Pepper Board

Pepper Board

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fresh Grated Zucchini

At this time of year, we should bring in and use, as urban brainy gourmets, the bounty from the backyard vegetable garden. Few cooks know that you can eat zucchini raw. One of the best dishes, I love to make and eat, is angel hair pasta topped with fresh grated 'raw' zucchini and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. What a wonderful taste experience. You can prepare fish as a side to this or as a base. And, the best part, in no time, you have a frugally lovely dinner!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Plums on Homemade Pizza

Plums on pizza???

Pizza from scratch is no doubt the best, but a good pizza can be easily made from frozen dough. Or, you can buy a simple cheese pizza and top with prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes and even dried plums.

Homemade pizza dough:

3 1/2 cups lukewarm water – about 100 degrees is perfect
1 tbsp. granulated yeast
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
7 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

(this amount will provide about 3-4 medium pizzas)

In a six quart bowl, mix the warm water with the yeast and salt. Using warm water allows the dough to rise quickly and to the right height.

Next, measure and mix in the flour.  Use the “scoop and sweep” method.  This is done by reaching into the flour container with a cup and scooping up a full measure all at once sweeping the top of the cup level with a knife. Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon. Do not knead the dough!

Allow the Dough to Rise. Cover the dough with a light weight dish towel or piece of wax paper. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until it begins to flatten on the top (approximately 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature). Do not punch down the dough, do not play with it.  With this method, you are trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible and punching it down knocks out gas. The gas allows bubbles to remain which create a light and crispy crust.

Refrigerate. After the dough has risen, refrigerate it overnight or at least 3 hours and use it over the next several days or have a pizza marathon all in one day/weekend.  Remember, fully refrigerated dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature.

Preheat a Baking Stone. 30 minutes before you’re ready to bake, place your baking stone in the bottom third of the oven and preheat it to the oven’s highest temperature. If you do not have baking stone, you can use a perforated pizza pan or even a cast iron skillet.

Shape a Ball.  If you don’t have a stone, prepare a pizza pan or skillet with flour, cornmeal or use a sheet of baking paper to prevent your pizza from sticking to the pan or skillet (not necessary if you use a stone). Take what you need from the refrigerated dough; for one medium pizza ...about a grapefruit size amount which you can obtain by pulling and or cutting the dough using a serrated knife. Add a little more flour to the dough to shape into a ball and thus, it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the dough pushing it around to conform to the pan or skillet.

The same can be done if using a stone, it won’t be perfectly round but that is not the point. The point is to retain dough quality in order to achieve a nearly perfect crust. Keep in mind, the less you handle the dough, the better taste and texture.

Add the Toppings...even plums!
Bake at 425F until bubbling and brown on top.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Green Pepper Ginger and Lime Chicken

You will need to buy a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts.  If you don't have on hand, linguine pasta, onion, green pepper, fresh lime and garlic and ginger. You having things on hand in your pantry for fridge that will keep is a blessing for the frugal gourmet. Italian cooking as all about being frugal. I know from stories told by my mother who spent hours with my Nonna cooking all afternoon while she (my mom) was pregnant with me. My parents lived upstairs, and in Italian households with a second floor, this was often a good situation for newlyweds in the family. Why? Because, if the new wife was not so skilled in cooking, she was by the time they moved out. 

Start by sauteing chopped onion, garlic and green pepper in a skillet with 4 tbs of coconut oil and 2 tbs of olive oil. Once the edges are browned, lay in your chicken breasts. Generously sprinkle in sea salt, red pepper flakes, and fresh dried or even fresh herbs from the garden if you have; rosemary and mint are used for this dish. Cover and let this cook for 6-8 min on med. heat. When the breasts have browned on both sides, add 4 tbs of organic honey, as much fresh grated ginger and or dried ground ginger if you have. To that, stir in 2 tbs of balsamic vinegar and 2 tsp of lime juice. Let this caramelize on high heat and then reduce to low and cover for 4-5 min.

Prepare a rolling boil of salted water for your linguine. Once tender, drain and pour out onto a low lipped serving dish. Place your chicken breasts on top of the pasta and cover with the luscious sauce. Garnish!

Tutti a Tavola!

Place fresh halved limes out for dinner guests to squeeze for extra zing. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Nettare di Albicocca ~ Marmellata di Albicocche

Guest Blogger ~ My Mom

I really enjoy this time of year. Why? Because, I see the fruits of my efforts come to fruition.
No, I am not fruity but I love fresh fruit. Italians love to pick from the garden or orchard and go straight into the kitchen. So, I want to share with you my adventure making apricot nectar and marmalade. I have my own trees and this year it was a robust harvest. With the grand kids over, we were able to get quite a bit. Here are the recipes I followed.

Nectar ~ Nettare di Albicocca
  • 1 quart apricots 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Wash and pit fresh fruit. Boil fruit and water 5 minutes. Strain. Add sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.I canned my apricot nectar in a hot water bath. In caner, bring water to boil, enough to cover jars by 1-inch of water. Put jars with hot nectar in caner and bring back to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes and remove.

Butter ~ Marmellata di Albicocche

  • 24 Medium Apricots
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice or Orange Juice
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon (optional)
Wash and remove stems from apricots, cut in halves and remove pits. Cook apricots with skin on until soft, adding just enough water to prevent apricots from sticking (about ½ cup). Push through a sieve or food mill or place in blender. This should produce about 1-1/2 quarts apricot pulp. To prepare butter, combine apricot pulp with sugar. Cook until desired consistency, stirring frequently to keep fruit from sticking. Add lemon or orange juice and flavorings if desired. Butter can then be stored following proper canning process Follow the above process used for the nectar. Listen for the lids to pop. Then you know you have a seal.

*pictured here is my first batch, which tastes as good as it looks!