Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sweet Honey Ham Pizza with Fig Jam and Carmelized Shallots

Like many in the South, we had a delicious spiral-cut honey ham glazed in a honey mustard mixture for our Easter dinner.  I look forward to it every year, mainly because there are lots of leftovers and since Easter was at my house this year, those leftovers were mine all mine!  I did (begrudgingly) share with my husband this time around and with his love of all things pizza and my love of new recipes, we came up with a good use for the mounds of ham left in the fridge.  Honey ham pizza, who knew?!  I added a few other items that have become staples in my house because they are tasty and can help to create some pretty fantastic dishes:  fig spread and shallots.  I first had fig spread smeared over a hard, sharp Parmesan and served with wheat crackers.  It is perfectly sweet with a melt in your mouth texture which compliments lots of cheeses.  Shallots are a no-brainer.  They are a little milder than a regular onion and truthfully, I think I like them most for their compact size.  Usually one or two are the perfect amount for any dish which means no leftover, diced up, ready-to-dry out onion pieces to store.  But I digress...onto the pizza compilation!

Homemade pizza dough:

1 1/2 cups water (80°-90°)
1 1/2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tbsp active yeast

Mix, knead and rise in a bread maker or add the above ingredients in a stand mixer with dough hook.  Mix until combined, cover with a damp towel in warm spot to rise.  Deflate dough and form into rounded disk.  Cut in 1/2 for two 12" pizzas.  To make a pizza round, form back into rounded disk on a floured surface.  Using fingertips. press edges out all the way around the outer edge, rotating the dough as you press out.  Push the center out and repeat pressing edges out until large enough to cover pizza stone or pan without going over.

extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp fig spread
1 medium to large shallot, caramelized in olive oil and butter and deglazed with dry white wine (sauté until cooked out)
1/2-1 cup cubed honey ham
3/4 cup pizza cheese blend
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Transfer formed pizza round to stone or pizza pan.  Add 2 turns of extra virgin olive oil and smooth over entire dough surface, including crust.  Spread fig jam over pizza, add caramelized shallots, honey ham and cheese.  Bake at 400° for about 10 minutes until bubbly in the center.  I like to flip the broiler on at the end and get it nice an browned on top...but that's really up to you and your desire for under or over!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bloody Mary Flat Iron Steak with Scallion Potato Cakes

I am in love with Flat Iron Steak. Really. I might marry it. Okay, instead I will marinate it in a bloody mary cocktail blend and grill it to perfection. I actually let this one marinate overnight which is hard for me because I am impatient when it comes to food. It worked in my favor though so maybe I'll take a lesson learned. The meat turned out tender and less tough than it has in the past. The flavor showed the perfect hint of tomato, horseradish and all-around-goodness. I also reserved some of the marinade to reduce with honey and pour over the cakes and steak at the end. Here's the blend I used:

Spicy Bloody Mary Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup Spicy Hot V8
1 tbsp pickle juice
1/2 lemon, fresh squeezed
2 tsp creamy horseradish
1 tsp celery seed
1 garlic clove, diced
dash of Frank's hot sauce
salt & pepper  

Whisk together all ingredients and set about 1/4 cup aside.  Place the flat iron steak in a gallon sized ziploc and pour marinade over, moving around to coat all sides.  Place in a shallow dish to prevent spillage and refrigerate overnight, turning once to marinate both sides equally.  

When ready to cook, remove steak from the marinade and pat dry.  Grill over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side depending on how well done you prefer your steak.  Let rest for 10 minutes and slice on a bias to serve.

Bloody Mary Steak Sauce

Using the reserved marinade, place in saucepan over medium-high heat and add about 2 tbsp of honey to thicken and sweeten.  Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer, whisking often while the steak rests.  Serve in a gravy boat for each person to pour over servings.

Scallion Potato Cakes

6-8 red potatoes
2 scallions, chopped in thin slices
2 tsp creamy horseradish
salt & pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Boil potatoes with skin-on and in salted water until soft.  In a large mixing bowl, mash potatoes, add chopped scallions, horseradish and salt and pepper to taste.  Blend until smooth.  Using hands, form into patties as you would hamburgers (will make 4-5 cakes).

In a frying pan over medium heat, add olive oil to warm.  Transfer potato cakes to oil and cook until golden brown on both sides, approximately 4-5 minutes per side.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spicy and Crunchy Peanut Noodles

For years I've been searching for an Asian inspired noodle recipe with a salty/sweet peanut sauce and, finally, one from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) appeared on Food Network .  I tried her version first and then adjusted the ingredients according to my own tastes and preferences.  I've made this dish several times now and each time someone has asked me for the recipe, which is my own personal gauge of a successful conversion, so I figured it was time to share.

Below is a list of the ingredients I use to make the recipe gluten-free, the first of which is brown rice spaghetti pasta.  While I am a fan of rice pasta, this is the first recipe I've tried where I would say the brown rice spaghetti is a natural fit.  If you aren't gluten free and would like to save some cash, stick with the traditional angel hair pasta and swap the tamari for straight soy.

Spicy and Crunchy Peanut Noodles

Serves: 6
Time: 25-30 minutes

1 lb brown rice spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lite rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup gluten free tamari
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup organic smooth peanut butter (I like Trader Joe's because it pours from the jar which makes it great for sauce)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded and sliced in thin strips
1/2 pound fresh snow peas, cut on an angle in half
4 scallions, cut on an angle
3 tbsp fresh cilantro
2 tbsp unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

Start by dropping the pasta into salted boiling water and follow the instructions to cook to al denté. While the pasta cooks, whisk together the oil, vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, zest, peanut butter and seeds.  In a large mixing bowl, toss red pepper, peas, 2/3's scallions and shrimp.  Add cooked pasta and cover with sauce (use half or all of sauce depending on personal taste).  Top with remaining scallions, cilantro and peanuts to serve. 

A few things to note: 

This recipe makes a lot of sauce.  If using the full pound of spaghetti, you can definitely use all of the sauce and there will be some left at the bottom of the bowl.  If you like less sauce, jar the remainder and use it as a dip for spring rolls, chicken satay or grilled shrimp.   Also, this dish is great served warm, cold or at room temperature.  Leftovers will work for a day or so but the longer the noodles sit, the more they will break down because of the acid in the sauce.  And finally, for an even bigger punch of flavor - serve lime wedges on the side to squeeze over the noodle bowls.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Balsamic Reduction Two Ways

It's one of the easiest and most versatile tricks in the kitchen - balsamic reduction.  All it takes is the vinegar, a sauce pan, a whisk and heat and you have a syrupy topping that can be used on anything from chicken to ice cream.  I recently discovered white balsamic vinegar which is essentially the same as it's darker counterpart  but a little less thick, a little less sweet and, as you would imagine by the name, clear.  It's processed in a similar manner with white grapes and white wine vinegar and simmered over low heat to develop the syrup and then aged to enrich the flavor.  In my opinion, the real advantage to swapping for the clear version is purely aesthetic; you get the flavor without changing the coloring of your food. 

To make a reduction, simply pour the balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil, whisking often so as not to burn. Reduce the heat to let it simmer until the liquid reduces by half. Word to the wise - stand back when the heat hits the vinegar unless you are looking to clear your sinuses.

Balsamic Glazed Asparagus Spears

14-16 thin, fresh Asparagus spears
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
1 tbsp balsamic reduction
2 slices honey ham
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
1 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Snap asparagus spears at the bottom at natural breaking point to remove tough stems. Coat with olive oil and salt and pepper and place over indirect heat on a preheated grill.  Baste with balsamic reduction while the spears cook for approximated 6-8 minutes.  Halfway thru grilling, divide spears equally and place one slice of ham over each group to warm. Pull from grill and roll spears into a 'log', folding ham over the group and placing seam side down.  Top with diced tomato and grated cheese to serve. The sweetness of the ham is the perfect compliment to the balsamic reduction. 

Balsamic Glazed Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tbsp balsamic reduction

Clean and trim the chicken breasts, salt and pepper liberally and place in a shallow container. Whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and pour over chicken.  Let the meat rest in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. 

Preheat the grill to about 400° and oil grates prior to placing the marinated chicken on the grill.  While the chicken cooks (about 5 minutes on each side), baste liberally with the balsamic reduction.  Let chicken rest for about 5 minutes prior to serving.

You'll find yourself using this reduction on everything...promise!