Choose-Your-Own-Adventure: Pizza

Friends, I am hosting Thanksgiving this year.  This is the first holiday dinner (of many, I hope) that I'll be cooking and serving as the executive-chef-extraordinaire.  I'm so excited to pull this off... A little nervous about the turkey though, and the sheer amount of food I'm making, but I've got it under control.  You should see my master planning spreadsheet, good lord.  It's beautiful.  It has tabs for the prep schedule, guest list, menu and ingredients, grocery list, and all the odds and ends it takes to make a holiday meal for 9 people.


I'll be roasting my first turkey ever (!!!!!) and serving it with mashed potatoes, apple cider cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sage and onion dressing, sweet potato biscuits, gravy, brussels sprouts salad with brown butter vinaigrette, and roasted root vegetables.  My parents will be preparing a ham, hors d'oeuvres, and beverages.  And let's not forget that my friends will be baking lots of goodies too as post-dinner fare: kourambiethes (a family recipe for a kind of Greek cookie from the one and only Tor), apple crisp, and pumpkin pie.  Ohhhhhh boy.  This is gonna be good.

I'll share my Thanksgiving escapades next weekend... We'll see if I mess up the turkey or not.  But for today, let's talk pizza.  Now, if you've looked below at the recipe, you may have noticed that there is salsa in the pizza sauce.  Okay, calm down.  It's going to be alright.  Apparently this is a thing, and while I was also skeptical when Jimmy told me his family always does pizza this way, it turned out to be really yummy.  A little unorthodox perhaps, maybe a little blasphemous, but who cares if it tastes good... Am I right?  Can I get a hell yeah?

Errr anyway, we caramelized a bunch of onions, and fried up some Italian sausages and bacon for toppings.  I also had some leftover pesto from dinner earlier in the week, so we pulled together the makings of some epic pizza.

Here's the kicker though: Jimmy doesn't like cheese.  Like at all.  Like, as I grabbed hunks of cheese that had been destined for the pizza and stuffed them in my mouth instead, he sort of gagged a little.  I mean, more for meeeee!  But I am baffled by this.  He tolerates it on pizza, since it holds the toppings in place, but not too much.  Just enough.  Now me, I want the cheese to be oozing all over the place, and stretching into long steaming strings when I try to take a bite.  So we made 4 small pizzas, one of which I could cheesify to my heart's content, and the others we sparsely scattered such that we could share them.  The thoroughly cheesified pizza was a simple margarita-style, with just the fire roasted tomatoes sans salsa, and we also made a pesto with bacon and caramelized onions.  The other two had the salsa-tomato combo with the toppings piled high and interspersed with slices of mozzarella.  For all my heckling about his disdain for cheese, and the blasphemous nature of our pizza creations, they really did turn out well.  I'm very happy.


Pizza Dough:

2 1/4 teaspoon (1 packet) instant dry active yeast
1 c warm water (~110 degrees F)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
~3 c bread flour
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the bowl
1/2 tablespoon salt
~3 tablespoons cornmeal

In a large bowl stir together the yeast, water, and sugar gently, then let bloom for 20 minutes (it'll puff up).  Add the olive oil and salt, then stir in 2 c bread flour.  Once it's come together in a sticky mass, dust a clean counter generously with flour and knead 10-20 minutes, adding ~1 c dough over to create a soft, supple dough that's tacky but not sticky, and smooth.  Oil a large bowl with some more olive oil, then coat the dough with oil by turning it about in the bowl.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces, wrap with plastic, and let rise overnight in the refrigerator.  Before making the pizzas, let the halves sit out on the counter for a couple hours covered with a kitchen towel, so that they return to room temperature.

Sauce:

1/2 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 jar medium salsa

Mix together equal parts of salsa and tomatoes, or to your liking.  It sounds weird, but it's good.

Toppings:

Caramelized onions
Sliced apple
Bacon
Crumbled Italian sausage
Pesto
Mozzarella
Basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  If you have a pizza stone, awesome, use it.  I don't have one (sadness), so we just baked them on sheet trays dusted with cornmeal (you should dust your pizza peel with cornmeal too if you're using it with your pizza stone).  To roll out the dough, either use a rolling pin and your fingers to create a thin center and thicker edges for the crust, or stretch it using your knuckles if you're a pro.

We made 4 small pizzas, 2 per sheet tray, baking them on the top rack until the cheese was bubbling and dark brown, and the crust sufficiently crusty.  I tore basil leaves over the hot pizzas right when they came out of the oven, perfuming the kitchen with lemon and licorice, which mingled with the aroma of freshly baked bread.

Gingerbread for Breakfast: Yogurt Scones

Last night, my best friend Tor and I engaged in a scheduled quarterly breakdown.  By this I mean that we've been waiting for the appropriate point in the quarter at which we can declare that we're too overwhelmed by the amount of work we have to do any of it; and so naturally, instead of settling in for a night of hard-core studying, we must have a dance party in my kitchen while baking and devouring pastries and ice cream.  

We made peppermint mocha brownies, which will appear in the next post unless I get to the pizza or cranberry crumble bars with mulling spices first (yessss, so much food in my life), in addition to these gingerbread yogurt scones.  They don't exactly follow to the theme of breakdown food (which may be characterized as may I have some butter with my cream and chocolate please), since I made them with the intention of eating them for breakfast in the coming days.   But their being healthy allowed us to justify our subsequent dessert of warm brownies with espresso ice cream.  Win-win.


It should be no secret to you at this point, since this blog is almost a year old now (oh my...), that I love ginger.  I eat hunks of the crystalized stuff while I'm waiting for my oatmeal to cook in the morning, and then proceed to stir some (read: a lot of) slices into the oatmeal once it's done.  And add them to trail mix.  And ice cream.  And plain Greek yogurt with raspberry jam and flax seeds.  And, and... Yes my mom thinks I'm gross (she also thinks I'm gross for eating the frosting off her cake, or most of the dough when I'm making cookies; so clearly she is misguided), but ginger is just so pungently sweet and spicy at the same time, like it's sparkling on your tongue; and when crystallized it also becomes soft and toothsome, like gummy candies (you should also know by now that I love gummy bears and worms).  Often the salty-sweet combination gets the Ideal Flavor Combo Award, but I like spicy-sweet even better.  If you're not as much of a fan, you could - dare I even say it - forgo the crystallized ginger in this recipe.  But I would be sad.  So, so sad.  

P.S. I adjusted the recipe below to reflect any changes I'd like to make with a second batch.  The molasses flavor wasn't strong enough, so I replaced the maple syrup I'd added to the recipe with more.  I increased the amount of sugar to compensate for the lack of maple syrup, but I didn't add too much, since I liked that they weren't incredibly sweet.  These are for breakfast, after all.

Gingerbread Yogurt Scones
adapted from here and here

1/2 c all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1/2 c white whole-wheat flour (unbleached)
3/4 c oat flour (use a food processor to grind regular rolled oats into a powder)
1 c rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons Muscovado sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 large egg
3/4 c plain yogurt
1/4 c molasses
3 tablespoons milk, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
~7 strips crystallized ginger, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, oats, baking soda and powder, 4 tablespoons sugar, spices, and salt.  In another smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, molasses, 2 tablespoons milk, and vanilla.  Chop the butter into 12-ish pieces, making sure it's super cold, then cut the butter into the flour mixture.  The mixture will be crumbly and the pieces of butter the size of peas.  If you think the butter's gotten too warm, just pop the bowl into the freezer for a couple minutes.

Fold the wet ingredients into the butter-flour mixture gently.  Once there are only a few streaks of flour left, add in the crystallized ginger, adjusting the amount to suit your taste.  Mix until just combined.  On a clean surface that's been dusted with flour, dump out the dough and pat it down into a thick disc.  Cut the disk into 8 wedges, then arrange them on a sheet pan that's been covered with tin foil and buttered.  Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of milk over the scones, and sprinkle with ground ginger and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm and browned.  

Pork Tamales

PSA: I wrote this a few weeks ago (this being the text after the ***), after I'd finally gotten back into cooking and made both the Egg and Tofu Spring Rolls with Nori and the Sausage and Rye Bread Pudding.  I hadn't cooked in a very long time, which, as you might guess, was both indicative of the mental hole I was in and instrumental in keeping me down in it.  I was planning on posting this soon after I'd written it, but it became tangental rather than central to both of the other two posts as I tried to write them, so I cut this out.  I've included it for this post instead, since I enjoy writing in stream of consciousness sometimes.  I like the way it turned out, anyway.


This week, now that I've been sleeping more in addition to cooking more, I've been feeling so so so much better.  My work ethic has decreased to accommodate an adequate amounts of sleep each night, which isn't an excellent thing to do, but it's important.  You have to take care of yourself sometimes.  I've overcommitted myself this quarter for sure, but I am surviving, and now I know what my limits are.  I just have to hang on, get my schoolwork and work assignments done, and not ever ever ever again give myself a schedule like this.  Not ever.

Note 11/21/2013: Pictures are up, finally!

***

I went grocery shopping after practice and made myself a nourishing meal.  Several meals, actually, for the days to come.  I haven't done that in quite a while, mostly subsisting off the tamales I'd made with Jimmy and Stefan a couple weeks ago and stashed in the freezer.  But yes, oh how lovely it was that I came home after practice and didn't do any school work, no real (that is, job) work, no coding psych data.  I just set my groceries on the counter and went to work: sautéing sweet onions and sausage, chopping up stale rye bread into fragrant hunks redolent with caraway seeds, tossing them in a quick milk-and-egg custard with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of nutmeg, and throwing my savory bread pudding into the oven alongside a couple sweet potatoes, before setting my sights on some rice paper wrappers and nori sheets I conveniently had in the pantry.

I heated up a skillet with canola and sesame oils, put my pretty red kettle on to boil, and broke apart a slab of silken tofu, tossing it with the warm oil and a mound of grated fresh ginger.  I pulled a couple eggs from the fridge and beat them before tossing them gently with the tofu to make something of a tofu omelet, which I cooked completely and chilled before slicing into strips.  Avocado, nori, omelet, and a sauce of tahini and soy were folded into the rice paper, which had been softened by the hot water.  I took photos in our apartment's bright living room, filled with light from the east-facing windows, first of the delicate spring rolls, and then of my sausage and rye bread pudding that was still steaming from the oven.


Pork Tamales:

1/2 pound dried corn husks

Soak the corn husks in water overnight.  When you're ready to make the tamales, drain and rinse the husks.

Braised Pork Shoulder:

4-5 pound bone-in pork shoulder
1 bay leaf
1 large onion (or 2 small)
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (it's okay if you just have regular dried oregano)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
~1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Place the pork shoulder in a large slow-cooker and cover with water.  Peel the onions, quarter them, and add them to the pork, then peel the garlic and add the cloves whole as well.  Add the bay leaf and spices, adding more or less of each as you see fit.  Cover and cook on high for ~6 hours until the bone basically comes out of the shoulder on its own and the meat falls apart at the touch.

Let cool slightly before transferring the meat to a bowl and shredding, either with your fingers or two forks.  Remove the bay leaf from the broth, then blend the vegetables into the stock in a blender (or with an immersion blender, which is especially useful here).  Add enough broth to the bowl of shredded pork to keep it moist but not drown it (you don't want the tamales to be too watery).

Masa:

1 1/2 c lard
6 c masa harina
~2 teaspoons salt
~2 teaspoons chili powder
Broth

In a large bowl combine the lard, salt, and chili powder, then whip thoroughly until aerated.  Stir in the masa harina.  Begin by adding 1 c of broth, and continue to add more broth in ~1/2 c increments until the dough has come together and it doesn't crumble when you try to roll it into a ball with your hands.  I mixed my masa by hand rather than with a utensil, but you could use a hand mixer instead if you'd like.  If you put a little ball of masa into a cup of water, it should float when it's properly hydrated and beaten.  When you're mixing the masa you really want to make sure to aerate it by beating well.

Fill a large pot with a steamer basket in the bottom with about an inch of water.  If you don't have a steamer that can fit inside your pot, you can just throw a bunch of silverware (that won't melt with the heat) in the bottom so that you can put tamales into the pot without them touching the water (you just want the water to create steam).

To form the tamales, take a couple tablespoons of masa and roll it into a ball between your hands.  Hold a corn husk such that the tapered end is facing away from you and the edges are curling upward.  Smear the masa against the front half of the corn husk such that you have a 1/8 inch thick rectangle with an inch or so border of husk showing on the bottom, right, and left sides (you're going to fold up the back half, so you want to keep that empty too).  Take about a tablespoon of shredded pork and place it in the center of the masa, making sure to leave some masa showing all around the filling.  Fold up the right (or left first, if you're so inclined) side such that the exposed edges of masa touch and create a seal all around the filling.  Fold the other side over to enclose the masa pocket with the corn husk, then fold over the bottom half to create an envelope (the end that was closest to you will be left open).

Fill your prepared pot with tamales - you can just stack them on top of each other.  Set over high heat to bring the water to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for ~2 hours.  Make sure to check the water level often and add more water as necessary.

I served my tamales with salsa, sour cream, and black beans.  I wish that I'd had some cilantro too!



Sausage and Rye Bread Pudding

Thus life returns to normal.  And by normal I actually mean excellent.  It's strange how suddenly the reversal came - like I was gradually returning to emotional equilibrium when suddenly, I took a sharp turn that dislodged all the awful feelings I've been harboring since, well, May if I'm being honest.  Granted, I'm drowning in work, and nursing my back injury that has continued to nag me.  But I am terribly happy, finally.

This weekend I raced at the Head of the Hooch, a pretty sizable regatta in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with 190 crews total competing.  UChicago has never gone to this regatta before, for lack of money or time for another race in our schedule, especially one so far away, et cetera et cetera.  I've had my heart set on competing here since, oh I don't know, probably July, with the intention of bringing the entire varsity squad.  Usually for regattas like this, which are outside the Midwest and feature a relatively high level of competition, we only bring priority boats; that is to say, only a select group of the fastest rowers.  That's all well and good, but I really wanted to involve the whole team in a big race like this, which is on par with regattas like Dad Vail in Philadelphia and ACRA in Gainesville, Georgia, if you're familiar with the rowing scene.  Anyway, the non-priority rowers deserve not only to compete at an upper echelon regatta like the Hooch (or Dad Vail or ACRA), but also to be involved in the inherently social experience of traveling, essentially living, with their teammates for a few days.  Those are the experiences that we remember, the stories we tell to the new novices every fall and to our friends (who don't know what we're talking about but smile and nod along anyway, because they understand how much it means to us).  

There were a couple members who weren't able to be boated this weekend, which disappointed me, since I wanted everyone to be able to come.  But we had 23 rowers and coxswains from our 29-person varsity squad compete, and that was excellent.  I was so proud to be there, and to have made it possible for us to go.  Of course, there were so many other people instrumental to making that race a reality, especially my crew little sister Annika who helped me with the preparations and all the donors, who in total sent $5490.  Amazing.  That's a lot of money.  And even though my boat didn't win our event (Women's Club 8+), or medal for that matter, I was incredibly happy just to have planned a successful trip and to be healthy enough to row.  

If you could see me writing this I have a big stupid grin on my face.  It's great.


Sausage and Rye Bread Pudding

1/2 loaf stale rye bread
~1 tablespoon canola oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, diced small
3 links sweet Italian chicken sausage (or whatever sausage you want) removed from its casing
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Handful parsley, chopped
4 eggs
2 cups whole milk (you could use a lower-fat milk if you're so inclined)
~1 dash ground nutmeg
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat the canola oil in a medium-sized skillet over a medium flame.  Reduce the heat to medium-low/low and sauté the onion with a dash of salt and pepper until soft and translucent.  Push the onions into a pile off to the side of the skillet, then break up the sausage into the center.  Cook the sausage until crisped, then add in the maple syrup and Dijon and cook for another minute or so.  Remove from the heat and stir the onions into the sausage.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, and nutmeg, then stir in the parsley.  Chop the bread into 1 inch cubes and stir into the egg mixture.  Let the bread soak up some of the custard while the sausage cools.  After 10 minutes or so, add the sausage mixture.  Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and add the bread mixture.  Bake for 35-50 minutes until the custard is set and the top of the pudding has browned.  I'd suggest serving this with gravy, or an egg with a nice runny yolk oozing over the top.  Mm.

Egg and Tofu Spring Rolls with Nori

Disclaimer: I wrote this last weekend.  I still think that it's important for me to post this, but know that I've become much more positive as the week has progressed.  I won't pretend that I'm magically better - but I can say that, especially as I write this little note now, I'm much happier than these words below would have you believe.  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...


Being disoriented by your own emotions is an interesting phenomenon.

One moment you recognize that you're feeling one way, like you're content with yourself, working at your desk, pouring over a genetics study; then suddenly you find yourself with your head in your hands, and you're rocking back and forth in your chair in the middle of the library, with people and voices streaming all around you.  You become aware of yourself, how sick and sad you must look, or otherwise how incredibly invisible you are when no one meets your eyes, as you look up and scan the room for someone, anyone, you know.

It's not just in the library, either.  It's at crew practice, it's walking through the quad to class, it's waiting to fall asleep in the darkest hours of the early morning.  It's like everything is collapsing in and shattering outward at once, in a gray and quiet way; but you know quite well that you are being dramatic, that anyone else in your position would be handling this much better than you are.  Anyone else would be put up walls.  The feelings would just be waves, breaking against it, and the sound of them crashing would simply fade out into a dull roar, which itself would become almost nothing as the walls grew higher, stronger.  Maybe I'm not able because I'm not willing, deep down.  Or not willing because I know I'm not able.

I'm sorry if you don't want to read about this, whatever this is, or if you think it's not appropriate for me to share these struggles in this kind of forum.  I'm not sure myself if I should even be posting this.  I don't want people to worry, and I don't want you to think I'm just crying out for attention here.  That's not the point.  If you know me in person, you know that I don't hide very much.  I'm not good at concealing how I feel.  It's not that I can't keep my mouth shut when a thought pops into my head (well, some people would probably debate that I can't keep my mouth shut, I can be chatty), it's that everything I'm experiencing emotionally shows on my face.  I'm a terrible liar.  And I've always considered this lack of composure, so to speak, a weakness of mine.  I mean, several people who are close to me think it's a weakness, too: how are you supposed to be successful in your career if you cry when you're frustrated, no one will take you seriously if you show too much emotion, you're only hurting yourself and the people around you when you can't maintain your composure.  These aren't exact quotes, but you get the idea - some of it is gendered, like oh you're acting like such a typical woman, all emotional, ugh, pull it together, but that's clearly not the whole story.  It doesn't have to be gendered to be a negative position on emotional toughness.

Nonetheless, it's been drilled into me that this is a personality flaw.  It makes me a burden, while also making me a weak person; it is a hindrance to social and economic success, and so on.  I've tried so hard to make myself tough, especially in these past two months.  I've tried just not to feel anything.  It doesn't work.  It can't work, and it shouldn't work, because it's not a flaw.  It's how I am.  And it can be positive.  When I feel something, I feel it deeply, and you know that I feel it.  And that kind of transparency, while leaving me vulnerable in many ways, also renders incredibly sensitive to the people around me.  I let people into my world who are willing and able to be a part of it, without boundaries (and sometimes people who aren't willing or able to be a part of it, apparently, as I've discovered).  That can be an incredible gift, both for the people in my life and for myself.

So I'm not going to try to hide too much here.  I'm purposefully being non-specific, mostly keeping names and personal events anonymous.  Those details aren't incredibly important to understand what's going on with me, and are too much information to give as far as I'm concerned.  The reflection is enough, I think.  And it may be too much.  So if it is too much I'm sorry.  If you're worried, don't be, I have an incredibly strong support system.  It's just that writing here helps me, for whatever reason.  Maybe I should keep a personal journal, but I probably wouldn't keep up with it when it's just for myself like that, so I let my thoughts overflow here instead.  I hope that those of you who are similar or are feeling similarly will understand, and even benefit from reading this.

Here's to solidarity.


Egg and Tofu Spring Rolls with Nori (for one):

1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/5 block soft tofu
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small avocado
2 sheets nori
3 rice paper wrappers
2 radishes, sliced thinly (I didn't actually use these, but I really wanted something crunchy, so I've written them in here for when I make them again)
~2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (I didn't have any on-hand so I made a random sauce that evoked similar flavors, but I would've preferred straight-up Hoisin)

In a small non-stick pan, heat canola and sesame oils over medium-low heat.  Once warm, crumble in the soft tofu and warm in the oil for ~5 minutes (basically a quick marinade).  Beat the eggs with the salt, pour over the tofu to cover the pan (making sure the tofu is evenly distributed), and cook low and slow until the eggs have set.  Slide the omelet onto a plate and chill in the freezer.

Heat a couple cups of water until it's almost simmering (it should be steaming but not burn your hands when you go to dip the wrappers in).  Meanwhile, tear each nori sheet into 3 pieces and slice the omelet into 3 pieces as well.  Slice the avocado thinly.

To form the rolls, pour the water into a round dish or cake pan (~9 inch diameter).  Soften one rice paper wrapper at a time in the hot water, then lay flat on a clean surface.  Lay 2 nori strips over the wrapper, making sure to leave space to fold up the sides later, then smear some Hoisin sauce on the nori.  Lay on a third of the avocado, a third of the egg, and some radish slices.  Fold up the sides and roll (like a burrito).  Finish the other two, cut each roll in half, and dig in!      

Rye Bread

Hello, friends.  It's been a long time since we've talked.  How are you?  A lot has changed, for me, anyway.  I haven't been able to write in a while... Like I actually have been physically and emotionally incapable of writing here.  I haven't even wanted to take pictures really.  I've been making lots of food - cherry jam shortbread tart, chicken pot pie, garlic bread, mint chocolate chip gelato, butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini dressing, maple wheat bread, and some other things I'm forgetting - so it's not like I haven't had material to share with you.  I'm sorry, I'm going to be better about posting.  To give you a recap on what you've missed around here:

- Crew preseason began at the beginning of September, and I hosted two of my lovely crewmies in my apartment for the month.  I don't know what I would've done without them, honestly, they kept me sane.

- Then, when it came time to seat race for the Head of the Charles lineup, my MRI results from August came back, revealing that I have a bruised spine (which is the beginning of a new stress fracture).  I'm going to see a spine specialist soon, but over the past couple weeks I've switched to rowing port (that won't mean anything to some of you, but it matters because now my back is twisting a different way from the one that hurts a lot).  It's actually helped, but we'll see what an actual doctor says.

- This week has been the trial period for novices who are interested in joining the team, so things have gotten more chaotic at the site.  But in a good way - it's nice to have fresh faces around.

- This past weekend, I went to Paris!  We were only in the city for 46 hours total, but it was lovely and incredibly beautiful, just as you can imagine.  I was there with four other UChicago rowers and our novice men's coach for the annual La Traversée de Paris, which is essentially a 34km row on the Seine.  I'd hesitate to call it race, since it's more of a parade, with a couple hundred boats rowing past the Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III, the Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame, and often stopping to take pictures.  This is the third year UChicago has sent a contingency, and we were the only American crew in the event, so it's a very special privilege for our crew.  We each stayed with our own host families from a rowing club in the suburbs of Paris - I miss mine already, she was so wonderful - and met some of loveliest people there.  Now I want to learn French and return to immerse myself completely in city.

- I'm still working at Arete, having been promoted from Project Assistant Intern to Program and Operations Assistant.  I'm moving up in the world!  I've also started working as a research assistant for the Experience and Cognition Lab on campus, run by Daniel Casasanto, and it's really cool.  I'm happy there.

- I'm also taking an EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) class - so basically right now my life is rowing for UChicago, EVP responsibilities for rowing, 4 classes plus the EMR class twice a week, and 2 jobs.  Yeah.  I'm pretty busy...

... I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Rye Bread


Sponge:
3/4 c bread flour
3/4 c rye flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 water, room temperature

Flour mixture:
2 1/4 c bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 tablespoon course salt

Combine all the sponge ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until very smooth and thickened by intentionally incorporating air with the whisking motion.  In another bowl, stir together the flour mixture ingredients.  Gently scoop it over the sponge to cover completely.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 4 hours (or at least 1 hour - the longer the rise the better).

Dough and baking:
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
~2 tablespoons cornmeal

Add the oil and stir with either a wooden spoon or your hand until the flour is moistened.  Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then knead on a clean surface that's been sprinkled with flour for 5 minutes.  The dough will be less sticky after you've kneaded it, then cover with an inverted bowl and let rest for 20 minutes.  Knead for another 5-10 minutes until the dough is very smooth.

Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning in the bowl to cover the dough with oil as well, and let rise 1 1/2-2 hours.  The dough should've doubled in size.  Punch down the dough, re-oil the boil, and let rise another 45 minutes.  Again, punch down the dough; but this time, form it into a round loaf shape and let rise on a sheet pan dusted with cornmeal for 1 1/4 hours until almost doubled in size.

Place a baking sheet - or even better, a baking/pizza stone - in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.  Make a few 1/4-1/2 inch slashes in the top of the bread.  Place the baking sheet with the bread on it gently onto the preheated baking sheet or baking/pizza stone in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, lower the heat to 400 degrees F, then continue to bake 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and a skewer inserted to the center comes out clean.  Let cool, then slice for a sandwich such as the following:

Mustard Chicken Sandwich

1/2 cooked and shredded chicken breast (I roasted mine, bone in and skin on, with olive oil, dijon mustard, ground allspice, salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground ginger, and chili powder at 400 degrees F for ~45 minutes)
Gruyere cheese
Spicy brown mustard
Lettuce (I used turnip greens because lettuce is boring)
Ground black pepper

Having discovered that the toaster oven is a beautiful invention, I now make many warm sandwich creations with it.

Slather both pieces of bread with mustard before topping generously with cheese.  Also top one of the pieces of cheese-bread with the chicken, then toast until the cheese is all melty and the bread is crusty.  Place the greens and pepper over one piece of bread before putting the halves together and digging in.

Daddy Sauce

This sauce has been a staple in my family ever since I can remember, and long before that.  It's simple and warm and so, so satisfying.  The recipe makes a lot of sauce, but that's kind of the point - you'll want to have this on hand in the freezer for easy, impromptu dinners.  I finally got those pictures for the Maple Wheat Bread post up, so have faith, I'll have sauce pictures for this one too.  It's hard to make meat sauce look elegant - no offense Dad, you know that I know it's darnnnn tasty - but I will do my best for all of you.

Daddy Sauce

3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-8 cloves garlic
3 pounds ground beef
Italian seasoning
2 cans whole tomatoes
Dried oregano
2-3 cans ground tomatoes

Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large stock pot.  Chop the onions into a medium dice, then sweat in the olive oil with a liberal amount of salt and pepper to taste until the onions start to become soft.  Crush or finely mince the garlic into the onions.  Cook until just aromatic, then push the mixture off to the side of the pot in a mound before adding in the ground beef.  Increase the heat to medium or medium-high heat and give the beef a light coating of Italian seasoning, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks, until all the meat has browned.

Remove the whole tomatoes from their juice and add them into the pot.  Using a knife or just the firm wooden spoon, break up the tomatoes into the beef.  Sprinkle generously with oregano, then add in the juice from the cans of whole tomatoes, the cans of ground tomatoes, and half a can of water.  Place the lid at an angle over the pot to allow the steam to escape and reduce the heat to medium-low/low.  Cook, stirring very frequently, for 3-4 hours.  After every hour or so adjust seasoning by adding more Italian seasoning and/or oregano.  Depending on the beef, there may be a lot of oil floating on the top of the sauce - just skim it off during cooking.  The sauce is done when you can't distinguish the ground beef from the tomatoes, and the onions have almost disappeared completely.