Friday, April 30, 2010

Flatbread Pizzas

 Sunflower Seeded Flatbread with Ricotta Cheese, D'Anjou Pears, & Walnuts
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks
Pairs wonderfully with Apple Butter

One of my favorite things to do every month is meet for book club. I am an avid reader, at least I thought I was before I joined my book club - some of those girls have put me to shame! - and think it's a fantastic way to discover new authors, new friends, and new things about myself.

It's a quaint little club, just four of us in total, but we meld together better than anyone could have written on paper. Each of us is entertained discovering our likes and differences, and it turns out we enjoy discussing much more outside of the novel's pages.

Once a month we take turns hosting, and without much discussion, snacks were laid out at each meeting. We have seemed to turn our focus as equally onto the food as to the storyline at hand. When word got out that I blogged about food, the expectations were raised. I decided to cook a little extra for my hosting duties this month, which worked out well since our appetites usually call for something above the established peckish fare.

Parmesan Flatbread
Two to Try: Smoked Mozzarella & Seasoned Tomato

The current trend in the food world seems to be flatbread pizzas. These quick recipes offer a broader array of doughs and toppings than the regular standard. I gathered a few recipes, completed my grocery shopping, and finished as much as I could the night before.

Thankfully, the club members enjoyed being my taste testers. I was hesitant to brag preemptively, so I clued them in. All my tasting time was taken up with (rushed) photography time before the ladies were scheduled to arrive. My awesomeness prevailed recipes were a success, and I even have one more I didn't have time to make on this night to share in the future.

Thank you, ladies, for your kind words! They highly recommend you try these flatbread pizzas, as do I.

Dill Flatbread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven with pizza stone* to 450*F. In a mixer with a spiral dough hook**, blend together the flour through salt. Next add the water and oil slowly, and allow the dough to be worked for no more than 4 min. Divide the dough in half and round each into a ball.

Using your hands, or an oiled rolling pin, roll the dough out into a thin sheet, approximately 10" in diameter on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking (or tin foil with cornmeal dusted on top of the dough and then flipped onto the pizza stone or baking sheet). Once the dough is flat, slide the dough into the oven and cook for 10 - 12 min, depending on level of browning desired. Repeat with second flatbread dough.

After allowing the flatbread to cool, cut into small pieces for snacking. This flatbread goes well with hummus. Also, adding toppings and placing the flatbread under the broiler for 3 min makes a delicious pizza (it's better to undercook the dough if adding toppings to prevent the dough from burning). 

~Yields 2 10" flatbreads.
~Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

I used butter and yukon gold potatoes.

*I bought my pizza stone at Bed, Bath, & Beyond from Oneida for $15. However, a baking sheet can be used instead.

** The spiral dough hook works better than the traditional, in my opinion. You could also just use your hands!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cocoa and Fennel Frond Crusted Chilean Sea Bass, Shiitake Mushrooms with Fennel Stalks, and Chocolate Drizzled Fennel Bulb

That has to be one of the longest food titles I've ever created. However, I needed something epic for my entry into She Simmers' Cooking Contest with Chef Curtis Duffy. I happened upon her blog by chance while searching for...well I don't even remember what I was searching for now, I was so entranced by her blog. The beautiful lighting in her photos and the unique recipes just drew me in immediately. I saw the contest she was running and decided to go for it with only a few days notice. I am to create a dish using chocolate with 85% cocoa solids, fish, mushrooms, and ALL parts of fennel. Yikes.

I love using fennel, but I have never used the stalks before. I find them very tough and with less flavor than the bulb or fronds, even though they can be a substitute for celery . The bulb is the part I've used most often in the kitchen. It has a slight licorice taste, and is great to use instead of onions in some dishes for a new taste. I think my favorite way to use the bulb is in potato soup. Fennel just adds a bit of sexiness to whatever you're cooking.

I decided I should focus on the required ingredients and not bring in a lot of "outsiders", like rice or pasta. And the ingredients should flow on the plate. Thus I came up with cocoa and fennel frond crusted Chilean Sea Bass, which would flow into the chocolate drizzled fennel bulb, thus melding into the shiitake mushrooms with fennel stalks. All the pieces of the dish compliment the others, without being hidden or overshadowed. The flavors are enhanced by each other to create a dish with symmetry and unique taste.

Once I had the pleasure of tasting my creation, I even impressed myself. The flavor and textures matched more than I had expected. The firm sea bass had a beautiful cocoa and fennel frond crunch. This matched the sweet taste of the fennel bulb cooked in olive oil and orange juice, topped with cayenne pepper chocolate. And finally, my personal favorite, the shiitake mushrooms and fennel stalks cooked in butter and soy sauce. The mild sweetness of the sea bass, fennel, and chocolate was a satisfying feast. The savory and umami flavors found in the shiitake mushrooms made my taste buds melt. And I loved how the orange juice brightened the flavors of the fennel bulb.

Although the name implies a complicated meal, it was simple and fast to cook. This would be a fantastic dish to impress someone with, as the praise you receive will far outweigh the time or money you spent.

Cocoa and Fennel Frond Crusted Chilean Sea Bass
Printable Recipe

1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp fennel fronds, finely chopped
1 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
4 oz wild Chilean sea bass
1 tbsp coconut oil

In a small pan, toast the coriander and fennel frond for 15 seconds. Add to a small bowl, along with the cocoa, celery seed, nutmeg, and powdered ginger. Coat all sides of the sea bass in the cocoa mixture.

In a medium skillet, add the coconut oil and bring the temperature to medium high. Cook the sea bass for 1 min on all sides.

~Original by Brie.

Shiitake Mushrooms with Fennel Stalks
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, diced
1 small ginger piece, diced
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thickly
4 fennel stalks, peeled, cut to 3 inch pieces, and quartered
1/2 tbsp soy sauce

In a small skillet, melt the butter. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 min.

Add the mushrooms and fennel stalks and cook for 10 min, stirring occasionally. Then add the soy sauce and cook for 2 min.

~Original by Brie.

Chocolate Drizzled Fennel Bulb
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 tbsp orange juice

2 oz chocolate, Green & Black's 85% cocoa solids
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel bulb and cook for 10 min, stirring occasionally.

Add the orange juice and cook for 1 min. Remove to a plate. In a small glass bowl, add the chocolate and heat in the microwave for 1 min. Add the cayenne pepper and stir well. Drizzle over the plated fennel bulb.

~Original by Brie.

I couldn't resist another photo - this dish is fantastic!