Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shrimp Caprese Pizza


Pizza night is one of my very favorite nights.  Not only because I love pizza, but because Caroline and Smith love helping me make it.  Caroline helps me from start to finish - shaping the dough, spreading the sauce, scattering on the toppings - the whole shebang.  Smith helps by dumping handfuls of cheese and other toppings onto the dough, then eating any toppings he can get his little hands on.  But I remember when that was the extent of Caroline's contribution, and now she can practically make a pizza all by herself!  Having the kids help me in the kitchen is most definitely one of my favorite past times, and I think it's safe to say that they love it even more.  Before I can even finish the sentence "Caroline, do you want to help me make dinner?" she's dragging the step stool up to the counter.

This pizza was one such joint effort.  It's a simple premise - chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and shrimp.  But it's so delicious in it's simplicity.  I guess it's effectively just a margherita pizza with shrimp, but call it whatever you want - it's delicious either way.  Simple dinners like this are one of the best things about summer - enjoy this pizza as a main dish with a green salad and a glass of wine, or set it out as a hearty appetizer or first course.  It's light, fresh, and perfect for a relaxed dinner on the porch.

Shrimp Caprese Pizza
  • 1 lb. pizza dough
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shrimp (deveined, peeled, and tails removed) - halved if they are jumbo shrimp or exceptionally large
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping cup of chopped tomatoes (seeds and pulp removed from the tomatoes)
  • 1 heaping cup torn or diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil, divided
Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes.
Sprinkle a large square of parchment paper (about 14-16 inches) with cornmeal, and pull and stretch the pizza dough into a large circle or rectangle.  Brush the entire thing with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the garlic.  

Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Preheat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the shrimp 1 minute per side.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Scatter the tomatoes, mozzarella, and 3 tablespoons of the basil over the dough.  Arrange the shrimp in an even layer over the toppings - you may not use all the shrimp, so feel free to snack on the leftovers - cook's treat!

Cook 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  If the mozzarella and/or shrimp have released any water, just use a paper towel to carefully blot it up.

Allow to cool about 5 minutes, then sprinkle with the remaining basil, cut into slices, and serve.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic-Strawberry Sauce

Here's yet another balsamic-strawberry recipe.  Sorry not sorry.  It's such a versatile combo because it can pretty much be used in any course:  appetizers (strawberry-balsamic bruschetta or flatbread), side dish (strawberry-balsamic caprese salad), dessert (strawberry-balsamic ice cream.  Or cupcakes), and now here it is as a main dish.

Pork tenderloin pairs really well with fruit.  The mildness of the pork can pretty much take on any flavor combo, and fruit brings out a subtle sweetness.  This pork tenderloin is seared on the stovetop, then finished in the oven.  This allows you to get a nice char on the outside, but keeps it nice and moist throughout.  It's a lean cut of meat, so it's definitely prone to being dry and overcooked, but the sear-roast method works really well here (incidentally, this is also a great way to cook chicken breasts).

After the pork is cooked, as it rests you make a quick strawberry-balsamic pan sauce with the drippings and browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Browned bits = frond = flavor.  It's a very simple and versatile method, and the sear-roast-pan sauce M.O. is what I do most often when I'm cooking pork tenderloin.

The sauce is a simple combination of strawberries, strawberry preserves, and balsamic vinegar.  A little shallot, garlic, and crushed red pepper help balance out the sweetness.  Half of the strawberries are pan-roasted, and they kind of "melt" into the sauce.  The remaining ones are added at the end, to keep some bright freshness and texture to the sauce.  We loved this dinner, and while it seems impressive and fancy, it was so quick and easy.  I roasted some asparagus alongside the pork, and served a baguette on the side.  It was a lovely meal, and one that I'll definitely keep in my repertoire for easy spring and summer entertaining.

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic-Strawberry Sauce
sauce adapted from Southern Living, April 2013
  • 2 pork tenderloins, trimmed of excess fat
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Herbes de Provence
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup strawberry preserves
  • 1 cup quartered fresh strawberries
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 450.  Generously season the pork with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the Herbes de Provence.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pork.  Brown on all sides, about 7 minutes total.  Transfer to the oven and  bake until an instant-read thermometer reads 140, about 8-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven, transfer the pork to a cutting board, and cover it loosely with foil.  Allow the pork to rest at least 5-10 minutes.

Return the now-empty skillet to the stovetop see to medium heat.  Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and sauté the shallots and garlic for 1-2 minutes.  Add the vinegar, strawberry preserves, and half the strawberries, and bring to a boil.  Boil about 3-4 minutes, until the vinegar has reduced and thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining strawberries and the red pepper flakes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, slice the pork tenderloin and top with the balsamic-strawberry sauce.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Corn Risotto-Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Oftentimes when I'm looking through a new cookbook or magazine, a recipe will jump out at me and I must.  Make.  Immediately.  Such was the case with these risotto-stuffed peppers.... except it's been 8 months since I first saw this recipe (you know, things happen.  Like giving birth to twins).  Corn, risotto, and roasted poblano peppers are some of my favorite foods, throw in Mexican beer, cilantro, and plenty of cheese, and it was a foregone conclusion that I'd love this dish.  There is really nothing like sweet summer corn.  It's truly one of the best foods in the world - while the recipe gives the option of fresh or frozen corn, using fresh corn at the height of the season really sets this meal apart.

I made this when we had our best friends over for dinner one night, and it was a great meal for entertaining - I roasted and prepped the peppers early in the afternoon, then just made the risotto and stuffed the peppers while we hung out in the kitchen chatting and snacking on chips, salsa, and guacamole.  I had actually planned to totally prep it ahead of time, cover, and refrigerate, but as it often does these days, the afternoon just got away from me.

This was a fun spin on stuffed peppers - the poblano provided a good amount of heat, and the creamy, sweet risotto was the perfect counterpart.  I loved the crumbled cheese on top, and the whole thing was finished with a drizzle of lime crema.  I only made 4-5 peppers, so I just baked the remaining risotto in a small casserole dish for the kids (and subsequently for the adults who wanted seconds).  It worked out really well since the poblanos I used were actually quite spicy.

If you're someone who refuses to turn on your oven in the summertime, I urge you to make an exception for this recipe - it's totally worth it!

Corn Risotto-Stuffed Poblanos
barely adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
serves 6-8

  • 8 large fresh poblano peppers
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup beer, preferably a light Mexican beer (such as Corona)
  • 2  cups fresh corn kernels (from 2-3 cobs)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
  • 3 Tbs sour cream or Mexican creme, mixed with the juice of 1/2 lime and a pinch of salt
Preheat the broiler and arrange the peppers in a  single layer on a baking sheet.  Broil, turning every few minutes, until the peppers are charred and blistered all over.  Transfer to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 10 minutes.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, gently rub off the skins, and cut a slit lengthwise in each chile.  Carefully scrape out the seeds and ribs (leave some in for a bit more spice).  Set the peppers aside while you make the risotto.

To make the risotto, heat the stock in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, and bring to a bare simmer.

In a large skillet or saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until it's softened and translucent, 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and salt, and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the rice and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until it's lightly toasted.  Pour in the beer and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.  Simmer until it's mostly evaporated, 1-2 minutes.

Ladle 1 cup of the warm stock into the rice mixture and simmer until it's been absorbed, stirring frequently.  Add the remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time, allowing the stock to be absorbed into the rice before the next addition.  Continue to stir often.

The total cooking time should be 25-30 minutes.  Along with the last addition of the stock, add the corn.

Though risotto is traditionally very loose, this one should be a bit thicker, so it can be used to stuff the peppers.  

Remove the risotto from heat and stir in the Monterey Jack cheese and 3 tablespoons of the cilantro.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Carefully fill each chile with the risotto.  If the chiles tear or rip, it's no big deal - they'll still taste great.
Arrange the stuffed chiles in a single layer in a baking dish and sprinkle with the queso fresco.  

Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until golden-brown on top.

To serve, drizzle the chiles with the lime crema and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of cilantro.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sangria Slushies

I am all about fun summer cocktails.  Is there anything more relaxing than sitting on the back porch, watching the sun set, and sipping a cocktail?  I already think of sangria as a summery drink, but when it's in slushy form?  And full of strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries? Epitome of a summer drink, right here.  The berries, wine, liqueur, and juice are blended, then the mixture is frozen using your ice cream maker - such a revelation!  I'm already imagining the endless possibilities of adult slushies - rum and cherry coke anyone?

Feel free to play around with the fruits and flavor profiles here - I think a peach and white wine version would be absolutely delicious!

After the scary thunderstorms we had last night, we're gearing up for an absolutely gorgeous weekend here in Atlanta - I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and Happy Father's Day to all the dads, grandpas, and father-figures out there!

Mixed Berry Sangria Slushies
method inspired by Annie's Eats and Bon Appetit

  • 1 (750-mL) bottle red wine (I used Pinot Noir)
  • 1/4 cup chambord, or other raspberry liqueur
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups mixed berries
  • 1 Tbs sugar
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.  Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn until a "slushy" consistency is reached.  Divide among serving glasses and drink immediately!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Hamburgers


I'm blaming my own lack of awareness on both the excessively cool spring we've had and still being in a bit of a baby-induced fog.  But is it just me, or did the summer totally sneak up on us this year?  I didn't even realize it was Memorial Day weekend until the Thursday before when someone asked our plans for the long weekend.  And now we're suddenly almost halfway through June??  Caroline is starting kindergarten in August, and Smith will be starting preschool in September.  Time needs to slow down juuuust a little, because before I know it the twins will be graduating from high school!

But now that I'm firmly in summer-mode, I'm taking full advantage of the warm weather - dinner is cooked on the grill almost every night, and we've been eating on the screen porch nightly as well.  The kids just love being out there - Caroline gets super excited when I start carrying things out to the porch for dinner.

These burgers were one of our first al fresco dinners of the season.  It's a basic burger, but its kicked up a notch by stuffing it with a blue cheese filling.  The filling is a mixture of blue cheese, cream cheese, shallots, garlic, and mustard.  And it's goooood.  The rich and creamy filling pairs just swimmingly with the juicy burgers.  I couldn't get enough.

They come together quite quickly - the filling is mixed up, the burger patties formed, and then they are chilled for a bit before grilling.  This allows the cheese to firm up, thereby keeping the stuffing inside the patties versus oozing out all over the place.  It also provides you with a great make-ahead dinner.  I actually prepped the burgers early in the afternoon, and then when it was time to eat, just threw them on the grill while I cooked the sides (green salad and grilled corn on the cob, by the way).

We all absolutely loved these burgers, and I know they'll make many repeat appearances on our (outside) dinner table this summer.  If you're planning to grill out for Father's Day, these would be a great option - a little fancier than your everyday burger, but well -- it's still a burger.  And who wouldn't love a burger stuffed with cheese?

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Hamburgers
adapted from All Fired Up, by the editors of Southern Living
makes 4 burgers

  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 Tbs grated onion or shallot
  • 1 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (preferably 80/20 fat content)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Stir together the cream cheese, blue cheese, onion, mustard, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, gently combine the ground beef with 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Shape the mixture into 8 (4-inch) patties and arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Spoon 1/4 of the cheese mixture onto each of 4 of the patties.  Top with the remaining 4 patties, pressing and pinching the edges to seal.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to several hours.

To grill the burgers, prepare the grill to medium-high heat (350 to 400 degrees Farenheit.  Brush the grates with oil and grill the patties 6 to 7 minutes per side, flipping once.  

Serve on toasted buns with your choice of accompaniments.  I loved this simply with arugula - the burgers were juicy, and the stuffing provided plenty of flavor without the need for additional condiments.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream


Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a classic (Italian?) combination, but I was totally unfamiliar with it prior to a year or so ago.  I mean, I'd seen in places, and heard it was awesome, but never felt compelled to try it myself.  So one night I tried it over a piece of pound cake, and was immediately hooked.  I've since made caprese salad with it and strawberry-balsamic flatbread.  I just can't get enough.  The super sweet and beautiful strawberries play off the slightly sweet and bracing flavor of the vinegar.

So it should come as no surprise that I was intrigued with the combo as an ice cream flavor.  I was super excited to make it, but was a little worried that the vinegar would be too strong and overpower the strawberries.  But it was perfect.  Just a hint of the vinegar in the background... something to make you ask "what's in this that makes it taste so good?!"  You might catch more flies with honey, but you make better ice cream with vinegar (yes, I went there.  Sorry.).

Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream
barely adapted from Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones

For the Strawberry Puree

  • 1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries (about 3 cups), preferably organic, hulled and halved or quartered
  • 3 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
For the Ice Cream Base
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk (preferably 1% or 2%)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Combine the berries with the sugar and vinegar in a large nonreactive skillet (stainless steel or nonstick - do not use cast iron as the vinegar is too acidic).  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the strawberries are soft and the liquid has reduced and thickened a bit, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool slightly, then puree the berries and their juices in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the ice cream base, whisk the yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a large heatproof bowl.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, salt, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring often, until it just comes to a simmer; reduce heat to medium.

Use a ladle to carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the mixture (I just did 1-2 ladle-fuls), and whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks.  Repeat with another 1/2 cup of the cream mixture.

Using a heatproof spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan constantly as you pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl to the pan.

Over medium heat, cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until thickened and coats the back of the spatial, 1 to 2 minutes longer.  Remove from heat.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a clean bowl, and pour the base through it.  Set the bowl in an ice bath, wash your spatula, and the the base occasionally until it's cooled to room temperature.  Remove the bowl from the ice bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

To freeze the ice cream, whisk the strawberry puree and remaining 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar into the chilled base.  

Freeze the ice cream according to the manufacturer's instructions.  As the ice cream churns, place the container that you plan to store the ice cream in into the freezer to chill.  When ready, transfer the ice cream to the prepared container and freeze for at least 3 to 4 hours.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Asparagus and Prosciutto Scrambled Eggs with Porcini Butter


Sometimes I feel like I have this whole four-kids-under-five thing under control, and sometimes I feel totally inadequate.  Today was a prime example of both sides of that coin.  Caroline was at camp, and all the boys were napping this morning.  I took advantage of that time to fold some laundry, write a few emails, and unpack a few boxes into the storage closet in the garage (never mind that we moved 8 months ago....).  After feeling awfully smug and proud of myself, I came inside to feed Tucker, and a few minutes later heard a loud crash.  I rushed to the garage, and there was an entire shelving unit... ripped from the wall, with several serving platters, bowls, canning jars, and 2 boxes of wine glasses shattered on the floor.  I was barefoot and holding a baby, so I couldn't properly assess the damage, but rest-assured  it is pretty bad.  Bright side:  at least it wasn't the shelf that hold our china and crystal.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  I was upstairs getting Smith down for his nap, and I hear both babies crying their little heads off downstairs.  I ask Caroline to go sing to them, because that typically calms them down.  Except she didn't feel like singing, so instead she stood in front of them and cried and yelled at them to stop crying.  And in what I can only assume was a flash of insanity, dumped an entire bag of bath salts over Tucker.  Because she thought "he'd think it was funny."  He didn't, for the record.  After losing my temper and scolding her a bit more than I probably should have (mom of the year), she goes to her room and miraculously falls asleep.  She hasn't taken a nap since she was three years old, so this was huge.  And Smith was asleep.  And then there were two.  The twins fought it for a while, but eventually fell asleep as well.  By this point it was after 4 pm, so I thought it only appropriate to open a beer and relax on the screen porch to celebrate all four kids napping simultaneously.  Fifteen minutes later, the twins woke up, my respite was over, and it was back to the daily grind.  It was fun while it lasted though.  Frustration, happiness, inadequacy, and gratitude are pretty much the emotions that I cycle through every day, every week.

I vaguely recall the day I first made these eggs as a "frustration" day.  I don't remember the specifics, but I do remember it culminating in Joey pacing with crying, hungry baby in the kitchen while Smith and Caroline were hungry and underfoot, and me rushing to get dinner on the table.  I'm pretty positive that I either wolfed down my food way too fast or reheated it in the microwave after feeding said hungry babies, but I do remember us loving this meal.  It seems so elegant and fancy, but it comes together in less time than it takes to calm a crying baby.

I have since made this a few times, and it remains a favorite.  You start by making a compound butter using porcini mushrooms, then use that to scramble eggs.  It's also slathered on some toast to serve alongside the eggs, and I can think of several other capacities in which it'd be pretty fabulous.  Asparagus and prosciutto are folded into the scrambled eggs, and there you have it.  A quick and easy meal that would be worthy of a restaurant.  It makes a great dinner, lunch, or weekend brunch - which is my personal preference.  Mimosas are optional.

Asparagus and Prosciutto Scrambled Eggs with Porcini Butter
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
serves 4-6

Season sparingly along the way, as the prosciutto and Parmesan are both quite salty.  Ere on the side of under seasoning, then adjust accordingly once everything is mixed together at the end.

  • 1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, woody ends snapped off, and sliced into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 10 large eggs
  • 6 Tbs half-and-half or milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 6 (1-inch) slices rustic white bread
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, coarsely chopped
Preheat the broiler or toaster oven. 

Combine the mushrooms and water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave about 1 minute, or until steaming.  Set aside for about 5 minutes, or until softened.  Use a fork to lift the mushrooms from the water, pat dry with a paper towel, and mince.  Mash the mushrooms into the butter with the shallot, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the asparagus and cook until lightly browned, 2-4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Whisk the eggs, half and half (or milk), salt, and pepper together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined and the color is pure yellow.

Spread 3 tablespoons of the butter over the bread and toast to your liking.

Melt the remaining tablespoon in the now-empty skillet over medium heat.  Add the egg mixture and, using a heat-proof rubber spatula, constantly and firmly scrape along the bottom and sides of the skillet until the eggs begin to clump and the spatula leaves a trail along the bottom of the pan, 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and fold in the asparagus, Parmesan, and prosciutto.  Continue to stir the mixture until the eggs cooked through, another 30 seconds or so.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

Divide the eggs among plates and serve with the buttered toast.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Roasted Tomato, Kale, and Feta Pizza


This year we joined a CSA, and I'm very much looking forward to having fresh veggies all summer long - veggies that are grown less than 3 miles from my house, no less!  Being that our spring and summer got a late start here in Atlanta, right now we're getting a lot of greens, root vegetables, and lettuce.  And while I love all of those things, they aren't Joey's favorites, so I have to get creative when it comes to dinner.

This pizza is a really great use of kale.  I actually ate it for the first time last year when I attended a food photography workshop in Charleston.  I really loved it, and therefore was super excited when Annie recreated it last year.  Roasted tomatoes are one of my favorite things ever, and combined with salty, briny feta and the kale, this pizza is near the top of my 'favorites' list.

With summer tomatoes jusssst barely beginning to come into season, this is a great way to get your fix - if you've been jonesing for them, that is.  They are slow-roasted in the oven, so even less than stellar tomatoes come out tasting pretty fantastic.  Joey and Caroline both loved this pizza as well, and I know that it will be making a repeat appearance soon, what with all the kale we have showing up.

And finally, as an aside, is there any interest in a CSA series?  Maybe a chronicle of what we receive in ours and recipe ideas, suggestions, or links?

Roasted Tomato, Kale, and Feta Pizza
barely adapted from Annie's Eats

For the tomatoes:

  • 4-5 medium tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the pizza:
  • 2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 cups kale leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella, shredded 
  • 3-4 oz crumbled feta cheese