Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza

Roasted Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Appliance Recommendation: Emile Henry Flame Top Pizza Stone. I replaced my old rectangular heavy, grease-stained baking stone with Emile Henry Flame Top Pizza Stone. I highly recommend this pizza stone. I have already used it several times and I am very satisfied. It's lightweight, easy to use and easy to clean. My pizza bakes up more crispier than my old baking stone. You preheat the stone the same way you would preheat a regular baking stone. You do not need to treat, grease or spray the stone before sliding your pizza on the stone. The pizza stone has handles making it easy to remove the hot stone from the oven with the baked pizza on top and using the stone as a serving platter. You can actually cut your pizza directly on the stone and it will not scratch the smooth "micro-crazed" finish. However, I still prefer to cut my pizza on a wooden peel because the pizza tends to slide around the smooth glazed finish while cutting. After I'm done cutting the pizza, I slide the pizza back onto the hot stone to keep the pizza hot. For the cleanup, I soak my stone in hot soapy water to loosen any hard baked-on foods. I have even used a scouring pad and Bar Keepers Cleanser to get stubborn stains off and it looks brand new again, although, it is dishwasher safe. This pizza stone costs $49.99 and is well worth the investment.

Roasted Vegetable and Ricotta Pizza

1 pound refrigerated fresh whole wheat pizza dough (i.e., Safeway brand White Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough)

2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms, about 1/4-inch thick slices (5.0 ounces)
1 cup sliced zucchini, about 1/4-inch thick slices (8.0 ounces)
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices (5.5 ounces)
1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices on the grain (4.5 ounces)
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced (0.3 ounce)

1/2 cup tomato puree (4.5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon pesto sauce (0.2 ounce)

1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
Whole wheat pastry flour for dusting
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (2.8 ounces)
2 tablespoon small fresh basil leaves (optional)

Remove pizza dough from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 30 to 60 minutes before using.

Position two oven racks: first rack on the center position of the oven and the seond rack on bottom third oposition f the oven. Place baking stone on the bottom third oven rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Roasting the vegetables: In a very large mixing bowl, combine the mushroom, zucchini, red bell pepper, onion, 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, Herbes de Provence, 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Toss vegetables until thoroughly combined and transfer to a shallow rimmed baking pan in a single layer. Place in the oven on the center oven rack and bake for 15 minutes. When done, remove from oven and toss in the minced garlic. Set aside. (Vegetables can be roasted a day in advance, cool and refrigerated until needed.)

Immediately lower oven temperature to 450 degrees. Transfer baking stone to the center oven rack.

Pizza sauce: In a small bowl, combine the tomato puree, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper and the pesto sauce. Stir to combine and set aside.

Assembling the pizza: Have ready a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal. Set aside.

Generously dust a large wooden board with the whole wheat pastry flour. Unwrap the pizza dough and lay on the wooden board. Dust all sides of dough with the flour and flatten one side of  the dough with your finger tips into a flat disk. Turn dough over and gently slide around to get more flour on the underside of dough. Flatten the second side of dough with your finger tips into a slightly larger disk. With a floured rolling pin, gently roll out pizza dough a few times just to flatten pizza dough more. Pick up dough and stretch the dough by holding the dough by the edge and stretch, turn, stretch, turn until you reach full circle. Place the dough on the knuckles of both hands (fingers turn in and don't forget to remove your jewelry). Stretch the dough by pulling your knuckles of both hands apart; then turn the dough, either right or left to rotate the dough, stretch and turn, stretch and turn until you reach full circle. It is also easier to stretch when the dough is slightly angled vertically than horizontally so that the weight of the dough can help with the stretching. Repeat the knuckle stretching until you get about 13 inches in diameter. For better clarification of stretching the pizza dough, you can watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72oe_j-0gwE

Place pizza dough on the pizza peel dusted with corn meal. Shake the pizza peel to make sure pizza dough is not sticking to the peel. Constantly shake the pizza every now and then to make sure the pizza will not stick to the peel (Shake). Make a little dam around the edges of the dough to prevent any oil/liquid dripping off the edge of the pizza. (Shake)
Brush 1 teaspoon of olive oil on the pizza dough. Spread the pizza sauce on the dough leaving a 1/2-inch border. S(hake) Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese (2 ounces) on top of the sauce. Spread the roasted vegetables evenly on top of the cheese. (Shake) Sprinkle the vegetables with crushed red pepper and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese (2 ounces) on top. (Shake) Dollop with ricotta cheese. (Shake) Slide the pizza onto preheated pizza stone. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown, rotating pizza to halfway of baking time. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil leaves, if desired. Slice pizza into 8 wedges and serve.

Yields 4 servings

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pasta with Creamy Tomato and Sausage Sauce

Pasta with Creamy Tomato and Sausage Sauce
Adapted from Kathleen Hulsy, Biddeford, ME, Bon Appetit Magazine

This pasta dish is so delicious! It's rich, comforting and full of flavor. Tastes like a pasta dish you would order in a restaurant. Definitely a great dish to impress your guest. I don't make this dish often, but there are times when I can't think of what to cook and I need to cook something easy and fast. This is one of those dishes I never get tired of making.

One 1-pound package of Jennie-O Lean Sweet Italian Turkey Sausages, casings removed
3 large shallots, finely chopped (5.4 ounces)
3 large garlic cloves, minced (0.7 ounce)
1 cup PLAIN heavy whipping cream (8 ounces)
Two 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes, UNDRAINED
1 tablespoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
3/4 pound whole-wheat fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti (12 ounces)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)

Heat a large deep skillet over high heat. When skillet is hot, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add the turkey sausages and cook until browned, stirring frequently and breaking up sausages into small pieces while browning. Transfer to a colander to drain. Set aside.

Lower heat to medium-high heat and immediately add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Add more olive oil if needed. Saute for 2 minutes until shallots are softened.

Add turkey sausages back to the pan and saute for 1 minute.

Add the heavy cream. When the cream starts bubbling heavily, lower heat to medium-low heat to simmer for about 5 minutes, until cream is thickened and reduced by half. May have to adjust your heat anywhere from medium-low to low heat, depending on your stove, but keep heavy cream at a simmer.

Increase heat to medium-high heat. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, sage and crushed red peppers. When mixture starts bubbling heavily, lower heat to medium-low heat to simmer for about 15 minutes, uncovered. Cook until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally and smashing the tomatoes against the sides of the pan to release more juices. Again, you may have to adjust your heat anywhere from medium-low to low heat, depending on your stove, but keep the sauce at a simmer.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions: under cook the pasta by 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the sausage-tomato sauce, Toss over medium heat until sauce evely coats the pasta. Toss in the Parmesan cheese and ready to serve. No salt is necessary for  this dish. You can just add ground black pepper if desired. 

Serve with more Parmesan cheese if desired.

Yields 4 to 6 servings

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Roasted Carrots with Thyme and Honey

Roasted Carrots with Thyme and Honey
Adapted from Pastor Ryan and Pioneer Woman

Ree Drummond from http://thepioneerwoman.com first posted this recipe on her food blog November 2009. She pinky swears that you will always crave for carrots cooked this way from now on and she is right! Up until now. roasting carrots is my favorite way to eat carrots. Prepping and roasting carrots in one baking pan couldn't be easier and cleanup is not much at all. The oven is doing most of the work so it's easy to multi-task in the kitchen. One thing I do differently is that I drizzle some honey at the end of roasting just to give it a touch of sweetness which gives good balance of sweet and savory to the carrots. Here is the recipe:

12 whole medium-thickness carrots, peeled (about 4 pounds at purchase)
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme (0.2 ounce)
OR 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup olive oil (1.7 ounces)
2-1/4 teaspoons kosher (coarse) salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack to the center of the oven.

Cut each carrot in half, lengthwise, and transfer to a shallow baking sheet. Drizzle carrots with olive oil and toss to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the thyme, salt and pepper over carrots and give another toss to coat evenly. Arrange the carrots in one layer on the baking sheet.

Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. The carrots should be tender and wrinkly.

Drizzle some honey over carrots for a touch of sweetness. Transfer carrots to a serving platter.


Note: There are times when I buy carrots in a 10-pound bag at Costco. When you buy carrots in bulk, you will find that the carrot are not uniform in size. I had carrots that were thicker on the root end and pencil thin half way towards the tip. To make the carrots more uniform in size during roasting is to cut the carrots in half, horizontally. I leave the pencil thin end whole and cut the thicker root end in half, vertically. Some carrots are so thin that I don't bother to cut them in half, vertically at all. I decrease the roasting time to 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness, and the carrots turns out perfect.

Yields 6 to 8 servings