Merry Christmas!!!

December 25th, 2008

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday filled with fun, family and food!!!!

Exams are over and I have spent the last week sleeping, relaxing and eating. This weekend, J and I are off for a much needed vacation in sunny Argentina. I am so excited!!!! When we return, I will post the recipes for these chocolate chip cookies, my mom’s pizza, and many other delicious dishes plus pictures from our trip…until then…

Have a Happy New Year!!!! :)

I saw the sign…

March 16th, 2008

…and I decided where to go to LAW SCHOOL. Ever since I started the law school process of LSATs, personal statements, acceptances (and rejections), I have been very stressed! The decision has been looming, always in the back of my mind, coming out when I would finally start relaxing…frequently, as I was trying to sleep. I have spent a number of nights, restless as my mind raced through all the reasons to go to this school or that…Until last week, I realized that I knew where I should go…

I am moving to CHICAGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am very very very excited!!!!!!!!!!! I love Chicago! Last February, I went to Chicago for the first time and fell in love with the city, even though I had the flu and it was freezing. Of course, I did not base my decision just on my love of Chicago but it is a plus. Last week, I filled out the deposit form, giving them the first installment of what will be a lot of money, and then dropped it into the mail box on the way to the gym. After that I had three signs that reaffirmed my decision:

First, I am one of those crazy multi-taskers when I am at the gym. I must have a book or magazine to flip through (and block the time) while I work out plus I always try to find something to watch. Well, that night the travel channel was doing a segment on Super Dawg in CHICAGO. Second, I was reading an article in Vogue, which mentioned Alinea in CHICAGO. Finally, that night was the season premiere of Top Chef Season 4 in CHICAGO!

If these are not enough, I do not know what is? Isn’t it so fitting that my “signs” were all food related?

In honor of my decision and with some inspiration from the season premiere of Top Chef, I made deep dish pizza this past Friday. It is another butternut squash recipe (shock!). Unfortunately, I do not cook for a Bravo TV show and thus my budget is a bit more limited. It turned out really well. Next time, I would make the bottom crust a bit thicker because as soon as we cut into it, it was like opening the flood gates of cheese and butternut squash yumminess. I guess I will just have to make it a goal to first test all the deep dish in the city and then perfect my own recipe. Of course, that is if I have time to cook while working hard at school…


Butternut Squash-Grape Tomatoes-Ricotta Deep Dish Pizza

Pizza Crust
(adapted from Deep-dish Sausage and Tomato Pizza)

1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (110° – 115°F.)
a 1/4-ounce package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a large bowl dissolve sugar in water. Sprinkle yeast over water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in 2 1/4 cups flour, cornmeal, salt, and butter and blend until mixture forms a dough. Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
3. Put dough, in a deep oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Filling/Topping
(adapted from Ryan Scott’s Pizza with Escarole, Butternut Squash & Ricotta Salata)

1Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large yellow onions, julienned
1 large butternut squash, peeled, diced (half-inch)
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 ½ cups chicken stock
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 package grape tomatoes
1/4 lb ricotta
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 lb fresh mozzarella, shredded

1. In sauté pan add butter and 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat.
2. Sauté the garlic and crushed red pepper for a minute.
3. Add yellow onions and sweat down until tender.
4. Add butternut squash.
5. Sprinkle with thyme.
6. Cover with chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook until tender (about 20-25 minutes). Once tender remove herbs and season with salt and white pepper.
7. Puree in a food processor, set aside.
8. Add grape tomatoes to sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes; pull and set aside.
9. Mix ricotta and Italian parsley together.

Putting it together:
1. In a 10’ spring form pan, press the dough into the pan and up the side of the pan for at least 1 ½ inches up the side.
2. Spread the mozzarella on the bottom of the crust.
3. Layer with grape tomatoes, butternut squash puree and ricotta mix.
4. Bake in 500 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

P.S. Do you have left over topping? I had a good amount of butternut squash puree left. I am planning on mixing it with pasta and sprinkle it with Parmesan for dinner tonight!

When the moon hits your eye…

January 24th, 2008

So the other day, when two of my good vegetarian friends, Jennifer and Sarah, came over for dinner…I was puzzled by what to make. How do you have a dinner party without meat? Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the well loved pizza stone peeking out of the cabinet and it hit me…PIZZA!!!!!!

It is easy and yummy and fun to make with friends. So, I threw together a pizza dough recipe and left it to rise, as I ran to the store. Where I bought half the produce department thinking we would need plenty of options. When Jennifer and Sarah arrived, we blared some music to dance and sing to while we cooked. Before we knew it, we had created Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions. It was delicious!!! Not too overpowering with garlic and onion but just the right combination of flavors. I was very happy to have leftovers the next day.

(picture by Jennifer)

Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions

(recipe makes one 12 in pizza)

Pizza Dough

I use Tyler Florence’s recipe because the dough for a pizza is ready in about an hour. I only use ½ tablespoon of salt or I think it is sometimes way too salty. In addition, if you don’t have a mixer (I don’t), mix in the flour by hand and then knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elasticity.

If using yeast scares you or making bread is not quite at your skill level, Whole Foods, Trader Joes or other grocery stores make good ready made pizza dough.

Toppings

½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 ½ cup Mozzarella

¼ cup Parmesan

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tomato sliced

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant (see below)

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (see below)

  1. Preheat oven to 475º with the pizza stone in the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out the pizza dough on a flour surface so that it is about â…› inch thick and in your desired shape.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and using your clean hands or a spoon spread the olive oil around the dough.
  4. Once the pizza stone has been heated, open the oven and put the dough on the pizza stone (be careful not to burn yourself- I burnt one finger this time!).
  5. Very quickly without burning yourself or making a huge mess, spread the basil and ½ cup of mozzarella over the pizza (place the basil under the cheese or it will burn)
  6. Then put on the vegetables (depending on the size of your pizza and personal preference you may have too many toppings so put on as much as you desire).
  7. Top the vegetables with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust browned.
  9. Take out and enjoy! Yummy!!!!

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant

1 small eggplant

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Peel the eggplant and chop into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Place the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle heavily with salt. Place a bowl or other heavier object on the eggplant to weigh it down.
  3. Let sit for 30 minutes and then rinse all the salt off the eggplant.
  4. Using your hands squeeze the excess water out of the eggplant.
  5. Peel the garlic clove. Either chop it into very small pieces or crush it with a garlic press.
  6. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic until browned.
  7. Add the chopped eggplant and continue to sauté moving around the eggplant with the spatula.
  8. Once the eggplant has softened and browned, remove it from the heat.

Why salt the eggplant?
My great-grandmother used to say that you have to “sweat the bitterness out.” According to the Joy of Cooking, one must salt the eggplant in order to prevent the highly absorbent vegetable from soaking up a large amount of oil as it cooks. It also gives it a creamier texture, which most people prefer. Jennifer, Sarah, and I were too hungry to salt the eggplant and our pizza was still yummy. However, in the future, I would salt it because it would improve the texture of the toppings.

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (Jennifer’s recipe)

1 Vidalia Onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Peel the Onion and cut in half. Slice the onions into strips.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautéed the onions moving the onions around with a spatula until they soften and brown.
  3. Drizzle the onions with the balsamic vinegar and mix with a spatula.
  4. Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the onions have caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.

P.S. Have some leftover garlicky eggplant and balsamic caramelized onions? Make some pasta, toss with the eggplant and onions, top with some Parmesan or goat cheese, serve as dinner the next night.