Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Version of Pissaladiere: A Funky French Pizza

So what is "pissaladiere?" 

It's a pizza-like dish that originated from Nice, located in the southern region of France. So yes, this is a French pizza. 




The dough is typically a bread dough thicker than the classic Italian Pizza Margherita, but there are really no rules. Why? Because it will be your pizza and you can choose whatever kind of crust you prefer.

What makes this "pissaladiere?" It's about the toppings. Now first off, you need to know that it gets its name from the Latin word piscis (fish), which became pissalat meaning "salted fish." Pissalat (or pissala) is a type of an anchovy paste,
 a condiment also originating from Nice. This condiment is made with anchovy puree and flavored with cloves, thyme, bay leaf and black pepper mixed with olive oil. Sometimes this French classic will even be covered with whole anchovies.


Wait! Come back! Don't let the anchovies turn you away! If you don't like anchovies, then don't use the anchovy paste or the whole bodied tiny fishies. Just concentrate on the rest of the toppings! 
The rest of the toppings? Caramelized onions, herbs, and black olives. Now do I have your attention? For me, this pizza is all about the caramelized onions. 



Where's the cheese, you ask? Pissaladiere doesn't have cheese. Typically, olive oil is the base instead of the Italian red sauce. However, add cheese if you want, but keep it somewhat old world traditional and thoughtful. Don't add mozzarella. That's too easy. Use Raclette, Comte, or even Fontina cheese - - semi-soft cheeses - - and don't smother the top of your pissaladiere with cheese. Add the cheese to your base. Let the onions, olives, and even the anchovies be your toppings.


Are you ready to start? Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, or buy a frozen pizza crust at the store. Okay, so if you want to do it quick and easy, use the Pillsbury pizza or even the crescent doughs. Another tip? Use a sheet of the Pepperidge Farms puff pastry. It will give you a nice light and airy crust, so the toppings will be the true star.  

There are no exact ingredients for this. Just get creative and enjoy the flavors of sauteed onions, herbs, olives, and even fishies... 

Ingredients (topping for one pissaladiere):

1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 pounds yellow onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or dried Herbes de Provence
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 whole cloves garlic
12 French (Nicoise) pitted black olives, or even Kalmata pitted olives. Slice or leave whole.
12 to 18 anchovy fillets or brush anchovy paste lightly on the crust (optional).

Optional:
Around 1 cup shredded semi-soft cheese, Raclette, Comte, or Fontina. 
1/8 cup or less of cornmeal for baking



For the topping, heat the olive oil in a very large saute pan and cook the onions, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic over low heat for 45 minutes, until the onions are sweet and soft but not almost black. Toss the onions from time to time. After 30 minutes, take out the garlic, chop it roughly, and add it back to the onions. If you want to really caramelize the onions, sprinkle just a hint of sugar to them while they are cooking - no more than half of a teaspoon. 


Or if you want to caramelize your onions the day or even a couple of days before, use your crock pot. See this recipe I posted last month for Crock Pot Onions. You can always add the thyme, garlic, and salt and pepper if you didn't add these things previous to the crock pot onion mixture. 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Have your dough and or pre-made crust ready. Add a tablespoon or so of dried cornmeal on the baking sheet before you lay the crust in the pan. The light addition of cornmeal gives the crust a nice little crunch. Traditionally the shape is not round, but rectangle - the size of a regular baking sheet. 
Brush the base of the dough lightly with olive oil, and start building your version of pissaladiere. If you have chosen to use cheese, sprinkle on your chosen shredded cheese - - or not. Spoon the sauteed onion mixture on top of the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border all around. Artfully arrange, or sprinkle evenly on top of the dough the anchovies and olives. Sprinkle a touch more of thyme or Herbes de Provence on top of the onions and olives. Brush the edge of the dough with olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is crisp. Serve hot on a cutting board. Eat! Eat! Eat! 




Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Last week I had a craving for "pissaladiere." What is pissaladiere, you ask? In short, it's a pizza with origins from southern France topped with lots of caramelized onions (Stay tuned for recipe next week). 

The one drawback to sooth my craving is it's hot outside and the last thing I want to do is stand over a stove. I remembered hearing about caramelizing onions in a slow cooker, so instead of following a recipe, I experimented. Success! 

As many of my recipes are, this one is "fool-proof." Also, no matter if you have three onions or six onions, just adjust the butter (or olive oil) and spices accordingly. Or if you want to eliminate the fats, no need for any butter or oil. The onions will cook via their own juices.

Now you can have your own main ingredient to pissaladiere, French onion soup, an accompaniment for burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches, additions to quick soups, and toppings for side dishes.  


Ingredients:

 3 - 6 White, yellow, sweets, or red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
     1 - 3 Tbsp butter (or olive oil or half butter/olive oil), depending how many onions
     Salt and pepper to taste
     1/2 Tbsp thyme (or Herbes de Provence)        
     Optional: 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, or 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, or chili flakes

Layer in the slow cooker an average of one sliced onion. Add salt and pepper to taste, as well as the thyme. Keep layering. If you are using brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, or chili flakes; spread out for each layer and sprinkle these items in as well. 

Add to each layer the butter and/or olive oil - - or if you are watching your fat intake, don't add. 

Cook on low for 8-10 hours or cook on high for 4-5 hours, stirring once or twice if desired, until the onions are a rich golden brown and caramelized. If the onions are really juicy at this point, set the lid an inch or so ajar and let the juice boil down. If they are not to the desired juice you prefer, leave the lid on to seal in the moisture of the onions. Continue cooking until the onions have reached the desired texture and thickness of the liquid. 

These delicious caramelized onions will keep 2-3 days in the refrigerator, but why would you "keep" them? Eat them! 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cheese: Respecting the Wedge

Leave it to me...



Here I thought I was well read about the basics, and yes my mother really did teach me table etiquette and proper place settings. Hey  - - I even traveled a few miles in my life out of the continent and sat at some fine dining tables, but when it came time to "respecting the wedge," man did I screw up. 

Picture this. Me - a guest - sitting at a dining room table. My delightful hosts pass around the cheese plate after dinner. Now mind you, both of the hosts were born and raised in France. The cheese plate arrives to me first. As I slowly start to cut into a wedge, all of a sudden I hear from both of my hosts, "No! No! Stop! Respect the wedge!"

After it was all said and done, and long story short; I am now permanently and emotionally scarred by the "wedge."   


The best way to explain my future with cheese is when you're sitting at a formal dinner party and you look through the corner of your eye to see what utensil your dining partners are reaching for first among the sea of knives, forks, and spoons at their place settings. 

Nowadays, when I see a new wedge of cheese in a social setting, I avoid it and watch everyone else cut into it - - first. If someone before me does not "respect the wedge," and I follow their "dissing" of the wedge, my defense is "Don't look at me. They started it."

To help you avoid the embarrassment of being a social pariah, just follow the incisions. Cheers to cheese.


Semi-Soft Wedge
Cut the wedge cross-wise, then cut vertically along the rind. 

Cheeses: Fontina, Gruyère, Gouda, Swiss

Soft Pyramid
Slice the cheese into wedges from the top center. 
Cheeses: Soft goat or cow cheeses from England or France often coated in vegetable ash.

Soft Wedge
Section the cheese into long, narrow wedges from the point outward 
Cheeses: Brie, 
double and triple-cream cheese
Log
Slice across the log into coins. 
Cheeses: Usually goat, fresh or aged


Soft Wheel
Cut it into even wedges, from the center outward. 
Cheeses: Camembert, aged goat cheeses

Veined Wedge
Slice it into points from the bottom center of the thin edge. 
Cheeses: Blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton
Images from Martha Stewart Living


Friday, July 21, 2017

Wander and Ponder: A Quiet Week

After a few busy weeks and weekends in a row, it's rather nice to have several days of solitude. Through most of my adult life, "solitude" has been a rare thing for me - - and after almost forty years of working in occupations (funeral homes, domestic violence shelter, and law firms - civil and defense) where you see people at the worst point of their lives, it's a blessing to have the solitude. Now the only noise I  hear, and by choice, is two little yapping dogs and Pandora

Pandora: is a free, personalized internet radio that plays the style of your favorite music, starting with your favorite artist, song or composer. There are various "stations" to choose from, and you can stream it to your television, your computer, or if you own Echo; ask Alexa to play it for you.

My choice of music with my morning coffee is "Andrea Bocelli Radio." If you don't know this already, the basic app is free. The station isn't all Bocelli, but music that is similar in some ways such as: Josh Groban, Enya, various symphonies  - - easy background music that doesn't interfere with writing. 



Cravings: Can't explain it, but every so often I get a craving for various things. This week it's a cuppa Earl Grey tea, and preferably with a large warm Danish topped with a pat of melted butter. I think Earl Grey is the perfect tea to enjoy with sweet pastries.


Kitchen Tools: A few months ago I looked at my drawer full of kitchen tools and found it depressing, so I started a campaign to replace some of the old ones I've had since... well, a long time. Replaced a potato peeler, masher, pastry brush, tongs, wooden spoons, spatulas... and still replacing. I think the cheese grater is next. After all, a girl likes pretty new things. 



Pretty Things: Now for something pretty - - the detail of the stitches and beading makes me want to grab a needle and thread. 



If it's your choice, I hope your weekend is quiet for you to take the time to enjoy a few "pretty things."




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Reading: Pretty Magazines

Finding leisurely time to curl up during a quiet afternoon or late evening with a favorite beverage is one of those events in life that is on the list of "nothing better than..."

If you are an avid reader like I am, sometimes you just want to read something interesting without getting involved in a book - - and sometimes you just, not only want to read, but look at pretty photos for inspiration. That is where a magazine is perfect. 

There was a time I use to subscribe to several country living and Victorian style type of magazines for decorating and recipe ideas - - eventually these magazines became thinner with less good content and more advertising. Hey, I get the advertising part of it. In my early years of adult-hood, I use to moonlight in the evening designing display ads for a small newspaper. Advertising helps keep a magazine afloat, and sometimes keeps the subscription prices down - - but there really needs to be a ratio between good content and photos versus advertising. 

Recently, I have noticed a couple of new magazines to hit the news stands in the last 10 months, so I did some research...

Who doesn't watch HGTV's popular show Fixer Upper  with Chip and Joanna Gaines? If you haven't heard about these two - - where have you been? They are everywhere! This popular couple has recently started their own quarterly magazine, among other things such as mercantile, mail order, bakery, bed and breakfast, and soon a diner.  


Their premiere issue, The Magnolia Journal arrived during the Fall of 2016. The magazine is printed on heavy quality paper with limited advertising. It is filled with beautiful photos, DIY, gardening, seasonal ideas, their personal stories, recipes, and more. It's a very worthy read. 

There's another popular television host who just published her own magazine - Ree Drummond, or you may know her on the Food Network as The Pioneer Woman.  She is also known for her blog, cookbooks, children's author, cookware brand, and just recently she opened up her own brick and mortar/online shop, The Mercantile.

So far, she has just offered a premiere summer issue of her magazine, The Pioneer Woman. The down side of it, the premiere issue was only offered at Walmart. There was no way I was going to go to Walmart in hopes of finding that magazine - - so I patiently waited. The wait paid off as I was able to buy it directly through her online shop (note: the magazine is currently sold out, but it appears it may be made available at a later time). 


The order directly from the Mercantile had a nice personal touch, as the magazine was wrapped in a toile patterned bag and enclosed was a thank you note on a Mercantile postcard. How is the magazine? It's your typical magazine with the slick cover and pages. Sure, there is the usual advertising, but so far I liked the content. Lots of atractive photos, recipes, and interesting articles about her personal and family life - - and some of the cool stuff she sells in her brick and mortar/online store. 

If the Pioneer Woman decides to print future issues of her magazine, will I buy it? Yeah, I think I just might - - at least subscribe the first year. Hopefully for now it will be just quarterly. I don't want to be committed to it every month - - but hey, that's been my mind-set lately. No commitment to subscriptions or television series. 

If you discover these magazines for yourself, let me know what you think; and have you located any new magazines? 


Friday, July 14, 2017

Wander & Ponder: Birthdays and Roses

Where have I been?

Goofing off? Yes and no.

The truth of the matter is I have been writing - a lot - just not writing on the blog. Instead I have been writing a few magazine articles, and working on a few books. Fiction and non-fiction. 


I didn't mean to ignore the month of June, it's just I got swept away with selling antiques and collectibles at one of the local vintage markets, Love of Junk. To participate in a vintage market, and to do it well, is a lot of work. First of all, you have to hunt and pick the items you want to sell. One must inventory and price the items. Packing the items to the market is a lot of work, and then you unpack and display your items hoping to sell a lot so you will have less to pack home. A word of caution: it can be addictive. I am addicted to buying and selling collectibles. 


Also, in the month of June I had a birthday. As it did on the day I was born, or so I have been told, it thundered like crazy that day. Other than the noisy thunder, it was a quiet birthday - - but I find a lovely bouquet of roses at my door stoop.



What is it about roses? I have over 15 rose bushes, and even when the roses eventually dry in the vase, I still find it difficult to toss them. In their dried state, they are still beautiful to me. Yeah, I know the photo below isn't the best, but there was something about it I liked. Don't you? 


So, that's about it. This is where I have been. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wander and Ponder: Books, Burgers, and Memorial Day

There's been a few days I have neglected my Friday rants, but I have a good reason - - honest.

Books and Articles: During the last couple of weeks, my mornings and evenings have been spent writing - writing a lot of fiction. I am so use to writing professionally about "real stuff" like wine and history, I've discovered writing fiction is a whole different species. I am learning a lot. 


The good part of writing fiction, I am not spending as much time doing research, and instead creating stories and developing characters. It's really been a lot of fun and a pleasant change when I need to step away from research. I have procured a professional editor who is challenging me about the characters. Not only is the editor perusing the content for grammar, but reviews the story as the potential reader making sure we're not leaving any gaps in the mystery. 

If all goes accordingly to plan, not only will I have a new history book released by the end of the year, but a "cozy mystery" via Kindle, too!  The cozy will be the first of a series. Stay tuned... 



Burgers: There is something about sliders that intrigue me. Perhaps it's about their size. Much easier to eat than a regular burger and if serving a crowd, they are easy to prepare ahead of time. 

The family is getting together this Memorial Weekend for a BBQ giving me an opportunity to try this "pull-a-part" slider recipe from Slick Housewives.  It's so easy. The burger is cooked in the oven and who doesn't love those little Hawaiian Rolls? 



Memorial Day: is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally Memorial Day was May 30, and established back in 1868. In 1968 Congress passed and created Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. 

Through the years American families have also celebrated the lives of all of their deceased loved ones, whether they died serving in the military or not - - and even including civilians. That's okay, especially if it brings families together to celebrate the weekend with our loved ones and friends; besides remembering everyone we have lost. 

Have a safe Holiday weekend. 








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