Monday, June 29, 2009

Grilled Pizza in a Snap (Almost :)

I hit the Baughman's Lane farmer's market on Saturday (almost like a contact sport this time of year!) and was struck by the urge for a little grilled pizza. How the two are related (it's too early for my favorites, eggplant & tomatoes), I have no idea except to say that is where the urge struck.

So what did I do? Well, I raced home and started the dough. It's super simple, even if you're dough-challenged.

Just take 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast:

Add 1 teaspoon of sugar (yeast food):

Then add 1 cup of warm water (not hot or you'll kill the yeast - it should feel warm on the inside of your wrist) and let set in a warm place for 5 minutes:

until it's foamy.

Throw in 1 T. of olive oil and a good pinch of salt, then stir in 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour or so (you may need a little more if it's really humid outside) until it forms sort of a ball.

I used the stand mixer with the dough hook and let it work its magic for about 5 minutes or so (it takes a little longer if you're doing it by hand).

Then I gave it a good knead by hand for a minute or so(because I like to feel the dough), then threw it back in the bowl to rise until doubled. On Saturday it took about half an hour, and I covered it and put it on the back porch.

After about 30 minutes (but it could take as long as 45), Anna punched it down.

We scooped it into a flatish ball and let it rest for 5 minutes before trying to roll it (otherwise it will just keep springing back every time you try to roll it out. It needs a little r&r before you can really work it. It's just like you when you get out of bed in the morning, right? You need a few minutes to gather yourself after the harsh reality of your feet hitting the floor. Yeast doughs are the same way. But I digress...)

Once the dough has rested, I cut it into 4 pieces and patted them out.

Then, because patting wasn't really working for me, I rolled them. That's better.

Then I took them out to the grill. Now here's the trick, and please bear in mind that I am working on a hundred dollar grill here - nothing fancy at all - but it does have two zones for heat. This is muy importante.

Preheat your grill so that it's nice and hot. Leave one side hot hot hot and the other, well, nice and low, maybe even off, but we'll get to that.

Place the dough on the hot side of the grill - don't worry, it won't slip through the grate. This is a nice, firm dough.

Look at that! It puffs up almost immediately. Let it get a little crispy, then flip it over. Brush it with a little oil (I made some quick garlic oil) and top it with whatever you like.

I used some tomatoes, fresh basil from my garden, and some fresh mozzarella. I also added some chopped, grilled eggplant, mozzarella, ricotta, and fresh basil. I'm the only one in my family who likes eggplant so yeah, that worked for me.

Then slide the pizza to the low side of the grill and shut it up tight. You want all of the cheesy stuff to melt, which is awesome. If the heat is too high, you'll burn the crust. You need to work with the residual heat from the other side without over-caramelizing the bottom. Keep in mind though, this isn't really going to cook your toppings so much as melt them and warm them and make 'em yummy, ok? So if you're looking for roasted tomatoes, you'll need to do that beforehand.

A couple of minutes and you're done.

Looks like Anna liked it. :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iced Coffee Lovin'

Coffee shops are one of my serious vices, and I love going to get a little caffeinated every morning. Of particular love is iced coffee, but it costs a fortune and just between you and me, I am watching every penny this summer.

I'm not one to just give stuff up, and let me tell you my friends, walking the dog and going to get my grande 4 pump double shot with my husband almost every morning during the summer is seriously one of my highlights. But at almost 6 bucks for 2 beverages (iced grande chai for him), well, you can do the math and see that this will quickly add up to, ummmm, a lot ($30+ per week for 8 weeks = too darn much).

So I did some research, and here's what I found:

The New York Times, a couple of years ago, came up with a recipe for cold-brewed coffee. Now this stuff is supposed to be mellow and lovely without the bitterness that you get from forcing the hot water through the grounds. I'm mellow (not!), and thought I'd give it a try. Here's what you do (and these proportions come from the Times, so I take zero credit for that):
  • Take 1/3 cup coarse ground (important!!) coffee and put it into a container (I did this the first time with a medium roast coffee and it was way too weak for me. This time - I brought out the "extra bold" and amen sister, it was!) .
  • Add 1 1/2 cups cold water (based on the size container I have, I triple the recipe each time, so 1 cup coffee grounds to 4 1/2 cups cold water).
  • Let set, uncovered (I go for overnight +, which ends up being 12-24 hours, based on when I remember I want to get the party started.)
  • Strain out the grounds (I go with 2 strainings and get the really chunky stuff the first time)

  • Place the coffee concentrate into a container and store in the fridge for a couple of days (do you love that I totally am busted with a jar of sauce in the background? Umm, it's for JVB and the kids when I'm working. I swear. Pinky swear?).

  • I add fat-free half and half (I usually hate fat-free and reduced fat stuff, but I am getting way too fat to go with regular at this point, so I have to make an exception somewhere -- sorry) and a bit of simple syrup, then shake the heck out of it (you can stir if you like). This stuff is pretty daggone strong, so you'll need to dilute it by half and then mellow it out with milk, water, carrot juice, heck, I don't care, but it's potent, so be warned.). Viola!

There's a certain mellowness to the coffee, but still with zing. In fact, my oh-so-extensive research has pointed out that the coffee concentrate is roughly twice as caffeinated as the usual stuff, just so you know. Maybe now you can see why I like it milky and sweet (we called that "light and sweet" back in NYC).

Note to self: Do not try to pour the coffee while looking through the camera lens, because there's a good chance you'll spill it all over the counter/stove and have to clean-up a big mess and waste some of the precious elixir. Just sayin'.

So there you go. Simple? Duh. Worth it? Totally. Economical? Absolutely. Super-caffeinated? Shazam!! I. Can. Do. ANYTHING!!!
Maybe next time I'll have a smaller glass.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Keep It Simple

Quick post today before I'm off on my adventures here and here, because I just have to know why oh way you aren't using Simple Syrup.

You know what I'm talking about, right? Ok, for the uninitiated, simple syrup is a sweetener that you make yourself right at home. This of course begs the question, why would I want to do that when I've got sugar and Splenda, and all that other fake junk laying around?

Simply because, my lovelies, that stuff doesn't melt in cold drinks. Y'know when you dump the sugar into your iced tea and stir your little heart out and it STILL all stays on the bottom? Simple syrup doesn't do that. Simple syrup integrates itself into your drink. Sure, it may get a little bottom-heavy sometimes, but it's easy to diffuse into your drink with a quick little stir, if at all.

I usually make some once every week or two during the summer and keep it in my fridge for my iced coffee deliciousness. Splash of milk and a splash of syrup in my travel cup and I'm good to go.

I mention this because I was at The Standard Baking Co. in Portland, Maine (no website!) yesterday and there it was, just waiting for me and my coffee. **sigh** Please don't let anyone ever tell you that it's not about the little things, because it totally, totally is (at least in my book). FYI - They also do this at The Tasting Room with iced tea, and it even comes in a sweet little pitcher.

So how to make, how to make? So easy:

Place equal parts pure cane sugar (white sugar) and water into a pot (ex: 1c. ea)

Bring up to just under a boil, just so the sugar melts, then let it cool off and pour into a little Rubbermaid container and store in the fridge.

That's it.

Seriously, how easy is that? Just use it the same way you would regular sugar. 1 T = 1 T.

Try it today - you'll thank me. :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Taste of India: Rajni Hatti

Did I mention that we have a new instructor at TKS? Rajni Hatti of Simply Indian out of (of all places) Charles Town, WV, is going to teach a beginning Indian cooking class for us on July 9 from 6:30-9. Rajni teaches a wide variety of Indian cooking classes and has been featured in newpapers, magazines, and on television in Charles Town.

I am so thrilled to have Rajni join our roster of new instructors and can't wait to try the deliciousness that she's going to teach everyone to prepare, including Mango Lassi (one of my favorite International beverages!), Keema Matar with Naan (Spiced Ground Meat and Peas), Dal Tarkari (Lentils with Zucchini), & Palak Pulao (Spinach Rice Pilaf).

I mention all of this because Rajni has a fantastic article in today's Frederick News Post written by one of our favorite food writers, Rochelle Myers. You can check out the full article here.

We've even had a few folks register today already, so if you're interested, visit our web site here. Tell 'ya what: Use the code CLASS5 when you check out and save 5 bucks on your registration. Just do it before June 30, ok? See you there!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How 'bout a Cooking Birthday Party??

When I opened The Kitchen Studio 4 years ago, I knew that I really wanted the focus to be on teaching cooking classes and offering a high quality meal assembly service. Kids were going to be involved somehow, but I just wasn't sure how much fun it would be on that end of things. You see, at that point, my own kids were 6 & 9 and as any parent knows, your own children affect you in a way no one else's ever could. So I started out slowly offering kid things. A class here or there. Build some gingerbread houses, make some noodles, just something to get them interested. Then a funny thing happened...

I liked it. I mean, I really liked it. The kids were fun. They wanted to learn. They wanted, oh my stars, they wanted to try new foods. And somewhere along the way, it got to be fun. Cracking up fun. Learning how to communicate at exactly their level fun. Really teaching them fun. So much fun in fact, that we started offering summer cooking camps. The first year, just 3 weeks. The second and third years, 4 weeks. This year, 5 weeks. And may I let you know that even in this super-sucky economy, we are 86% sold on all of our camps this year, with 5 completely sold out. How do 'ya like them apples? Perhaps an expansion of services smack dab in the middle of a recession wasn't the smartest idea, but it seems to be working out so far...

But wait a minute you're saying, didn't she title this post something about birthday parties? Why yes, yes I did. Because a few months ago, we started offering kid's hands-on cooking birthday parties, and they have been, AMAZING. Check this out:

(smelling herbs & spices)

  • We set a date for the party (they last 2 hours)
  • You show up with your kid and up to 9 guests
  • We cook
  • We clean

  • The kids eat what they make & take the recipes home
Does it get easier than that? I don't think so. We even provide all of the papergoods etc. Parties have been so popular, that we have had Saturdays where we're going from 10am to 6pm (plus tack on set-up and clean-up time on either end) and don't want to see another pot of fondue as long as we live! We even have parties booked as far in advance right now as September! Can you believe it??? I can't.

Right now we're offering 4 menus, but I'm working on a few new ones (ideas anyone??) to keep things fresh. Here's what we've got:
  • Fun with Fondue (grape jelly meatballs, pizza in a pot & chocolate fondue)

  • Spaghetti & meatballs, garlic bread, cupcakes

  • Mexican Fiesta (soft tacos, salsa, dessert nachos, Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes)

  • Pizza, smoothies, & Cupcake

Did I mention that we only charge $275 for up to 10 kids? Compared to what else is out there, even in this day and age I think you're definitely getting your money's worth. We've had so many parents raving about how easy it is and how affordable, not to mention that the kids had a fantastic time, that we're having a trouble keeping it up with it all the compliments! FYI -We also create custom menus, but charge a little extra for that.

(look at those knife skills!)

(sometimes we just get silly)

So, know a kid with a birthday coming up who just looooooves to cook? We're here for you. And your kids. And their friends. Really? Come Play with Your Food. Your whole family will be so happy that you did. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mad Martha's Cupcakes

I picked up Martha Stewart's new cupcake book at Sam's the other day (13 bucks and change) because, well, I have a very serious cupcake problem. I've had a tough couple of days and nothin' says lovin' like two pounds of cream cheese. Am I right people, or am I right?!?!
JVB needed some sort of dessert to take to a staff party on Friday night (lucky me, I get to take 3 teenage boys to go see Land of the Lost instead, but that's another topic...), and since I am sooooo over ye olde Chippa Chippas on a personal snacking level, I thought I'd give one of Martha's cupcakes a try.

The Recipe: Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes

The Result: Completely Delicious

The Preparation: Totally painless

The Details: I chose this recipe because it was set to make 30 and I was not looking to double or triple anything the first time out with the recipe. To make these, essentially, you place an Oreo in the bottom of a cupcake liner, then mix up a very, very simple cheesecake batter, splash in some smashed Oreos (I should have smashed mine a little smaller) and bake.

The oven temp was listed at 275 degrees, which seemed a little low for me (I'll probably try 325 next time) and the cook time at 22 minutes. Mine took 33 minutes, which is 50% longer, and made me a little grumpy.

Anyway, I placed Oreos in 30 foil cupcake liners, then smashed the rest (12) and threw those into the batter. Note here, and this may have affected things, so I'll let you know if I'm wrong when I make them again. I did NOT use a muffin pan (at a 30 yield, I would need 3) and instead used the aforementioned foil liners on there own. Am I crazy or what?? If you're careful, those liners are not ony all shiny and pretty, but they'll also totally stand on their own. This could have changed the cook time because there was no hot pan surrounding the liners, but a 50% longer cook time just seems, well, too much of a darn difference.

The yield issue bugs me only because I portioned the Oreos for the bottom of the liners and easily could have made at least 4, maybe 6 more. That's wasted batter in my book; a travesty to cheesecake lovers everywhere.

Here's what they look like:

I wish you could see the fab whole Oreo on the bottom, but my mad photography skillz are lacking, despite just taking a class at FCC (instructor? fab! Student? not so much).

So, the book? So far, a BUY, but only if you're getting it at a discount (you should never, ever pay full price for a cookbook). There are several recipes in here that I am ready to bust a move on, but my spare tire is getting a little inflated, so I'm trying to watch it a bit. Are there any cookbooks that you use all the time? Let me know as I've got that cookbook buyin' itch.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Classes, Classes, Classes!

I just posted our summer class schedule, and I've got to say, I'm pretty darn excited and hope that you will be too!

I am ethnic food crazy and have added several classes to the schedule that bring those types of food front and center. Check it out:

On Tuesday, June 30, we're introducing a new instructor, Jeff Stratyner (our new veggie guru), to teach you all about International Veggie Picnic Foods. Tired of taking mayo-laden side dishes to picnics and get-togethers? Well, here you go! Jeff is going to demo Fresh Summer Rolls with Sweet & Spicy Dipping Sauce, Marinated Roasted Veggie Sandwich on Fresh Baked Focaccia, Crunchy Jicama and Asian Pear Slaw, & Jelly Doughnut Cupcakes. And did I mention that this one is BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE???

You can also join us as we welcome instructor Rajni Hatti of Simply Delicious Indian as she introduces the flavors and techniques of wonderful Indian cuisine. Rajni teaches a wide variety of Indian cooking classes and has been featured in newspapers, magazines, and on television in Charlestown, WV. In this hands-on class, you'll make Keema Matar with Naan (Spiced Ground Meat and Peas), Dal Tarkari (Lentils with Zucchini), Palak Pulao (Spinach Rice Pilaf), and Mango Lassi (Mango Yogurt Drink). Check this one out on Thursday, July 9.

I'm also rocking it out with another Sushi 101 class on July 31 (learn to wrap and roll like a pro!), and Caroline has a wonderful Make & Take Strawberry Pie class this Thursday, June 11. We need a few more bodies in the class, and at the end, you get to take a strawberry pie home with you. How sweet is that (pun intended :)?

Also on the roster is a tasty Vietnamese Street Foods class (July 10-hands-on) and my special two-day class on Farmer's Market Cooking (July 17 & 18) including a trip to the Baughman's Lane farmer's market to shop before we head back down to The Kitchen Studio to work with what we buy. This one is going to be fantastic!!! Plus, we've got one focused on College Cooking, just in time to give your college student some mad kitchen skillz before they head back to school. Give 'em a break from Ramen noodles and cafeteria food. This is THE class to make them a hit in the dorm.

While I'm at it, I'm also pulling together the calendar for the fall, so if there is somethin' somethin' that you're looking to learn, drop me a line. We'll have some veggie classes, sauces, knife skills, cake decorating & working with fondant, international classes, healthy cooking, soups, pastas, cheesemaking, special multi-week classes for kids and teens and many, many more.

We love our students and are grateful for the opportunity to work with each of you in the kitchen. I'm not joking around when I say that I want you to come play with your food, so give us a try. I think you'll like what you eat!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hot Stuff, and How to Get Rid of It

Have we talked about peppers yet?

I was talking to my buddy Jen at Starbucks this morning when she brought up that she had her husband doing the dirty work of chopping the habanero pepper for her jerk chicken tonight. Apparently, hubby was scorched from cutting the pepper and was in a bit of pain. You've done that, right?

Hot peppers (jalapenos, habaneros, etc.) contain a substance called capsaicin. That's where the heat comes from. When you chop them, the capsaicin gets on your hands (unless you're wearing gloves of course, which is never a bad idea when handling these spicy little buggers). Capsaicin is NOT water-soluble, which means that no matter how much you wash your hands, that stuff is sticking around for a while. Touch your eyes, use the facilities, whatever, and you can get this irritant all over places you just don't want it. So how the heck to you clean-up?

Well my pretties, capsaicin IS oil-soluble. Squirt a little bit of vegetable or olive oil on your hands and rub it around all the nooks and crannies, then wash your hands well with soap and water. Depending on the heat in the peppers, you may need to do this twice, but it will work for you and is a super easy solution. Ever since Chef Caroline told me this little gem years ago, I have used it over and over, and today, now you know.

So go forth and chop those peppers. Just wash up well with that oil first and you'll be golden.

Monday, June 1, 2009

At Last: Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble!

The recipe has been perfected. The pounds have been gained. The sweet tooth has been satisfied. NOW I can finally share the recipe I've been teasing you about for Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble.

This spring I became obsessed with Starbucks Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble (let's just call it SRC from here on out, shall we?). The buttery cake, the sweet and ever so slightly tangy strawberry-rhubarb layer, the not too crumbly topping. Ah. Everyday I was buying one. I'm usually a chocolate kind of girl, but this? Delicious.

I started searching online for recipes. Surely someone had knocked it off and come up with a recipe! Nope. Nuthin'. Just a bunch of whiners complaining about Starbucks being the evil empire and all. Waa, waa. I don't really care; I just wanted to know how to make the darn cake.

So I found a recipe on and made it. As is. How something with 3 cups of flour can be considered low carb, I'll never know.

Any woo, the recipe was good, but not quite right. I tinkered a bit with the strawberry-rhubarb filling and with the crumb topping (the recipe as provided was incomplete). In the end, I stuck with the basic cake part of the recipe and changed some quantities and techniques on the rest of it. So, here you go:

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble, ala CVB

1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 cups Strawberries, sliced and mashed
1 T. Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Sugar
3 T. Cornstarch

3 cups Flour (all purpose please)
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup Buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla

3 T. Butter, melted
1/2 cup Flour
1/3 cup Sugar

Preheat your oven to 350-degrees.

In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, for 5 minutes, or until nice and soft. Combine sugar and cornstarch; stir into saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until thickened (this should only take a minute or two). Remove from heat and set aside to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add in buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla and beat until well combined, but don't overmix.

Place slightly cooled strawberry mixture into a food processor and process until smooth (you can leave it chunky if you like, but this more closely resembles the Starbucks bar and in my opinion is yummier and more pleasing in a textural kind of way).

Spread 2/3 of the cake batter (and this is REALLY important; you need to save 1/3 for the topping) into a greased 9x13 cake pan (I really like the disposable aluminum foil ones that I use down at The Kitchen Studio because they have high sides and I've got a million of them). The batter will fight you a little bit and not want to spread, but you will persevere! Carefully spread the strawberry filling on top. Drop remaining 1/3 of cake batter in splootches (about 1 T. ea.) on top of filling. Bake for 25 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare crumb topping. Melt butter in a saucepan or in the microwave. Stir in flour and sugar until mealy. After cake has baked for 25 minutes, remove from oven (be sure to shut the door so that all of the heat doesn't escape) and sprinkle the crumb topping all over the cake. Return to oven and bake an additional 30-35 minutes, or until the center of the cake is set and a crumb tester comes out clean.

Remove cake to a rack and allow to cool in the pan. It's delicious warm, so if you can't control yourself, I understand. Just be sure that you don't get burned by crazy hot filling. Makes 20 normal-sized servings.

Want to see what it looks like in profile? I thought you might:

I'd like the cake to be a little more buttery with fewer "holes", but this has received rave reviews so far. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a huge crumb topping person, so I cut it back a bit from the original to suit my taste.

Make it. Love it. Let me know what you think.