July 23, 2013

Margherita Pizza

Pizza stone fiasco 2013...

I knew I was going to make pizza to go along with the Camarones Henesy En Hamaca. I didn't know the amount of stress this would add to preparing the meal. 

After looking up a couple of recipes online for Margherita Pizza I found one that sounded simple enough. Homemade dough. Done that before. Using whole tomatoes for the sauce. Sounds easy enough. Cooking on a pizza stone. What better excuse than that to purchase new kitchen tools? 

We headed to Williams-Sonoma since I had a gift card to use up. I needed a pizza stone and a pizza peel. A worker led me straight to the section which was probably in my best interests. I could do damage in that store. 

When it was time to prepare dinner I read through all of the directions trying to best decide how to juggle all of the steps with both recipes and the timing of it all so everything would be ready at once. I preheated my oven as high as it would go, 500 degrees, and halfway through I realized I forgot to put the pizza stone in the oven to heat up as well. Sigh. 

While the oven and stone were heating up I rolled my homemade dough. I could not for the life of me figure out how to roll the dough into a circle. I fail as an Italian. Sigh. 

Next it was time to add the cornmeal to the pizza peel. Without thinking I pulled the item that was holding the bag in an upright position and cornmeal went spilling all over the kitchen counter. Sigh. 

For the "sauce" it was just a base of hand crushed canned whole tomatoes. Why would you not just buy crushed tomatoes? Learn from my mistakes. I got my hands in that bowl of tomatoes and got all of my aggression out squeezing and pulling the tomatoes apart. A few times the tomatoes would burst open and I'd get a tomato facial. The lycopene has to be good for it's anti-aging properties when applied topically. Don't quote me. I'm sure I made that up. The blog I found this recipe on had a photo of what the tomatoes should have looked like. Soup was not reflective in that image. Sigh.

Buffalo Mozzarella Balls and I are good together. Slices of cheese. No problems.

I laid the dough on the cornmealed peel and began applying the toppings. Tomatoes and slices of the cheese. The oven and stone had a good 15 minutes to heat up. I opened the oven and from my understanding the pizza should have slid right off of the peel and onto the pizza stone. That is not what happened! The dough stuck to the pizza peel. Oh my! I was freaking out at this point. I was frantic and grabbed a spatula and a serving spoon since those were the closest items in my reach. I slid the spatula under the dough but it made the dough fold under and my toppings were sliding off. Scratch that idea. What what could I do? I had to make that method work. I went for it and slid the spatula back under lifting the other side with the spoon. Sure it stretched out a little bit over the pizza stone's surface and the cheese immediately sizzled upon hitting the hot stone but it was finally in the oven. Sigh.

After 10 minutes in the oven the cheese was bubbly and the Camarones Henesy En Hamaca were ready as well. I set a beautiful dinner in front of my son and he turned up his nose to all of it! "I'm not a pizza kid anymore." Sigh.

I on the other hand loved this pizza. I will do more research and learn the proper techniques for the pizza stone and all things pizza. Definitely a repeat worthy pizza crust recipe and obviously a good vehicle for all sorts of toppings. 

A tip that was shared was allowing the dough to sit overnight in the fridge for an ultra crispy crust. I made mine the day of and chilled for two hours before letting it come to room temperature before preparing the pizza. My crust was pillowy and delicious. I can go either way on crust. 

Makes Two 10-Inch Pizzas

Stars of the Show:
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp active yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 28 oz can Italian-style whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella balls, cut into thin slices
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
And Action:

Note that you'll need at least 6 hours before you plan to make the pizzas.

Mix the warm water with the yeast and sugar. Make sure the water is warm, not hot because hot water can kill the yeast. Allow the yeast to proof for about 10 minutes until it bubbles and foams a bit.

Place the flour, salt and yeast mixture into the bowl of mixer. (I also sometimes use a food processor when making the dough. Or, you could simply use your hands.) Mix the dough on the lowest speed for 2-3 minutes, until it forms into a mass. Don't overwork the dough. 

Shape the dough into a ball and place into a large bowl coated with olive oil.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for two hours.

After two hours, the dough should have risen and plumped up considerably.

Punch the dough down, cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least two more hours. You can leave it in the fridge overnight or even longer for a super-crispy crust.

Two hours before you're ready to make the pizza, remove the dough from the fridge and punch it down again. 
Heat your oven to the highest temperature it will go. 
While the oven is heating, prepare the tomato "sauce." Drain the tomatoes and place them in a large container and then crush them in my hand, pouring off any excess liquid. The tomatoes will be chunky and not very "saucy," but that's how you want them. 
Divide the dough into two equal-size pizzas and reform them into balls.
On a large pastry board dusted with flour, roll one piece of pizza dough out until it's very thin, about 10 inches in diameter. Place the rolled-out dough onto a pizza paddle dusted with cornmeal. 
Spread half of the crushed tomatoes as evenly as possible over the pizza crust.
Next, distribute half of the mozzarella slices evenly over the pizza. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Slide the pizza onto a preheated pizza stone and cook until the crust is lightly charred and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Depending on the temperature of your oven, this normally takes 6-10 minutes.
Remove the cooked pizza from the oven using the pizza paddle and distribute half of the basil leaves onto it.
Repeat the process for pizza #2.

July 22, 2013

Camarones Henesy En Hamaca

For a couple weekends the big to do for us was visiting Buchanan's Native Plants to grab hot dogs. Sounds strange I know but it wasn't the nursery that made the hot dogs. It's a food truck parked inside the gates of the nursery on Sundays, Good Dog Food Truck. I ordered the Guac-A-Dog and Truck-made Chips every time. Those chips are addicting!

One weekend we arrived early and needed to kill some time. While meandering into their shop I came across a tomato scented candle, pomegranate hand lotion, and after a recommendation from the worker a new cookbook, Houston Small Plates & Sips by Erin M. Hicks.

The instant I walked through the door I put my stuff down and began flipping through the cookbook. Every recipe looks amazing, however, I was overwhelmed with the recipes from 4-star restaurants around the Houston area. Would this be above my culinary level?

My favorite errand to run on the weekend is a grocery trip to restock the fridge and pantry at Whole Foods (a.k.a. "Whole Paycheck"). I decided to pick the recipe from Boada Cuisine for the Camarones Henesy En Hamaca and paired the dish with a Margherita Pizza (recipe to come another day) after reading a review on Yelp. I had to google translate the name of the recipe not realizing that Henesy was the restaurant owner's last name. It loosely translates to "shrimp in a hammock". We loaded up the cart with all of the ingredients and more.

I've never been more flustered putting together a dinner. It was my first time using a pizza stone, hearts of palm and plantains. More detail on the pizza stone fiasco when I write that post. Hearts of palm? What is that? I still don't know. Too lazy to Wikipedia it. I stressed myself out. "How would this taste? Do these flavors really go well together? Ginger juice, soy sauce, wine..."

I'm a taster as I cook. Each step I have to see how the flavor develops. I didn't give it a try until I began adding the liquids. The sauce was mind blowing. Absolutely delicious. I was practically doing backflips in the kitchen. Bottle that up and let me drink it straight. I don't believe the hearts of palm brought anything to the dish and the plantains were not tasty to me. I will make this again but I will leave out the plantain portion and hearts of palm and instead serve this over a bed of noodles. The glasses of wine for dessert are a definite repeat performance. Ha!

Camarones Henesy En Hamaca
Makes 6 Servings

Stars of the Show:
  • 18 ripe plantain, 3/4-inch slices (about 3 plantains)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined - The cookbook recommended 16/20 shrimp.
  • 1 cup hearts of palm, sliced
  • 1 1/3 tbsp capers - I used capers in salt.
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/3 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro 
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp ginger juice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine - I did not use dry white wine. Instead I used Moscato since I had it on hand.
And Action:

Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the plantains, fry until golden on both sides, 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 30 seconds. Add the hearts of palm, capers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, cilantro, red pepper flakes and sugar and cook for 1 minute, stirring to combine.

Stir in the chicken broth, soy sauce, ginger juice and wine and cook for an additional minute. Add the remaining butter and stir until incorporated.

Place 3 plantain slices on each plate. Top the plantain slices with the shrimp and sauce.

July 18, 2013

Easy Mac & Cheese Veggie Chicken Casserole

The name says it all... Easy! This one dish meal came together for an easy week night recipe that is light on the budget. Based on average retail prices at national supermarkets the total recipe costs $12.79 which is $2.13 a serving. You can make this your own by switching up the veggies and meat. Little Man really loves chicken and broccoli so I kept with the direction of the recipe. I saw a variation that incorporated Mexican flavors and it looked fantastic. If you're a real go getter cook your noodles ahead of time, prep the veggies, and save yourself some of the grunt work by purchasing one of those juicy rotisserie chickens from the deli section. Best part about a casserole is that there are plenty for leftovers.

Makes 6 Servings

Stars of the Show:
  • 4 tbsp butter melted, divided
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 8 oz rotini pasta, cooked and drained
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 4 cups frozen vegetables, thawed - I used a fresh broccoli crown cut into bite sized pieces.
  • 2 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese - I used fat free.
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese - I used shaved Parmesan cheese. 
And Action:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine 3 tbsp of butter with the milk, pasta, chicken, veggies, and cheddar cheese in an 8-inch baking dish.

Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and remaining butter in a small bowl; sprinkle on top. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through. 

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 330
Calories from Fat: 80
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3.5 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 10 mg
Sodium: 330 mg
Carbohydrates: 46 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sugar: 8 g
Protein: 16 g
Vitamin A: 40%
Vitamin : 8%
Calcium: 20%
Iron: 10%

Check out Weekend Potluck for other great dinner ideas!

July 15, 2013

Sauteed Chicken Cutlets and Cherry Tomatoes with Spinach Orzo

I have failed miserably this last year and a half on my blog. I had almost given up with food blogging. The main culprit was moving into an apartment with ugly yellow lighting. None of my food photos turned out. Such a disappointment. I didn't give up on cooking... just sharing all of my yummies with you.

That is about to change. I'm moving into a new apartment with large windows and tons of natural lighting!!! My spirits are restored and so is the love of my blog and now I'm more passionate about cooking again. Because I am not moved in yet I had to use the photo below from the Woman's Day website.

While reading through the June 2013 issue of Woman's Day magazine I bookmarked this recipe to try for a quick week night meal. After work I raced into the grocery store and headed home to put this together. Little Man gobbled up two pieces of the chicken but refused to touch the spinach and tomatoes. This made plenty for leftovers, however, one piece of my chicken was wasted since it became too tough to eat after reheating. 

This can also be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken, doubling the amount of spinach, and toss the tomato mixture with the orzo. Top with crumbled feta before serving. 

Very delicious and hearty healthy dinner. Nutritious and perfect for swim suit season. Yummy!!!

(Image from Woman's Day)

Makes 4 Servings

Stars of the Show:
  • 3/4 cup orzo - Not in stock at the store. Left out of the recipe. 
  • 1 bunch spinach, thick stems discarded, leaves torn
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 small chicken cutlets (about 1 1/2 lbs total) - I used chicken breast fillets since they were on sale.
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 4 small sweet red cherry peppers (such as Peppadew), thinly slice - Left out since I could not find at my store. 
  • 2 gloves garlic, thinly sliced - I used minced garlic since that is what I had on hand.
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
And Action:

Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and toss with the spinach and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cook 4 cutlets until browned and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. 

Heat the remaining tbsp oil in the skillet. Cook the remaining cutlets for 2 minutes. Turn the cutlets and scatter the tomatoes, cherry peppers and garlic in the skillet. Cook until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to the plate.

Add the chicken broth to the skillet with the tomato mixture and bring to a simmer. Serve the chicken with the spinach orzo and top with the tomato mixture.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 416
Fat: 12 g 
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 110 mg
Sodium: 668 mg
Protein: 44 g
Carbohydrates: 32 g
Fiber: 4 g

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