Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Conveniently Delicious

I like to make things from scratch - it makes me feel culinarily authentic. But I can't deny the pleasure of churning out something truly tasty in a sweetly short time using pre-made ingredients. Over the past two days, I have succumbed to the convenience thrice:

1. Store-bought pizza dough. Who doesn't love a fresh pizza, crispy and hot off the stone? Pizza dough is fun to make but prolongs the moment when I can bite into a layer of gooey cheese that gives way to still-crunchy vegetables, salty pepperoni, and at last, the carb-a-licious crust. But not all store-bought doughs are the same. I prefer the kind from Trader Joe's, which rolls out well and bakes to a golden brown goodness.

2. Jarred tomato sauce.
I usually make my own red sauces with tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and a variety of herbs/spices. (I suppose this is not really making sauce from scratch as most of these ingredients are canned.) But simmering these ingredients till the flavors meld is often a time-consuming process. Jarred sauces, with a few additions such as crushed red pepper flakes and minced garlic, can make a shrimp fra diavolo in a fraction of the time.

3. Puff pastry. This has got to be the king of all convenient store-bought food items (well, maybe queen next to dried pasta). I tried once to make quick puff by hand. Owing partially to my overzealous food processor and partially to human error, my puff became a greasy pate brisee (savory pastry dough) which I froze into a pie plate and have yet to work up the courage to bake. My cooking teacher praised the brand Dufours but they only carry the Pillsbury kind at my local Safeway - still works a heck of a lot better than anything I could make! I used mine for cinnamon and sugar palmiers aka elephant ears. If only you could smell my house right now...

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