Roasted Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Basil ‘Bruschetta’

“I think you may have an unhealthy obsession with Rihanna.”

“Is it because I told you if Rihanna asked me to run away with her, I would?”

Roo took a bite of bruschetta and nodded.

“Well, I had to warn you…in case if you saw us together on TMZ.”

“Really. TMZ?”

“It could happen. Anyway, it’s just a girl crush! You know, where you greatly admire someone -”

“Probably too much?”

“No such thing,” I said, rolling a roasted tomato back onto my bread. “Certainly there has to be someone you’re crushing on.”

“Like a man crush?”

“Yeah, like an athlete or an actor you’re obsessed with. Oh! Like Tom Brady.”

“While I greatly appreciate his Jedi-like skills, no.”

I tapped my finger on my plate. “I got it.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t have a guy -”

“Pedro.”

Roo stopped mid-chew. “Martinez?”

“You’d totally run away with him to a deserted island.”

Roo set his bruschetta down and folded his hands together. “Yes, yes I would.”

I laughed, picturing Roo and Martinez taking turns burying each other in the sand.

“You know why?”

“Because you greatly admire pitchers? Particularly ones that have played for the Sox?”

“That and he’s incredibly talented. He’s also pretty laid back and has a very diverse group of friends.”

“You’ve obviously thought this through.” I paused. “If you were asked, would I be invited?”

“Would I be, if Rihanna asked you?”

I smiled. “Obviously not.”

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30 Minute Marinara Sauce: For The Busy College Student and The Tired-After-Work-Cook In Us All

There are some days when I come home from work, absolutely exhausted from the lab politics of “my grant is bigger than yours,” and “what do you mean you don’t have x when clearly you only have y?”, I don’t want to go from stepping off the bus, straight into the kitchen.  While it takes me on average of an hour to cook from pan to plate, most of America doesn’t have this luxury.  The majority of my friends are now are married, with children who require constant supervision no less, and they cannot just leave them to have some “alone time” in the kitchen.

I’ve also noticed that the yoga studio is more popular than ever with college students.  No longer are they flocking to the gym to the once over-popular spin class, but are now rolling out their mat next to me, as they too probably love the “everyone can do yoga” mantra, that got me there in the first place.  These same students I know, also don’t have the time after a full day of classes to spend an hour cooking dinner.  Exhausted, and just wanting to refuel their tired body and minds, they often turn to take-out.  I did.

This afternoon I came home, mind absolutely full from what our PI (head of the lab) told us in our weekly meeting, and just wanted some good ol’ comfort food.  Warm, hearty, and to make me feel that I really was home, bringing my mind back to the “family” that I love and out of the lab.

Plans of making a soup were out, as that would take an hour to make.  But I have been toying with the idea of making a 30 minute meal (please don’t sue me Rachael Ray for using your probably trademarked phrase) for a while now and figured the best place to start was a marinara sauce.

It all starts with a good base.  The elements of sweet, almost jammy, caramelized onions, garlic, and a bit of heat from red pepper flake, compliment the loads of roughly chopped baby bella mushrooms that are thrown in.  There’s just something magical about onions, mushrooms and garlic.  When they hit a hot pan, the rich, earthy and sweet aromas fill our entire apartment, and often cause Roo to get off the couch and into the kitchen to ask, “what are we having?”

But there is a secret.  Butter (like Earth Balance).

One to two tablespoons of it adds a creaminess that brings everything all together.  You’re not going to need cheese, and you may not even need real pasta (we love roasted spaghetti squash with this).  It’s all about the sauce.  And I hope you’ll feel that way too.

Serves Four People, With Leftovers

Ingredients

Two to three tablespoons of olive oil

Two to three medium onions, diced (it seems like a lot, but it really makes the sauce)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of red pepper flake (this gives substantial heat, if you just want a little bit, start with a quarter, and go up from there)

1 box (about 12 oz) of baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped, stems removed (I find their stems super woody, so I remove them)

1 large green pepper, diced

One jar of good marinara sauce (I use Newman’s Organic basil marinara sauce)

One to two tablespoons of butter (like Earth Balance)

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A very large saute pan (with tall sides) or a pot

A sharp knife

A spatula

Add the olive oil to your large saute pan.  Place on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become lightly browned.  Add the garlic and the red pepper flake.  Cook, stirring frequently, keeping an eye on the pan so that the garlic and red pepper flake do not burn.  When the onions become browned (versus lightly), add the mushrooms (this is around the ten minute marker from start).  It’s going to look like a lot of mushrooms, and you may question my sanity as to how many I made you put in there, but like the onions, they’ll cook down.  Add about a pinch of salt.  Stir the ingredients till evenly distributed in the pan.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they have cooked down and are tender (about seven minutes).  At this point it’ll be around 18 minutes into cooking.  Add the green peppers.  Stir till combined, getting all that hot oil/onion/mushroom flavor over the peppers.  Cook for about a minute.  Add the sauce, and you’ll probably be 20 minutes in.  Stir till combined.  Add the butter (like Earth balance).  Stir till combined.  Reduce the heat to very very low, so that the sauce is simmering (or burping, in my case, as I had a very veg-dense sauce).  Cook for about eight minutes.  Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.  Simmer for another two minutes.  Taste, and you should be done.

Time: 30 minutes, you can do it!

Pumpkin Pasta, Two Ways

Sometimes girlfriends have to be a little sneaky.

I’m not saying, “be a ho-ho behind his back,” kind of sneaky, but when it comes to boys and their “dislikes” of certain foods, I’m convinced that they don’t like it “just ‘cuz.”

First, there was cauliflower.  It was amongst the many on a list of veg that Roo told me about that he disliked.  He said it smelled like something Evil Monkey would leave for us under our bed.  While I can’t fault him (I am not a fan of it steamed either), after slicing it thinly, tossing it with olive oil and salt and pepper, then roasting it in the oven, he couldn’t help himself.  Caramelized bottoms, silky and creamy insides, the boy didn’t stand a chance.

There were also peas.  Peas that he insisted he absolutely hated because of the consistency, taste, and just the plain old look of them.  “Why should I put something in my mouth that looks like that?”  But after two distributions of peas from our CSA, I knew it was a sign to get Roo to like peas.  Pea pesto was the answer.  A good quality olive oil, garlic, and farm fresh peas whirred all together in a food processor, made the perfect accompaniment to shelled pasta.

But then there was squash.  I unfortunately had a giant swing-and-miss with it this month.

While the oven roasted acorn and butternut squash soup was probably one of my most favorite recipes I’ve made during VeganMoFo, it tasted, well, like squash.  It captured the squash in it’s best state: roasted, salted and folded with herbs.

He hated it.

Thankfully all my other squash-loving friends gladly took on the leftovers, but I was left feeling burned.  I had been dethroned as the ‘Queen of Sneak.’

I was sad that I didn’t get to see Roo, in typical fashion, nod his head and say, “Babe, this is really good,” while I would just smile and say nothing.  (For the sake of your relationship, say nothing.  Always.  Sitting across from them at the kitchen table while you have, “the church giggles,” though, totes acceptable.)  After two bites of the soup, he said “I’m sorry, I just can’t,” and proceeded to pile on the oven roasted cauliflower and broccoli I had made as a back-up, onto his plate.

So. Sad.

But, tonight, I’ve reclaimed my throne.  This pasta recipe can be tweaked so that it tastes like it’s been folded into a rich, creamy “cheese” sauce, or that it’s been taken straight out of a harvest festival, full of hay rides, auburn leaves, and crisp air.  All it takes is editing the amount of pumpkin puree.

The caramelized onions add a lovely luscious component (um hello, when do they not?), that completes this dish.  They’re sweet (but not “squash sweet” as Roo would say), almost jammy, and just bring so much flavor to the sauce.  I love that the pasta gets folded into something so incredibly smooth and not over-the-top rich.  And once it’s eaten with a side of braised kale, you’ll wonder why families don’t have the two together for dinner more often.  If there’s anything you need for a frosty night, but aren’t willing to acknowledge that winter is on it’s way (seriously, who wants to do that?), then this is what you need.

Adapted from Simply Stardust

Serves 4 Generously, With Leftovers

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil

2 tablespoons of butter (like Earth Balance)

2 tablespoons of all purpose flour

1 cup of almond milk (or other unflavored, unsweetened non-dairy milk)

1 large onion, diced

6 (for more of a cheese-sauce quality) to 12 (for utter pumpkin mania) heaping spoonfuls (tablespoons) of pumpkin puree

Eighth of a teaspoon of nutmeg

13.25 ounces (a box, like Barilla) of your favorite pasta (in our case, it’s whole wheat penne)

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

2 medium saute pans (or use one, put the caramelized onions into a small bowl to set aside, and clean out the saute pan to use for a second round)

A spatula

A sharp knife

A large pot

Fill your large pot with water and cook the pasta per the directions on the box.  When the pasta is al dente/to the texture that you like, drain the water and place the pasta back in the pot.  Set aside.

Add your olive oil to your saute pan.  Place the pan on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply browned (this takes about seven to ten minutes, depending on how hot your burner is).  Set aside.

In another saute pan, add the butter (like Earth Balance) and place over a burner on medium heat.  When the butter has melted, add the flour, and stir till the ingredients are combined.  Slowly add in the almond milk and stir in until there aren’t any lumps left in the pan.  Add the pumpkin puree.  Again, six heaping spoonfuls gives you a lovely, rich, “cheesy” quality.  More than that will yield and obvious “pumpkin sauce.”  As long as you’re not dating Roo, you should be ok to decide how far you want to go with pumpkin.  Stir in the pumpkin puree until the ingredients are combined.  The sauce will thicken as it continues to cook.  I tend to be satisfied with its consistency as soon as I get the pumpkin puree stirred in.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the nutmeg and the caramelized onions (including the oil that they were cooked in).  Stir until the ingredients are combined.  At first it’ll look like an oily mess, but keep going, it’ll come together.

Add the pumpkin sauce to the pasta in the pot.  Stir till every bit of pasta is coated with the deliciousness.  I mean, sauce.  Serve immediately.

These make excellent leftovers, and Roo and I love eating it with a side of braised kale.  There’s just something magical about mixing greens and “cheesy” pasta.

Potstickers with Red Lentils and Caramelized Onion Filling

This past weekend was pretty great.

The Patriots won against the Cowboys at the last second, we spent our time during the game dog-sitting this gentle giant,

and I was able to do two loads of laundry in machines that sang to me when I selected different settings.

Oh, the sweet, sweet luxury of home-ownership.

Well, now it’s Monday and we’re back in our little apartment.

And while my favorite pillow has been taken hostage,

and my spot on the couch was claimed by this beastie,

I’m happily back in our tiny kitchen, Pandora blaring (the Florence & The Machine playlist will change. your. life), folding the rest of these potstickers

so I can eat them as fast as I can move my fingers to my mouth.

What I absolutely love about these tiny pockets of pan-fried-love is the filling.  Red lentils, pureed until fluffy, with natural hints of cumin and pepper, have caramelized onions folded into it, making it an amazingly creamy and luscious.  And yes people, yes, the caramelized onions kind of steal the show.

Ok, they totally steal the show.

Sweet, full of body, ohmygoodness, I cannot say enough about caramelized onions.  If there’s any take home message from LLN, it’s that if caramelized onions were a tall man, I’d probably be married to him already.

These potstickers are perfect for game day, or even post, when you’re recovering in your rental, without a fireplace, giant dog, and there are two cats that are trying to take over your life.

I mean, I love our cats.

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Makes About 24 Potstickers

Ingredients

For the chili dipping sauce

1 red chili pepper (I used a Mirasol, but whatever you have on hand that’s spicy)

One tablespoon of sugar

Quarter cup of soy sauce

Quarter cup of water

A scallion, dark and light green parts diced

Sesame oil to taste (it’s pretty potent so my “yum” may be your “blech”)

For the filling

Two to three tablespoons of mild tasting olive oil

1 very large onion, diced

Salt to taste

1 cup cooked red lentils, pulsed in a food processor until uniform (if you don’t have a food processor, you can get away with just mixing them in with the caramelized onions)

Half a package of potsticker wrappers

Cup of water (to seal the edges of the potstickers)

1 – 2 tablespoons extra mild flavored olive oil for frying

One third cup of water (to add to the cooking potstickers)

Equipment

Small saute pan

2 Large saute pans (or clean it after your first use to use again) and one lid to cover a saute pan with

Spatula

Food processor

Small bowl

Sharp knife

Add a quarter cup of water and a quarter cup of soy sauce to a small bowl.  Cut open the chili pepper with a knife, sprinkle with sugar, and then start chopping.  Smash the sugar into the chili pepper with the knife while cutting it up.  Stop when chili pepper is diced.  Scoop up the chili pepper and sugar and add to the small bowl.  Add the diced scallions.  Stir to combine.  Taste, and add the sesame oil to your liking (start off with a couple drops!).

Add two to three tablespoons of olive oil to a large saute pan.  Place the pan on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add your diced onion and salt to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browned.  Add the lentil meal, stirring until combined.  Remove from heat, taste, and season with salt.  You want to be able to eat the filling plain so season accordingly.

Place your wrappers on a flat surface.  Add about a teaspoon of filling to the center of each dumpling.  Wet your fingers in the cup of water, and run your fingers along the edge of each wrapper.  Fold the wrapper in half, and press the edges tightly closed.  Keep going with this process until you run out of filling.

Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a large saute pan.  Place the pan onto a burner over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, start laying down your potstickers into the oil, making sure that they don’t touch.  This prevents them from sticking together.  Cook the potstickers until they are golden brown (the side face down in the oil).  Add the one third cup of water, and then cover the pan immediately with a lid.  Cook the dumplings for a couple of minutes, until the water is almost evaporated.  Remove the lid and cook the potsickers until the water is evaporated.  For me, this took about a minute.  Remove the potstickers from the pan. If necessary, repeat with any remaining potstickers.

Serve the potstickers with the dipping sauce.

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with a Spicy, Bright Slaw

This past week I’ve had lunch with two of my colleagues nearly everyday; sitting behind glass windows that overlooked the parking lot filled with rain puddles and people scurrying between buildings, clad in knee high wellies and wind proof umbrellas.  My colleagues would tuck into lunches, looking absolutely drained, mumbling about how they missed summer and wondering when the rain would stop.  While they both have been working busy days, filled with experiments that may or may not have failed, I felt that they had taken this transition of seasons quite hard.  And with the chilling rain, it’s probably a difficult change for most.

I have welcomed fall with open arms as I love the cooler weather in my kitchen.  Baking loaves of bread, simmering soups, and roasting potatoes were all things that I missed in what became my sweatshop during the summer.  While I love all the sun ripened produce, practically dripping in their own honey, cooking dinner after work was something I rarely looked forward to during those months.

We ate salads, so many salads, and my form of afterwork meditation, baking, was to only be done either before dawn (I’m crazy, yeah…), or on the rare days that it didn’t break 80F.  For me, it felt more like a chore than something I love.

But for those who are missing the sunshine, these bright flavored tacos are a great meal to look forward to in your lunch box, despite what you see outside.  Peppery red onion, warmth from the red pepper flake, and lovely acid tones from the lime make this essential slaw piled on top of the earthy, cumin spiced beans and roasted sweet potato, what I hope, a welcomed dish for my colleagues.

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Serves 2 (We were HUNGRY!)

Ingredients

For the Potatoes:

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into easily edible pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lime, juiced by hand

red pepper flake to taste (I used about half a tablespoon, but I LOVE heat)

salt to taste

For the Slaw:

2 cups purple cabbage, very finely sliced (about half a small head of cabbage…If you only have green on hand, you can use that)

Half cup of red onion, diced (we love red onion, so if you’re not much of a fan, try a quarter)

4 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped (um, we also love cilantro…start with 2 and taste in case you’re weary)

2 limes, juiced by hand

Red pepper flake to taste (I used about a tablespoon, but again, see above)

Salt to taste

For the Beans:

1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium onion, diced (about half a cup)

2 teaspoons of ground cumin (I love cumin, again, this is your recipe, taste as you go!)

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

Salt to taste

Corn tortillas (we used four)

Another tablespoon of olive oil to pan fry the tortillas in

Equipment

A cookie sheet

Aluminum foil (optional) to cover your cookie sheet (if you’re lazy like me)

2 medium sized mixing bowls

A spatula

2 sauté pans

A sharp knife

A plate lined with paper towels

Place your oven rack in the middle position in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 425F.  Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil, red pepper flake, lime juice and salt.  Place the potatoes onto the cookie sheet and bake until they’re fork tender.  After about twenty minutes in the oven, remove the cookie sheet and move the potatoes around, ensuring that they bake evenly.  Once the potatoes are fork tender, remove them from the oven and set aside.

After placing the potatoes in the oven, add the cabbage, red onion, cilantro, red pepper flakes, lime juice and salt to a medium bowl.  Toss the ingredients together till combined.  Set aside.

Pour the olive oil into your saute pan and place the pan over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five to seven minutes, until the onion is golden brown.  Add the ground cumin and cook until fragrant, about thirty seconds.  Add the beans, stirring them into the onions and cumin, until incorporated.  Cook the beans until they are warm.  Add salt to taste.  Set aside.

In your second saute pan, add a little oil, and place the pan over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the tortilla, and cook for about a minute or two, on each side.  The tortilla should be lightly browned on each side.  Place tortillas on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Assemble your tacos, placing plenty of slaw on top.  Remember, slaw is key.

Lentils with Caramelized Onions

It has been a very eventful day for the kitties.

Both Evil Monkey

and Stinkee

(yes, those are their real names) had their annual appointment.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been in their individual cat carriers since Roo brought them home from the shelter a year ago.  They also haven’t ventured outside our apartment, like our over-stimulating porch, since Monkey threatened to launch herself off the ledge while chasing a house sparrow.

Roo was left alone to get them into their carriers and bring them to the vet, as I had to work.  And according to Roo, it was a bit of production.  The short of it being that they wanted nothing to do with leaving the apartment.  And there were escapes.  And tantrums.  And mewing.  Lots of mewing.

Luckily that morning was not an indicator of how the actual appointment was, as the kitties were very well behaved.  They sat still for their physical exams and shots, only to mew the whole way there, and the whole way back.  Roo felt quite bad for them, especially when the vet suggested that if it was for only once a year, the cats would be fine in their individual carriers, but more than that, then perhaps they would be happier in something more spacious.  Irish Catholic Guilt is the only level of remorse I can describe for how Roo felt.

Now, don’t feel too bad for them, as the kitties have slept it off and are up to their usual shenanigans of finding new places to explore,

finding new places to call a bed,

no no, this bed is much better,

and claiming things that don’t belong to them.

Needless to say with that last photo, I think they’ve forgiven Roo.

As for me I came home pretty uninspired as to what to cook for dinner.  After asking on Facebook what I should make, my friend JS suggested mujadara.  Mujadara, is a wonderfully creamy dish featuring lentils, rice and spices that I love such as cinnamon and cumin.  Unfortunately mujadara seemed a little heavy for me, but I couldn’t get the idea of lentils out of my head.  I love how a tiny legume has such a complex flavor profile.  They’re peppery, soft and creamy, all in one bite.  And, they’re filling, healthy and cheap!  What girl doesn’t love affordable ingredients?

In the end I decided to do an take on Mujadara, with my three favorite components of the dish: lentils, caramelized onions, and cumin.  It’s still peppery from the lentils, creamy, and a bit sweet from the caramelized onion, and has a lovely, earthy heat from the cumin.  I am seriously addicted to cumin.  And red pepper flake.  I think I need spice rehab.

Now I’m going to warn you.  Unlike the pictures of the kitties, this dish is not cute.  In fact, I’d say it’s uglier than “ugly salsa.”  It may be the ugliest dish I’ve ever made.  But try to remember back when your (insert parent) read to you at bedtime and it ended with the important moral of the story.  No, I’m not talking about don’t talk to strangers.  How else are you going to get free candy?

Lentils with Caramelized Onions

Serves Four As a Side

Ingredients

One cup of lentils

Three to four large onions, thinly sliced (this may seem like a lot of onion, but it’ll cook down, and it’s so so good)

One teaspoon of cumin (if it’s your first time using cumin, start with half)

Three to Four tablespoons of olive oil (at least enough to coat the pan for the onions)

Salt to taste

Equipment

A large saute pan

A pot (can hold about four cups of water) with a lid (or something that you can partially cover it with)

A fine colander

A sharp knife

A spatula

In a small pot (this just prevents you from using another dish), rinse the lentils with cold water, picking out any debris (I’ve found discolored lentils and once, a pebble).  You can rinse the lentils with cold water, then dump them into a fine colander to drain out the dirty water and pick out the debris.  When you’re done rinsing, put them back in the small pot, and fill with water, about two to three inches above the lentils.    Place the pot over a burner, on medium high heat.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so that your water is at a simmer.  Partially cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until your lentils are soft to taste.  If your water evaporates to expose the lentils to the air (mine usually does), just pour more water into the pot, covering the lentils again, about two to three inches.  As for the end point of your lentils, you want them to be soft, but not be mushy.  Once they’re soft, remove them from the heat (you don’t want them to overcook and lose their shape).  Immediately drain the water from pot, or just dump the lentils back in the fine colander again, and then put the now drained lentils back into the dry pot.

While the lentils are cooking, add the olive oil to the saute pan and place over medium low heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the cumin.  Cook until fragrant, about thirty seconds.  Add the onions.  Add a good pinch of salt.  Cook until caramelized.  You want them to be soft, sweet, golden brown and practically melting in your mouth.  This should take between ten and twenty minutes, depending on how crowded your pan is with the onions, and how strong your burner is.  Keep an eye on it, stirring it occasionally with a spatula.

When the onions are caramelized, remove from heat.  They can totally hang out on a cool burner until the lentils are ready.

When the lentils are ready, add the lentils to the pan.  With a spatula, fold the ingredients over one another till combined.  Add salt to taste.  Eat immediately.

Caramelized Cayenne Onion Pizza

At the beginning of May I started to freak out about the impending doom of turning 30.  Something inside of me felt like I needed change.  There was this desire to get out of the comfortable sloth that I had grown used to.  I wanted the athleticism I had when I was going to yoga nearly everyday.

One thing my mother told me in my early twenties was, “A lot of single people are skinny because they want to get laid.”  (My mother is very open.)  At the time I shrugged it off, but recently, especially when I have to dress for an evening out, I find myself remembering what she said.  In the past couple of months, I’ve gone from walking to Harvard Square for a yoga class every night after work, to sporadically going during my lunch break once I moved in with Roo, to making dinner after work and watching three hours of Netflix every night.

The only conclusion I’ve made from this is that I’m happy.  Because I’m happy, I cook.  As a colleague once mentioned to another about me, “she must really be in love because all she does now is cook.”

When Roo and I had a major argument back in October, I had no desire to go into the kitchen.  Making something for dinner that night was especially painful, because the normalcy of Roo coming in while I’m cooking to say “that smells delicious,” or try to grab whatever was simmering, didn’t happen.  Strangely enough, without that positive reinforcement of cooking for someone that I cared for, made me uncomfortable, and almost unbearable, to be working in the kitchen.

I am not saying that every person who’s in a happy relationship gains weight.  Nor am I saying that all singles are “skinny bitches.”  This is just what I’ve observed for myself.  Roo and I have both gained weight since we’ve moved in together.  I’ve gained about ten pounds, and I think Roo has gained maybe twenty.  And I’ll admit, when I first moved in with Roo, I may have gone overboard.  I was so happy to be living with him in our apartment, that all I wanted was to be in the kitchen and bake “breakfast cakes,” crusty loaves of bread, brown pancetta in a pan, and sear scallops in butter (mmm butter) – popping them into my mouth as soon as they caramelized.

But with that love of butter (and other not-so-good-for-you things) came on the high cholesterol numbers for Roo, and a couple pounds for both of us to carry around as well.  I don’t think it helped that Roo has a habit of eating until he feels almost sick, and I go back to the kitchen to grab a slice of cake to have with tea around 9 at night, even though I’m full.

I feel as if this blog is at a crossroads.  I wanted to fill it with a lot of the recipes (mostly baked goods) I’ve made over the past year, but now I feel as if it’s in the upswing of trying to be healthy.  I don’t want it to be a “health food blog,” but as of late, my recipes have been technically healthier.  I guess where I’m trying to steer it now is making food that’s delicious but not laden with butter, eggs, or cream.  I still want it to be known for wholesome ingredients, without chemical substitutions.

So with that, dear reader (ie Me), I have a recipe that I absolutely adore that is a great replacement for the original. I love, I mean, love Alsatian Pizza.

A pizza with a cream base and caramelized onions and bacon?!?  Amazing.  But with a couple adjustments, this pizza is one that I make probably once a month for Roo and I, and I love it even more than the original.  It has the heat that I always desire with every dish (I’m addicted) and just lots and lots of caramelized onions.  Perhaps more than any recipe has suggested, but I don’t care!

Give me those onions!

Adapted from Food and Wine

For One Medium Pizza (about the size of a pizza stone, sometimes if I stretch it out really thin, it hangs off of the stone)

Ingredients

Pizza Dough *You can use the no-knead recipe from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois that I adore (halve it for two medium – by American standards – thin crust pizzas).  If you intend to use all the dough (from the half recipe), you can double the ingredients below (or freeze the second half for later use).  Whole Foods (under $2!) hasn’t let me down for any dinner parties I’ve thrown where I just didn’t have the time to make my own.  Their pizza dough is also enough for two medium very thin crust pizzas.*

2 – 3 large onions thinly sliced into rounds (I love caramelized onions!)

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I love heat.  If you don’t, start small, maybe a 1/4 teaspoon.  And if you’re really nervous, 1/8.  But I think you should try!)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup sour cream (I used low fat)

1/4 cup ricotta (I used part skim)

salt to taste (I used Diamond Fine Sea Salt)

Flour (to work with the dough)

Equipment

A sharp knife

1 small bowl

1 medium – large sauté pan

A spatula

A pizza stone (You can use a baking sheet)

Parchment paper (or a pizza peel)

Set the pizza stone/baking sheet on the oven rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to at least 450F (I crank it up as high as our’s will go without broiling, ~500F).

In a small bowl, mix the ricotta and sour cream together with a spatula, until somewhat smooth.  Add salt to taste.  Set aside.  *If you want super smooth, I would recommend doing this in a food processor, but it’s not necessary.  Really.*

Add the olive oil to a medium – large sauté pan and turn the burned on to a medium-high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions, ground cayenne pepper and salt to taste.  Always be sure to taste what you’re making, and it’s especially important here.  These are the main part of the pizza and you’re going to want to love them.  Start with a little cayenne, cook the onions down a bit.  Taste it.  Is it hot enough?  Or in my case, not hot enough?

Cook the onions until caramelized, about nine minutes (it may be more or less with your oven burner, so keep an eye on it), stirring occasionally.  When golden brown and practically melting (you’ll get it once you see it), remove from heat and set aside.

Place a square of parchment paper about the size of your pizza stone (or baking sheet) down on your working surface.  Throw a bit of flour onto the parchment paper, and then your dough.  Stretching out the dough with your hands, trying to make it as large and as thin as possible.  I’ll admit I’ve grabbed the rolling pin when I just don’t have the patience to stretch out the dough by hand.  Yes, I said it.

When the pizza reaches your desired thickness, spread the ricotta and sour cream mixture over the dough.  Some people like a definite border so that they can see a crust.  Do what you like, this is your pizza!  Sometimes I forget to have a crust.  It’s true.

Add the onions over the ricotta and sour cream mixture.  I like to add it in little mounds, so that every bite is a super spicy sweet bite.  But, again, this is your pizza, spread them out thinly if you want.

Open the oven, and then taking the parchment paper (or using your peel to sweep up the pizza), place it on your pizza stone (parchment and all)/baking sheet.

*I’ve never baked a pizza on a baking sheet, but my worry would be that if you’re not using parchment paper, that the dough may stick.  Try adding some olive oil onto a paper towel and very carefully (preferably with an oven gloved hand) wipe the oil onto the hot baking sheet, and then set the dough onto it.*

I like a very brown crust, and at ~500F it takes about ten minutes to get there.  If you’re baking at 450, it should be golden brown at around twelve minutes.  But, as usual, keep an eye on it.  My oven is incredibly small, and runs really hot, so your oven may make me into a liar.

I do like at the five minute marker to remove the parchment paper from underneath the pizza, just yanking it out like the old school magic trick of removing a table cloth from under a set table.  I’m convinced that the direct contact with the stone makes the crust crispier, but I’ve never left the parchment paper in to be proven otherwise.