Tag Archives: dinner

Make pizza night extra special | Make it!

5 May

My first day of outdoor Boot Camp yesterday morning and….PIZZA for DINNER! Sounds totally ridiculous, I know. But the best way to control what’s on your pizza is to make it yourself.

(SHHHH…don’t tell the kids…it’s also less expensive than ordering out!)

We’ve made our own crust in the past but opted for the next best thing last night — freshly made dough from our favorite local pizza shop. Truth be told, it’s much tastier than store bought dough…and cheaper. Most pizza shops only charge a dollar or so for a “dough ball”. We like our crust thin so 1 dough ball is plenty. Also, did you know the the “fresh” dough you buy in your local grocery store is often made, frozen & THEN put in the refrigerated section to thaw? Yuck!

Tips for handling dough

Make sure the dough is at room temp before you attempt to roll or toss it. Coat it with a little bit of flour or cornmeal (I like the crunch cornmeal adds after it’s baked) so it’s easy to form & doesn’t stick to your hands.

Patting it into a flat disk before rolling or tossing makes it easier to get an even shape. If tossing or stretching by hand (I prefer this method), use the tops of your hands/knuckles (vs. finger tips) and pull your hands outward, gently stretching the dough. This will help you avoid making any holes or tears.

Other tips

We loaded the pizza up with our favorite sauce and thinly sliced veggies (mushrooms, onions, red pepper & tomatoes). Tomatoes aren’t really tasty yet but Jess got 2 pints of cherry tomatoes on a crazy sale at the grocery store.  We roasted them in the oven before adding to them to the pizza (just toss a little bit of olive oil, salt & pepper with the tomatoes then spread them on a baking sheet & roast for about 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven). Roasting is a great trick for making tomatoes that aren’t in season super delicious.

Okay, consider the truth officially out. In high school (and summers in college), I worked at a pizza shop (affectionately knick named the “Pizza Shanty”) on Cape Cod, so I know a few secrets.

Cheese :: We generally use low fat cheese or regular cheese (just less of it). Jess recently bought some blocks of cheese that we’ve been shredding & slicing. It’s much more economical (thrifty!). I’ll admit, I’d gotten used to the convenience of buying shredded cheese but my parents always bought the blocks & shredded or sliced it. You could also buy local cheese at the farmer’s market or artisanal shop & make your pizza a little extra special! We like to use a variety of cheeses on our pizza. Last night: white cheddar & monterey jack.

Toppings :: Sauce & lightly cheese your dough then layer toppings, meat first, (if you’re just doing veggies, mushrooms count as “meat” so put those down first) then veggies. I like to put onions on last so they get a little caramelized. If you’re using fresh herbs layer them between toppings or sprinkle them on before adding any toppings so they don’t burn in the oven. Last step: sprinkle another light layer of cheese on top before tossing into the oven.

Cooking :: We had amazing pizza last summer that was cooked right on the grill. We don’t have a grill but we do have the next best thing…a pizza stone! It’s not just any pizza stone…please read on. We’ve had mixed results with pizza stones in the past. It’s one of those things that never seemed to work quite as promised and often ended up in the back of the cabinet & then for sale at our next yard sale. We’ve also tried cookie sheets, weird pizza pans with holes, etc. Our favorite tool by far is our Emile Henry Pizza Stone. It’s more versatile than your average pizza stone (it can be used on the grill & as a cook top for a variety of other items) and makes the crust super crispy. Preheating the oven is key! And whether you use a stone or cookie sheet, the trick is making sure you preheat it a bit before plopping the raw pizza dough on it. If you’re using a cookie sheet, brush it with a little oil before preheating. The oven temp should be about 425-450 degrees.

Cutting :: You don’t need any fancy cutting tools. A longer, sharp chef’s knife will do just fine. If you use a stone, you can cut the pizza right on it. If you use a cookie sheet, transfer pizza to a large wooden cutting board for easier cutting.

So…what are your favorite pizza toppings? Do you have any secret tips for making pizza at home?

DIY Cheese | Homemade Ricotta

5 Apr


Recently, my friend, Emily, told me about Salvatore Bklyn. They make fresh artisanal ricotta cheese daily in Brooklyn, NY, using the finest whole milk sourced locally from upstate. After doing more research online, Kate & I fell in love with their story, product and website. Martha Stewart has proclaimed, “It’s my favorite ricotta in the whole world!”, and has featured them on her show. It made me want to attempt to try to make my own ricotta.

(Recipe courtesy of Betsy Devine Salvatore Bklyn)

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

1 gallon whole milk (I used Shaw Farm milk from my hometown, Dracut, MA)
healthy pinch of salt
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Steps

1. Pour the milk into a large, nonreactive pot and season with salt (a healthy pinch). Cover the pot and place it over high heat. Heat the milk to 190 degrees (use a thermometer), stirring it every few minutes to keep it from scorching. Turn off the heat, remove from hot burner, and add the lemon juice. Stir slowly until you see curds beginning to form. (This should happen almost immediately; you’ve now created the curds and whey.) Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

2. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over another bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least 1 hour, then discard the whey. Eat the cheese right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

The results were amazing. This ricotta is delicate and fluffy, best eaten with a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. yum.

Meals featuring this amazing ricotta:  

#1: Toasted baguette slathered with roasted garlic topped with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and a heaping of ricotta.
Sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper and add a drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil. Tasty with a simple side salad of mixed greens dressed in olive oil and champagne vinegar.

#2: Toasted baguette rubbed with a fresh garlic clove and topped with 2 tsp of pasta sauce, ricotta and a sprinkle of sea salt, pepper & oregano. Drizzle with olive oil.

#3: Egg white omelette with ricotta, sea salt and cracked pepper. (Courtesy of our friend, Cobi!)

Breakfast for Dinner | Banana Bread French Toast

29 Mar

When life hands you dry banana bread…then make Banana Bread French Toast!

The banana bread recipe had great flavor, but baked really dense and quite dry. To fix the dryness in the recipe below add an additional banana and an additional 2 TBS of melted butter.

The inspiration for the banana bread french toast came from a breakfast I had with Kate during one of our trips to Austin, TX. The South Congress Café serves up an amazing Carrot Cake French Toast. It has been highlighted on the Food Network and was worth every calorie. I just remember eating that on our last day in Austin trying to think of how I could take the left overs with me, but we were heading to the airport, ha!

(Adapted from Baking Illustrated)

Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf (preferably 3” inches deep)

Ingredients:

2 c King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour

1 c walnuts, coarse chopped

¼ c sugar

½ c light brown sugar

¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

2 very ripe large bananas, mashed well **(see note above for change)

1 – 5.3oz container Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

4 TBS unsalted butter, melted and cooled **(see note above for change)

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ TBS orange zest

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Spread the walnuts on a small baking sheet and bake 5-10 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Mix the wet ingredients including the zest in a medium bowl.
  5. Gently fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, with a silicone spatula until just combined and the batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  6. Bake until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Total baking time is 55 – 60 minutes. Rotate the loaf at the 30-minute mark of the baking time. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Banana Bread French Toast Time:

Makes 2 full servings or 4 side servings


Egg Wash:

In a shallow vessel whisk:

2 Eggs

¾ c milk

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ TBS sugar

pinch of salt

  1. Soak 4 slices of Banana Bread in the egg wash while you are making the topping

Topping:
Combine the following 3 ingredients in a small bowl:

3 heaping TBS of Greek Yogurt (I used Sophia’s Greek Yogurt of Belmont, MA)

½ TBS freshly grated orange zest

½ TBS honey

¼ c Pure Maple Syrup (heated) for drizzling… yum!

Cooking Directions:

  1. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 TBS of butter in the skillet. Place the egg wash soaked banana bread slices in the skillet and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
  2. Remove cooked slices from heat and cut in half.
  3. Place 4 halves of the slices on each plate.
  4. Top with a heaping TBS of greek yogurt topping.
  5. Grate orange zest over the top for garnish.
  6. In a small microwave safe bowl pour ¼ c of pure maple syrup.
  7. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds.
  8. Drizzle over the French Toast and enjoy!
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