Friday, May 25, 2007

Total Eclipse of my Self-Control

So, when I was a kid, was exposed to a wide variety of foods. I realize that isn't a very interesting way to start a story, but deal with it. I wasn't exposed to sexual predators or random acts of violence, just the occasional palak paneer. This, on top of the fact that my dad was one heck of a cook, I got the foodie bug early.

I started out expanding upon the most basic, simple food I could make: mac 'n cheese. I started adding every herb I could identify to my food, quickly discovering that too much of it would surely taste like crap. Once I got the right formula worked out, my sister soon preferred my mac 'n cheese to my moms. Lesson learned? You don't always need to follow the box instructions.

I dabbled in other cooking but really didn't give it much thought for a good many years after that. Being an unstable adolescent girl really does take up a LOT of time. However, now that I am a stable-esque twentysomething, I can afford to reprioritize. "Obsessing about boys" is definitely down a couple rungs, maybe number 4 or 5 on my grand To Do list. And this brings me back to my love of food.

Food and I have a dangerous relationship. You know how you see needy girlfriends who get all angry and bent out of shape when they don't get to see their boyfriends enough? I'm somewhere between that and a junkie. Like a chemical dependecy, I get shaky, cranky and irrational when I haven't eaten. Maybe this is where it started but I've advanced from here to a true connoiseur.

Some people look at porn online. I'm all about recipe websites. If I had to pay to access the Food Network's website, I'd be toast. But while the site is free, there is a price you pay.

Food gets expensive, especially the good stuff. Even making it at home can really add up! Just like the guy who gets hooked on virtual poker, I keep finding a drain on my funds and it's leading straight to my mouth.

I'm trying to keep it under control, but as Bonnie Tyler once said, "every now and then I fall apart."

(sing it with me)
"AND I NEED YOU NOW TONIGHT! And I need you more than ever!"
Ok, enough of that.

The point of all this is... food is good. Food is awesome. Learn to make it yourself. If there are certain things you find yourself drawn to and craving, research them. You'll learn SO many neat things by just wading through recipe after recipe. The more familiar you get with ingredients, the more comfortable you'll become around them. Fear of cooking is no excuse, just start small.

I've been obsessing over pizza all week. After cruising through a slew of suggestions (and factoring in price and what is currently in my apartment), I came up with a brand new recipe:

- Pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joes (herb flavor)... or make your own, show-off!
- 3 good-sized mushrooms, sliced thin
- Half an onion, sliced into thin rings
- A yellow squash (just the good thick middle part), sliced into thin rings
- Shredded mozzerella
- Trader Joe's Pasta Seasoning
- Garlic salt
- extra flour
- The Sauce
( small can of tomato sauce
( a sprinkling of fresh thyme
( 6-8 leaves of fresh basil
( 1 tbsp. garlic in a jar
( 1 tbsp. neufchatel cheese, warmed... or cream cheese or any soft blendable cheese
( a splash of red wine, preferably cabernet sauvignon
( a few shakes of dried cumin powder
( 1 italian sausage
( 3/4 cup ricotta cheese*

Set the dough out to sit in room temperature for at least 20 minutes, just like the instructions say (or longer).

Heat up a pan (MED-HIGH). Grab your sausage and, in a way that will terrify any man, run a sharp knife down the length of it. You want to take off the casing. Get as much of the inner stuff into the pan as possible. Break it up** and cook until brown all over (put the NO in trichinosis!). Drain off any excess fat and set aside to cool.

Those veggies? Slice them now and set them aside. They don't have to be paper thin. Just imagine the thickness you would usually see of vegetables on a pizza.... You HAVE had pizza before, right?

Right about now, you can turn on your oven and set it to the setting indicated on your pre-made dough.

Now take all the sauce ingredients EXCEPT the sausage and ricotta and throw them into a food processor. If you don't have one, cut the herbs up as finely as you can and mix it really well. When things are looking pretty uniform, add the sausage. Don't overblend this stuff, just get it kind of even looking. Pour the sauce into a separate bowl and mix in your ricotta. You now have a sauce to die for.

Sprinkle some flour out on a flat, clean surface. You know what? Just use the pizza pan. Your dough should be ready by now (unless you're Speed Racer or something), so roll it out until it looks like a pizza crust (round-like, or if you don't have a round pan, rectangular. It will probably take some extra flouring to get it to stretch out and not stick to everything it touches. Take your time. Once it looks like the base for a pizza, sprinkle some garlic salt around the edge to season the crusts up. Next, dump your sauce in the center and spread it out about an inch from the edge. Cover it with a generous layer of shredded mozzerella (it'll look like a lot but it'll cook down). Lay out your veggie slices according to your whimsy and cover it all with a light sprinkling of that pasta seasoning (it's a really good mix!). Maybe sprinkle one more handful of cheese over the top just to seal things down. Now, throw it--NO! Carefully place it lovingly in the oven. Set your timer to whatever the the dough package says (with TJ's dough, 18-20 minutes). If after that time it doesn't look quite as "done" as you like your pizza, put it in for a few more minutes at a time until it is exactly to your liking. You're the cook. You have the right. Food tyranny, friends!

Finally, when it is several slices of heaven waiting to be sliced, take it out and DEFINITELY let it cool. At least 5 minutes. Then cut it up, but you should still be careful when it comes to eating it. Pretty hot. In any case, enjoy. It'll probably go well with that cabernet you used or a light red wine like a chianti OR just about any good flavorful beer. Just none of that Bud/Miller crap. Food up!

*All measurements are rough estimates. If you want more of anything, go for it.
**If you don't have a food processor, break this up as finely as you can now. It's no biggie if it's still kind of chunky.


Matt said...

And I helped!

Actually no. No I didn't.

Turn around, bright eyes!

Martial Arts Geek said...

"And if you'll only hold me tight,
We'll be holding on forever.
And we'll only be making it right,
Cause we'll never be wrong together..."

ok i'll stop now