Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pizza Margherita, Sort Of

I just love buying ready-made pizza dough. I really love the pizza dough that Mona Lisa sells in their deli in Little Italy (SD), but Trader Joe's pizza dough comes in a close second. The reason I love to use pizza dough is because I can make it as thin or thick as I want. I personally love thin crusts with crusty edges...yummy. The traditional pizza margherita has tomato sauce, basil, fresh mozzarella and a Parmesan cheese, however since I had a pint of ricotta in the fridge I decided to go with that instead of fresh mozzarella. When making pizza, make sure you take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before you shape it because room-temperature dough will be easier to work with.

INGREDIENTS (makes one pizza)

  • Store bough pizza dough,
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes (use San Marzano tomatoes, if possible)
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly, ground black pepper
  • Several fresh basil leaves (about 10), if they are very big you can coarsely chopped them
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and, if you have one, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Form dough into a 12-inch pizza round or rectangle to 1/2" thick or thinner. Place on a pizza peel or sheet pan.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine tomatoes, olive oil, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and process until smooth.

Pour sauce over pizza and smooth to spread evenly, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges of the dough. Sprinkle basil leaves on top of sauce and then top with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finally, drop teaspoonfuls of ricotta then sprinkle mozzarella and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and the edges are golden brown. It's so easy and so good!

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Gnocchi Parisienne

    picture from Food and Wine magazine
    So, as some of you may know, I have a difficult time making gnocchi or dumplings. Actually, anything that involved making a light pastry with mashed potatoes. So, when I saw this ridiculously easy recipe for gnocchi without using mashed potatoes, I just had to try it. And you know what, they were delish! I took this recipe straight of my my Food & Wine magazine and I didn't change a thing...except that I used a combination of different cheeses.


    • 1 cup water
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyère or Asiago cheese
    1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt and nutmeg with 2 tablespoons of the butter and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, add the flour all at once and beat the dough with a wooden spoon until it is thick and comes away from the side of the pan. Cook, stirring to dry out the dough, about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a medium bowl and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
    2. Beat 1 egg into the dough until incorporated. Beat in 1/4 cup of the cheese and another egg until blended, then beat in the last egg until the dough is very smooth.
    3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water near the stove. With a large spatula, transfer the dough to a resealable plastic bag, pressing it into one corner. Cut off the tip of the bag; the opening should be about 1/2 inch long.
    4. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Carefully hold the bag over the water and press out the dough, using a small sharp knife to cut it into 1 1/2-inch lengths before it drops into the pot (see Note). Simmer the gnocchi for 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. Transfer the gnocchi to paper towels and pat dry.
    5. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Arrange the gnocchi in the dish and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese. Bake until puffed, about 25 minutes. Preheat the broiler. Broil the gnocchi 6 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned. Serve right away with the meatballs in tomato sauce. Bon appetit!
    6. this is how mine looked!

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, French Style

    I saw this recipe in Food and Wine magazine and when I realized Chef Jacques Pépin created it, I had to try it. But of course, being the Virgo that I am, I gave it a few of my own touches. The meatballs are quite easy to make and the tomato sauce is so wonderful and flavorful you will be surprised how easy it is. You can make the entire meal in about 40 minutes or less and make sure you have a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau open and ready for your meal!



    • 1/2 pound ground sirloin
    • 1/4 pound Italian bulk sausage
    • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon grated onion
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1/2 cup minced onion
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with their liquid
    • 1/3 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper

    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

    MAKE THE MEATBALLS: In a large bowl, mix all of meatball ingredients with your hands until blended, but do not overwork meat. Form the mixture into 16 meatballs and flatten slightly.

    Arrange the meatballs on a nonstick cookie sheet and bake 5 minutes. Turn over and bake another 6 to 7 minutes until firm but not hard. Transfer the meatballs to a large plate.

    MAKE THE SAUCE: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, thyme and oregano and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cover and cook over moderate heat for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until slightly chunky; alternatively, puree the sauce in blender and return the sauce to the saucepan.

    In amall saucepan, cover the olives with water and bring to a boil over high heat; drain well. Add the olives to the tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the meatballs and simmer 5 more minutes or until heated through and serve. You can serve the meatballs with Gnocchi Parisienne (recipe coming soon) or spaghetti.

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    Pasta de Sardine

    On weeknights when both Matt and I get home late from work, I turn to this super easy pasta to make for dinner. I came up with this recipe after I saw a can of Moroccan sardines in chili oil at my new favorite grocery store, North Park Produce. You can make this in about 15 minutes and the taste is not so fishy as you may think. I was quite surprised that both of us ate up the entire dish!


    • 8 ounces dry fettuccine pasta
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1 (3.75 ounce) can sardines in chili oil, drained (reserve 1 teaspoon chili oil)
    • 1 cup jarred marinara sauce
    • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
    • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook for about 8 minutes, or until almost tender.

    While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil plus reserved chili oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 4 minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 60 seconds. Stir in the marinara sauce and bring to a simmer. Then stir in the sardines, red pepper flakes and reduce heat to low, and simmer until the pasta is ready.

    When the pasta is almost done, drain, and add it to the sardine sauce. Stir, cover, and turn the heat off. Let stand for a few minutes to absorb the flavors of the sauce. Squeeze juice from the lemon over the pasta and the parsley and mix to combine. Divide onto serving plates, and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    Pan de Muerto - Day of the Dead Bread

    The Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition inherited from the rituals that were once practiced by the Aztecs, Toltecas, Chichimecas and Mayan people. According to tradition, during the 1st and 2nd day of November, souls of the dead return to their homes on Earth to share with their living relatives the foods that were placed in their altars. The most common food placed in altars, or tombs, is the Pan de Muerto or Day of the Dead bread.

    The Pan de Muerto is sweet bread flavored with anise seeds, orange peel and sugar. The bread is often shaped into a large round, to symbolize the tomb or grave, with a smaller round on top, which symbolizes the head of the dead relative, and the lateral decorations, symbolizes the bones. I'm not entirely sure why the breads are shaped like this, but lately some fancy bakeries have been shaping them into skulls and even animal shapes, for the dead family pets. You can decorate the breads with colored sugars or gel food coloring, if you want. The best part is that you get to eat the bread, and believe me it's surprisingly good, although I'm not a big anise fan.

    My husband, Matt, made these lovely breads and we're putting them in the altar of my brother, Robert, and my uncle Manuel, my abuelito, Tomas, and Lindsey's mom, Barbara.

    INGREDIENTS (makes 4 to 6 loaves)


    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons anise seed
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 2 teaspoons orange zest
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 1/4 cup orange juice
    • 1 tablespoon orange zest
    • 2 tablespoons white sugar, for sprinkling

    Heat the milk and the butter together in a medium saucepan, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add them warm water. The mixture should be around 110 degrees F.

    In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture then add the eggs and orange zest and beat until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.

    Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape it into 4 to 6 round loaves with a round knob on top and smaller ropes going down laterally (see picture). Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until just about doubled in size.

    Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven let cool slightly then brush with glaze.

    To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over top of bread while still warm. Sprinkle glazed bread with white sugar.