Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Real Life


     In real life, I have lots of papers. I have lots of exams. But, I also love to go dance. I love to dress up. I just discovered makeup (it's a late bloomer thing?) and it makes me happy. In real life, there is time for school and work and fun and dancing...but just barely. That is probably why I spend half my studying time dancing around the kitchen...mostly to LMFAO because they are awesome.

     In dream life, I have time to eat healthy food everyday in between all the working and dancing. I never ever eat batter for dinner (it only happened once! I had no food! I was making banana bread! and it was leftover batter not alll the batter...but really, is there an excuse?). In dream life, three of my meals in a row Never consist of - generous slices of - said banana bread - toasted with butter on top - . In dream life, there are balanced plates of meats and veggies.

     Sometimes, on rare occasions, dream life and real life collide! Suddenly, I Do have a balanced meal. Mostly, this happens because I recently went to Trader Joe's. That place is my little heaven. My home away from home. The place to find all the things that make me happy and take me away from Organic Chemistry Land: the one nice cheese I allow myself to buy (last week it was Manchego, this week a 1000 day old Smoked Gouda), the frozen bibimbap which is almost like being at Super 88 back in Boston and eating it out of the stone bowl, and my brother's favorite gnocchi with tomato sauce.

     On these occasions, real life tastes dream life good. On this occasion, this happened because my Trader Joe's visit led me to buy asparagus and pears...because they seemed seasonal...and it was only when I got home that it struck me: Asparagus and Pear Pizza. Asparagus and pears go great together (I found this out when I googled 'Asparagus and Pear' and found tons of recipes...score!), and Deb on SmittenKitchen had made asparagus pizza long ago....and it just seemed like a good idea. And as I discovered while standing over the baking sheet trying not to burn my fingers as I pulled away slices of this pizza and shoved them into my mouth....pears crunchy and slightly sweet, asparagus all green and fresh and slightly sharp, and deep, nutty Smoked Gouda make a pizza worthy of dreams.

Asparagus and Pear Pizza
Loosely Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Shaved Asparagus Pizza

1/2 Trader Joe's Pizza Dough Ball OR Enough Pizza dough for a 6'' Pizza
10 Asparagus Stalks
1 Pear (I used a Green Anjou pear...I don't think you can really go wrong here)
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Honey
Three to Four Generous Grindings of Black Pepper
1/4 cup Shaved Smoked Gouda (or Pecorino Romano if you have that on hand instead)

Pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees.
Then, shave your asparagus stalks. I took Deb's example and held the asparagus stalk by its thick end, using my vegetable peeler to shave off thin strips, and then discarding the end. You should get about 3/4 cup of shaved asparagus. Next, cut your pear into thin strips (cut into thin slices, then cut them into strips).

Get a large bowl, and dump in your asparagus and pear. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and the black pepper mixing it together thoroughly (I used my hands - you want everything coated nicely). You can taste this and flavor it further to taste (for example adding salt, if you like salt, or red chili).

If you do as I do, grab half the Trader Joe's dough and roll it into a ball. Then, rub olive oil all over your 9 by 11 baking sheet and stretch out your dough really thin (this is Thin crust pizza) until it covers the majority of the baking sheet. Or, if you use a pizza stone, roll out your dough into an approximately 8'' diameter circle, it should be very thin, and then lay it on the stone to bake.

Either way, once your dough is all rolled out, top it with the asparagus and pear mixture, spreading everything out so you have a nice flat layer covering the majority of your dough. Grate, or use your vegetable peeler to shave into small pieces, your gouda or other cheese and then sprinkle it all over the top of the pizza.

Stick the baking sheet into the oven and let it bake for 10-12 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and crispy. Take it out, and allow it to cool for 10 minutes (if you can), transfer to a cutting board, cut and serve!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Browning Butter

     Dear people, I wrote this post a long time ago....and then....I never posted it. But, it still holds true! More posts soon!

      Have you ever browned butter? Placed a tablespoon or two of butter in a pan and cooked it lightly until it turns a light brown color and then cooked things in said butter or put it in your baked goods? If you have, you are a very smart person. I wish I had been like you earlier. If you haven't, you should - sometime soon. Because it is very very very worth it.

     I don't actually think I've ever smelled anything as delicious as the fragrance that floated up when I dumped a box-worth of sliced brown mushrooms into two tablespoons of browned butter. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water. Like actually.

     And delicious smells are important. Linguine covered in a fall-inspired pumpkin brown butter sauce and mushrooms is important. Full stomachs are important. Because people, it is cold outside. It snowed...what is with that? Why did it snow????? But moving past that, life can get tiring. One can get so worn down by school that one (i.e. me..ahem ahem) can stop caring about anything but the stress of work work work essay essay essay exam exam exam. And that is not good.

     So, one needs to stop and smell the roses...or know what I mean. Its worth it to take a little bit of your day to chop up those mushrooms and make some delicious (note: hearty, slightly pumpkin-y, a little rich, with that depth of brown butterness) sauce and just let everything go. Or make anything you want! Just stand by the stove or over a mixing bowl and stir stir....and relax a little. Then maybe go out...or see some friends! And forget work for a bit. Because after tonight I get a real life BREAK from work for a few days....and I want you to get one too.

Browned Butter Mushroom Pumpkin Sauce

2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 box Brown Mushrooms, Sliced
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Nutmeg (maybe a little heavy 1/8th of a teaspoon, but to your own taste - I like nutmeg)
1/4 tsp Ginger
3/4 cup Canned Pumpkin
1/3 cup Chicken Broth (or vegetable broth, so this can be veggie-friendly)

In a large frying pan at medium-low heat, cook the butter. Stir it so it melts, then allow it to cook for 2 minutes until it is a light brown color. Once that is done, dump in all the sliced mushrooms. Make sure they get coated in the butter, and cook them for two minutes. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ginger, stirring into the mushrooms. Then, add the canned pumpkin, stirring it in, and lastly the chicken broth. Once everything is mixed together, allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes, so that it thickens. Once the sauce is nice and thick, serve with your pasta of choice. I used linguine that I cooked as the sauce was cooking.