Friday, October 2, 2009

Why the challenge?

Good health. Budget savings. Good taste. And let’s not forget—creativity. Somehow I don’t feel as wasteful if I ruin a dish I’m making with my preserved food!

Since I discovered the Food Network three years ago, I’ve expanded my culinary knowledge. I’ve long enjoyed cooking but with lessons from the chefs I understand more of the whys and hows. That’s helping me find the courage to create my own recipes.

Sometimes they fail miserably, but when they succeed, I feel like I should have my own television show.

Today my friend Rebecca Ryland ( came over for lunch. We talked about writing as we munched on recently harvested food. I had leftover butternut squash/pear soup in the refrigerator, so I needed something to go with it. I decided on pesto pizza.

My friend Lin introduced me to pesto pizza a few years ago. It’s easy and quick. For the crust, I use whatever bread dough I have in the refrigerator. A year ago I began baking most of my own bread with guidance from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. (Baking your own eliminate the high-fructose corn syrup that most prepared breads contain.) It really does only take about five minutes, so if you’re short on time, check out this book. The olive oil dough recipe makes great pizza crust, but I had whole wheat sandwich bread dough in the fridge so I used it. It was good, too.

Foods I used that we had preserved: pesto (made with the fresh garden basil earlier this week as well as almonds, which are quite nutritious) and sun dried tomatoes stored in olive oil with fresh basil. This was the first time I had tried to use the olive oil and basil storage method for the tomatoes so my taste buds danced with anticipation. I also put kalamata olives and feta cheese on the pizza.

To round out the meal, I adapted a recipe for peach-berry crisp to combine raspberries from our garden with apples from a friend’s farm that I had dried. On a rainy day like this, I thought a warm fruit dessert make our stomachs smile.

Rebecca’s pizza rating: Tops!
My pizza rating: Almost tops.

In truth, I think Rebecca was being kind overlook the tomatoes, some of which had burned although everything else was perfect. I’ve had that problem with sun-dried tomatoes on pizza before so I need to find out how to avoid it the next time. Lin makes hers with red peppers so that, or fresh tomatoes, would be other options.

Rebecca’s fruit crisp rating: Tops!
My fruit crisp rating: Tops!

This is one of the tastiest ways I’ve found to used dried apples. It definitely helped that I let them rehydrate in hot water until they were soft, which is a must for many dehydrated foods.

Next: I’m going to use the Ancho peppers I picked from the garden earlier in the week to experiment with chili rellenos, a favorite of my husband’s at authentic Mexican restaurants. Let’s see if this gringo can pull it off!

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