Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

The first week we lived in our new apartment was basically indoor camping. We had running water, of course, and an air mattress–but I’d have given anything for a hammock.

Having moved a million times before, I packed a little kitchen kit in the car so we’d be able to cook (and eat) before the moving truck arrived with the rest of our stuff. My kit contained plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, coffee mugs, a mixing bowl, a frying pan, a saucepan, a paring knife, a chef’s knife, a bread knife, a spatula, a wooden spoon, a whisk, a can opener, and measuring cups and spoons. We were relatively well-equipped, but cooking anything complicated was out of the question.

So we happy campers needed simple but nourishing meals. And since my natural instinct upon moving to California was to EAT ALL THE AVOCADOS, a lot of our meals consisted of avocado toast. Or, as I’m calling it here, smashed avocado tartines with chile-garlic oil. Ooh la la. It may seem simple, but avocados from the farmer’s market (still warm from the sun) mashed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and then piled high on a slice of fresh bread from the bakery down the street was pretty much the best thing ever after a long journey across the country. Even if I had to eat it while sitting on the floor. Everything tastes better when you’re camping, right?

Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skins removed and smashed
  • 4-6 slices ciabatta or other crusty bread
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan combine oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Heat on medium-high for about 3-5 minutes, or until pepper and garlic starts sizzling. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about five minutes. Watch the garlic carefully during this step so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat, strain out garlic and pepper, and set oil aside to cool for at least five minutes.

Slice the avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Add the lime juice and 2 tsp. of the chile-garlic oil. Stir the mixture with a fork, gently smashing the avocado until it’s creamy but still has some chunks remaining. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Brush slices of bread with chile-garlic oil and grill until toasted– either on an actual grill, a grill pan on the stove, or simply a frying pan. Top the toasted bread with even amounts of the avocado mixture. Drizzle with additional chile-garlic oil and sprinkle with more red pepper flakes, if desired.

Serves 2-3.

Source: Smells Like Home

Note: The remaining oil can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

Arugula Pesto

Greetings from sunny southern California! Yep, we made the move. It’s been a hectic few weeks of packing, traveling, waiting, unpacking, organizing, and reorganizing, but I’m starting to feel much more settled in our new home.

Getting all my cooking gear off the moving truck was the first step in feeling at home. Of course I was most anxious about my stand mixer, but I was also excited to see our pizza stone made the 2000-mile journey intact. Gabe and I make pizza together quite frequently, because it’s easy, delicious, and endlessly versatile. Cranking the oven up to 500° and rolling out a fresh batch of dough was a surefire way for us to feel more at home.

Last week, I made a pizza topped with caramelized onions, ricotta, and arugula– and I was left with a boatload of arugula. Not wanting to let those lovely greens go to waste, I used my magical food processor to whirl up some pesto. Pesto is one of my favorite things to make. Greens, garlic, parmesan, nuts, olive oil, and lemon juice. So simple. So good. Arugula pesto has a delightfully peppery flavor that distinguishes it from standard basil pesto, but it can be used in similar ways. Toss it with pasta or fresh veggies. Or eat it as I do: on top of toast slathered with ricotta. Mmm, mmm good.

Arugula pesto

Arugula Pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  •  1/4-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic, arugula, parmesan, and salt. Chop until coarsely chopped and blended. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and lemon juice, and blend until creamy.  (Add more olive oil if needed to make the mixture smooth.) Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if desired.

Makes about one cup.

Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, or in the freezer for up to six months. I like to freeze it in an ice cube tray and then save the cubes of pesto in a plastic freezer bag to use as needed.

Source: Adapted from Max Sussman and Eli Sussman via Epicurious.

Salted Carmelita Bars

This blog has seen a lot of kitchens. I started writing it while we lived in Madison, in an apartment with an L-shaped kitchen so small I had to store my KitchenAid mixer on a shelf in the bathroom. Then we moved to Boston, and I cooked out of a tiny kitchen that (astonishingly) had no drawers.

Our second apartment in Boston had an awesome kitchen with white cupboards and granite countertops that I still dream about, but we weren’t there for long. Our Minneapolis apartment has the biggest kitchen yet, but the countertop edges are so sharp I have actual scars from running into them.

So many kitchens. So many culinary trials, tears, and triumphs. And now, it’s time to move on to yet another kitchen. In a few short weeks, we’re bidding adieu to our beloved Minneapolis and moving to Los Angeles. Our belongings will follow on a truck a few weeks later, and I will be anxiously waiting their arrival. Because then I can start to organize yet another kitchen, and then it will start to feel like home.

Salted carmelita bars

Carmelita bars are a Minnesota classic, originating (as far as I can tell) in the Pillsbury Bake-off Contest in 1967. The original recipe is delightful, but then I discovered a version that calls for homemade salted caramel sauce and it knocked my socks off. So look out, California friends, because I’m bringing some good ol’ Midwestern cooking like this your way. But it’s gonna come with some long vowels and a lot of me yelling “Gladys, we need more bars!” Okay then? Ohh-kay.

Salted carmelita bars

Salted Carmelita Bars

Bars

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream at room temperature (I used lactose-free half ‘n’ half)
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350° F and lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. Set aside.

Make bars: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, oats, brown sugar, and baking soda. Chop the butter into pieces about 1/2-inch square. With the paddle attachment fitted to the mixer, add butter to the oat mixture and stir at low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is broken into small chunks. Press about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the 9×13 pan.

Bake crust for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Set aside.

Make caramel sauce: In a medium saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Place over medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil, without stirring. Place a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling for three minutes, so any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan get steamed off.

Remove the lid and continue boiling the sugar mixture– still without stirring– until it’s a deep amber color. Remove from heat. Add the cream carefully; the mixture will violently bubble up. Whisk in butter and salt until smooth and well combined. If there are chunks of hard caramel in the sauce, stir constantly over low heat until they’re melted. Whisk in the flour.

Pour the caramel sauce over the chocolate chips and oatmeal crust. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the caramel sauce. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned. Let bars cool completely before slicing and serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 24 bars.

Source: Adapted from Erlyce Larson via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. 

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

I’m not so sure what to say about this recipe, except that biting into a slice of dessert pizza sends waves of nostalgia crashing over me. Memories of hanging out in a certain pizza chain with my family, and grabbing a slice of pepperoni at the buffet just so I could say I ate some lunch before rushing back for dessert.

Or memories of my twelfth birthday party, where I sat at the head of a long table of aunts, uncles, and cousins, eating dessert pizza while I unwrapped coveted N’SYNC and Britney Spears CDs.

Or of that time a blizzard was roaring into town and the wind whipped around my family furiously as we ran into the restaurant to order takeout. And making it home just in time to hunker down and share pizza.

There’s a lot I could say about a pizza that’s not really a pizza, but rather a soft dough loaded with sweet, crumbly streusel topping and drizzled with icing. But I think I’ll just leave you with some photos instead.

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon streusel dessert pizza

Cinnamon Streusel Dessert Pizza

Streusel Topping

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbs. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted

CRUST

  • 1 batch pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
  • cornmeal or semolina flour, for sprinkling
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • ground cinnamon

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 450° F, with a pizza stone set on a rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Make streusel topping: In a small bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, and brown sugar with a fork until well-combined. Add in 1/4 cup melted butter and stir until the mixture is moistened and large clumps form. Set aside.

Roll out pizza dough on a floured surface until about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a pizza peel sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. Brush surface of dough with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with ground cinnamon. Sprinkle streusel mixture evenly on top of the dough. Using the pizza peel, transfer pizza to heated oven.

Bake at 450° for 8-10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Meanwhile, make glaze: In a small bowl, stir together powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt until smooth.

Remove pizza from oven and top with glaze in a swirl pattern. Slice and serve immediately.

Source: Slightly adapted from Rumbly in My Tumbly.

Baked Potato Pizza

In my last post, I promised a pizza recipe, and here it is! I first had a baked potato pizza like this at Pizza Luce in Minneapolis, and I’ve loved the concept ever since. Gabe loves potatoes and I love bacon (and not spending all our money on takeout), so it’s a win-win-win in our household.

A crispy crust is slathered with sour cream and chives, then loaded up with potatoes, bacon, cheese, and green onions. Of course, you could add broccoli or whatever other baked potato fixings you prefer. Even chili would be pretty awesome! I microwave my potatoes to soften them up before baking, but you could also bake them in the oven first if you are better at planning ahead than I am. :) Either way, you’ll want to make this pizza soon!

Baked potato pizza

Baked Potato Pizza

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. chopped chives
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz. red or fingerling potatoes
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • 1 batch pizza dough
  • at least 2 oz. sharp cheddar or monterey jack cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup; add more if you prefer!)
  • 4-5 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • green onions or additional chives for topping

With a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack, preheat oven as hot as you can. In small bowl, stir together sour cream, chives, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, or until soft. Watch the potatoes very carefully while microwaving so they don’t explode! Set aside.

Sprinkle a pizza peel generously with cornmeal. Roll out pizza dough and transfer to the peel. Spread the sour cream mixture evenly all over the dough. Sprinkle with half the cheese.

Slice cooked potatoes and arrange in a single layer over the pizza dough. Sprinkle with bacon and cover the entire pizza with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with green onions or chives.

Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned. Remove from oven and top with additional chives or green onions. Slice and serve immediately.

Makes one pizza.

Source: A Lingonberry Jam “original” inspired by Pizza Luce of Minneapolis.

Homemade Pizza Dough

I know this might be a bit polarizing, but I’m going out on a limb here: thin crust is the best kind of pizza. Don’t get me wrong; I love soft, puffy pizza crusts piled with toppings, and I’ll even tolerate deep dish from time to time. But my favorite kind of pizza crust is the kind baked in a blazing hot wood-burning oven that snaps like a cracker when you bite into it. (The crust, not the oven.) Magic.

I don’t have a blazing hot wood-burning oven, but I do have a pizza stone, a peel, and a kickin’ recipe for pizza dough.

This is one of those recipes that I have memorized. 3 cups flour, 2 tsp. yeast, 2 tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 cup water. That’s it. I’ll often mix up the types of flours I use, but the rest stays the same. Roll it out nice and thin, and you have delightfully crispy pizza crust. And no worries, I’ll be sharing a recipe for the delicious pizza you see below soon!

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (may also swap in up to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour for a nuttier, healthier crust)
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer on to low while gradually pouring in the olive oil. Slowly add the water until the dough comes together. Knead for a couple minutes. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. (You can also mix and knead everything by hand.) Add more water or flour, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary to get the right consistency.

Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover, and let stand until puffy, about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone in the oven on the lowest rack and heat to the highest heat possible. (Mine only gets to about 450°F.)

Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll it out on a floured surface. Transfer to a pizza peel that has been heavily sprinkled with cornmeal. Jiggle the peel back and forth a bit to make sure the pizza slides instead of getting stuck. Cover your dough with the toppings of your choice and slide the pizza onto the pizza stone in the preheated oven. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until crust is golden brown and crispy.

Source: “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.

Blood Orange Margarita

Happy Pi Day everyone! Unfortunately, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’m not here to share a pie recipe with you. I am in fact in the middle of making this delightful-looking pie from Smitten Kitchen, but I’ll just link to that recipe in case you’re feeling particularly pie-ish.

Nope, I’m here to share a different recipe with you. Because not only is it Pi Day, it is an incredibly, unseasonably warm 60+ degrees in Minneapolis right now. I’m celebrating the fact that all our windows are open and I just finished cleaning off our patio furniture. In March. Awesome.

How am I celebrating, might you ask? With a blood orange margarita. Bright, tangy citrus fruits are one of the things that cheer me up in the middle of winter, and blood oranges are one of my favorites. Their growing season is slowly tapering off right now, so making a summery margarita seemed to be the perfect way to say goodbye to winter and hello to this early spring. And, since people are thinking a lot about math today, margaritas also have one of the easiest drink ratios ever– 3:2:1. Cheers!

Blood orange margarita

Blood Orange Margarita

  • 3 oz. freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from 1-2 blood oranges)
  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • kosher or coarse sea salt, for the rim

Rub the rim of a glass with the cut half of a blood orange. Sprinkle some salt on a plate and gently dip the rim of the glass in the salt. Place a handful of ice in the glass and set aside.

Combine blood orange juice, tequila, and triple sec with additional ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain over the ice in your glass. Serve.

Yield: One delicious margarita.

Source: White on Rice Couple