Sunday, January 30, 2011

Easy Rosemary Flatbread

Yesterday was a most perfect day.  Forget that it was sunny and almost 75 degrees...the best part was that it was so full of socializing with many wonderful folks! It started with one of Scott's clients, James, showing up in the morning to see his bike. The infamous bike on which Scott broke his collarbone after hitting a deer over a year ago on the way home from a show where said bike won first place in its' class! He had finished the restoration that very week and it was sweet. Not so much after the intimate encounter with the deer. James was in Dallas for work this week and rented a car to make the 5 hour drive to the ranch to have a visit (and a test drive) with his bike. We'd never met James although Scott had many phone conversations with him and we were pleasantly surprised at what a great guy he was.  If anything, we were sad his visit was so short!  We look forward to seeing him again sometime soon. Mid day, I headed to Comfort to pick up my milk and visit a new thrift store in nearby Center Point named "Little Shop of Hoarders". Great name, huh? It's owned by a friend of mine, Holly.  I hadn't seen Holly in quite a long time until we sat together at a funeral a few weeks ago. She told me about her store and I couldn't wait to check it out. It is jam packed full of all kinds of stuff-my favorite kind of store- and it felt like a treasure hunt! I came away with a really heavy flannel shirt for Scott, a great stained glass window for the new kitchen and a killer pair of earrings! I returned home and decided I wanted to make a batch of mozzarella. I had an extra gallon of raw milk and have been wanting to try my hand at cheese.  Since we were expecting another of Scott's clients in the late afternoon I thought it would be a nice snack for all of us. I printed out the recipe and from the time I pulled the milk out of the fridge to Scott tasting the finished cheese was 45 minutes!! Phenomenally easy and way better than store bought! The better than store bought didn't surprise me, but the easy part really did! Why haven't I been doing this for years?? I plan on making more next week and will photograph the process and write a post on it, so start hunting down some good milk NOW! So I had this beautiful glob (elegant word, yes?) of still warm mozzarella and I told Scott, "I wish we had some crackers to go with it..." when I remembered some rosemary crackers I'd made a month ago for a client dinner. I threw all the ingredients in my mixer and 5 minutes later the dough was done and resting. I saw Mario's car drive up the driveway with another car following. When the two cars parked, all these people started tumbling out. Who ARE all those people?  I walked out to the driveway and Mario introduced me to his mother and father, his brother and his girlfriend, and his sister along with his wife Eva, whom I had met last year. Mario's family had surprised him for his birthday by traveling all the way from Uruguay for a big celebration. What an amazing family!  While they visited with Scott, I went back to the kitchen, preheated the oven to 475 degrees and rolled out ping pong sized balls of the dough. So easy, quick and incredibly delicious. And with a couple bottles of red wine and some fresh mozzarella, it made a special treat. An impressive snack for an impromptu soiree!
The recipe halves beautifully, but I wouldn't do that if I were you as you'll regret it!
Here's the step by step in pictures with the recipe following.
Mix flour, salt, baking powder, pepper and fresh rosemary in the bowl of a mixer-you can also mix this in a bowl by hand.
Add olive oil and water and mix until a soft dough forms.
Form dough into a ball and let rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. I have a pizza stone that stays in my oven all the time for bread baking. If you don't own a pizza stone, place a rimless cookie sheet in the oven or turn a rimmed one upside down. Let it heat up with the oven.
Cut dough into 8-10 pieces.
Roll each piece out on a lightly floured board until it is very thin.
Place the flatbreads two at a time on a parchment lined upside down cookie sheet or a pizza peel.
When the oven reaches 475 degrees, slide the parchment onto the pizza stone or cookie sheet in the oven. Bake for 5-8 minutes until the flatbread is golden brown and crisp.
Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Stack them up as you pull them out of the oven.
You can place them on a platter whole or break them into cracker sized pieces.
I may never buy crackers again!!!
Here is the recipe:

Easy Flatbread with Fresh Rosemary
3 3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt + more for sprinkling on top
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2-3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1 cup water
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + more for brushing on top

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place a pizza stone or a rimless cookie sheet or a rimmed cookie sheet turned upside down in the oven. Place flour, kosher salt, baking powder, black pepper and rosemary in the bowl of a mixer. Mix for 10 seconds to distribute ingredients. Add water and olive oil and mix until a soft dough forms. Form dough into a ball and let rest for 30 minutes. Cut dough into 8-10 pieces and roll each piece out very thin. Place two flatbreads at a time on a parchment topped cookie sheet and slide them into the oven. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Repeat with remaining flatbreads.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pearls of Wisdom

I have been attempting to clean all the "memorabilia" off the know, all the pics of friends' kids (and our own kids), magnets from the recycling center, wedding invitations that were too cute to throw away. It is a cluttered mess.  As I was removing it all, I came across a small piece of paper. I was rather surprised to realize it had been on the fridge almost 10 years! It came off Scott's fridge in his house in Kerrville. I met Scott 11 years ago (in fact it was 11 years on 1/11/11!). He had a cute little house in Kerrville where he lived with 2 of his 3 children. When he moved out to the ranch, this small scrap of paper came with him. I am going to tuck it away in a memory box, but I wanted to post it here.

Stay loose. Learn to watch snails. Plant impossible gardens.
Invite someone dangerous to tea. Make little signs that say
YES! and post them all over your house. Make friends with
freedom and uncertainty. Look forward to dreams.
Cry during movies. Swing as high as you can on a swingset,
by moonlight. Refuse to "be responsible". Do it for love.
Take lots of naps. Give money away. Do it now. The money
will follow. Believe in magic. Laugh a lot. Celebrate every
gorgeous moment. Take moonbaths. Have wild imaginings,
transformative dreams and perfect calm. Draw on walls.
Read everyday. Imagine yourself magic. Giggle with children.
Listen to old people. Open up. Dive in. Be free. Bless
yourself. Drive away fear. Play with everything. You are
innocent. Build a fortress with blankets. Get wet. Hug trees.
Write love letters. Pay attention to pearls of wisdom.

In so many ways, these words are Scott. As I removed it from the fridge and re-read it, it made me smile.
I know it is this type of thing that made me fall in love with my husband. He is fun and young at heart.
And he makes my life really fun. I couldn't ask for much more.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making Borscht with Anastasia

Scott and I recently became acquainted with a wonderful young Russian couple, Evgeny and Anastasia. Evgeny, being a civil engineer back in Russia, has been advising us on our plans for a wood burning oven. Last Saturday morning, Anastasia came over to teach me how to make borscht. When she gave me the grocery list earlier in the week, I was confused. Being Lithuanian, I ate my share of borscht as a child. My grandmother made it fairly regularly along with pirogues and potato kugele (yes, I come by these hips naturally). Beef, potatoes and tomato paste were on her list along with other things I didn't remember in my childhood borscht. When I questioned her, Anastasia told me that there is ANOTHER soup in Russia simply known as Beet Soup that is what I was describing. Maybe that will be a different cooking lesson!
This soup is the perfect vehicle for all the wonderful vegetables available in the winter...beets, carrots, cabbage, onions, potatoes. On the grocery list it simply said Beef, so I thawed some of our grass fed ground beef.  When Anastasia saw it she asked if I had a chunk of beef..."maybe with a bone?". The closest I had thawed was a chunk of buffalo without a bone. She said that would do. A week earlier when waxing poetic about Anastasia's terrific borscht, Evgeny said that it could be made with any meat, but beef was the best. Anastasia seconded this opinion and said that in "cheap" restaurants in Russia they make it with chicken, but that they might as well leave the meat out, it was so terrible. So buffalo it was. We started off by browning the buffalo meat in a bit of olive oil in a large soup pot.  We then added a gallon of water and simmered the buffalo while we prepped the veggies. The beets were peeled and cut in large matchsticks, the carrots sliced in rounds and the onions diced.  These were all sauteed in olive oil in a skillet. Look at those beautiful beet greens! Anastasia said they sometimes add the greens to the soup, but these went back in the fridge to be sauteed with garlic and added to white beans later in the week.
Anastasia added a few Tablespoons apple cider vinegar to the beets, carrots and onions. The kitchen filled with an incredible smell. I almost abandoned the idea of soup at this point just so I could have a bowl of these veggies! Garlic cloves were diced and added to the beet/carrot/onion mixture and it was kept over medium heat until just tender.  Anastasia then diced the cabbage and added it to the beef pot.
I fished the beef chunks out of the pot and cut them in smaller, more manageable pieces then sent them back to the soup pot. At this point we realized the soup pot was a bit too small! We made ALOT of soup! After mixing in a can of tomato paste to the soup pot, the beet mixture was added.
We cut the potatoes in large chunks, added them to the soup and upped the heat a bit until it was barely simmering. Anastasia sent me to the garden to gather some fresh oregano while she seasoned the soup liberally with salt, pepper, paprika and chipotle, which I'm sure isn't what they use in Russia, but I didn't have cayenne. As we talked and cleaned up the kitchen, the soup bubbled away on the stove. It wasn't long before the potatoes were tender.
I sliced some green onions and got some homemade yogurt out of the fridge. Sour cream is the traditional topping, but I always sub yogurt for it in recipes and it always works great. It was perfect for this soup.
Scott and I finished off the leftovers for lunch today and it was just as tasty as Saturday. I think I will be making this soup often this winter and into the spring.  Here is the recipe:
Anastasia's Borscht
2 pounds beef (short ribs would be excellent here)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 large beets, peeled and diced
5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
1 large or 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic
1/2 pound of cabbage, diced (more if desired)
1 pound potatoes (about 4 small), peeled and cut in large dice
1-12 ounce can tomato paste
2-3 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-5 inch sprig fresh oregano, leaves chopped (or 2 teaspoon dried)
2-3 Tablespoons kosher salt (if using regular salt, use less)
2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder or ground cayenne
2 teaspoon good paprika
Plain yogurt or sour cream (for topping)
2 green onions, green part sliced (for topping)

In large soup pot, brown beef in 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat until browned on all sides. Add 1 gallon water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet and saute beets, carrots and onions until barely tender. Add vinegar and garlic and saute 5 minutes more. Add tomato paste and cabbage to beef and stir well to mix. Add beet/carrot/onion mixture to beef and cabbage and stir to mix. Add potatoes and let soup simmer for 15 minutes. Add oregano, salt, pepper, basil, paprika and chipotle or cayenne and stir to mix. Let soup simmer an additional 10 minutes. Taste soup and adjust seasonings as needed. Taste a piece of potato to check for doneness. Top with plain yogurt or sour cream and chopped green onions.