Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pasta with Chicken Breast, Zucchini and Tomatoes

I never knew what I was getting into when I planted 3 tiny zucchini plants last May. As recommended by GardenWeb members I have planted 3 seedlings on top of mound that was around 8” in diameter and 3“ high. Now it occupies area about 3 X 6 feet! And are they ever prolific! I had to find all kinds of uses for this great summer squash and one of our favorite ones is wide pasta noodles with sautéed onions, garlic, zucchini and tomatoes. Very quick and light summer meal.
1 small chicken breast cut into thin strips
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced 1/4” thin
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. maple syrup
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil or parsley
Salt and pepper
Wide noodles, penne or fettuccine
1tbs butter
Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and toss with butter and keep warm. While the pasta is cooking heat olive oil in frying pan and sauté chicken breast pieces that were seasoned with salt and pepper for about 10 minutes or until light golden brown on all sides. Add onions, garlic, zucchini and tomatoes and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with balsamic vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper. Drop cooked pasta into frying pan with sauce and toss till pasta is well coated with the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley or fresh basil and serve.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Harvest Soup with Rice

Another delicious soup that is made with fresh local ingredients. Only drawback, as is the case with most soups or stews, is that it requires a lot of slicing and chopping. After more than 30 years of owning original Cuisinart and for the last 3 years its small brother, the Mini-Chopper, I still hesitate in using machines for soup vegetables even though it would make the job of chopping 10 times faster. Still, I do have a certain knife skills and I like the uniformity of knife chopped vegetables so I just keep slicing, dicing and chopping.
In this version I used onions, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, parsley and thyme from my garden and from road-side farm stand I used corn and new small potatoes. Rice, oil and chicken stock came from my pantry.
Use any vegetable combination to suit your taste and have them chopped and ready. Heat oil in Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot. Sauté onions and garlic till garlic is fragrant and onions are translucent. Add rice and cook till lightly brown making sure that onions and garlic do not burn. Do not use more than a 1/4 cup of rice for 4 servings (rice triples in volume when cooked)! Add rest of vegetables and stock, bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper (I always use white), fresh or dried herbs and salt if needed. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Grilled Skewered Chicken Wings

This is about technique or “how-to” rather than a recipe.

I just love chicken wings, especially whole grilled wings with nice sweet and hot glaze like Char Siu. One problem with grilled wings is that the skin tends to stick to cooking grate no matter how much you oil it before cooking. I cook a bunch the other day but I wanted the skin intact and only sure way to do it is to keep them off the grill, suspended in the air. Easy to do! Just skewer them on flat skewer and rest them on something about 1”-2” high. Why I didn’t think about this technique before, after all I grill whole bunch of foods on skewers, not just meat but veggies and fruits as well and I keep these above the grill. As for the marinade and glaze use whatever you like. To cook them to “fall-off-the-bone” I grill them 15 minutes per side and since my skewers have a flat at the end they stay parallel to the grill. If you don’t have one use 2 bamboo skewers, that were soaked in water for an hour side by side and about 1-1/2” apart.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Char Siu Spare Ribs – Easy Way

This is basically same recipe as “Chinese Style Sticky Pork Back Ribs“, main difference being that the ribs are cut into individual pieces before marinating and cooking. They come out tender and browned on all sides, just a delicious and messy carnivore delight.

1 side of pork back ribs
1/3 cup Oyster Sauce
1/3 cup Hoisin Sauce
1/3 cup Buckwheat honey or other dark honey
2 tsp. or to taste Sriracha Sauce
2 tsp. crushed garlic

Remove the membrane from bone side of ribs and separate rib sections into individual ribs. Mix all ingredients and rub the marinade on all sides of ribs. Place in resalable bag, remove as much air as possible and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Every now and then massage the ribs in order to redistribute the marinade.
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Bring ribs to room temperature. Remove the ribs from bag and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to make a bag with second sheet of foil on top. Reserve the leftover marinade. Seal the edges by folding them over several times, place on baking sheet and bake in middle of oven for 1-1/2 hours. Remove from oven and cut diagonal slots from corner to corner and fold open so that ribs are completely exposed. Brush on remaining marinade, increase oven temperature to 400 °F and bake until the meat is golden brown.

Serve and enjoy.

Biftek with Mushrooms, Onions and Potatoes

Czech Version of Minute Steak

Biftek is a Czech version of “minute stake” that is cooked in a frying pan. "Biftek" comes from French "le biftek", which is borrowed from the English "beefsteak", while the English "beef" is originally from the French "le bœuf" and Czech cooks adopted French version “Biftek. What a linguistic mess, ne se pas?
This meal is relatively fast and simple; by the time potatoes are cooked the meat, onions and mushrooms are done as well and as a bonus all in just one frying pan.

(Serves 2)
1 large sirloin steak cut in 2 equal pieces
1 medium onion, peeled
Cremini mushrooms, 8 – 12
Salt and Pepper
Hungarian paprika
4 medium Red potatoes

Trim the steak of extra fat and membranes, pound the steak with meat mallet or heavy frying pan till about 1/4” thin, season with salt, pepper and paprika. Lightly dredge in flour and set aside. Trim mushrooms leaving only about 1/2” of stem and cut in half. Cut onion in half and cut into thin slices.
Boil potatoes is lightly salted water till tender, about 15 minutes from time they start to boil. While the potatoes are cooking heat large heavy frying pan with 1 Tbs. of oil, add onions and cook while stirring until they start to turn color. Push on side of pan and place mushrooms cut side down in frying pan making sure that there is a coat of oil on bottom.  When nicely golden move mushrooms to the side next to onions. Add more oil if needed and start frying the steak for about 3 minutes. Turn over and repeat. If the steak is 1/4” thick it takes about 5 minutes to cook to medium well done.
Serve on preheated plates with mushrooms and onions on top and potatoes drizzled with butter on side.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Raw Salmon, Avocado and Cucumber Salad

This is another version of Hawaiian Poke but without seaweed. I have omitted the Furikake and coriander but added mayonnaise into the dressing. The dressing I used is wasabi-mayonnaise sauce that I use very often with my grilled or pan-fried salmon. Since you will be using raw salmon the freshness of the salmon is paramount.

1 salmon filet portion, 140 gram (5 oz.), skinless and boneless
1 avocado
English cucumber, 6”, seeded but not peeled
1 green onion

1 Tbs. Soy Kikkoman sauce
Lime juice from 1/2 lime
1 Tbs. Maple syrup
1 tsp.wasabi paste
2 Tbs. Mayonnaise

Cut salmon, avocado, green onion and cucumber into 3/8” uniform size pieces. Blanch green onions in hot water for 5 minutes to remove the harshness of raw onion then cool and pat dry.
Prepare dressing by mixing all ingredients together till well combined and mix everything together.
Serve on cucumber slices or crackers.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Taste of Summer

Up to now, we had an incredible March weather, it was more like Summer then a Spring – temperature in upper 20’s every day and the food I served reflected that very much.

 Grilled Lamb, Potatoes and Red Peppers. The lamb shoulder chops were marinated overnight in olive oil, garlic, rosemary and crushed white peppercorns and then grilled for 10 minutes on each side for medium done.

Braised Lamb with Rice and Vegetables. The lamb shoulder chops were marinated same way (and at the same time) as grilled chops, seared on both sides and then braised in white wine for 1-1/2 hours. Red pepper and celery were added and cooked for another 15 minutes. Incredibly tender and tasty.

 Strawberry Dumplings with Ricotta Cheese and Butter. Recipe is posted here.

Pork Tenderloin Kebab. In this version I used what I had in refrigerator: pork tenderloin, smoked thick sliced bacon, onions, zucchini and red pepper. Hot peppers and grilled King Oyster mushrooms were served on side.

Grilled Rib Eye Steak, Potato and King Oyster Mushrooms. The potatoes were pre-cooked in microwave oven and finished on a grill.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Coq au Vin – My Way

I was hesitating what to call this meal that I have made with skinless-boneless chicken thighs, root vegetables and served over pasta. I had to come up with a meal whose main ingredient was chicken thighs. It was a case of checking what else is in pantry and vegie drawer in refrigerator. I didn’t want potatoes as a side and I didn’t feel for tomato based sauce either but wine based sauce sounded great. For vegetables, I picked carrot, celery, parsnip, shallots and garlic and as a side I wanted some dry pasta shapes. Coq au vin usually starts with rendering salted pork. I didn’t have any but I had bacon which I did use. The idea was to render the bacon, remove the crispy bits and use them as a garnish at the end. That was a plan, anyway. The problem was that this beautiful, crispy bacon was sitting next to the stove and every time I went by the stove, which was often, I had a nibble. Half way through cooking there were no bacon bits left for garnish. Next time I will hide the bacon in toaster oven. Even though only seasoning I used was salt and pepper the sauce has incredible depth from the vegetables and wine. I used Chardonnay.
This recipe is for 2 people using only 2 chicken thighs.

2 skinless and boneless chicken thighs, fat removed and seasoned with pepper and salt.
3 slices smoke bacon, roughly chopped
3 shallots or 1 small onion, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped parsnip
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups white wine

In sauce pan, render the bacon until crisp, remove the bits to paper towel and pour off bacon fat leaving only 1 tsp. Save the extra bacon fat for other use.
Brown the chicken thighs on all sides, remove and keep warm while you cook the vegetables. In the same pan cook onions and mushrooms until they start to brown and then add all the vegetables and sauté until they start to caramelize. Pour in a cup of wine and scrape all fond (food that browned and stuck to pan) from the bottom. Put the chicken back in pan and simmer until almost all the wine has reduced. Add remaining 1 cup of wine and keep simmering until sauce is thick, about 30 minutes. Just before serving add ice cold butter to the sauce, stir till all the butter is absorbed by the sauce, then cook for 3 minutes. Serve over cooked pasta and garnish with reserved bacon bits.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Oriental Chicken and Noodle Salad

Oriental noodle salad is my favorite food that I go for at any food court in a mall that has a Chinese fast food joint. It is so simple to make! The regular noodle salad has only chow mein noodles and julienned carrots, celery, red pepper and sprouts but I wanted something a wee bit more substantial so I have added cooked chicken thighs but I have also omitted sprouts for a simple reason – I didn’t have any.  And yes, it is fast food, 20 minutes from start to finish.

2 bundles of dry chow-mein noodles
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 carrot, julienned
1 celery stick, julienned
2 green onions, julienned
1/2 red pepper, julienned

1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. Sesame oil

Coriander for garnish

Cook noodles till al dente, plunge in cold water to stop cooking, drain, cut into shorter pieces and set aside.
Cook the seasoned chicken pieces in hot frying pan with peanut and sesame oil for about 5 minutes or until done and set aside.
Mix all dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl then add vegetables, chicken and noodles and toss until everything is well combined.
Serve at room temperature garnished with chopped coriander.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)

This is one of my favorite get-to meals when I don’t feel like spending a lot of time in front of a stove. It can be prepared in under half-an-hour.
Serves 4 to 6
Table salt
1 pound spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus more for serving
1 medium shallot , minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2teaspoons finely grated zest and 1/4 cup juice from 3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
Ground black pepper
2 Tbs. shredded fresh basil leaves
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1¾ cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 1/2 cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
3. Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining 1/4 cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with oil and sprinkling with cheese.
Let the dish rest briefly before serving so the flavors develop and the sauce thickens.

From Cook's Illustrated

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baked Pasta with Eggs, Ham and Cheese

This is my take on traditional Schinkenfleckerln that is so popular in Bohemia (Czech Republic) and Austria. In original Schinkenfleckerln, pasta being used are short and flat flakes, sort of like broken wide noodles, or Fleckern. I used spaghettini instead because I had leftovers from my Salmon and Pasta dish that I cooked previous day. Also, instead of traditional baking pan or casserole I used large 8oz. non-stick muffin pan. The reason for this change was that it gave me 4 times more surface area that had a nice crunch, the best part of this meal, as far as I am concerned. My brother and I were always fighting for the corner portions because they were the crunchiest, we have shunned the middle, soft parts.
Another very easy meal to make, especially if you have leftover pasta on hand.

4 shallots or 1/2 medium onion
4 cups cooked pasta, room temperature
4 eggs
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup grated cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 °F and place rack on middle shelf.
Sauté the shallots in little bit of butter until soft, about 5 minutes and let cool.
Chop the cooked pasta into 1/2 inch pieces.
In a mixing bowl beat the eggs until whites and yolks are well combined, add pinch of salt and pepper, cooked shallots, ham, cheese and pasta and mix so that all the pasta pieces are well coated with eggs and all ingredients are well combined. Pour into buttered muffin cups or casserole, cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and bake additional 15 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove pasta from pan by turning it over on a baking sheet and serve with pickles or/and lettuce. It can be served as a light lunch at room temperature.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pasta with Salmon and Caper Sauce

This is another perfect mid-week meal because it is so easy to make and can be done in under half-an-hour. Since the salmon will be medium rare when served use only very fresh salmon. Of course, if you prefer, you can cook the salmon in the sauce before serving. However, I like my salmon rare (read “raw”). The salmon is so creamy that it completely changes texture of this dish.

1/2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 Tbs. butter
4 shallots, peeled and finally chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 Tbs. capers, roughly chopped; do not rinse
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup 35% cream


Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in a pan of salted boiling water, then drain and keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the garlic and shallots and sauté   until the shallots have softened. Pour in the wine and reduce until less than 1 Tbs. remains.
Add the capers, parsley and cream and continue to cook over moderate heat until the sauce have thickened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the drained pasta and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the salmon and serve immediately.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sauerkraut, Root Vegetables and Ham Soup

Depending on quantity of ham and vegetables, this soup can be complete meal. I personally prefer 2 to 1 ratio of stock to solids. I will not give quantity of each ingredient since everybody has a different preferences or availability. I am using my own home cured sauerkraut. Recipe is here. There is vast difference between homemade and store bought sauerkraut. Commercial kraut just doesn’t have enough crunch; they tend to be mushy.

Ingredients (all chopped)
Shallots or onion
Sauerkraut, divided into 2 equal portions
Cabbage (optional if using store bought sauerkraut)
Chicken stock
Caraway seeds
Olive oil

If you are using store bought kraut, wash under cold running water and drain.
Sauté shallots and garlic in little bit of butter and olive oil until soft. Add all the vegetables, 1 part of sauerkraut, ham and stock and bring to boil. Season with caraway seeds and pepper and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove cover, add remaining sauerkraut and simmer additional 15 minutes. Serve hot with dollop of sour cream on top.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Home Cured Sauerkraut

Since I have discovered this recipe in Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn book “Charcuterie” (must read for any serious cook) and made my first batch, I have not bought single jar or can of sauerkraut. The difference is amazing and it is so easy to make! I strongly recommend that you weight the salt rather than using volume measure.
4 liters water (4 quarts)
200 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs.)  Kosher salt
1 Green cabbage, about 3 pounds cored and finally shredded
Combine water and salt in pot and bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat, let cool and then chill.
Combine the cabbage and brine in non-reactive container. Cover the cabbage with piece of cheesecloth, place a plate on top pressing it down so that all the cabbage is submerged.
Cover container loosely with plastic wrap or container’s cover and set in cool place for 2 weeks (no warmer than 70°F – 75°F).
After 2 weeks drain the cabbage reserving the brining liquid. Refrigerate the cabbage while you prepare the brine. Bring the brining liquid to a boil, remove from heat, cool and then chill.
Pour enough of the cold brine over the sauerkraut to cover it completely; discard the extra brine. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Note: I find it better to cut the recipe in half unless you use a lot of sauerkraut. It does go mushy after 4 – 5 weeks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pork Rouladen with Grapes and Apple Sauce

Even though I have prepared dozens of dishes using pork tenderloin as a main ingredient, I am still amazed at the versatility of this tender cut of meat. In this version I pounded medallions of tenderloin very thin, less than 1/8 inch, and made roulade with ham and cheese. It is lot simpler to prepare and cook than it is to describe it in recipe.


For Rouladen:
1 pork tenderloin cut into 4 equal pieces by weight
4 slices of Swiss cheese or any other melting cheese
4 thin slices of ham
Herbes de Provence
Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper
Butcher’s twine
2 Tbs. olive oil

For Sauce:
3 shallots or 1/2 onion, finally chopped
1 cup seedless green grapes, cut in half
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup of dry white wine
Worcestershire Sauce
Frank’s Hot Sauce
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Tbs. butter

For side:
Mashed potatoes using 3 baking potatoes, Milk, Sour Cream, 1 cup of Green peas, White pepper, Nutmeg and Salt.

Place each pork tenderloin piece between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. With a mallet, lightly pound out the pork very thin, about 1/6 to 1/8 inch. Uncover the pork and season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread thin layer of mustard on one side and lay slice of ham and cheese on top (see picture below). Start rolling from one end while keeping the roll tight. About one turn from the end, fold the sides over and finish the roll. Secure the roll with butcher twine and set aside.
Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil on medium high heat in heavy bottomed pan. Brown the pork rolls on all sides until golden brown, remove to ovenproof plate and roast in 400 °F oven while you prepare sauce.
Discard oil, add butter and oil and sauté shallots in same frying pan, then add grapes, apple slices, wine, Worcestershire and Frank’s sauce and simmer until apples are very soft and sauce is thick. Remove pork from oven and serve with sauce and mashed potatoes.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weeknight Meals as a Weather Indicator

As I was organizing my picture directories, I have noticed that most of my main meals pretty much reflect the weather on that particular day: lousy days are great for comfort food and sunny days for nice light food. It is not difficult to match the photos of my food with weather.

Liver and Mushrooms with Egg Pasta

The caramelized mushrooms and onions almost completely cover the liver taste that so many people dislike. This is wonderful and tasty meal for any kind of weather. Recipe is the same as Calf Liver with Mushrooms & Spaetzle except I was using egg noodles instead of spaetzle.

Veal Stew à la Osso Buco

Perfect food for cloudy, rainy weather. Since I have used slow cooker for this stew it was no-work after initial browning of the veal. Can be done in big batches since it freezes so well. It is cooked just like Osso Buco Chops.

Salmon Sashimi with Cucumber Salad and Gari.

Yes, it was beautiful, sunny day when I prepared this simple and quick meal. All you need is super fresh salmon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gratin of Cauliflower, Potatoes and Ham

This is simple, quick and filling weeknight meal. You can make it as rich or as lean as you want just by adjusting amount of cheese.

2 baking potatoes, peeled
1/2 head of cauliflower
2 half inch slices of ham
Grated cheese

Cut potatoes into 1” cubes and boil in lightly salted water until done, about 15 – 20 minutes. Cut up the cauliflower and ham and drop into pot with potatoes 10 minutes after potatoes start to boil.
When potatoes and cauliflower is cooked, drain and mix with cheese. Divide evenly in between ovenproof dishes that were buttered, top with extra cheese and broil until cheese starts to bubble. Serve with salad on side.

Just top with cheese and broil.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Eggplant, Ham and Pimento Ravioli Potstickers

This is my latest and very unusual creation that came from my desire to experiment. Yah, right!  Actually, I had no idea what to cook for dinner so I raided the freezer and pulled out bag of grilled eggplants, grilled red peppers in olive oil and container with grilled red pepper and sundried tomato sauce. In refrigerator, I had shallots, garlic, ham and wonton wrappers and I came up with sort of Chinese – Italian fusion recipe. I chopped the eggplants and peppers while they were still frozen, than I chopped the shallots, garlic and ham and sautéed them until soft. I added eggplants, peppers and 1/2 cup of white wine and I cooked it untill there was no liquid left, let it cool before mixing in quite a bit of grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese. Of course the mix was seasoned with salt and pepper along the way. The dumplings had a shape like ravioli but I cooked them like potstickers. Served on top of sundried tomatoes and pimento sauce, they were so delicious! I have especially liked the mix of textures in wonton wrappers that run from soft to chewy to crispy crunch, just perfect. Next time, and it will be soon, I will serve the sauce on side, just like Chinese potstickers, because the crispy bottom of ravioli that touched the sauce got soft. They were still great but soft.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My New York Style Pizza – Vegetarian

Even though I am dedicated carnivore, I just do not like pizza with any sort of meat product on it. It used to be that when I ordered pizza it had to be meat-eater special: bacon, ham, Italian sausage and of course solid layer of peperoni. If we wanted to eat pizza we had to go to pizza joint or order one. Well, how the times have changed! Now, the only pizza we eat is just what I bake: super thin crust (from a dough I made night before), the best tomato sauce (mine, of course made from my own grown-from-seeds tomatoes), mix of Italian cheeses that I grate (Provolone, Asiago, Parmigiano Regiano and Mozzarella). For toppings, it is just white or Vidalia onions, zucchini and red peppers chopped into 1/4” chunks and sliced cremini mushrooms, all in one thin layer. I like to see the cheese in between the vegetable toppings, only the mushroom slices are overlapping in second layer. Way back, I used to order Chicago style pizza from time to time but now I would have to be close to total starvation before I would touch this thing. Pizza? More like a casserole (just like Bobby Flay likes to say) or a stew on a wet bread.

 Perfect thin crust pizza.
Here is my time proven recipe. This pizza is just as good when reheated in a toaster oven as it is when served fresh. One very important note: don’t even bother to try to make thin crust pizza without pizza stone, it just will not work. Also, I always pre-bake my pizza and then dress it up, it makes the job of dressing the pizza so much easier and it gives the crust that a nice crunch! Also, make sure to dock the pizza dough with a docker or with a fork.
Another trick I have learned over time is to use wire cooling rack to put pizza on after it is pre-baked, it helps to keep bottom of the pizza to stay dry. Actually, it takes much longer to describe the whole process than it is to actually do it, but here it goes.
1-1/2 cup hard (bread) flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. sugar or honey
1 T. olive oil
1-1/4 tsp. instant yeast (or heaping teaspoon)
Up to 3/4 cup warm water 
Pulse all the dry ingredients in food processor with steel blade attached.
Turn the machine on and drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube and then slowly add 1/2 cup tepid distilled water. Keep the machine running for about 30 seconds and then start adding more water one teaspoon at the time until the dough is one smooth ball whirling around. When the dough clears the side of bowl, you are done. Remove the dough to floured board and shape into smooth ball. Place in bowl thinly coated with olive oil, cover with plastic film and place in warm, draft free place. Better yet, let the dough rest in cool place overnight.
Assembly and baking
Preheat oven with pizza stone placed on bottom shelf to 500 °F, it will take about half an hour.
Roll out and stretch the pizza dough on floured countertop until the dough is 1/4” thick. Let the dough rest while you prepare the toppings.
Have a sauce, cheese and veggies ready next to cooling wire rack.
When the oven is ready (and infrared thermometer reads 500 °F on pizza stone) slide your peal (that was generously floured first) under the pizza and carefully slide it on pizza stone. Make sure that pizza was docked before it goes into oven or you end up with supersized pita bread (see above) It happened to me first time I made it. Bake for only 3 minutes.
Remove from oven and turn over onto cooling rack with baked side facing up. Now is time to dress it up. Sauce goes down first in thin layer, then cheese and finally veggies. Mushrooms, if using, go on last. Slide pizza back on the peel (you may want to sprinkle a bit of flour first) and back to the oven for 10 minutes. Remove pizza from oven, cut into pieces and slide it back on cooling rack, it will prevent pizza bottom from getting soggy. When you look at the bottom you will notice how beautifully the dough is baked: nice caramelized blisters all over the bottom of your pizza pie.
Pizza is docked and ready for 3 minute pre-bake.

One side is baked, flipped over and ready for toppings...

starting with tomato sauce…

followed by cheese…

and finally the toppings.
In 10 minutes it will be ready!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pork Tenderloin Schnitzel and Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes were actually creamy mashed Yukon and sweet potatoes with celeriac. It just happens that all three need same time to cook – 17 minutes once the water starts boiling. I mashed them with 1:1 ratio of 3% milk and 35% cream and a bit of butter. And, creamy they were!
For the schnitzel I used pork tenderloin that I sliced into 2” thick medallions and then I pounded them with heavy aluminum pan until they were evenly 1/4” thick. After they were seasoned with salt, pepper and hot Hungarian paprika they cooked in 5 minutes: 3 minutes on first side and another 2 minutes on the other side. In separate skillet, I caramelized onions and mushrooms and served them with potatoes and pork. Great meal that can be done in under 45 minutes, including all the prep. This is my all-seasons standby.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mushrooms, Celery and Chicken Risotto

Since it was quite miserable outside I just felt for something comforting but light and some kind risotto filled the bill. I had one chicken breast, celery and Cremini mushrooms on hand so recipe was born. It is very similar to Chicken and Mushroom Risotto that I have posted earlier. It may seem like lot of mushrooms but the shrink to about 1/4 of its volume.
Risotto is very versatile meal. This time I cooked enough of it to have a lot for leftover. Next day I prepared Risotto Cakes and whit what was left I cooked risotto soup. I just used 1 part of risotto for 2 parts of chicken stock by volume. It tasted fantastic and the soup was done in 15 minutes! After all, everything was cooked already.

2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
2 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 stalks of celery
2 skinless chicken breasts
3 shallots
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Pinch of Saffron
4-1/2cups chicken stock (heated)
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper

Slice the celery diagonally across into 1/8” slices. Chop the chicken breast into 3/8” pieces, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and coat with 1 Tbs. of olive oil.
Heat up the chicken stock and keep hot.
Heat 1 tsp. of oil and 1 Tbs. of butter in skillet. Add mushrooms and toss to coat all slices. Cook till mushrooms show nice color (do not move them too much). Add celery and cook until it softens, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook for 5 – 7 minutes or until the chicken is almost cooked. Remove chicken, mushrooms and celery to a bowl and keep warm.
In the same skillet that you cooked mushrooms and chicken, sauté shallots and garlic in remaining butter and oil until shallots are translucent. Add the rice and stir until the rice turns opaque, about two minutes.
Add the wine to the rice and stir frequently until the wine has been absorbed into the rice.
Add 1/2 cup of the heated chicken stock and stir until absorbed. The rice and stock should bubble gently.
Continue to cook the rice, adding chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, scraping the bottom of skillet continuously, and allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding the next 1/2 cup. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
With the last addition of stock return chicken, mushrooms and celery to the skillet and sprinkle with half of Parmigiano cheese.
Cook rice, scraping the bottom of skillet continuously, until al dente, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat when the risotto is thick and creamy.
Serve on pre-heated plate or bowl and garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano and parsley. Serve immediately.