Ah, Italy. I miss you like a fat bambino misses a heaping serving of tiramisu. Back in college, I was lucky enough to spend a semester in Florence, where I was able to take touristy pictures like this one (what? posed? nahhh):
and pick up a few basics about the Italian language and culture, including:
- “Ciao bella” is a cat call. Not a compliment.
- “Bruschetta” is pronounced “broo-sket-ta.” (Seriously. The “ch” is a hard c sound in Italian).
- “Affari Tuoi” is simultaneously the greatest and crappiest television show in the world.
- There is no need to buy bus tickets in Florence (if you’ve even spent but a day in this city, you know what I’m talking about).
- One’s stomach can surprisingly quickly adapt to eating a 4 course meal on a nightly basis…every night (primi (usually a LOT of pasta), secondi (usually the meat), l’insalata (a salad-yes, as the 3rd course) and dolci (sugar!!)).
- The key to determining the authenticity (and in effect, taste) of a gelateria based on its’ pistachio gelato. If it’s neon or mint green, stay away. You want it to look almost gross brownish-green. That means they use real pistachios and not artificial flavors.
- And finally, caprese salad is pronounced “ca-preh-zseh,” not “ca-preese.”
I grabbed a few fresh ripe tomatoes on the vine and some basil from the farmer’s market. A caprese salad was the obvious thing to make. I simply sliced up one small-medium tomato and some skim mozzarella. I neatly laid these down on a plate, placed a few leaves of basil over the cheese and topped with a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and my twist: toasted pine nuts:
Because this salad is so simple, it’s all about the quality of your ingredients (read: don’t scrimp here!) User the freshest produce you can find and the best EVOO and mozzarella you can afford. The flavors are incredible. I am loving this salad, and it’s so perfect for summer!
On the flipside, if you’re going to make a caprese panini, by all means don’t splurge on everything. It’s all being smushed into a sandwich anyway. I bet a caprese panini in rosemary bread would be divine…I’ll let you all know how this is once I track down a panini maker:)
I had 2 gorgeous yellow bell peppers (add these to my list of impulse purchases at the farmer’s market) and decided to attempt stuffed bell peppers entirely sans-recipe. I pulled together some ingredients I had around my kitchen and came up with this:
1/4 lb ground chicken
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 sprig oregano
1/2 cup ricotta
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp chopped italian parsley
2 bell peppers
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Brown chicken on stovetop and add dried basil. Toast oregano in a tiny bit of olive oil in pan.
Mix chicken, oregano, ricotta, toasted pine nuts and chopped italian parsley in large bowl.
Slice off tops of bell peppers, remove seeds and ribs. Stuff peppers with chicken mixture, place in glass baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
Ta-da! The finished stuffed pepper:
Fresh oregano is a very potent herb. A tidbit of info I wish I had considered before getting a little overzealous with the parsley and dried basil. Over-seasoning aside, the ground chicken and ricotta mixed together is superb, not to mention, yellow bell peppers are nice and sweet. Next time, I’m going with just one herb and not three so I don’t have to pick out the excessive parsley and oregano pieces:)
A 5 minute salad with less than 10 ingredients. Which really is another way of saying I had a lot of random stuff in my fridge and zero time to make dinner.
It was late, and I needed dinner–fast. I opened up my fridge and grabbed what I could find:
3. Brown mushrooms
4. A block of parmesan cheese
All I did was slice up the avocado and mushrooms, grated the parmesan, tossed everything into a large bowl and mixed in:
5. Toasted pine nuts
6. Balsamic Vinegar
7. Olive Oil
8. Salt & Pepper (ok so this might be 2, but it still leaves me under 10 ingredients;))
I scooped everything into a bowl, grabbed a fork, and dinner was done. Check out this beauty:
Arugula is my new favorite leafy green. It has a nice nutty taste. I find most greens have zero flavor. I’ve also been using it in sandwiches in place of the standard (cough boring cough) iceberg or romaine. Best way I’ve found to store these greens…I keep them in the plastic bag I got them in from the farmer’s market, gently press out as much air as possible, and loosely tie it shut. I’ve been able to keep the arugula crisp and still tasty in the crisper drawer in my fridge even after 2 weeks (possibly longer).
A mouthful of a name for such a simple pizza. Since it’s already a given I’m obsessed with the pre-made dough at Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy, my next pizza concoction was just around the corner. My inspiration this time around…a jar of black olive tapenade…mmm…
I stripped off a few sprigs of rosemary and mixed it into 8oz of goat cheese I had on hand:
After rolling out the dough and spreading the tapenade, I proceeded to add the goat cheese. One problem–the goat cheese I had wasn’t nearly enough to cover the pizza:
Not to worry though. I had some ricotta left over from my stuffed portobello mushrooms, so I mixed in some rosemary and covered the rest of the pizza and topped it off with pine nuts:
I have yet to find a better way of transferring the pizza onto the heated pizza stone. Any suggestions welcome. I was so close:
15 minutes at 450-475ish degrees, and I had myself a fancy (although a little too olive-y) pizza:
The verdict: a little on the dry side (the goat cheese doesn’t have enough moisture to withstand the high baking temperature pizza requires). I made this on a weeknight, so I didn’t have enough time to carefully chop up the rosemary. I’ll be trying that next time. As with every pizza, the most time consuming part of the process is waiting for the dough to settle and rolling it out.
Next time? I’ll be trying a more moisture-y cheese (using all ricotta, or maybe some mozzarella) and less tapenade (will mix it with some other topping yet to be determined). And I seriously need to figure out a safer transfer to the pizza stone:)
I’ve been seeing lots of green this week. I have more frozen pesto than I know what to do with, so I decided to attempt to concoct a pesto chicken pizza.
I really only needed a few more ingredients, since the grunt work of making the sauce was already done. I swung by Trader Joe’s and picked up 16 oz. of pre-made whole wheat pizza dough, mozzarella and pre-grilled chicken:
Unfortunately, I don’t have a fancy pizza stone, so I just stretched the dough out on a lightly floured cookie sheet. This actually proved to be tougher than I thought. The dough was seriously resistant and kept shrinking back in towards the center. The dough finally won and I settled on a smaller pizza.
The next step was spreading about a cup of defrosted pesto over the dough:
I sliced up about 16 ounces of mozzarella and topped the pizza with pine nuts:
I tossed this into the oven at 450 for 15-20 minutes and pesto presto! Homemade pizza!
The dishful thinker’s tips:
- Use less cheese than I did! Don’t get me wrong. I have an inexplicable adoration of cheese. In fact, I haven’t met one I don’t like. But this much mozzarella melted on a pizza makes for a terribly stringy, thick layer of cheese.
- Remember the chicken. Notice how it’s in the original photo, but it didn’t make it onto the actual pizza. Whoops! Thankfully, I was able to add a few pieces to the leftovers (the pizza reheats well and the chicken sinks into the mozzarella. It’s like I never forgot to add it:))
- This particular batch of pesto was laden with olive oil, which is great on salmon and in pastas. But it makes for a very soft crust (and I’m partial to thin and crispy pizza crusts). I may make a smaller batch with less olive oil specifically for pizza the next time I try this out.
- 16 oz of pizza dough stretched out to roughly 10 inches x 14 inches yielded 10 squareish/rectangular slices.