vegetables

Leek and Corn Chowder Gratiné

Here's another satisfying soup that's quick, easy, and inexpensive to make. I topped the chowder with croutons and cheese the same way you would an onion soup, but if you're too pressed for time or too exhausted to bother, the chowder alone is tasty and filling enough to cover for you.

Ingredients

• 3 medium onions, chopped • 2 leeks, chopped • 5 medium potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1" cubes • 800 ml creamed corn • 5 cups vegetable stock • 1 bay leaf • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped • salt + black pepper

Toppings

• croutons • gruyère cheese

Sweat the garlic, leeks, and onions on medium heat until soft - for about 10 minutes. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked. Set aside and season with salt and pepper.

With a hand blender, blend the soup for about 5 seconds. You just want to roughly mix it and leave some chunks in there. If you don't have a hand blender, you can blend half of the soup with a regular blender for five seconds and then return it to the pot.

Fill an oven-safe bowl with chowder, top with croutons and gruyère and broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden.

Pizza On My Mind

I started making pizza from scratch after growing tired of the over-loaded, greasy kind - you know the one you get in restaurants, usually made with the same frozen dough and ready-made sauce. Even high-end pizza joints use it. That's why they lack personality and they all taste the same. Dough and sauce are the two most important factors of a great pie - with, of course, the cheese. So making your own is so much tastier and healthier (that's always good).

Dough

Making homemade dough is very easy; it takes about 5 minutes.

In a big bowl mix: • 1 1/2 cups warm water • 2 teaspoons salt • 2 teaspoons instant yeast • Then add 3 1/4 cups of white all-purpose flour. Work the dough with your hands for a couple of minutes. Cover, then let rise on the counter for a couple of hours, or overnight. This should yield enough for 3 medium or 2 large.

Sauce

In olive oil, gently cook thinly sliced garlic cloves, a lot if you like garlic. Once it smells good, add whole peeled tomatoes either fresh or canned. Stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste, a bit of salt and pepper. Blend with a hand mixer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. I also like to add a couple of cumin seeds while simmering.

Cheese

Use the best cheese you can find.  For mozzarella use fresh, or even buffalo mozzarella if you can find some. For cheddar use old, strong cheddar. If you're thinking Parmesan, don't buy the grated one - buy a block and grate it yourself. You'll never go back. If you like feta, go imported. You get the point, get the good stuff. Of course it costs a bit more than cheap factory made cheeses, but so far the cost of your pizza is still cheaper than a frozen one.

Toppings

Now that you have the basics, it's up to you to put whatever you like on it. Don't overdo it, a couple more ingredients should do.  Even with homemade dough and sauce and quality cheese it should beat most pizzas. Cook your ingredients before hand, then chill them before putting them on. Here are some ideas:

Classic - tomatoes, basil, mozzarella Mushrooms - mixed mushrooms, parmesan Roasted Vegetables - red onions, zucchini, bell peppers, feta Chicken - hot peppers, barbecue sauce, cheddar Prosciutto or Bacon - caramelized onions, thyme, smoked gouda Smoked salmon - sour cream, capers, onions, dill

You can substitute the sauce for homemade pesto. Always drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of it all. Easy.

Cooking

I usually go at 425-450°F for 15 minutes, and give it a minute of broil to make it look better. Slice and enjoy!