Backblogged

I won’t be one of those bloggers that pretends to have thousands of clamoring fans that didn’t know what to do with themselves when their favorite blogger went on hiatus. That being said, for the three of you out there who actually care, sorry for depriving you of dry humor and french toast recipes.

It’s been an insanely busy summer, but I’ll spare you the excuses and get straight to the good stuff …

Portobello, red pepper and goat cheese flatbread/pizza

You’ll need:

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1-2 portobello mushrooms, chopped

8 oz. goat cheese

3-5 cloves garlic, minced

Crushed red pepper  and salt to taste

1 bag of Trader Joe’s pizza dough (you can substitute other dough, but I love this one)

A pizza stone

Olive oil

Have I ever preached the merits of a good pizza stone? It is absolutely crucial if you want to achieve the perfect crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside crust. And take it from me—skip the parchment paper and slap that dough right on the stone. There is an art to this people, so allow me to explain the process:

Ideally, you’ll want to pull your dough out of the fridge an hour or so before you start to let it proof.

Then, you’ll set your oven to 500 degrees and put the pizza stone in to heat it up. Next, ready your ingredients.

In this case, I sauteed the chopped red peppers in a little olive oil for a while to soften them up (ever had a pizza with vegetables that were raw and crunchy? Nothing worse.) and then added the mushrooms in toward the end. Set your ingredients aside and let’s get doughing (forgive me for that one, I’ve been out of the food-humor game for a while). I cut the dough in half so each pizza will fit on the stone—that’s a ball of dough about the size of a baseball. You’ll need a flat, floured surface to work on.

Press your fingers into the dough about an inch inside the outer edge to form a crust. Then press down in the middle with your palms to flatten the dough, and start pulling the dough apart with fingers. Once it is thin enough, you can slap the dough back and forth between your palms or hold one end and let the weight of the dough do the work to stretch it more. If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, here’s a good video tutorial—unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to visually document this process.

At this point, your pizza stone should be heated. Professional pie-makers may turn their noses up at my method, but trust me, for the home cook this works like a charm: Take the pizza stone out—very carefully—and set it on your counter or stove top. Again, VERY CAREFULLY, place your shaped dough (no toppings yet) on the stone. The crust will start to cook immediately from the heat of the stone, so quickly brush the dough with olive oil, crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle the toppings over the surface. I added a few grates of parmesan for good measure. Stick the pizza stone back in the oven and keep a close eye on it. It cooks very quickly—in about 5-7 minutes. Remove the stone once the crust is golden brown and let cool for a while. The pizza should slide off the stone fairly easily.

Garnish with crushed red pepper and a bit of sea salt to taste.

Girls’ night in



Pear Bellini_6



On Friday night we had an amazing girls’ night in at Maria’s that involved caramelized onion dip, an avocado and cilantro salad, DIY pizzas, Pear Bellinis, Andre Extra Dry, an incredible desert concoction of german poundcake, Cherry Garcia yogurt and Vosges Dark Chocolate Goji bar, and last but certainly not least, Jack Frost II: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman. Talk about a winning combination.

Unfortunately, the lighting was too low, so pictures are limited, although I plan to recreate the carmelized onion dip ASAP. Here for now, is the super-easy bellini recipe:

You’ll need:

3 pears, skinned and chopped

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup apple juice

OR

pear sauce (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)

AND

prosecco or dry champagne

If you don’t have the luxury of ready-made pear sauce, blend the other ingredients until pureed. We used about one part pear sauce for every two parts champagne. Stir and serve.



Pear Bellini



It tastes better if consumed while watching a ridiculously cheesy horror movie.

Crispy pizza crust: part two

Eggplant Parmesan_2

I applied the rolling-pin approach to my leftover pizza dough today. It’s definitely the way to go for a thin, crispy crust. I used my great old-fashioned wooden rolling pin. None of that silicone crap.



Crispy Crust



I cooked the crust first, as with before, and poked a few holes in the dough with a toothpick to prevent the giant balloon effect that I got before. Worked like a charm.

Then I topped it with pesto, minced garlic, some of my leftover fried eggplant, a tiny bit of shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. I popped it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Then I sprinkled it with shaved parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes. It was SO good. Better than the eggplant parmesan panini, in fact.

All this pizza making has me eyeing this and this. Yet another couple of items to add to my kitchen tools wish list.



Eggplant Parmesan Pizza_9



Heaven on Crust: prosciutto, arugula and parmesan pizza

This, my friends, is pizza the way it was meant to be:


Prosciutto Arugula Parmigiano Pizza


I first tried this delicious combination in a small trattoria in Turino Italy.

The crust was thin, crispy and warm. The flavors and textures of the uncooked toppings mixed PERFECTLY together: paper-thin slices of rich, salty prosciutto, generous shavings of parmigiano-reggiano, crisp, peppery arugula, a drizzle of olive oil, and fresh ground pepper.

If I’m ever lucky enough to see a similar menu item stateside, I plead with my fellow diners to split it with me. Most people aren’t into it. Maybe the arugula and prosciutto turns them off. Or the fact that this isn’t anything close to what we Americanos think of as pizza. If you people only knew what you were missing!

Last night, while shopping at Trader Joe’s, I noticed pre-made pizza dough (for just $1.19!), prosciutto, parmesan cheese and arugula ALL IN THE SAME AISLE! Coincidence? I think not! OK, so the place is pretty tiny. But never mind that. I HAD to make this pizza.


Pizza dough



Prosciutto



Parmesan shavings


Prosciutto, Arugula and Parmesan Pizza

You’ll need:

pizza dough (Trader Joe’s dough is awesome and cheap)

parmesan cheese, thinly shaved/sliced

prosciutto

extra-virgin olive oil

arugula

fresh ground pepper

First I prepared the dough. My first job was at Domino’s Pizza—I know what I’m doing here. The trick is to take the dough ball and press your fingers around edge while stretching it slightly with the other hand to form a crust. Keep the center dome-ish for now, like this:


Forming a crust with Pizza dough



Making a pizza crust


Then slap the dough between your hands to stretch it. Try a spinning toss if you’re feeling lucky. If the prospect of dropping your dough or ripping it in two makes you nervous, you can always roll it out with a rolling pin. But that’s not really my style.

Get the crust as thin as possible. Mine came out a little too thick for my liking. Come to think of it, a rolling pin may be just the trick. Darn.

Put the crust (hold your horses on the toppings) in a 475-degree oven on a sheet of tinfoil or a pizza stone. I purposely left my sheet pan out of the equation (it prevents cookies and the like from burning on the bottom), because I wanted a super crispy crust.

Once in the oven, my pizza crust ballooned without any toppings to keep it in check. I poked holes in it with toothpicks. Crisis averted. Try poking your dough with a fork before you put it in the oven.

When the crust was hard enough, I placed it directly on the oven rack for an extra crispy crust. I think it was in for about 15 minutes total, maybe a little less. Take it out when it looks like this:


Cooked Crust


Notice the conspicuous toothpick pricks? Now comes the fun part.

First, drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil.


Crust with olive oil


Now pile on your prosciutto.


Crust with prosciutto


Then comes the arugula.


Crust with Arugula


Sprinkle your parm shavings.


Parmesan crust


Now for one last drizzle of olive oil and a few turns of the pepper grinder.


Prosciutto Arugula Parmesan pizza


The marbling of the prosciutto makes this one a little difficult to cut, but it is SO worth the extra work.


Arugula Parmesan Prosciutto Pizza


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