August 2008


So it should come as no surprise that I love homemade pizza. What’s not to love? It’s easy, it tastes good, and it tends to impress anyone who doesn’t make homemade pizza themselves. And while I love the ‘classic’ pizza combination of red sauce, mozzarella and Italian sausage, when I’m in the mood for something special, nothing beats a smoked salmon and brie pizza.

There’s nothing too labor intensive about this recipe. The only thing you need to make ahead is the pizza dough – and really, any recipe for pizza dough will work. Heck, if you’re not in the mood to wait the hour and a half to make homemade pizza dough you can check with your local grocery store to see if the bakery sells uncooked pizza dough. It’s an easy time saver that I have been known to use.

The cut-up brie is easy enough to prep. When I make this recipe I always throw the brie in the freezer for 15 minutes before I cut the rind off. The sub-zero temperature firms up the cheese and makes it much easier to cut into small pieces. I don’t have any trick to make the salmon easier to cut up – in fact, depending on the smoked salmon you use it may be easier to tear into little pieces rather than cutting it. As with everything in this easy recipe, use what works best for you.

The rest of the process is pretty self explanatory. Because the brie and smoked salmon are rather delicate – at least at high temperatures – you need to blind bake the pizza crust without any toppings. Once the crust is almost brown, you pull it from the oven and quickly scatter the cheese, salmon and onions over the top. Another few minutes in the oven melts everything together. What comes out is a wonderful combination of a pizza and a Sunday morning lox bagel. I would advise anyone making this to cut the pizza slices small, since the dish can be very rich. But even in a small slice the wonderfulness of homemade pizza makes it all worthwhile – and you never know who it might impress.

Smoked Salmon and Brie Pizza

Adapted from New Pizza by James McNair

Ingredients:

Pizza Dough

Vegetable or olive oil for brushing crust and drizzling over toppings

1 pound of brie cheese, rind discarded and cut into small pieces

12 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon cut into small pieces

1/2 cup minced sweet onion ( I used green onions)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees (My oven smokes at that temperature – so I used 450 and it turned out fine). Brush pizza screen or pan with oil. Stretch out the pizza dough and place on the screen or pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then brush with oil.

Put the crust in the oven and bake until the crust just begins to brown (around 5-7 minutes). Remove the pan from the oven and top the crust with the cheese, followed by the salmon and onion. Drizzle evenly with oil. Return to the oven and bake until the crust is golden (around 5-7 minutes longer).

Remove the pizza from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.

It’s funny how a simple lunch time conversation can lead you down a cooking rabbit hole. J and I were having lunch a few weeks ago and we were remembering a simply sublime cornmeal and lemon curd cookie that is made by Marché, one of our favorite East Nashville lunch places. That led us towards contemplating lemon curd, and considering that our planned-for Kitchen Confit Peach Week was on the horizon, we wondered if it was possible to make peach curd. A few simple web searches later and I discovered that apparently a few brave souls had tried peach curd. With the idea stuck in my head I knew I needed to try it – what I was going to do with it once I made it, I was wasn’t quite sure. But I knew eventually I would come up with something.

The recipe I found for peach curd was pretty basic: egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, butter and peach puree. The recipe also called for rosewater. Rosewater is a traditional Middle Eastern ingredient, made from rose petals and distilled water. Now at this point, rosewater did not reside in my cupboards, but I was determined to fix that. I must say, rosewater was surprisingly hard to find from more commercial gourmet sources – Williams Sonoma did not carry it (they suggested driving to Atlanta to find it!) and it was absent from the Whole Foods shelves. Not about to despair, I dropped into the International Market at the Nashville Farmers Market. They carried several varieties of rosewater and I grabbed the one in the prettiest bottle (it was also the cheapest!).

With rosewater in hand, I was ready to begin the curd. I combined the yolks, sugar, peach puree, lemon juice and rosewater. I placed this mixture over a pot of simmering water and I whisked. And whisked. And whisked. You’re supposed to do this until thickened and the mixture did thicken. I just wasn’t sure how much it should thicken. In retrospect, I should have whisked a few more minutes, since after beating in the butter and straining, the curd was a bit runny. I had hoped that the curd would thicken more as it chilled – and it did, a bit – but not as much as I would have liked. But the curd would serve for my purposes… it had become a peach tart.

From this point on, I was kind of winging it. I made a sweet tart dough and blind baked it. Once it was cool I poured in the peach curd. I knew I needed to top the the peach curd with more peaches, but I wasn’t sure if they should be raw or cooked. In the end I decided to poach the peaches in a mixture of sugar, water, brandy and lemon rind. After twenty minutes in this syrup, I took the peaches out, sliced them and then attempted to arrange them in a circular patten on top of the peach curd. And in the end this haphazard dessert was delicious – a bit messy, since the peach curd really should have been a bit thicker – but delicious all the same. Thank goodness for foodie lunch conversations and cooking rabbit holes!

Peach Curd and Poached Peach Tart

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Peach Curd

Recipe from epicurean.com

Ingredients:

4 egg yolks

2/3 c. sugar

1 c. fresh peach puree

Lemon juice to taste, about 1 T.

1/2 t. rosewater to taste, about 1 T.

6 T. butter

Directions:

Beat the yolks, sugar, peach puree, lemon juice, and rosewater. Put mixture over summering water and whisk constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, a little at a time. Strain well and and chill.

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Sweet Tart Dough

Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Ingredients;

11/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 stick plus 1 T. (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Directions:

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before filling with the peach curd. Refrigerate.

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Poached Peaches

2 c. water

1 1/2 c . sugar

1 c. brandy

Rind of 1 lemon – peeled in thick strips

2-3 peaches – halved and pitted

Bring all the ingredients except the peaches to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the peaches. Add the peaches and simmer for 20 -25 minutes or until tender. Remove from the syrup and slide the peaches out of their skins. Once cool slice the peaces lengthwise and arrange the slices in a circular pattern on top of the peach curd. Chill. To serve, remove the tart from the tart pan and slice.

South Carolina Peaches

It’s summertime in the South and how have I not written about the peaches? I live minutes from South Carolina, which means peaches are everywhere. Peaches constantly line our kitchen counter, and they are usually eaten standing up over the sink so as not to make a mess with all their drippy and delightful juiciness. They’re so good as is that I can never bring myself to cook with them. This is true of most fruit. Why mess with a good thing, I ponder? But as it is Peach Week here at Kitchen Confit, I needed to find a recipe fantastic enough for which to sacrifice a peach.

I love Frank Stitt

We have waxed poetic about how much we love Frank Stitt here at Kitchen Confit. And for good reason. If you haven’t been to Birmingham, Alabama to eat at one of his amazing restaurants then put it on your list of things to do. S and I briefly lived in Birmingham last summer and for six short weeks we ate at one of Chef Stitt’s restaurants as often as possible. Since we’ve left Birmingham, I’ve often turned to Frank Stitt’s cookbook.  Unlike some celebrity chef cookbooks the recipes do work and they are completely unintimidating. I’ve cooked quite a bit from it and have never been anything but pleased with the results.

Peach Crostada

Back to peach week. I’ve already admitted that I don’t really swoon over all things chocolate, so I might as well admit that I don’t really like cake either. I love to bake cakes but I usually find them far too sweet and rich for my liking. Pie is a different story. I quite like pie, but I’m that girl who eats the filling and leaves the pastry. Or at least I used to be that girl. I made the peach crostada thinking the whole time that I probably wasn’t going to love it, but gosh was I wrong.

Warm and Bubbly

I don’t know what I loved the most. The crust was so flavorful and buttery. The peaches retained their lovely peachiness and the crostada was very moist.  It was a snap to make, and thank goodness the dough recipe made enough for two crostadas, as we will definitely be having this again very soon. There I was standing in the kitchen far too late to be eating pie and questioning why I had ever refused to baked with the fresh fruit of summer. The crostada wasn’t a waste of a blushing peach but rather a celebration of their wonderful flavor.

Peach Crostada

Peach Crostada
Excerpted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

For the Dough
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/4 cup ice water

For the filling
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and sliced into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon heavy cream for egg wash
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar for topping

To prepare the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas, about 15 times. With the processor running, add the ice water and process for about 10 seconds; stop the processor before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper, divide the dough in half, and shape into two disks. Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be refrigerated for 2 days or frozen up to 2 weeks; if it has been frozen, defrost the dough for 30 minutes at room temperature.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Roll one disk of dough into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet. (Reserve the second disk of dough for another use.)
To prepare the filling, combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. Blend in butter with two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Place the peaches in the center of the dough circle on the baking sheet and top with the butter-sugar mixture. Begin draping the edges up and over, forming about 3 pleats. Crimp the pleats and press down to seal. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the tart for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack.

Last week, E, S, and I talked about the lack of peaches on our blog.  How could we live in the South and not have yet posted anything about peaches?!  So in honor of the peach, we decided to declare this week, Kitchen Confit Peach Week. In my mind, eating a sweet juicy peach is one of the glories of summer.  Then there is the intoxicating peach smell.  It really is hard to imagine anything better. Rarely do I think of a peach as anything but a sweet treat at the end of a summer meal.  So when we all decided to find a peach dish to make for Peach Week, I decided to seek out something savory.  That’s when I found a recipe for Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches in the July Bon Appetit.  It sounds like it would be a little sweet, a little spicy, and all around delcious.

The sauce was a mix of peanut butter, sugar, nectar, Chili sauce, rice vinegar, and soy sauce…really when you combine these ingredients does it get any better. Salty and Sweet.  The only thing I thought it might need was a little extra chili sauce, a thought I was glad I had. Everything was easily grilled and tasted good.  However, it just is not going to look good on a plate.  As a grilled summer salad, it was quite delicious and refreshing. I will say, the grilled bok choy was probably my favorite part of this entire meal.  I know I should be praising the peach, but I think I am just a tried and true Peach as dessert type eater.  If I do decide to try this recipe again, I think I will add a little more acid to the sauce…maybe a little fish sauce.  Also, while the heat came through in the bok choy and on the shrimp, it was barey noticable on the peaches.  Anyone ever have that happen?

Grilled Shrimp Satay with Bok Choy and Peaches
Adapted from Bon Appetit from July 2008 Serves 4

Sauce
6 Tbsp Smooth Natural Peanut Butter
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar (I only had light brown sugar on had, but Bon Appetit recommends Dark Brown Sugar)
3 Tbsp Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Hot Chili Sauce like sriracha
5 Tbsp Peach Nectar

3 Peaches, each cut into 6 wedges
16 raw large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 head Baby Bok Choy, halved lengthwise
4 Bamboo Skewers, soaked in water

Fire up your grill!

Combine the ingredients for the sauce and mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Skewer the Shrimp on bamboo skewers. Brush the peaches, bok choy, and shrimp first with nectar then with a little of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

We grilled each item individually, so first the peaches, then the bok choy, and finally the shrimp. The peaches should be charred, shrimp just opaque, and the bok choy tender.

Once removed from the grill, arrange the bok choy, peaches, and shrimp on a platter and drizzle with a little more sauce. Serve with remaining sauce.

When I think of my favorite cookies, I always fall back on the classics – chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies and even oatmeal cookies. And when I feel the need to bake for my colleagues at work, I often use a recipe for one of these cookies. But in flipping through my well-worn copy of Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours, I discovered that my favorite baking goddess has a recipe that combines all three of those classic cookies. She calls it the Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipster. It’s like the holy trinity of classic cookies – clearly I had to make this recipe.

The recipe comes together like a normal drop cookie. The butters (both the peanut and the normal kind) are creamed with sugar and the rest of the wet ingredients. The oatmeal and the rest of the dry stuff is added in later along with the chocolate chunks. The dough will be a bit on the sticky side, so I agree with Dorie‘s recommendation to chill it for a few hours (if you have the time). The dough will set up quite nicely and be much easier to work with.

So here’s the part where I confess – I made a mistake with this cookie. I didn’t even realize it until the last of the cookies were in the oven and I was tasting the warm cookies for the first time. They were good – chewy and flavorful – but something was off. And as I looked at my countertop of ingredients, which I had not yet put away, I realized that salt was not among them. I left out an ingredient that I am fanatical about adding into baked goods – I left out the salt. Gasp.

If you are not a big baker, then leaving out a 1/4 t. of salt in a cookie may not seem like a big deal. But the salt helps complete the cookie. It makes the flavors of the cookie – the peanut butter, the chocolate, the spices and, most importantly, the sugars – all work in harmony. You don’t taste salt in the cookie – but you taste it if it isn’t there. So as I looked at the dozens of freshly baked warm cookies that I was going to surprise my co-workers with, I was disheartened. Until, that is, I decided to experiment. I grabbed some fine sea salt and lightly sprinkled a bit over the tops of the cookies. Because the cookies were still warm, the salt stuck, like little crystals on top of the cookie. And as for how it tasted – it tasted perfect. Because I used sea salt there wasn’t an overpowering saltiness, and just a tiny sprinkle allowed the salt to do its work. Now I would not advise anyone to make this mistake on purpose – best to add the salt right into the batter – but know that some baking mistakes are fixable. And my co-workers didn’t notice a thing – in fact the words “best cookies ever” were heard more than once. So I managed not to ruin the holy trinity of classic cookie – not to mention retaining my baking reputation with the ever important colleagues.

Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipster

From Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup AP flour

1 t. baking soda

2 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 t. salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter – soft

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 t. vanilla

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped into chunks or 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

In a stand mixer beat butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating fully after each addition, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only till blended. Add in the chips. If you have time, chill the dough for 2 hours or up to 1 day.

Drop rounded tablespoon of dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone mats.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. Take out the cookies when they are gold and just firm around the edges

Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas

Have I cooked dinner all week? No. Do I come home, eat pizza, and lie on the sofa watching Seinfeld? Yes, yes, and yes. I am a poor excuse for a girl who fancies herself as a foodie. It’s been a lazy week, but I have the perfect lazy, summertime recipe to share with you. This salad is a no-cook (except for the orzo) dish that completely blew my expectations out of the water. When I first saw it, I immediately wanted to try it, but I thought it was going to be your average pasta salad — tasty but nothing especially stellar. I was wrong.

Sliced English Cucumber

The salad has quickly become our new favorite dish. It makes for the perfect dinner on steamy summer nights. I don’t know about you but I’m not much in the mood to stand over a hot stove this time of the year. Plus it’s light and the perfect depository for all of those lovely vegetables you bring home from the farmers’ market wondering what to do with them.

It gets better.

The salad (minus the romaine) keeps beautifully overnight. What was a delicious dinner one night becomes the perfect lunch for the next day. The flavors mingle together to become one very tasty dish.

Chopped Heirloom Tomatoes

Given how easy this is to toss together, I have no excuse for my couch potato ways. And it’s done long before the pizza guy can deliver the goods.

Greek Salad with Orzo and Black-Eyed Peas
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2008

3/4 cup orzo
1 (15 oz) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, diced (1 cup)
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, cored, and diced (1 cup)
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped oregano
2 to 3 cups coarsely chopped romaine
1/2 lb feta, crumbled (1 cup)
4 to 8 peperoncini

1. Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water until cool. Drain well.
2. Toss all ingredients together except romaine, feta, and peperoncini. Marinate for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Place mixture over romaine and top with feta and peperoncini.

As far back as I can remember eating, I have been eating grits.  I know it sounds strange for a born and raised Californian to say she has been eating grits her entire life, but I take it as a sign that I was destined to spend a part of my life living in the South.  Grits in my house growing up were almost always prepared simply (just boiled in water) and then served with lots of butter.  Occasionally my grandmother would bake them, or fry them, but the majority of the time, I would just smother my grits in butter and devour them.  Of course, I never realized that I was missing out one of the more fabulous ways to eat grits…with Shrimp.


Had I known this when I was younger, I would have made a point of eating shrimp and grits at every meal.  I guess in the long run, it was a good thing I had to wait to learn of the glories of Shrimp and Grits.  You know, good things come to those who wait.  Boy did it last week when we had shrimp and grits with Crawfish and Pork Andouille Sausage!

One might call it excessive.  One might call it gratuitious.  I call it the perfect early Saturday morning breakfast.  A pound of leftover shrimp, a half pound of sausage, leftover diced onion from the previous nights dinner, a green pepper, a little shredded cheese, a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, and of course GRITS!  Now if you are not sausage fan, you can always substitute a couple slices of bacon.  It was just what I needed to get the morning off to the right start.

Shrimp and Grits
Serves 6

1 Cup Stone Ground Grits
4 Cups Water
3 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 pound of Andouille Sausage split in half, then sliced
1 pound of Shrimp, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 of a large Vidalia Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

1. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the grits. Return the grits to a boil and then reduced the heat to simmer. Stir frequently until they reach your desired consistency. I usually cook them until the water is absorbed and they are thickened. Add 3 Tbsp of butter and stir to combine.

2. In a separate pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and green peppers and saute for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. In another pan add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and saute the sausage for 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Reserve some of the grease from the sausage

4. Using some of the reserved grease, saute the shrimp until pink.

5. To assemble, fill the bowls with Grits, then onions and peppers, shrimp, and sausage. If you so choose (and I always do) top with Tony’s and shredded cheese.

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