Fig and Goat Cheese Pizza

August 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Figs are in season and as ripe as ever.  They are an amazing precursor to the fall flavors and I love to experiment with different ways of incorporating them into my recipes.

If you’re anything like me, you have a little bit of a sweet tooth.  Sometimes that means improvising your pizza making choices to accommodate for a little sweetness.  This recipe is fast, delicious, and sure to fulfill that sweet tooth.  When served with a salad (as described below), the combination of sweet and savory is perfection for a light dinner or dinner party appetizer!

You will need the following:

  • Pizza dough (home made or ready-made — I get mine from the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s)
  • Goat cheese
  • Apricot preserves (NOT jam, which has a ridiculous amount of sugar — this dish will be sweet enough without it)
  • Ripe figs

For the salad:

  • Arugula
  • Tahini sauce (Trader Joe’s has a great one in the hummus section)
  • Sesame oil

How to make it happen:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (adjust for your specific pizza dough, if needed).

Roll out your pizza dough and place on a buttered and floured cookie sheet.  (TIP: when rolling out the dough, don’t be afraid to use flour to prevent it from sticking to your hands or rolling pin.)  I like to roll the dough out with my hands to give it a less perfect and more rustic look — it by no means has to be perfect.

Once the dough is rolled out, spread 2 tablespoons of apricot preserves over the dough.  Make sure you make the layer thin — this will act as a glue to keep the toppings in place and will also give the pizza a consistent sweet and fruity flavor.

Next, place scoops of goat cheese in an even layer over the entire pizza, followed by sliced figs throughout.

Then place into preheated oven and bake at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes (or until the crust starts to get golden brown).

Your pizza is now done and looking fabulous:

For the salad, place the arugula into a bowl.  To prepare the dressing, for each 2 cups of salad, mix 2 tablespoons of tahini sauce with 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.  The sesame oil helps to cut the sharpness of the tahini and make the consistency of the mixture less like a paste and more like a salad dressing.  You may adjust the ratios to your taste — if you like the dressing to be more tart, use less sesame oil.

Pour the dressing over the arugula and you have your salad, which is the perfect accompaniment to this sweet pizza — it is the perfect combination of sweet and savory.  You will love it! 🙂

To plate, I serve the pizza with some salad on the side so that the sweet and salty flavors are both ready to play on the plate:

As an extra bonus, the pizza is great as a leftover — just make a fresh salad as the side and take it with you for lunch the next day!  It travels well in an airtight container!

The Canning Experiment

August 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Happy first day of fall! To celebrate, I decided to experiment with making my own raspberry preserves. I have been reading about all the small batch jam-making (like here) and decided it was time to give it a try. So here it goes,

The mission: to make 2 jars of raspberry jam.

The ingredients:

  • 6 cups of fresh raspberries
  • 3 cups of sugar (see Note, below)
  • Orange zest

Note: some recipes recommend using equal weight fruit to sugar — I decided to try a low-sugar approach to how it would turn out. The 2:1 ratio of fruit to sugar works for me, but feel free to improvise to taste.

Making it happen:

Combine all the ingredients in a pot and cook at a low temperature for until the mixture turns into a nice liquid goo and starts to simmer. This will probably take anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes and then take it off the heat and let it cool.

In order to make jam properly, you apparently have to let it ‘set,’ which means letting it cool and then turning up the heat again to the sugars coagulate. So cool the mixture for an hour or so and then put it back onto low heat. When you place it back on the low heat, you will notice in about 5-7 minutes that the mixture changes consistency and becomes thicker. That’s what you want! Time to take it off the heat and can.

Scoop the mixture into sterilized jars (do not reuse old jars, as this can cause bacteria to grow inside the lids). I found that a funnel helps with this process. Because the mixture is very warm, it will cause the lid to seal once you put it on (allowing you to get that ‘pop’ sound from the lid the first time you open it).

Ta-da!!!

Enjoy!

This was my first time canning anything and I welcome any feedback, observations, tips, etc. 🙂

Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Sause

August 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had the pleasure of having my sister cook for me last week.  She made the most amazing coconut shrimp with a pineapple dipping sauce.  She offered to share her recipe on The Week in Food, so here it goes:

Ingredients

Coconut Shrimp:

1 cup flour

¾ tspn Salt

1 tspn Cayenne Pepper

5 egg whites, lightly beaten

2 ½ sweetened, shredded coconut (dry)

2 lbs. large Shrimp, peeled, deveined, and butterflied

2 cups Canola Oil – for frying

Dipping Sauce:

1 cup canned pineapple

3 Scallions

¼ cup fruit preserves (like apricot, etc.)

¼ cup Cilantro leaves

2 Tbsn Lime Juice

½ Jalapeno, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Directions

Combine the flour, salt, and Cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg whites

On a baking sheet, spread out the shredded coconut

Line the three sets of ingredients in the above order from left to right

Begin dipping the shrimp in each – first into the dry flour mixture, then into the egg whites, and finally into the coconut, pressing the coconut firmly into the shrimp

Chill the shrimp for at least an hour

In a large saucepan, heat the oil until moderately hot, but not smoking

Carefully place the shrimp into the oil in batches, and remove using mesh strainer once they are golden and slightly crispy – about 2 minutes per batch

Place on paper towels to drain excess oil

To keep warm, place in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit

To make the dipping sauce, combine the ingredients in a food processor and transfer to a saucepan and heat (this allows the jalapeno to cook throughout the sauce so that one single bite is not too spicy)

Cool and serve alongside the shrimp.

Summer Margarita Pasta

August 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

It is summer and luscious ripe tomatoes are piled up everywhere I turn.  Something about the ripe red tomatoes reminds me of a trip to Italy my husband and I took back when we were still dating and studying abroad.  On our gallop (literally) through Europe, we found ourselves in Naples.  Our time there was short and we were merely passing through, but we found ourselves starving and in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere in particular in the foreign city.

Let me rephrase: we were STARVING!!!! We had just taken a train in and had not seen food in at least 4 hours — I know, the horror!

If this were an ordinary day, I would insist on us walking around and finding a few restaurant options before descending on a chosen eatery.  However, in this hungry moment, we did not care where we were: the first place that would serve us would be the lucky winner of our patronage.

This was the best mistake of my life because the very first place we saw was a tiny hole-in-the-wall half restaurant / half residence with one table and two chairs in the front yard (for lack of a better word).  We ran to those two chairs like our lives depended on it.  There ended up being a legitimate waiter who gave us real menus.

The first thing we saw was “Margarita Pizza” which obviously needs no translation from the Italian.  We pointed at it and within what seemed to be the longest 20 minutes later, we were served the most AMAZING thing I have eaten to date.  I don’t care what five star restaurant you want to compare this to, but we were in heaven.

This dish always reminds me of that trip and that miraculous Napolitan Pizza Margarita.  It is my personal 15 minute homage to that experience.

You will need:

– pasta (I typically use whole wheat, but regular is great too)

– 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

– 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped

– small fresh mozzarella balls

– garlic

– olive oil

– salt and pepper to taste

Begin to prepare the pasta.  While it is boiling, combine the tomatoes, basil, and garlic in a heated and oiled skillet.  Add salt and pepper to taste and saute until the tomatoes get happy (I leave it to you to exactly determine what this means, but for me it usually happens when the skins start to gently separate from the rest of the tomatoes).

When the pasta is done, plate it and pour the tomato mixture over it.  While the tomatoes are still hot, throw on a few fresh mozarella balls – they will start to get a little soft and melty, which is divine.  Garnish with basil.

Rice Noodles with Veggies, Tofu, and Green Curry

August 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

I love trying out new items from Trader Joe’s.  I guess I take it as personal challenge to try to find different ways to use their new products.  As I was wondering down the aisles of Culver City’s Trader Joe’s I stopped at the sauces section to take a quick look over the shelves.  I saw, to my amazement, a green curry simmer sauce.  This made me so excited. When I was in Hawaii, for my friend John and Bri’s wedding, I went out to a great Thai restaurant with a group of girl friends.  I was lucky enough to have ordered a delicious green curry dish.  This made me want to try to experiment with the green curry sauce from Trader Joe’s.  Here is the first of hopefully many experiments with this sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 4 small to medium-sized zucchini
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 package of Trader Joe’s rice noodles
  • 1 jar of Trader Joe’s green curry sauce
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil
  • Directions:

    1.  Heat up a wok to a medium high heat.  Add about 1 tbsp. of olive oil.  While the oil is heating up, cut the tofu into 1/2 inch thick rectangles.  Put the tofu in the wok and cook it until it is browned on both sides.  When the tofu is crispy, take the tofu out of the wok and put it on a plate.  We will put the tofu back into the wok later.

    2.  Next, put the sliced bell pepper into the wok.  Make sure you slice the peppers into thin pieces.  Cook the bell peppers for about 5 minutes.  Also start the water for the rice noodles.

    3.  While the bell peppers are cooking, cut up your zucchini.  Cut the zucchini into halves and then into 1/4 inch half rounds. Cut the onion into thin strips.  Put the zucchini and onion into the wok.  Add in the crushed red peppers as well.

    4.  While the zucchini is cooking, put the rice noodles into the pot of boiling water and cook according to the package’s directions.

    5.  When the zucchini is about half way through cooking, add the tofu back into the wok, and add the green curry simmer sauce to the wok and reduce the heat to medium.

    6.  When the veggies have cooked (make sure the peppers still have a little bit of crispness to them) add the rice noodles to the wok.  If you drain them make sure you do not rinse the noodles.  Toss the noodles with the veggies and tofu.  Let the curry sauce cover the noodles.

    This noodle dish is extra special when topped with chopped peanuts.  Make sure the peanuts are unsalted.  You could also omit the noodles and just put the veggie green curry mixture over white rice.  Try mixing in other veggies with the green curry sauce too.  Next time, I want to try adding some carrots and mushrooms.

    Greek Orzo Salad

    August 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

    I had a great greek orzo salad at the Whole Foods ready-made counter about two years ago. I loved the flavors in the pasta salad so much that I started to dissect the salad (to figure out what was in it and how I could make it).  I first tried to make the salad for my husband, and he gave me the nod of approval.  The second time I made this pasta salad was for one of my bridal showers, and it was a hit.  I really knew it was a good recipe when my aunt asked for it and started making it for her friends and for family BBQs.

    It is a great cold pasta salad that has so many flavors working at once, that it is both an awesome side dish and a great stand alone dish.   It’s easy to make and can be made ahead of time too.  If you have a BBQ to go to or a luncheon and need to bring a dish, this one is perfect.  It is also great on top of some fresh spinach, for a light lunch.  Is it better than the Whole Foods version?  Make it, taste it, and let me know what you think.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 orange bell pepper
    • 1 yellow bell pepper
    • 1 medium purple onion
    • 1 cup pitted whole kalamata olives
    • 1 1/2 cups whole sun dried tomatoes that have been packed in olive oil
    • 2 oz. of fresh basil (about 1/2 of a container of Trader Joe’s organic basil does the trick)
    • 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
    • 1 box orzo
    • 1/4 cup of the olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes.

    Directions:

    1.  Start of with cooking the orzo according to the directions of the box of the pasta.  Remember to generously salt the water, so you can flavor the pasta.

    2.  Once you have started the pasta, cut up the yellow and orange bell peppers into large chunks.  Put all of the bell pepper into a food processor and pulse until you reach your desired size of bell pepper.  Be careful not to pulse the bell peppers too much, or you will get a bell pepper paste and not pieces of bell peppers.  When you have pulsed the bell peppers to the desired size, out them in a large bowl.

    3.  Next, cut a whole purple onion into large chucks.  Put the onion into the food processor ad pulse until the onion has been chopped.  Add the chopped onion into the bowl with the bell peppers.

    4.  Add the kalamata olives to the food processor and pulse until they are chopped.  Add the olives to the bowl with the bell peppers and purple onion.

    5.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the food processor and pulse until they are chopped up.  Pulsing the sun dried tomatoes may take longer than the other ingredients because they are tougher.  When the tomatoes have been chopped, add them to the bowl.

    6.  Pull the basil leaves off of their steams and put the leaves into the food processor.  Pulse the basil leaves into small pieces.  When the basil has been chopped, add it to the bowl.

    7.  When the pasta is done, cool it off by pouring the pasta into a colander and draining it.  Next, run cold water over the pasta in the colander until the pasta is cold.  When the pasta is cool, add it to the large bowl that has all of the chopped ingredients.

    8.  Add 1/4 cup of the sun-dried tomato olive oil to the pasta and the chopped veggies.  Toss the ingredients in the bowl to combine and coat with the oil.

    9.  Add the feta cheese and pepper to taste.  Toss the pasta to evenly distribute the cheese.  Refrigerate the pasta until it is cold, and then serve.

    Jazz Up Your Breakfast!!!

    August 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

    I love love love love love breakfast!  I am always trying to think of easy one or two-step ways to jazz up a plain or normal breakfast into something great.  Thanks to summer, and its fresh berries, making a delicious hot topping for french toast, pancakes, or waffles is easy.  Take a look….

    Ingredients:

    • Blueberries (or another fresh fruit)
    • Honey

    Directions:

    1.  Start with a normal breakfast item, like french toast, pancakes, or waffles.

    2.  Put about 1/2 cup (or a handful) of blueberries in a microwave safe dish.  Add about 1 tbsp. of honey (more or less depending on how sweet you want your fruit topping) to the blueberries.  Put the microwave safe dish into the microwave for about 1 minute (or until the berries are cooked).

    3.  Put the blueberry topping on your ordinary breakfast to transform it into an extraordinary breakfast!  Enjoy!

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