23 January 2010

Playing with Food: artichoke pizza and mushroom soup

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It's very difficult to find a pizza shop that has artichokes for a topping. This is unfortunate for me since white pizza with artichokes is one of my favorite foods. In Pittsburgh, where I lived most of my life, there's a great restaurant called Bites-n-Brews in the Shadyside neighborhood. You can build your own pizza, and I always get the white pizza with artichokes and black olives. I finally tried to make my own, and it came out mediocre - not bad but definitely not great. I used a Food & Wine online recipe again, adding black olives to give it that Bites-n-Brews flair. My problem in the kitchen -- and really in life -- is that I'm terribly impatient, and so I didn't take the time to roll out the pizza dough thin enough. This produced a pie that was both misshapen and a tad bit underdone. I also could not find frozen artichokes (which the recipe called for), so had to use canned ones instead. I hate canned foods not only for their inferior flavor but also for the BPA that lines the cans. I suppose I could have used a fresh artichoke, but first I have to learn how to peel and cut one. Anyway, this was the result. (As you can see, not the most elegant of dishes.)

My impatience in the kitchen was the cause of a culinary abortion this week - a mushroom soup so vile that I had to feed it to my garbage disposal. I'm obsessed with mushroom soup, particularly the kind that my mother makes once a year for Christmas Eve. It's a traditional Polish recipe that utilizes dried mushrooms (which she special-orders now that we're in the States), some pureed veggies, mushroom and veggie stock, cream, and egg noodles. It's among my favorite foods in the universe, and every year I make myself sick because I consume so much of it. I found a recipe for mushroom soup and also called my mother for advice. I decided to mix her recipe (which she cooks by memory, taste, and touch - so no precise measurements) and the recipe I found in a magazine (I believe it was in Vegetarian Times). I was so impatient - and hungry - while attempting to reconstitute the mushrooms, puree the carrots and shallots, and simmer the mushroom bullion, that I'm not sure where I went wrong. All I know is that my soup was grainy, watery, and, though the mushroom aroma was prevalent and quite nice, completely inedible. I didn't bother to take a photo because it looked like I pureed watery diarrhea. So, my dear reader (if there is one), I will have to try again another time. Perhaps, when I visit my parents next time, so my mom can take me through it step by step.

Before I end, though, I do want to share a picture of my first loaf of bread after I sliced it open. I'm working on my second loaf as we speak and will try my hand at rye bread in a few days.

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