Archive for January, 2013

Perfect Weather for a Ride Today!

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

It is absolutely perfect cycling weather for me … not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, not too anything. It was just right! I am very thankful to have had today off work.

Davis … Dixon … Vacaville … Winters … Davis.

Sigh … What’s for Dinner?

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Do you ever find yourself with a full refrigerator, but nothing to eat? Well, nothing that you want to eat is more like it. It just takes a little creativity for a foodie to turn some basic staples into a gourmet meal.

I picked up some cod filets yesterday, so I knew that would be on the menu. I had an eggplant that I really needed to use. A few TJs mini heirloom tomatoes. Some salad greens, but much to my surprise, I wasn’t really in the mood for salad. I wanted some carbs, but was getting a late start, so I didn’t want to wait for rice to cook. I wasn’t really in the mood for pasta, but I did have some whole wheat cous cous that would have worked. As I reached for the box of cous cous, I saw the polenta that I bought for pizza making. Hmm … a simple polenta would be good!

I peeled and cut the eggplant into about 3/4-inch cubes. This eggplant was perfect – almost no seeds. I salted it just a little, to draw out some moisture, and set it to drain in a colander.

Pseudo-ratatouille!

To make the polenta, I boiled 1 cup of water, then stirred in 1/4 cup of polenta. When it started to come back to a boil, I turned the heat down to low and let it cook gently until it was smooth. This was good, but it needed something. I added about 1 tablespoon pesto, about 6 halved cherry tomatoes, and just a bit of cheese. I gave this a quick stir and let it sit on low heat while I prepared the rest of the dinner.

Then, I heated some olive oil in a non-stick skillet. I rinsed the eggplant a bit, dried it lightly on some towels, and cooked it. When it was just starting to soften and brown a little, I added about 12 of the mini heirloom tomatoes, cut in half. I gave this a quick stir, then added about 2 tablespoons of pesto and covered to let it cook through. Don’t overcook this, though. You want the eggplant soft, but not mushy.

Voila! Dinner is served.

To cook the cod, I heated some olive oil in a cast iron skillet, seasoned the cod filet with a few grinds of sea salt and black pepper. I like to start the fish on high heat, sear one side, then turn it, turn the heat down, and finish cooking on low heat. I cooked it to 145 degrees internal temperature.

To lighten up this meal, you could eliminate the pesto and cheese, and just use fresh herbs in the polenta and eggplant. You could also steam or poach the fish.

I’ll be heading out for a ride again today, once it warms up (it’s 34 degrees in Davis right now), so I don’t feel too guilty about having a little pesto and cheese with my dinner last night.

If you need a pesto recipe, check this out:  Pesto ala Cycling Foodie

 

 

Mushroom Pizza

Monday, January 21st, 2013

As promised, here is follow-up on the mushroom pizza.

Solano Mushroom Farms, organic mushrooms

At the Davis Farmers’ Market, I stopped by the Solano Mushroom Farm table and picked up some gorgeous organic mushrooms. I chose a combination of (from top left): maitake, shiitake, royal trumpet, and oyster mushrooms. The shiitake and royal trumpet mushrooms provide a nice, meaty texture, and the maitake and oysters a lighter, more delicate texture. They all provide great nutrition and flavor.

Another stop on my way yesterday was the Davis Co-op (http://davisfood.coop/). This is my go-to store for bulk foods. They have a great selection of flours, grains, and different rices that I like to keep on hand.

I made a variation of the Piadine dough I’ve been using for pizza.

Whole Wheat Rye Piadine Dough

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cup cool water
1/4 cup Rye
3/4 cup Whole Wheat
2 1/2 cup White Bread Flour
1/2 Guisto’s High Protein Whole Wheat
2 tablespoons Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt

I got a little distracted and wasn’t paying attention. I added all of the flour at once, rather than leaving some of it out until the end. Ooops … my dough was a quite a bit tighter than I usually make it, but I decided to go with it. I did add about another tablespoon of olive oil while it was mixing. This isn’t my usual method, but this is what I did for this batch:

  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water to dissolve.
  2. Combine the flours.
  3. Add the flour to the water and mix on low, using the hook attachment.
  4. Add the olive oil and continue to mix on low.
  5. Realize that the dough was way too dry, and add about 1 more tablespoon of oil.
  6. Mix on low until all ingredients are well combined (this took about 8-9 minutes).
  7. Sprinkle the salt on the dough, then turn the mixer on high and mix about 3 minutes.
  8. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board, shape into a round, allow it to set a moment, then cut in half and shape each half into a ball.

The initial shaping ...

Getting ready for the second rounding ...

This is enough dough for two large pizzas. Round the dough into two balls, place each in an oiled bowl large enough to allow the dough to double in size. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. The dough is best left to rise in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (overnight is better), or if you need it sooner, you can let it rise at room temperature. It would be ready in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on room temperature, the temperature of the water, and so on. Allowing the dough to rise in the refrigerator will allow more flavor and a better texture to develop. You’ll want to take the dough out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to shape and cook it.

So, I’d had a busy morning already … Davis Farmers’ Market, a stop at Davis Wheelworks (http://www.daviswheelworks.com/), Davis Food Co-op (http://davisfood.coop/), and making the dough. Now it’s time for a ride.

We rode to Winters and back. I had a new saddle for my Colnago, a Terry Butterfly. The ride was going great! I rode a lot stronger than I thought I was going to be able to – I haven’t been getting much cycling in since I hurt my knee in November. It felt GREAT to be out there. It was a beautiful day, I had wonderful company, and am loving my new bike! We made our usual stop in Winters, at Steady Eddies, shared a Coke and an oat cake, playfully gave a stranger a bad time about where he parked his bike, then headed back Putah Creek Road. Then a funny thing happened. Within minutes after my cycling partner took off on a sprint, something started to feel funny. Somehow my saddle position had changed and I was riding way too far back. I stopped and discovered that my saddle had come loose. Oh, dear. I had no idea how to fix this, and no tools. So I waited. I knew he would come back … eventually. So I waited. Then I called … and called … and called … and then my phone wouldn’t work … stupid Verizon. In the time I waited, about 5 cyclists rode past. I am happy to say that all but one asked if I needed help. The last one to stop was the first one to have the tools to fix my saddle. Just as he was fixing it, my cycling partner rode back up and recognized this cyclist as the stranger we chatted with at Steady Eddies. You just have to love the kindness of strangers!

So, we got home, got cleaned up, and I went to find the perfect wine for the pizza. I went to Nugget and got there minutes after the Wine Guy left for the day. A back up wine guy made a few suggestions. I ultimately decided on an Aquinas 2010 Napa Valley Pinot Noir. This did go nicely with the pizza, but I think an earthier pinot would have been nice, too.

Let the sauteed mushrooms cool a bit

I sliced the mushrooms and sauteed them for about 3 minutes in a bit of organic extra virgin olive oil. I added a touch of fresh thyme towards the end of the saute. You’ll want to let these cool before placing them on the pizza dough. You are going to want to preheat your oven to at least 450 to 500 degrees. It depends on your oven how long this will take, but just be sure that the oven and pizza stone are well preheated before baking your pizza. If you’re making a thin crust pizza, you’ll want to place the stone towards the top of the oven. If you’re making a thicker crust, you’ll want to be towards the middle. If you place the rack too close to the bottom of the oven, you may cook the bottom but not the top of the pizza. There is a huge amount of variation in home ovens, so this may take some practice to get it just right.

There are lots of techniques for shaping pizza dough. I always do this by hand, not with a rolling pin, because I want to keep some bubbles in the dough. I like to keep an edge all the way around, and you can’t really do that using a rolling pin, either. I don’t pull in the dough, but rather gently stretch is, using my fists on the underside of the dough. Just after high school, I worked in a couple of pizza restaurants and learned how the professionals do it. You will want to work quickly or the dough will stick to the peel. You’ll want to flour the peel and I like to sprinkle some polenta on it, also. That will help prevent sticking and the polenta adds a nice crunch to the finished pizza.

The shaped pizza dough.

Top with Quattro Formaggio

Add sauteed mushrooms.

Add smoked mozzarella & freshly ground black pepper.

 

Slide the pizza from the peel onto the preheated baking stone. One of the tricks I learned was to gently shake the peel side to side a bit before sliding the pizza off onto the stone. This will let you know if the dough has stuck to the peel. The more quickly you can work once the shaped dough has been placed on the peel, the less likely it is to stick.

Slide the prepared pizza from the peel onto the preheated baking stone. Bake about 8 minutes, then check the pizza and rotate it front to back to ensure even cooking.

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is well melted. I like the cheese to get just a bit browned.

The finished pizza.

I usually slide the pizza onto a cooling rack for a moment before cutting it. This just helps it to set up and keeps the crust a little crispier. This pizza had no sauce, so there was little risk of it getting soggy. We didn’t want to wait long to cut this one.

Serve with some mixed greens and tomatoes lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

We will definitely make this again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organic Mushrooms from Solano Mushroom Farm

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

These beauties are going on the pizza tonight ...

Mushroom Pizza, Anyone?

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Lately I have been craving mushrooms. This morning’s trip to the Davis Farmer’s Market this morning yielded a beautiful array of organic mushrooms: Royal Trumpets, Oysters, Shiitakes, & Maitakes.

I’ve got some homemade whole wheat & rye dough rising, and we’re just about to head out for a nice ride on this gorgeous day.

I’ll post pictures later!

 

 

 

Ice? At Noon on the Arboretum?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Yes, that is ICE on the Arboretum at lunchtime.

I really don’t remember it being so cold in Davis this time last year.

 

Sunday, Sunday …

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Oh, Sunday, why do you have to be so short?

Got a nice little ride in today, maybe 2 hours. I got a little bit of a late start and had a lot to do this afternoon, so I just rode around the outskirts of Davis. I’m doing well with the pedals, just having a little trouble clipping back in now and then, but I’m getting it.

It was a lovely day, a little chilly and breezy, but it sure felt nice to be outside and on my pretty Colnago! The Napa Valley Tour de Cure is now less than 5 months away. I really need to get serious about some training.

The Citrus is In!

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Almost Meyer Lemons

These beauties were at the Davis Farmers’ Market this morning. According to the vendor, they’re from a 40-year-old tree. It’s not a Meyer lemon, but some hybrid that no one knows. He said they’re similar in taste to Meyers.

I’m thinking I need to revisit my Low Fat Lemon Curd recipe.

A Chilly Morning Deserves …

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

This should fuel us for a ride today!

A hot, steamy bowl of old fashioned rolled oats with walnuts, dried cherries, and a drizzle of honey. I like oats cooked just about any way, but I prefer to cook old fashioned oats by starting them in the room temperature water. This makes for a creamier oatmeal than boiling the water first.

Today I’m trying out my new pedals I got for Christmas, and a brand new saddle, on my lovely new Colnago. It is gorgeous outside, but really chilly in Davis this morning, so we’re going to wait a bit until it warms up.

This is a great excuse to hit the Davis Farmers’ Market first! Have you been yet? Check it out:  http://www.davisfarmersmarket.org/

Winter Quarter 2013 – Welcome Back!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Lunchtime in the Arboretum

Classes started on Monday and the UC Davis Winter Quarter 2013 is already in full swing. It’s already looking like it’s going to be a hectic quarter, which makes me appreciate even more having an office so close to the Arboretum. I have a feeling that Spring is going to be especially beautiful on campus this year!