's not something I usually make, unless we're having a party. But tonight (due in small part to said meh farro dish), it seemed like having a little somethin'-somethin' to start off the meal was a good idea. And my ass really did not need another cheese plate, as much as it may have wanted one. So I'm at lunch with Noah and we come up with the idea of a dip - the better to use up the shit ton of leftover crackers from Craig & Sharra's baby shower.

Lately, my go-to dip has been this one. And this one also got cleaned out at the baby shower. But tonight I wanted to make a dip with a) the leftover ricotta I have that's about to go south, b) ingredients that could be found already in my house, and c) that didn't require fatty chips or bread to make it work (again, the crackers REALLY need to get eaten).

That's where the internet and my general awesome met at the intersection of Brilliant Idea and made this dip. And because of it, I encourage each and every one of you to go look in your fridge, see what's dip worthy, stick it in a Quisinart (or should I say Quisin♥rt) and rock your own snack poetry. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Most Awesome Ricotta & Sun Dried Tomato Dip In the Universe
by Sarah (with an assist from Rose Reisman from Light Vegetarian & the Big Oven website)

3/4 c. ricotta
4-5 healthy scoops of sun dried tomatoes in oil
1 tsp. of oil from sun dried tomatoes (or olive oil)
10 basil leaves
1 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese, grated
a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar
salt, to taste

Stick everything in a Cuisin♥rt and pulse to desired consistency. Serve with water, rice or whole grain crackers. Or a baguette, if you insist.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Squash Blossom Pizza? Hello, Summer!

Tell me this doesn't look like a delicious late May dinner:

Even with the mediocre point & shoot picture quality, just looking at this pizza makes me want another slice.

This spring has really been a squash blossom discovery for me. Not just your typical fried squash blossoms (I had some great ones at Ford's Filling Station earlier this month before interviewing for the awesome new job Veronica and I landed). I had some in a light pasta dish, some in a risotto (wow, heavenly) and have spied them on pizza/flatbread menus all over town.

And so when I saw them at the market on Sunday, I figured, "How hard could a squash blossom pizza be?" And, for once, the answer was, "Not very hard." And thanks to a pre-made whole wheat pizza dough from TJs, the leftover mini-squashes from our Memorial Day bbq at Abby's and some cherry tomatoes, it actually seemed pretty freaking healthy. Especially when served with a crazy simple veggie sautee using the other bbq leftovers (The key to good sauteed veg? Lemon juice squeezed on after cooking).

Dare I say I've found a new vegetable lover? Sorry, beets, but your season is over.

Squash Blossom Pizza
by Sarah

1 Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough (or homemade dough for one 12-14" pizza)
12-24 squash blossoms (I bought 60¢ worth and used them all)
10 or so mini-squashes, thinly sliced OR 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 c. ricotta cheese (can be part skim or whole)
1/4 c. mozzarella (fresh is ideal, but I didn't have it and used pre-shredded without an issue)
freshly chopped basil
olive oil
dried basil & oregano
red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to the highest possible setting (about 550 farenheit on conventional kitchen ovens).
2. Toss, stretch or roll out your dough, to your preference. The thinner the better with this one. Then lightly sprinkle with olive oil (1 tsp or so) and rub oil into crust. Sprinkle dried basil, oregano and pepper flakes to your liking on crust.
3. THIS IS THE SECRET: Put your crust in the oven (either directly on a pizza stone or on a pizza sheet) and bake for 6-8 minutes. You want a decent brown-ness to the dough. This will keep it from getting too mushy, something the ricotta might do to your crust. I do this with all of our doughs when we cook pizza and it makes a HUGE difference. Gives a slightly more Neapolitan crunchiness to the crust, which I favor.
4. Remove dough from the oven and put on the toppings in whichever order you see fit (leave the squash blossoms and basil for later, though). I made a thin layer of the ricotta, then put on the thinly sliced mini-squashed and halved cherry tomatoes. *It's important to put the cherry tomatoes with the cut end facing UP. This way they won't sog-up your nice and crispy crust. Then I sprinkled the entire pizza with a small handful of the mozzarella. I think you could also do the veg first, then dollops of ricotta and spots of fresh mozzarella. It's pizza, you really can't fuck it up.
5. Put the pizza back in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
6. Remove pizza again and put the squash blossoms on top. Slide back in the oven and cook for 5 more minutes.
7. Remove pizza and sprinkle with basil. Purple basil adds a colorful punch to the dish.
8. Enjoy pizza while watching the season finale of SOUTHLAND. Which totally kicked ass, by the way.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Community Gardening

You guys might think that Noah and I are fairly serious urban gardeners. But we're nothing compared to my parents and Stacy and Brian. Not only do both couples have their own (large) home gardens, but they share a community garden plot as well.
Located at the Robson-Harrington House, a public park in San Anselmo, there are about thirty individual plots that can be used for a nominal fee by any resident of San Anselmo. The waiting list is long, but my dad and Brian got their first plot a few years back and last year upgraded to a larger, sunnier spot. These top two pics are from our family friend Caterina's garden. Beautiful blooms!
The plot houses a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and trees. The guys do the main gardening, and lemme tell you, they get quite a haul.
You can see tomato trellises mixed in with roses and California poppies. It's really stunning.
This above picture shows some of the many, many tomato cages (I think there are over forty plants) as well as what I think is the climbing fence for pole beans and cucumbers and stuff.
San Anselmo has a great micro-climate. They can get fog in the mornings and hit the 90s by mid-day. You can grow anything from the tropical flowers above to most produce, berries and fruit trees like figs, apricots and apples. I am trying to convince the fam to start growing grapes for wine. I know it's only a matter of time before they give in.
This Tiki was salvaged by my dad from the plot of a former gardener. Nice looking guy to keep you company while you work.
These strawberry plants survived multiple transplants, from the original garden to the new garden to a sunnier spot in the new garden.
And when you just wanna kick back and read a book amidst all the beauty, well they've got that covered, too.
Man, just looking at these pictures is making me jealous. Can't wait to see how everything's growing when we head up for Stacy's 30th birthday in July.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Perfect Strawberry

This is going to be the year that we actually succeed in growing strawberries, dammit. As evidence, I present the first strawberry of the year, in all its juicy, red perfection:

You know how nothing tastes better than something picked and eaten directly from your home garden? I think the fragile strawberry is the epitome of that concept. I'd been watching this lil' guy ripen for ten days or so. Every day I said, "Not quite yet...". Until yesterday. It was just before lunch and I walked out to check the garden and Mr. Strawberry was just sitting there, plump and shining, saying, "Eat me." And so I did. Warm from the sun, it was perfection.

I can't wait for more.