Monday, November 23, 2015

White Pizza with Spinach and Avocado

This pizza sounds kind of weird, but is super delicious and a fun change of pace from our usual recipes.  Whole wheat pizza dough gets spread with garlic-spiked ricotta, and then piled high with raw spinach and fresh mozzarella.  The spinach cooks down in the oven, and the cheese melts and gets extra gooey.  I like including the spinach raw rather than pre-cooking it both because it's easier and because I think the texture turns out a little better.  Finally, arrange slices of fresh avocado on top of the hot pie right after it comes out of the oven for the perfect rich, green finishing touch.  Because of the avocado, this pizza doesn't keep as well as other recipes for leftovers, so I recommend making just as much as you plan to eat for dinner.

White Pizza with Spinach and Avocado (adapted from the Kitchn, original recipe here)

12-18 ounces whole wheat pizza dough
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few handfuls of baby spinach
6 ounces whole milk fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 Hazz avocado, pitted and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil.  Spray with oil.
2. Spread the dough out on the baking sheet to your desired thickness.  Bake until dry on top and just starting to brown -- as this pizza has wet toppings, you want to make sure the crust won't get soggy.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, cream, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza.  Top with baby spinach -- it will cook down in the oven, so don't be afraid of a fairly thick layer.  Top the spinach with mozzarella.
5. Bake until the crust is crispy and the mozzarella is melted. If the cheese needs a little help to get browned, pass it under the broiler for a minute or two.
6. Top with thinly sliced avocado, slice, and serve hot.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

SRC: White Bean-Leek Soup

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Susan of The Wimpy Vegetarian. As the weather has been getting chillier here in Boston, I knew I wanted to pick something warm and comforting from her blog.  I really liked the look of Susan's curried cauliflower and greens mac and cheese and her breakfast polenta cake, but ultimately I decided that I couldn't skip her flageolet bean soup.  This is a great dish to pack in lunches because you can make it ahead on the weekend, and it keeps very well in the fridge.  Plus, it's delicious and just screams "fall!" to me, especially with the inclusion of fresh sage.  This would also make a good supper with some crusty bread on the side.

White Bean-Leek Soup (adapted from The Wimpy Vegetarian, original recipe here)
Serves 4 as large servings, or more as an appetizer or side dish

1 cup dried tarbais, flageolet, or other white beans
Olive oil
2 leeks, thinly sliced
15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh sage
3/4 tsp dried thyme
Vegetable broth, as needed
Salt and pepper
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1. Soak the beans overnight, and then drain and add to a soup pot.  Cover with water by a few inches, and simmer until tender (depends on the bean, but count on 45-90 minutes).  Set a colander over a bowl, and drain the beans, reserving the bean broth.
2. Rinse out the soup pot, and heat a generous drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks, and cook until well softened and a little browned.  Add back the beans, tomatoes, sage, and thyme, along with a couple of cups of the reserved bean broth.  Add more bean broth and/or vegetable oil to thin the soup o the consistency you like.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.  Remove the sage sprigs before serving.
3. Just before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Easy Steamed Mussels

Despite living near the ocean for the past decade or so, until recently I had never tried to cook mussels at home.  They're one of my favorite restaurant dishes, but I was always too intimidated about the cleaning process!  I recently finally had a friend show me how to do it, and it was way easier than I realized -- I've linked to a description below, but if you have a friend willing to show you the ropes, that works too!  This is my friend's super simple "recipe," which you can of course vary by adding different herbs or flavors.  It makes for perfectly cooked mussels in a delicious broth -- plenty for dipping with crusty bread, which is a must.  The bonus is that mussels are so affordable that this dish can definitely be a regular in the dinner rotation.

Easy Steamed Mussels
Serves 2-3

2 pounds mussels
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 to 1 cup white wine or sherry (depending how much sauce you want at the end)
Fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, minced
Crusty bread, for dipping

1. Clean and debeard the mussels - this part is easier than it sounds and this is a great guide.
2. Melt the butter and oil together in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat.  Add the shallot and garlic, and season with a bit of salt.  Cook for 5-7 minutes or so, until the shallots are softened and just starting to brown.  
3. Pour in the wine or sherry, and bring to a boil.  Add the mussels, give everything a very quick stir, and then cover the pot.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 6 minutes.  Remove from the heat, gently stir, and sprinkle with fresh herbs.  Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

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.