• Homemade Pizza

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    Our family loves pizza. We’ve made homemade pizza a bunch of times, but usually the weakest link is the crust. We’ve found a keeper!!! This is a Giada de Laurentiis recipe published in Bon Appetit magazine. The great thing about making pizza at home is that you can completely customize and use your imagination! FYI: I don’t think it’s possible to ever get homemade pizza crust to taste like your favorite pizzeria…the reason being is the home oven cannot reach the temperature that a commercial pizza oven reaches. Nevertheless, this is an excellent recipe, and we’ll definitely make this one again.

    Gadgets you’ll want to have on hand: pizza peel/paddle, pizza stone, pizza cutter

    Pizza Dough:

    • 3/4 cup warm water (105 to 115F)
    • 1 envelope active dry yeast
    • 2 cups (or more) all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 3 TBSP olive oil

    Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

    Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil. Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add yeast mixture and 3 TBSP oil; process until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface. KNEAD dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. PUNCH down dough. ROLL out dough by starting the center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them.

    Toppings We Used:

    • Marinara Sauce, probably not more than 1/4 cup
    • Fresh mozzarella sliced or shredded
    • Vine ripened tomatoes, sliced and sprinkled with salt
    • Shredded basil

    Assembly:

    Once the dough is rolled out, flour your pizza peel/paddle and place dough on paddle. Put a few spoonfuls of your favorite store bought marinara sauce on the dough, but be careful not to add too much sauce (probably not more than 1/4 cup). I wouldn’t use homemade sauce for pizza because the water content is probably too high. Leave about 1/2 inch of dough sauce free around the edges.

    Shred lots of fresh mozzarella cheese or thinly slice the cheese. Add cheese to the dough.

    Slice a bunch of vine ripened tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt. This helps draw the liquid out of the tomatoes as well as making them super tasty. Spread the tomatoes all over the cheese.

    Gravity will shift the toppings toward the center during the cooking process, so resist putting too many toppings toward the center of the pizza.

    Brush the exposed crust with olive oil

    Cook:

    Place your pizza stone on the center rack of your oven. Preheat your oven to the highest temperature it can go for about 30 minutes. With the pizza on the paddle, place it in the oven and shake the paddle to transfer the pizza to the stone.

    Cook for 15 minutes or until done (it only took 7-8 minutes when we made…all depends on your oven temperature).

    Remove pizza from oven and top with shredded basil.

    Feel free to be creative with the toppings. Next time we make pizza, we’ll make a traditional one for the kiddos and then for us, we’ll make a Mexican inspired pizza. We’ll spread refried beans over the dough, tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, cheese, then cook and serve with guacamole. Sounds really tasty to us! :)

    Pizza Dough

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  • French Onion Soup and Green Salad

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    We made French Onion Soup from Joy of Cooking. This is an excellent version. It takes quite a while to cook–2 hours from start to finish, but it’s well worth it. The onions slow cook for a long time that they develop a deep, rich flavor. We accompanied the soup with a green salad, and we created the dressing recipe. The salad was classic and tasty and complimented the soup very well.

    Soup Recipe:

    • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 5 medium onions, thinly sliced
    • Pinch of dried thyme
    • 2 Tbsp. dry sherry or cognac
    • 3 1/2 cups beef stock
    • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
    • 2 thin slices (~1/2 inch) of French bread per serving
    • 3 Tbsp. Gruyère or Swiss cheese, grated, per serving

    For soup:

    Heat butter and olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat until butter is melted. Add onions and thyme and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown, about 15 minutes. Watch to ensure that onions do no scorch. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, covered, stirring more often, until onions have a rich brown color, about 40 minutes.

    Add dry sherry or cognac, increase the heat to high, and stir constant until all of the dry sherry or cognac has cooked off. Stir in beef stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

    For croutons:

    Heat oven to 300°F. Arrange French bread slices on a sheet pan. Bake until crisp, turning once, about 15 minutes.

    Assembly:

    Ladle the hot soup into the bowls and top with 2 French bread slices. Sprinkle each bowl with the cheese. With the flame set to medium-high, use the crème brulee torch to melt the cheese until browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.

    Salad Recipe:

    • Greens of your choice
    • 4 TBSP Olive Oil
    • 2TBSP red wine vinegar
    • 1/8 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp salt divided
    • 3 garlic cloves

    Combine the olive oil, vinegar, pepper and 1/8 tsp of salt in a bowl.

    Put the garlic cloves on a cutting board. Turn your knife on its side with the edge pointing away from you, place the knife on top of a garlic glove, and whack the knife with the palm of your hand. This method crushes the clove and removes the garlic’s skin. Repeat with the remaining cloves. Add the remaining 1/8 tsp of salt to the garlic. Run the side of the knife over the garlic until you get a garlic paste.

    Add the garlic paste to a heat safe pan (not a non stick pan). Using your torch, heat the garlic paste over medium heat until the garlic gets slightly brown and no longer has a raw flavor.

    Add the torched garlic to the dressing and use a fork or whisk to emulsify the dressing.

    Mix with your greens and enjoy.

    Soup:

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    Salad:

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  • Chocolate Tasting Notes: Santander, Perugina

    In my continuing research on chocolate, I like to taste and score various chocolate bars. For scoring I used my “three Ts” — taste, texture, and toppings. Taste refers to both the overall taste of the chocolate and, if there are toppings, the chocolate part of the flavor. That’s why a bar can get a 2/5 for taste but only a 1/5 for toppings (the chocolate part of the flavor brought the score up.)

    Santander
    70% Dark Colombian Single Origin
    Taste: 5/5. Good roast flavor, strong.
    Texture: 5/5. Good melt in mouth, smooth.
    Toppings: N/A.
    Purchased at: Cost Plus

    Perugina Dark Chocolate
    Taste: 4/5. Rich and nutty, strong.
    Texture: 4/5. Smooth with slight clumping.
    Toppings: N/A.
    Purchased at: Cost Plus

    Perugina White Chocolate
    Taste: 3/5. Not strong, decent flavor, some aftertaste.
    Texture: 4/5. Smooth but not amazingly so.
    Toppings: N/A.
    Purchased at: Cost Plus

    Santander
    70% with Pineapple Colombian Single Origin
    Taste: 4/5. Strong chocolate flavor, good balance with pineapple, bitter.
    Texture: 5/5. Smooth with nice chunks of pineapple.
    Toppings: 4/5. Good pineapple flavor.
    Purchased at: Cost Plus

  • Chicken Kebabs and Spinach Pie

    Super Bowl Sunday proved to be a Mediterranean feast day. We had chicken kebabs, spinach pie, grilled zucchini and rice. It turned out fantastic! The kebab recipe is from A Taste of Persia, and the spinach pie recipe is from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

    Chicken Kebabs

    Chicken:

    4 boneless chicken breasts cut into 1.5 inch pieces

    Marinade:

    1 tsp ground saffron threads, dissolved in 2 TBSP hot water

    1 cup fresh lime juice

    2 TBSP olive oil

    2 large onions, peeled and thinly siced

    2 TBSP plain yogurt

    2 tsp salt

    2 tsp freshly ground pepper

    Basting:

    2 TBSP butter

    1/2 tsp salt

    1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

  • In a large glass bowl with cover, combine 1 tsp saffron water, the lime juice, olive oil, onions, yogurt, and salt and pepper. Beat well with a fork. Add the pieces of chicken and toss well. Cover and marinate for at least 6 or up to 48 hours in the refrigerator. Turn the chicken twice during this time.
  • Spear the chicken on skewers.
  • In a small saucepan melt the butter and add the remaining saffron water, lime juice, salt, and peeper. Mix well and keep warm over very low heat.
  • Grill and baste.
  • Spinach Pies:

    Dough:

    1 tsp active dry yeast

    pinch of sugar

    About 1 cup of lukewarm water

    3 cups of bread flour

    1 tsp salt

    1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of the warm water. Leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes, until it froths.
  • Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix in the oil. Add the yeast mixture and a little at a time, just enough of the remaining warm water so that the dough holds together with your hands. Knead vigorously for about 10 minutes, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic.
  • To prevent a dry crust from forming on the surface, pour 1/2 TBSP oil in the bottom of the bowl and roll the dough around in it to grease it all over. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about 1.5 hours, until doubled in bulk.
  • Spinach Pies: makes about 50, but you can easily half this and the dough recipe
    Filling:

    2 lbs. frozen leaf spinach, defrosted

    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

    1 onion

    4 TBSP sumac

    Juice of 1 lemon

    1 cup of pine nuts or chopped walnuts (optional)

    salt and pepper

    1. Put the spinach in a colander and press out the water, then squeeze the leaves between your palms to get rid of any remaining liquid. Coarsely chop the spinach and mix in a bowl with the rest of the filling ingredients.
    2. Punch down and knead the risen dough. Divide into 4 or 6 balls for easier handling. When rolling out one ball, keep the remaining ones wrapped in plastic.
    3. Roll out each ball on a lightly floured surface, and keep turning over the dough and dusting underneath with flour so that it doesn’t stick. Roll out as thinly as possible. Cut the sheet into 1.5-2 inch rounds with a pastry cutter. pick up the scraps, roll them into a ball, and roll out again to make more rounds. Take each round and roll out again, then pull out and stretch until it is paper-thin and about 3-3.5 inches in diameter.
    4. take each pastry round, lay it flat on one hand, and put a TBSP of filling in the middle. (1) Shape into the traditional 3 sides and bring them together over the filling. (2) Pinch the edges together, making thin, ridged joint in the shape of a 2 sided start and losing the pies. (3) Place th pies on a lightly oiled baking sheet and press down a little to flatten their bases.
    5. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

    Rice: prepare rice and then sprinkle sumac on top to serve.

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    Chicken Kebab Recipe:
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    Spinach Pie Recipe:
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