Good Ol’ Meatballs

I have a habit of buying ground beef or turkey, using a little bit of it, freezing the rest, and forgetting about it for…months? years? until the next time we move? I’m trying to be better about rescuing it before that point, though, and so when I found myself with some odds and ends recently — a little turkey, a little beef — I decided to thaw them overnight and see where inspiration took me.

It was still tomato season at the time (…shortest tomato season ever? I can’t believe how sad tomatoes look already!) and so inspiration took me to a good old-fashioned spaghetti and meatballs.

meatballs

I’ve used Bittman‘s basic meatball recipe as a starting point more than once, and it’s never done me wrong. This time, I split the meat between beef and turkey, whisked an egg in with the milk before soaking the bread, and substituted basil for parsley.

While we made the meatballs, I started a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s cherry tomato sauce — convenient because the meatballs could slide right into the oven for the last few minutes. We served it all over some Community Grains pasta, which was pretty darn tasty (if a little thicker and overall just grain-ier than we’re accustomed to).

Now I have about a dozen meatballs frozen in the fridge. What to do? Meatball subs? A not-entirely-accurate meatball bahn mi?

Good Ol’ Meatballs
(Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Ingredients
1 lb. ground meat of your choice (I used 1/2 beef, 1/2 turkey)
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 thick slice white bread, torn into chunks
1/2 c. milk
1 egg
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
10-12 basil leaves, slivered
salt and pepper

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 350

2. Whisk the egg and the milk together. Soak the bread chunks in the mixture until soggy.

3. Gently squeeze out the bread and combine it with the ground meat, chopped onion, parmesan, basil, salt and pepper.

4. Form into 1-inch meatballs (I think I got 18 or so?)

5. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for 7-8 minutes.

Orzo with White Beans and Tuna

Individually, I hate two out of the four main ingredients in this recipe.

Tuna stinks. To be honest, I’m not sure if I actually believe tuna stinks; what I know is that at some point when I was a child one of my parents made a comment about tuna stinking, and from then on, I believed wholeheartedly in the stinkiness of tuna. I can count on one finger the number of times canned tuna has entered my house — unless you count cat food.

Pickles? I remember the day I tried my first pickle. It was a pickle spear given to me at a dinner party the day my parents’ friends’ daughter made me cry by playing with my Barbie Ice Cream Shoppe. I was six. I might have also gotten a top stuck in my hair. The top could have been another time, but it’s a painful memory I associate with pickles, so whatever.

orzo with white beans and tuna

As with tomatoes, I’ve recently taken baby steps into eating both of these foods. I’ve had tuna in sushi or on salads occasionally, and when a can of tuna went into a lovely plate of beans and rice I ate in Costa Rica last year, I certainly didn’t run screaming. And at some point I realized it wasn’t the concept of pickles I hated as much as the cucumbers; salt and vinegar and I were cool. But would I have thought I’d be making an entree in which these two flavors are stars? Hardly.

Apparently, though, at some point I thought I might, because when I was putting together the recipe binder, I came across a recipe for white bean and tuna panzanella. I asked Pete if he had saved it. He had not; he hates tuna, too.

Why did we have a tuna recipe? A tuna recipe with a key flavor being pickles? I have no idea, but I felt weirdly compelled to make some version of it. Maybe the 2008 Real Simple-reading version of myself was trying to tell me something.

And…it was good! Sour and tangy, which is pretty much the best I could hope for. I swapped bread for orzo, erring on the side of something slightly less absorbent. I minced the pickles tiny, like almost relish-sized, so they’d be all crunch and no squish. And I went heavy on the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, with a little sherry vinegar tossed in for good measure.

The only small problem: I got sick of it fast. There’s only so much tuna and pickle a tuna-hating pickle-despiser can handle, and after a couple of dinners, I really wanted it to be gone. Plus, I was afraid to take it to work — because, y’know, tuna stinks. (I’m also not sure I’ve ever made it to the bottom of any leftover tupperware containing orzo. That stuff is the bunny rabbits of the fridge.)

I’d make about half the amount next time, or at least halve the orzo to let the other flavors stand out more. There might actually be a next time, and that’s the most shocking part of all.

Orzo with White Beans and Tuna

Ingredients
1 small (5-6 oz.) can tuna (if you really like tuna, use two)
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
2-4 sweet-and-sour pickles, diced
1 small red onion, diced
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Dash of sherry vinegar
salt and pepper
1 cup dried orzo, cooked, rinsed under cold water, and drained well

Instructions
1. Boil, rinse, and drain the orzo
2. Chop the onion and pickles
3. Rinse and drain the white beans, then drain the tuna
4. Dump the orzo, onion, pickles, beans, and tuna into a large bowl and stir well to combine
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegars, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Pour over the orzo mixture. Add additional vinegar, oil, or seasoning to taste.

Little Tweaks

Between the cooking-for-one and the adjustments that come with starting a new job, it’s been a little quiet in my kitchen lately. But sometimes the recipes don’t have to be fancy to be victories.

Last week, drowning in CSA eggplant, I dragged out an old favorite and made a few tiny tweaks. Instead of spinach, I used a bunch of chard that also came in the CSA box. The chopped stems went into the roasting pan with the onions, chickpeas, and eggplant, and I stirred in the leaves at the end.

I also chopped up a handful of heirloom tomatoes and threw them in the roasting pan. I increased the cooking time to 40 minutes from 30, stirred a couple of times while the veggies roasted, and waited for the tomatoes to release some of their juices, leaving me with something slightly broth-ier than the standard curry. I also used more ginger and less curry, not so much on purpose as because I’d forgotten we were nearly out of curry powder.

I served it over leftover shell pasta the first night, over couscous the second. And I felt like I’d finally achieved one of the missions of this blog, taking something I already knew and using my instincts to make it better.

Next up: meatballs!

Cauliflower, Shrimp, and Chickpea Stew

I have no idea how to cook for one. To be honest, I have no idea how to cook for two, either, but at least when I’m cooking for two, there are twice as many people eating the leftovers. When it’s just me, well, give me 48 hours and I’m drowning in food.

And yet. One day last week, while Pete was traveling, I found myself chopping up a head of cauliflower, throwing some tomatoes in a pot, and making this lovely little stew.

cauliflower stew

The basic idea came from this Real Simple recipe, another find from the recipe binder. The recipe as written was vegetarian, but I had some shrimp in the freezer and figured the flavors would mesh pretty well. (Trader Joe’s tip: the frozen uncooked shrimp are better than the frozen cooked shrimp, which don’t really have a taste.)

I happened to make this recipe on CSA box pickup night, so I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and because nobody but me was ever going to eat this, I didn’t bother to remove the tomato skins. I don’t think I even knew until a couple of weeks ago that I was supposed to be removing tomato skins — tomato newbie, remember? — and they don’t bother me at all, but I’m sure peeling the tomatoes wouldn’t hurt.

I had one brief moment of panic when I realized that by using fresh tomatoes, I’d lost some of the liquid that would have come from using canned tomatoes, and 1/2 cup of water wasn’t nearly enough to cover all the vegetables in the pot and bring them to a simmer. I splashed in a little bit of broth that I happened to have in the fridge and hoped for the best. Of course, eventually, the tomatoes released more liquid and I had a bit of a soupy mess on my hand. Another 15 minutes of simmering and all was well.

Even by week-of-many-leftovers standards, this held up well in the fridge and was pretty decent cold (though better once reheated). Not sure how often I’ll have these exact ingredients in the fridge, but if I ever do again, I’ll be coming back to this.

Cauliflower, Shrimp, and Chickpea Stew
(Adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients
1 medium onion, chopped
28 oz. tomatoes (canned whole or chopped fresh, peeled or not)
15 oz. chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
5 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
6-8 large shrimp, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup to 1 cup of water or broth
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
salt and pepper

Instructions
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan (I used my Dutch oven) over medium heat. Cook the onion until softened.

2. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid, if using canned, or a bit of broth or water if using fresh), cumin, ginger, and salt and pepper, and stir

3. Add the chickpeas, cauliflower, chopped shrimp, and 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. If the mixture is too dry, add a bit more water or broth.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and the sauce has thickened

5. Remove from heat and, working in batches, stir in the spinach until just wilted.

Serve by itself or over couscous or rice. (Serves four.)

Spicy Ginger Chicken

Since, oh, 2005, I’ve been talking about organizing my clipped recipes. I started saving recipes — mostly from magazines like Real Simple and Health — when I first started living on my own, back in 2004, and every time I’ve had a significant break since then (the holidays in 2006, before grad school in 2009, and spring break 2011, among others), I’ve imagined sitting down with the big blue folder full of disorganized, grease-stained, piling-up recipes and sorting and culling and sense-making until they were actually useful.

disorganized recipes

And last week, I finally did it.

organized recipes

The exercise turned out to be a fascinating journey through my years in the kitchen. From 2004 and 2005, I had a ton of “heat and dump” recipes — things involving pre-cooked this and pre-shredded that. From 2005 and 2006, when I first started getting serious about making food instead of giving up and going to Taco Bell at midnight, I had a ton of chicken recipes — funny in light of my dislike of cooking chicken. At some point, maybe late 2006, I started to collect dessert recipes. And 2009 to the present brought more elaborate recipes — things from Food and Wine and the New York Times, things involving lamb and immersion blenders and more than 45 minutes in the kitchen. I found the wrinkled original of garden lasagna, the first recipe I felt truly comfortable making; I rediscovered old favorites like chicken/apple/basil salad and sausage with polenta cakes and my first attempt at corn chowder. And I found a few things that made me nostalgic, like recipes from Sassy (1996!) and Jane and lovely party plans from Budget Living. (I kept them all.)

I also found a lot of things — er, most of the recipes I’d saved — that I’d never made. I suppose that’s the hazard of collecting recipes and not having a system to look through them: The things I made regularly rose to the top, totally obscuring the vast stack of goodies underneath. So for the binder’s first real spin, I picked out one of those long-ago-saved, never-before-cooked recipes, a Thai ginger chicken dinner from Real Simple (2006!).

ginger chicken

As I’ve mentioned before on this site, one of the things I want to do is become more comfortable trusting my instincts in the kitchen. I’ve come a long way since I first collected a lot of these recipes, but I still don’t always listen. This turned out to be one of the recipes where I should have trusted my instincts. Two cans of coconut milk seemed like a lot — like, a lot — and yet, it had been a while since I’d cooked with coconut milk and I wasn’t sure how much it would thicken up and besides, I wanted leftovers, didn’t I?

Well. Yes. But not liquid leftovers. One can would have been sufficient for sure.

I did make one good, fun tweak: I realized late in the game that I didn’t have any soy sauce, so I tossed in some Trader Joe’s sweet chili sauce instead. It added some more sweetness but wasn’t cloying (which I’d worried about considering the sheer quantity of coconut milk in the pan), and I added some extra salt to compensate.

The best part of this recipe, for me, was the puree of hot pepper, cilantro, and ginger that got added to the simmering pot. Chopping less, eating sooner? Works for me.

What’s below is the version of this recipe I wish I’d made. My dinner was fine, but I think this’ll be even better.

Spicy Ginger Chicken
(Adapted from Real Simple

Ingredients
1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, sliced
1 small eggplant, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk or light coconut milk
2 Tablespoons chili sauce, soy sauce, or spicy addition of your choice
2-3 jalapenos or other hot peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
a few sprigs of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
olive oil
salt
rice of your choice, if desired

Instructions
1. Cook the rice, if using. (Side note: I used basmati, because it was all we had in the house, and I followed a suggestion I saw online to soak it in cold water first, and wow, it came out bright white.)

2. Chop the eggplant, place in a bowl, and salt generously. Let sit for 15 minutes while you chop everything else, then drain, rinse, and pat dry.

3. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and the eggplant until soft, about 5 minutes.

4. While that’s cooking, put the cilantro, ginger, and hot peppers in a food processor with some olive oil and give them a couple of whirls until they’re finely chopped.

5. Add coconut milk, chili/soy sauce, and some salt to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the cilantro mixture and chicken pieces and simmer until the chicken is cooked through.

Tomato Risotto with Sausage and Spinach

The second tomatopalooza took over my kitchen, I wanted to make a tomato sauce. But a little Googling on the way there led me on this delicious detour.

All I meant to do was see if anyone had tips for making Smitten Kitchen’s cherry tomato sauce with larger-than-cherry tomatoes. What I ended up doing was peeling and crushing tomatoes, simmering them in water, and standing over a steaming pot for nearly half an hour feeling my hand go numb from constant stirring and desperately trying not to sweat into my dinner.

And it was fabulous.

tomato risotto

I’ve made a number of risottos in my life, but I’ve never used anything but plain broth for the liquid. And because of that, I’m not sure I ever appreciated how fully the cooking liquid infuses into the rice. One minute, my rice was its normal white; the next, it was turning red from the inside out. With spicy sausage browned in the pot, onions so translucent I almost forgot they were there, and spinach wilted in at the last minute, this recipe has a lot going on — but the tomato flavor is clearly the star.

If I’d used canned tomatoes, I’m sure I would have had a lovely result much faster. My insistence on using fresh ones added both time and mess to the cooking (I mean, did you ever think about — I mean, really think about — how juicy a tomato is?). But there was something satisfying about doing it all by hand … and about watching 28 oz. of tomatoes magically disappear from my stash.

Tomato Risotto with Sausage and Spinach
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients
28 oz. fresh tomatoes (or 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in their juices)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 lb. sweet or hot sausage (I used hot), casings removed
1 small onion, diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
5-6 oz. baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Instructions
1. If using fresh tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. (If using canned tomatoes, skip ahead to step 4.) Cut a shallow X in the skin at the top and the bottom of each tomato. Put ice and cold water in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Working in batches, drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for approximately 1 minute, then plunge the tomatoes into the ice water. When cool enough to handle, the skins should slip off easily.

3. Roughly chop the tomatoes, removing the core. (If you don’t like tomato seeds, this would be the point to remove them; they don’t bother me much, so I didn’t make much effort to remove them beyond what naturally ended up on the cutting board.)

4. Place the chopped tomatoes in a large saucepan and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a low simmer and keep warm while you start to prepare the sausage and rice.

5. In a large saucepan (I used my Dutch oven) over medium heat, cook the chopped onion and sausage until the sausage is just browned. (I squeezed the sausage directly out of the casing into the pot and broke up the chunks with a wooden spoon.)

6. Add the rice to the onion/sausage mixture and stir, about one minute.

7. Add the wine and stir for another minute or until the wine is absorbed.

8. Start adding the tomato-water mixture to the rice. Start by adding about two cups of liquid, stirring gently until all the liquid is absorbed. Slowly add one cup of liquid at a time, stirring slowly and letting each cup absorb before adding another. This will take about 25 minutes, and you’ll be done either when all the liquid is gone or when the rice is creamy and tender.

9. Turn off the heat. Working in batches, stir in the spinach until wilted. Stir in the butter and parmesan, and add salt and pepper to taste. (I halved the butter from the original recipe, and I’m not actually sure any butter is necessary; if you try it without, report back!) Serve and sprinkle with additional parmesan, if desired.

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart with Cornmeal Parmesan Crust

Until four years ago, I didn’t like tomatoes.

OK, “didn’t like” doesn’t even begin to cover it. More like hated. Despised. Couldn’t even begin to understand the appeal of. In salsa or tomato sauce, they were fine, but a slice of tomato on a sandwich or in a salad? Nasty, nasty stuff.

Then, one summer in San Francisco, I got goaded into trying an heirloom tomato salad. And almost immediately, the clouds parted, the sun shone down, and I realized: Oh. THAT’S what tomatoes are supposed to taste like.

You still won’t find me popping a cherry tomato in my mouth (too oozy), and I usually get sick of tomatoes on sandwiches about 1/3 of the way through. But by and large, I’ve seen the light, and so when my good friends asked if we wanted to split a flat of gorgeous local tomatoes, I suddenly found myself with several pounds of fruit in my kitchen, waiting to be made delicious.

The me of four years ago finds this all very amusing.

tomato tart

So for the next week or so, it’s going to be a tomatopalooza in my kitchen, and I started off with this tomato and mozzarella tart. The night I made this was one of those nights, when Pete was working late and the couch was so comfortable and all I really wanted to do was slice up some cheese and sausage and call it dinner. But four pounds of tomatoes do not let themselves be ignored so easily, and the basil plant needed to be pruned, and oh hey, is that some extra mozzarella in the cheese drawer?

This tart crust was a first-time experiment that turned out delicious, and the rest of the recipe is simple — just slice, layer, bake, and eat. A good tomato season staple, for sure, and almost as easy as the non-dinner I would have made otherwise.

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart with Cornmeal Parmesan Crust

Ingredients
For the crust:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. grated parmesan
1/2 t. salt
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
2 Tablespoons-ish of cold water

For the filling:
6 medium tomatoes, sliced
2-3 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
a few basil leaves, slivered
salt and pepper
thyme (fresh or dried)

Instructions
1. Slice the tomatoes, place them on a layer of paper towels, salt them, cover with another layer of paper towels, and let drain until you’re ready to use them.

2. Preheat the oven to 350.

3. Make the crust dough: Combine the flours, cornmeal, parmesan, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 20ish times, until the mixture looks and feels sandy. With the food processor running, slowly add cold water until the dough comes together (you should be able to pinch it and have it hold shape). Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form into a disc, wrap it up, and toss it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

4. Pat the cold tart dough into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan (I think a pie plate would work fine). Poke a few holes in the bottom with a fork, cover with tinfoil, add pie weights/beans/something to weigh down the edges, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust looks mostly baked. Remove foil and weights.

5. Arrange a single layer of tomato slices on top of the crust, and top with sliced mozzarella. Sprinkle basil slivers, thyme, salt, and pepper on top. Add additional layers of tomato, mozzarella, basil, and seasoning until you’ve used everything up.

6. Bake until the tomatoes are soft and the cheese melty, about 25 minutes.

Fish Chowder

In addition to the standard turkey and all its accoutrements, my family has another Thanksgiving tradition: crab cakes. Thanksgiving falls just after the start of Dungeness crab season here in San Francisco, and so for the past couple of years, we’ve spent one of the days of Thanksgiving weekend cracking, picking, and cake-ing some local crab legs. This usually leaves us with a pile of crab shells stacked high on the kitchen table, and this year, we decided to stuff them in a big pot and simmer them for stock.

There was just one problem: It turns out I don’t traditionally make things where fish stock makes sense. Which of my go-to recipes use stock at all? Chili. And the idea of chili with fish stock was a little squicky, so since November, I’ve had several baggies full of frozen stock taking up space in the freezer.

Fish Chowder

(Yeah, I need to stop making yellow food and photographing it in yellow bowls.)

In retrospect, soup seems like the obvious solution, but it wasn’t until I spotted this fish chowder recipe that I felt motivated to make it happen. The corn was what got me; I see myself eating a lot of corn between now and when it goes out of season. But the flavor that really worked in the finished soup was the thyme. Use it liberally — it tastes lovely in here.

Looking at the recipe, I was worried it didn’t include enough liquid to take this from soup to stew, but it turned out to be just about perfect. We had thawed a little extra stock, though, just in case, and I’d recommend having some on hand if you’re going to keep any of this as leftovers. If anything, the flavor was better the second day, but the liquid had almost all absorbed/evaporated, so I just dumped the extra cup or so of stock into the pot when I reheated it, and that thinned it out nicely.

Fish Chowder
(Adapted from Generation Y Foodie)

Ingredients
1 lb. fish filet (we used tilapia; any whitefish would probably work)
3 ears of corn
1/2 lb. potatoes, cut into chunks
3-4 celery stalks, diced
1 onion, diced
2 slices bacon, diced
12 oz. fish stock
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. milk
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
1. Grill, roast, or otherwise cook your corn and remove the kernels from the cob
2. In a large saucepan or pot (we used our dutch oven), saute the diced bacon, then add the onion and cook together until the onion softens
3. Add the celery and saute until it starts to soften (about another 3 minutes)
4. Add the fish filet and lightly brown (about 2 minutes per side). Remove from the pot and cut into chunks
5. Add the corn, then the potatoes, and saute about 5 more minutes
6. Add the stock, cream, milk, salt and pepper, and the thyme and simmer for 10 minutes, covered
7. Add the fish chunks and simmer for another 10-12 minutes, uncovered
8. Top with lots of black pepper and dried or chopped fresh thyme

Served with some of our toasted spent grain herb bread, we got five servings out of this recipe.

Cherry Tomato Cobbler

I know this blog is supposed to be about taking recipes and customizing them and cooking by feel, but sometimes, recipes don’t really need my help. And that’s how I feel about this cherry tomato cobbler with gruyere biscuits. Blistered, gooey tomatoes, deeply browned onions, and cheesy, creamy, dumpling-y biscuits? There’s no reason to mess with that.

cherry tomato cobbler

The second I spotted this recipe in a borrowed issue of Martha Stewart Living, it moved to the top of my to-make list — but tomatoes took a frustratingly long time to ripen this summer. Last week, though, I spotted a few big troughs at a farmer’s market stand for $1/pound, and I hoovered up three bags as fast before the word “tomatoes!” was even out of my mouth.

Martha recommends baking this in a 2-quart, 2-inch deep baking dish, but I actually wish I’d put it in something bigger; it bubbled over a bit in the oven (stick a cookie sheet under the baking dish if you have any worries; it saved me a ton fo cleanup), and I had a lot of biscuit dough left over. Well, “left over” is an interesting way to put it; can you ever really complain about extra biscuits?

gruyere biscuits

If I had to offer one tip on this recipe, it’s this: Don’t cut the onion cooking time short. I almost always think recipes overestimate the time needed to cook onions, but this time, the 25 minute sautee means these onions are rich and caramelized by the time they go into the oven. I’m not sure my kitchen has ever smelled better.

Cherry Tomato Cobbler
(from Martha Stewart Living)

Ingredients
For the filling:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 pounds cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used my favorite Aleppo)
1-2 teaspoons salt
Pepper

For the biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (recipe suggests coarse: I split between regular and fleur de sel)
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing

Instructions
1. Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook the onions over medium heat for 25 minutes or until nicely browned. Add garlic and cook for 3 more minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees while you make the biscuit topping

3. Make the biscuits: combine flour, baking powder, and a teaspoon of salt. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until small clumps form (it should feel somewhat sandy). Stir in the cheese and the cream. (Martha suggests using a fork, but I needed a spatula.)

4. In a baking dish, combine tomatoes, 3 tablespoons of flour, red pepper flakes, salt (to taste, but about a teaspoon) and pepper

5. Spoon clumps of biscuit dough over the top of the tomato mixture; you should be able to squeeze 6-8 dumplings in there. Brush the tops of the biscuits with cream and sprinkle with cheese.

6. Bake until the tomatoes are bubbling and biscuits are brown, about an hour and 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before digging in.

If you have extra biscuit dough, you can bake it separately on another baking sheet. The biscuits will be a little crispier than the ones in the cobbler, but they’re delicious in their own right. Mine took about 45 minutes to bake, so set a second timer and keep an eye on them.

The Great Spent Grain Baking Experiment, Part 2

I knew the Great Spent Grain Baking Experiment was going to leave me with a kitchen full of bread. But I tend to have a very “well, the oven’s already on” attitude toward baking, and when I started seeing recipes for things like pizza dough and crackers, this had the potential to get out of hand very quickly.

Somehow, nothing was a total disaster, and I ended the experiment with several recipes I’ll make again the next time we brew. Here’s how the non-bread recipes shook out:

Spent Grain Pizza Dough

This was actually the first thing I made, but I didn’t bake it until last night. I added another cup of flour to the recipe, split it into two balls of dough after it rose, and froze them in plastic bags. Yesterday morning, I plopped one of the frozen discs in a lightly oiled bowl, covered it with a towel, and let it rise for about eight hours (pretty much my standard procedure for pizza dough).

spent grain pizza

This dough is very wet and stretchy, so I had to act fast to get it into a pizza shape, and it took a lot of cornmeal to get off the peel and onto my pizza stone, but the result? Amazing: thin and cracker-like with a perfectly puffy edge. This is a keeper for sure, and I’ll probably make a double batch (at least) next time. (Also, yes, that’s the Potesto again, with basil pesto this time.)

Soft Pretzels

I did some finagling with this one: I used my favorite Smitten Kitchen soft pretzel recipe, halved it, added a cup of spent grains to the dough, and then just kept adding flour until the dough cleared the sides of my mixer (four-ish cups, I think; at some point I just stood there with a half-cup of flour at the ready and dumped in a bit every time the dough started to stick again).

soft pretzels

These are perfect. Honestly, perfect. They are soft pretzels, so it would be hard for them not to be great, but I love the touch of whole grain flavor and the softness the spent grains added. These kept perfectly for two days in an open bowl covered with a kitchen towel, and I’m so sad that they’re gone. Absolutely going in the rotation.

Spent Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies

The ultimate “oh hey, why not?” recipe of this experiment, these came out well — not a blockbuster, but they do use 1.5 cups of grains and contain chocolate and peanut butter, so how bad could they be?

spent grain cookies

These remind me most of the pumpkin cookies I sometimes make, big and puffy and hearty. (I could almost pretend they were healthy in an energy bar kind of way.) I could see myself making a batch of these right after the grains come out of the beer to fuel us through the rest of the brewing process.

Spent Grain Wheat Crackers

I didn’t quite give myself enough time to bake these till they were fully crunchy — the top tray got there, but the bottom tray could have used 10-15 minutes more — and they really have to be thin to crisp up. If I were to do these again, I’d roll them out right on the baking sheet (maybe even flip the sheet over, top it with parchment, and bake them right there), because transferring them from my cutting board to the baking sheet took forever.

spent grain crackers

On the plus side, this makes a ton of crackers. The crispy ones are best, but the puffier ones just taste like pitas, so I’m not too bummed. I’ll just leave myself more time to bake next time.

***

So. What would I make again?

The pretzels, absolutely, every time. The crackers, actually; I’d like to try adding seeds and spices. The herb bread, which I really want to get right; I still haven’t figured out how to bake it through, but I love the taste, so I’m not done tweaking. The pizza dough. And perhaps another rye bread; I think I know enough now to work with these basic recipes and come up with something good.

Now, who wants some bread?