Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Benefits of Friends

Jenn and Marion Pepperoni Pizza with Roasted Tomatoes and Smoked Mozzarella
Sometimes I dream of having my own charming little garden with ripe red tomatoes, fragrant garlic, and fresh savory herbs . . . but, alas, I haven't yet had the opportunity to prove my green thumb. With my recent move and a newly acquired backyard space, I have decided to try my hand at cultivating my own veggies. Although it's a bit too late for this year, I am lucky enough to have friends who have generously offered up a share of their harvest. On my recent trip to Seattle, Jennifer sent me home with a perfect pint of jewel-bright cherry tomatoes and just this afternoon, Marion gave me a whole box of tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, and baggies of herbs! For my first garden-fresh recipe, I decided to make use of those lovely tomatoes and some fresh basil. This pizza is extremely flavorful and easy to make. Try it tonight! (Thanks Jenn and Marion for sharing your beautiful fresh produce!)

- 1 lb. fresh refrigerated pizza dough, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before working
- 1 lb. cherry tomatoes, stems removed, rinsed and sliced in half
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 head of garlic, top sliced off
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 8 oz. smoked mozzarella cheese
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into small bite-sized pieces
- 2 oz. sliced pepperoni
- 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, minced
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves, sliced into think strips

Preheat the oven to 450˚ F. Place the garlic on a small piece of foil, drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap tightly in the foil. Place the garlic on the middle rack of the oven and roast for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, begin to prepare the slice the tomatoes. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper, dried oregano and dried basil, and drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Place baking sheet in oven after garlic has roasted for 20 minutes and put foil-wrapped garlic on the baking sheet with tomatoes. Roast tomatoes and garlic together for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for several minutes before handling. Keep the oven heated to 450˚F.

After the tomatoes and garlic has cooled slightly, pour the tomatoes into a small bowl and add the cloves of roasted garlic by squeezing them from the head. Mash up the tomatoes and garlic pieces with the back side of a large spoon and stir mixture together thoroughly. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Set aside and begin to work the dough and prepare the pizza toppings.

Turn out the pizza dough on a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out into a thin 18" circle and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with an even coating of the tomato and garlic sauce.

Grate the smoked mozzarella and place in a medium bowl with the fresh mozzarella and fresh herbs. Toss lightly to combine ingredients then top the tomato mixture with an even layer of the cheese mixture. Arrange pepperoni slices on top on the cheese and brush the crust of the pizza with a thin coat of olive oil. Bake pizza in 450˚F oven for 20-25 minutes until the crust begins to turn brown and crisp and the cheese is golden and bubbly. Cut into wedges and eat! The perfect meal to share with friends!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Heat of the Night

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Soup
It was a lovely time up in Seattle seeing old friends and checking out more than one delicious eatery. A quick two-night stay in one of my favorite cities in the world, an evening of watching the Mariners lose spectacularly to the Yankees, and the BEST soy latte I have ever had, and we were on our way back home. It was a nice end-of-summer get-away, but alas, it had to end with a long car trip with a rambunctious terrier. I was ready for a satisfying, light, and easy dinner when we rolled into the driveway. Luckily, inspiration struck, and I came up with this tasty version of "classic" Tex-Mex fare. It really hit the spot for a warm evening and made great use of several pantry and left-over fridge items (ie. the crumbly broken chips at the bottom of the bag and two-thirds of a jar of salsa). I'm definitely going to enjoy the leftovers tomorrow.

- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 1/2 c. jarred medium-heat red salsa
- 1 c. water
- 2 ears of fresh corn, shucked and kernels scraped off and reserved
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
- 1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies 
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- salt and pepper
- juice from 1 lime
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2-4 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 qt. chicken broth
- 1 c. crushed tortilla chips
- sour cream, pickled japapeño peppers, and shredded cheese for garnish (optional)

Place chicken breast in a small sauce pan with a lid and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour water and jarred salsa over chicken and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture is brought to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer chicken breast for 30-40 minutes until it has cooked through completely and it begins to soften.

While chicken is simmering, chop and dice other ingredients and begin to prepare the rest of the soup. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium. Add onion and cook until it begins to turn translucent and begins to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add chopped fresh jalapeño pepper. Stir over medium until pepper begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add corn, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, cumin, lime juice, and cardamom and stir to combine completely. Bring to a boil.

When broth is boiling, add the chicken breast and all the salsa into the broth mixture and stir to combine. Partially cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer soup for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove lid and using a pair of tongs and a wooden spoon, fish out chunks of chicken and shred using the tongs. By this point, this chicken should be extremely tender and this will be easy to do. Sprinkle soup with chopped cilantro and crushed tortilla chips, cover, and cook and additional 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Remove soup from heat and serve in bowls with sliced avocado, a sprinkle of grated cheese (ie. cheddar or pepper jack), a few pickled jalapeño peppers, additional crushed tortilla chips, and a small dollop of sour cream. It's got some heat and tons of flavor! You'll love it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sizzling September

Spinach Salad with Lemony-Peppery Chicken
Summer is not going down without a fight around here. After a rather mild and pleasant few dry months we were teased with a very Fall-like few days of chilly evenings. I thought it was about time to pull out my sweaters and stock pots of the long, wet months ahead . . . then BAM! This Labor Day weekend temperatures shot up into the high 90s and although my heart was turning towards concocting hearty soups and casseroles, my sweaty body tells me, "No, it's still salad weather." Very well, this quick spinach salad with grilled chicken breast is perfectly light meal for two to enjoy with your sweetie and a crisp glass of white wine during these remaining warm summer nights!

- 1 chicken breast, sliced in half down the center to create two thin fillets, then cut into four strips
- 5 oz. baby spinach leaves, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
- 1 Fuji apple, cored and sliced
- 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
- 1/4 c. crumbled Feta cheese
- 1/4 c. dried cherries
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- lemon pepper 

In a small bowl, whisk together minced garlic, lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Set aside. Lay out filleted chicken breast pieces in a shallow bowl and sprinkle both sides with salt and a generous amount of lemon pepper. Pour lemon mixture over chicken breasts, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
After the chicken has marinated, heat the grill to high and cook chicken pieces for 4-5 minutes per side until grill marks appear. The chicken will cook quickly because it's sliced so thin. While chicken pieces are grilling, prepare the salad dressing and salad.

In a small bowl, whisk together shallots, honey, apple cider vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until the honey has dissolved. Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Assemble two salads with spinach, apple sliced, dried cherries, avocado, apple slices, and walnuts. Divide dressing evenly among each salad. Sprinkle with crumbled Feta cheese then lay two cooked chicken breast pieces across each salad. Eat up! Fast, easy, and delicious! 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

H2C Inspired Recipe!

 Hood to Coast Van 2 Garbanzo Bean Salad
When I'm not cooking, it's likely I'm running. For the past two years, I have been fortunate enough to participate in Oregon's Hood to Coast relay race with a whole bunch of rad people. In the 200 mile race starting at Mt. Hood, each team of twelve has two vans of six runners with someone running constantly until the finish line in Seaside. It might sound a little nuts, but spending a day in a half in a van with a bunch of other smelly runners is some of the most fun I've ever had. This year, placed in Van 2, we had our first break at about 8 p.m. after a long, hot day of runs in the sun. Finished with our first legs, my van-mates and I were definitely ready for a meal and a shower. We decided to hit up a swanky Portland grocery store for sandwiches and deli items when I came across this delicious protein-packed bean salad. Maybe it was just the fact that, at the time, I was hungry for anything other than Luna bars and Vitamin Water, but I fell in love with this salad and found myself craving it on the drive home from Seaside. The next day I recreated it in my own kitchen. I served it as a side dish with grilled shrimp, but it's great on its own for lunch or dinner. Keep on running! And try this salad!

- 1 15. oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 2-3 large anchovy fillets, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
- juice from one lemon
- salt and pepper
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2/3 c. Kalamata olives, sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. Italian parsley, finely minced

Heat the broiler in the oven and line a baking sheet with foil. Place bell pepper on the sheet and broil for about 5 minutes per side, turning with a pair of tongs until the skin in charred and black. Remove from the oven and place is a resealable container or plastic bag until it cools. Once the pepper has cooled, the charred and bubbly skin should peel off easily. Discard skin and remove the seeds and stem. Slice into strips and place in a medium-sized bowl with sliced olives and rinsed garbanzo beans, set aside.

To make the dressing place the lemon juice, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies in a blender or in a container to mix up with a immersion blender and blend together the mixture until smooth. Continue blending and slowly add olive oil to mixture. When the dressing becomes slightly thicker and creamy season with salt and pepper. Toss bean mixture with dressing and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.