Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beyond the Marguerite Pizza

Beyond the Marguerite Pizza

The combination of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and pesto just happens to be my daughter Marina’s favorite pizza.  So simple and tasty; always one of the pizzas I serve on pizza night.  Oh I should explain pizza night, shouldn’t I?  Well at least once a month I make a batch of pizza dough or two, depending on how many friends the kids have invited over.  Then I make a number of different pizzas, one or two at a time for everyone to share.  With just minimal prep work and a bit of organization you can have a veritable feast and a pizza party at the same time!  Trust me on this; everyone looks forward to finding out what flavor will arrive next!
The home made pizza is a very distant cousin from the frozen, take out or home delivery version.  The flavors are much fresher and lighter; no thick salty tomato sauce made with too much tomato paste and no overly processed pre grated cheeses.
I have all the toppings at the ready and just keep bringing out pizzas until everyone is stuffed!  It’s a great way to get your family to try some off the more unusual combos; grilled veggies for one, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto is another.  Then you can get really inventive if you want and try brie, walnuts and bacon or blue cheese, arugula and sun dried tomatoes!
Here’s the recipe for the pizza dough:

Oh, by the way I really should share with you how great the leftover pizza is (if you have any) for your kids lunches!  I pop the slices into baggies and refrigerate until morning.  By the time lunch rolls around the pizza is room temperature and just right for lunch.

500 grams flour (I prefer to use weight measurements for this because it is more exact)
1 1package rapid rise dried yeast.
300 ml lukewarm water
1 Tablespoon ground sea salt
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
2. Mix all the ingredients in a food processor using the dough hook and then let it knead for about 2 minutes.
3. Place dough into a bowl, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  About one to one and half hours.
4. Knead the dough to get rid of bubbles and then divide into 5 equal pieces.
5. Roll into balls and cover with damp tea towel; let rise for 30 minutes.
Pre heat oven to 475
6. Flatten the balls and roll out into a 10-12 inch circle
7. Place on pizza paddle that has been sprinkled with corn flour and cover with toppings:

Fresh chopped tomatoes + grated fresh mozzarella + drizzle of olive oil + sprinkle of salt + pepper+ pesto after the pizza is cooked
Grilled assorted veggies chopped+ mozzarella cheese+ drizzle of olive oil+ salt & pepper
Cooked sliced italian sausages+ sliced red onion + mozzarella cheese + olive oil+ salt & pepper

A bit of red pepper flakes can be added with the salt and pepper if you wish.
Flavored olive oil like garlic and truffles are great to use also!
8. Slide onto heated pizza stones and bake in 475 degree oven for 13-15 minutes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Real Women of Philadelphia Cook Book

It's finally here!  The Real Women of Philadelphia Cook Book featuring 80 fantastic recipes from the Real Women of Philadelphia web site winners! This cookbook also features an introduction by Paula Deen and the four winners from Season 1 who had the best recipes in the categories of appetizer, entree, side dish and dessert.  Oh yes, that's me the Dessert Host for the Real Women of Philadelphia.
I know all of the 80 recipes first hand and know that many of them will become your family favorites!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Focaccia with Fresh Herbs

This Focaccia recipe is based on one by Antonio Carluccio in his Italian Feast cook book. I have added fresh herbs which I think makes it a great combo with dinner salad!

I do this focaccia in my Bosch Food Processor 'cause it makes it so easy, fool proof and there is no mess!  Use  the dough accessory for mixing and kneading; it's just that simple!  Because the work is done by the food processor, I make this all the time!  You can top it with sauteed onions prior to baking for a tasty treat!  It makes great sandwiches too; you can toast the focaccia or not depending on the type of sandwich!  There are thousands of variations to fit your mood!  I use this same dough for pizza but I double the salt for the dough and  make four small thin crust pizzas with this amount of dough.
The rest of the week I'll be showing you pizzas using this recipe for the dough.  So easy and fun because everyone can have thier own favorite toppings!

Friday, March 25, 2011

F'esto Winter/Spring Roasted Soup

It may be the first week of spring but it still is snowing in some areas and raining in others!  So I’ve been in a bit of a quandary with dinner menus.  I’m in the mood for salads and springtime lighter fare….but at the same time some of the best produce at the market is still rather wintery.
I thought I’d try to combine both winter and spring into one meal; hopefully manage to layer and unite the season together creating something special.  The unusual addition of a pear to the cauliflower soup adds a very delicate and subtle sub flavor that you really discover after the first few bites. 
I’ve topped the soup with f’esto; since my husband was raised in Italy he is adamant that if you are going to call something pesto…it must be basil, garlic, walnuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil…that’s ALL!  If it is made with anything else it is certainly not pesto; his rant, not mine!  So in deference to my adorable hubby I have shortened faux pesto into f’esto and encourage everyone to adapt their vocabulary to include f’esto; it will make Filippo soooo happy!
Back to the soup; the combo of the f’esto and the cauliflower soup with the bacon treats was delicious!  Do try it and let me know what YOUR family thinks!

Ingredients for the soup:
1 head cauliflower broken into flowerets
1 stock celery chopped
1 clove elephant garlic thickly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tablespoons
¼ cup fresh chopped herbs (basil, lemon thyme, parsley and oregano)
2 onions chopped
1 pear peeled and sliced
3 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
½ cup cream
4 slices cooked bacon sliced on diagonals
Place cauliflower and garlic on baking sheet; sprinkle with salt, pepper then drizzle with olive oil.
Mix with your hands to coat the cauliflower with oil.
Roast for 30 minutes in 425degree oven turning every 7 minutes
Sauté chopped onions, celery and pear in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender and transparent.
Add roasted cauliflower mixture to onions.
Add 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock; cover and simmer for 20 minutes
Blend with immersion blender
Add the chopped herbs and cream; blend again and bring back to heat but do not let hard boil.
Ingredients for the F’esto:
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, oregano and a bit of rosemary)
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ clove garlic rough chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
Put all ingredients (except olive oil) into a mortar and smash until thick paste is formed
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix well.
Add another 2 tablespoons olive oil then add last 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Ladle soup into bowls, top with 1 tablespoon of F’esto an swirl with a knife.
Top with bacon pieces.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Déjeuner du Jardin

The only thing better than having lunch in the garden is lunch from your garden...or second best from the farmers market!
I just couldn't resist sharing with you a light lunch that packs a punch.  So simple yet extremely satisfying at the same time.  You'll need just a few fresh ingredients from your garden or market and a nice loaf of crusty country bread.
This time I used an "old style" baguette from C'est La Vie in Sarasota.  If you stop in there ask for the baguette ancient style, you'll be in for a real treat!

Sandwiches from the Garden:
Ingredients for 4:
1 Baguette
1 large ripe or two small ripe avocados
1 basket cherry tomatoes
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
12 large fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup (approximate) extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons (approximate) balsamic or vinegar of your choice
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice baguette in half lengthwise and toast under broiler (cut side only)
Slice avocado in half, make slices going in both directions and scoop out with a spoon
Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add to avocado
Cut mozzarella into small chunks and add to avocados and tomatoes
Stack basil leaves together, roll and thinly slice
Rub toasted bread lightly with garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil
Add remaining olive oil and vinegar to avocado mixture
Mix gently and season with salt and pepper
Slice bread into 4 inch pieces
Top with tomato/avocado mixture
Serve with extra topping in a bowl on the side.
An ice cold glass of prosecco is the perfect drink to go with these garden sandwiches; especially if you are lucky enough to have a dining area in your own garden!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Croquettes aux Crevettes

With the availability of fresh shrimp in our local markets, Croquettes aux Crevettes or Shrimp Cakes in English, you can treat your family or guests to these delights any time you please! I’ve presented the croquettes here as an appetizer but you can certainly shape them into small balls, fry ahead of time and reheat for 12 minutes in a 300 degree oven and pass to your guests on a platter with decorative toothpicks as handles.

I chose to use jasmine rice which I think gives the croquettes a beautiful lightly flavored center that highlighted the fresh shrimp!  You can certainly use plain white rice if that is what you have available but I would increase the grated lemon rind just a bit to compensate.
Shrimp Croquette Recipe serves 8 as an appetizer or 16 for cocktails
For the croquettes:
1 pound cooked and finely chopped fresh Shrimp
½ cup grate parmesan
1 ½ cup cooked jasmine rice
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, lemon thyme, flat leaf parsley)
2 eggs beaten
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
Pulse all ingredients until a thick paste is formed.
For the crust:
1 ½ cups breadcrumbs or panko
¼ cup grated parmesan
In bowl mix together breadcrumbs and parmesan.
Form croquettes with your hands and roll in breadcrumbs.
Pat the breadcrumbs so they adhere well.
2 Cups oil
Deep fryer or pan and thermometer
Heat oil until it reaches 350 degrees
Fry the croquettes for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown
Drain on paper towels and serve with fresh lemon slices.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Poulet Vol-au-Vent

The other evening Filippo and I dined at a marvelous new restaurant in downtown Sarasota, Brasserie Belge.  The evening was marvelous from start to finish; starters were champagne and lobster croquettes, main was muscles for Filippo while I chose Vol-au-Vent and we finished with a shared Dame Blanche!
I got to thinking ahead to dinner parties we have scheduled and wondered if the Vol-auVent would be something I could prepare at home for my guests.
Poulet Vol-au-Vent,  simply translates to flying in the wind  and refers to the lightness of the puff pastry, is really quite easy to prepare if you use frozen puff pastry shells and also, it turns out, lends itself well to making ahead of time and reheating moments before serving.  The sauce is light but filled with flavor and I ended up serving the leftovers the following day over cooked jasmine rice.  That was a huge hit with everyone so you have not only a new dinner party recipe; I have a new family favorite every day dinner!
Here is the recipe I came up with for the Poulet Vol-au-Vent.
Poulet Vol-au-vent for 8 servings

4 Chicken breasts skinned and cut into ½ inch pieces
Salt and pepper
5 Tablespoons butter divided
8 Ounces white mushrooms sliced
!/2 cup Champagne or Prosecco
3 Cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ Cup flour
1 leek cleaned and sliced, white part only
1/4 Cup thinly sliced celery
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano
8 puff pastry shells pre-cooked or puff pastry squares pre cooked.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Ready a sauce pan.
In a separate pan bring water to simmer and poach chicken until done and tender about 3-5 minutes.
Remove the chicken to sauce pan with slotted spoon and add 1 tablespoon butter.
Add 2 tablespoons butter to a sauté pan.
When the butter begins to foam and slightly brown, add the mushrooms.
Sauté for  5-7 minutes then pour over chicken.
Add 2 tablespoons butter to sauté pan; cook leeks and celery over low heat until tender.
Pour leeks and butter over chicken and mushrooms.
Add ½ cup champagne or prosecco to the sauté pan and reduce by ½.
Add chicken stock, thyme and oregano to prosecco and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl whisk ½ cup cold water and flour to make a paste.
Add ½ cup stock form sauté pan and whisk until smooth.
Add another ½ cup stock and whisk.
Pour back into stock, straining if necessary to remove any tiny lumps.
Whisk together the Dijon mustard, cream, salt and pepper to taste and pour into chicken stock.
Whisk together while it thickens.
Bring to a boil and then pour over chicken.
Ladle chicken and sauce onto plate and add the puff pastry.
Serve immediately.

Friday, March 18, 2011

No-No Odor

I love having our home smell great but if I have just fried fish, well let's face it, it just doesn't! Bread baking is lovely but Brussels sprouts certainly are not. Anything vanilla is heavenly to most everyone yet half the people I know can't stand the aroma of garlic. It can be a real problem to have clean air; not perfumed air...clean air!
So now I want to share a secret with you; Lampe Berger is the ultimate in home fragrance systems.  Amazingly Lampe Berger was Developed in France over 110 years ago to kill bacteria in hospitals!  Yes hospitals! The catalytic burner actually CLEANS the air in your home while eliminating all kinds of household odors.  If you have pets, a smoker, or a musty basement, you will be amazed at the Lampe Berger's ability to rid your home of all these odors.
I have two that I use all the time.  Are we a family stinkies?  I certainly hope not, but we do have a dog and a cat with the dreaded kitty litter box!  My Lampes Berger handle it all with ease by cleaning the air, not just perfuming it.
I know that Phine & Whimsey has a fabulous selection of lamps in many colors, shapes, sizes and price points.  Pop on over and take a quick look; I think you’ll be amazed at how beautiful the lamps are and once you own one you too will want to sing their praises!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hangover Omelet

Whether it’s too much wine, sick kids or just too late an evening, sometimes we really need a pick me up for lunch, brunch or even dinner.  Well, I can attest to the fact that this omelet will do the trick; it’s one of my favorite go-to foods when my energy is lagging.
Hangover Omelet or I sometimes call it Mother’s Little Helper
4 cups cooked pasta
3 eggs whipped
½ cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 small ripe tomatoes chopped
10 fresh basil leaves thinly sliced
½ cup fresh mozzarella cut into chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Mix together eggs, pasta, parmesan, salt and pepper.
Heat butter in large sauté pan until melted.
Pour pasta mixture into pan, cover and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix together remaining ingredients and set aside.
Flip omelet over onto a serving plate and slide back into sauté pan.
Cook covered another 5 minutes until firm and browned.
Remove to serving platter and slice into wedges.
Serve each slice topped with tomato/basil mixture.
The combination of the hot and cool is fantasticly refreshing!  I always make a bit of extra pasta to keep on hand for this kind of dish.