After living in Berlin for the last year-and-a-half, we finally had our first dinner party last weekend. To make things fun (and a bit easier) we decided to throw a pizza party, using some sourdough starter to create the pizza dough. TH took the reins as pizza master, rolling out the dough and pre-baking the shells, and then everyone had a chance to make their own pie. It was really fun to see (and taste!) the different combinations and flavors that came together. My favorite was the pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, and the spicy chicken and red onion pie.
As I’ve mentioned before, keeping up a sourdough starter means tossing a bit of it out each day. Tons of recipes have sprouted up to use this extra dough, as the sourdough can be substituted for yeast and adds flavor. Pizza dough is a relatively easy way to use up the extra sourdough, and it makes a quick and simple dinner. For our pizza party, I made several batches of dough and we ended up with a few leftover pie shells. This pizza was a Saturday morning breakfast pie, prefect with the spicy chicken and fried eggs on top.
Working from home means I’m often eating lunch at my desk, typing away or searching the depths of the Internet when the hunger pains hit. If you follow me along on Instagram or Twitter, then you can probably tell that I like to keep these meals as simple as possible. Although I am a big fan of menu planning when it comes to our weekly dinners, my thought process for lunch time is much more general. I like to put together quick meals with whatever we have on hand, usually using up pantry items and cleaning out the fridge of leftovers and scraps. My go-tos are the obvious: salads, pasta, grains with veggies, or the remains from dinner the night before. I have my favorites, and now that I’ve accepted hard-boiled eggs as a food option, an egg, along with mashed-up avocado on wheat crackers, has become a new staple for a quick and satisfying lunch.
Last weekend we were flipping through a few issues of Bon Appetit, looking for some new dinner menu ideas, and a big photo of a beautiful baked potato caught my eye. I grew up eating baked potatoes, usually covered in cheddar cheese, sour cream, and plenty of salt and pepper, and they were always an easy dish to prepare for staff meal back when I was working in restaurant kitchens. Although potatoes are used in many dishes in German cuisine, it’s not common to see baked potatoes here, and so the magazine spread sparked my nostalgic cravings. I picked up a few large potatoes at the store and planned them for my easy lunches this week. To make the potatoes more filling, I put together this creamed spinach topping. Together with some grated parmesan and breadcrumbs, it’s a delicious meal, one I was happy to eat several days in a row. But the baked potatoes are really just a canvas; the topping ideas are endless. The Bon Appetit article also suggests trying the potatoes with smoked salmon and crème fraîche, which sounds like a wonderful take on brunch for a chilly day.
When you start baking bread regularly, you end up with a lot of extras, from stale end pieces to the loaf that doesn’t turn out quite right. I’ve saved these bits in our freezer for a rainy day project, breadcrumbs or stuffing or the like. This week’s chilly, wet weather had me in the mood for a nice comfort meal, and I thought of the bread pudding I often made when I was a pastry chef, turning scraps of muffins, cake, and brioche into a sweet treat for coworkers.
This savory version is a great use-up-what-you-have dish; I’ve mixed together some leftover roast chicken, sautéed spinach, and garlic, but the idea will work with whatever vegetables you have on hand. The sauce is a simple combination of milk, egg, and grated cheese, and most hard rind varieties will work. The dish also freezes well, so you can save a few portions for those days when you need a quick dinner.