A Glutton With Brains

"A gourmet is just a glutton with brains." Philip W. Haberman Jr.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


I grew up in a small town in Montana where good pizza was hard to come by. So I had to learn to make my own. When I went off to college I borrowed my parents pizza stone and started practicing with different dough recipes. There are hundreds of recipes out there for dough, many using fancy ingredients like honey and wine. I've tried those recipes and I feel like it's just creating extra work for no real reason except to be fancy. This is a very simple recipe with simple ingredients. The only thing you might not have already is the yeast. I recommend you use a pizza stone but if you don't have one already, a baking sheet will work just fine. The reason I use a pizza stone is that I think it makes for a better, crispier crust.

When I moved to NY many things were left behind, including the pizza stone. It was just too heavy to pack so I had to return it to my parent's kitchen. J loves pizza. He can go on and on for hours about why he loves pizza. He suggested we get a coal oven but I think our landlords, not to mention our renters insurance company, would have a problem with us bringing a coal oven into the apartment. So we bought a pizza stone instead. It has been sitting sadly in it's box for a few weeks now so I decided to finally use it.

I assure you that this pizza will be better than any you order from Pizza Hut, Domino's or whatever mega chain you order from. I like a simple pizza, just sauce, cheese and some basil. Pizza is very easy to personalize though so feel free to add toppings of your choice.

Yeast can be a little tricky and intimidating. One of the best things about this recipe is: It's hard to mess up. The recipe calls for warm water which you will mix with the yeast. I used a meat thermometer but if you don't have one, it's ok. The water should be warm to the touch but not scalding. Think a little warmer than a hot tub but it shouldn't be so warm that you can't stick your finger in the water. You need the water to be warm enough to dissolve the yeast but if it's too hot the yeast will die and your dough will not rise. This is why you have to let your dough sit and rise. As a yeast dough bakes, at a high temperature, all of the cells in the yeast die.

Pizza Dough
from Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Pour 3/4 warm water into a small bowl, stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

2. Brush a large bowl (preferably metal or glass) lightly with olive oil.
3. Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add yeast mixture and 3 TBS olive oil. Mix until dough forms a sticky ball.

4. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, add flour by tablespoonful if too sticky. Continue kneading for about 1 minute.

5. Place dough in oiled bowl. Turn dough once or twice to cover with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft free area until doubled in volume. You should be able to poke the dough with two fingers and the holes should not fill back up, this means the yeast has risen completely.

6. Punch dough down and roll into a ball.

You can either proceed with making pizza or you can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. You can also wrap and freeze the dough.

Pizza a la Jessie

1 pizza dough

Small ball of fresh mozzarella (about 8 oz) cut up into chunks.

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1/4-1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Fresh Basil leaves

1. Preheat oven to 450. If using a pizza stone place the stone in the oven while preheating.

2. Roll out pizza dough. You can use your hands to stretch it out or use a rolling pin.

3. Fold the rolled out dough over your forearm and place onto the pizza stone. Bake for about 10 minutes.

4. Remove the pizza dough. Use a spatula to pull it onto a rimless baking sheet or an upside down baking sheet.

5. Top with mozzarella chunks first

6. Using a spoon, fill in empty space with sauce. Top with grated pecorino or parmesan.

7. Use the baking sheet to slide it back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes depending how dark you like your crust.

8. Top with basil leaves and serve.

P.S. Commenting should now work. When you click on comments you can use the drop down menu to use an existing account or your name to leave your comment. I'm still working on the follow button, still not sure why that's not working. Thank you for reading!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I have a confession. I am ashamed to admit that only three days after I created this blog, I caved. This is going to be harder than I thought it would be.

Last night J and I went to an Ellis Paul concert, which was awesome by the way. One of J's friends joined us and we went to dinner afterwards. I am sorry to report that it wasn't even worth it. I ordered the special, orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage...it sounded much better than it was. I was underwhelmed. It didn't taste bad per se but it was dry and bland. J wisely chose lasagna.

Like any addict, I have spent the day justifying my relapse. Then I heard my dad's voice in my head saying a phrase that I heard countless times growing up. "Everything after but is B.S.". He would somewhat frequently call me or my sister and hand us over to whoever he was with. He would ask us what we say about but in our house. Whichever one of us was the fortunate answerer of the phone would then tell the poor guy on the other end. I always felt bad for them. I can't imagine that a grown man enjoys getting schooled by a young girl. They probably needed it though. In an effort to follow his sage advice, I'm not going to make any more excuses nor will I justify my relapse.

So I am back to square one and I am resetting the clock. I will eat in for the next month starting today. The past few days have just been a practice run. Now for the real deal.

I'm off to make some pizza...recipe to follow!

Friday, February 26, 2010


You may have seen the massive storm hitting the East coast on the news. We're getting hit with a NorEaster (No, I still don't know what that even means, something about a really big snow storm). With all of this snow and cold weather I decided it would be a good day to make up some meatloaf. Plus J had to go to the dentist yesterday so I knew he would be needing some soft food. There are so many ways to make meatloaf, you probably have a tried and true recipe you use at home. This is actually my first attempt at meatloaf and it turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Instead of baking it in a loaf pan, I formed it into a loaf and put it on a baking sheet. This allows some of the fat to drip off and you get a crustier edge, which I love. J's Mom uses a roasting pan and puts some water in the bottom to keep the loaf moist. But seeing as I live in a NY apartment (read: tiny kitchen) things like roasting pans get stored under the bed until Thanksgiving and I didn't feel like tackling the mess that lives under my bed. I saw a recipe online of a woman who uses a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet which is also a wonderful idea. If you're not really a crust kind of person, then the loaf pan will work great. I served it with mashed potatoes, corn and glazed carrots. The corn and carrots are optional but the mashed potatoes are completely obligatory when making meatloaf.


Mixed by hand

In a loaf before going in the oven

Just out of the oven

With mashed potatoes, corn and glazed carrots



¼ cup diced onions

1 tsp olive oil

1 ½ lbs ground beef (I used 1 lb ground chuck and ½ lb ground round)

½ cup bread crumbs

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp ground sage

2 eggs

1 TBS Worchester sauce

1 tsp dried oregano

black pepper


1. Preheat oven at 350º

2. Heat olive oil in saucepan. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, just until softened.

3. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl with your hands or a spatula. Salt and Pepper to taste.

4. Form into a loaf and place on a baking sheet. You can also use a loaf pan.

5. Bake at 350ºF for about an hour or until the loaf reads 160º on a meat thermometer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brocolli and Caramelized Onion Tart

Last night I made a really good tart that I want to share with you. I got the idea from one of my favorite food blogs, smittenkitchen.com. She made a Cauliflower and Onion tart, originally from Bon Appetit, but I didn't have a few of the ingredients so I decided to improvise. Plus, J doesn't really like cauliflower so I didn't want to torture him with an entire tart full of it. Not to mention the giant bag of broccoli I bought at Costco last week that I needed to use. The smittenkitchen version also had some pretty fatty ingredients like whole cream and mascarpone. Mascarpone is of course delicious but since we are trying to eat better I decided to change that too. I really love the versatility of this recipe. You can change a lot about it and it's still very good. There is a recipe for a pie crust below but you can use your own just as easily. Plus, it lasts for a few days in the fridge. I had some for breakfast this morning. So I will share with you what I did but feel free to experiment with this recipe. Sorry I don't have pictures for this one, I made this before I decided to start the blog but I still thought it was worth sharing.

1 lb of brocolli cut into 1-inch flowerets

4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 refrigerated pie crust or a homemade tart shell (recipe below)

1 large onion, halved lenghtwise and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 large eggs

7- to 8- ounces (about half a container) of part skim ricotta

1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)

1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (Parmesan would also work)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 425°F. Toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons olive oil in large bowl. Spread on rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast 10 minutes before turning florets over and roasting until brown and tender, another 5 minutes in my oven. Cool brocolli and sprinkle with salt, if using. Reduce temperature to 350°F.

If using store bought pie crust, press it onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom or pie pan. Line crust with foil, fill with pie weights (or dried beans) and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights then bake until crust is golden, about 5 additionally minutes. Press crust back with the back of a fork if bubbles form. Cool crust and maintain oven temperature.

If using recipe below, reduce cooking time to 10 minutes with foil and weights and then an additional 5 minutes with foil and weights removed.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until onion is a deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. This took me just shy of 30 minutes. Cool slightly.

Use a knife or brush to spread the bottom and sides of crust with mustard. Spread onion over crust. Arrange broccoli over the onion. Set the tart on a rimmed baking sheet (to protect against leaks). Whisk eggs, ricotta, cream and pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in Cheddar. Pour mixture over filling in tart pan, sprinkle with Pecorino. Bake until tart is golden and center is set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool 15 minutes before serving.

Do ahead: Onions can be caramelized, dough can be parbaked (or rolled and pressed into pan, if homemade) and broccoli can be roasted a day ahead. Store a parbaked crust at room temperature, a rolled-out unbaked crust and cauliflower and onion in the fridge. Broccoli and onion should be kept in separate containers. Whole tart can be made and baked a day in advance, reheated in a low oven before serving.

A Great Savory Tart Shell
Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien,

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, diced

1 egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and one-fourth teaspoon salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. If this does not happen easily, toss it out onto a counter and knead it together. This dough is rather tough but with a little elbow grease, it does come together nicely. (Dough can also be made in a food processor, or as the original recipe suggests, in a stand mixer.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Crimp the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Proceed with recipe above.


My fiancé, J, and I got back a week and a half ago from a great vacation in Puerto Rico. We live in New York and it was great to get away from the cold and snow here! We decided when we got back to eat in more, save some money and get healthier. Since we've been back, we have eaten in every night. I know this doesn't seem like much but, c'mon this is NYC.

There's a lot I don't like about this city: the noise, the people, you get the point. But it does have many redeeming qualities: shows, museums, concerts and most importantly, food. Oh the food. I love eating out. I love being able to call and have hot Lo Mein at my door 20 minutes later. I love that I can take a short stroll and go to (in my humble opinion) the best diner in NY, Veselka. Seriously, folks. What could be better than a bowl of homemade chicken soup with a slice of potato bread and mushroom and sauerkraut pierogies on a cold day? Nothing, that's what. I love going down to Grimaldi's to get the best pizza in the world. I love that no matter what type of cuisine I want: Chinese, Thai, Peruvian, Southern, Sushi, Lebanese, Ukranian...I can get it even if it's 3 am.

But I also love to cook. I have aspirations of someday being a chef who gets to wear a fancy hat. I have binders full of recipes I've clipped from magazines that I still haven't tried. I have cookbooks full of post-it notes on the pages of things that sound mouthwatering delicious.

So on this 10th day of eating at home, I have decided to make a challenge out of it. J and I will eat in for the next month. This will require some planning on my part as I do most of the cooking, save the occasional nana-nutter or grilled cheese which J does wonderfully. I won't be able to have one of those lazy days and just decide to call and have something delivered. But, I think it's worth it. There are so many recipes I've been wanting to try and now I will have a reason and I will share them with you.

Thank you for reading!