Monthly Archives: April 2011

grilling pizza + white pizza sauce

For most of you, it’s that time of year again- when you don’t want to turn on the oven and heat up the whole house, but you’ve got nothing for dinner.  And there’s a limit to how many grilled hamburgers and brats and chicken wings a person can take. Believe me, I’ve hit that limit. It’s not pretty.

So what does a person do? The answer is simple, yet incredibly provacative: grilled pizza.  Easily customizable, ready with 10 minutes of prep and 5 minutes of grilling, warm and filling and as homemade as you want it to be.  It leaves your oven switched off, your house cool, and your hearts&minds (not to mention stomachs) satisfied.

Grilled pizza
1 pizza crust, store-bought or homemade
cornmeal
pizza sauce, store-bought or homemade
toppings and cheese
pizza peel or large flat baking tray
peanut or vegetable oil and basting brush.

Heat the grill to medium-high, or between 400 and 450 if it’s got a thermometer. Sprinkle cornmeal on your pan or peel, and lay out your pizza crust. Prep your sauce and toppings– this is going to move quickly so you’ll want to be prepared. Brush the top of the crust lightly with oil.

While the grill is warming up, clean the grates and brush them with oil.  Once heated, carefully flip your pizza crust onto the grate, oiled side down.  Brush the (new) top of the crust lightly with oil and shut the lid for 2 minutes. Check every minute after that to check for doneness- check the bottom for a dark golden brown color, and the top should be baking and taking on a light golden color as well. If the bottom is cooking too quickly compared to the top, decrease the heat and close the lid in 30-second intervals.

Once the bottom of the crust is cooked, take it off the grill with the baking sheet.  Close the lid to allow the grill to reheat.  Carefully flip the crust so that the golden-charred side is facing up.  Layer sauce (not too much!), toppings, and cheese as desired.  Slide the pizza back onto the grill, close the lid, and decrease heat if need, so that the temperature hovers near 400. Check every minute to ensure the bottom of the crust doesn’t burn but allow for the cheese to melt. If your cheese isn’t melting but your crust is done, close the lid and turn off the grill; let it sit for 2 minutes and check again.  Serve warm with beers or other summery beverages.

White pizza sauce
adapted from Food.com

Tops one medium-large pizza crust

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot
1 large clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon each of red pepper flakes and dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano and dried basil
2-1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup of whole milk (I mix 1/3 c. cream and 2/3 c. skim milk)
1/2 cup parmesan, asiago, or romano (asiago is my personal favorite, though all are great)
hearty pinch of flaky salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet or frying pan, melt together the butter and oil on medium heat.  Finely dice the shallot and garlic, and sautee for 2-3 minutes in the butter. Add in the herbs and pepper flakes; continue to stir and cook for one minute.  Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, but not so long that the flour darkens.  Slowly whisk in a little of the milk at a time, until you’ve got a nice white sauce.  Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to medium-low and fold in the cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread warm sauce over pizza and top with your favorite toppings: we love combinations of cooked chicken or sausage, spinach, grilled asparagus or artichokes, and of course, fresh mozzarella.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Main dishes, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian

sprrrriiiing?

I’m not quite sure it’s spring here yet.  We’ve had days in the 60s, the tulips are ready to burst open, multiple frilly rhubarb leaves have unfurled, but now the weather people are predicting SNOW! (I will say that I’ll take snow over flooding any day and my thoughts are with everyone in the South who’ve got much worse weather than we do.)

But in my head (and my stomach), it’s definitely spring. I’m craving  my family’s traditionally “spring” foods, like new potatoes roasted with thyme and carrots cooked with a little butter and honey.

There are cats in open windows. Definitely a sign of spring.

We grilled a white chicken pizza with asparagus on Sunday- a perfect meal after a long weekend of patio- and firepit-building.

And, of course, we’ve been indulging in one of my favorite spring treats- roasted strawberries with boozy whipped cream. It’s a perfect combination, and of course the extra whipped cream is a natural accompaniment for your first-of-the-season cobblers and pies.

Roasted Strawberries

I didn’t get a picture of the roasted berries, but will try to remember to take one and upload later in the week.
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Wash and hull 1 cup of strawberries.  Slice the large ones into quarters and the medium and small guys into halves.  Place on the parchment and sprinkle 1/4 cup white sugar over the top.  Toss gently to distribute the sugar and coat the berries evenly.  Roast on the bottom rack for 30 minutes; cool at room temperature for 10 minutes and transfer to a container to finish cooling in the fridge (or the freezer, if you’re as anxious as I am!)

Boozy whipped cream
And you thought the strawberries were a cinch?  This is truly the easiest thing in the world:

Set a small bowl and beaters of an electric mixer (or stand mixer) in the freezer for 5 minutes.  Assemble 1 cup of heavy whipping cream (avoid the ultra-pasturized if possible), 2 teaspoons white sugar, and 2 tablespoons of brandy, bourbon, or your favorite liqueur.  Begin whipping the cream in the cold bowl; after a minute, add the sugar and booze. Continue whipping until it’s set. Serve on anything and everything, including those strawberries.  And go outside to admire the flowers.

Also delicious served with angel food cake, pound cake, or short cakes!

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Condiments, etc., Desserts, Spring, Summer

Chocolate espresso biscotti


My mother-in-law has a special spot in her heart for biscotti, and her passion has been passed down to her son and daughter. With both siblings’ birthdays in April and Mother’s Day in May, what better opportunity for the daughter-in-law?

And the best part is, my mother-in-law loves them.  They’ve been part of her Christmas gift for the last two years, and both times she called in January to tell me that she had hidden and hoarded them, enjoying one every few days to make them last.  She called me after she ate the last one and told me she needed more, pronto- the biscotti were helping her maintain her sanity.

When I first set out to make biscotti, I had my heart set on a “mocha” flavored cookie and I felt like I had won the lottery when I found this recipe.  I increased the espresso powder slightly, and the effect is exactly what I was looking for– crunchy, crumbly texture with an initial pungent punch of espresso, followed by the bitter/smooth combo of 60% cacao chocolate. Add in the ribbons of white chocolate on top and the occasional burst of white chocolate sweetness in the biscotti, and you’ve got heaven. Italian cookie heaven.


I use Ghirardelli chocolate chips, because the quality and taste is pretty consistent, I think they’re much better than some of the cheaper brands, and they won’t break the bank.  Target seems to have them every Christmastime, so I stock up for a few batches throughout the year.

Chocolate espresso biscotti
Adopted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
3 T instant espresso powder (I used the darkest instant coffee powder I could find, because I couldn’t find instant espresso)
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
6 T unsalted butter,  room temperature
1 c sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c (4 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or chips
2 c (16 oz) white chocolate, chopped or chips

Directions:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until pale, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes. (Don’t worry if the mixture looks funky; it gets better, I promise.) Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the dry ingredients gradually, mixing only until a dough forms.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix in 1 cup of the white chocolate and all of the bittersweet chocolate.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface.  Dust your hands with some flour – the dough may be very sticky.  Turn the dough out and knead in any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing, and then divide the dough in half.  Working with one half at a time, roll the dough into 10-inch long logs.  Transfer logs onto the baking sheet.  Flatten both logs so that they are 1/2 to 1 inch high and a couple inches apart.

Bake the logs for 20-25 minutes, or until they are just slightly firm.  The tops should spread and crack during baking.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven, place on a wire rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes.  Then working with one log at a time, cut each log into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick– cut parallel to the shorter edge.  Slightly separate the slices on the baking sheet.  Bake the cookies again, this time for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

While cooling, melt the remaining white chocolate.  (I add 1/2 tsp. of shortening, if I’ve got it, to the melting chocolate to encourage a glossy consistency.) With a teaspoon, drizzle the white chocolate over the biscotti in ribbons. Let the chocolate set before serving or storing.

*These cookies can be stored in a sealed container for a few weeks, or indefinitely in the freezer- if they last that long. Enjoy!

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Filed under Cookies, Desserts, Winter

Barley, corn, and roasted red pepper salad

The combination of red pepper and corn equals summer to me. Something about the smooth versus crisp, yellow versus red, sweet and warm versus cool and starchy makes me nostalgic for grilled hamburgers, fire pits, late nights out in the yard and Sunday afternoon lazy get-togethers.

I had barley in my pantry and a hankering for summer, and this is what Google led me to. (Yes, I was inspired by a pregnancy website, but I am not at all pregnant!)  I left out the tomatoes- they’ll have to wait until August.  This will be even better with fresh sweet corn off the cob!

My favorite part of this recipe is the versatility. I scooped it up and inhaled it warm off the stove, picked at it while it was cooling on the counter, and ate it like unashamedly by the bowlful straight out of the fridge.  Warm or cool, this salad is an easy crowd-pleaser.

Barley, corn, and roasted red pepper salad
adapted from What to Expect

Serves 4

*If you’re short on time, you can skip toasting the barley, but the toasting process does really add to the flavor and texture of the dish. Don’t skip if you can help it.

1 medium red bell pepper
1 c. pearl barley
2-1/2 c. chicken broth
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup sliced scallions or diced onion
2 Tbsp lime or lemon juice

First, roast the bell pepper.  Using fire-proof tongs or a long kitchen fork, place bell pepper over a gas flame, or place in an baking dish under a high broiler, and turn until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag or in a covered bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and dice.

While cooling and prepping the red pepper, toast the barley in a large skillet for about 10 minutes on medium-high, shaking the pan often. Add broth to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 30 minutes or until broth is almost absorbed and barley is tender. Add in oil, diced onion and corn kernels; stir and sautee for 10 minutes.

Once onion is translucent and corn is cooked, fold in the diced red pepper and remove from heat. Allow to cool for 10 minutes at room temperature, then toss with lime or lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cool.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Side dishes, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian

Tangy shrimp-&-scallop pasta

I find it a bit discouraging that as spring is just starting, I get sick.

Deathly sick. 4-days-at-home-in-bed-and-drugged sick. Eat-nothing-but-PB&J-or-macaroni-and-cheese-that-your-husband-made sick.  There was no cooking, no post-writing, no picture-taking. Nothing besides a lot of coughing and a lot of sleeping.

But now, I’m feeling better. I felt good enough last weekend to make a pot of chicken stock, loaf of sourdough, and homemade pasta to go with this creamy seafood sauce.  Really, it sounds more impressive than it is. 90% of sourdough is waiting.  Same with chicken stock.  Making homemade pasta is much easier than it sounds.  Plus, this dish only takes 30 minutes, fridge to table.

But even though this supper is fast enough for a weeknight and not TOO damaging to your diet, it’s worthy of homemade pasta, too.  Maybe it’s just me, but any sort of seafood sauce feels dressy and special and worthy of homemade pasta.  Add a decent bottle of white, some crusty bread, and a salad with olives and onions, and you’ve got instant specialness.

What makes this different than a seafood alfredo or similar heavy-hitting white sauce is making a thinner (read: less fattening) sauce that is tossed directly with hot pasta, allowing the a lot of the sauce and flavor to be soaked right up by the noodles.  Reserve some extra pasta water; you can add more to thin down the sauce and increase the pasta-soakage. Or add white wine– it’ll compliment the lemon and the seafood.  You can also toss your sauce and pasta together in a big skillet with high sides, or in a large pot that you use to boil the pasta water.  (My 10-inch pan with 3-inch sides was just perfect for the full recipe.)

Tangy shrimp & scallop pasta
from this website

Serves 3-4

1/2 pound dry pasta, or homemade pasta with 3 eggs
1/2 pound shrimp, raw or cooked, deveined and de-tailed
1/2 pound bay scallops
2 T. butter or olive oil
1 small onion or scallion
2 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 to 3/4 c. pasta water
4 oz. cream cheese or low-fat substitute
1/3 c. sour cream
1/2 t. dried red pepper flakes
3 T. freshly chopped parsley or 1 T. dried parsley (optional)
salt and pepper

If using frozen seafood, throw it in a bowl of cold water to start defrosting.  Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for pasta. While waiting for water, melt butter in a large skillet with high sides over medium heat, and dice onion and garlic. Add pasta once water is boiling.

When butter is melted and hot, add onion and saute 3-4 minutes, until onions are soft and nearly translucent; add in garlic and continue to cook for 2 more minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high, and add the lemon juice and pasta water to the onions. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the sour cream, cream cheese, and red pepper, and whisk or stir briskly to make a smooth sauce.  Allow to simmer for another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I used ~1/2 t. salt and freshly ground black pepper).

While all this is happening, keep an eye on your pasta.  Once it’s cooked al dente, drain almost all of the water, put it back into the pot, and set it off the heat with the lid on.  Also drain your seafood if you were defrosting.  With the sauce simmering, add in the seafood (and more pasta water if your sauce is getting thick); continue to stir and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, just enough to cook scallops through and turn shrimp pink (if using raw).  Reduce heat to medium and add the pasta to the sauce pan, tossing carefully to coat pasta with sauce and mix in seafood. Cook for 5-7 minutes, allowing pasta to soak up most of the sauce. Stir in parsley before serving and serve with grated Parmesan, if mixing fish and cheese is your thing (and believe me, it is my thing!).

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Main dishes, Pasta