Tag Archive: cheese


Savory Breakfast Muffins

Cracked Egg by vicviciniI really need to make more time for blogging. Wait no, I just need more time, in general. More often then not, I’m left wondering “…where did all my time go?” but I already know. Such is life, where I barely have time to do anything anymore and it’s almost depressing (notice I say almost) but suddenly amidst all this – it’s Summer!! Can I get a hip, hip hooray? πŸ˜‰ I’m not thinking “yay, it’s Summer,” I’m more like: “thank GOD it’s Summer,” and I’ll be thinking that all this week until the wow effect of this wonderful season wears off.

So what’s good about Summer? Everything you forgot about over Winter. Sunshine, popsicles, sidewalk chalk, iced tea, picnics, bubbles, watermelon, need I go on (because I have a tendency to do that…) I’m not exactly sure why I love Summer so much, I just know it’s not Winter, and how blessed that is.

I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of traveling lately and on my travels I also got to stay with family πŸ™‚ It was on this last trip that I discovered The Gourmet Kitchen: Mushrooms, a semi-old South African illustrated cookbook sitting on a back shelf. After flipping through the first few pages, I thought I’d just write down the recipes that I wanted to make and get to it later, but I quickly realized that I wanted to make every single one! Don’t you hate it when that happens? So far I’ve made 7 recipes from this cookbook made for mushroom lovers: (1) mushroom omelet , (2) duck, mushroom & black bean stirfry, (3) savory mushroom & cheese muffins (these ones!), (4) spicy bean, mushroom, and chorizo stew, and (5) marinated mushrooms. Coming up next week: mixed mushroom tempura! Yessss.

So back to my issue with time. Now that I’ve returned from my travels, I find myself more often on the go than chillin’ in the crib. More than that, my day starts first thing in the morning, like everybody else who have kids πŸ™‚ Introducing…the breakfast muffin!?! These aren’t your greasy calorie bombs you’ll find in Starbucks, I’m talking homemade, no guilt goodness of the best kind. I really can’t take sugar, or pastries (unfortunately), or super sweet things in the morning either so this is a godsend for me πŸ˜› And when it comes to these muffins, thBellaere’s room for experimenting. I added the ham and chives to my recipe here, I also used more cheese and an extra egg on my second batch, just for fun πŸ™‚ I don’t really find (or I guess look) for buttermilk anymore, so I ended up making my own instead (with milk & water, or milk & vinegar) to make the recipe.

The star ingredient in these superstar muffins? The mushrooms. It’s too easy of an answer, especially with all that talk about mushroom cookbooks, but the “proof is in the pudding,” as they say, or in this case it’s in the batter because mushrooms add a whole lot more than taste. For one, you don’t add any additional butter, just what you cook the mushrooms in so already, it’s a tad bit healthier πŸ™‚ Secondly, mushrooms contribute moisture and pack a lot of taste for being as small as they shrink too after sizzling in butter for 5 minutes.

My advice? Substitute mushrooms in for the next ingredient you can’t seem to find in the grocery store. I throw thinly sliced mushrooms into soup, pickle them like cucumbers, and use them whole as dippers in broth & cheese fondue. There’s such a thing as mushroom pate, and if you’re fresh out of steak (or the cash required to get those hunks of meat), fry up some portobellos just like you would a filet. Like most things, mushrooms get better when they’re cooked in wine, sherry, or marsala. I do my portobello “steaks” with red wine sauce, as I pretend to be a pro at this whole vegetarian thing πŸ˜‰

Breakfast Muffins with Mushrooms, Ham, and Fresh Chives

Ingredients

3 Tbs. butterSavoury Muffins

150g or 5oz of mushrooms, chopped

250g or 9 oz flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

75g or 3oz grated parmesan or gran pardona cheese (or more, if you prefer)

100g or 4oz ham, cubed or sliced

1 bunch fresh chives, chopped

250ml or 8fl. oz buttermilk

salt & cracked pepper

1 egg

(1) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. (2) When the pan is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring 0cassionally, until the moisture evaporates, 5-6 minutes total. Remove from heat and mix in the ham and fresh chives. Let cool uncovered. (3) Prepare a muffin pan or put 12 paper muffin liners on a baking tray. (4) In a large bowl, mix together the baking powder and half of the grated cheese. (5) In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the batter is just combined. It should be a little lumpy. (6) Scoop a generous spoonful of batter into each of the muffins liners, they should be about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops with remaining cheese and a dash of salt & cracked pepper. (7) Bake the muffins 24 – 25 minutes, or until the tops are browned and a fork comes out clean from the middle. Transfer to a wooden board to cool. Reheat muffins for breakfast or eat cold on a busy day!

Makes 12 muffins

chivesMy question: What’s your go-to breakfast dish?

I’m talking about the meal that lights your fire. For some, it’s dried fruit & muesli, for others it’s a classic omelet. I’m pretty predictable in that I don’t want to do much of anything in the morning, let alone eat so if there’s going to be breakfast, it better be hot.

I’m a sucker for the American classics and would choose bacon and eggs (and tomatoes, lots of tomatoes) over oatmeal, any day. The thing is I never have the time and if there’s somebody making breakfast, it’s unfortunately not me 😦

Is some of this sounding familiar? Try making these muffins the night before and you won’t have to stress, just nibble them on your way to work or in the middle of class, like I end up doing…

6.8.2015

 

 

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Kale Ceasar Salad

salad-carol-scottSo it seems we find ourselves in the New Year (yay!) and yet in the depths of Winter…still. Oh but it’s not so bad, right? And there’s of course more than comfort food around to lift our spirits πŸ™‚ I am happy to remember all those winter foods that weren’t in season and weren’t around, even a couple months ago. And somehow, I’m now hungrier – all the time! 😦 Mostly, I just end up wanting to make soup, but it’s good to diversify. And this brings me to my post.

So, is salad in season? No. But Kale is. I know what you’re thinking. Salad. Bor-ing. Ceasar, bleh – but no, I promise you this is worth the effort. Because, let’s just be honest here – caesar is awesome – emperor actually, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t care for anchovies BUT then there’s CAESAR (I am trying to make my point, although I may just end up being redundant, but seriously) there are other perks to the wintertime salad. First, you cancaesar_salad scratch most fruit off that list because, darn, it’s just not ripe or even available and the first rule of any caesar is that it’s all about salty. In the absence of sweeter fillers, it’s good to add a go-to-protein or two to the salad that’ll contribute some texture and quantity. My choice: cubed cheddar cheese (instead of Parmesan) and ham, but the recipe I used suggested roasted chicken too. Remember, science (as reported by the Business Insider) just debunked 5 of the silly myths about meat that are out there so now we know that it is healthy, a great source of protein, our bodies can (and do) digest it well, and that it does not cause disease, or make you fat. Thank you, science.

Julius_Caesar_Coustou_LouvreThe secret ingredient here? Brown rice. I know I hate rice too, hate it. It’s the absence of something, I think, what’s it called? Oh yeah: flavor. But what’s the second rule about making a caesar salad? (I’m totally making this up, but still) It must have carbs. CARBS, say what, how can that be a rule?! Ask the Romans, they invented this. I’m only kidding, this dish is very American so I think it’s safe to assume that for it to be a caesar salad, there must be some carbohydrates in it. So the typical caesar has croutons and I try to avoid these tasty little treats full of empty calories (darn!) You know what packs a ton of (not empty) wholesome calories and can count itself as a good carb? That’s right, rice. Brown rice happens to be holier than thou when it comes to getting whole grains. Well thank god it’s good for something. I first came across this recipe in last September’s Cooking Light. Granted it called for quinoa, but brown rice is just as good.dressing

The labor intensive part of any salad is in the processing or chopping of all the raw veggies. The bad news? Caesar dressing from the store is over-rated and has waaaay too much sodium in it. The good news? You can make your own in about 24 seconds if you have handy some of the classic ingredients like a couple anchovies (yes, those slippery little suckers), olive oil, light milk or creme fraiche, and lemon. For me, the key to saving time in making this recipe lies in using a blender to puree everything – but this can just as easily be hand-chopped and mixed well.

I’ve included a quick & easy infographic from Women’s Health that breaks down all kinds of salad dressings you can make in 3 minutes, like a boss. Talk about easy, so you aren’t required to make creamy, salty dressing if you don’t want to; Greek, Honey Mustard, and Asian Dressing would all go just as well here πŸ™‚

salad dressings

Kale Caesar Salad with Brown Rice, Bell Peppers, and Ham

Ingredients

(for the salad)Brown-Rice

4.7 dl (about 2 cups) brown rice

1 bunch of kale (any color)

1 block of sharp cheddar, cubed

3 bell peppers, seeded & sliced

2 red onions, thinly slicedkale

500g (or 2 cups) cubed ham

5 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

(for the dressing)

2 anchovies, packed in oil

2 Tbs. hot water

1 lemon, juiced

1 dl (1/2 cup) creme fraiche or light milk

1/2 dl (or 1/4 cup) olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Tbs. English (or Worcestershire) sauce

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the brown rice according to package instructions and let cool completely. (2) Wash the kale and remove the stems, chopping the leaves and putting all greens into a large salad bowl. (3) Add all the other chopped salad ingredients including the brown rice, cheddar cheese, onions, peppers, ham, and tomatoes. (4) To make the dressing, combine the anchovies, hot water, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, creme fraiche, and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Pulse until the dressing is creamy and smooth. Season to taste with plenty of salt & cracked pepper (5) When ready to serve, toss the salad with the dressing and heap into bowls, no bread needed, garnished with more cracked pepper and a wedge of lemon. πŸ™‚

Serves 4

cheeseYou’d be amazed just how much I made of this and just how fast it all “disappeared.” I really planned for leftovers but caesar is another one of those things that gets really good by just chillin’ in the fridge. Amazing.

My challenge for the new year: go-to-snacks that I can assemble in less than 10 minutes. Got any ideas for me? Please share! I guess healthy is a priority but emphasis on the easy/quick to assemble part.

Question for this post & its readers: what is your favorite salad dressing ever?!

1.6.2015

Rise of the Nachos

chips_paintingI can’t believe it’s 2014 – already! I have no excuse for not having a recent post, other than my Master’s thesis being due very soon. Just imagine all the celebratory food cooking and related cacophony of posts I could do after THAT πŸ˜€ For now, I wanted to post this simple & sweet blurb on nachos. Ahh, cheese. Where would food be without you? One of my favorite foods is cheese. One of my other favorites? Salsa. I am also a carnivore by nature and can’t help but like eating meat from time to time too. Where do these three meet? Cue in – nachos. This undervalued dish isn’t necessarily unhealthy, just watch the cheese! Nachos are on the rise and if you’ve a bad or nonplussed experience of the dish before, it’s time to make new memories, I mean nachos. We are lucky to be in the era of limitless culinary diversity and the sheer amount of different things you can put on cheesy nachos is kind of mind-boggling.

From what I remember of my restaurant experience with nachos, it’s a little slimy, a little soggy, and kind of anticlimactic. But I do also remember from my bar-tending days that nachos was the one dish that people would NEVER finish. Why? Because there’s too much if it! Granted, there’s nothing better when you’re really hungry than a steaming pile of chips & cheese, but it’s important to transcend the baseline comfort elements in this recipe to reach something better. The 3 recipes or versions I have here I read in last year’s Cooking Light. So easy! So simple! So tasty! I should write ads for this magazine πŸ˜‰

When it comes to nachos, here’s 3 tips to remember: 1. It’s quality, not quantity. Gourmet ingredients cheese_nachosgive you some deluxe nachos and no matter what, you will be full by the time you’re done (and there will be some left). Spread a baking sheet onto the oven pan and one layer of chips, no need to make mountains – I know tortilla chips are cheap but please refrain, for the sake of your stomach 2. Don’t skimp on the cheese. Broiled chips aren’t very tasty by themselves, but add the right amount of cheese and viola, irresistible goodness. The best part? Broiling this dish takes 1-2 minutes MAX. You put it in and you’re eating moments later, it’s like magic πŸ™‚ 3. Be creative. Try making what you’d consider you’re “dream nachos.” Then m???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ake a Greek version, a Caribbean version, and/or good ol’ Tex-Mex. Mix it up and have all-veggie nachos or use some crazy ingredients like toasted sesame seeds or capers.. No need to restrain yourself, this dish is messy and sloppy and will turn out del-ish once covered in warm, melted cheese. Have fun, because you have TIME for that when making dinner only takes 15 minutes!

My star ingredient? Greek yogurt. Greek what?! You don’t need sour cream or creme fraiche, they’re merely nice condiments that should be used in moderation. But, you get some low-fat Greek yogurt and put a big dollop in the center of your nachos? It’s practically the same thing, only better (for your body, I mean). I love sour cream as much as the next American πŸ˜‰ but hey, there are alternatives to watch the calorie count and Greek yogurt is just as yummy. Below are 3 versions of simple nacho recipes you can make, enjoy and WARNING: you will need napkins πŸ˜€

Nachos – 3 Ways

(1) Pork & Bean Nachos with Tomatoes, Onions, and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsalted

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded cheddar cheese

1 yellow onion, thinly slicednacho-combos

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 can black or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced

1 bunch fresh basil (or mint)

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

4-5 pickled or preserved jalapenos, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

baking paper

vegetable oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season the pork tenderloin generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, brown the tenderloin on all sides, turning every 4 minutes or so and cook until tenderloin is firm, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes. When cool, slice the cooked pork into chunks and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in an even (or not so even layer) across the baking sheet and top with meat and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add beans, tomatoes, and onion. Top with minced herbs, pickled jalapenos, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(2) Spicy Shrimp Nachos with Salsa, fresh Jalapenos, and Avocado

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedfresh-salsa

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 bag (around 1/2 kg) frozen small shrimp, peeled & de-veined

1 jalapeno, seeded & sliced

3 Tbs. coconut flakes

4 Tbs. seafood seasoning or market spice

2 ripe avocados, slicednachos_02

1 bunch fresh Cilantro, minced

1 cup salsa of your choice or pico de gallo, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

vegetable oil

baking paper

(1) Defrost shrimp, drain, and rinse thoroughly. Place in a bowl with seafood seasoning and 1 Tbs. oil and stir until well-coated. Heat another Tablespoon of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook, 1 -2 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and can be easily cut in half with a fork. Put cooked shrimp in a bowl and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips and coconut flakes in a layer across the baking sheet and top with shrimp and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add spoonfuls of salsa, slices of avocado, and jalapenos. Top with minced cilantro and a big dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(3) BBQ Chicken Nachos with Green Onions, Jack Cheese, and Honey-Mustard Coleslaw

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedbbq-chix

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded Jack cheese

2 cups of cooked barbecued chicken, shredded or cubed

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for servingColeslaw

(for slawπŸ™‚

2 Tbs. honey

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 Tbs. mustard

1 tsp. paprika

sea salt & cracked pepper

1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 head of fennel, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & grated

3 Tbs. fresh dill fronds

baking paper

(1) To make slaw, put honey, paprika, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and mustard in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal the container and shake until ingredients have combined. Season dressing to taste with salt & pepper and chill at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld. Mix thinly sliced cabbage, fennel, and carrots in a large bowl and add dressing. Stir until combined and chill slaw until ready. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in a layer across the baking sheet and topnachos_painting with barbecued chicken pieces and Jack cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oven and add green onions and spoonfuls of coleslaw. Top with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and serve immediately.

Serves 4

My question: what are the craziest (as in crazy delicious) things you can think of to put on nachos?

Come on, I’d love to hear what that could be – I want to make MORE of this cheesy deliciousness and I need some fresh ideas…

1.31.2014

corn_poster_ThanksgivingHappy Thanksgiving! Wait, did I miss it?! It’s been a little while since my last post so I thought I’d do something fantastical, something fresh and flavorful in this frigid month of November. Entrer: the roasted chicken.

Chicken, you say — what about Turkey? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE, miss, dream about turkey, but a cook should not underestimate the goodness & divine simplicity of a roasted chicken. My reasons? First of all, it’s cheap, ahem–cheaper. Secondly, it’s smaller. I WISH I had the time, a big enough oven, and actual guests to make a 20 pound turkey, but I don’t πŸ˜€ Third, a chicken cooks much faster because yeah, it’s smaller, and I can’t even begin to point out the delicious possibilities that emerge with all that the leftover chicken. Roasted/rotisserie chicken makes the best sandwiches…assuming there are leftovers. After mulling over my Thanksgiving plans I decided yes, a roasted chicken is just what was needed for our little celebration.

My secret ingredient? The dry rub. Okay, so this is like 6 ingredients, but it’s pure magic. I saw this particular dry rub recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit (see the photo below, that’s what caught my attention FIRST). It’s probably one of the more colorful rubs I’ve ever seen (thank you pink peppercorns) — and emphasis on easy! One of my favorite spices in the world is coriander so any recipe that uses coriander seeds tends to seize One-Hour-Roasted-Chickenme by the taste buds πŸ˜› It takes only 7 hours to cure a chicken covered in dry rub (vs. 2-3 days to brine one), so I was sold from the start. The apartment still smells like roasting peppercorns and oranges..

Since posting just one Thanksgiving recipe seems absurd, I posted the menu that I ended up making on our rainy, foggy evening. It includes a tomato-basil risotto that has corn, white wine, and lots of garlic & onions. Mmm, so glad I found another excuse to make risotto! This risotto recipe is from Fine Cooking; coming across it, I initially thought “wow, all my favorite ingredients in one risotto recipe..” I took it as a sign πŸ™‚

Peppered Citrus Dry Rub

IngredientsPink_Peppercorns

1 whole chicken (or turkey, or duck..)

2 Tbs. black peppercorns

2 Tbs. pink peppercorns

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

1 tsp. white peppercorns

6 bay leaves

3 lemons, zested

1 orange, zesteddry-brine

1 dl (or 1/4 cup) coarse sea salt

2 Tbs. brown sugar

cooking twine

foil

(1) In a small saucepan, combine all of the peppercorns, coriander, and bay leaves. Toast on medium heat until fragrant, less than 5 minutes. Remove from heat & let cool. Put these spices in a spice grinder or blender (…or a plastic bag that you seal & beat with a rolling pin:-)) and grind until the peppercorns & seeds are coarsely broken up. Add the salt, lemon & orange zest, and brown sugar; mix. Tada! Dry rub. (2) Wash the bird and dry with paper towels. Place with the breast facing up on a large plate or dish. Cross & tie the legs together with kitchen twine. When the bird is dry, massage the dry rub into the skin and everywhere else it sticks until you’ve used all of the dry rub. Chill the chicken, uncovered in the fridge to brine, approx. 6 hours. (3) Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius (430 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove the chicken from fridge and drain any liquid. Rinse off the dry rub and pat dry. Transfer to an oven pan lined with foil and put on the top rack in oven. Let the skin crisp 10-15 minutes. (4) Turn the heat down to 180 degrees Celsius (360 degrees Fahrenheit) and cook the bird about 20 minutes per pound of poultry (or 1/2 kg). (5) Remove bird from oven and loosely cover with foil. Check temperature with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, should register at least 85 degrees Celsius (185 degrees Fahrenheit). Let sit 10 minutes before carving. Serve sliced or in pieces with warm buttered rolls.

Serves 4

Tomato-Basil Risotto with White Wine, Sweet Corn, & Garlic

Ingredientsbasil

2 cups arborio rice

2 onions, peeled & chopped

7 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped

5-6 cups broth or reconstituted bullion

4 tomatoes, chopped

1 cup white wine (like chardonnay)

1 bunch of fresh Basil, chopped

1/2 cup (just over 1 dl) of shredded cheese, pref. Parmesan

3 Tbs. butterrisotto cooking

olive oil

sea salt

cracked pepper

(1) In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When hot, add onions & garlic; let cook, stirring, until translucent, about 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together tomatoes, basil, and 2 Tbs. olive oil. Set aside. (2) Add the rice to the pot and, stirring often, let it crisp slightly. Next add the wine and corn and cook until liquid has absorbed. (3) Continue cooking the risotto over medium heat, adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring often to prevent sticking, until liquid absorbs. This means you should be adding more wine/broth to the pot every 5-7 minutes or so. (4) Taste test the risotto after you’ve used up all the broth; cooked risotto rice should have slight texture to bite, but not be crunchy. (5) Add the tomato basil mixture and turn off heat. Let the risotto stand covered 3-4 minutes. Fold in the shredded cheese, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves 4

chicken_horrorI know risotto is not the traditional dish to serve during this delicious holiday, but it beats trying to concoct stuffing without breadcrumbs, pecans, or cranberries 😦 My next post will be on the lighter side of things as I travel to Indonesia and get to try Bali cuisine. I have a feeling it’s going to blow my mind.. πŸ˜€

My question: What is one (non traditional) dish you’ve made for Thanksgiving and really loved?

11.29.13

Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven πŸ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead πŸ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.Β  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt πŸ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these πŸ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… πŸ™‚

9.4.13

Revisiting Risotto

Champagne_PaintingAhh so yes, I am a fan of risotto. Way back when in bitching kitchen times, I even made coffee caper risotto and it was very good, despite the ridiculous combination. Now, I know risotto is fattening, alas…especially with all that wine and butter πŸ˜€ but frankly, the taste makes up for it! And you do have to baby it – stand there, stirring it, adding the perfect amount of liquid, constantly and vigilantly making sure it doesn’t stick too much, or harden in places, or god forbid burn 😦 Best be careful and very serious when making risotto to be sure, but remember that like any recipe, there IS room for modification, variation, and flexibility. And you don’t have to be a skilled chef to make it either, you just have to devote yourself to the task of making it. And leftovers? Nothing’s better than risotto the next day, still packed with flavor and just as cheesy as the night before. Cold pizza? Chewy and unappetizing. Cold risotto? Layered with flavors, filling, and subtly sophisticated.

After researching some of the more common risotto recipes, I settled on mushroom risotto because there’s something about the richness of mushrooms that goes very well in/with risotto. It’s been a while since I made this high-maintenance dish (yeah I said it) but I remembered: prepare accordingly. This particular recipe is from Food & Wine in a section entitled “Scratch Italian” πŸ™‚ simply ’cause, sometimes from scratch is best! Goat cheese is the main reason I chose this version because I was looking for that little something that would up the ante a bit on the normal mushroom risotto recipe. Goat cheese, when melted into something asdried_mushrooms rich and wonderful as risotto, adds a smooth quality and in no way overpowers the dish’s other flavors, which is what I was watching for. I substituted vermouth for the typical white wine because that’s what I had in my fridge and just like sherry, it compliments mushrooms unlike any of the other ingredients. I’ll admit it though, if I could have gotten my hands on some sherry, this would have been better, if not minutely 8) Next time..

The star ingredient in this dish was of course the dried mushrooms because: A) they don’t go bad like, ever B) they pack a lot of flavor and smell really nice; and C) mushrooms go so well with alcohol, it’s not even funny. To be sure, I won’t be cooking this every night, but it was the night of my birthday when I chose to make it so I guess it was sort of a tribute to myself, or at the very least, a tribute to what I think my tastes are πŸ˜‰ This type of food is so awesome it can be served by itself, no meat or other main course necessary. A good friend was telling me how silly it is that risotto is often served as an appetizer and yeah, that is pretty silly – because risotto’s got some mad main dish skills πŸ˜€

Earthy Mushroom Risotto with Goat Cheese and Vermouth

Ingredients

2 cups arborio ricecheese_goat

1 cup dried mushrooms, mixed

1 large onion, chopped

8 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups dry vermouth

3 Tbs. buttermushroom_risotto_0

1/4 cup milk

3 oz goat cheese, crumbled

rapeseed oil

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Put the dried mushrooms into a bowl. Boil some water and pour over the mushrooms. Let sit and soak for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are soft. Remove mushrooms from the water and chop. (2) In a large pot, heat 3 Tbs. oil over medium-low heat until hot; add the chopped garlic, onions, and a pinch of salt and cook until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. (3) In a separate saucepan, heat the broth over low heat and keep covered; add what’s left of the mushroom water to it (but not the thick stuff sitting at the bottom). Oh and take the bottle of vermouth out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter. Have a glass with ice and some club soda while you cook too. (4) Add the rice and mushrooms to the big pot and cook, stirring often, until the rice turns opaque, 3-4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of vermouth and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. Keep up this process, adding 1/2 cup of broth and cooking about 5 minutes (until absorbed) and then adding 1/2 cup of vermouth and cooking 5 minutes or so, until liquid is absorbed into the risotto. When you’ve added a total of 1 1/2 cups vermouth, then continue this process using what’s left of the broth. You may need more or less, depending on the risotto, but it will be done when it stops absorbing most of the liquid and is soft in texture upon tastimushroom_sketchng (versus sticky or slightly crunchy), cooking about 35-40 minutes total. (5) Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let rest 5 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in butter, milk, and goat cheese until melted and combined; season risotto to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

I wonder how many different risottos exist, that is – how many kinds there are. I wonder how long it would take me to cook them all :9 Might be worth a try sometime, as long as I proceed with caution πŸ˜‰

My question: What is your favorite risotto?

Mine is a toss-up between red wine risotto and champagne risotto. Yes, it’s a theme with me πŸ˜€

4.27.13

Pre-Spring Revelry: Crab + Pasta

I know, two seafood posts in a row-I must be living closer to the ocean, right? Yes. Turns out this yummy genre of salty creatures are a pretty easy way to add protein to any meal I end up making. I’ve found all sorts of seafood treats dwell in the pasta_eaterfrozen section too, de-finned, de-veined, de-shelled, ready to cook and eat. And unlike some other meat, anything from shrimp to fish steaks cook through in maybe 3 or 4 minutes. And the (other) good thing about buying frozen seafood? Other than the cheaper part πŸ™‚ Food-borne illness and other nastiness like parasites can’t survive frost. So you can be assured it will not make you sick, which is nice to skip worrying about entirely. The main plus for me, being so proximately close to the source of all this seaness now, is the quality which is much improved…maybe everything is just better in KΓΈbenhavn πŸ˜€

I first came across this recipe way back when I still had my Tyler’s Ultimate cookbook. My initial impression after tasting (back when I didn’t like seafood all that much) was so wonderful that I remembered where I’d seen this recipe and looked it back up for this occasion. It’s always nice to make dishes you already know will taste amazing. Using frozen crab meat makes preparation super easy. I bought frozen leg/arms meat, already shelled so all you have to do is defrost and cook in some bubbling sauce (or wine:)) for three minutes or so before tossing with pasta. If you’re averse to using fresh Mint, I encourage you to make an exception with this dish, the herb compliments the crab so wonderfully you barely notice it’s “mintiness.” I managed to see some reviews of this recipe in my quest to find it online and I have to say, there were some serious crab-pasta haters 😦 Honestly, instead of blaming the recipe, blame the cook! Or at least the method of preparation crabs_meatthat made the food so unsuitable to your taste πŸ˜›

The star ingredient in this dish? Yes, it would have to be the crab, because it just ups the ante a bit on the recipe as a whole. And crab meat is subtly tasty. I love how red the flesh turns when it’s cooked πŸ™‚ All I can say is, it will not be another 6 months before I have crab again! And these are always such imposing little critters when you see them scuttling across the beach! I try not to think of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid as I visualize the rosy crustaceans simmering in a garlicky broth πŸ™‚ So many possibilities with crab too! Like: crab tacos, maybe? Crab lasagna πŸ™‚ or crab on toast, brilliant!

Fresh Mint & Peppered Pasta with Buttered Artichokes, Parmesan, and Crab

Ingredients

(for pasta)Artichoke_Botanicals

1 package fettuccine or linguine

water

sea salt

(for sauce)

8 oz frozen crab meat, defrosted & de-shelled

1 block of Parmesan (or other aged cheese), grated

1 bunch of fresh mint, minced

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup dry white wine

cracked black pepper

5 Tbs. butter

1/4 cup olive oil

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. While the pasta water readies, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. (2) Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the mixture thicken, about 5 minutes. (3) Add butter, white wine, and crab meat. Bring the heat to medium and simmer, covered until the crab meat is cooked, 3-4 minutes. (4) Lower the heat to low. Add artichoke, fresh mint, and 1/3 of the grated cheese, stirring until just combined. (5) Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt & pepper. crab_posterServe hot garnished with extra grated cheese, fresh mint sprigs , & cracked pepper if desired.

Serves 4

Mmm…briny, savory, herby richness (is there enough adverbs there? ;)) doesn’t seem to get old. What to make next? Watch out salty crustaceans, I’m just beginning…

My question: what is your favorite pasta dish involving seafood?

I’m wondering what the consensus is…

3.25.13

Pesto meets Breakfast

KBH – KΓΈbenhavn πŸ˜€ I am here (!) and loving all the new sights & sounds. Plenty of new food to feast my eyes on and it’s all about layered, light, experiential flavors in Scandinavian cuisine. I’m still experimenting with the economical/baby-friendly copenhagen_poster2art of cooking these days, which goes pretty well, depending on the day πŸ˜‰ my main goal though is coming up with meals that can be put together really fast! I’m all about really fast, as fast as possible since I don’t have the time or energy to chop or artfully arrange ingredients. Thank god for blenders and mixers, and that awesome convection option on the oven..

My baby loves garlicky things, whether it be roasted, pickled, or raw :O so I thought the pesto would be a good idea. I obviously don’t give him large amounts of the stuff or he’d probably be excreting some serious herbal scents πŸ˜‰ but a spoonful or two with porridge, on bread, or dipped with veggies seems to suit him nicely. This recipe comes from this month’s Bon Appetit and was under an article dedicated to spicing up breakfast. I think the next time I’ll take their other recommendation and add fresh salsa to my scrambled eggs. I’m just so glad there are ideas out there on how to spice up a meal that you end up eating half awake anyway πŸ˜‰

My star ingredient? Spinach. It’s in the Pesto and the eggs. Spinach is another one of those underrated vegetables and can go in seriously anything. I’m not a huge fan of wilted spinach but have found it’s great like that when thrown into rice, pasta, orspinach_fresh (aha!) breakfast dishes. Pesto is all about the herbs so serve equally fresh things with it–crunchy sandwiches, as a dipping sauce for raw veggies when you’re on the go, or a heaping spoonful in soup that’s just missing a little flavor. I thought a batch of pesto would last me and the household a week but ha! Not a chance, it’s too tasty to ignore every time you open up the door of the fridge. Maybe I’ll try to camouflage or disguise it next time πŸ˜€

Scrambled Eggs with Pesto, Greens, & Baby Tomatoes

Ingredients

(for the pesto)pesto

2 cups spinach leaves (or other greens)

1 cup fresh Basil

1 cup fresh Parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves, peeled

(for the eggs)

5 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

2 Tbs. buttereggs

1/4 cup grated aged cheese

1/2 cup greens (like spinach or arugula)

1/2 cup baby tomatoes, halved

(1) To make the pesto, combine everything in the ingredients list, spinach through garlic, into a blender or food processor and pulse until it’s a paste, adding more olive oil as needed. This can be chilled for up to 2 weeks in the fridge beforehand. (2) In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and cheese. Heat a skillet over medium high-heat. When hot, add butter and spinach. Cook, stirring often, until spinach has wilted, 3-4 minutes. (3) Add baby tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes. (4) Next add the egg mixture. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly until eggs are fluffy and browned in some places, 5-7 minutes. (5) When ready to serve, stir in 3-4 Tbs. of pesto into the eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with toast or breakfast rolls.

Serves 4

Scrambled eggs go with everything–bread, beans, pasta (like in Asian food), cooked veggies, etc. Lately I’ve been using my egg poacher (a wonderful Christmas present) to make eggs that are over easy, perfectly shaped, and cooked in 5 minutes. breakfast_posterAhh, it’s the simple things in life πŸ™‚

Breakfast was always a meal I’d avoided simply because it was so early; now I relish it and look for any way to spice things up when you’re barely awake and need to eat!

 

My question:

What is your ideal (close to “perfect”) breakfast on the go?

It could be something classy, healthy, or oddly-matched but hey, we all got to eat ]:)

2.9.13

Killer Vodka Sauce }:)

Ahh, where has all my time gone? Once it was Fall and then that was gone, then it was the holidays and that was over before I knew it…now we’re in 2013 and I find myself asking, where has all the time gone?! It has been FAR too long since my last poster_pastapost but I can’t recall when I’ve been busier. For any fellow culinarians who actually reads this blog from time to time, I apologize for my absence, but I have been cooking in the meantime!

I’ve (somehow) managed to finish off this semester on the 10th of January and now I am preparing for a big move with my little family to Copenhagen! Yes, things are looking up, moving forward, and at a pace that is almost too fast for me to keep up but hey, I’ll keep trying πŸ™‚

In anticipation of moving to a new city, I have taken up the task of liquidating my pantry, which is just as complicated as it sounds πŸ˜‰ ah…the things you find in the freezer! In addition to making meals out of few (and fewer) ingredients, I have discovered that if you’re ever lacking in flavor, there are 2 things that will make up for it, no matter what: alcohol and cheese. Does it matter what alcohol, or what cheese? No, because as soon as you add it to any meal it suddenly goes up a notch in quality, taste, and appeal – but that may just be me πŸ˜›

I’m also on a whole-wheat kick I guess you could say, because it makes me feel a bit better about all the pasta I’m eating. Sure, it doesn’t taste the same but there’s (often empty) carbohydrate calories and then there’s whole grain carbohydrate calories!! Seriously do yourself a favor, if you don’t like whole-wheat stuff, get over it. I get it with bread because there’s a serious taste difference there but you’d be amazed what other whole wheat products you can substitute for your normal carbohdrate needs–tortillas, crackers, pasta, cereal, flour, rice–we were meant to be eating this stuff!vodka-shot

So, the star ingredient in this recipe, any guesses? Yes, it’s the vodka. And what better way to use hard liquor you have no desire of drinking yourself? I think in general, vodka sauce has been underrated and under-appreciated for quite some time. Now I love tomatoes, no doubt, but sometimes tomato sauce just needs a little something, something more than basil or cream πŸ˜€ If I were ever to make/write/publish a cookbook, some version of vodka sauce would be included because it’s just that awesome.

This recipe is as simple as it gets: pasta, tomato, onion, milk, butter, vodka – tadaa! Dinner is served. I looked the vodka sauce up online under the search criteria “easy vodka sauce” because I simply don’t have the time to mess around with different styles between packing boxes and making sure my baby doesn’t eat any more cardboard or masking tape.. I also ended up embellishing the pasta dish itself with some of my favorite veggies because we all need protein! So yes, vegetarian Italian cuisine begets me this week and what a splendid surprise it was to make and to taste. I will definitely cook this again, probably with more vodka next time πŸ˜‰

Whole-Wheat Chickpea & Artichoke Pasta with Homemade Vodka Sauce

Ingredients

(for the pasta)pasta_wholewheat

whole-wheat fusilli (or any other curly pasta)

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan (or other aged cheese)

3-4 green onions, minced

(for the sauce)

1 can chopped/diced tomatoes (in juice)

1 onion, chopped

3 Tbs. butter

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 cup milk (or cream)

salt & cracked peppersauce_vodka

(1) Fill a large pot with salted water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) While waiting on the water, begin the sauce. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter & onion. Cook, stirring often until the onion has softened, about 4-5 minutes. (3) Add the tomatoes, sugar, and vodka. Lower the heat slightly and simmer everything until the sauce has thickened and been slightly reduced, about 10-15 minutes. (4) When the pasta water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. (5) When the vodka sauce has thickened somewhat, add the milk and lower the heat so the sauce is no longer boiling. Let cook another 5 minutes or so until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. (6) Return the cooked pasta to the pot and add chickpeas, minced green onions, and artichoke hearts, mixing until combined. (7) When ready to eat, pour all of the vodka sauce over the pasta. Stir. Add Parmesan, reserving some for serving. Can be garnished with fresh parsley or more cracked pepper, if desired.

Serves 4copenhagen_poster

Eating warm Italian food almost makes me forget how cooold it is outside πŸ˜€

My next task, and most likely my next post, will be even more “economical” as I’ll be working with an even smaller budget and limited ingredients. Luckily I see this as a challenge so wish me luck!

Let’s see how fast I can become sick of canned tomatoes πŸ˜‰

My question: what is the yummiest sauce on pasta, in your opinion?

It can be hot or cold, and pesto totally counts..

1.20.2013

Mambo Italiano

Is Summer really almost over? It seems like it with all this raaaaain 😦 In celebration of summertime simplicity, I’ve been making easy recipes involving fresh ingredients that can be assembled into a meal, cooked, and ready in minutes. My latest obsession? Carbohydrates (what a surprise..) particularly pasta and pizza. I’ve posted this recipe in dedication of the Italian approach to cooking, which always seems to involve fresh, tasty ingredients in out-of-this world dishes. As is the case with Italian wine, Italian food just screams simple AND delicious πŸ™‚
This recipe is from one of my favorite magazines, Cucina La Italiana and was made to honor the tastes of the creator’s mother, who had an affection for lemons. In case it’s not too obvious, the star ingredient on this pizza is definitely the lemons. The second most important ingredient is the olive oil, which serves as a much better base than runny tomato sauce.. but then again, perhaps I’m craving purity in dishes already natural and uncomplicated. Lemons you say, on pizza?! At first, it did seem a bit odd but I amped up the vegetarian version with bacon (yeah, I couldn’t help it) and green onions. The result? A pizza that’s both savory and citrusy (whoa) with rich and light flavors satisfying enough to please any pizza lover.

Now, while making dough from scratch could prove to be an interesting experience, it’s also incredibly time-consuming so I opted for pre-made refrigerated pizza dough. Any access to specialty cheeses (like aged Gouda, smoked mozzarella, pesto Asiago, etc.) would amp up the exotic factor. I prefer my pizza browned on top (if not black in a couple of places!) with bubbling cheese and wilted greens – it makes for the best dinner after one of those long summer days πŸ˜€

Sorretina Pizza with Peppered Bacon, Lemon, and Fresh Basil

Ingredients

2Β  packages of refrigerated pizza dough

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch of fresh Basil, cut into ribbons

1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

2 lemons, peeled, seeded, & segemented

1 packet of bacon

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

chili flakes

baking paper

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Preheat the oven to 205 degrees Celsius (or 4oo degrees Fahrenheit). Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until slightly crispy, turning once, and cracking pepper generously over the top. When cooked, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop the bacon, setting aside. (2) Spread the pre-made dough out on an oven pan covered with baking paper. Cover generously with half of the olive oil. (3) When ready to bake, layer the first pizza with half of the cooked bacon, chopped green onions, fresh basil, and shredded cheese; top with 1 of the segmented lemons and sprinkle chili flakes across the top. (4) Cook in the oven until the top is nicely browned and the cheese is melted and bubbling, 12-15 minutes. (5) Follow the same order with the remainder of the toppings for the second pizza; cook in the oven while eating the first pizza. Goes well with lager beer or chilled white wine πŸ™‚

Serves 6

Experimenting with pizza always seems worthwhile, I guess that’s because almost anything goes well on warm bread with a little olive oil and bacon πŸ˜› What surprises me is this particular version of Neapolitan pizza still being limited to the region in Italy..

My question:

What is one of the more unusual pizza ingredients you like to use when making pizza from scratch?

9.5.12