Friday, September 2, 2016

Pizza de Résistance *Dough*

So The Horn Player and I were crusin' the grocery store aisles discussing the possibilities for dinner the other afternoon. He thought pizza at home would be a great idea, so he suggested we get some of those crusts hanging in the tomato sauce section. Nah! I haven't kneaded dough lately and I've needed to knead. Got me? 

To begin...sans, the all purpose flour

A proper slurry of yeast, honey, EVOO & warm water

The bubbles are little yeast critters blooming

Mixin' in the all-purpose flour is a raggedy mess at first

Not much of a picture, you say; this is my favorite 'forever old' pastry cloth and a sufficient amount of all-purpose flour for kneading

Ready for pulling together with the copious amount of flour and 10 minutes of kneading

A most satisfying act of kneading

Cozy and warm under a dampened linen towel

Sneak peek at my dough, which is lookin' good in my old granite pan ♥

Check it out! Gorgeous!

Risen to perfection

Ready for another brief rise

Ready to be shaped into pretty

Our beautiful pizza with sauce, generous slabs of Mozzarella, freshly picked Basil leaves from the herb garden and Asiago being generously grated on by The Horn Player 

What a sous chef he is ♥

The yummy landscape of my Pizza de Résistance

And now a word about the recipe. Many, many years ago I happily began making my own pizza dough. All recipes are fairly similar, this is the one that evolved from reading several recipes. 

It thrills me when I have time to play with soft dough. It's one of the tactile elements that makes cooking so incredible. You can, of course, use this dough for bread-sticks or Calzones or whatever your imagination can conjure. Just have fun!

1 package yeast
1-1/2 cups 110° water
1-1/2 heaping tablespoons raw local honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon bruised fennel seeds *optional*

Add the yeast, water, honey and oil to a mixing bowl and stir. Allow this mixture to bloom, about 10 minutes or so. Mix the salt into about 3 to 3/-1/2 cups of flour and add incrementally to the wet mixture, stirring after each addition. Add just enough flour to create a loose dough (this may vary) and turn out onto a pastry cloth that has at least a cup of flour sprinkled on. Bring the dough together with well-floured hands and knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is elastic, smooth and no longer sticky. Plop into a well oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides. Cover with a dampened kitchen cloth and place in a warm spot to rise. This will take approximately an hour or so. Remove the risen dough to a clean surface, not a floured surface. I used a piece of parchment paper. There is sufficient oil remaining on the dough to handle with no difficulty. Pinch off 4 equal pieces of dough and shape them by turning the dough into itself until you have a smooth surface. Place the portions of dough in a warm place covered by a damp towel and allow about a 30-45 minute rise. 

Next, the fun part...making the individual pieces of dough into a pizza crust. I flatten the dough with my fingers while pressing outward creating a circle. You may use a rolling pin but I prefer just shaping it with my hands. Adorn with whatever your heart desires, bake at 400° until its golden brown and delicious. 

Note: Our pizza was simple as pizza pie can be. Sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves and Asiago. Very good!

Monday, March 21, 2016

When I'm Sad...

Our family suffered a loss that came so quickly and so deliberately, I'm still reeling from the shock. This area experienced an epic flood; one that can easily be termed a one-hundred year flood. The local weathermen compared it to the Great Flood of 1927. The upshot, my brother and I lost the home we were raised in...totally. It's hard to fight a flash flood while trying to save the contents of a home in its' wake; there's a 100% chance you will lose and that's not odds I'll take. So we go on with the memories, accept the loss and give thanks for those things we had already taken from the empty rooms after Mama passed away. We do have something, where some affected have nothing.

This kind of thing makes me turn inward for a while, until I can process what's happened and compartmentalize each fragmented thought into an acceptable plan. And my kitchen is a good place to go for meditating, while I search for bowls and spoons and pans that I've had for a long time. Mementos from Mama, Ma and Mammy. There is no price for a kitchen thingamajig I used in their kitchens as a child. So I made a cake using Ma's recipe, Mammy's old milk bowl and Mama's circa mid-60's Bundt pan.  

Sock-it-to-Me Cake

1 box butter cake mix
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces sour creme
1/2 cup Canola oil
4 eggs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans

Mix the first 5 ingredients together to make a smooth batter. Set aside. Next, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon and chop the pecans.

To assemble the cake for baking, pour half the batter into a well greased and floured (I used a baking spray) Bundt or tube pan and evenly sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top. Scatter the pecans over the sugar mixture and top with the remaining cake batter. Bake at 325 for 50 minutes or so. Check the progress at 40 minutes to be sure you're not over baking in your oven. When the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan you're good to go. Remove it and cool it slightly on a rack then turn out onto a cake plate. This cake doesn't need glaze, although you certainly could add a thin glaze if you like. It's an absolutely perfect coffee cake or one that travels well to a church pot-luck or picnic.

Note: This is a very simple and quite old recipe. One that my Ma loved so much. When she wanted a slice of cake to enjoy along side her coffee or tea, this is what she baked. I don't normally use cake mix (a quirk of mine) but today I caved on my quirkiness. And I used about half sour creme and half Greek yogurt. It worked great. One other thing...the addition of sugar in the recipe is there, I think, because it does this magic thing, a crunchy crust on the outside. Yum!

Mama's old Bundt pan ~♥~
The inside is well worn from hundreds of uses by my Mama
A frosty coating of baking spray
Mammy's old 'milk' bowl
Mixy, mixy...
Speckled brown egg shells ~ Compost ingredients
Good organic eggs make a lovely yellow batter
Brown Sugar & Pecans ready for the pan
SO pretty! Reminds me of Ma ~♥~
An old cake plate of Mama's ~♥~
Warm from the oven with an aroma of cinnamon, brown sugar, pecans. Win, win!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Ma's Christmas Nut Roll

During Christmas, I took a little trip to the bottom-land where I was raised, figuratively speaking. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas bring strong memories of steamy kitchens with wonderful aromas and kinfolks busying about. Or this; my Ma Davidson sitting quietly, meticulously shelling pecans and walnuts for her famous Nut Roll. It's a vision as real as any in my life. She made this unique confection for the family, but also enough to give to friends as a gift. This is the best stuff, y'all. It's rich; full of walnuts, pecans, cookies, sweetened milk and studded with tiny marshmallows or candied cherries or whatever your imagination can conjure. 
A page from The Red Plate
Even though she passed away many years ago, she's still so real to me. I can feel her closeness this time of year. I've said a gillion times, when describing her to others, how she was my nurturing grandparent. And not just her children and grands, but anyone happening by her home at meal time or anytime. They were invited to sit and enjoy. She loved pleasing people and tending their needs. This recipe, Nut Roll, I love. It makes me smile while I recall being with her. Nothing in the world reminds me more of that sweet soul than a slice of this Christmas treat. 

My new attachment for my KitchenAid and a quart of Walnuts.
Oh, I ♥ the grinder thingy.
And now for a quart of Pecans.
Easy peasy.
Vanilla Wafers
Mixing in the Marshmallows with the ground nuts.
Sticky business...believe me.
On parchment paper and ready to roll.
There you have it; all bundled up and ready for the fridge.
Slice thinly and serve, but be prepared to be asked for the recipe. It's so simple, yet special.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

'Mater Sammich

I posted on Facebook a few days ago about my chin-dripping, finger-licking "brekkie" and received a few likes and comments. One of the comments was from a friend telling me she had attempted to explain to her boss why I used the term "mater sammich" to describe my morning repast. 

Her comment stated, "a sammich is a really, really good sandwich".

Well, there you have it; precisely! Tomato sandwiches are a staple for me in the summer when garden's are dotted with red globes of delight. I love tomatoes, period. Heirloom, Cherry, Creole, Big Boy, sliced, quartered, cold or room temp; I love tomatoes. But when sliced and stacked onto a toasted white bread slice (sorry, that's the Southern way) that has been generously slathered with a very good mayonnaise, sprinkled with lots of cracked black pepper,  ever-so-lightly salted, then topped with the opposing slice of toasted white bread; that's heaven on a plate, folks. Or in a piece of foil for an on the go feast in my case. I'm hungry, is it lunch time yet?

Tomato Sandwich to go
Confession: Most of the time I use 2 tomatoes for my "mater sammich". More is more when it comes to tomatoes. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mama's Sunday Rice

Every Easter Sunday our tradition is a family dinner after church. It's celebratory yes, but more importantly, it reaffirms our relationship. To gather and visit before the meal, to say grace in an unbroken circle, to connect with conversation during dinner around the table, makes us rich. These moments remain with us forever. It's the way of the South and an inheritance for me. Joining us this year was The Horn Player's mom, his sister and brother-in-law, as well and my son and the two grands. A wonderful day with the best people. 

This year Easter happened to fall on the 3rd anniversary of my mother's death. She died on Holy Thursday in 2012, but this year, Easter Sunday fell on April 5th. I miss Mama most when I'm preparing for a family roundup. Mama loved hosting all her folks with special dinners. She had a list of requisite recipes that, in her opinion, were a must. So this year I made her Punch Bowl Cake and her Sweet Glazed Carrots and her Sunday Rice because these three recipes were hers and always on her Easter table.

Mama's favorite rice dish was our favorite, as well. All of us (her family) named it Sunday Rice because that's when she most often served it. She claimed dibs on its creation and truthfully, I've never seen a similar recipe. I changed it up a bit, not much though. I'll note my changes in the recipe. It's a perfect side dish for chicken or pork, even served as a main dish with a salad if you're in a vegetarian mood. I love it and you'll love it too, I bet.

Mama's Sunday Rice

Note: Mama's recipe with my alterations in italics

1 package Uncle Ben's Wild Rice 
      (I used 1 heaping cup of a rice blend - wild rice, brown and red)
2-1/2 cups chicken stock 
1/2 cup long grain white rice 
     (I used 2/3 cup)
1-1/2 cups water
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup celery
1 small bell pepper
1 bunch green onions
1 small can of mushrooms  
     (I used fresh mushrooms, preferably baby bellas)
1 can cream of mushroom soup  
     (I'm making homemade Béchamel the next time)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning  
     (I used dried rubbed sage)
Black pepper
Asiago cheese

In separate pots, heat the chicken stock and the water to a boil. Add the rice blend to the chicken stock and the rinsed white rice to the water. Stir both and cook the rice blend until tender, but cook the white rice to the al dente stage. Not quite all the way done. When both rices are just perfect, put them into a large mixing bowl and lightly mix.

Into a saute pan add a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil and a nub of butter. If using fresh mushrooms as I did, add those first to the sizzling oil and butter. Saute until the mushrooms begin to cook nicely, then add the diced celery and diced bell pepper. Cook until softened. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper, not much though, you can adjust before baking. Pour into the mixing bowl along with the rices. 

Add the green onions that have been sliced (both green and white part) to the mixing bowl. Add the can of mushrooms if you're not using fresh, as well as the mushroom soup and the sage/poultry seasoning. Mix gently by tossing with two large spoons until well combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly...salt, pepper, sage etc. 

Pour into a buttered casserole dish and bake at 325 degrees for about 30 to 40 minutes. Everything is cooked in advance, therefore you just want it golden brown. Drift over the top a finely grated veil of Asiago cheese or a similar type such as Parmesan or Romano. It's best to use a Microplane for the best results in grating. Serve immediately, piping hot and delicious.
Rice Blend of Brown, Red and Wild Rice ~ Long Grain White Rice

My mixing bowl ~ Mammy's old milk bowl
Par-cooked White Rice
Adding the Rice Blend
Stir gently to combine rices

Fresh mushrooms, celery and bell pepper bathing in extra virgin olive oil and butter

What a happy bowl!

Adding the last ingredients before mixing together

Sprinkling on the finely grated Asiago

Ready to serve ~ So good, y'all
This was a big hit with our Easter dinner guests. The Horn Player and his family members had never had this before, some enjoyed seconds. And those of us who had Mama's version also went back for seconds. My son Matthew commented on how much he always loved it when his Nana made it. I'm so glad I chose some of Mama's best for our day. It was wonderful!

Saturday, February 28, 2015


For Christmas we were given, as a friendship gift, a huge bag of huge pecans. Louisiana grown, of course. Today, I decided to take the remaining 3 cups and make them a bit more special by roasting them. No one can deny this is a perfect appetizer for a round-up of friends or whatever occasion. So easy to do. Here's how.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and scatter the pecans over a sheet pan. Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes OR until you smell heavenly pecan aroma wafting about. Remove them from the oven, pour over 3 tablespoons melted butter and stir to coat all the pecans with the butter. 

Note: My rule is 1 tablespoon butter per 1 cup pecans. Easy peasy, no?

After well coated with butter, place back into the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Watch them closely because they will continue to cook from residual heat after they are removed from the oven. Once roasted to perfection, remove and sprinkle on a bit of flavor. Here's the flavor recipe I put together.

2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Sugar and garlic you say? Trust me, it's okay. The small amount of sugar is there to balance the sharpness of the salt and is imperceptible in the end. Mix these 4 ingredients well and sprinkle a bit over the hot pecans to your taste. I used only about half or less of this mixture. However, I'll find another use for it, I'm sure. Hmmm, dry rub for roasted pork, perhaps.  

   ~ * ~
In the oven to start
Butter and flavor sprinkles ~ I love my little shell

Pecans ready to enjoy ~ Toasted, roasted and delish
Using sea shells for salt and pepper cellars is up my alley
So pretty
In a favorite wooden bowl ready for munching