Store-bought pizza dough pizza

Adapted from The Kitchn, makes 2 pizzas. Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. store-bought dough, at room temperature for at least 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup (or 3 tbsp) of Rao’s Pizza Sauce, per pizza
  • 4 cloves of garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil
  • prosciutto
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and sautéed
  • handful of mushrooms, sautéed
  • 1 cup mozzarella di bufala, thinly sliced
  • handful of basil, torn
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • cornmeal or all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Set your oven to 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Defrost pizza dough on top of stove.
  2. Sautee raw toppings.
  3. Tear off a large piece of parchment paper roughly 12 inches long. Working with one piece of the dough at a time, form it into a large disk with your hands and place it on the parchment. Use your hands to flatten the dough until it is 1/4-inch thick or less. If the dough starts to shrink back, let it rest for 5 minutes and then continue rolling. Brush a thin film of olive oil on a baking sheet. 
  4. Pre-bake the crust for 3-4 minutes before adding toppings.
  5. Top the pizza. Spoon half of the sauce onto the center of the pizza and use the back of the spoon to spread it out to the edges. Pile on half of the toppings and half of the cheese.
  6. Bake the pizza right on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pizza. If using parchment, slide it out from under the pizza and discard. Bake until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and browned in spots, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  7. Repeat making a second pizza with the remaining dough, cheese, and toppings.

Tips I came across on multiple websites:

Crust

  • Let the refrigerated dough sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or more before rolling.
  • Let the oven heat for at least half an hour before baking your pizzas. If you have a baking stone or steel, place it in the lower-middle part of your oven.
  • Set your oven to 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your comfort. You can make good pizza at 450ºF/232ºC. 
  • Flour a clean wood chopping board (if big enough) to use as a work surface.
  • Don’t roll out the dough — press out the edges to make a crust (don’t press the middle), then stretch with one hand and rotate with other hand, then toss from hand to hand. video
  • Cover the dough and give it a 10-minute break to relax the gluten, when needed.
  • Pizza size: no more than 10 inches/25 cm in diameter.
  • Use olive oil on the sheet, and on the edges before baking. Spread olive oil on both sides of the crust.
  • If you don’t have cornmeal, use Parchment paper. FYI: The paper catches on fire if it touches the heating element.

Sauce

  • Pre-bake the crust for 3-4 minutes before adding toppings.
  • Add enough sauce so that when you spread it, you can still see the dough underneath: 2-3 tbsp of sauce per pizza. Less is more!

Toppings

  • Preheat the oven; While you’re waiting, set up your toppings.
  • Pre-cook raw ingredients (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, meat, etc.)
  • Keep the toppings to just a handful at most. If you load homemade pizza down with a ton of toppings, it may take too long for the crust to cook.
  • For the cheese, use a low-moisture, whole milk mozzarella. If you want to use fresh mozzarella, drain it and pat it dry. 
  • If you plan to add some fresh arugula or herbs to your pizza, top the pizza with hand-torn basil after it’s out of the oven.

References: Good in the Simple, Garlic Delight, Pillsbury, The Kitchn

Next time I will try Brie, Sage, and Prosciutto toppings; or pesto in place of sauce and top with chicken, fresh tomato, and buffalo mozzarella. I would also try to make garlic knots (dough knotted together with garlic, parsley, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese). I forgot to defrost the dough ahead of time, so I followed this trick from Baking Kneads to wrap the oiled up put it in the oven at 100 degrees Fahrenheit (used the bread proofing setting) for one hour, then check if it is ready (risen to double its size). If it is not fully defrosted, back in the oven for 30 minutes. We used a baking sheet, not a pizza stone, and Parchment paper.

~Jessica

Lunar New Year 2021

February 12th was the first day of the Year of the Ox! Happy “niú” year!

Prepared Menu:

Desserts:

  • pastéis de nata (or the traditional Chinese version I’ve always known: 蛋撻, dàn tǎ)
  • Japanese mochi ice cream

新年快樂! Xīn nián kuài lè

恭喜發財! Gōng xǐ fā cái

~Jessica

Stir-fried nian gao

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • some marinated meat (I used leftover chicken dumpling filling)
  • 1 pound rice cakes (I had frozen from my aunt)
  • 8 ounces baby bok choy
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 scallions, cut diagonally in 2.5 cm pieces
  • shiitake mushrooms (I had fresh! from SkyFoods)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Marinate the julienned protein with light soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, vegetable oil, and cornstarch for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the rice cakes and drain. If using fresh or frozen rice cakes, you do not have to soak or thaw them. Only soak (according to package instructions) if using dried rice cakes.
  3. Thoroughly wash the baby bok choy. Drain, shaking off excess water. If using baby bok choy, separate into individual leaves. Also prepare the garlic and scallions.
  4. If using fresh mushrooms, slice them thinly. If using dried shiitake mushrooms, save the soaking liquid.
  5. Place your wok over high heat until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the vegetable oil to coat the wok, and add the pork and garlic. Cook until the pork turns opaque. If using mushrooms, add them now and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the scallions, bok choy/cabbage, and Shaoxing wine. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, and move everything to the center of the wok to create an even “bed” of vegetables and meat. Distribute the rice cakes on top (this prevents them from sticking to the wok).
  7. Add water (or mushroom soaking water for extra flavor). Depending on how hot your stove gets, you can add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Cover, and cook for 2 minutes to steam the rice cakes and cook the vegetables.
  8. Remove the cover, and add the sesame oil, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, and sugar. Stir-fry everything together for 1 minute over medium heat. Taste, and season with additional salt if necessary. Continue stir-frying until the rice cakes are coated in sauce, cooked through but still chewy. Plate and serve!

Apparently, stir-fried rice cakes are known in Chinese as “chao niángāo” (炒年糕), which is different from the sweet nian gao “cake” that is also traditional New Year’s fare. We substituted with ground chicken because of dietary preferences in the party, and we had some leftover carrot matchsticks from the summer rolls. This would have been an even more elaborate dish to make, but thankfully there was a real wok! And thankfully there were multiple hands on deck to help with the preparation. No one had ever tried something like this before, so it was a fun experiment! ^_^

~Jessica

Chicken zucchini dumplings

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, seeds removed and shredded
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 packages dumpling wrappers (see recipe from Pork dumplings)

Directions:

  1. Take the shredded zucchini, put it in a clean kitchen towel, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Add it to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. In a wok over medium low heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and the minced ginger. Allow the ginger to fry in the oil until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add to the bowl of zucchini.
  3. To the bowl, add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, ground chicken, ½ teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine. Mix well, stirring vigorously in one direction for about 5 minutes, until it resembles a paste.
  4. Wrap the dumplings and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, so that the dumplings are not touching each other. You can fry them right away, or cover the dumplings with plastic wrap and freeze them on the tray. Once frozen solid, you can transfer them to freezer bags and store for up to 3 months.
  5. You can boil them, steam them, or fry them. Frying tastes best, boiling is quickest (especially if you have many hungry mouths to feed), and we tried steaming with Napa cabbage leaves and sesame oil in a metal steamer.

Serves 6. Would love to whip out the bamboo steamer next time! Don’t forget some chili oil for dipping sauce (preferable over black vinegar, in my opinion).

~Jessica

Vietnamese summer rolls

Adapted from Rasa Malayasia

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz (115g) rice noodles or rice vermicelli (or Maifun rice noodles)
  • 4 oz (115g) peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 leaves fresh lettuce, sliced
  • 6 sheets Vietnamese rice paper
  • 2 oz (56g) carrot, peeled and cut into matchstick strips

Thai peanut sauce:

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons ground peanuts
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Add some water to a pot and bring it to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook per the package instructions, stirring occasionally (10 minutes approximately). Drain and rise under cold water, set aside.
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the Peanut Sauce together in a small bowl. Whisk it to mix well. Transfer to a dip bowl and garnish with the peanuts.
  3. In another small pot, bring some water to boil. Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute, or until the shrimp are completely cooked. Drain, let cool, and slice in half lengthwise. Set aside.
  4. Divide the vermicelli, shrimp, lettuce and carrot into 6 equal portions.
  5. To assemble the summer rolls, dip one sheet of the rice paper in a big bowl of water. Shake off the excess water and quickly transfer it to a clean, dry and flat working surface, for example, kitchen countertop or a chopping board.
  6. Place the rice noodles on the bottom part of the rice paper.
  7. Add the sliced lettuce and carrots.
  8. Place 3 shrimp halves on top.
  9. Fold the bottom side of rice paper over the filling securely, then fold the left and right sides of the rice paper over the filing. Make sure the filling is secured tightly.
  10. Continue to roll the summer roll over, until fully wrapped. Repeat the same until everything is used up!
  11. Cut the Summer Rolls diagonally in the middle into halves, place them on a platter, and serve immediately with the Peanut Sauce.

We made the hoisin version of the peanut sauce, but I kind of missed a little Thai peanut sauce flavor! I know, fusion. Jesse’s sister made them really well (see photos).

~Jessica

Stir-fried pea shoots with garlic

Adapted from The Woks of Life and Omnivore’s Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound snow pea leaves (450g, picked, thoroughly washed clean)
  • 3-4 tbsp peanut oil (vegetable oil if unavailable)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or chicken stock)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced

Directions:

  1. Make sure your pea leaves are thoroughly washed and picked through for tough stems (snip the tough ends — if you bend it and it doesn’t break — off the pea shoots).
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok over high heat. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir for a couple of seconds to release the aroma.
  3. Add the snow pea leaves. Stir-fry for 20 seconds, keeping the vegetables constantly moving, coating with oil. Add the salt, white pepper, Shaoxing wing, and sesame oil. Continue stir-frying until the vegetables are completely wilted but still vibrant green. The whole process should take a minute or so! Serve hot.

(蒜蓉炒豆苗). I love pea leaf shoots, but you can only find them in Asian groceries, and they’re among the pricier of dishes at restaurants. Nom nom nom. These veggies I selected for Lunar New Year greens!

-Jessica

Chinese pork dumplings

Adapted from The Woks of Life and this version!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. green leafy vegetable (we used Napa cabbage)
  • 1 pounds ground pork (or ground chicken, fattier the better)
  • 1 egg
  • ⅔ cup Shaoxing rice wine
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Dumpling Wrappers:

  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups water

Directions:

  1. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the water to the flour and knead into a smooth dough. This process should take about 10 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for an hour.
  2. Wash the vegetables thoroughly and blanch them in a pot of boiling water. Transfer them to an ice bath to cool. Ring out all the water from the vegetables and chop very finely. You can also add a little bit of salt to get more water out! Wring it well with a towel after!
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the vegetables, meat, wine, oil, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, and ⅔ cup water. Mix for 6-8 minutes, until very well-combined and almost paste-like in texture.
  4. Begin assembling the dumplings! The best way to do this is to divide the dough into manageable pieces and then rolling each piece into a rope. Cut them into small pieces (in a size similar to if you were cutting gnocchi, or about the size of the top part of your thumb).
  5. Roll the pieces out into circles, and add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling to the center (it helps if you have an assembly line going, with one person cutting out the dough pieces, one person rolling it out, and one person filling/folding).
  6. Wrap the dumplings: dampen the edges of each circular dumpling wrapper with some cornstarch-water slurry. Put a little less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the circle in half and pinch the wrapper together at the top. Then make two folds on each side, until the dumpling looks like a fan. Make sure it’s completely sealed. Repeat until all the filling is gone, placing the dumplings on a baking sheet lined with parchment so they aren’t touching.
  7. If you’d like to freeze them, wrap the baking sheets tightly in clean plastic grocery bags and put the pans in the freezer. Allow them to freeze overnight. You can then take the sheets out of the freezer, transfer the dumplings to freezer bags, and throw them back in the freezer for use later.
  8. To cook the dumplings, boil them or pan-fry them. We steamed!
  9. Serve with Chinese black vinegar, chili sauce, or your favorite dumpling sauce! (I’ve never been a fan of black vinegar dipping sauce.)

MAKES 8-10 DOZEN. If the wrappers start to dry out, wrap them in a damp kitchen towel and put them in a sealed plastic bag for a couple hours to soften back up. 2 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms (with minced ginger, onion, carrot) can also make vegetarian dumplings! We could have alternatively used other greens like baby bok choy, but I was putting that in a stir friend nian gao dish. And originally I wanted to use Chinese chives, but didn’t because they were $5/lb!!

The chicken and zucchini version from Woks of Life

~Jessica

Maple almond granola

Adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup wheat germ (I subbed with ground flax seed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) package flaked coconut (optional)
  • ⅓ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 6 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins (I prefer cranberries)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Lightly grease a cookie sheet with sides, or a large cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the oats, almonds, wheat germ, coconut, and sunflower seeds. In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, oil, 2 tablespoons warm water, and salt. Pour the liquid over the oat and nut mixture, and stir until evenly coated. Spread out on the prepared cookie sheet. If you want some chunky bits, squeeze some small handfuls into little clumps.
  3. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally until evenly toasted. Mix in raisins. Cool, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

I first got the idea to make my own back in grad school — partly to be healthier, and partly for hiking! Now Jesse likes a little bit of granola in yogurt (my thing for breakfast), so why not recreate this? I used to make it for friends as a homemade care package. Good stuff — although I don’t have a cookie sheet so a lot of stirring is going to take place in the baking pan. Next time I’ll add dried cranberries and different nuts/seeds! EDIT: cooked for another 30 minutes, stir, 30 minutes, stir, to ensure baked through and nice and loose.

~Jessica

Scallion ginger shrimp

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shrimp (450g, peeled and deveined)
  • 4 scallions (cut into 2-3 inch lengths)
  • 10 thin slices fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing Wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 dash soy sauce (optional but we added)

Directions:

  1. Defrost your shrimp (I had them in the refrigerator) and give them a quick rinse, checking them for any veins. After they are defrosted and clean, place them into a colander to drain well. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  2. Cut the scallions into 2 1/2 inch pieces and slice the ginger to about 1/8 inch thickness. Heat the oil in your wok over medium heat and spread the ginger across the wok. Let it fry in the oil for about 20 seconds to infuse the oil with all that great flavor, and immediately turn up the flame to the highest setting.
  3. Next, add the scallion ends and the middle green parts of the scallion. Give everything a quick stir and add the shrimp. Let the shrimp sear for 20 seconds and add the wine, sesame oil, salt, white pepper, and pinch of sugar.
  4. Add the remaining green portion of the scallions and stir-fry until the shrimp is just cooked through. Add in the dash of soy if using, and give everything a final toss. Plate and serve immediately.

I wanted to practice run through this recipe before using it for Lunar New Year next weekend. It was so quick, once your assemble all your seasonings, almost as quickly as making the ramen noodles. Jesse’s review: “They’re tasty.”

~Jessica

Käsespätzle

Adapted from the Daring Gourmet and Eat Little Bird

Ingredients:

  • batch Homemade German Spätzle (about 5 cups cooked Spätzle, I made about 4 cups of store-bought because I’m not a dough person)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 very large onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 chicken stock cube
  • 1–2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 12 ounces shredded Emmentaler or Jarlsberg (something mild, basically — I liked adding Gruyère for extra flavor!)
  • Salt
  • parsley and/or chives, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Cooke the spätzle if you haven’t already (16 min. in salted water according to the package)
  2. Caramelize the onions. Don’t let them burn (this can take up to 30 min. to brown slowly).
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Caramelize the onions in a pan (I used a little olive oil and butter for this).
  5. Butter a 9×13 (or a little smaller) casserole dish. Once the butter starts to melt, add some flour, stock cube, and Dijon mustard. Add a bit of milk if you have some, season with salt and pepper, and mix the paste well.
  6. Layer 1/3 of the Spätzle in the bottom of the dish followed by 1/3 of the cheese and 1/3 of the caramelized onions. Repeat, sprinkling each layer with some salt, ending with cheese and onions on top.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or longer until the cheese is melted and the edges are just beginning to get a little crispy.
  8. Serve immediately.

So many times I ate this in southern Germany. I lived in the state of Baden-Württemberg, so there was loads of Swabian influence. Schwäbisch! This was a lot of work — I see why Kraft Macaroni and Cheese exists as a product. I forgot to get the chives! Facepalm. 1 organic yellow onion $0.74, 0.42 lbs. Emmental $6.30, 0.26 lbs. Gruyere $5.72, and 6 oz. Jarlsberg $5.99 from Whole Foods.

~Jessica