Sunday, March 23, 2014

Eats: The Make-Do Kitchen

Hello! My previous post had mentioned coming home from an out-of-town trip to the sight of water damage caused by a burst pipe on the second floor. 

The dining room,kitchen and basement suffered the most damage. We can live without a wholly functionable dining room (other than the fact that the dining room table and chairs are now taking up space in other rooms on the first floor), but the lack of a fully operating kitchen is another story. 

Actually, part of the kitchen issue at the moment is temporary. The restoration crew has set up huge fans and dehumidifiers on all three affected floors (first and second floors plus basement). This equipment is necessary, of course, for drying out the water damage. Problems developed, though, when we tried to use our microwave and coffeemaker. These appliances overloaded the already-busy electrical circuits. After fiddling around with placement of various cords in various outlets, my husband and the work crew figured out a good place for the microwave, but to be safe we're using it at half power. 

The coffeemaker also had a habit of popping circuits when it was used, even when moved to an outlet in another room. We have an old house, which means that 1. it can be tricky to figure out which circuit corresponds to which outlet and 2. the electrical capacity may be less overall than what newer homes have. 

To avoid the hassle of having to run down to the basement to reset circuits (and an extra hassle at that because of power cords in the kitchen and basement whose placement makes them a little tricky to get around), I dug this out of storage:

A Sears Maid of Honor manual drip coffeemaker. Tried to find out its age online, but thus far could only determine that this line of Sears cookware was begun in the mid-1940's. My mother-in-law gave it to my husband in the late 1990's when we had a temporary split in our household (he moved out east to begin a new job; I stayed behind in Wisconsin to try to sell our house there). I don't know if it had been hers or her mother's, but she didn't need it back. We kept it as a back-up in case of an emergency - like the time our power went out for 17 hours in Indiana. My husband got the charcoal grill out and made a fire to boil water to use in this coffeemaker!

Still makes fine coffee, of course, even if the method now seem quaint. Not surprisingly, when I looked on eBay for more info on it, I saw several similar models (made by other firms) listed. The sellers suggest that these coffeemakers are good for camping trips. 

As I'd said, using the microwave at full power is an iffy prospect, so recipes dependent on that appliance are out at the moment. Not sure how much power the crockpot draws, but I don't feel like testing that. This leaves the kitchen stove for making meals; fortunately it suffered no damage! There's still the need for simple meals, though, as kitchen counter space is severely compromised at the moment with the moving of various items from the damaged back end of the kitchen to the part that was unaffected.

The waterlogged section of that room meant this:

A portion of soaked cookbooks and cooking magazines. Some are drying out well but others might be a total loss. I do feel a bit sentimental about some of the volumes that may have to be tossed, as they came from now-deceased relatives, and others I've had long enough that they seem like old friends in a way. But what's done is done - if they can't be saved, they can't be saved. (and I have to admit, some of the damaged cookbooks were rarely used, so I won't replace those). 

(We were lucky in this sense - besides the cookbooks, we lost a few things in the basement, but overall personal property damage was limited. The head of the restoration crew seemed impressed at how well our holiday decorations had been packed. The basement room they were in got a good soaking, but almost everything was saved. The key, of course, was plastic storage tubs. He seemed to imply that I'd done a better storage job than  most householders they've seen had.)

But back to the kitchen - I'm reduced to the stove and to using undamaged cookbooks. Fortunately some of my heavily-used cookbooks escaped our in-house flood unscathed, so I turned to one of them, Claire's Corner Copia Cookbook, for this recipe:

Deep-Dish Gourmet Pizza (notes and adaptations follow recipe)

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and black pepper to taste
3 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup pasta sauce
2 cups sauteed mixed vegetables of your choice
4 ounces shredded mozzarella (or other cheese of your choice)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease an 8x8 baking pan. In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, Parmesan, herbs, salt and pepper. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and olive oil. Pour wet ingredients over dry, all at once, then stir to mix. Spoon batter into prepared pan, then spread pasta sauce evenly over the batter. Bake for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and spoon the sauteed vegetables evenly over the top of the pizza. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top. Return to the oven and continue baking for 10 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in the center comes out nearly dry. Cut into serving pieces. Serve with additional pasta sauce if desired. Serves 4.

Notes: I used white wheat flour for the batter, and used Italian Seasoning instead of the fresh herbs listed. 

Although it's called "pizza", it's actually a quick, batter-style bread. The cookbook author states that the batter can be prepared up to a day in advance. I've never done that, as I find there's ample time to mix up the batter while the oven is preheating. 

The recipe listed marinara sauce and mozzarella or fontina cheeses. I say you can use whatever pasta sauce and cheese you have on hand (depending on your tastes and what ingredients you have on hand, this recipe could easily be changed to make it Mexican, Greek, etc, by using salsa, feta cheese, etc)

I didn't have any pasta sauce on hand - I'd gotten in the habit of making a microwave-based small batch recipe and my last batch had been used up. Well, since the microwave was out, I just pureed a 15 ounce can of tomatoes in the blender along with some Italian seasonings and some garlic. Worked fine!

As for "sauteed vegetables" - well, to make my life easier, I just cooked a bag a frozen broccoli and cut it smaller once it had cooled a bit. This was fine as well, although fresh veggies would have been better. By the way, if using fresh vegetables, they can be sauteed while the batter is baking. 

Here's how it turned out:

We're hoping that most, if not all, of the fans and dehumidifiers will be removed when the restoration crew returns tomorrow to check on things. If not, I will continue to make some simple stovetop or oven meals until their equipment leaves the house. 

I know things could be lots worse - just look at the mudslide near Seattle that destroyed some homes. We are much luckier by comparison, especially considering we were out of town when the pipe burst.

Just the same, I'll be glad when things are back to normal around here!


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