When you're in law school, you spend a decent portion of your time looking for ways to procrastinate. That, unto itself, is a great form of procrastination. Some people drink; some sing karaoke and go to weekly trivia nights; and others spend way too much time watching sporting events in the commons. Me? While I enjoy trivia and an occasional drink, I generally found amusement in VH1's horrid reality programming, the Disney Channel, and CW shows. Light and fluffy was key. Until True Blood came around. A friend of mine mentioned the show to me, but I didn't have HBO. Like any good Millennial, I found "ways" to watch the first four episodes. I stayed up until 3AM watching, and proceeded to stalk my suppliers every Sunday for the next few weeks until the new episode was available for viewing. Yeah, I finally broke down and got HBO. And it was worth it.
This was why I was so excited to be in San Francisco Sunday evening for the season three premiere. I recommended the show to a few friends who became equally as obsessed--and two of them happen to live in the city at the moment. This includes Miss M, my cooking cohort. We decided to indulge in a little True Blood themed food to celebrate. The evening's fare included Bloody Beet and Goat Cheese pizza, garlicky Basil Guacamole, Vampiric Red Velvet Cupcakes, and sparkling blood orange juice.
The pièce de résistance. You may be thinking, "Beets...on pizza? And what does that have to do with vampires?" My response? Yes, and everything. Beets are bloody, people. They ooze purplish-red liquid. They're commonly used to make red food dye. They are vampiric! Miss M mentioned beets; I mentioned pizza; we decided on goat cheese. Symbiotic, I tell you. To start things off, I'm not a big beet person. I eat them here and there at restaurants, but I've never made them at home and don't go out of my way to get them on my plate. This might have something to do with the fact that they are commonly pickled or mixed with things I don't enjoy. But beets are quite wonderful--they're sweet and hearty and turn everything magenta. You can eat their leaves, and they pair quite nicely with goat cheese, shallots and garlic. Surprisingly, I really ended up liking our creation and will likely make it again. It felt good to eat something a little different (and healthier) on my pizza for a change. So if you love beets, or are even a little iffy about beets, try out the recipe below. I promise you'll enjoy it.
Miss M also introduced me to a fabulous basil guacamole. It's a play on one of Nigella's recipes, but with a bit more tang and spice. We also quadrupled the garlic content. I'd say that this was in honor of our vampire theme, but the truth is that we both just really like garlic. Besides, True Blood vampires merely find garlic to be unpleasant. Regardless of inspiration, this stuff was good. It was more refreshing than any other guacamole I have tried, and tasted lighter, too. I think basil is just one of those herbs that screams Summer; but that might be because my basil plant has recently multiplied exponentially. We devoured the dip on thinly sliced and toasted pieces of french bread, but I think it would be great on pita chips or blue corn chips. It's also apparently even better and more refreshing if you use endive leaves and eat it like lettuce cups.
Red velvet cupcakes. These were the first on our list when I mentioned a True Blood themed meal. They're both Southern and bloody. After frosting, I mused that they needed some decoration, but was disappointed that Miss M only had pink sprinkles. In a brilliant move, she whipped out the red food coloring and gave them bite marks. These cupcakes were really delicious--probably because they combine the best aspects of two very well-known cupcakeries: Magnolia Bakery (NY) and Sprinkles (LA). Magnolia's cake was light and fluffy, whereas Sprinkles' cream cheese frosting was sweet and creamy. I always use this frosting recipe and will definitely be adding the cupcakes to my archives.
Goat Cheese Pizza
(1 large or 2 medium pizzas)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 1/2-3 1/2 cups ap flour
cornmeal, for dusting
2 beets, greens reserved
1/2 head garlic
6 ounces goat cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Dissolve yeast in warm water in mixer bowl. Then add salt, olive oil and 2 1/2 cups of flour.
3. Using paddle attachment, mix until dough just comes together. Switch to dough hook, or if doing by hand, turn out onto floured surface.
4. On medium speed, knead with hook for approximately 4 minutes, slowly adding in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time. When dough starts to clean the side of the bowl, don't add more flour. When done, dough should be tacky, not sticky, and smooth.
5. Cover in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
6. While your dough is proofing...Cut the pointed side off of the head of garlic and cut in half. Place one half on a piece of tinfoil large enough to cover it. Set aside other half for dip or other cooking. You could also just roast the whole thing because roasted garlic is amazing.
7. Drizzle garlic with olive oil so it seeps between cloves. Wrap up in tinfoil. Bake in oven preheated to 350F for about 35 minutes. The garlic will be soft when done. When you pull out your garlic, increase temperature to 450F and, if using a pizza stone, slip it in to preheat.
8. Holding closed end, squeeze garlic out of skin into a bowl. It's easier to do when still hot, but unless you sport some awesome kitchen gloves that allow you to have finger mobility, I'd suggest letting the garlic cool down a bit.
9. Prepare your other toppings. Peel and slice beets thinly (so they cook through and get crispy on edges). Lightly toss beet slices in olive oil. Chop up the beet greens--the leaves are edible. Chop 2 shallots finely.
10. When dough has doubled, your garlic should be done and the oven should have been increased to 450F with optional pizza stone inside. Now is time to shape and top the pizza.
11. Lightly deflate dough. Shape into one large or two medium pizzas. I like to pat a ball of dough out with my hands. and then, holding the edges, slowly stretch the disc as I move it around in circles. You can also just roll the dough out on a floured surface. If the dough doesn't want to hold its shape, let rest for 10 minutes and wash a dreaded dish or two.
12. Sprinkle pizza pan, baking sheet or your pizza peel with cornmeal. Place dough on top.
13. Brush entirety of pizza with olive oil--including the crust. Then, take your roasted garlic and spread it across the dough. It should rub on, but might require a bit of mashing and then fork smearing onto the dough. Chunks here and there are fine--roasted garlic is mild.
14. Slice 2/3 of your goat cheese into thin slices, and place over garlic. Then, cover with slices of beets, sprinkle with chopped greens, shallots and a little salt. Then crumble the rest of the goat cheese across the top. I strongly suggest the cheese first method because we did not do this, and the beets slid off a bit.
15. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and melted.
Garlicky Basil Guacamole
3 ripe avocados
10 basil leaves, chopped
2 shallots, chopped finely
1/4 cup red onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 small lemon, juiced
Roughly mash avocados. Mix in basil, shallots, red onion & garlic. Dissolve pinch of salt into juice. Add. Mash until desired texture.
Vampiric Red Velvet Cupcakes
Magnolia's cupcake recipe is here. Sprinkles' frosting recipe:
8 oz cream cheese
4 oz butter
3 3/4 c. confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
Cream butter, cheese & salt until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar until incorporated. Add the vanilla.