Sunday, October 4, 2015

SRC: Salad Pizza with Red Pepper-Basil Sauce

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club is Josefine of The Smoothie Lover.  I was immediately impressed with the gorgeous photography on her website, and it kind of made me want to make everything!  I was seriously tempted by her many varieties of granola, honey-fig scones, ricotta-asparagus quiche, and pumpkin-ginger soup.  Um, is anyone else hungry?

Eventually I settled on one of Josefine's pizza recipes.  This one swaps the usual tomato sauce for a puree of roasted red peppers and fresh basil -- it's so simple yet full of flavor, and it makes for a great twist on your typical sauce.  Thin slices of fresh mozzarella top the sauce, and they bubble up so beautifully in the oven.  Then everything gets topped off with more fresh basil and very lightly dressed greens.  You can use whatever greens you like here -- Josefine suggests arugula, which would be really tasty; I had a mix of mesclun and baby spinach in the fridge, which was also delicious.  The greens wilt ever so slightly on the hot pizza so that you get your main dish and salad all in one!  The flavors here are killer -- I will definitely be making this one again for a future pizza night!

Salad Pizza with Red Pepper-Basil Sauce (adapted from the Smoothie Lover, original recipe here)
Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite!

1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
8-10 ounce jar roasted red peppers
8 leaves fresh basil, plus more to top the pizza
Salt and pepper
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo if you can get your hands on it
Salad greens (i.e. bably spinach, arugula, etc.)
A drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray or grease with oil.
2. Press the pizza dough out as thin as you like it. Pre-bake for about 5 minutes or so, until the top surface of the dough is dry.
3. Puree the peppers and basil along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. I used an immersion blender, but a regular blender or food processor will work as well.
4. Spread the sauce over the pizza dough in a thin layer.
5. Thinly slice the mozzarella and spread over the red pepper sauce.
6. Bake until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.  Timing will depend on how thick you made your crust.
7. Meanwhile, thinly slice more fresh basil and set aside.  Toss the salad greens with a little balsamic vinaigrette.
8. When the pizza comes out of the oven, sprinkle with the fresh basil and salad greens.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Strawberry Gin Sour

This cocktail is so pink and so delicious, and the color is all natural. I was surprised at how vibrant the color was just from fresh strawberries -- the drink almost looks like Kool Aid!  And, it's the perfect combination of sweet from the berries, sour from the lemon juice, and slightly floral from the gin.  The amount fits pretty perfectly in a champagne coupe, and looks super classy, but of course you can use any glass you have around.

Strawberry Gin Sour (adapted from A House in the Hills, original recipe here)
Serves 1

Juice of 1 lemon
3-4 strawberries
1 ounce simple syrup
1-1/2 ounces gin

1. Muddle the lemon juice, berries, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add the gin and a few ice cubes, and shake well.
3. Strain into a coupe.  Taste and add more lemon juice or simple syrup (and keep track so you know how you like it for next time!)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pulled Pork with Maple-Pickled Onions

I am a total blogger slacker! I've been sent a couple of cookbooks to review over the past few months that I just haven't gotten to because life has been extra crazy.  But, these pickled onions are way too good not to share!  The recipe comes from an excellent cookbook on preserving, Preservation Society Home Preserves.  I'm tempted by pretty much every recipe in here, although I'll admit that our summer of 90 degree days and 90 percent humidity put a damper on my desire to can this summer.

So, I adapted one of the recipes to make a smaller amount of quick pickles.  These onion pickles are sweetened with maple syrup and then spiced up with Aleppo chile flakes, smoked paprika, and mustard seeds.  They are pretty much the perfect sandwich pickle, in my opinion -- a little tart, a little sweet, and crunchy.  By pickling the onions, they lose the harshness of raw onion and end up being the perfect complement to richer meat or cheese.  These onions will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, but honestly they probably won't last you that long!

Here the pickled onions are paired with a super simple pulled pork.  The pork is rubbed with spices and salt, and then slow cooked in a low oven over several hours.  The only downside of this recipe is you have to be home to babysit -- but, it will make your house smell so yummy that you probably won't mind! We piled the pulled pork high on Portuguese buns from a nearby bakery, and then added lots of BBQ sauce and pickled onions on top.  Heaven!

Pulled Pork with Maple-Pickled Onions

For the pork:
4-6 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder
1 tsp kosher salt per pound of pork
1 tsp BBQ spice rub per pound of pork (I used this Memphis dry rub from Raw Spice Bar; one of the many rubs from Penzey's would also be an excellent choice)

For the maple-pickled onions (adapted from Preservation Society Home Preserves)
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 T kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Several grinds black pepper
1 large onion, thinly sliced

To serve:
Portuguese sweet rolls or other buns
Homemade or storebought BBQ sauce

1. Combine the salt and spices in a small bowl.  Rub all over the pork.  Place in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
3. Roast the pork for about 6 hours, until it is falling-apart tender, flipping the meat a few times during roasting.
4. About half an hour before the pork is done, make the maple-pickled onions.  Heat the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and salt in a pot until simmering.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the bay leaf, mustard seeds, chili flakes, paprika, and pepper.  Stir in the onions.  Let sit, off the heat, for about half an hour, stirring occasionally.
5. Transfer the pork to a large bowl and let rest about 10 minutes.  Gently pull it apart using two forks, until the pieces are the size you like.
6. Serve the pulled pork on toasted rolls with BBQ sauce and pickled onions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pumpkin Polenta

The weather here in New England is finally starting to feel like fall -- cool, crisp mornings and evenings, and trees that are just starting to change color.  So, I was in the mood to cook up some food that really felt like autumn.  This pumpkin polenta is the perfect dish to warm you up on a chilly evening.  It's got that total comfort-food feel that polenta has, with an extra dose of veggies in the form of pureed pumpkin.  Be sure to purchase the type labelled "100% pure pumpkin" or you might end up with sweetened pie filling!  I kept the seasoning pretty basic here with scallions and Parmesan cheese, but you could definitely add any spices or herbs you like, or switch up the cheese (I think goat cheese is amazing in polenta!).  

You can top the polenta with whatever you like. I went vegetarian here: butternut squash and Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, warm spices, and sesame seeds, roasted for half an hour at 400 degrees.  But, sausages would be excellent, as would a little kale salad and a fried egg.

Pumpkin Polenta
Serves 4

3 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
1 cup polenta/coarse corn meal
2 scallions, trimmed and minced
15-ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

1.  Bring the chicken broth and water to a boil.  Slowly stream in the polenta while constantly whisking.  Return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, vigorously whisking every few minutes, until the polenta is thickened and cooked through.  This should take about half an hour.
2.  Add the scallions and pumpkin, whisk well to combine, and return to a boil.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, and then remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Watermelon-Feta-Mint Salad with Whole Wheat Couscous and Honey-Lime Dressing

This dish is basically summer in a bowl.  Watermelon is one of my favorite summer fruits, and while it is delicious on its own, this salad makes it feel extra fancy.  The combo of sweet watermelon and salty feta is a a classic, and here they're combined with floral mint and a sweet honey-lime dressing that's not too heavy.  Whole wheat couscous bulks out the salad to make it a bit more filling -- we enjoyed this as a light dinner, although it would also be great as a side.  The mint does tend to wilt a bit if it sits, so I'd mix everything together just before you plan to serve.

Watermelon-Feta-Mint Salad with Whole Wheat Couscous and Honey-Lime Dressing (adapted from Maria Speck, via The Kitchn)
Serves 4-6 as a side, or 2-3 as a light main

1-1/4 cups water
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups diced seedless watermelon
1/2 cup torn mint leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta

For the dressing:
Zest and juice of 2 large limes
2 T olive oil
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the couscous and salt.  Cover, and set aside for 10 minutes (off the heat).  Fluff with a fork, and transfer to a serving bowl or platter.  Fluff again, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
2. Layer the watermelon, mint, and feta on the couscous.
3. Make the dressing.  Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small jar with a tightly fitting lid, and shake well until combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
5. To make ahead, leave out the feta and mint.  Stash in the fridge for up to 4 hours, and then toss in the feta and mint when ready to serve.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Caribbean Bowl with Jerk-Seasoned White Fish and Mango Salsa

This Caribbean bowl is full of flavor. I've recently fallen in love with Raw Spice Bar's subscription service, and this bowl is all about their Jamaican spice blends -- but, of course, you can always make your own spice blends or purchase blends from another source.  Jerk-spiced white fish is spicy but also super fresh-tasting with lots of green onions, lime juice, and fresh ginger in the marinade.  It's piled on top of black beans, and then topped with a sweet mango-corn salsa.  Fried plantains add fantastic crunch to the dish.  When everything is combined, you'll definitely be transported...just don't forget a tropical drink on the side!


Caribbean Bowl with Jerk-Seasoned White Fish and Mango Salsa (inspired by Bowl + Spoon and Raw Spice Bar)
Serves 4

For the fish:
1 pound white fish fillets
2 T canola oil
2 tsp Jamaican Jerk spices (make your own!)
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 T grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
Zest and juice of two limes
2 T white wine vinegar
1 T kosher salt
1 T dark rum

For the black beans:
1/2 pound dried black peans, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable broth

For the mango salsa:
2 ears corn on the cob
1 ripe mango, diced
2 T minced cilantro
1 tsp Paprika-Ginger spices (or 1/2 tsp each smoked paprika and dried ginger)
Zest and juice of one lime
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the plantains:
2 T coconut oil
1 ripe plantain
Salt and pepper

Garnish: Minced cilantro and/or chopped green onions

1. Marinate the fish: Lay the fish in a shallow dish and make a few slashes in it with a sharp knife.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the spice mix, and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small food processor or mini chopper.  Add the green onions, ginger, garlic, thyme, lime juice and zest, vinegar, salt, and rum.  Process to a puree, and then pour over the fish and rub into the flesh.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.

2. Cook the beans: Drain the soaked beans, and place in a pot with the bay leaves.  Cover with water by about 2 inches.  Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about an hour, until tender.  When teh water has mostly cooked off, add the broth.  When the beans are cooked, discard the bay leaves, add a generous pinch of salt, cover, and set aside. Add more broth if you need to -- the beans should be a bit brothy.

3. Make the mango salsa: Husk the corn and steam for just a minute or two, until just tender.  Cut the corn off the cob.  Combine in a bowl with the mango, cilantro, spices, lime zest and juice, olive oil, and salt.  Stir to combine.

4. Cook the fish: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Transfer the fish and marinade to a baking dish, and bake 15-20 minutes, until slightly charred.

5. Fry the plantains: Heat the coconut oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Peel and slice the plantain into 1/2-inch slices on a diagonal.  Give the slices a gentle smash with the side of a knife, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and fry for 3 minutes per side until golden.

6. To serve, scoop beans into a shallow bowl.  Top with fish, salsa, and plantains.  Sprinkle with cilantro and/or green onions.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Lettuce Wraps

The ingredients for this dish sound a little random -- BBQ chicken plus pineapple plus yogurt sauce?  But something magical happens when they all come together!  The BBQ chicken-pineapple mixture is sweet and rich, while the tangy lime-yogurt sauce on top cuts through the sweetness.  Sliced avocados make the whole dish feel a little luxurious, and fragrant mint leaves add a perfect finishing touch.  The best part is that this meal is quick -- very easy to pull together on a week night. I'll definitely be making this one again!

BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Lettuce Wrap (adapted from How Sweet It Is, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 T olive oil
1-1/2 cups cubed pineapple (cut about the size of the chicken pieces)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T coarsely chopped cashews
3 T BBQ sauce
Lettuce leaves
Several leaves of fresh mint, thinly sliced
1 avocado, sliced

For the yogurt sauce:
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mint leaves
3 T milk
1 T fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil.  When it gets hot, add the chicken.  Cook until browned and cooked through, 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the chicken and place it in a bowl.
2. Add more oil if the skillet looks dry.  Add the pineapple and garlic, and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring often.  Add the cashews and stir to combine.  Add the chicken back to the skillet, and pour in the BBQ sauce.  Stir together, and cook another 5 minutes.
3. Make the yogurt sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a mini food processor or food chopper, and blend until pureed.
4. Assemble the lettuce wraps.  Lay out a lettuce leaf, and add a scoop of the chicken-pineapple mixture.  Top with sliced avocados, fresh mint leaves, and a generous drizzle of the yogurt sauce.