Saturday, 10 January 2015

Pantry Cooking: The Freezer, the depths of despair

I can't write you a post about last night's dinner because all I did was binge read a new mystery series on the couch while it was prepared. Of the two of us, D has a stable of recipes he cooks from while I'm the one more likely to veer all over the place. One of his specialties is Fettuccine Alfredo and I had requested it even before I indulged in my carbonara. I can't say much about the making of it, as I prefer the remain in the dark about the quantity of butter and cream, but it is based on this version by Michael Smith. What I can say is that it doesn't keep, so make only as much as you intend to eat. I microwaved the leftovers for my lunch and the oil from the butter separated in a most unappealing manner.

Lunch is going to be interesting, because D and I have never both been home during the day for any prolonged period of time. There are people, like my sister, who are proponents of the idea that lunch should be one's main meal with dinner as something lighter. But even with the time now to do that, I'm not sure it appeals. I can't get excited about soups and stews before noon, somehow. Still, with two adults home for three meals a day, we will need to be more organized about keeping the pantry and fridge stocked. Given our impending move,  I'd also like to deplete the pantry of some of it's longer term residents, the specialty ingredients that I bought for a specific recipe or things like brown rice which I seem to buy every time I intend to make it because I can never remember if I've got enough.

Then there's the freezer. We all have the best intentions when it comes to our freezers. We'll stock them with essentials! Double the recipe and freeze the rest! And yet somehow it just turns into a freezer burned jumble of unidentifiable Ziploc bags and yoghurt tubs that all eventually end up in the trash anyways. I'd very much like to empty our freezer organically before we move, and not by way of the green bin, so knowing D would require lunch (and not separated fettuccine), I thawed some pizza dough.

I do genuinely believe that pizza dough is worth keeping in the freezer, particularly if you mark it as such and keep it near the front. We use Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough recipe from Bon Appetit. It makes six balls of dough, which in turn make six pizzas. For just the two of us, D and I would make two pizzas with leftovers, so short of a huge pizza party, you'll end up with extra dough. It freezes well, although when cooked from frozen the dough is a little denser.

As for pizza toppings, a well stocked fridge should provide all you need (short of the mozzarella, which is harder to keep around for long periods of time). Instead of a tomato sauce, I made a quick mixture of cherry tomatoes, chopped olives, and chopped pepperoni with a little olive oil. You could add roasted red peppers or artichokes in here if you had them around. I had some fresh mozzarella from Costco as well, so that went on top. Three minutes in a 500 degree oven, spin, and another 3 minutes and you've got a pretty decent pizza on the table, although this one won't be winning any beauty contests (or food photo contests).

Useful kitchen appliances:
-We keep our pizza stone in the oven all the time, as it helps regulate the temperature. Plus, we can never remember to take it out when it's cool and don't remember until the oven has warmed up again. You certainly don't need a pizza stone, but it makes for a deliciously crispy crust.
-I have a big wooden board for rolling out dough that is invaluable for baking. It lives under the sink most of the time, but makes bigger projects like this a snap.

-On top of the pizza stone, we use one of those pizza pans with the holes. I spray it with canola oil before the dough goes on to make it extra easy to slide the pizza off.

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