Sunday, August 31, 2008

Mediterranean Pizza

This was another Bunko night experiment! My mom found this recipe in the August 2008 issue of Georgia Magazine, put out by Flint Energies. There was an article titled "Cream of the Crop" by Jennifer Hewett, talking about Georgia native food contest winners and their recipes. One recipe was for Mediterranean Pizza with Cheese-Stuffed Crust from Barbara Williams; a 2008 Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist from Lawrenceville.

We read this recipe and just had to try it. We modified it a little by substituting Pillsbury pizza crust with just a regular store brand pizza dough, switched the spicy pork sausage for turkey sausage, and subbed sun-dried tomatoes for drained diced tomatoes. We also added a sprinkling of sharp cheddar cheese, and subbed shredded mozzarella for shredded muenster cheese, because you can never have enough cheese.

Complete list of ingredients:
1-1/2 tablespoons cornmeal
1(13.8-ounce) can refrigerated classic pizza crust
7 pieces (1 ounce each) mozzarella string cheese
1/4 cup tomato sauce with basil, garlic and oregano (or just regular tomato sauce)
1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil leaves
1/2 pound bulk turkey sausage
1/3 cup diced tomatoes
1(10-ounce) box frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed to drain
1/4 cup sliced black olives
Hand full of sliced green olives
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded muenster cheese
Hand full of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic salt

What we did:
Heat the oven to 425 o, spray 12-inch pizza pan with cooking spray.
Sprinkle cornmeal evenly over the pan and unroll pizza crust dough onto the pan.
Press dough to at least 1 inch beyond edge of pan, then place string cheese on dough along the inside edge of the crust.
Fold edge of dough over the cheese, press the dough down firmly and presto! instant stuffed crust. Pinch dough to seal. Spread tomato sauce evenly over dough.
Sprinkle with basil leaves. At this point basil makes the kitchen smell so good!

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Then add sausage, cook stirring frequently until no longer pink; drain off any grease. Reduce heat to medium and stir in drained dice tomatoes and drained spinach. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes more until everything is heated through. Spoon the sausage mixture evenly over basil on crust.

Then top with sliced black and green olives, feta cheese, muenster cheese, and just a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. Brush the crust with the olive oil and sprinkle Italian seasoning and garlic salt onto the crust.
Finally stick the pizza in the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is deep golden brown.

As you can tell by the before and after pictures, the pizza turned out great! It tasted superb. Everyone at Bunko loved the pizza, and we used the left over sausage mixture to make omelettes the next day. I will have to blog this recipe next.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Week in Atlanta for Work...and Food!

I had to train for my work in Atlanta. We stayed at one of the embassy suites hotel. I love embassy suites, but I took my mom with me and each day we would venture out and find some good eats!

One place we went to was the Cheesecake factory. If anyone has been there they know that it has every type of food imaginable on their menu. The menu is literally 20 pages, with everything from Chinese, Italian, Mexican, up-class food and of course 60+ different kinds of cheesecake.

I wish I would have taken a picture of my piece of cheesecake. I had the chocolate-raspberry cheesecake.
It had five layers of delicious!

The bottom was a chocolate crumb crust, then on to a chocolate cheesecake layer, then a chocolate-raspberry cheesecake layer, then a chocolate ganache layer, then finally topped off with a chocolate icing.

Another place my mom and I went was Joey D's Oak Room. It was within walking distance of the hotel.

This place was kind of expensive, but boy was it worth it.

The first course was oyster shooters. These were fresh cold raw oysters in shot classes, covered in a slight spicy vodka water and spicy cocktail sauce on top. I would take an oyster with cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon, place it on a cracker and gulp it down. Fantastic!
My mom had a very large filet mignon with creamed spinach on the side. The spinach was a little heavy on the nutmeg, but her steak was cooked perfect.

From where we were sitting we could see the filet cooking in the large rotating oven. Couple passes in the oven and it was a excellent medium.

As for me, I had a mushroom and shrimp pasta, with a light wine sauce. It was very good. I could only eat half, but that was the best next day lunch. I am not a drinker, but I love the taste of cooked wine; it permeated the pasta and really sent this dish over the top. The mushrooms also absorbed the flavor so they just popped in your mouth with juicy flavor.

All in all, this training trip for work turned into a food extravaganza. I really had a wonderful time enjoying the sites, smells, and food of the little area of Atlanta we stayed in that week.
Hopefully I will need more training soon!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shrimp Marinara

This is a family favorite recipe. My mom wanted a different kind of pasta. She was watching Robin Miller on food network and came across this recipe.

The crushed red peppers add such a kick of heat, and the shrimp after simmering in this simple sauce just pop with flavor in your mouth.

What we use:

1 pound spaghetti noodles
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 shallots (sometimes you can get already minced shallots in a little jar in grocery store!)
2 cloves garlic (sometimes you can get already minced garlic too!)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

What we did:

Cook the pasta in some boiling water for 7-10 minutes; drain and leave in pot until sauce is ready.
In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add shallots and garlic to skillet and saute for 1 minute.
Add oregano, basil and red pepper flakes and stir to coat.
Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
To the simmering sauce, add shrimp, cover skillet and simmer for 2 minutes, until shrimp are bright pink and cooked through.
Pour sauce over spaghetti.

This goes great with parmesan cheese grated over top! I even shave thin slices right on the plate, then add the pasta and sauce over that. Then by the time you get to the bottom of the plate you have a nice melted surprise of cheese on bottom.
And don't forget the garlic bread... enjoy!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken and Ratatouille

I wanted to thank my friend Gail for fixing up some chairs of mine. She re-upholstered the chairs and they look great!

I decided to make a twist on a recipe that I saw Giada De Laurentiis make on Food Network. She was making Goat cheese stuffed pork chops. I don't eat pork so I used chicken instead.

I wanted to pair it with some type of nice vegetable. I was watching Tyler Florence make his ultimate Ratatouille, so I just had to try it.

These two dishes went perfectly together.
Recipes follow:

Goat cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomato stuffed Chicken Breasts

What I used:

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 (10-ounce) bag of frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese
1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
4 big boneless skinless chicken breasts
freshly ground black pepper

What I did:

I mixed the goat cheese, cream cheese, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes all in a bowl until it formed a nice filling.

I cleaned the chicken breasts and slit a pocket into the side of each one, just deep enough to stuff filling into. I took a heaping table spoon of filling and stuffed each chicken breast pocket.
I then got a skillet hot and added some extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan. I made a light dredging flour by mixing some flour and thyme together in a flat pan. I dredged the chicken in the thyme/flour and then lightly browned both sides of each chicken breast in the skillet.

Then I transferred all the chicken into a pan to finish cooking in the oven at 350 o F, about 45 minutes for large chicken breasts, until internal temperature was at least 160o F. You could probably turn up to 400 o F and cut some cooking time off; I just did it slower to make sure the chicken was moist. I also wanted the ratatouille to come out at same time as the chicken.


What I used:

1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound small Italian eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound zucchini, cut crosswise into 1-inch sections
3 anchovy fillets, finely minced
2 onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh basil,
coarsely chopped Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 pints cherry tomatoes
Splash balsamic vinegar

What I did:

I lined a large platter with paper towels, heated 1/3 cup olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. I then fried up the eggplant, seasoning with salt and pepper; until the eggplant is soft and wilted. I placed the eggplant on the paper towels to remove some of the oil and then began the same process for the zucchini. When it was soft I added it to the eggplant.

I took the same pan and added more oil if needed. Then I added the anchovies (you can find them by the sardines and canned tuna in the supermarket), onions, garlic and herbs. Then cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions get nice and caramelized/wilted. Then add the tomatoes and cook that down until pulpy.

Then add back in the eggplant and zucchini, season with salt and pepper and let the ratatouille cook slowly until the mixture is soft, mushy and juicy. It begins to look like a stewing vegetable soup goulash. I placed all of the finished ratatouille into a big bowl and drizzled balsamic vinegar over top.

I enjoyed this recipe the most. And it was a perfect complement to the stuffed Chicken.

Once again, THANK YOU FOOD NETWORK for giving me such great ideas!