Wednesday, July 30, 2014

French Pizza

Not French bread pizza, French Pizza!  Oil-cured black olives, tiny strips of anchovy, ripe roasted tomatoes top a slab of puff pastry smeared with soft cheeses.  If, like me,  you cannot get to Nice in the south of France this summer, get a taste with this beachside favorite picked up the local patisserie. 

French Pizza
Makes one medium pizza that serves 4 for lunch, 8-9 as an appertizer

one sheet puff pastry (10" X 15")
egg wash*
4-6 ounces soft cheese (combo of goat cheese, blue cheese, cream cheese)
3-4 medium tomatoes (or 8-9 small tomatoes)
1/4 cup oil cured olives
optional: anchovies, extra grated cheese like Parmesan, Asiago or even Gruyere

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
  2. Place defrosted puff pastry sheet on a cookie sheet.
  3. Using a butter knife, cut a strip about 1/3-1/2 inch wide from the long sides of the sheet.  Brush the long edges with egg wash and place the strip on top to form an edge.  Do the same with the shorter sides of the pastry.  
  4. Spread a thin layer of the cheese on the interior of the puff pastry.
  5. Slice the tomatoes no thinner than 1/4 inch and lay out over the cheese.  If using small tomatoes, cut them in half and arrange on top of the cheese.  (Note: if using roma or plum tomatoes, you may roast them in a 400˚F oven for 10-12 minutes before topping the pizza.)
  6. Finish the pizza by arranging olives and anchoives between the tomatoes.
  7. Brush the raised edges of the pizza with more egg wash. 
  8. Bake pizza at 400˚F for 15 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.  
  9. Optional: Grate some hard cheese over the pizza to finish. 
Enjoy French Pizza right out of the oven or room temperature as a light lunch or hearty first course over salad greens.

 * an egg wash will "glue" the pastry to itself and create a nice shine to the pizza edges.  Mix a beaten egg with a few tablespoons of water to create an egg wash.  If you do not want to use an egg, a light brushing of water will help stick the strips of pastry to the base. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tandoori Chicken Pitas

Next time you are grilling, marinate a few chicken thighs in a Tandoori yogurt-spice mixture using spices you probably already have on hand.  Grill the thighs alongside or after your main meal is cooked.  The next day you'll have fragrant chicken to slice and stuff into pita pockets with some cooling salad ingredients.   We stuff cucumbers and radishes or sliced tomatoes and onions in with the chicken and add chopped cilantro and lettuce leaves.  Eat as is or add a fiery mango chutney and/or a cool spoonful of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Here how to make Tandoori Chicken Thighs for tomorrow's pita sandwiches.

Tandoori Chicken Thighs
Serves 4-6
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 ounces plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon each: cumin, tumeric, coriander, paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a large resealable plastic bag.   
  2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  
  3. Marinate at least 2 hours or overnight.  
  4. Grill things over direct heat, 4-5 minutes per side.  The chicken cal be roasted in the oven at 425˚F for 15-18 minutes.  Thighs are cooked when internal temperature registers 170˚F. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blue Cheese Salsa on Lettuce Wedges

Blue Cheese Salsa? What!
This is an easy and pure salad dressing and salad in one.  While the salad ingredients marinate in their blue cheese vinaigrette, everything stays crisp and fresh looking until it is time to serve.

It's just chopped tomatoes, avocados and blue cheese dressed in a simple vinaigrette dressing and flavored with a spoonful of sour cream, fresh, chopped basil and extra black pepper.  The sour cream pulls the flavors together and creates a pretty pastel effect. Serve Blue Cheese Salsa over large slices of dense lettuce varieties like romaine or iceburg.

Blue Cheese Salsa
Serves 4
2 medium tomatoes
1 avocado
2-3 ounces blue cheese (we used a Danish blue here)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 cup vinaigrette dressing (click here to learn how to make a batch)
1/4 cup fresh, chopped basil
cracked black pepper
1 large head lettuce (iceburg or romaine)

  1. Chop tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese into cubes about the same size-- about 1/2 inch or so. 
  2. Mix the sour cream, vinaigrette, basil and pepper together in a medium bowl.  
  3. Add chopped vegetables and cheese.  Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture together.  
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to several hours ahead.  
  5. When ready to serve, slice lettuce into individual servings and spoon salsa over each serving
I recommend this as a side for any grilled entrĂ©e and a very packable salad for a potluck dinner.  Bring the salsa in a plastic container, cut the lettuce before you leave and assemble on a platter when you arrive.  Don't forget the tongs or a large spatula to serve wedges!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Frozen Banana Bites

A big hit at the dessert buffet nestled next to red, white and blue cupcakes, banana bites covered in chocolate and rolled in peanuts (or coconut) satisfy a sweet tooth without being too filling.   A perfect pure bite. 

Make a few or make a party tray by cutting ripe bananas into four pieces, spearing with a popsicle or wooden skewers and freezing for 30 minutes.  Melt good quality chocolate chips in the microwave and scatter chopped nuts or shredded coconut on a plate.  Dip each banana bite in chocolate and quickly roll in coating before the chocolate hardens.  Freeze pops as they are covered.  Work in batches of 8 pieces and keep the rest in the freezer.  You will be finished in no time.  When the chocolate has hardened, cover the pops with plastic wrap until you are ready to serve 'em up. 

Ingredients for 40
Frozen Banana Bites
10 ripe bananas
1-1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped peanuts or other topping (shredded coconut, toffee chips, sprinkles, crushed cookies)
40 popsicle sticks (or 20 wooden skewers, cut in half)