potato + pizza = the jam

potato pizza lead

It’s been a long time since I lived in New York, but if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can still transport myself to my favorite spots, still hear my favorite sounds (guy on the stoop rockin’ on the accordion, I’m talkin’ at you), and taste my favorite foods.

Two New York foods I keep at the ready for my daydreameatings are chocolate ice and potato pizza. I had not eaten either of these since moving to the West Coast, and I miss them terribly. I’ve got a recipe for chocolate granita somewhere that I keep meaning to try, but I just know I won’t get it right. And I’d have to find those little paper cups to serve it in…anyway, too much of a hassle for what would likely be a huge disappointment.

So that leaves potato pizza. This was the treat I would get after my lunchtime optometrist appointments. I worked downtown and my optometrist was in Chinatown, upstairs from a furniture shop. (It didn’t have its own door—you had to walk through the furniture shop and find the secret staircase up to the office!) Anyhoo, after the appointment I would walk back up Broadway and stop in Dean & Deluca to grab an Orangina and a piece of potato pizza. Ritual.

I don’t even know what bakery they got it from, but I can only assume it’s super famous in some circles and it wins tons of fancy awards, because this onion-potato-rosemary-olive-oily flatbread is indeed the jam. Served as a room-temp, palm-size rectangle of starch and oil and herb, it really is a treat.

Oh, and it turns out, super easy to make. Let’s.

What you need:

dough for one thin pizza (half of your favorite 3 cups flour, 1 cup water…recipe), room temperature
one yellow/sweet onion, for somewhere reaching 1 cup, sliced thin and cut in half
one giant russet potato (or a pair of medium potatoes), peeled and sliced suuuuper thin
as much fresh rosemary as you can handle, just the leaves, no stems
olive oil, salt, and pepper

What you do with it:

Get your oven preheating to 475°F.

I’m not kidding here about the suuuuper thin potatoes. Like potato-chip thin. You want to see light through them. I have a mandoline slicer that sits in a drawer 364 days a year. This is where it earns its keep. If your potatoes are not thin enough, they will not cook through and you’ll end up with potatoes on bread. So slice those potatoes, and if you’re afraid they’ll go brown while you’re working and stick them in cold water, make sure you dry them out on a tea towel before go-time. Slice the onions as thin as possible as well, while you’ve got that mandoline out.

Toss the potatoes and onions in just a touch of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Throw in some of your rosemary leaves, but make sure to set some aside—as you lay out the potatoes you’re going to want plenty of rosemary on top, for the pretty.

Room-temp dough is key, especially when you want a thin crust. If you’re pulling your dough from the fridge or freezer, give it ample time to come to temp or it’ll fight you as you try to stretch it and you’ll end up with a thicker, denser crust—not what we’re looking for here. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with olive oil and push the dough all the way to the edges and corners. Give it time and patience so you’ve got an even, thin layer. If it’s not going to the edges or is otherwise being fussy, walk away and let it rest a few minutes, then try again. Brush the top with olive oil and bake for about 5 minutes and pull it out to top it.

On your par-baked crust, lay out your potatoes, scallop style. The sliced onion will come along for the ride. You’re going to want two full layers but not much more or it won’t cook through (see earlier “potatoes on bread” note). Wound up with extra potato and onion? Wrap it in clingyfilm and cook it up with breakfast!

After topping with remaining rosemary, pop it back in the oven (top-rack this bad boy) for 10-ish minutes. The crust will be crispy and brown and the potatoes on top will start to curl up and brown. If your crust bottom is brown but your potatoes up top don’t look done, try the broiler for a little bit. Then get it on to a cooling rack until you can handle it enough to cut into rectangles.

Then let it cool some more. Yes, it’s going to smell so good that you’re going to want to dig in. And who’s looking? Go ahead and try a little piece! But as it comes to room temperature, the flavors come together, the starches bind and set, and then it’s really ready enough to make you not freak out about new glasses costing you four freaking hundred dollars.

Seriously, this is great for next-day lunches, picnics, camping/hiking, marathoning Game of Thrones—anytime you can’t be bothered with refrigeration or reheating. And while it may not make you think of New York, it’s still pretty damn good.

potato pizza end

summer hikes and salsa, what more do you need?

You know what I love about Portland? No, not the groomed-to-look-like-you-just-entered-puberty mustaches, No, not the beer, either. It’s the summer. And it’s the easy access to so many hikes, from the wide, fire-road paths of Opal Creek to the wrap-your-knees-before-you-set-foot-on-dirt Angel’s Rest/Devil’s Rest. Both of these are easy half-day trips, but what if you only have a couple of hours free and want to get your hike on? Hello, Forest Park.

It’s not the most isolated park, sitting on the northwest edge of Portland, but it does have trees and dirt and little critters and fresh air.

Look how pretty!

forest_park_sky

And what’s the perfect food for after a hike? Without fail, by the time I reach the car, I’m hankering for a black bean and veg burrito. But sometimes you don’t feel suitable for public sight, so your burrito joint is out, and you don’t have the time and energy to get home and make a burrito. What you can do is a super quick corn-and-bean salsa.

corn_bean_salsa

In the past, I was resistant to the idea of beans and corn in my salsa, but during a trip to Chicago my sister-in-law, Brenda, made it and I was a convert. It’s a full meal, with everything you need to refuel—and it takes care of that burrito craving. So what’s in my salsa?

1 cup (or a can, rinsed) of black beans
1 can of sweet corn kernels (low-sodium, if you can)
½ white onion, diced
1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes (a good double-handful), choppy chopped
1 large avocado, diced (2 if they’re small)
hot peppers! (I like a habanero and an anaheim, for balance), diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
juice of a lime

If you are, in fact, eating this right away, you might need to cheat and add some heat with cayenne, and if your chips aren’t salty you might want to add a dash of salt to the mix.

Anyway, off to celebrate more summer!

backpacking soy curls and pesto

Soy curls have got to be a backpacker’s best friend. TVP may pack smaller, but once you rehydrate it, it’s still TVP. Soy curls, on the other hand, plump up into real food. Easily spiced up, throw them in a tortilla or on top of some instant mashed potatoes or toss them in pasta.

Super great shortcuts for camping foods are Simply Organic sauce and spice mixes. Completely ignore the directions on the back and just use them when you’re rehydrating your foodstuffs. And what really comes in handy is the one bulky luxury item I’m willing to pack in: olive oil. I pour it into a plastic flask so I’m not dealing with a glass bottle and I just think it’s worth its weight and space. Sure, you can do without it, but I would rather cut the handle off my toothbrush and all the tags off my belongings to offset those extra ounces.

We were cooking for four on this trip, but I’ll give you the recipe for two. I split this recipe into two small bags and packed them into a third bag, a Ziploc steamer bag. This was a bit of an experiment, but it worked well. The steamer bag can handle having boiling liquid poured into it so it can rehydrate your pasta (or mashed potatoes or couscous)—way handy if you’re just rehydrating and don’t feel like washing a pot.

Bag 1
• 1 c soy curls
• 1 T Butler seasoning

Bag 2
• 1 c cooked and dehydrated macaroni (as simple as it sounds—saves time and water at camp)
• 1 envelope Simply Organic pesto mix
• 1 T nutritional yeast
• red pepper flakes
• pinch o’ salt

In the pot (on your responsible little camp stove)
• Boil 1¼ c water, then add contents of Bag 1 to the pot.
•When the soy curls are softened up, drain the water into the contents of Bag 2 (now in the steamer bag), leaving the soy curls in the pot. Depending on your stove and the weather, you may need more water.
•Add some olive oil to the soy curls and slightly brown.
•When the macaroni softens up, add it and the remaining water (shouldn’t be much left) into the pot and cook it all up until the water evaporates.
•Dig the dig in.

And here’s a little collection of snacks. I was a bit weirded out by the consistency of the Stonewall’s Jerquee, but when you’re hungry you’re hungry. The marionberry chocolate bar was fruit-leathery, easy enough to handle. Then of course are Cilf bars and the bulky but trusty peanut butter-filled pretzels.

We only got to go out for the one night this time, but it was enough to remind me that I need to do this more often. Hard to believe there’s anything magical about eating rehydrated foods out of a plastic bowl using a spork or waking up to instant coffee, but there so, so is.

backpacking orzo

camp orzo

The gear’s out of the closet and the roads around the mountains are beginning to open after the winter…’tis the season for just-add-boiling-water recipe development. I wrote before about backpacking food, and I just added a new category (look to your right) because I’d like to add a lot more to this. On a multiday hike, sometimes you don’t even want to think about food, but with some creativity and planning, you’ll be able to surprise yourself with simple yet hearty treats.        

Having been playing around with orzo, I’m finding it’s ideal for backpacking: it soaks up water like rice (nothing to dump out), and it’s compact and solid, unlike many pastas, so it takes up less space than, say, macaroni or ramen. And with either a small bottle or individual packets of olive oil, orzo takes on a creamy texture—pretty deluxe when you’re sitting on a rock.

The only downside to this recipe (and it’s a little one) is that the spice/veg mix is added halfway through the cooking, so it’s a 2-bagger. But that’s really it. I’m giving the amounts for a single serving—it might sound like a lot, but you’re burning thousands of extra calories each day, and dinner is when you really need to replenish. I’d eat this, followed by some Tofurky Jurky to repair all that muscle tissue I abused during the day. My vegetable and spice choices may not be yours, but stick to the ballpark amounts whatever you choose—if you add more dried stuff, you’ll need more water.

camp orzo bag

The recipe:
•1 c water
•½ c orzo
•½ T dried herbs (I used parsley and basil)
•2 T nutritional yeast (at least!)
•1/3 c dried vegetables and spices, including a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes (I used minced onion and garlic, red and green bell pepper, and sun-dried tomato…will try kale)
•1-2 T olive oil (2’s better, but you can scrimp a little)

Add orzo to boiling water and cover. After 5 minutes or so, when the water really starts to soak up, add your veg/spice mix and simmer another 5 minutes, covered, stirring after a couple of minutes. (These times are approximate, given altitude and stove power variables.)

camptastic

camping

With all the crappy, gray weather, I can’t help but look ahead to the hiking and backpacking the summer will bring. This photo is from a trip to Shenandoah in Virginia, but I imagine we’ll be able to see about the same up here.

The whole time we lived in LA we weren’t able to take any backpacking trips, so our next will be the first vegan trip. It was hard enough to find vegetarian just-add-hot-water meals, but there’s next to nothing vegan. But I’ve been brainstorming and here’s some stuff I came up with. This is mostly grocery-store stuff, although Wilderness Dining has some great bulk ingredients. And for packing/cooking/eating, I saw some ziplocy steamer bags  the other day that I’ll look further into—if you can steam in them, they’ll hold hot water.

While hiking, in the morning I just want to break camp, pack up, and get on my way—you never know what the day’s going to bring you, and I don’t want to kick myself for a late start. That means no oatmeal or breakfast couscous or pancakes and hashbrowns. Clif bars are fast and good for you. I do love me some coffee, so I’m willing to boil water on the quicky Dragonfly burner for instant coffee. We always take wide-mouth bottles for coffee since they’re easy to rinse out.

My snacks for the day? Mostly easy carbs—you don’t want to load up on protein while you’re hiking. It’s tougher to digest, so you might as well wait until you can take a break.
•peanuts & raisins
•fruit leather (I make my own with my food dehydrator)
•chocolate-covered espresso beans or blueberries or cranberries

Little compares with lunch on a rock next to a waterfall. Here’s some no-cook stuff for a bit of protein and more carbs.
•Torfurky Jurky
•peanut butter & crackers or pita (you can get individual packets of peanut butter and store the crackers in an old plastic jar)
•dried fruit pieces
•roasted edamame

Dinner is where I’m willing to put in a little more time. Someone starts setting up the tent while you get the water started. This is also a good time to get some more protein, when you’re winding down and your body can use it to repair some of that muscle you ran into the ground throughout the day.
•couscous or instant rice (white or brown) with veg bullion, dried herbs, and freeze-dried vegetables
•instant pasta with olive oil (available in individual packets), dried herbs, and vacuum-packed sun-dried tomatoes
•instant pasta with ChReese or dehydrated pasta sauce (sauce dried in the dehydrator like fruit leather)
•instant mashed potatoes
•TVP, instant felafel or Fantastic Nature’s Burger with taco spices or bullion, in tortillas or pita

Yeah, I know, I’ve got at least four months to go. But it was fun to daydream.