March 31, 2011


Homemade pizza is fairly easy and enjoyable to make, as there are endless delicious toppings. Pizza is essentially a flat bread covered with various toppings, a method which many cultures and cuisines share and has been popular in the Mediterranean region for centuries. Modern pizza owes its origin to Neapolitan cuisine, first with tomato and later with cheese. This pizza dough recipe is based on a Cook's Illustrated recipe I found in Baking Illustrated. I made a classic Margherita pizza with tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella, originally served in 1889 to Queen Margherita of Savoy to resemble an Italian flag. Other pizza toppings which are delicious as well include butternut squash with goat cheese and roasted cherry tomatoes with fresh mozzarella. I generally serve pizza with salad, such as caesar or arugula with oranges and almonds.

For Heather, who requested a pizza dough recipe.

2 c flour plus more for shaping dough

1 tsp salt

1 ¼ tsp yeast

¼ c water, warm

½ c water, room temperature

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp olive oil plus more for bowl

1. Place warm water in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on water and let stand until yeast swells and dissolves, 5-10 minutes. Combine flour and salt in mixing bowl.

2. Once yeast is ready, add room temperature water, olive oil and honey. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently mix to combine. Knead dough until dry to touch and elastic, about 7 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary. Place kneaded dough in a large well-oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Preheat baking stone as well, if one is being used for pizza.

4. Punch dough down to deflate, turn onto a floured working surface, divide into two equal balls and cover with a damp towel. Let dough relax in balls for 10-20 minutes.

5. Working with each ball by hand, shape the dough into a 10" round or other size and shape as desired. Place dough on a flour pizza peel, if using a baking stone, or a parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush the surface of formed pizza dough with olive oil.

6. Place desired toppings on pizza and bake until done, 8-12 minutes depending upon thickness of pizza and toppings.

Makes 2 10" pizzas

March 28, 2011

Green Beans Amandine

Amandine, often misspelled as almondine in the States, indicates a dish prepared or garnished with almonds. Native to the Middle East, almond trees are classified along with other cling fruit in the genus Prunus. Botanically speaking, an almond is not truly a nut but instead a drupe with a seed inside a hard shell and outer hull like a peach or cherry. I am fond of cooking with almonds because they have a rich mellow flavor, adding depth to most dishes, especially when they are toasted. Green beans pair well with smashed new potatoes and coconut pumpkin purée.

½ lb green beans, trimmed

¼ c almonds, roughly chopped and toasted

1 tsp parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil green beans until brilliant green and tender. Remove from heat, place in a strainer and run under cold water to stop cooking process. Set green beans aside to dry.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, garlic and parsley. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute, and remove from heat.

3. Slice green beans in half lengthwise. Gently combine green beans and sautéed ingredients in a medium-mixing bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve green beans chilled, room temperature or warm.

Serves 3-4

March 24, 2011

Beets and Tangerines with Honey Mint Dressing

Beets and citrus compliment each other and make a delicious and beautiful combination for salads. I was inspired by Moroccan beet salads, commonly served on a salad plate at the beginning of a meal, which I was served while traveling through southern France. I decided to use tangerine, a variety of the Mandarin orange, as often they seem to have a stronger flavor than orange, which lends itself nicely to the sweet earthy flavor of the beet. I like this salad with roasted bell peppers or chicken and vegetable tagine.

Oranges may be used instead of tangerines. Larger beets may be used, in lesser quantities.

4 small beets, trimmed

2 tangerines

½ lemon, juiced

1 tsp honey

1 tsp fresh mint, finely chopped

1 ½ tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Steam beets until tender, 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and peel under cold running water. Thinly slice beets into rounds and set aside in a medium metal bowl.

2. To segment tangerines: using a serrated knife, slice the two ends off of the tangerine. Placing the tangerine on one end, carefully remove the peel working from end to end and rotating tangerine. After peel is removed, segment the tangerine by cutting along the edge of each dividing skin. Roughly chop the segments and add them to the beets.

3. Thoroughly combine honey, lemon juice, mint and olive oil in a small bowl. Pour dressing over beets and tangerines, gently tossing to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Marinate for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve room temperature or chilled over greens.

Serves 3-4

March 20, 2011


Although gnocchi has been eaten in Italy since Roman times, gnocchi has only been relatively recently made with potato due to the introduction of the potato to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century. Prior to the potato, gnocchi was made with semolina or wheat flour. I was first introduced to true Italian gnocchi while in the Cinque Terre region of Italy where it was eaten most commonly with basil pesto. Now I like to make my own gnocchi because, though labor intensive, it is simple to prepare and very satisfying. Both arugula pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes make lovely sauces for the gnocchi.

I eat gnocchi with a variety of toppings including pesto, marinara and garlic butter. One batch will serve 2 easily with enough to freeze for a later meal.

1 ½ lbs russet potatoes

1 egg

1 ¼ c flour plus more for dusting

1 tsp salt

olive oil

1. Boil potatoes in water under tender, 30-45 minutes. Once tender, remove from water and peel. Pass potatoes through a potato ricer, food mill or grater and place in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add egg, flour and salt to mixing bowl and gently combine into dough. Knead dough gently until dry to touch and elastic, 4-5 minutes. Form into a ball and place under a damp towel in a mixing bowl. Allow dough to rest for no more than 30 minutes.

3. Using flour for dusting as needed, roll the dough into fist size balls and keep balls under a damp towel. Roll ball into a long dowel with a ¾-1 inch diameter. Cut the dowel into 1-inch segments. Using a flour-dipped fork, roll each segment under the fork until an oblong dumpling or gnocchi is formed. Place gnocchi on a clean cookie sheet. Repeat process with rest of dough.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in batches, drop gnocchi into boiling water and cook until the gnocchi float, 1-2 minutes. Drain cooked gnocchi and toss with olive oil under ready to eat.

5. To freeze gnocchi: place uncooked gnocchi on a cookie sheet or similar flat pan in the freezer. Once frozen, place gnocchi in a freezer bag and return to freezer. Gnocchi may be frozen for up to 3 months. Cook frozen gnocchi as you would fresh.

Makes about 4 dozen gnocchi

March 16, 2011

Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

I love to both make and eat fresh spring rolls and recently I have been having them at least once a week. Spring rolls, fresh or fried, can be found in many Asian countries under different names with a variety of wrappers, fillings and dipping sauces. Luckily these rolls seem to be more popular in the States and so the wrappers, made of rice and tapioca flour, can generally be found with a bit of searching, especially at Asian markets or natural food stores.

Salad greens and scallions are also good in the spring rolls. I blanch some of the vegetables to make them tender for eating, but the vegetables can be left raw depending upon preference.

Fresh Spring Rolls

1 medium cucumber, thinly julienned into 4" strips

1 medium red or orange pepper, thinly julienned into 4" strips and blanched

1 medium avocado, thinly sliced

2 large carrots, thinly julienned into 4" strips and blanched

8 rice paper wrappers

8 sprigs of cilantro, trimmed to 4"

Peanut Sauce

½ c natural peanut butter

1 tbsp tamari

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 clove garlic

1 tsp ginger

¼ - ½ c water

Peanut Sauce

1. Combine peanut butter, ginger, garlic, tamari and sugar in a food processor or medium mixing bowl. Gradually add water until sauce reaches desired consistency.

Fresh Spring Rolls

1. Arrange carrots, peppers, cilantro, avocado and cucumbers in individual piles on one edge of a work surface large enough to make rolls.

2. Meanwhile, fill a large shallow dish with hot tap water. Place one wrapper in the water to soften, about 1 minute.

3. Once wrapper is soft, gently remove from water and place on work surface. Place 1/8 of each cucumber, carrot and pepper in the middle of the wrapper. Add one segment of avocado and one sprig of cilantro.

4. Next, fold the bottom wrapper segment over the filling. Fold each side in over the filling and then continue rolling towards the top of the wrapper. Repeat process for all spring rolls. Allow spring rolls to set at least 30 minutes.

5. Serve room temperature or cold with peanut sauce or dressing of choice.

Makes 8 spring rolls and 1 cup peanut sauce

March 13, 2011

White Wine Sangria

I prefer white wine to red wine, though I have little actual wine knowledge. Sangria is a wine punch typically made with red wine; I have recently started to make sangria with white instead. White wine sangria is fresh and lovely in both look and taste. Though a fitting warm weather beverage, I like it just as much in cold weather, for a white alternative to mulled wine.

Many different fruits and berries may be added depending upon availability and preference. Most fairly inexpensive white wines will work well.

1 bottle white wine

½ c water

½ c sugar

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 c fresh berries

12 oz seltzer water

1. Place water and sugar in a small pan. Bring to a boil, simmer until sugar has been dissolved and remove the simple syrup from heat.

2. Place sliced lemon in a large glass container. Pour syrup over lemons and set aside until syrup has cooled. Once syrup has cooled add berries and wine to jar.

3. Refrigerate wine mixture until cold and ready to serve. Just before serving, add seltzer water. Serve chilled over ice.

Makes about 4 cups

March 8, 2011

Roasted Bell Peppers Stuffed with Rice Pilaf

I made a meal for a few friends over the holidays and wanted to make the same entrée with both an omnivore and vegetarian option. I happened to have many bell peppers around and decided to stuff bell peppers with a rice pilaf either with or without lamb. The bell pepper originated in Central American and is the only member of the Capsicum genus lacking capsaicin, the chemical causing heat. Bell peppers work perfectly for stuffing because they can maintain their shape after cooking and go well with mashed carrots and marinated green beans.

I used wild rice but any rice will work. Lamb is optional depending upon preference. Any variety of bell pepper will work.

For Kim, who requested a stuffed bell pepper recipe.

2 medium bell peppers, halved lengthwise

1 c cooked rice

1 clove garlic, pressed or finely chopped

¼ c parsley, finely chopped

1 medium red onion, trimmed and finely diced

1 stalk celery, trimmed and finely diced

8 button mushrooms, halved and finely sliced into quarters

¼ lb ground lamb*

1 tbsp kalamata olives, finely chopped

¼ c feta

1 tbsp olive oil plus more for rubbing peppers

1 tbsp butter

salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove seeds and pith from peppers. Rub peppers with olive oil and set them aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a medium skillet over medium heat; add onions and sauté until soft. Once onions are soft, add celery, garlic and mushrooms and continue sautéing until mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and place sautéed ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

3. Add rice, olives, feta, parsley and lamb (if using) to the sautéed ingredients and thoroughly combine. Stuff peppers with rice pilaf and place in a baking dish.

4. Bake peppers until soft and browned, 20-30 minutes. Remove peppers from oven and cool for about 10 minutes.

5. Serve stuffed peppers warm or room temperature.

Makes 4 stuffed peppers