Saturday, November 26, 2011

Leftover pizza dough? There's always breadsticks.

A month or so ago, I wrote (here: about little buns made out of pizza dough rolled into a spiral with 'nduja - that wonderful spicy spreadable sausage from Calabria. One evening, I needed only a small batch of these but neglected to make less dough. I could have saved the extra for a little pizza (or some little fried pizzas / calzones), but instead rolled it out to a scant quarter inch (6mm, say) in thickness and cut it into strips. These I stretched and rolled into breadsticks (with a little grated parmesan on the work surface, which was thus worked into the dough). I let them rise, covered, for about 20 minutes, then baked them in the same 425-degree F (220 C) oven that the 'nduja buns were in. I suppose they took a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes to get brown and - crucially - crisp throughout with no bready center.

Because of the olive oil kneaded into the dough, they had great flavor (the cheese on the outside was nice, but not really all that important). And, to answer the obvious question, yes: they were as good as any store-bought grissini / breadsticks, and far better than most. Unless it is miserably humid in your house, these will keep for a few days arranged in a vase, like odd-looking blossom-less plant stems.

I now make a little extra whenever I'm putting together a pizza-type dough.

Friday, November 25, 2011

More on leafy greens and tomatoes

Expanding a little on today’s Washington Post “Cooking Off the Cuff” - - I should say that until a couple of years ago I was strangely repelled by the idea of adding tomatoes to leafy green vegetables of any kind. It just seemed creepy. Even the sauces for my favorite versions of stuffed cabbage were sauerkraut-based and tomato-free; tomato with stuffed cabbage, perhaps, was a reminder of too many dreadful bar mitzvah receptions.

            But then, during an e-mail exchange, a friend assured me that greens like Swiss chard and the various kales are perfectly happy to coexist with tomatoes and that I should do as millions of other people do and give it a whirl. So I did, and of course the outcome was delicious. What you need to pay attention to (as ever) is the salt: you must make sure that there’s enough to balance the acidity added by the tomatoes. Once you’ve taken care of that, you’re fine.

            On balance, I still prefer the less complicated flavors of my old standby greens: a little garlic and chili, perhaps some guanciale or pancetta, and plenty of olive oil, both as a cooking fat and, uncooked, as a last-minute finishing touch. But, as I found by combining Tuscan kale / cavolo nero with a fairly classic sauce for pasta all’amatriciana, a well balanced dish of greens with tomatoes is a grand thing.