I love birthdays! Especially, when it is someone else’s birthday. Someone else getting older, and being the center of attention. For Adam’s birthday, this year, we decided to take full advantage of the unusually warm weather in New York, and utilize our deck for a small gathering of friends. I, of course, had great plans to make a fantastic feast for Adam, which I completely forgot to photograph. I made a lovely Pappa al Pomodoro soup (Tuscan bread soup), green salad with grapefruit and mint vinaigrette, baguette with roasted garlic and parmesan cheese, roasted tomato caprese salad, and double chocolate brownies from the April issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. I was a busy cook on Saturday!
On Sunday, I made Ina Garten’s White Pizza with Arugula. They were perfect for my tiny oven and lack of a pizza stone. I’d never made pizza dough from scratch, but I can tell you, I will use this recipe from now on. It was so easy and tasty! The flavors of the 3 cheeses, the homemade garlic oil, and topped with the lemon peppery arugula, was divine! It was a Happy Birthday for Adam & his tummy.
White Pizza with Arugula
by Ina Garten
For the Pizza
1 1/2 cups warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
1 TBS honey
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
ground black pepper
3 cups grated Italian Fontina cheese (8 ounces)
1/2 cups grated fresh mozzarella (7 ounces)
11 ounces creamy goat cheese such as Montrachet, crumbled
For the salad
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 ounces baby arugula
For the dough, combine the water, yeast honey, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Wait approximately 10 minutes, until the yeast has dissolved. Add 3 cups of the flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough. Knead dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl. When dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the garlic oil. Place 1/2 cup olive oil, the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. (Be sure your oven is clean!)
Dump the dough onto a board and divide it into 6 equal pieces. Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and cover with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place 2 circles on each parchment-lined sheet pan. (If you’ve chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature.) Brush the pizzas with the garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with Fontina, mozzarella, and goat cheese. Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon more of the garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crusts are crisp and the cheeses begin to brown.
Meanwhile, for the vinaigrette, whisk together 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. When the pizzas are done, place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough lemon vinaigrette to moisten. Place a large bunch of arugula on each pizza and serve immediately.
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Okay, so this photo doesn’t do this recipe justice! On the plate, it looks like pasta with a blob next to it. But, let me tell you, this eggplant parmigiana is magic in your mouth! It is completely unhealthy, breaded, fried eggplant smothered in cheese and homemade sauce, but it is absolutely amazing!
I couldn’t decide what to make the other night for dinner. I started walking to the grocery store without a plan. Adam would say that this is a disaster waiting to happen because he’s been with me at the grocery store when I haven’t made a list of groceries. We come home with way more than we should! On my way to the store, I witnessed a car accident – just a little fender bender. No injuries. But, it happened right next to me and I got a bit of a jolt of adrenaline from the squeal of the tires and the smashing of metal. The driver who caused the accident immediately got out and apologized to the other driver with a very heavy Brooklyn accent – in the style of “fuggeddaboutit”. I immediately thought of having Italian food for dinner. Eggplant Parmigiana!
Now, to do it right, you’ve got to bread it and pan fry the eggplant first to make sure it doesn’t get too mushy. Also, I decided to make my own sauce from scratch so as to have some leftover for the pasta. It takes some time to make, but it well worth it! It was dynamite!
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 onion, halved
4 TBS butter
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt to taste
1 medium to large eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 to 1/2 the recipe of sauce or 1 store-bought jar
1/2 to 1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
3 to 4 eggs
1 cup flour
salt and pepper
1/2 bag shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese
oil for frying
First make the sauce: Put a large saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and melt. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and onion, and bring to a low simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover, taste and add salt as necessary. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the bread crumbs shallow bowl. Crack 3 of the eggs into another shallow bowl; season with salt and pepper and beat with a fork to mix. Put the flour in another shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant, flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs on a work surface near the stove.
Heat about 1/4-inch olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, dredge several eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip them in the egg, and finally coat them in the bread crumbs. Put as many eggplant in the skillet as will fit comfortably in a single layer and cook until tender and well browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Cook all of the eggplant slices this way, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
To assemble the dish, first get yourself set up with a large, buttered baking dish. Have ready the eggplant, the tomato sauce, the shredded mozzarella cheese and the Parmigiano. To start, spoon some of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Now add a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with about one-third of the cheeses. Repeat with tomato sauce, eggplant, cheese until the all of the eggplant is used and the last of the cheeses are on top.
Put the dish in the oven and bake for about 1 hour, until golden and bubbling. Let stand for about 15 minutes before cutting. Enjoy!
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I mentioned in a previous post that our friend, Karen, was recently killed in a hit-and-run car accident in New York City. At her memorial, we received a program that included a few of Karen’s favorite recipes. Karen loved to cook and hold wonderful dinner parties. I made her cake because, not only did it sound interesting, I wanted to honor her memory.
When Adam and I saw Karen’s recipe for chocolate surprise cake, we knew we had to try it. I was intrigued and a bit shocked to find out that the surprise was sauerkraut. Yes, sauerkraut. The same sauerkraut that you enjoy on bratwurst and hot dogs. That very same sauerkraut was in this lovely recipe for chocolate cake! I was a little nervous about it, but Karen loved it & who knows, it might become a new favorite of ours.
I brought the cake over to our friend’s house for a small Oscar party. I let them know what the “surprise” in Chocolate Surprise Cake was, and they, too, seemed excited and curious. The first bite was taken a little tentatively, but after realizing that the frosting was amazing, and the sauerkraut really just added texture and not a bunch of salty flavor, they were game. What a fun chocolate cake!
Karen’s Chocolate Sauerkraut Surprise Cake
by Karen Schmeer
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup sauerkraut (well rinsed, drained, and chopped). Fresh or bagged is best, but Karen always said “from a jar works just fine.”
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a Bundt cake pan. (Karen used 2 round 9″ pans).
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then add vanilla.
Sift together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder). Slowly beat these into the creamed mixture, alternating with 1 cup water. Stir in sauerkraut. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan(s). Bake 35 to 40 minutes. (If using 2 round pans, only bake 15 to 20 minutes). Cool completely in the pan.
Make the frosting. In a double boiler (or just carefully in a regular pan), melt both types of chocolate with the butter over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in the sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating until frosting is spreadable. When cake is cool, remove from the pans and frost.
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Adam and I love Mexican food! We were completely spoiled in Los Angeles with the abundance of great Mexican restaurants, and our wonderful friends cooking for us. I honestly do not believe that I cooked any sort of Mexican food while in LA. I didn’t have to, and how could I compete? While my co-workers shared their homemade salsa, I baked a good ol’ apple pie. I really should have taken advantage of the fresh California avocados, cilantro, tomatillos, etc., but, alas, I did not. Now, I’m living in Brooklyn, NY, where places like California Burrito are packed, but the food is just not up to par. I miss our burrito stand right around the corner from our house. We could get a burrito for under $5 that would blow-your-mind!
Okay, enough about burritos and California. Since I can’t find good Mexican food in Brooklyn, I decided I’d make it myself, and it took the form of Tortilla Pie. I found a recipe on this really cute food blog, Pink Parsley. I had the majority of ingredients, but had to send Adam out to the Bodega for the rest of the items to complete this dish – namely, the beer. I love recipes that call for beer! I love enjoying a nice cold beer with a warm, spicy meal. This Black Bean and Tortilla Pie did not disappoint! It was spicy, smokey, cheesy and satisfied my craving for Mexican food!
Black Bean and Tortilla Pie
adapted from Pink Parsley
4 (10-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using the bottom of the pan as a guide, use a paring knife to trim the edges of the tortillas so that they fit in a 9-inch springform pan.
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder
salt and pepper
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10-ounce) bag frozen corn
1 12-ounce beer, or 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
8 ounces cheese, shredded (I used Mexican cheese blend)
salsa and sour cream, for serving (optional)
Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Saute the onion until soft, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, chipotle powder, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beans and beer to the skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, 8-10 minutes. Mix in the corn, scallions, and cilantro, and remove from heat.
Lay one of the tortillas across the bottom of the springform pan. Layer with 1/4 of the beans, and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat 3 times, finishing with beans and cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and the mixture is heated through, about 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and unmold the pie. Garnish with remaining scallions and cilantro, and serve with your choice of topping (salsa, sour cream), or as is. Enjoy!
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