Onions

Avocado Pizza + Arugula, basil, & lime

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You guys. I won't disappear for months again, OK. I've got it together now. (Fingers crossed). This pizza is surprising. Its creamy rich avocado-y goodness baked into the crust. Balanced by the bitter/sweet arugula/lime/basil topping. OH MY. Seriously. Don't add cheese. It is SO good without. You want to let the beauty of the avocado shine on through.

Keeping on with that plan is another works in Food & Fiction.


SPIDER BY THE LIGHT

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.

Four soft, tiny wings

fell gently where the door swings.

Spider's full belly

wing skeletons for kelly.

It once was a moth

flying on wings of silk cloth.

Guilt entered my mind

To all but light, moth was blind.

I turned off the light

no capture of moths tonight.

Palm spread eagerly

gathering wings gingerly.

The wings are not waste

death. beauty. forever encased.

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.


RECIPE - Makes 2 pizzas (feeds 4)

Dough (Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart's neo-neopolitian pizza dough)

2 Cups + 2TB - unbleached bread flour (or all purp flour)

1/2TB - Honey

3/4tsp - active dry yeast

1 Cup + 1TB - warm water (between 100 - 110 degrees F)

1TB - Olive oil

  1. Combine the warm water, honey, and yeast in a small bowl. Whisk until dissolved & let it sit aside for 5 - 10 minutes until it starts to bubble/foam. Then combine your yeast mixture, flour, & salt into a mixer & mix on low speed for 1 minute with a dough hook. (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon). Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes. This step lets the dough fully hydrate.
  2. Change your mixer speed to medium-low for 2 -3 minutes (or continue mixing by hand). The bread is done when it feels somewhere between tacky & sticky. It should still be really easy to work with. If you feel it is too wet add another TB of flour. If you feel it is to dry, add another TB of water. Turn the dough out onto an oiled sheet pan & divide into two pieces. Form these two pieces into rounds & place equal distance a part on the sheet pan. Cover the top with plastic wrap & place in your fridge overnight.
  3. 1.5 hours ahead of pizza baking time, remove the pizza from the fridge so it has time to warm up & proof in room temperature before baking. Now move onto pizza baking step.

Avocado Base + Toppings

2 - Avocados

4 - garlic cloves, peeled

6TB - Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Handfuls - fresh arugula

1 Handful - fresh basil

1/4 - Medium/small red onion, slivered

2 - Limes

Salt/pepper - to taste

  1. After letting the pizza dough ferment in the fridge overnight, take the dough out of the fridge 1.5 hours prior to baking to let it warm up to room temp. Place a baking stone in the oven & preheat it to 500 degrees. If you do not have a baking stone then get out a large baking sheet & lightly oil it, but still preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a small blender such as a smoothie blender or small food processor, combine the avocado meats, 5TB oil, garlic cloves, juice of one lime, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. It should be spreadable but still thick. The thickness will depend on the ripeness of your avocados. If you think it is just too thick, thin it out with a tiny bit of water. Set this aside.
  3. In a large bowl toss together your arugula, basil, and red onion. Whisk together the lime juice of your other lime and last TB of olive oil. Toss this together with the arugula mixture and lightly season with salt & fresh ground pepper. Use your hands to toss this mixture together (slightly massaging the greens). Set this aside until later.
  4. Roll out one of the pizza dough rounds on a floured surface and if you are baking using the baking sheet, place on the oiled baking sheet. Top the pizza with half of the avocado mixture & spread evenly with a spoon. Then transfer it into the oven & bake for about 15 -20 minutes (until it is cooked & the crust starts to golden). If you are baking on a pizza stone then open your oven & use a glove to pull out the rack the baking stone is on. Drop on the pizza crust, quickly top with half of the avocado mixture (spreading with a spoon), and close the oven. It will be done in about 10 minutes or less (until it is cooked & starting to golden in spots).
  5. Once the pizza is cooked, remove from oven either with a metal spatula or with mittens & place on a cutting board. Top with half of the arugula mixture, slice, & enjoy!
  6. Repeat process with second pizza dough.


Aushak, for the vegetarian

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I've explained my love for Afghan food in an earlier post here. One of the most interesting things about Afghan food is the significance it has with family. Most families have versions of dishes such as Aushak (or ashak) and curries that are unique to that family. Traditions past on through the act of doing, sharing, eating rather than through recipe notecards and magazines. One beautiful aspect of Afghan meal time is the dastarkhan. The "space" for eating a meal. Sometimes (I believe usually with larger family gatherings and special guests) a dastarkhan is used to set the space for eating. It is a piece of fabric or tablecloth spread across the floor and then arranged with the various dishes, bread, curries, rice, meats, and beverage, usually tea. The dastarkhan is a sacred space, not to be walked across or sat upon, just a place that holds the sacredness of enjoying and sharing a meal with family. Often, there is a designated tea poured and food server because these jobs have meaning, even the arrangement of food is taken into consideration; it all has significance.

In our home, our table is typically strewn across with bits and pieces of whatever project I've been working on lately or whatever was in my hands when I walked in the door. Books, bags, laptops, keys, papers, glues, labels, mail, boxes... these all frequent my table more than actual food. I can spend so much time enjoying the preparation of the meal and, in the end, eating it can feel more of an afterthought because I don't bring the sacredness of enjoying a meal. Sometimes I have to clear a little placemat sized space open on the table just to eat... or we forgo it all and eat bowls of soup cuddled on the couch under a blanket. Don't get me wrong, couch eating has its place, but I should put as much intention into eating the food and enjoying the time to quite the mind, as I do while preparing the food. I feel as eating in a space with intention helps us to remain present. 

This aushak is delicious and, I promise, simple. It varies from the traditional a bit, but like I said, each family has their own version. It is typically a leek filled dumpling served with a yogurt sauce, spiced ground meat topping, and dried mint. This version combines leeks and scallions, steamed in peppery broth, and topped with a garlic-mint yogurt. Its wonderful and best enjoyed in a sacred space. If you do not want to make all the dumplings at once. Reserve the left over fillings and wonton wrappers separate. Already steamed dumplings do not keep well, so steam to order :). You can, of course, make your own pasta dough here, but this time I choose the quicker version of using pre-made wonton wrappers.

 

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Aushak (Makes about 35-40 dumplings)

Wonton wrappers - 1 package (at least 40 inside)

Leeks - 3 large, trimmed and chopping into thin half-moons

Scallions - 1 bunch, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds

Cayenne pepper - scant 1tsp, ground

Garlic - 3 cloves, minced very fine or grated in a microplane

Yogurt - 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt or greek yogurt

Mint - 2-3TB fresh, plus extra to garnish

Coconut oil - 3TB (Or evoo)

Whole pepper kernels - 1tsp

Mushroom (or veggie) broth - 2Cups (plus a little extra, if needed)

Salt/pepper - to taste

 

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Stir together the yogurt, 2 cloves worth of the garlic, and the fresh mint in a small bowl. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and pepper and stir again, sit it aside for later. 

In a large skillet heat up the coconut oil on medium high heat. Add in the other clove of minced or grate garlic and the leeks/onions. Cook stirring frequently until softened. At least 5 minuets. You want them to be soft and buttery tasting but not mushy. Season with the cayenne and some salt and then turn off the heat. 

Heat up a medium skillet with a lid with 2 cups of the broth sprinkled with the whole peppercorns on medium low. You want to bring this mixture to a simmer and keep it there, keep it covered. Get out the wonton wrappers and a little bowl or cup of water. Lay out your wonton wrappers individually onto a clean surface. Spoon a small spoonful of the leek mixture into the center of each of the wontons. Then dip your finger into the water and spread two connecting edges of the wonton wrapper (one wonton at a time) with a strip of water. Fold the dry edges of the wonton wrapper over onto the wet edges, making a triangle and pinch together to seal. Make sure you only spread the water on one wonton at a time because the water will soak up/dry out so you need to fold it over right after you wet it. Repeat the process with all of your wontons. (If you aren't making all of them make sure you wrap the wonton wrappers up well so they don't dry out and keep the leek mixture separate). 

Once the broth is simmering, lay in the wonton wrappers in one flat layer, try not to let them touch or they will cook together. You will need to do this in batches. Return the cover to the skillet and let them simmer/steam in the broth for 3 minuets. You might, occasionally need to add in a little more broth as you cook the dumplings in batches, in case too much steams out. Removed from the broth with a spatula and lay on a plate, drizzle with the yogurt sauce and sprinkle with extra chopped mint, if desired, and serve warm. 

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Asparagus fritters + a chive sauce

Fritters.

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Fritters have kind of reached that "cult favorite" status in the foodie world, along with things like hand pies. There seems to be at least one fritter recipe in new cook books and a constant stream of new fritter recipes online. And, why not? They are delicious and adaptable, you can pretty much make any vegetables into fritters. What is not to love? But really, I think we just have an obsession with things that are bite sized, it makes it all the more fun. Fritters are not something I frequently make. I really like fritters but they have never been a meal sort of thing for me. They are more finger foods in my mind, really good for bringing to potlucks. So it really surprised me when I found myself making these. These fritters, served on a bed of spring greens and drizzled with a yogurt, chive sauce makes a really delicious fritter meal. Fritter, happier. 

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Recipe (makes about 10 fritters)

Asparagus - 1 bunch, sliced into thin rounds

Young vidalia onions - 3 (replace with shallots or a sweet yellow onion instead), sliced

Lemon zest - from 1/2 a lemon

Lemon juice - 1 lemon

Whole wheat flour - 1 cup, generously heaped

Eggs - 3

Milk - about 2/3 cup depending on the amount of your onions

Chives - 1/2 a bunch, finely chopped

Yogurt - 2/3 cup plain whole milk or greek yogurt

Chervil - heaping 1/2tsp (dried)

Salt/pepper- to taste

Coconut oil - 2TB (ok to use olive oil but I prefer coconut oil at higher temperatures)

Spring greens - a few small handfuls

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Slice and chop up all your vegetables. In a large bowl beat together the milk and eggs. Then beat in the flour. The mixture should be a thin cake batter at this point. Stir in all your chopped up veggies (except the chives) until combined. Then add in the lemon zest and juice of 1/2 the lemon, stir until combine. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. 

Heat up a large skillet on high heat with 1Tb of the coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, scoop in desired amounts of the batter onto the skillet and let cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes. As needed, add more coconut oil to the pan. I could fit about 4 fritters in the skillet at once. While the fritters are cooking in a bowl stir together the yogurt, chives, remaining lemon juice, chervil, and salt/pepper. 

Once the fritters are cooked, serve them on a bed of spring greens drizzled with a generous amount of the chive sauce. Enjoy! Fritter, happier.

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