Main Dishes

Main Dish Recipes

Ricotta, Sun dried tomato, Spinach and Pine Nut Pizza

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Pizza can be easily overwhelmed with toppings and the result can be a soggy crust, a greasy mess or flavors that hide one of the true stars of a pizza…the crust.  The key is not only the number of ingredients, but the volume of those ingredients.  A cheese pizza with too much cheese can be a disaster.  A pizza with sauce, mozzarella cheese, sweet Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers and spinach can work as long as the pizza preparer has a light hand with those delicious ingredients.  So, just be aware of how much you’re loading on the pizza and when in doubt use less than you think you need.  

Two years ago I would have cringed at the thought of making my own pizza.  I had always found anything involving yeast to be too daunting.  My first attempt at pizza was OK, but I found the dough recipe for that crust to be a little too thick and chewy.  I like thin crust pizza.  The recipe I used tonight is one I have used before and that I will use from now on.  It is from “The Breadbaker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.  I like that I can make this dough the day before and use it up to 3 days later.  Last minute dinner date?  Save the dough for tomorrow!  Freedom.  I love it.

The only problem I had was getting the dough to form that perfect round shape by tossing it.  An attempt at tossing got me nowhere.  All I really needed to do was pick up the dough round and stretch it just a bit and it was round.  Work pretty quickly or else your dough will stretch too much and develop a nice hole that is not easy to repair.  I was unable to recover from my holey dough.

So, unless you’re feeling kinda crazy and have a pizzeria dream to toss the dough around and be like this kid, don’t worry about it.  The recipe for the dough is at the bottom of this post.

A tip for pizza making: have all your toppings prepped and ready to go before your dough is ready to use.  I like to have my toppings in cute little bowls so that I feel like a TV chef.  This will make the topping process quicker and easier.  This is also a great thing to do when you have people preparing their own individual pizzas or calzones.  Everyone can see their options and choose their own toppings.  My small counter requires me to make good use of my space when I’m cooking, so all the cute little bowls were crammed together here.

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Ben and I love a simple margherita pizza, so I made one of those.  

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I also decided to try something different without using a recipe…yikes!  I had some ricotta cheese, so that was the beginning of the recipe.  The other ingredients came into the mix because I just like them.  I sauteed some spinach in olive oil and garlic, sliced some sun dried tomatoes and toasted some pine nuts.  Seemed like a good combination, so I went with it.

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We liked the clean and simple flavor of this pizza.  There isn’t a lot of cheese, so there is very little grease.  The salty sun dried tomatoes were a great compliment to the creamy ricotta.  The spinach was perfect on this pizza.  I will try using chopped artichoke hearts in place of the spinach for a different flavor next time.

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Ricotta, Sun-dried Tomato and Spinach Pizza

  • 1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 6-8 sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and sliced
  • 4-5 generous cups spinach
  • 3 cloves chopped garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • One nine inch round pizza dough (recipe above) 
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and spinach and stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes until spinach is wilted.  Set aside to cool.
  2. Prepare dough on pizza peel dusted with plenty of cornmeal.
  3. Brush olive oil sparingly all over the dough with a bit more on the outer 1/2 inch of the dough to make a yummier crust.
  4. Dollop teaspoons of ricotta on the crust spacing about 1/2 inch apart.
  5. Scatter spinach and sun dried tomatoes over the pizza and then sprinkle pine nuts on top.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Slide pizza off the peel onto the hot pizza stone.
  8. Bake for 9-12 minutes.
  9. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing.  
  10. Eat up!

Pizza Dough

Ingredients: 

  • 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled 
  • 1 Tsp Instant yeast 
  • 1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
  • 1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
  • 1 Tb sugar 
  • Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method: 
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). 

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan (or pizza peel) with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan (or pizza peel), making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Tortilla Pie

This is a quick, easy and yummy meal with ingredients you probably have on hand.  I originally found this recipe in an issue of Everyday Food.  I’ve made this in a lot of different ways and there are a few variations on the Martha Stewart website.  There is a version with ground beef, for which I usually use ground turkey, and a vegetarian version.  I have substituted frozen chopped spinach for the fresh with good results…less work and less $$.  There is no need for a side dish with this hearty meal, but rice would be a good choice.  I usually just serve this with a green salad.

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 The last time I made this pie I was at the store without the recipe.  A dilema that I’m sure at least one person reading this had experienced.  So, I had to improvise.  I used ground turkey, a can of corn, a can of black beans, left out the spinach and added a can of diced tomatoes and green chlies.  You can’t go wrong with flavors you like, so try any combination of things that sound good.  The only problem could be if you get a little overzealous with the filling and end up with more than will fit in the pie!  I use leftover filling rolled up in flour tortillas.

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Tortilla Pie 

 

  • 4 flour tortillas (10-inch)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil , plus more for pan
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 pound ground beef sirloin
  • 3 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels
  • 3 packed cups loose baby spinach (about 5 ounces) , torn into pieces
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)

 

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan (use the removable bottom of the pan as a guide). Assemble pan with the bottom upside down; lightly oil bottom and sides. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion, cumin, and red-pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Raise heat to medium-high; add beef and garlic. Cook, breaking up meat with a spoon until no longer pink, 4 to 6 minutes. Add corn and spinach; stir until spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes.
  3. Place one tortilla in the prepared pan. Spreading evenly, top with 1 1/2 packed cups beef mixture, then 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat with two more layers. Top with last tortilla, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Bake pie until top is lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Run knife around edge of pan; remove sides. Using two wide metal spatulas, lift pie from bottom of pan, and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into wedges. If desired, serve with cilantro and sour cream.

 

Here is the veggie version.

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie

 

  • 4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno chile, minced (remove seeds and ribs for less heat)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 ounces beer, or 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

 

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom of the pan as a guide. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add beans and beer to skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn and scallions, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the beans and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat three times, using 1 cup cheese on top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold pie; sprinkle with scallions. To serve, slice into wedges.

Dijon Chicken Breasts and Braised Leeks

I hadn’t made an out of the ordinary dinner in a while, so I began my search for something special on Wednesday morning for a special Friday night dinner.  I really enjoy Smitten Kitchen, and that is where I found this recipe.  She calls them Devil’s Chicken Thighs, and they looked so incredibly wonderful on her post that I could not resist.  Not including marinating time on the chicken, this recipe took me about 4 hours to complete.  It is a time commitment, but well worth it.  I made the leeks in the afternoon and chilled them until that night when I made the chicken.  I started cooking again at 6:30 that night…we didn’t eat until 8:45!  So, make sure you have time.  

Another time consuming aspect of this dish is the prep.  It takes a while to pluck those little thyme leaves from the stems to have a total of 4 tablespoons.  Peeling a dozen shallots, slicing and chopping them…put on some good cooking music and get to work.

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I made scallopped potatoes and steamed asparagus to go with the chicken.  The scallopped potatoes recipe is at the bottom of the post.

meal

 

Devil’s Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks and Dijon Mustard
Adapted from 
Sunday Suppers at Lucques

4-6 chicken breasts, trimmed of excess skin and fat ( 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol, thinly sliced on the diagonal (I used serranos and removed the seeds from one of them)
3/4 cup dry vermouth
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 extra-large egg
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chicken stock
Braised leeks (recipe below)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken breasts in a large bowl with the sliced onion, 2 tablespoons thyme, chiles, and 1/4 cup vermouth. Using your hands, toss to coat the chicken well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

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Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl. Heat large saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons butter, and cook until it’s brown and smells nutty. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the brown butter over the breadcrumbs. Wait 1 minute, and then toss well with the parsley and 1 tablespoon thyme.

breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Return the saute pan to medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining tablespoons butter, and when it foams, add the shallots and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Saute about 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent.

shallots

Add the remaining 1/2 cup vermouth and reduce by half. Transfer to a bowl and let cool a few minutes. Whisk in the mustard, egg, chopped tarragon, and a pinch of black pepper.

mustard

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, to bring it to room temperature. Discard the seasonings, and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. After 15 minutes, season the thighs well on both sides with salt and pepper.

Return the same saute pan to high heat for about 2 minutes. Swirl in the olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until the skin is a deep golden brown.

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Turn the breasts over and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Place the chicken on the braised leeks. Turn off the heat and discard the fat. Add the chicken stock to the pan, and scrape with a wooden spoon to release the crispy bits stuck to the bottom. Pour the chicken stock over the braised leeks.

Toss the chicken thighs in the bowl with the mustard mixture, slathering them completely, and then rearrange them over the braised leeks. Spoon any remaining mustard mixture over the chicken thighs.

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Top each thigh with breadcrumbs, patting with your hands to make sure they get nicely coated. (You want lots of mustard mixture and lots of breadcrumbs.) Bake about 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through. To check for doneness, piece the meat near the bone with a paring knife; when ready, the juices from the chicken will run clear.

Turn the oven up to 475°F and cook the chicken thighs another 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

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Serve in the baking dish, or transfer to a large warm platter.

Braised Leeks
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques

I made these 5 hours in advance.  I halved the recipe since it was just the 2 of us.  Use the same amount of wine and about 1 cup of chicken broth.

6 large leeks
About 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (though I always skimp and use less)
1 cup sliced shallots
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove any bruised outer layers from the leeks. Trim off to the roots, leaving the root end intact. Trim the tops of the leeks on the diagonal, leaving 2 inches of the green part attached. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise.  Submerge in a large bowl of cold water to clean them. Shake the leeks well to dislodge the dirt stuck inside. Let them sit a few minutes, to allow any grit inside the layers to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat the process until the water is clean. Place the leeks, cut side down, on a towel and pat dry completely.

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Turn the leeks over so their cut sides are facing up, and season with 2 teaspoons salt and a few grindings of black pepper.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, and wait 1 minute. Place the leeks in the pan, cut side down, being careful not to crowd them.  You will probably need to saute them in batches or in two pans.

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Add more olive oil to the pan as needed, for each batch.) Sear them 4 to 5 minutes, until they are golden brown. Season the backs of the leeks with salt and pepper, and turn them over to cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a large gratin dish, lining them up, cut sides facing up. (Choose a baking dish or gratin dish that can go from oven to table and that will accommodate all the leeks and chick thighs, or use two smaller dishes.)

leeks

Pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the pan and heat over medium heat. Add the shallots, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, until the shallots are just beginning to color. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add 1 1/2 cups stock, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Pour the liquid over the leeks. The stock should not quite cover them; add more stock if necessary.

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Braise in the oven 30 minutes, until the leeks are tender when pierced. 

Simple Scalloped Potatoes with Shallots

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  •          1 ½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thin
  •          2 shallots, sliced thin
  •          Salt
  •          Pepper
  •          All purpose flour
  •          1 ½ cups 2% milk, heated until just warm
  •          2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
  •          ½ to 1 cup shredded cheese (I used an Italian cheese blend)

1.       Preheat oven to 375.

2.       Layer potatoes in bottom of 2 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, pepper, flour and shallots.  Continue layering in this order until all the potatoes have been used. 

3.       Top final layer with salt, pepper and dots of butter, then pour warm milk over potatoes.

4.       Sprinkle with cheese.

5.       At this point you can bake the potatoes for 1 hour, or refrigerate them to bake later. 

6.       If you choose to bake the potatoes at a later time, bake at the same temperature.  Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for the remaining time.

Chicken Stroganoff

I remember my mom making beef stroganoff a lot as a kid.  She may correct me and say she made it rarely, so maybe I just remember it really well.  Either way, I loved it.  Tender egg noodles covered in creamy sauce, and the chunks of beef and mushrooms.  My mom always used ground beef instead of the traditional strips of beef.  I don’t think I even knew that the ground beef method wasn’t the way it should be until much later in life,  I hadn’t had it in a while, and I’ve never had it with chicken.  

This recipe is courtesy of Fine Cooking.  I have been on a kick with this magazine.  It is one of the first places I look for recipes these days.  There is sour cream in the sauce, but only 1/2 cup.  I used low fat, and it was great.  I also used chicken breasts instead of thighs.  The addition of sage, plum tomatoes and roasted red peppers creates something much more complex in flavor than traditional stroganoff.  I served this with steamed asparagus sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese.  I will definitely make this again.  The next time though I won’t sneak little bites out of the leftovers in the fridge so we can eat it two nights in a row!  

Chicken Stroganoff with Mushrooms and Sage
stroganoff


4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 8-oz. package sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
Kosher salt
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground black pepper
1-3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5 or 6), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch pieces
1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic (about 2 large cloves)
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 whole jarred roasted red pepper, drained and cut into thin strips (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 plum tomato, cored, seeded, and cut into medium dice

In a 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 2 tsp. of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season generously with salt, and cook undisturbed until well browned on one side, 1 to 3 minutes. Add half of the shallot and 1/2 Tbs. of the sage to the pan and continue to cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are well browned all over, another 3 to 5 minutes.

shrooms

Season generously with black pepper and transfer to a bowl. Leave the pan off the heat.

Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the remaining 2 tsp. oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the chicken and cook undisturbed for 1 minute.

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Add 1/2 Tbs. of the garlic, 1/2 Tbs. of the sage, and the remaining shallot and continue to cook, stirring, until the chicken is no longer pink on the outside, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms, sherry, and red pepper and cook to reduce the sherry slightly, about 2 minutes.

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Lower the heat to medium and stir in the sour cream, tomato, and the remaining garlic. Partially cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. If the sauce seems overly thick, thin it with a little water. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the remaining sage.

Serve over egg noodles tossed with butter.

Hike, Eat, Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!   What better way to celebrate than with big pink plastic lollipop lips?

the-girls

Valentine’s weekend was great.  Our good friends from law school made the trip to Amarillo to spend the weekend.  We began Saturday with pastries from The Village Bakery.  After breakfast we headed out to Palo Duro Canyon for a hike.  We made good use of our new Texas State Parks pass by getting all 9 of us in for “Free!” instead of $4 per person.

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It was a beautiful day.  I had never hiked in Palo Duro before, only driven through.  We all agreed that being this close to Palo Duro makes living in the Panhandle worth it!  Our dog, Ginger, all 6 pounds and 7 weeks of her, kept up with us all 4 miles of the trip and still had energy left over afterwards.  We were pretty impressed with her stamina.  Our goal was to see Lighthouse rock.  After about 2 miles on the trail the little girls were tired and we thought that we wouldn’t have time to go all the way to the rock.  So, we headed back to the car.  We checked out the trail map when we got to the trailhead and found out that we were almost there when we’d turned around!  So, Ben was right and I was wrong.  Next time we’ll have to hike all the way to Lighthouse.  It seems like an incredible formation.  After the hike, we headed back home to prepare Valentine’s Day dinner.

 

 

I must say that this meal was one of the best we’ve put together.  The company was lovely, so maybe it was partly the people we ate with, but the food…it was wonderful.  The baked brie is courtesy of my Aunt Vivie.  She made a similar appetizer at Christmas.  She used almonds, cranberries and honey inside her puff pastry so the one we made was a bit different.  The thyme and cranberry with the brie was buttery and sweet.  I’m glad we served the brie with the water crackers.  Their clean flavor did not distract you from the rich flavors in the brie.  The salad dressing and spiced pecans is a recipe from Rather Sweet Bakery.  The recipe for the entree came from Fine Cooking.  I used flank steak instead of the skirt steak, and we grilled the steak.  The steak and relish were absolutely incredible.  The flavors really complemented each other as did the textures.  The steak was delicious and tender.  The slight crunch of the vegetables in the relish was a perfect match.  The potatoes were simple.  We all agreed that a meal can be overdone if everything is complex, so the simple roasted potato was a great side.  

Valentine’s Day

Menu

Baked Brie with Thyme and Cranberries

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Salad with Spiced Pecans, Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

table

Smashed New Potatoes

potatoes

Flank Steak with Radish, Red Onion and Carrot Relish

steak

relish

Baked Brie with Cranberries and Thyme

  • 8 oz wheel of brie with top rind removed
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 package plain water crackers
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
  2. On a sheet of waxed paper or parchment, roll the pastry out to a 12-inch square and cut two 6-inch rounds from it. Put one of the rounds on a small rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Sprinkle with half of the dried cranberries and thyme, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge, and gently press them in.
  4. Set the Brie, rind side down, on top of the pastry, sprinkle with the remaining cranberries and thyme, and cover with the other pastry. 
  5. Crimp the edges together to seal in the cheese. 
  6. Bake until the pastry browns, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes and then serve.

The Lovebirds

Here are the dinner guests!  Jason and Carrie, Christian and Lisa, and me and Ben.  

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Rolled Food: Stromboli

This recipe is from Big Red Kitchen.  I saw the Stromboli on her blog and immediately got hungry, so this is what was for dinner a few days ago and last night.  I like the idea of food rolled food.  The layers created by rolling dough around delicious filling are wonderful!

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The first time around I made the spinach Stromboli.  I cut the dough in half instead of thirds, so I should have baked it a little longer than suggested.  The baking time should be increased to at least 35 minutes.  I used a pound of fresh spinach, sauteed it with a little olive oil and minced garlic.  Provolone and a little shredded mozzarella are layered first, then the spinach is spread on top.  The flavor of the spinach was good, but I would use a little more spinach next time and just a bit more cheese.  I liked that the flavor of the spinach was not overwhelmed by cheese, so be careful not to overdo it.  spinach1

I served this with jarred marinara sauce…don’t judge me!  I have a great recipe for marinara sauce, but sometimes you have to take shortcuts to avoid spending all day in the kitchen and doing endless amounts of dishes.  Ok, I’m a little lazy.  So sue me!  I am no Martha Stewart.

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The second attempt was provolone and salami.  I learned from stromboli # 1 that while you shouldn’t over stuff the stromboli, it is wise to make sure that you put enough filling inside so that when you roll it up and bake it someone doesn’t get stuck with a big end piece of dough and no filling.  

salami1I layered 10 pieces of the provolone on the dough, topped it with 12 slices of salami and sprinkled it with some shredded Parmesan, Pasta Sprinkle from Penzey’s and some garlic salt.  

 

Ben and I liked the provolone and salami better than the spinach mostly because it was baked more completely.  I also cut my vents a little deeper so the cheese came out and got all melty and crusty.  I sure do like baked cheese.

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The bread dough recipe is simple and good.  I was able to refridgerate what I had left over for 4 days and it was still yummy and easy to roll out.  I would think any pizza dough would work.  If you use this recipe, obviously you wouldn’t shape it into loaves but just roll it out after it has risen 

 

Simple Crusty Bread (Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)

Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

I would highly recommend reading the Big Red Kitchen blog for more detailed instructions and advice about making a perfect stromboli.  I will make this again.  It was pretty easy and very tasty.  I think this is one of those recipes that you have to learn how to make perfectly by doing it a few times.  So, roll up some dough around some yummy filling and enjoy!

Turkey Picadillo

picadillo2

I like being able to cook dinner without any time constraints.  At times, I truly  enjoy preparing a meal that has more than just a few components and takes me more than a few hours to complete.  Call me crazy!  I don’t have kids (if we don’t count the puppy) so I’m able to do this every now and then.  With the ability to make a laborious dinner, I chose to make turkey picadillo last night.  The entire meal took me a measly 30 minutes from start to finish.  The only extra thing you have to do is hard-boil 2 eggs, which I think could be omitted.  The flavor was nice, sweet and savory at the same time.  The addition of golden raisins is very good; a little burst of sweetness!  It is also very versatile.  I ate it over baby spinach and my husband had it wrapped in flour tortillas.  The original recipe recommends wrapping the filling in lettuce leaves.  I think this would also be yummy on top of tortilla chips, as a tostada topping, over white or yellow rice, and maybe even folded in to scrambled eggs with some queso fresco.  Mmmm…I think that is what I will do with the leftovers tonight. picadillo1 I used a mixture of lean ground beef and ground turkey.  I also added about 1/2 cup more of the crushed tomatoes.  Other than that, I didn’t change a thing about this recipe from FineCooking.  I served the picadillo with black beans and roasted zucchini and squash.

picadillo3

  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped
  • 6 Tbs. chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • flour tortillas or lettuce leaves for wrapping

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat with the edge of a spoon, until done, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and raisins and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with 1-1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped eggs, olives, and cilantro.

Snow and Spinach Lasagna

We had snow in Amarillo!  The high yesterday was 21…today it’s going to be 50.  Gotta love 30 degree temperature swings!  I made a spinach lasagna for dinner.  Cold weather calls for warm, filling food.  The recipe is at the bottom of the post.

snow4  This is my “Oh my goodness!  It snowed!” face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

snow3The backyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taken from the front porch.

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Poor ice covered tree in the backyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spinach Lasagna

  • 1 pound lasagna noodles
  • extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 1/4 pound fresh spinach
  • 3 zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound low fat cottage cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened 
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 cups lshredded part skim mozzarella
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 4 cups tomato sauce

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Boil lasagna noodles 6-8 minutes. Drain.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat until the garlic begins to brown. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper and cook until spinach is wilted and cooked down.  Remove spinach to a plate to cool.

Add a teaspoon of oil to the same pan.  Add zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and saute until zucchini is soft, 5-8 minutes.

Mix the cottage cheese, cream cheese, parmesean, 2 cups of the mozzarella, egg, cayenne, and cooled spinach in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

Cover the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Cover with 3 of the noodles, top with a 1/5 of the cheese mixture and about a half cup of tomato sauce.  Layer 1/4 of the zucchini over sauce.  Season lightly with salt and pepper. Repeat to make 3 more layers. Cover lasagna layers with remaining noodles, sprea remaining cheese mixture on top, top with remaining tomato sauce, sprinkle mozzarella on top. Bake, uncovered, until the lasagna is hot and bubbly, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Basa with Tomato Caper Sauce

Ben and I ate this meal a few nights ago and we both agreed that it was tasty.  It’s fairly healthy, and I also found the recipe to be quick and easy.  A quicky, easy, healthy and tasty meal!  I served the fish with whole wheat cous cous, also quick, healthy and easy.  I’ve started cooking my rice and cous cous in low sodium, low fat chicken broth instead of water.  It makes for a richer flavored side dish without adding a lot of fat or calories.  

The orginal recipe called for halibut filets, but at $19.99 a pound I needed a replacement fish.  The nice guy at the fish counter suggested basa.  It is quite a bit thinner than a halibut filet, so I had to adjust the cooking time.  I only seared the fish for 2 minutes on the first side, then baked it for  about 5 minutes.  I got this recipe from Fine Cooking.  I highly reccomend this cooking magazine over Gourmet or Bon Appetit.  There aren’t nearly as many ads, so your time is much better spent.  I don’t think that there are quite as many recipes, but they usually give you a basic recipe and then give you tips on making variations on it.  So, really, there are an infinite number of recipes!!

basa

Seared Roasted Halibut with Tomato Caper Sauce

 

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tbs. capers, rinsed and chopped
1-1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
1-1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lb. thick skinless halibut fillet (or other mild white fish, like cod), cut into 4 even pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced

 

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

In a medium bowl, mix the tomatoes, capers, oregano, vinegar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

Season the fish with 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and dredge it in the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat the oil in a 12-inch (preferably nonstick) ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the fish, evenly spaced, and cook without touching until it browns and releases easily from the pan (check by gently lifting one of the corners), about 3 minutes. Flip the fish, sprinkle the garlic around it, and cook until the garlic just starts to brown on some edges, about 30 seconds. Pour the tomato mixture around the fish and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until the fish is just firm to the touch and opaque when you pry open a thicker piece with a paring knife, 3 to 6 minutes.

Let the fish rest for a couple of minutes and then serve with the tomato mixture spooned over it.

Daring Bakers: Pizza Challenge

This challange, like the last, allowed quite a bit of creativity and freedom on the part of the bakers.  I was excited to try this recipe for a few reasons.  

1. I love pizza and any excuse to make my own.  

2.  I have never tried an overnight rise in the refridgerator before. 

The dough is easy to make and using the stand mixer makes it even easier.  The next day when it came time to toss I knew I was in for trouble!  The dough doesn’t seem like it NEEDS to be tossed.  I picked up one of the dough balls and turned it a few times and it practically prepared itself.  It was thin and circular in no time.  I knew that I had to at least try to toss at least one dough ball for the sake of the Daring Bakers, so I did.
 

I not only dropped it on the floor but poked a big hole in the dough and argued with my husband while he was trying to take pictures of the whole ordeal.  I may not be tossing dough again.  I like my method of stretching the dough with my hands.  Much safer.  No pizza dough casualties!  The dough that survived the tossing turned into great pizzas.  I like my pizza crust thin and crunchy with just that right amount of chew in the crust so this was perfect.  I’ve had trouble getting a good thin crust with other dough, so I will be using this recipe from now on.  Scroll to the bottom for the recipe!

I usually make margherita pizzas because I completely satisfied with the simplicity of the mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil.  Last summer I ate at Asti with my family to celebrate my sisters graduation from college.  I had their white pizza and thought that I would try to recreate it.  The Asti pizza had mozzarella, fontina and provolone cheeses with fried sage leaves.  I also chose to add slices of proscuitto di Parma which was a great decision.  The crust was thin and crispy.  I didn’t totally recreate this pizza, but this combination of mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese and parmesean was simple and very tasty.  I fried sage leaves to go with this pizza and it really made the pizza special.

Here are the toppings!

The second pizza was based on a recipe I found in an NPR article called Tapas Pizza.  I used manchego cheese, proscuitto, green olives, roatsed red and yellow peppers, red onion and parsley.  It was also a very delicious pizza and I was pleased with the way it turned out.

~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients: 
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled 
1 Tsp Instant yeast 
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar 
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method: 
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). 

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. 
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.