Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grilling Pizza: USA 1, Argentina 1

Update 4/3/11: I forgot to mention the importance of using fresh pizza dough. I am far too lazy to make my own, but a pre-baked dough (such as Boboli) will just burn on a hot grill. Most grocery stores sell bags of pre-made raw pizza dough, usually kept in a refrigerator somewhere near the bread. This is what I used.
As predicted, Leo Messi dribbled through defenders. And, as predicted, Argentina saw the majority of possession. Just before halftime midfielder Esteban Cambiasso netted a goal for La Albiceleste. But Coach Bob Bradley's halftime changes made all the difference for the US. 18-year-old Juan Agudelo came off the bench and equalized in the 59th minute. It was his second goal in only his third appearance.

And we can't leave out the always impressive Tim Howard. My fellow New Jersey native put on perhaps his best goalkeeping performance since the last time USA faced Argentina at the Meadowlands in 2008.

As for the tailgate: Thank goodness for Julie's hand warmers. Knowing full well that March in New Jersey can be bitter, I packed layers and prepared myself for the cold. The cold wasn't so bad. I had my Under Armor. Long underwear. Wool cap. But man, the wind! Like I said, thank goodness for Julie's hand warmers.

My first attempt at pizza on the grill turned out better than expected. I have now learned that there are two important keys to grilling a pizza:

1. Keep an eye on the temperature. In many ways, a grill outdoes a conventional oven in pizza cooking. A properly hot grill means a crispy, but not burned, pizza crust.
2. Grill one side of the dough, flip it, and then top it. What you top it with is totally up to you, and it really doesn't matter. It isn't the topping that makes good grilled pizza. It's the technique and the timing. (If you must know, I made a pseudo-pizza margherita topped with pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese).

For excellent detailed how-to instructions on grilling a pizza, see the kitchn.

Tune in next week as the Revs take on the Portland Timbers. I'm planning for a(nother) cold, windy day at Gillette Stadium.

On deck: Moosewood Chili & grilled quesadillas

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Tricky Thing About Away Game Tailgates...(plus a recipe for pineapple salsa)

...is that you really have to plan ahead. This is especially difficult if you, like me, are inexcusably forgetful. I make lists. I leave myself post-its. I pack a day in advance. I double check my lists. Yet I inevitably manage to leave some essential item at home. 

There was the time I spent an hour preparing Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza, only to discover upon opening the trunk of our car that I'd left the crust on my kitchen counter. Or the time I made lovely veggie kabobs but forgot to check the propane tank. It was, of course, empty. 

For this weekend's tailgate, I have the luxury of access to my father's kitchen day of game. If you've been to an away game, you understand that this is truly a luxury. At the USA v Czech Republic World Cup Sendoff Series match in Hartford last May, I prepared tailgate sandwiches on the bedside table of a Marriott hotel room using a spiral notebook as a cutting board. Four days later, at the USA v Turkey match, my cooler served as stand-in refrigerator for an entire weekend. Thank goodness for free hotel ice.

On the menu for USA v Argentina:

Grilled asparagus with garlic paprika aioli 

 Grilled pizza margherita with pesto sauce

Pineapple Salsa
(adapted from Cooking Light, April 2002) - recipe below 

and just to snack on...
 Crackers with Fromager d'Affinois
(a Stephanie Donohue favorite)

I find that having veggies chopped and ingredients pre-measured goes a long way to save time (and stress) on game day. Since travel is bound to be chaotic, I gave myself a head start by doing all grocery shopping and the majority of prep work last night. I made the pesto, aioli, and chopped up ingredients for the salsa. I find small screw top jars indispensable! I've checked my packing list three times now. Who's taking bets on what item I'll forget??

Pineapple Salsa
Adapted from Cooking Light, April 2002

   1 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
   1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
   1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
   1/4 cup pineapple preserves
   1-2 tablespoons finely chopped seeded jalapeno pepper (I prefer it on the spicier side)
   1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
   1/4 teaspoon black pepper
   1/4 teaspoon sugar

  Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips (I dig Red Hot Blues)


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Cookies That Might Kill Me.

We have a little competition going on at work known fondly as "Cookie Madness". It is essentially a single-elimination cookie baking contest a la NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. The seemingly harmless idea was devised out of boredom, but it quickly spiraled out of control into an intense competition.

As it turns out, my homemade oreos (adapted from Deb's recipe at Smitten Kitchen) have made it through to the semi-finals of competition. Yay me! Right? But what winning really means is I spent the last two hours mixing, baking, and frosting oreos for the third time in as many weeks. I have gone through eight sticks of butter and three bags of powdered sugar. Needless to say, I am tired of making homemade oreos.

What does this have to do with tailgating? Well, since I was fated to make these cookies again tonight anyways, I figured I may as well double the recipe and bring a batch to the AO Tailgate for the US v. Argentina match at Meadowlands this Saturday. And yes, that does mean I will miss the Revs home opener  (bummer, I know). For anyone making the trek to East Rutherford, stop by my car and help yourself to a cookie. Please. I can't look at these cookies any more.

Homemade Oreos
Adapted (slightly) from smittenkitchen.com
Where recipe was adapted from Retro Desserts, Wayne Brachman

Makes 18-20 Sandwich cookies (Deb's recipe said 25-30, so I must be making them big)

(by round three, it was a necessity.)
For the Chocolate Wafers:
   1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
   1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
   1 teaspoon baking soda
   1/4 teaspoon baking powder
   1/4 teaspoon salt
   1 1/4 cups sugar
   1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) room-temperature, unsalted butter
   1 large egg

For the filling:
   1/2 stick (1/4 cup) room-temperature, unsalted butter
   1/4 cup vegetable shortening
   2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
   2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Set rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375F.
  2. Preferably in the bowl of an electric mixer (although, if you're Bean, you do not own a mixer and you stupidly did this step by hand three times), thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. With your mixer on low speed (or mixing arm on regular speed), add the butter, and then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass. You may want to use your hands to help form the dough.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a nonstick baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, flatten the dough to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Bake for 8 minutes, rotating once to make sure cookies bake evenly. Set baking sheet on a rack to cool.
  4. To make cream filling, place butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Continue mixing by hand (or turn your fancy mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes) until filling is light and fluffy.
  5. To fill and assemble cookies, Deb recommended a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip, but I used a dessert decorator like this one. Squeeze teaspoon-size blobs of filling onto the center of the flat side of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press while twisting to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011


I am not a vegetarian. 
I eat cheese. And eggs. And, occasionally, fish. I suppose technically that would make me a “pescetarian”. But when I describe myself as such, someone inevitably makes the joke: “What church do you go to?” The more polite folks ask “Oh, really? Why?”, but usually aren’t all that interested in hearing the answer. The ‘why’ mostly has to do with sustainability, my concerns with America’s meat production, and the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. But I am not interested in preaching (and my guess is you’re not interested in my preaching either). You can ask me if you’d really like to know. Or you can refer to Michael Pollan’s article Unhappy Meals from The New York Times. He’s better explaining it than I am anyways.
What I am is a food lover. I think about food all the time. I love to grocery shop. I love to cook. I love to have friends over for dinner. I love to salivate over recipes and food blog photos (see "things to read"). If I didn’t live in a yard-less 750-square-foot apartment in Cambridge, I’d love to garden, too.
I am also an avid soccer fan and season ticket holder for the New England Revolution. From April through October - or November, if the Revs can recapture a playoff berth this season - most of my Saturday evenings, plus some Wednesdays and Sundays, are spent standing in the parking lot outside Gillette Stadium surrounded by fellow nerds, beer, and lots of juicy grilled meat. Somewhere in the middle of June, the limp, half-frozen veggie burgers on my grill start to look pretty lame.
But despite what logic may tell you, my two major interests are NOT mutually exclusive. Whatever your reasons for passing on pre-game hot dogs and steak tips, you are not doomed to a lifetime of tailgate parties spent choking down processed soy patties! With a bit of preparation and creativity, it is possible to eat consciously and to eat well...all while standing in a parking lot.
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