Sunday, February 22, 2015

..and see?

You all thought (hoped?) I wasn't coming back, that I'd abandoned my foolhardy mission to convert the good people of Arkansas to a more plant-based way of eating and cooking, right?  Hah!  I've been cooking and cooking and cooking and taking photos of just about everything I cook and/or eat.  I just get so caught up in cooking and eating I forget to post anything.  But that all must change.

Art and I made the most serendipitous discovery Friday night. Based on a teeny-tiny ad in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, we decided to check out Ristorante Capeo in North Little Rock. Oh, goodness! Not only was the bartender ever so knowledgeable, our fellow bar sitters were so friendly. But I should hardly be surprised as Arkansans seem universally friendly and full of that charming Southern hospitality.
Our experience was off to a great start as we sat down.  Bruce, the fellow on Art's right, extended his hand by way of introduction and Mark, our bartender, learned the correct pronunciation of Tualatin, OR (for the uninitiated, it's 'too-wall-a-tin').  By the time Bruce left, he'd ordered an appetizer for us: fried sage leaves.  Oh!  The pleasure on that plate was fantastic!

Ultimately, as we so often do, we talked with everyone, eventually meeting the chef/owner Eric who introduced us to his favorite Happy Hour expert...and here memory fails me, but I believe his name was Gordy.  Art, of course, referred to me as "a food blogger" which caused me to realize I'd not blogged since, yup, August.  Oh, the shame - and embarrassment!

But where to start?  And about what to write?  There was the fresh asparagus soup with Parmesan crisps Linda and I had for lunch, the spicy Kung Pao Tofu with noodles or more memorably, the lentils and roasted beets with a not-too-sweet orange vinaigrette.  But the hands-down springtime favorite around here is SmittenKitchen's shaved asparagus pizza.  Who knew raw asparagus would taste so very delicious?

I post here the front cover of my copy of her brilliant first cookbook, a gift from my equally cooking-crazed daughter (thanks, swee'pea).

SK's pizza crust has become a staple around here as, from clean kitchen to ready-to-top dough takes all of 40 minutes.   Deb, (yes, we're on a first name basis by now.  Poor Ms. Perelman has yet to have the pleasure of my acquaintance, but I feel quite close to her) details two different pizza dough recipes in her first cookbook, the source of much of my culinary mimicry.  As I'm seldom organized enough to begin preparing pizza early in the day, I tend to use the quick version.

Rushed Pizza Dough
Very slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 c water
1 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups bread flour, plus additional for counter
1 t table salt
olive oil to coat bowl

Nuke water in microwave in 10-second intervals until desired temperature, about 110 to 116 degrees. Sprinkle yeast over the water and allow to stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Add flour and salt and mix until a rough mass forms.  Turn dough and stray bits onto a floured counter and knead 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Coat inside of mixing bowl with a dab of olive oil and return dough to bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and allow to rise about 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.

Preheat oven and pizza stone, if using, to appropriate temperature according to your recipe.  I always set the oven to it's highest temperature; in my case, that's 500 degrees.

Turn dough onto floured counter (I typically leave the counter dirty - gasp!) and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle-ish and place the dough on the now 500 degree stone and add the toppings.

In this case, it's spring asparagus I've shaved with a vegetable peeler and tossed with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.

1/2 pound  asparagus
olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
pizza dough, ready to bake
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz mozzarella, cut into cubes or shredded
scallion, thinly sliced

While the asparagus is resting in the bowl with the olive oil, sprinkle the Parmesan on the pizza dough, add the mozzarella, then pile the shaved asparagus on top.  Bake at 500 degrees for 10 - 13 minutes or  longer so the edges of the pie are browned and the asparagus is slightly charred in spots. Add the scallions, slice and devour!

And there you have it, my ode to Spring - AND my return to food writing.  And now, it's time for that bee-you-tee-ful root vegetable hash Art is working on at the moment.  But more about that later. I have Bloody Mary's to mix.