Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sausage and Broccoli Pizza

I was born and raised on Long Island, New York. As such, I am a certified pizza snob. I believe New York Pizza is the best pizza, and there is very little you can do to change my mind.

It's really hard being a New York pizza snob in Boston, but that is the predicament I find myself in. Because I also am madly in LOVE with pizza, I decided that it would be a fun activity to make a yummy pizza at home.

Because I would trust Super Chef Bobby Flay with my life, I decided that his pizza dough recipe would be the perfect place to start. I even made the dough the night before and allowed it to come to room temperature just before cooking. It's really fool proof. A stand mixer is very useful to have, but if you don't have this or time to make your own dough, a store-bought dough would work just fine!

The joy of homemade pizza is the fact that you can let your imagination run wild. There is no pizza shop owner telling you what pizza options you have. Instead, the options are limitless! If you want a bacon, bleu cheese, french fry pizza -- by God, you make that pizza.

For my first homemade pizza, I thought I would keep it simple and go with what I like. I am a huge fan of browned sweet Italian sausage, and broccoli is almost always my vegetable of choice. And so this simple but comforting Sausage and Broccoli Pizza was born.

I doctored up a store-bought pizza sauce using a bunch of herbs, lemon juice, a touch of sugar and garlic. I wilted in some spinach for added nutritional goodness.

Now, if you're going to be making a pizza at home and take nothing else away from this post -- heed this tip: do NOT buy pre-shredded mozzarella cheese. If you buy a ball of fresh whole milk mozzarella and shred it yourself, you will find that it melts much more beautifully than the processed stuff and bubbles and browns in a mouthwatering way.

My crust turned out to be a little big. It's ok, that's my favorite part

Also important is your equipment...a pizza stone is preferable, but I was able to find a $3 pizza pan (3 DOLLARS!!) at Marshalls. It's extremely helpful for crisping the crust and forming your dough into a nice circle. If all else fails, you can also follow the steps below using a large cast iron skillet!

The following recipe includes the pizza dough recipe and a separate recipe for the toppings. Note that the dough recipe yields 2 13-inch pizzas, so check back soon for another great pizza recipe I served this past weekend that is so outrageous it has to be good! PIZZA! PIZZA!

Here's what you need for Sausage and Broccoli Pizza:

For the crust (adapted Bobby Flay Recipe)
3 1/2 to 4 cups all purpose flour plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope instant dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (must be WARM, not hot or cold, to avoid deactivating the yeast)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil

For the toppings
1 can pizza sauce
splash of water to clean out the can
1 tablespoon each dried oregano and dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1 lemon
about 1 cup packed baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
3 links sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
1 cup frozen broccoli, chopped fine
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup (or more..hee hee) freshly grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Here's what you do:

For the crust
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Turn mixer on low and gradually stream in the water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Increase speed slightly and knead until the dough begins to form a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If it is extremely sticky, add more flour about a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and turn the dough out onto the countertop. Knead lightly and form into a smooth ball. Use the remaing olive oil to grease a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm area and allow to rise about 1 hour until doubled in size.

Once the dough has doubled, again lightly flour a clean work surface and separate the dough into 2 equal pieces. Knead each piece gently into a smooth ball. Cover with a clean kitchen towel for ten minutes. If not using immediately, wrap the balls tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Allow to come to room temperature before cooking.

While preparing the toppings, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pizza pan in the oven to preheat as well.

For the toppings
In a small saucepan, combine the pizza sauce, water, herbs, sugar, and lemon juice over medium heat. Stir to combine. Bring to a slight boil then reduce the heat to low. Add the spinach and cook until completely wilted; season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In a skillet, heat a bit of oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown for about 2 minutes. Begin breaking apart the sausage and crumble into small pieces. Cook, stirring occassionally until browned on all sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

In the same pan, melt the butter and saute the broccoli until warmed. Season with salt and pepper.

To build the pizza
Remove pizza pan from oven and carefully press pizza dough onto the pan working out from the center. Make it as thick or thin as you like.

Use a soup ladle to spoon about a cup of the sauce into the center of the crust. Use the back of the spoon to swirl it around to coat almost all of the pizza, leaving about an inch for the crust. Top the sauce with broccoli then add the mozzarella cheese, being sure to evenly coat the entire pizza. Finally, place the sausage pieces on top. Drizzle the top with the remaining olive oil, being sure to get a bit on the crust as well. Bake at 350 for about 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is gold brown. Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Creamy White Bean Dip

I need to talk to you about this dip ASAP.

It may have bypassed hummus on my list of delicious spreads that I would dip anything in.

This white bean dip is creamy and dreamy. It is packed with fresh herbs and bright lemon juice. A bit of olive oil and pureed white beans make this thick and smooth.

There is this amazing restaurant in Boston called Rustic Kitchen. I've eaten there three times in the past year and the meal has never disappointed. To start off dinner, they serve a delicious homemade foccaccia bread with a white bean dip. This was the inspiration. I love the white bean dip there...I've asked for a second helping on more than one occasion.

Go big or go home, they say.

Yesterday, we hosted an Oscar viewing party to celebrate the 85th Academy Awards. As I was trying to think of a fun menu for the evening, my mind immediately went to white bean dip. It is elegant and unassuming. Fresh dill, parsley, and rosemary make this dip the perfect compliment to a homemade foccaccia bread (coming soon!!) and English cucumbers and carrot sticks and pretzels.

This dip starts the night before you plan on serving it. White beans are soaked in cold water overnight. The next morning, they are boiled for 1 to 2 hours until tender. After that, it's all about blending everything together.

The beans and a generous amount of their cooking liquid are the base. Extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice add texture and tang. Garlic, dill, rosemary, and parsley are the secret flavor weapons. Salt and pepper finish it off for good measure.

It's that simple! In no time at all, you have a delicious dip to bring to cocktail parties or the big game. Hummus is great, yes, but White Bean Dip is the dip of the future. I could barely stop myself from eating it out of the serving bowl with a spoon. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Veggie Packed Fried Rice

Do you ever have a brilliant idea, or a perfectly well-thought out plan that goes horribly wrong because of some unforeseen circumstance totally out of your control? That TOTALLY happened to me tonight.

OK, I'm being slightly dramatic. But, I had slightly different intentions for tonight's recipe. I had a vision of remaking a basic Asian-style fried rice and turning it into something more robust by subbing the rice for quinoa. We all know about quinoa. It's very hip right now, considered a great food to add to your diet especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Well, apparently the cat is out of the bag on this one. The mart that I frequent for quick shopping trips on my way home was plum OUT of quinoa. And because it was a work night and there was no way I was making my way to a second store, my plan was foiled.

Yes, the "cat is out of the bag" line is a totally shameless ploy to put a picture of my cat in this post. I'm a winner.

Luckily, I still decided to whip up a batch of this Veggie-packed Fried Rice. It was really delicious and flavorful. It also took no time at all to whip together. This is the perfect side dish to thwart any craving you may have for Chinese take out!

I am totally hooked on edamame right now, so I knew that would make an appearance in this dish. It has great protein content and it's light, delicate flavor loaned itself perfectly to a stir fry.

Along with the edamame, this rice has plenty of shredded carrots, onions, and broccoli. I also added in scallions and cilantro, because I love the way these herbs compliment many Asian flavors.

A fried egg also adds a punch of protein, while a touch of red wine vinegar, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce give the rice body, flavor, spice, and saltiness.

The recipe below will serve two as a side dish or light meal. Feel free to double the recipe and toss in some chicken or pork for a great dinner! Will you try this with quinoa? I know I will -- I'll be sure to post again after I have experimented!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Double Chocolate Chip Scones

I believe that hard work and dedication pays off.

I believe that there is nothing in the world that can replace a supportive family and good friends.

I believe that chocolate makes everything better.

I suppose I'm close to what one may call a "choco-holic." I'm addicted to fun size Kit Kats and I swoon over chocolate covered pretzels. If I can have my coffee with mocha swirl, my day is instantly better. Oh, and chocolate doughnuts? Let's not even go there.

It seems to me that this love for chocolate is what led to these Double Chocolate Chip Scones. There is not only one but two types of chocolate chips in these delicious breakfast babies. And because I can't leave well enough alone, I drizzled a chocolate glaze on top. These plus a hot cup of coffee plus a cozy couch and a warm blanket equal total breakfast bliss.

They start with a fairly simple scone recipe. A bit of flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Unsalted butter is cut in to form a course crumble. Cue mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and dark chocolate chunks (this is where chocolate overload commences). Finally, wet ingredients (that is, a faux buttermilk and an egg) combine with dry ingredients and we are that much closer to a dynamite homemade breakfast.

The phrase "faux buttermilk" may have you lifting an eyebrow and calling me crazy, but this is such a lifesaver. On a regular basis, do you have buttermilk in your fridge? I don't, but it takes things to the next level. And so the fact that there are ways to fake it is excellent for your basic home cook. I do mine by vigorously whisking together one cup of cold milk with 1 and 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. I've also heard it can be done with milk and vinegar!

I think there is something special about taking the time on a Saturday or Sunday morning to make something delicious for breakfast. Monday through Friday can be tough, so we need to treat ourselves!

These scones are divine. They are soft and flaky on the inside with a golden brown crust on the outside. The bursts of chocolate chips are sweet and melty. And a chocolate glaze is made with coffee, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar for a lovely finish. Are you worth it? YES. So keep scrolling for the recipe!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spinach and Goat Cheese Steak Rolls

Every now and then, you need to take life to a new level.

Maybe you go on an outdoor adventure like zip lining in the mountains or skydiving over some beautiful beach.

You might want to go for a whole new look and cut your hair short or paint your nails neon green.

Sometimes it means putting the chicken away and making some steak for dinner.

I love steak. I'm a total carnivore and believe a good steak is the way to a man's heart. It can be intimidating, however, to whip up a beautiful Filet Mignon. Imagine ruining a really expensive cut of meat by overcooking it or over-seasoning it?! No, this is my nightmare. 

All of this shouldn't deter you from making steak at home. There are really tasty and elegant steak dishes that can be made at home without breaking the bank or your self-esteem. These Spinach and Goat Cheese Steak Rolls are one such example.

These tasty bites are made with flank steak, which is one of the most underestimated cuts of steak in my opinion! It is really flavorful and stays tender even if you prefer your steak well-done. Since it is a fairly thin cut to begin with, it is the perfect candidate for stuffing!

I sliced my flank steak diagonally against the grain into 5 rectangular pieces. There is no real science to it, and you should work with what you've got. You should just be sure that it is long enough to be rolled and wide enough to hold a good amount of filling.

After slicing the steak, I used a meat mallet to flatten them out just a bit more. This is easily done by covering the top of the meat with a piece of saran wrap.

Stuffing the meat is the fun part. About 1 tablespoon of goat cheese gets spread onto the steak, leaving a small amount of space at each end. I then pressed a few pieces of baby spinach on top of the cheese and laid a few thinly sliced roasted red pepper pieces on top. Roll it up tightly and secure with a tooth pick.

I knew I wanted to make a pan sauce to spoon over these delicious steaks, so to cook them I first seared them in a hot frying pan before transferring to the oven. I adapted my pan sauce from my French Onion Pasta, was this good!

Shallots and garlic get cooked down in a bit of butter and olive oil. A dry red wine delgazes the pan. Beef broth gets stirred in along with flour to create a thick and flavorful sauce. Fresh parsley ends this sauce with a beautifully fresh taste.

I served these delicious and melty steak roll ups on top of a heaping mound of homemade mashed potatoes. My fellow steak loving boyfriend couldn't get enough of it! If you want to make a really amazing dinner, give these steak rolls a try--they are totally on the next level!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lemon Bars

All of this snow and blizzard talk has had me craving something decadent and fresh. It's like I need the flavors of summer to remind me that this snow will melt away and the flowers will bloom again.

I also need something delicious and comforting because, after shoveling out our car from under 28+ inches of snow, I am sore in places I didn't even know could be sore. Dessert seems to be the only way to cure this pain, and these Lemon Bars did just the trick.

A crispy buttery crust is topped with a creamy, lemon custard-like filling. Both the zest and the juices of lemons give this dessert tang while an extra (generous) dusting of powdered sugar is soft and sweet.

My older sister and my grandpa are total lemon junkies. I'm pretty sure they would eat lemon meringue pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if the family allowed them. I couldn't help but think how much they would love these lemon bars...I better make a batch the next time I go home...

So, life has thrown us lemons and we aren't making lemonade but we are definitely making lemon bars. And not the kind of lemon bars that involved mixing a boxed cake mix with canned lemon filling. Sorry, folks. That's a no-go here. Don't panic though...this is a decadent, sweet, and flavorful dessert that comes together fairly quickly, with just over 30 minutes of baking time.

We will first make the buttery crust, which starts by beating 2 sticks (hehe) of unsalted butter with granulated sugar and light brown sugar until fluffy.

Flour and salt join the party.

Then the mixture is pressed gently into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

While that bakes a bit, you prepare the custard filling. It's totally simple. Beat together 4 eggs with granulated sugar. Add in a few tablespoons of flour along with the zest of one lemon and the juice of 2 to 3 lemons. This gets poured over the hot crust and the whole thing bakes about 25 minutes more, until the bars have set and are no longer jiggly.

Now we wait, rather impatiently, for the bars to cool completely...

Still waiting...

Now cut the bars with a very sharp knife.

OK! Now. Powdered sugar! Go ahead and spoil yourself, the more the merrier.

So much yumminess is going on here. A crispy, buttery base and a smooth and creamy lemony filling. The powdered sugar. Everything is so right. These are rich without overdoing it. Subtle, in a way, and totally delicious.

These would make a great Valentine's Day dessert when topped with a few fresh raspberries! Go ahead and impress that special someone, these bars won't disappoint.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Labor of Love: Champagne Lemon Risotto

Let's talk about Valentine's Day.

Let's also take bets on how many people x-ed out of the page after reading the dread V-word...well, they are missing out on something delicious. I bet they'll come back. They HAVE to.

There is something romantic about a creamy risotto packed with tangy Parmesan cheese, crispy prosciutto, and bright lemon. And so it seems fitting that I share this recipe in time for that holiday filled with pinks and reds and hearts and chocolates.

I love chocolate...

Risotto is a meal that takes a little bit of effort and a good chunk of the home cook's attention. There is a constant stir that needs to happen, but in a way I find this methodical stirring a bit soothing. When all is said and done, what remains is a rich and creamy dish that will win over any man or woman's heart. And there is some champagne this is kind of a Valentine's Day win-win situation.

This particular risotto, adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis, is made using a dry champagne, lemon zest, chicken broth and Parmesan cheese. Crispy green beans get stirred in at the end and a crunchy prosciutto is used for a decadent garnish. 

If you have never made a risotto, it is nothing to be intimidated by. Just be sure you can dedicate about 30 minutes to the preparation of this meal (and if you have a significant other to help out, you can tag team the stirring efforts!).

First, place 4 pieces of thin prosciutto on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until crispy. This alone will win over your special someone's heart and belly.

Chicken stock is brought to a boil and sliced green beans get cooked in the hot liquid for about 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beans, and set them aside for later. Meanwhile, the chicken stock continues to simmer over low heat.

A finely chopped shallot is sauteed in a good bit of olive oil and butter until fragrant and tender.

Then, the arborio rice (the ideal rice for risotto) gets tossed in with the shallots and butter. The rice will get toasted with lemon zest for about 3 minutes, all the while we are stirring it constantly.

Pop the champagne! This will be added to the pan to deglaze the bottom. We will let this simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Now, we will slowly add in the chicken stock to the rice mixture. Using a soup ladel, add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the rice. Stir constantly until the rice absorbs most of the broth, then repeat until all the chicken broth has been added. By the end of this process, the rice will be creamy and thick.

Off the heat, I add in more butter, a good bit of Parmesan cheese, the reserved green beans, salt, and pepper. We are totally in this to win it.

To serve, scoop a generous helping of the risotto onto a plate. Top with crumbles of the prosciutto and, of course, more Parmesan cheese. You can also add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top to really brighten everything up. Not only is the dish totally gorgeous, but it is so tasty and elegant as well! Pair with a crusty bread and salad for a full dinner.

Oh, and if you're not sure what to do with the leftover champagne...why not freeze some strawberries ahead of time and serve some glasses with dinner? You win.