Saturday, September 29, 2007

Catalan Flatbread with Piquillo Peppers, Caramelized Onions & Anchovies

Spanish food...the love affair continues. I, like many cookbook junkies I'm sure, snapped up Jose Andres' book, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America, soon after it came out. I was familiar with Andres from eating in one of his Washington, D.C. restaurants, and I love tapas. I have to shamefully admit that I haven't used the book much at all. It has a lot of motivating photography, and the recipes are not difficult for the most part. The best explanation I can come up with is that, realistically, an array of whimsical tapas dishes is not the simplest thing for the home cook to pull off.

If you enjoy tapas as much as I do, there are times when you find a way. Many of the recipes in this book could be entrees or sides as easily as they could be lunch or a mid-afternoon snack on the weekend. Tapas is not just about lots of small dishes, but a cooking philosophy of bringing together bold, high-quality ingredients in simple but interesting ways.

These flatbreads involve a homemade yeast dough, but wait--the recipe is formulated with a lot of yeast so it requires just one 30-minute rise. Flatbread recipes, like my beloved pizza dough, are simple as can be, but they do require waiting time. Not this one. It is ready so fast, you'll want to use it for other recipes.

Piquillo peppers are Spanish wood-roasted sweet peppers that pack a nice bit of heat. The come in jars like roasted red peppers (but they're not at all similar in taste), and you can find them in lots of grocery stores and gourmet shops.

For me and Mike, this would be great football watching food, but try it anytime you want something savory, salty and out of the ordinary.

Catalan Flatbread with Anchovies & Piquillo Peppers
Adapted from Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America by Jose Andres.

Makes 8

For dough:
2 packets (1/2 oz.) active dry yeast
1/2 c. whole or lowfat milk, gently warmed in the microwave (not scalding)
1 c. plus 3 tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

For Flatbreads:
2 tbs. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
20 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 c. piquillo peppers (a little less than a 13 oz. jar), cut into small pieces
16 oil-packed anchovy fillets, halved crosswise
6 oz. Manchego cheese, grated (about 1 c.)

Stir the yeast into the warmed milk and let it rest for 5 minutes. Add the flour and salt to a food processor and pulse to combine. Pour the yeast mixture into the food processor and process for 1 minute, or until the dough is well-mixed. Remove the lid and cover the bowl of the food process with plastic wrap. Leave it in a non-drafty place to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the olive oil to a large skillet, preferably cast iron or nonstick, and heat to medium-low. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasional for 15 to 20 minutes, or until caramelized--very soft and brown. Season with salt and pepper once they start to soften. If the skillet gets too dry before onions are done, add 1/2 tablespoon of water to prevent them from burning. Remove from heat and set aside.

Coast two baking sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. When the dough is finished rising, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 8 equal balls. Flatten them into an oval with your hand, then use a floured rolling pin to roll them out into long thin strips, about 10 x 2 inches. Place them on the baking sheets as you go.

Prick each flatbread two or three times with a fork. Divide the onions and olives among the flatbreads. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked in the center and lightly browned around the edges. Top with the piquillo peppers, anchovies and Manchego. Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper on top and return to the oven for 2 minutes. Serve hot.

And a few more intriguing flatbread recipes from food blogs I heart:

1) Parmesan Skillet Flatbread from Je Mange La Ville.
2) Arabic Flatbread Pizza--a cheesy cultural hybrid from Morsels & Musings.
3) Ana Sortun's Flatbread with Spiced Chicken and Pistachios--No wonder I love The Wednesday Chef--she constantly writes about the kind of food I love, and she's into Ana Sortun!
4) Rosemary Pears on Flatbread with Mozzarella from Acme Instant Food lucks divine.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Shrimp n' Cheesy Grits

Shrimp n' grits (or anything n' grits) is a southern thing. While I have to thank Southern cuisine for the combination of the recipe's two main ingredients, the similarities pretty much end there.

If you haven't tried grits before, now is your chance. It is a lot like polenta--in fact, sometimes it is hard to know the difference because of the various "quick" and convenience products you can buy. Hominy grits are made from cornmeal soaked in an alkaline solution to add nutrients. Masa harina, the cornmeal used to make tortillas, is made in a similar way. Polenta and corn grits do not get the alkaline treatment. By my observations, grits have a fluffier, "grittier" texture than polenta which is typically more smooth and pourable. I like quick-cooking polenta, and for grits I use Quaker Quick Grits (white hominy grits), not instant. I have also used finely ground masa harina as a substitute for both of them.

Now that I've done my best to make your head spin over the true nature of cornmeal products, I will get back to this recipe. Once you are past the southern roots, you'll see it is healthy (and low-calorie), super-quick to make (20 minutes, max) and very satisfying (the grits are flavored with Boursin cheese--mmm). Buy peeled and deveined shrimp, so all you have to do is pinch off their tails. I have made this with chopped tomatoes (both red and green, actually), but it looks so much prettier with the grape tomatoes. I also like their sweetness. Combining them with sauteed garlic and scallions results in an incredibly flavorful pan sauce for the shrimp.

This is one of my go-to dinners when I want something healthy and fast that does not involve feelings of deprivation. After the antipasto platter and tenderloin carpaccio salad I ate last night, that's sounding like a pretty good idea.

Shrimp n' Cheesy Grits
Adapted from a long lost copy of Shape magazine.
I am not giving exact quantities for the grits and chicken broth in this recipe because it will vary depending on what cornmeal product you use. Follow the package directions and make enough for 4 servings (it never hurts to make extra--they are addictive).

Serves 4 (cut in half for 2--leftovers don't hold up very well).

1 1/2 tbs. olive oil, divided
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
salt and pepper
low-sodium chicken broth
Fast-cooking grits (like Quaker Quick Grits)
8-10 scallions, finely sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved crosswise
1/2 cup (4 oz.) Boursin Light cheese spread (Alouette cheese is also good), garlic and herb flavor

Add 1 tablespoon of the olive to a large skillet and heat to medium. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook, turning once, until done, about 2-3 minutes. Remove with any juices to a bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, add the chicken broth to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.

Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the scallions and cook, stirring often for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the tomatoes are slightly wilted. Stir in the shrimp and remove from heat.

You can start the grits while you cook the scallion-tomato mixture, or you can wait until the veggies are done and give your full attention to the grits. You should have them finished in 7 minutes or less. Use the package cooking time as a guide, but most grits thicken very quickly. If they don't taste done, add more liquid (hot water is fine) and keep stirring. This is how I do it: Using a whisk (this is the best tool to avoid clumps), pour the grits into the boiling chicken broth in a slow stream, whisking as you pour. Whisk constantly and turn the heat to the lowest setting as soon as the liquid starts bubbling again to avoid hot, splattering grits. Keep whisking until the mixture starts to thicken. When you reach a thick consistency, stir in the cheese. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you like. Remove from heat. You can cover the grits to keep them warm for a few minutes if you need to finish the rest of the meal.

Spoon the grits onto four plates and top with one-fourth of the shrimp mixture. Serve immediately.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Turkey Lasagna with Eggplant and Spinach

Do you think there's a proper way to layer a lasagna? Like if you put the ricotta on before the meat, you've screwed it up? I don't think so. I plan out my layers before I start assembling to create optimum enjoyment of the flavors and textures of the ingredients. But as long as it makes you happy, I think the way you layer is a matter of personal style.

The lasagnas I ate as a kid did not have much variation. There was noodle, red sauce, meat and cheese--and the meat and cheese layers were repeated at least twice. A while ago, I figured out that I don't like that. I like to stuff my lasagna with vegetables, but I want meat too so it's more substantial and doesn't rely on wild amounts of cheese for protein. I use only a moderate amount of meat--about three quarters of a pound--so I put it in a single layer. I do just one layer of vegetables too so I can taste them, and the finished product has distinct components.

This lasagna is my best, and that's why I've waited until now to post a lasagna recipe on the blog. I think turkey has a milder flavor that goes better with vegetables than beef does. The thick slices of roasted eggplant are utterly delicious, and one of my favorite vegetables in any context.

One last thing: Try this homemade sauce! You'll be amazed that a minimal effort on your part yields something with so much home-cooked, deep flavor. You'll never want to use a jar again, and it makes a lasagna (already a bit of a project, I have to admit) that much more special. But put this together on the weekend, and unless you're feeding a crowd, you'll have leftovers that only taste better the next day.

Turkey Lasagna with Eggplant and Spinach

Make the sauce first, early in the day, or a day in advance if that works best for you. Then it is just a matter of prepping the other components—vegetables, meat, and ricotta—and assembling the dish. I love whole wheat lasagna noodles and think they go especially well with veggie lasagnas. Try Gia Russa brand (I find it in the grocery store).

1 large or 2 small to medium eggplant, stem end trimmed, sliced lengthwise 1/2-inch thick (better to have extra eggplant than not enough here)
olive oil
coarse salt and ground black pepper
12-14 oz. baby spinach leaves
3/4 lb. lean ground turkey
red chile flakes, to taste
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
pinch ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. each dried basil and oregano
Easy Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)
1 package “no boil” lasagna noodles
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated (I like Sorrento brand)
16-20 fresh basil leaves
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

1) Prepare the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a pastry or grilling brush, coat a large baking sheet with olive oil and arrange the eggplant on the sheet in a single layer (use two baking sheets if necessary). Lightly brush the tops of the eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 10-15 minutes, or until eggplant slices are soft and lightly browned. Set aside. Adjust oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add a few handfuls of the spinach, season with salt and pepper and cook, turning constantly, about 3-4 minutes. Place cooked spinach in a colander. Repeat with remaining spinach. Gently press the spinach in the colander to release as much liquid as possible. Set aside.

2) Cook the turkey: Heat the same large skillet to medium-high. Add the ground turkey, breaking it up as it cooks. Season with salt, pepper and chile flakes. When turkey is cooked through, remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

3) Prepare the ricotta: In a bowl, mix the ricotta and the eggs. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, basil and oregano.

4) Assemble lasagna: Coat the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the dish with a light layer of tomato sauce. Cover with four lasagna noodles. It is okay that the noodles do not fit all the way to the edges of the dish. They expand during baking. Top with half the ricotta mixture, all of the turkey, and one-third of the mozzarella. Cover with a layer of tomato sauce and a layer of noodles. Top with the rest of the ricotta, all the eggplant, and all the spinach. Cover with 1/3 mozzarella cheese and another layer of sauce. Lay the basil leaves evenly over the sauce and top with a final layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with more sauce and the rest of the mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. As soon as you take the lasagna out of the oven, remove the foil and grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Let the lasagna rest for about 15 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces and serve.

Here is a quick reference for layering the lasagna:

Sauce
Noodles
Ricotta
Turkey (all)
Mozzarella
Sauce
Noodles
Ricotta
Eggplant
Spinach
Mozzarella
Sauce
Basil
Noodles
Sauce
Mozzarella
Parmigiano (after baking)

Easy Tomato Sauce
You may think one of the nice jars of store-bought sauce is just as good, but it’s not. Go for the convenience if you have to, but if you’ve got the time, this stuff is so delicious and hardly any work at all. It makes your house smell so incredible that you will want to make it all the time. Do not skip the wine; it add great depth of flavor.

Makes about 3 cups (for one lasagna and a bit left over); double the recipe if desired.

1 tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine (an Italian red like Sangiovese is the best)
28-oz. can whole tomatoes (buy a brand imported from Italy; San Marzano tomatoes are the best, and most grocery stores have them)
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp. sugar

Add the olive oil to a large soup pot or Dutch oven and heat to medium. Add the carrots, celery and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and stir as you cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until just a little bit of the liquid is left, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice and the bay leaves.

Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, stirring every so often. Reduce the heat to low, maintaining a simmer, but keeping the sauce from flying out of the pot. Simmer uncovered for 1 hours, stirring occasionally. Add sugar. Taste and season with salt and pepper according to your taste. If you still think the sauce is very acidic, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. I found that 1 teaspoon made enough difference to round out the acidity, but taste for yourself.

Remove the bay leaves, let the sauce cool, and puree in batches in a blender. Or use a hand blender and puree right in the pot.

And Bonus! As if this post wasn't long enough...more fabulous, creative lasagna recipes from around the blogosphere:

1) Bea's gorgeous (as always) Untraditional Green Lasagna from La Tartine Gourmande
2) Polenta Lasagna with Portabellas and Kale from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen--I love polenta, I love mushrooms, I love kale--this looks awesome!
3) My Mother's Lasagna from Cream Puffs in Venice--When Ivonne writes about lasagna, you pay attention!
4) Spinach and Chicken Lasagna from What's For Lunch Honey--You have to see these layers--that is one gorgeous and substantial lasagna!
5) A beautiful and indulgent Vegetarian Lasagna from The Passionate Cook, complete with bechamel sauce.
6) Kevin's Basic Lasagna from Seriously Good uses Italian sausage, is fast to prepare and--I'm just guessing here--tastes anything but basic.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Provencal Lamb Stew with White Wine

Mmmm, stew. I love a meal like this on a Sunday night, or any night when you have a little time to let a pot of something sit on the stove at a bare simmer.

That's the key to great stew meat--besides browning it well--never let the stew come to a boil. It's too traumatic. The meat will cook immediately and miss the chance to become moist and tender. Just remember the expression, "stew on this." As you would ruminate thoughtfully over an important issue, so you have give this stew the time to arrive, slowly, at its delicious conclusion.

Happily, in this recipe, that slow stewing process only amounts to about an hour of cooking time. And the important stuff--like building the rich, stew-y flavor--happens in a flash before the simmering gets underway. You will brown the meat in two batches, so as not to crowd the pot, saving all the juices as you go. You'll saute aromatics like onion, garlic and dried herbs. You'll add flour before the liquid to cook away it's raw taste and set your stew up for an amazing thick texture. And finally, you'll add a nice glug of wine for complex flavor.

In much of the US (though not here), it's getting cooler. This is the perfect early fall stew--hearty and warming without being a total capitulation to Fall's chilly hands. Bright white wine, lots of aromatics and fava beans (you can find the frozen ones year round!) keep it light. But for Mike and me, eating it in 90-degree Florida heat is not a problem. Stew it up tonight!

Provencal Lamb Stew with White Wine
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Provence
As you can see, the wine is an important component in this recipe. I used a medium-bodied off-dry blend, and I think it was successful. Avoid 100% chardonnay, and look for blends that have some chardonnay, reisling, sauvignon blanc, or semillon. 100% Sauvignon Blanc should work, but a blend will not be as dry. Don't skip the shallots even though the recipe calls for onions too--although they practically disappear, they add their sharply aromatic taste and work as a thickener.

Serves 4

1 tbs. butter, divided
1 tbs. olive oil, divided
2 1/2 lb. pound piece boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat, cut into bite-size chunks, and patted dry with paper towel
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
salt and pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tbs. flour
1 cup off-dry white wine
3 cups chicken broth (I used Whole Foods regular organic or Swanson's low-sodium)
Pinch of sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots (1/2-inch chunks)
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
1 or 2 whole shallots, peeled, divided into segments and cut into halves or quarters
1 1/4 cup frozen, shelled fava beans (or use fresh favas, fresh peas, or frozen peas)
fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
Crusty bread, for serving

In a large soup pot with a lid (I used nonstick) or Dutch oven, heat half the butter and half the olive oil to medium-high. Add half the lamb to the pot and sear the chunks of meat, seasoning with salt and pepper, until browned on all sides. Remove the meat and all the juices in the pot to a bowl. Add the remaining butter and oil, and sear the remaining lamb in the same manner. Add the seared lamb to the bowl, but leave some of the juices in the pot. Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Return the meat and all the juices to the pot. Add the dried thyme, rosemary and flour. Stir to combine and continue cooking until the flour has coated the meat and browned a bit, about 2 minutes. There should not be any white visible. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, to reduce slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Do not let the stew boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and maintain a gentle simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the sugar, carrots, parsnips and shallots. Cover and continue to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the fava beans and simmer until heated through, about 4 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve with crusty bread.

Wine Note: You could drink the white wine you used in the stew, but we also like it best with an earthy, medium-bodied red such Cotes du Rhone or a red from Portugal (we really like Prazo de Roriz).

Bonus! Here's another lamb stew I just remembered writing about a while back: Curried Lamb and Lentil Stew.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

(Healthy!) Stuffed Eggplant

I'm always lamenting that there is no regular farmer's market near my home in Fort Lauderdale. The closest thing is a little gourmet market that sets up on Las Olas Boulevard every Saturday. Hoping to be inspired to cook by fresh, local produce, Mike and I went to check it out one recent Saturday. They bill it as a "farmer's market," but there's not a single farmer in the mix. There are about 6 vendors including a guy giving Eastern-style massages; a gal hawking homemade hummus; some buttery, sugar-laden baked goods; gourmet honey and olive oil; and finally, a produce stall.

This produce stall was proudly advertising their "California peaches" and "Virginia tomatoes." It was one step above what I would find at my supermarket, but local it was not. At least we tried. One thing they did have that I never see in the supermarket were Sicilian eggplants. They are round instead of oblong, kind of like little pumpkins. All it took was this one new, yet familiar food to ignite my creative spark.

Besides ground meat (we used pork), all you need are some basic ingredients to make stuffed eggplant. This dish can involve frying the eggplant and splashing everything with lots of oil, but it's not at all necessary. This version is very healthy, but due to the meaty filling and luscious roasted eggplant, it is a filling meal. Mike and I bought some great-looking trout to cook as well, but we were so satisfied with the stuffed eggplant, we saved the trout for a late Sunday breakfast.

If you can't always buy local produce in your area, where do you get your inspiration? Any ideas for me?

Stuffed Eggplant
This makes a satisfying light meal for two. You can add bread and salad for a complete supper. Just double the recipe if you need to feed more people.

1 large Sicilian eggplant
1/3 lb. ground pork (turkey, beef or lamb would also work)
salt and pepper
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. dried rosemary
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
pinch red pepper flakes
2-3 tbs. panko
2 tbs. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Fresh parsley or basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim off the stem and cut the eggplant in half through the stem end. Line a baking sheet with foil, cover nonstick cooking spray and place eggplant halves face down on foil. Roast for 10-15 minutes, or until skin is a bit slack and the flesh side is lightly browned and soft when you poke it with a fork. You don't want the skin to totally lose it's shape, but the flesh must be soft enough to scoop out, so judge the roasting time based on that. Remove from oven. When eggplant is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a thin layer of flesh inside the skin to help hold its shape. Reserve flesh. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to medium-high and add the ground pork. Season with salt and pepper and stir, breaking it up as you go, until the meat is cooked through. Remove meat to a paper-towel lined plate to drain any excess fat. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion to the same skillet, cooking until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the tomato, season with salt and pepper, dried herbs, allspice and pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the eggplant flesh. Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to combine all the ingredients.

In small bowl, combine the panko and cheese. Season with pepper. Fill the eggplant skins with the pork mixture. You may have some filling left over. Sprinkle the panko mixture all over the top of the stuffing and bake for 15 minutes or until the panko turns golden. Cool for 10 minutes, garnish with fresh herbs, and serve.


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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sage Ravioli with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts


Looking back through the recipes on this blog, I see so many firsts. From the first time I fried chicken, to my light, buttery gougeres (my first simple marvel of french patisserie), to the first go at ice cream (fig gelato, actually), I've loved expanding my horizons in the kitchen. Today's post is another first for me, but it's so easy, many of you have probably already done it.

Ravioli are simple to make yourself, thanks to fresh wonton wrappers, now available in many grocery stores. I just never got around to taking advantage of this incredibly convenient product. Mike recently discovered them when he made some amazing fried shrimp wonton appetizers. Then we made the amazing Tunisian appetizer, Brik, and once we did that, we knew ravioli had to be the next thing on our list.

If you like making homemade pasta, by all means do it. But for me, that's just one more time-consuming, fussy step that isn't particulary challenging or fun. With wonton wrappers (or eggroll wrappers cut down to size), you can focus on the creative possibilities of homemade ravioli--dreaming up your filling, sauce and special extras that can take this from simple entree to impressive starter, or even surprising dessert (mascarpone ravioli with nutella dipping sauce, perhaps?)

Sage Ravioli with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts
I have always liked the idea of a brown butter sauce for fresh pasta, with frizzled strands of cheese just barely melting into it. I have often seen brown butter paired with sage, and adding the crunch of toasted hazelnuts seemed like a natural addition to me. I like this as an appetizer or small plate, and at least that keeps you from going overboard on the nutty butter sauce. If you've never made brown butter, know that it is temperamental. If it gets darker than a very light brown, it could be burnt--taste it to find out. Once you practice a couple times, you'll know when to whisk it off the heat. There's a useful photo of brown butter here. You will probably have extra filling and extra sauce with this recipe, so make a few extra in case any ravioli get mangled.

Serves 4 (3 raviolis per person)

1/4 cup raw hazelnuts, roughly chopped (or use dry roasted, unsalted nuts)
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tbs. chopped fresh sage
coarse salt and black pepper
1 egg white
24 wonton wrappers
6 tbs. unsalted butter
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Put the hazelnuts in a large skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat, and toast, shaking the pan often, until light brown and fragrant. Remove from skillet and set aside. (You can also toast nuts on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven until browned, about 10 minutes. Dry roasted nuts do not need to be toasted).

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta and sage. Season with salt and pepper. On a lightly floured work surface (like a baking sheet), lay out 4 wonton wrappers horizontally in the space furthest away from you. Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square. Use your finger to coat the edges of the squares with egg white and press another wonton wrapper over the filling, pressing the edges tightly to seal. Cover this row of four ravioli with a kitchen towel so the dough doesn't dry out. Repeat, doing two more batches of ravioli, covering them with the towel as you go.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt it generously. While you are waiting for the water to boil, make the brown butter. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it within reach of the cooktop. Add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to melt the butter. Once it has melted completely, don't step away. Let the butter cook until it turns a light brown color and there are a few tiny brown specks at the bottom of the pan. It is crucial to stop the cooking as soon as the butter is light brown and smells slightly nutty. Remove the saucepan from the heat and submerge the base in the ice water for about 30 seconds to stop the cooking. Season the butter with salt to taste and set aside.

When the water is boiling, add the raviolis. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is al dente. You might want to make an extra ravioli or two to test the cooking time if you're unsure. Using a slotted spoon, shake off any water and remove the ravioli to 4 appetizer plates. Immediately drizzle with the brown butter and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sprinkle hazelnuts on top and serve.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More Pizza Recipes!

Now that I finally wrote all about my favorite homemade pizza dough recipe last week, I have pizza on the brain. I have gone back through months of digital food photos and pulled the most mouthwatering pizza shots that never ended up on the blog. And I'm going to tell you how to make them (no rocket science involved, I'm afraid).

How could so much good stuff end up on the cutting room floor? I have to confess that there are some very good recipes I never get around to blogging about. Maybe something more timely comes up or the recipe pipeline is put on hold due to travel or holidays. When I decide what recipe to write about on any given day, I just go with my gut--what's most exciting or useful to write about at the time. I think I've been saving all these pizza recipes for a post just like this.

Each of these recipes is for one pizza. The Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe makes enough dough for two pies...enjoy!

Sunny-Side-Up Pizza with Eggs, Bacon and Asparagus

4 or 5 slices bacon
About 10 thin asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
3 eggs
1 ball of whole wheat pizza dough
stone ground cornmeal (optional)
olive oil
1 or 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced and seeded
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat a large skillet to medium-high. Fry the bacon, then remove to a paper towel to drain, leaving a thin layer of fat in the skillet. Add the asparagus to the skillet and cook for 4 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Crumble the bacon.

Roll out the dough according to recipe directions. Sprinkle the edges with cornmeal if desired. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the dough and spread evenly. Top with tomatoes, asparagus and bacon. Crack an egg into a ramekin or small bowl. Tip the egg onto the pizza, taking care not to break the yolk. Repeat with the other two eggs. The whites will spread and look messy, but it will all look good in the end. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the pizza. Transfer onto a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven and bake for 8-12 minutes or until the crust is cooked, the egg whites are set and the yolks are still on the runny side. Cooking the eggs like this is not an exact science, but the most important thing is to thoroughly cook your dough and have the whites set. If you want truly runny yolks, try rolling the dough out more thinly than usual so it cooks quickly.

Remove from the oven and immediately grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top. Serve right away.

Ricotta-Veggie Pizza with Feta
Love ricotta on a pizza--teaming it with salty, pungent feta punches up its mild flavor. Cooking the red onions and bell pepper separately is key to bringing out their sweetness.

1 tbs. olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 ball of whole wheat pizza dough
Stone ground cornmeal
3 cups (packed) baby spinach
1 1/4 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Roll the dough out according to the recipe. Spread a bit of olive oil over the dough and sprinkle the edges with cornmeal. Top with the spinach, red onion and bell pepper. Place heaping tablespoon-sized dollops of ricotta cheese all over the pizza. Sprinkle feta on top and season with freshly ground pepper. Bake at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until dough is cooked through. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes, cut and serve.

Spicy Turkey Sausage and Arugula Pizza
This may be our favorite of all the pizza recipes we make. Mike especially loves the arugula. I think spicy turkey sausage is the perfect meat for this pizza, but you could get away with a spicy chicken sausage too. Since they are usually pre-cooked, you would only have to slice the sausage and put it on the pizza.

2 spicy turkey sausages (like Jenny-O Turkey Store brand)
1 ball of whole wheat pizza dough
Stone ground cornmeal
1 or 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
3 or 4 handfuls arugula leaves

Coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Squeeze the turkey sausage out of its casings as you add it to the pan. Discard the casings. Break up the pieces of sausage into large chunks as you cook it so it resembles ground beef. When the sausage is cooked through, remove from the heat and set aside.

Roll the dough out according to recipe directions. Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the dough and sprinkle the edges with cornmeal. Top with tomatoes, mozzarella and sausage. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer pizza to a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes or until crust is cooked through. Open the oven and pull the rack towards you so you can reach the pizza. Top with handfuls of arugula--use a lot. Bake for 30 seconds to 1 minutes, just to slightly wilt the arugula. Remove from oven. The arugula will continue to wilt. Sprinkle a bit of coarse salt over the arugula. Wait 5 minutes, cut and serve immediately.

Fresh Mozzarella and Grape Pizza with Arugula
A little funky, but really good! The peppery arugula foils the sweet grapes, and balsamic vinegar gives it a little bite.

1 ball of whole wheat pizza dough
stone ground cornmeal (optional)
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced about 1/4 inch thick (the little balls of fresh mozz. work well)
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved lengthwise
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
3 or 4 handfuls arugula leaves
coarse salt and ground black pepper

Roll out the dough according to recipe directions. Sprinkle cornmeal around the edges, if using. Top with mozzarella and grapes. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar all over. Sprinkle with ground black pepper.

Bake on a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes or until crust is cooked through. Open the oven and pull the rack towards you so you can reach the pizza. Top with handfuls of arugula--use a lot. Bake for 30 seconds to 1 minutes, just to slightly wilt the arugula. Remove from oven. The arugula will continue to wilt. Sprinkle coarse salt and freshly ground pepper over the pizza. Wait 5 minutes, cut and serve immediately.

And don't forget the summery Corn and Shrimp Pizza, or one of my personal favorites, Fig Pizza with Prosciutto and Feta (scroll down, it's a horribly long post)!