Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

November 30, 2014

Crisp & Chewy Thin Crust Pizza

The dough for this pizza rises at room temperature for about 90 minutes. From start to finish, the process takes about 3 hours. You can certainly save time by purchasing dough, but if you have the time and enjoy baking from scratch, this simple meal is very rewarding. 

Top it with anything from traditional red sauce and mozzarella, to what I've done here - a fridge cleanout. This is a great way to make leftovers sing. Below I have the recipes and techniques for the dough, the bechamel (white sauce), and the sauteed mushrooms and onions that topped part of my "kitchen sink" pizza. You can find the recipe for the lox here. 

Because this technique uses a baking sheet rather than a pizza stone, it's important to prepare the dough and bake it in stages as described. The toppings are up to you! 

The Dough
2t yeast
1t sugar
3/4C warm water
1T olive oil (plus extra for the dough rise and baking the pizza)

2.5C bread or AP flour
1t salt

Heat the water to about 110' (it should feel warm, but not piping hot). Gently stir in the sugar and yeast. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast blooms and looks foamy. 

Add the flour, salt, and yeast mixture to a stand mixer bowl. Using the hook attachment, slowly combine the ingredients, then knead on a higher speed for about 3 minutes til the dough comes together in a smooth ball. 

Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk (about 90 minutes). 

The Bechamel
2T butter
2T flour
1.5C milk
3-4T fresh goat cheese

In a glass measuring cup, heat the milk until warm, but not piping hot (don't scald it). Melt the butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour. Whisk this mixture on med/low heat for about a minute to cook the flour, then slowly whisk in the warm milk. Raise the heat to med/med-hi, and whisk continuously until it begins to boil and thicken. Turn the heat down as low as possible, and stir in the goat cheese. Season with S&P to taste. Turn off heat. Whisk occasionally to prevent a skin from forming. 

Sauteed Onions & Mushrooms
I had some of these leftover from the night before, and just heated them up a bit before adding them to my pizza. If you're making them the same day, make them before starting the bechamel. 

1 white or yellow onion, peeled, halved, & sliced into half rings
8oz crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced
olive oil
3T dry sherry, red wine, port, or broth 

Heat about 3T olive oil in a large skillet on med-high heat. Saute the onions until translucent, then sprinkle with about 1/2t salt. Reduce the heat to med-low, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring to avoid hot spots. This slow process will result in deliciously caramelized onions. 

When the onions are beginning to brown a bit, add 1T butter and raise the heat to med-high. Stir in the sliced mushrooms, and saute until the mushrooms are golden brown. Sprinkle with about 1/4t salt and freshly ground pepper. Deglaze the pan with about 3T of dry sherry. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Back to the Dough
After the pizza dough has doubled in bulk, transfer it to a floured work surface, and gently roll in out to a 16"x12" rectangle. Oil a rimmed baking sheet, and transfer the dough to it, gently stretching it out to fit inside the pan. Brush the dough with more olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450'.

<1C grated parmigiano reggiano
chopped lox or smoked salmon
mushrooms & onions
extra goat cheese, crumbled
chopped basil 

Assemble and Bake the Pizza
After the dough has rested for another 20 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, and dimple the dough all over with your fingers. Sprinkle the grated parm all over, and bake for 7-10 minutes (til the cheese is melted, and the dough becomes lightly golden. 

Remove the pan from the oven, and carefully spread the bechamel over the crust, leaving a small border. Cover part of the pizza with the mushrooms and onions, and part of the pizza with the lox. Sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese, and bake the pizza for another 10 minutes, or until the bechamel begins to bubble and the outer crust is a deep golden brown. 
I only had a little bit of the mushrooms left over, but next time I'll make a whole pizza's worth. It was the BOMB. 
Transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. 
Sprinkle with basil. Let it rest for a few minutes before cutting. 

November 29, 2014


On a chilly March weekend several years ago, my posse gathered at Haypress Campground for Lauren Fiel's birthday. Recent rains turned trails to rivers, and by the time we pitched camp we were ready for a nice hot communal meal. I brought a few jars of my Mom's (now famous) borscht, and with it gained a new crop of Russian soup evangelists. 

Just as it takes five English letters to emulate two Russian ones, this borscht blog may seem bombastic. My advice for first-time borschters is to read it through, and taste as you go. Soup is not an exact science, but the techniques within give my Mom's version a depth of flavor that truly celebrates its humble ingredients. Ha здоровье! 

Shopping List
1# beets (about 3 large, 4 medium)
3/4# carrots (3-4)
3/4# yukon gold potatoes, yellow, or white potatoes (3-4)
3/4# cabbage (1 tiny, or 1/2 regular)
1 large white or yellow onion
1 leek or shallot
2 cloves garlic
14 oz canned or jarred tomatoes, peeled & seeded (preferably unsalted), and pureed*
olive oil
apple cider or red wine vinegar (about 1/4C)
salt & pepper 
sugar (optional) 

Roast the beets. This can be done a day ahead, or several hours ahead of making the soup. Cut the greens away from the beets, without cutting into the beets themselves. Don't cut the root end either. Leaving a 1/2" of the greens at the top will prevent beet juice from leaking out during roasting. A little will, so line a sheet pan with foil, scrub the beets well with a brush and cool water, and roast the beets whole for 30-60 minutes depending on their size. You want them yielding, but not mushy. 
Roasted beets
Prepare the Soup
Peel the cooled beets and grate them in a food processor. Wearing latex gloves will keep the mess and stained hands at bay. Peel and grate the carrots. 
Heat a very large stock pot and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. On low heat, cook the beets and carrots for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. 
Grated carrots and roasted beets. 
Meanwhile, dice the onion, leek or shallot, and mince the garlic. Peel and dice the potatoes. Core the cabbage, slice it lengthwise into wedges, then slice into thin shreds (a little thicker than you would for cole slaw). 
After 20 minutes of sauteing the beets & carrots, remove them from the pot, and set them aside for later. 
Add about 3T of olive oil to the pot, and saute the onion and leek or shallot until translucent. Stir in the garlic and saute for another minute or two. 
Stir in the cabbage and cook it down for just about a minute, stirring as it wilts. Stir in the potatoes.
Sprinkle them with about 1T kosher salt. Stir in the pureed tomatoes, then add 3Qts of hot water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. 
not yet...
Stir in the beets and carrots. Adjust the seasoning. Stir in the vinegar and dill. Adjust the seasoning. If the soup is too acidic, stir in about 1T of sugar. 
Serve immediately. 
Refrigerate cooled soup in airtight containers for up to 1 week, or freeze in mason jars for up to 6 months. 
Makes 1.1 cubic Sweeneys. (A lot.)

* I found this marvelous organic tomato puree at my local Mediterranean market. The ingredients are simply organic tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and pureed. No salt or anything else added. I used about 2/3 of the jar, and will make a marinara with the rest. Delightful. 


November 24, 2014

Quick & Zesty Black Bean Salsa

You'll have no problem getting your "5 a Day" once you discover this combination of ingredients. 
This is how I do it, but feel free to change it up to your taste. It makes a batch big enough to share at a party or potluck, or to feed you for a week. The authentic flavors will make it easy to do just that. 

1 can black beans (the Trader Joe's organic are cheap and have less sodium that other brands)
1/2 canned corn (Del Monte has a "no salt added" variety that is firm and tender)
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced 
1 small shallot or 1/2 small onion, finely diced 
1/2 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow are sweetest), diced
1/2C jicama, diced 

cilantro, about 3T finely chopped
cherry tomatoes (optional), about 1C, quartered 
juice from 1/2 lime
red wine vinegar, 2-3T
garlic powder to taste
cayenne pepper to taste 
cumin to taste
salt to taste (if your beans, corn, or chips are salty, you may not need salt here)

*note* seasoning with spices, herbs, and vinegars adds a ton of flavor without needing salt.

Drain and rinse the black beans; add to a medium/large bowl. Drain the corn and add half the can to the beans. If you don't plan on using the rest of the corn within a few days, freeze it. 

Add the shallot, jalapeno, bell pepper, jicama, cilantro, lime juice, and vinegar. Stir to coat evenly, then season to taste.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 
Great as a snack with chips, served with seafood, poultry, or pork, or atop nachos. 

I make these quick microwave nachos by sprinkling finely grated cheese onto chips on a microwave-safe plate. Cook on high for about 30 seconds until melted. Sprinkle on as much of the black bean salsa as you like, and microwave for another 30 seconds. Top with a little sour cream and Tapatio, and chow down. 

November 23, 2014

Citrus Cured Lox

A trio of citrus zests add brightness to the briny salmon. For the best possible result, pick up the freshest line-caught salmon (check your local farmers' market), and cure it the same day. 
Within 24 hours you'll be enjoying the fruits of your effortless labor. 

Choose a 1-2 pound center cut filet.
If you're buying from a store rather than a farmer's market, don't be afraid to ask to smell the fish.
It should smell lightly sweet, and not at all fishy.
Most fish mongers will remove the scales, but if needed, scrape off any remaining scales, leaving the skin on.
Rinse well under cold running water, and pat it dry with paper towels.
Remove the pin bones using tweezers or needle nose pliers.
(The pin bones run perpendicular to the stripes in the flesh. See them popping out left-to-right in the above photo.)
Lay out several layers of plastic wrap large enough to wrap the salmon.
Mix 1/4C kosher salt with 2T sugar per pound of salmon. Stir in zest from a lemon, lime, and a small orange. 
Cover the filet with the cure mixture, adding most of the zest on top.
You want the salt & sugar to cover all sides of the salmon so it cures evenly.
Let some of the cure fall around the sides of the filet.
When you wrap it up it will stick to the sides. 
Tightly wrap the salmon for its fridge nap. 
Place the wrapped salmon into a dish and weigh it down with weights or some heavy jars or cans.
Refrigerate it for 24 to 48 hours. 24 is plenty.
The cure will weep out of the wrapping, so  place it in a dish with sides.
Unwrap the cured salmon, rinse it well under cold running water, and pat it dry. Use a thin sharp knife to make paper-thin slices. Wrap the rest of the filet well. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.