Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Watermelon & Sweet Tea Granita

I bought the copy of Fine Cooking magazine for its cover: a gorgeous photo of strawberry shortcake that was so luscious I could all but smell the strawberries. The recipe for the watermelon granita was lagniappe.

I made it for my book club last week and it was delicious.

1/4 vanilla bean
1 Tbs. good-quality loose black tea, such as English Breakfast (I used a Lipton tea bag)
2/3 cup boiling water
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
3 cups puréed watermelon (from about 4 cups diced, seeded watermelon)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Sweetened whipped cream (optional)

I didn't detect much tea flavor in the finished product. I bet you could use lemonade or other fruit juice in place of the tea, if you don't happen to have any tea on hand.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Put the vanilla seeds and tea in a small bowl (save the pod for another use). Add the boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir gently to dissolve.

Or just add a bit of vanilla extract to 2/3 cup strong sweet tea.

In a large bowl, combine the watermelon purée, lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Strain the tea mixture into the watermelon mixture and stir to combine. Pour into a 9x9-inch metal baking pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze. After 1 hour, stir and scrape the mixture with a fork, repeating every 30 to 40 minutes, until the mixture has an icy shard-like consistency, about 3-1/2 hours total.

To serve, scrape the granita into chilled bowls, and top with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream (if using).

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 35; Fat (g): 0; Fat Calories (kcal): 0; Saturated Fat (g): 0; Protein (g): 0; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0; Carbohydrates (g): 9; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 35; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 0;

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I really get nothing in compensation for going on and on about how often I refer to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Pretty much everything I've ever cooked from it has turned out wonderfully.

I like, too, the fact the cookbook has recipes for things like popcorn. It's not hard to do but I never can remember how much oil and is it 1/2 cup popcorn kernels? That book has the answer.

This shortbread is simple to make, can be made ahead, and has limitless variations. Shortbread can be dunked in coffee or dipped in semisweet chocolate. It's hard to go wrong with shortbread.

2 sticks unsalted butter; softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 and 1/2 cups flour
scant 1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp kosher salt

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until combined
Add the egg yolk and vanilla, scraping sides of bowl if neccessary, and beat until combined.

Stir in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until combined. The dough will be sticky.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

The dough can be rolled out to 1/4-inch thickness and cut out with cookie cutters, like sugar cookies. Or you can use a knife to cut dough into strips (like ladyfingers) or triangles. At this point, I like to slide the cookies in the refrigerator to chill for a bit longer. It helps the cookies hold their shape while baking.

Bake until the cookies are just firm, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Shortbread keeps well at room temperature. A batch makes a great gift!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I love pizza. Sometimes I forget how easy it is to make it at home.

This recipe is from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, one of my favorite go-to cookbooks.

Pizza Dough

Makes: Enough for 1 large or 2 or more small pies

Time: 1 hour or more

You won’t believe how simple it is to make pizza dough at home. And because the dough freezes very well (at least for a couple of weeks), it’s even practical to whip up a batch for one or two people and tuck the rest away for another day.

To make pizza dough by hand or with a standing mixer, follow the directions, but use a bowl and a heavy wooden spoon or the mixer’s bowl and the paddle attachment instead of the food processor. When the dough becomes too heavy to stir, use your hands or exchange the mixer’s paddle for the dough hook and proceed with the recipe.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.

2. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)

3. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)

4. When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 2 or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Saturday Night Dinner

Our tradition is that on Friday nights, if we're home, we cook boudin on the grill. That's what we have for dinner: sliced, grilled boudin, squares of sharp Cheddar sprinkled with our creole seasoning, and saltine crackers. It's good eating!

Saturday nights Jeffrey cooks on the grill again but this time it's more of an actual meal. This past weekend, he grilled chicken breasts in a sun-dried tomato pesto marinade, new potatoes, and fresh green beans.

I chopped up the leftover chicken and added it, along with a handful of home-grown romaine, to my favorite Greek pasta salad.