Earlier this spring, I rediscovered ricotta cheese as a simple dessert. Similar to cottage cheese, ricotta can serve as a substantial filling for both sweet (cannolis) and savory (lasagna) dishes. But it can also stand on its own as a low-fat, high protein dish. A recent brunch order in a New York City restaurant delivered a plate full of ricotta as the main course. And it totally worked.
A couple of weeks ago when I was in New York for the James Beard Awards dinner, my mom and I paid a visit to Prune, the tiny, eclectic bistro belonging to Chef Gabrielle Hamilton. I had been wanting to visit Prune ever since I read her wonderfully written memoir “Blood, Bones and Butter” (2011).
Within of few steps of turning onto 1st Street in the East Village I could tell that Gabrielle had found a special place to nurture her talents. It was the trees. There was a comfortable marriage between the old boughs, heavy with spring blossoms and the solid front stoops that reached down to the sidewalk. I wouldn’t describe 1st Street as elegant, but striking in a wabi sabi kind of way – good bones, delicate flowers, and gritty concrete. For a fleeting moment, I felt transported to a European city where settling in to enjoy a hot drink alongside a bustling sidewalk of well-dressed people is a form of entertainment and relaxation. Gabrielle’s street is a tiny pocket of pleasure.
After a few paces, we reached Prune’s geranium pink awning. Even at 2 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, there was still a 45 minute wait. So we found a bench in an East Village garden across the street and passed the time watching small birds splash in a minute pond among stones and tall grasses. I wondered if in their leafy paradise they knew they lived in the one of the world’s largest cities? It hardly mattered.
If you’ve read “Blood, Bones and Butter,” then you’ve essentially visited Prune from the way Gabrielle describes it: small, with an antique ornate wooden bar, tinned ceiling, old white tile floor. She’s left all the character intact and cleverly decorated with mirrors that seem to hang with a Gaelic shrug to add depth and light to the corners. The hostess, relaxed in a pair of loose linen overalls, cuffed just above a pair of solid black clogs, looked as though she was ready to slide in behind a potter’s wheel. All of the servers wore pink T-shirts, and despite the softness of the color a tattoo here or a piercing there gave them a fashionable, edgy air.
Like most New York restaurants, there is hardly enough room for all the tables. Mom and I were sat at a table for two that pressed against the back of our neighbor’s chairs. It hardly mattered.
Prune’s menu is know for its quirky twists. My coddled egg with roast chicken was petit, soft, and perfect with a side of balasmic dressed greens and toasted sour dough bread. But Mom’s dish was more unusual. A large round of ricotta cheese, topped with dried figs, plump red raspberries, toasted pine nuts, and drizzled with honey. On the side were three miniature deep-fried triangular scones sprinkled with powdered sugar. Utterly delicious. Afterward, we felt as if we had not just eaten – we had tasted.
The ricotta dish was so simple and elegant I’ve recreated it for you here. I overtoasted the pine nuts a bit, but really, it hardly matters.
Ricotta cheese delight
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 dried fig, sliced
3-4 plump raspberries
1 teaspoon pinenuts, toasted
Mix together the ricotta cheese and vanilla. Scoop into a serving dish and garnish with figs, raspberries, pinenuts and drizzle with honey.
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It’s grilling season and I’m giddy with excitement!! I’m a charcoal grill girl at heart. I love the back-to-basics feel of it all, grilling over hot charcoals, lit with a simple piece of newspaper, a match and a chimney starter. No aftertaste of lighter fluid; just delicious, smokey grilled flavor.
The problem is that most days, I cook before my husband is home from work, which means that I’m on my own to tend to the exposed grill flames, while simultaneously entertaining our three very active little men. The process of preparing a charcoal grill takes a good chunk of time, all of which I spend wound up like a bundle of nerves, as the kids run chaotically around the yard and I repeatedly yell for them to stay away from the grill, which of course, seems to draw them even closer to the grill like mosquitos to a bug zapping light. It’s a fiasco, which induces a lot more stress than grilling joy. The end result is that we rarely use the charcoal grill.
I’ve been eyeing gas grills for a couple of years now. I hemmed and hawed over buying one last year. I came very close at one point. This year, I actually did buy one. And we’ve used it more in the past two weeks than we used the charcoal grill all of last year. There is definitely something to be said about the ease and convenience of a gas grill. In the past two weeks alone, we’ve grilled burgers and cedar-plank salmon and sausages and marinated chicken breasts and ribeye steaks and hot dogs for the kiddies. And these kebabs.
I made these kebabs last weekend. My sister and brother-in-law were in town and we were entertaining a small group of friends. Kebabs seemed like the perfect main course. I made shrimp kebabs skewered with sweet red peppers and pineapple, which I marinated in a bit of coconut milk, olive oil, lime juice, chile powder, shallots, and cayenne pepper. And these sweet and spicy beef skewers, coated in a fresh Asian-inspired barbecue sauce, sweetened with ripe cherries and a touch of honey. I’m head over heels in love with this versatile barbecue sauce and have big plans for slathering it on chicken, pork, shrimp, and salmon this year. It’s going to be a great grilling season, for sure!
Beef Skewers in an Asian-style Cherry Barbecue Sauce
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 red onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
15 fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons chile paste
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 cup water
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
For the kebabs:
2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes
1 red onion, cut into large chunks
3 sweet peppers (red, orange, yellow, and/or green), cut into large chunks
To prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender. Add the cherries. Continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, honey, chile paste, and ground mustard. Stir to combine. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then purée the mixture until smooth using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender. Add the water to slightly thin out the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper, as desired.
To prepare the kebabs: Toss the chunks of beef with about 3/4 of the sauce. (Save the rest for brushing the kebabs during cooking.) Allow the beef to marinade in the sauce for a few hours or overnight. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30-45 minutes (which will prevent them from burning on the grill). Place the meat, peppers, and onions on the skewers in an alternating pattern. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Grill the kebabs for a few minutes on each side, until the meat is cooked to your desired doneness. Towards the end of the cooking time, brush the kebabs with the reserved sauce.
Related post on The Gourmand Mom: Grilled Honey Garlic Baby Lamb Chops
Between the Glazed Beet and Chevre Bruschetta (which I ate everyday until we ran out) and this Spring Pea and Avocado Crostini, I feel like my kitchen status has been renewed after a recent stretch of bad cooking.
Now, I know, a big green blob on a piece of bread is hard to sell, but my husband raved about it and went back for seconds. He coined it pea and avocado guacamole … maybe that’s a better name? What do you think?
With all the fresh spring flavors available after a long winter of squash and root vegetables, it’s hard to not get carried away and spend days in the kitchen cooking and eating. Fortunately, there will be no guilt if you indulge in this dish. Make it as a snack or even a meal served along side a nice green salad.
I don’t know what to call it, really. It makes delicious crostinis, but this pea purée would be lovely as a sandwich spread. I can imagine it making a light dip for veggies or adding it along side grilled fish.
The longest step to the recipe is cooking the peas, so if you have the 12 minutes to cook peas – which I think most of us do – go for it.
Peas are only just now making their way into markets, so for those able to get your hands on them early in the season, I recommend giving this tasty spread/dip/crostini topper a try.
Spring Pea and Avocado Crostini
2 cups fresh peas (or frozen)
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup of basil, roughly chopped and loosely packed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 avocado, pit and skin removed
1/2 green onion sliced
2 tablespoons Parsley Vinaigrette
Salt and pepper to taste
1 baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. to toast the baguette.
Place the peas in a pot with 2 inches of water and simmer until cooked, approximately 10 to 14 minutes. If using frozen peas, this will only take 4 minutes. Meanwhile place the lemon juice, feta, basil, olive oil, avocado and green onion in a food processor or blender. Once the peas are cooked, drain and rinse the peas under cold water. Place the cooled peas in the food processor along with the other ingredients and blend until ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Using a bread knife, slice the baguette into 1/2-inch thick slices and place on a baking sheet. Brush one side of the slices with olive oil. Place in the oven and toast until just starting to turn golden, approximately 12 minutes.
Top the crostini with the pea and avocado spread. Garnish with crumbled feta, basil or parsley.
Related post on Beyond The Peel: Glazed Beet and Chevre Bruschetta
It's been a few years since I subscribed to any food magazines. Back when we lived in Washington, D.C., I subscribed to Food & Wine for a while but ended up dropping it because it read more like Wine & Wine and I was never that into wine. I also had a fling with Cooks Illustrated that lasted for a year or two. Although it was a more fulfilling affair than what I'd had with Wine & Wine, I let it lapse when we moved to California.
After a year or two of living in Berkeley, I signed up for Sunset, which I loved. But I did not love the guilty stacks of paper that continually accumulated in our small apartment. So when we moved back to the East Coast two years ago, I decided to cancel everything (except the New Yorker which does an excellent job of filling our house with partially read magazines destined for the recycling bin all by itself...)
But I kinda miss food magazines. So I usually buy one or two when I fly somewhere. The inspiration for this morning's experiment in decadent deliciousness came from the the March issue of Bon Appetit that I bought when we went to Austin this spring.
Savory waffles – what an amazingly good, simple idea! And one that had never occurred to me before, even though we make waffles fairly regularly and often add raspberries, peaches or blueberries to them. Duh!
After reading the actual recipe, I decided to leave it at "inspiration" as it seemed a little more complicated than necessary – we just went with the basic waffle recipe that we always use from the Joy of Cooking. My main contribution to this recipe is the fresh rosemary but I think it actually makes a big difference.
I've had a thing for rosemary with ham ever since our butcher back in Berkeley encouraged us to try some Fra' mani rosemary ham that we fell for instantly. Our little butcher shop here in Woodstock does not carry Fra' mani which is not surprising since it's one of these Berkeley-based hand-crafted deals that was started by someone who used to work at Chez Panisse (there are a surprising number of these in the Bay area!) but their site says that Fleishers carries some of their stuff and I spotted some at a Fairway at one point, too, lest you want to try to seek it out.
But enough about them, back to these waffles! They were easy to make – I just grated some sharp cheddar, chopped up a sprig of fresh rosemary, and cut a couple slices of Applegate Farms ham which is at least hormone- and antibiotic-free.Then I added it all, along with a few grinds of black pepper, to the waffle batter my husband had whipped up.
I'd been a little concerned that the cheese might stick to the waffle iron but my husband, who is the waffle master in our family, reported smooth sailing. Served with real maple syrup, these things make your mouth happy.
We ate them al fresco on the gorgeous live-edged cedar picnic table my husband built for us a few weeks ago. The combination of the crispy waffle, the smoky ham, the sharp, gooey cheese, the fresh, almost piney taste of the rosemary and the sweetness of the maple syrup is just really good! And we made a few extra to freeze for some happy future morning.
Savory Ham, Cheddar and Rosemary Waffles
Makes 8-10 waffles (depending on the size of your iron - this usually makes 9 waffles in our small, round iron)
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt (original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon)
3 free-range, organic eggs (get pasture-raised if you can)
1 stick of butter, melted (original recipes calls for between 1/4 cup and 1 cup but this is what we go with)
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2-3 slices of ham, roughly chopped or torn into pieces
large sprig of rosemary, washed, dried, needles removed and chopped
several grinds of fresh black pepper
Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix the eggs, butter and milk.Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the cheese, ham, rosemary and black pepper and stir to combine. Be careful not to overmix.
Cook in a greased waffle iron and serve hot with pure maple syrup (you could put butter on these if you like, it just seems like overkill to me.)
Don't forget that you can freeze any leftovers (or make extra to freeze)! Just let them cool on a wire rack, then put the rack in the freezer for 20 minutes to freeze them all individually, then remove the tray and stack the waffles neatly in a large freezer bag, remove the air before sealing (closing the bag almost all the way and using a straw to suck out the air works wonders for this) and freeze. Eat them within a month or two – just reheat them in a toaster oven for a few minutes – they'll taste great.
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Breakfast Sausage
This is a recipe I tried for a little dessert get together with friends from high school. The main thing I changed from the recipe is I made them all as doughnut holes and didn't cut them out as doughnuts. Because they were only one of several treats I was serving at my dessert gathering, I didn't want any one dessert to be too big.
Doughnut holes are less of a commitment than doughnuts and left my guests free to sample everything else. I used a small round cookie cutter for them but they came out more like little biscuits that fried to their own interesting shape. But they still tasted good. They're more like cake doughnuts since they're not yeasted or, as one of my friends' kids put it, "they taste like churros." As expected, they were best when warm but even after they had cooled, they were still crisp on the outside. Their texture is a bit heavy so it's best to make them small.
Diner-style powdered buttermilk doughnuts
From Diner Desserts by Tish Boyle
3-1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, at room temperature2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Vegetable oil for frying
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, siftedIn a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the sugar and stir the dry ingredients with a whisk until combined.In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, egg, and vanilla until blended.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the buttermilk mixture into it. Using a rubber spatula, stir until the mixture forms a soft, moist dough. Dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface and lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently 5 or 6 times, or until smooth.
Roll or pat the dough into a round roughly 10 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. Transfer the round to a baking sheet, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes or until firm.
Using a 3-inch doughnut cutter (or a 3-inch round biscuit cutter and a 3/4-inch cutter or pastry tip for the hole), cut out 7 doughnuts and holes from the dough. Gather the scraps together, reroll 1/2-inch thick, and cut out 3 more doughnuts and as many holes as possible. Place the doughnuts and holes on a baking sheet or 2 plates, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate while heating the oil for frying.
Pour the oil into a deep-fat fryer or large straight-sided saucepan to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Heat the oil to 370 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
Fry the doughnuts and holes in small batches, turning once for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the paper towels to drain, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.
When the doughnuts and holes are completely cool, place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Generously dredge the doughnuts and holes in the sugar, shaking off the excess.
Serve the same day.
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What recipe would you like to learn if you get one afternoon to learn from a Vietnamese grandmother? For us, and some friends, it was crispy banh xeo and Vietnamese egg rolls, called chả giò in the south and nem rán in the north. Since we blogged about banh xeo already, we’ll concentrate on the venerable egg roll.
How are Vietnamese egg rolls different, than say, Chinese egg rolls? Vietnamese egg rolls are typically wrapped with a rice paper whereas Chinese egg rolls are wrapped a wheat base wrapper. They both contain a variety of chopped vegetables and can be made with pork, shrimp, or leaner meats such as chicken or turkey. The textural differences between rice paper and wheat paper is stunning. The rice paper roll is both crispy, bubbly and pleasantly chewy, a great alternative to the wheat based wrapper. Hong’s parents have been making Vietnamese egg rolls for over 20 years in addition to banh cam at their church, raising money for parish activities.
So for one afternoon we were all eager sponges, soaking up tips learned from over 40 years of cooking from Hong’s mom, a mother of four and grandmother of two and soon to be three, making banh xeo and chả giò. We’ve previously posted the banh xeo recipe so we won’t comment too much on that here, except to use a good nonstick pan and go low and slow on the heat for crispy banh xeo. But in case you’re wondering, the banh xeo made by all the learners came out delicious!
So now that we’ve tantalized you with banh xeo, let’s get serious about making chả giò. Its harder to find Vietnamese egg rolls made from rice paper these days. The convenience of the wheat wrapper along with even golden brown color makes it an easy alternative. The main reason is that rice paper is a little tricky to fry and doesn’t get beautifully golden brown like the wheat based egg roll wrappers. When the rice paper hits the hot oil, it immediately bubbles up and blisters. If two egg rolls touch, they will stick to one another. The blistering does calm down after a few seconds, however allowing you to fry as normal.
The filling can be any variety or combination of meats described above. Personally we love pork and shrimp together, but any will do. We always use wood ear mushrooms and bean thread noodles but vary other vegetables depending on what we have on hand or convenient at the market. For vegetables we prefer any combination of shredded jicama, taro, or carrots. Bean sprouts are another alternative. Vietnamese egg rolls typically do not contain cabbage.
Wrapping an egg roll isn’t terribly complex. However, we didn’t realize some of the reasons why we roll the way we do. Hong’s mom said it’s not just to keep the filling inside, but to also have even layers of wrapper around the filling so it will cook evenly and brown evenly. This is most evident at the ends of the egg rolls, when not wrapped carefully, tends to have only 1 or 2 layers of wrapper so it will cook faster and turns dark or burns while the rest of the egg roll is nice and golden.
To avoid this, place your filling on one end of your wrapper paper. Press down each end to form first layer. Crease the bottom, then fold the double layer of wrapper back up, forming 3 layers of paper covering the ends. Use this method whether you’re using rice paper or wheat paper. Another trick we learned is that Mom doesn’t use an egg wash to seal the egg rolls. The egg causes a discoloration at the seal and it dirties the cooking oil. Instead, she makes a simple tapioca starch slurry, cooked to a viscous paste that works like a charm.
Enjoy Vietnamese egg rolls with noodles such as bun thit nuong or simply on it’s own, wrapped with lettuce and Vietnamese herbs such as perilla, balm, mint or basil dipped with some nuoc mam cham and do chua.
We all had a great time eating, learning, and laughing together. Thank you so much Mom!
Vietnamese egg rolls
Yield: about 40-50 egg rolls
2 lbs. ground pork
2 medium jicama, shredded
1 small taro root, shredded
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup wood ear mushroom, soaked
1 cup bean thread noodle, soaked and cut
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
2 package (25 pieces) spring roll shells (wei-chuan brand) or packages of rice paper
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 tablespoons water
Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Test flavoring to your tastes by microwaving a small tablespoon for about 30 seconds and adjust seasoning to your taste. Any vegetable such as jicama and taro can be substituted (or omitted) for carrots or bean sprouts. Any type of ground meat can be substituted combined such as chicken or turkey or pork and shrimp.
Mix the water and tapioca in small sauce pan on low heat and cook until it thickens to paste and turn of heat and set aside.
Place about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the edge of your wrapper and make one half roll. Crease the ends as shown above, and then fold up the sides. Complete the roll and seal with small amount of tapioca slurry.
Fry in small batches at 350 degrees F. until golden brown. Place on cooling rack.
Note: Rice paper will never brown as nice as wheat based paper. If using rice paper, fry only a few at a time, do not let them touch or touch them for the first minute.
For a pictorial guide on rolling the egg rolls visit The Ravenous Couple blog here.
We are so blessed to be settling into Bellingham life. Each of us commutes twice a week to Seattle for work, which is turning out to be very doable. And we're living close to five grandparents, toting kids to soccer games and playdates, plotting the next phase of our remodel, and making friends. We are not, like so many people in the world, scrounging for our next meal or scheming about how to get our children health care. We are not victims of political unrest or war. We are not waiting in long lines for fuel or applying for assylum. I'm aware, more and more every day, that our reality is not the world's reality. The fact that I can find time and bandwidth to write about food and community means I've been given so much. I just have to say this every once in awhile.
And I have to say, "One Baking Sheet!!" That's all you need for a great dinner. If you've got parchment paper, even better. Bon Appetit has a great feature on this that's inspiring. I've taken to roasting everything – sausages, fish, prawns, bok choy, broccoli, caulifower. Of course, there are the standards like peppers, potatoes, eggplant, onions, zucchini. I've heard Lynne Rossetto Kasper of The Splendid Table say that when she doesn't know what to cook for dinner, she walks in the door, turns the oven to 425 degrees F., and then opens the fridge. I find myself in a similar pattern these days.
Depending on your ingredients, you can start things at different times (as I do here), separate them on the sheet if you don't want them mingled, or mix everything up and throw it in all at once. An essential tip is that the closer things are together, the more they will steam and not roast. They'll still cook, but without the delectable crispy edges.
Dijon Sausage and Broccoli Bake
Serves 4 with some highly unlikely leftovers.
6-8 fat sausages (Italian, bratwurst, etc.)
2 coarsely chopped red, yellow, or orange peppers
1 coarsely chopped onion
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons coarse dijon mustard
A squeeze of lemon or some lemon zest
Bunch of baby broccoli, coarsely chopped (stems included)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. and line a large jelly roll pan (baking sheet with sides) with parchment paper or foil.
In a large bowl, combine the sausages with the peppers, onion, olive oil, coarse salt, dijon mustard, and citrus. Toss with your hands. Spread evenly on your baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the baby broccoli, olive oil, and salt. Add to roasting mixture after it's been in the oven for 10 minutes, and roast for 15 minutes more, until sausage is bubbling and charred in places and everything's crisping up.
Dump everything into a pretty bowl, put in the middle of the table, and serve with potatoes or bread, if you like. And maybe a dallop of dijon.
Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Roast Chicken with Fennel, Olives, Potatoes, and Tomatoes
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Have you ever had a “eureka” moment when two things you know well collided on your palate for the first time and made music? A few months ago, we ordered a thin crust pizza topped with bacon and green olives at Marie’s Pizza and Liquors (an amazing old school Chicago pizza joint, worthy of its own post). It was life changing. Since then, we have taken our favorite foodie friends back to Marie’s to sample the pizza and have worked to recreate it at home. This evening, I came very close.
The briny green olives and salty, smoked bacon are a magical pair – Wonder Twin powers activate! With a crunchy-edged pizza crust and a touch of tomato sauce as a canvas, the combination is complete. Brushing the crust with a little bacon grease and crowning the goodies with a light sprinkling of good quality mozzarella sends the flavors to the moon.
Think I might be overselling this pizza? Perhaps if you hate olives or if you are vegetarian this combination won’t entrance you in the same way it has me. If dietary restrictions don’t hinder you, set aside a weekend afternoon to knead a little pizza dough. While it rises, sizzle a few strips of bacon and let your mouth water while you create this magical pie.
Green Olive and Bacon Pizza
Makes two 12-14 inch pizzas.
For one pizza, you can freeze half the dough and use half the toppings.
For the crust:
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
cornmeal, for sprinkling
Pizza sauce (from a jar or you can make this sauce.)
6 strips smoked bacon
2/3 cup small, green, pitted olives
shredded mozzarella cheese
For the crust:
Warm water should be about 100 degrees F. Stir in honey and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, yeast should be foamy. Put flour and salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Add the yeast mixture and stir. Add olive oil and combine. Using a dough hook or by hand, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is stiff but smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm place for 45-60 minutes. You can turn the oven on 200 degrees F., turn it off and then let the dough rise inside.
Cook bacon in a frying pan until crispy. Set it on paper towel and reserve about 1/4 cup of bacon grease from the pan. When cool, chop the bacon into coarse chunks. Drain olives and chop them coarsely.
Prepare the pizza:
When dough has doubled in size, remove it and punch it down. Separate it into two balls. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. If you are using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven.
Lightly flour a work surface and press or roll half the dough into a circle. If using a pizza peel, sprinkled with cornmeal and transfer to a pizza stone in the oven. If you don’t have a pizza peel and stone, you can press the dough directly onto a greased pizza pan or cookie sheet.
Before placing the dough in the oven, prick it with a fork all over to avoid large air pockets. Put the dough in the hot oven for 10 minutes to par-bake the crust. It should not be brown but it will be firm in the center.
Remove the dough and brush the crusts with the bacon grease. Top the pizza with sauce, sprinkle bacon and olives on top and add mozzarella. Put pizza back in the oven for 10-15 more minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is slightly browned.
Repeat the same process with the other pizza. To freeze dough rub olive oil on the round ball of dough and put in individual plastic freezer bags and in the freezer. Let thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter before using.
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The best thing about spring is the arrival of fresh fruit. And while I enjoy a spicy tomato-based salsa I find that fruit salsa is a little more versatile. Now that mangoes and strawberries are both in season, it’s the perfect time to combine them into a topping for chicken or serve them with tortilla chips at a backyard barbeque.
The main difference between salsa and chutney is that salsa doesn’t use sugar, while chutneys tend to be a sweeter, thicker combination. Fruit salsa straddles both of these definitions since the strawberries and mangoes add their own natural sweetness.
I used this particular recipe three different ways: As a topping for a garlic sautéed chicken breast; mixed in with a couscous and chicken salad; and on top of a whole wheat, pan-toasted quesadilla filled with black beans and shredded Monterey Jack with a dollop of sour cream. All three were delicious!
Strawberry mango salsa
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
1 cup strawberries, hulled and diced
1 medium mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 tablespoon diced serrano pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
Mix ingredients together and let the flavors mingle about 20 minutes before serving. This salsa is best served the day it is prepared, as the balsamic vinegar will eventually discolor the strawberries.
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This recipe was devised as an accompaniment to spatchcock stuffed chicken. By cooking the beets over a long period of time with a low amount of heat, the natural sugars in the vegetable caramelize producing a sweetness which is echoed by the balsamic reduction. This dish almost didn’t make it to the table due to my spring-loaded oven doors. Luckily a quick catch saved the beets which proved to be a perfect pairing with the poultry.
The American artist Ed Ruscha is commonly associated withe the Pop Art movement of the late 1950s. The work shown here is from the mid-1970s when Ruscha began experimenting with a wide array of materials ranging from gunpowder to chocolate syrup. In 1969, he compiled an editioned folio titled Stains which consisted of 75 sheets of paper each bearing the smears and splatters of the different materials.
This dish would be excellent with a handful of nuts thrown in at the end (walnuts or almonds) and feta could be substituted for the goat cheese.
Yield: 6 servings
4 large beets
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of sea salt and ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
small handful of fresh parsley, torn
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 degrees C.)
In a large roasting pan, add the beets, onion, olive oil, salt, ground pepper, dried oregano, thyme, chili flakes and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat and disperse ingredients. Spread out in a single layer at the bottom of the pan and dot the top with butter.
Roast for 1 hour. Drain off liquid into a small sauce pan and reserve. Return to oven for an additional 2-1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.
Over a medium heat, add additional balsamic vinegar and simmer until thickened, around 3 minutes. Swirl pain occasionally to keep from burning.
Drizzle over balsamic reduction. Add goat cheese and parsley and gently toss. Serve warm or room temperature.
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