Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza

Pears, caramelized onion, honey, fresh thyme, Gorgonzola cheese. These are some of my favorite ingredients...all combined in this breathtaking pizza.

This is a relatively simple pizza. Just a few fresh ingredients, perfectly balanced. And the results are magnificent.

BUT....because we're working with few ingredients, it makes the quality of these ingredient very important.

"Once you've put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided."
- Chef Mario Batali

So, with that in mind, shop for the best and freshest you can find. You won't regret it once you see how each ingredient in this fabulous pizza is highlighted and celebrated!

Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza

1 uncooked pizza crust
1 bosc pear (you want one that is ripe but still a bit firm)
1/2 yellow onion
2 TBS butter
pinch of sugar (optional) Note: if you can get your hands on a sweet onion you might not need it
2-4 TBS Gorgonzola (or bleu) cheese 
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 TBS honey

Preheat your oven according to your pizza crust cooking instructions. (I cook my homemade pizzas very hot and fast. So my oven is preheated to to 525F, which is the highest my oven goes.)

Cut the pear in half and remove the seeds. *tip: using a melon baller is a great way to do this!* Slice the pear thinly.

Cut the onion into small strips. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sautee until they are a deep golden color. This should take about 10-15 minutes for them to caramelize. Add the sugar, if desired, and stir until coated. Set aside.

To make the pizza, spread the onions (and some of the butter from the pan) onto the the crust. Arrange pear slices in a circular patter to cover the crust and onions. Sprinkle the cheese and thyme over the top of the pizza. Finally, drizzle on the honey.

Bake according to your pizza crust's recipe (for my crust its about 6-8 minutes at 525F or unitl crust is golden brown.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices

Spaghetti Squash. One of my favorite hard-shelled winter squash.

When you love variety, you love versatility. This yellow gem is just that. Versatile. And this recipe is one of my favorite ways to bring a different twist, a Moroccan one, to an old favorite. It's bursting with flavor from the spices...but also very approachable due to the natural mild sweetness of the squash.

It's fantastic on it's own for a light lunch. Or along side a fish or chicken dish. In the photo below, it was served with tilapia (also in a Moroccan style).

*Shopping tip: When choosing a spaghetti squash, look for one that is heavy for it's size.

Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices

(adapted from Gourmet 2002)

1 medium spaghetti squash (about 3-4 lbs)
1/4 cup butter
2-3 cloves minced garlic
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste...for me it's about 1/8 tsp)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup slivered, blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cut the squash in half (microwave the whole squash for 1 minute if the skin is too tough to cut through).

Using a spoon, scoop and scrap out the seeds and stringy insides.

Place the squash, cut side down, on a greased cookie sheet. Pierce the skin several times with a fork.  Roast for about 35-45 minutes or until tender when pressed on with a fork. Allow squash to cool for a few minutes.

While you're waiting for the squash to cool, melt the butter in small saucepan. Add the minced garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. Stir in spices and salt. Cook gently for a couple minutes until fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Then, using a fork, remove the flesh of the squash into a serving bowl, separating the strands as you work.

Pour butter mixture over the spaghetti squash strands and toss well. Top with chopped cilantro and slivered almonds.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Fries with Cilantro & Lime

We love sweet potatoes in our house. And we particularly like them prepared in less traditional fashions. The sweet potato casserole that we all grew up on (you know the one with the toasted mini marshmellows on top), is good and all....but you haven't really appreciated sweet potatoes until you've tried them with some spicy flair.  

Whether sweets are a staple in your diet or you don't favor them at all, this recipe will open your eyes to a whole new potential for these little gems. Grab a lime and a bunch of cilantro and give it a shot!

Sweet Potato Fries with Cilantro & Lime

(adapted from The Messy Cook's "Tropical Sweet Potato Fries" on Allrecipes.com)
serves 4

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
3-4 TBS olive oil
1 TBS Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or as much as you dare!)
a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper
Zest from 1 lime
additional salt and  pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Arrange sweet potatoes on two cookies sheet in a single layer, spreading them out so they touch as little as possible. They need space so they don't get soggy!

Drizzle olive oil over the fries. In a small bowl, combine Kosher salt, ancho chili powder, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the fries. Sprinkle the lime zest over the seasoned fries too.

Then, using your hands, mix the sweet potatoes around so they are all evenly covered with oil, the seasonings and zest. 

Roast on the middle rack of the preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes so ensure even browning. Cook until fries are tender on the inside and browned and starting to crisp on the outside.

Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if required.

Serving suggestions: These are an awesome accompaniment for burgers, sloppy joes, or grilled chicken.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mahogany Chicken Wings

I really wish I could take credit for this recipe...but I can't. I found it on allrecipes.com (submitted by Christinet). I've only made minor changes because the recipe is pretty darn fabulous as it is!
The first time I made these, my husband declared it the best chicken wing he'd ever had.

These wings have are rich in flavor, savory and sweet. An asian twist with a subtle kick. It's complex taste  is like nothing you've ever had in a chicken wing. You're taste buds will thank you and beg for more. And the best part is...because they are baked, not fried, your waste line will thank you too!

Here's what you do:

Mahogany Chicken Wings:

3 pounds of chicken wings
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
2 TBS chili sauce (I like to use thai sirracha)
1 tsp ground ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1 TBS toasted sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce, honey, molasses, chili sauce, ground ginger and garlic. Pour the mixture over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour, turning occasionally. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F 

In a baking dish, arrange chicken in a single layer. Bake in the preheated oven approximately 50 minutes, brushing with remaining soy sauce mixture often and turning once, until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear. 

Sprinkle with sesame seeds. 

*Helpful tip: I've baked these wings in several different sized baking dishes. I've found that if you use a dish that is too big, the sauce will burn. Use a glass baking dish that is just big enough to squeeze the wings into a single layer.

These are great served as an appetizer, along side your favorite pizza, or with an Asian salad.
Give it a try. You won't regret it!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yaki Gyoza (Japanese pan-fried dumplings)

Gyoza is originally a Chinese dish, called Jiaozi. But it later became very popular part of Japanese cuisine. These dumplings of ground meat, ginger, garlic and cabbage, are wrapped in a thin dough that can be cooked a number of different ways. This recipe is for Yaki (pan-fried) Gyoza. They are fantastic appetizers or side dish.
While there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to wrapping these little guys up, give it a shot. I think you'll be impressed with culinary skills once these babies hit the table!

Yaki Gyoza:
(recipe adapted from rasamalaysia.com)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Makes about 30 dumplings

1 package round gyoza wrappers
vegetable oil or cooking spray
water for sealing and steaming

1/2 pound ground pork, chicken or turkey
1/2 cup minced cabbage
1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
2 green onions, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp dashi granules, dissovled in 1 TBSP water, dry white wine, or sake
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Combine all of the filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined (using your hands is the best way to do this!).

Place about 1 tsp of the filling on a wrapper.  Lightly fold in half. Using your fingers, press the seam on one end together. Make 4-5 small pleats along the front of the dumpling by folding 1/2 inch sections back on itself as you go. After each pleat, press together with wet fingers to seal. Be sure the edge is sealed completely.

Repeat until all your dumplings are filled and sealed.

In a non-stick skillet, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat. (A generous coating of cooking spray works great.) Working in batches, add dumplings to the skillet. Do not over fill the skillet (you don't want the dumplings to touch while cooking). Cover and cook until lightly brown on the bottom. Add a few tablespoons of water to the skillet. Immediately cover the skillet to capture the steam. Continue to cook until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are cooked through.

If you like crispier dumplings, like I do, you can flip the dumplings and brown the other side before adding the water.

Serve hot with Ponzu dipping sauce (combine in a small bowl: 1/4 cup Ponzu sauce and 1/2 tsp sesame oil).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Poached Pears

I occasionally participate in a local produce co-op. Recently, the co-op participants  received a bag of anjou pears. After lots of snacks, cheese plates, and salads, I still have several pears needing to be eaten. These, unlike other pears I've had in the past, didn't start getting mushy as they got older. They remained firm. That gave me an idea. I should poach them!

I'd never poached pears before so decided to start out with a pretty straight forward recipe. And they turned out so yummy!  It's an elegant dessert that even the kids will like!

This recipe is very very basic. And while there are many ways to poach pears, this is a good place to start.

Poached Pears with Orange and Cinnamon:   
(recipe adapted from Edna Lee's recipe for "Poached Orange Pears" from Allrecipes.com)

4 firm, ripe pears
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches
whipped cream and ground cinnamon, as garnish

Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove the skin from the pears. Cut the pears in half and remove the core. *tip - you can use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds.*

In a medium saucepan, combine orange juice, brown sugar and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium low. 

Carefully add the pears to the liquid. Cover and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the pears are tender but still hold their shape well. (Turn the pears occasionally during the cooking time if the poaching liquid does not complete cover the pears.)

Remove the cinnamon stick  and discard. Remove the pears, with a slotted spoon and transfer to desire serving dishes. Top with whipped cream, a drizzle of the poaching liquid (which should now have a syrup consistency), and a dash of ground cinnamon.

That's it! So simple.

Next on my 'Recipes to Try' list: Red Wine Poached Pears with Marscapone cheese...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Candied Pecans

Watch out! These things are addictive. With the perfect balance of sweet and salty crunch, you'll find it hard to eat just one. Even my two year old loves them! In fact, even people who claim that they don't like nuts have been found munching on these delectable treats!

I like to use these candied pecans on top of sweet potatoes, salads, or ice cream. But, my favorite way to eat them is straight out of the bowl.  They are a fabulous snack, and with no oil or butter, you benefit from the protein without the added fat.

So, every fall when baking goods go on sale, be sure to pick up an extra bag of pecans.

Candied Pecans

1 lb pecan halves
1 egg white
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp table salt
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 TBSP water

Preheat oven to 250 F. Grease a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg white until it is foamy. Stir in the water and vanilla extract. Add the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir well.
Gently stir the pecans into the egg white mixture until they are thoroughly coated. Spread the nuts into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes (this is important to keep the pecans from sticking).
Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.