Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Real Pizza (And Another Use for Tapenade)

Traditional Pizza Margherita

Where or where did we Americans go so terribly wrong? In pursuit of a fast dinner, we have succumbed to delivery pizza. In fact, according to, a third of all pizzas sold in the U.S. are delivered--that's 1 BILLION pizza deliveries. In a year.

I wonder how many folks have their local pizza delivery on speed dial. (I, myself, refuse to confirm or deny this.)

It wouldn't be so bad, but a delivered pizza typically is a commercial pizza, rather than one made by an artisan's hands. They taste like the cardboard box they come in and usually you have to mop the grease off the top before you eat it. Yum.

Who can blame us? Pizza is fast, cheap and easy. Anyone who ever has had a hungry, hungry family who wants dinner NOW (my family gets downright cranky when we are hungry) knows that one phone call for pizza delivery will calm the mob mentality.

But, we are cheating ourselves of good flavor and good nutrition. We have sacrificed a lot just to get dinner "over with."

There is another way! Now, pizza can be made easily at home. It doesn't need to be difficult or labor/time intensive and your family will love it.

I used to make my own pizza dough, which is delicious and simple. However, because it takes time, I reserved it for the weekend. Then, I discovered Whole Foods pizza dough. It is very good, fresh and has very few ingredients. Sadly, the closest Whole Foods to me is 1/2 hour away--not always convenient. Recently, I have found packaged pizza dough at my local grocery, near the fresh mozzarella and specialty cheeses. It will do in a pinch.

Let the pizza sit at room temperature for a bit. The Whole Foods version will rise if you let it. The other dough--not so much.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In my family, each person gets a lump of dough and a non-stick cake pan (you can use whatever you wish, including a pizza stone), sprayed with non-stick spray and sprinkled with corn meal.

We form our own pizza dough into a crust and then the fun begins.

For me, I love a Pizza Margherita. This particular pizza has just a few ingredients:

  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • tomatoes
  • basil
  • olive oil

That's it. But, the secret to making this awesome pizza is the ingredients--they must be very fresh and of very high quality.

Stretch and press the dough into a rough, round shape (don't worry if it is misshapen--you are hand-making your pizza, not cranking one out from an assembly line). Brush olive oil onto the crust.

For tomatoes, use the best vine-ripened tomatoes you can find. (If tomatoes are not in season, try a canned, San Marzano variety, drained--they are more expensive, but totally worth it). You can crush the tomatoes as in the picture above (use your hands to crush; I guess you could use your feet, but I think that is for grapes). Or, slice them thinly and overlap them on top of the pizza. Let crushed toms drain in a strainer; sliced ones can be placed on a paper towel, briefly.

Next, slice fresh mozzarella and place the slices on a paper towel to soak up any excess water they were stored in. Place the mozz over the tomatoes. Either add fresh chopped basil before or after cooking, depending on your taste and your aesthetic sensibilities (the cooked basil wilts and turns darker--but I love it anyway).

Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pizza dough. I like to sprinkle freshly grated parmigiano reggiano and more fresh, chopped basil; serve with a glass of red. Heaven!

This simple pizza is a great base for additions: pesto is delicious spread over the crust (rather than the olive oil) as is the tapenade we made last week. You can substitute chopped sun-dried tomatoes in the off-season. Or, sprinkle with olives, jarred artichokes, roasted red peppers, sliced prosciutto, whatever you like.

There is actually a board in Italy which regulates exactly how a true pizza Margherita is made. I'm not sure that board or Queen Margherita --for whom the pizza was named--would approve of the additions, but I say go for it. It's your pizza. They can make their own.

Next time, I'll tell you how my kiddos like to dress their pizza crusts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Goddess of the Pie

from My Mom's Pies
Photo by Jodie Hayes

Last week, when I posted about blueberry pie, I said that the only way to get a delicious pie is to make one. Well, I completely forgot at the time that this is not entirely true.

Kini Christie, proprietress and "Goddess of the Pie," makes an array of delectible pies in her Boulder kitchen. She is a fourth generation pie baker who owns My Mom's Pies.

They are incredibly delicious! Flaky crusts enclose juicy fruits; not too sweet. And, no canned pie fruits here. In addition to many varieties of fruit pies, she makes creme pies. And, if you need gluten-free or sugar-free, she makes those as well. Special order pies? No problem (just take a look at the photo below!)

You can buy pies through the website, My Mom's Pies, or visit the booth at the Longmont Farmers' Market on Saturdays or the Boulder Farmers' Market on Wednesdays. They are available at many other area markets and cafes as well. Call their number at 303-65- MOMS for more information and to order by phone.

My daughter calls them mm-mm pies (because of the website name), but I just call them the goddess' pies!

This beautiful wedding pie
was made by Kini's husband, Jeff
photo by Erica Anderson

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tapenade Part 2 - With Caprese Salad

Photo by Rainer Zenz

Ah Caprese Salad! The Italians on that tiny island have it right. Simple, refreshing, a meal in itself. Traditionally, the salad consists only of vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Anything else, apparently, is heresy.

However, I have seen it dressed with a bit of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, placed on a bed of lettuce; I recently saw a Caprese salad with avocado slices tucked in (Gasp!)

My favorite way to enjoy this salad is to make a big beautiful plate of it, such as above. If you can find yellow and orange tomatoes to add to the red, it is all the prettier. Using the large, heirloom varieties, will make the tomato lovers among you completely cave in.

Serve it with tapenade and a large crusty baguette sliced into pieces. Guests can take a plate with the salad and dollop a big spoonful of tapenade on top. I love the way the brininess of the tapenade interacts with the complex tomato flavor and the smooth, cool cheese. When the salad is gone, soak up the juices and the olive oil with extra bread.


I realize this is a departure from the Capri recipe, but if eating this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Make this as an appetizer, a first course, or--my favorite--a simple summer supper. You don't even have to go near your stove.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cherry Me!

"Cherry Me" Demi Apron

I stumbled upon this website, The Hip Hostess, just this morning and had to show it to you!

When I am cooking at work, I cover up with chef coats (occasionally) and aprons (mostly) to protect myself from--well--myself. Cooking, like life, is messy.

But, when I'm cooking at home, I might want something a little more cute!

This apron is darling and reminds me of my childhood when everyone put rick-rack on everything (Things from my childhood have moved from "hopelessly out of date" to "vintage." I'm going to have to ponder that one.)

I decided to order this particular pattern, but was very sad to discover they are sold out. Hope they will make more soon!

In the meantime, there are many other pretty patterns. For instance, I love this little swirly number:

This one is called "chocolate mint." I really love the rick rack!

Don't forget the tea towels (back to the cherries again!):

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tapenade to the Rescue!

photo by gPhoto

Boy oh boy do I love tapenade: a wonderful briny mixture of olives, capers, olive oil and other delicious mediterranean ingredients.

It is so versatile and very easy to throw together. Make a batch and keep it in your fridge.

I love tapenade as a spread for crusty bread. You can use it as an appetizer with crackers or veggies (a.k.a. crudité, if you want to be fancy) You can stuff any sort of fillet with it, making an elegant entree. I love to put a dollop of it on hot spaghetti.

For weeknight dinners, it is a delicious ingredient to have on hand. I'll share some of my favorites in the coming days.

For now, here is the recipe. Whip some up and you'll be ready to make dinner fast!

My sister gave me this recipe several years ago.

  • several handfuls of fresh basil
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 12 kalamata olives
  • salt and pepper

Place all ingredients together in a food processor and whirl until blended. Adjust ingredients as you like.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Favorite Weeknight Dessert Ever!


photo by Cary Bass

Okay--my favorite summer dessert! Have you had your share of cherries yet? They are so delicious this year! They make a sweet dessert and are so good for you! Grab some while they are still here--they won't last forever!

Oh, but wait, then there is....


Photo by Steve Evans

Definitely my favorite. Forget cherries. Watermelon is the best! Refreshing on these hot summer days, watermelon is like a dip in the pool. While the so-called "personal watermelons" are more expensive, they are so convenient. They are easier to cut, store and eat (because they mostly are seedless). And the little ones seem to have all the flavor of a large watermelon condensed into a small package. Yum!

Oh, but wait, I almost forgot about....


Photo by Cary Bass

Oh yeah, forget those other fruits. Peaches are divine. A ripe, luscious peach truly is a gift. And, a bowl of sliced and chilled peaches is a wonderful dessert all by itself. Sure, you can dress them up (peach pie, peach cobbler, peach crisp, peach ice cream,...) but why when the peaches are at the height of their season. Our farmers' market is getting some in now. I recommend buying them from the farmer because you can see, smell and even taste the peaches. And, as with all produce there, you can ask the farmer for more information about her farm, farming techniques and produce.

So, there you have it. My favorite summer dessert, er, desserts. It is impossible to choose. And of course, there are many, many more fruits in season right now. Oh, shoot, I forgot about berries! And canteloupe!

Get 'em all while you can and eat all you can during their high season! They will not wait for you. And, let's face it, an anemic peach in the produce aisle in January is just a sad, sad thing.

(don't despair--we can freeze and can some fruits--more on this later!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mama Scanloni's Summer Spaghetti

Photo by en:User:Fir0002

Okay, I'm not really Italian. But, this time of year when the tomatoes are beginning to ripen, I begin to think Italian. I'm drooling impatiently over the tiny, green tomatoes on my own lone plant and feeling very lucky that we have a local farmer's market.

When the weather is so hot, it is impossible to stand at the stove, try this light, quick "Dinner Fast" recipe. Great tomatoes are a must, here, because they are the star of the show. This is an uncooked sauce, served at room temperature.

Serve this dish with a crunchy, green salad and a bit of crusty bread. How about a fruit pop for dessert?

Summer Spaghetti

Serves 4

12-16 oz. spaghetti, whole wheat or plain (a teaspoon of salt if desired)
5 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped and drained (remove seeds if desired)
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 small onion, finely chopped and rinsed in a strainer under cold water
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped or chiffinade
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional--adjust to taste)
1-2 Tablespoons chiffonade basil (shoot, you can just chop it, if you can do without the fancy)
Parmigiano Reggiano

Place a large pan with lots of fresh, cold water on to boil. When boiling, add pasta and salt, if desired, and cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, place all other ingredients (except basil and parm) in a large bowl and stir. Leave bowl to sit on counter until pasta is done.

When spaghetti is ready, drain and toss into the bowl of tomatoes. Garnish with lots of basil and parm.

Buon appetito!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Shopping Bags and Bacteria

image from

I came across this Los Angeles Times article about bacteria in reusable shopping bags. In a recent study, researchers found that most shoppers never wash their reusable bags and as a result all sorts of bad bugs appear in those bags. (It is only fair to mention here that the study was funded by the American Chemistry Council, which promotes plastic and plastic bags and is fighting the CA bill to ban plastic bags).

I know some personal chefs are concerned about this issue and do not use reusable bags for this very reason.

The LA Times article recommends washing reusable bags frequently. I'm not sure that the average 99 cent shopping bag can survive many washings and then they wind up in a landfill.

Although they cost more, I love my market bags. These string bags are machine washable, hold up to 40 pounds each and take up next to no room when storing. In addition, they wear very well: I have used mine 3-5 times per week for nearly 3 years. I wash them at least twice a week and they still look like new.

Of course, it is good to use some common sense. I always ask the bagger to place meats in a plastic bag. Most groceries have hand wipes available; I use these AFTER shopping, as well as before. And the first thing I do when I'm back from the grocery is to wash my hands with soap and water. Of course, I wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly and also the tops of canned goods before I open them.

Perhaps most importantly, we should remember that there is bacteria everywhere and we don't need to panic about it. It makes me happy to think about all the plastic bags I have NOT used over the years because I have these wonderful bags. And, because these bags last so long, I don't have to continue to buy new market bags and toss the old ones in the landfills.

Monday, July 12, 2010

There Will Be Pie

Photo by Knulclunk

On Saturday, my sister had a milestone birthday. I won't tell you which one because it incriminates me.

Let's just say she's younger than I am. And, she looks fabulous!

The party was in her backyard garden. Her partner, Larry, has created quite a paradise there, with lush flower gardens as well as a lovely vegetable garden. For the party, he set up tents, strung twinkling lights, floated tea lights in the bird baths and hung colorful paper lanterns. We sat under the tents, where they had made a long table (Italian-style--al fresco) with pretty gerbera daisies in small fruit jars scattered along the center of the table.

But, as beautiful as the setting was, the food was better! They are both great cooks and their friends are too. A delightful evening.

In our family, we love to celebrate with pie rather than cake. A cake you can just go out and order. But, a pie, you have to make. Never being ones to take the easy road, my family chooses pie everytime. It's no wonder: my mom has made pies for somewhere between 70 and 75 years and does she ever know her way around a pie crust.

So, when my sister asked me to bring blueberry pies to her party, I was not surprised. It is one of her favorites.

We like to use the James Beard Blueberry Pie recipe, given to me years ago by my friend, Katherine. I converted it to a deep-dish pie because--well--you can't have enough blueberries, right? Also, I like to use my deep-dish pie pans--they are pretty.

I prefer a pâte brisé, which is an all-butter crust. I've tried other recipes, but there is no substitute for that buttery taste.

Here is the recipe. It is time intensive, but well worth the labor.

Happy Birthday, Tia!

James Beard's Blueberry Pie (adapted for deep-dish)

4-6 generous cups blueberries (you want them to mound a bit in the pie plate because they will shrink during cooking)




1 cup maple syrup (I use 2/3 cup for deep dish--1 cup seems too sweet)

2 pie crusts (see below)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse and dry berries and place in bowl. Sprinkle flour and cinnamon over and mix. Pour into unbaked pie shell and Dot with little bits of butter. Pour the syrup over all. Cut second crust into strips and make a lattice top. Beat an egg and brush over lattice.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes; reduce temp to 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more. Reduce temp to 350 degrees and bake 20-35 minutes until done. If the crust's edges get brown too quickly, cover them with aluminum foil.

Pâte brisé for Deep Dish - makes two 9" crusts

3 3/4 cup flour, plus extra for rolling

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks) very cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

6-12 tablespoons ice water

Three things about pie crusts: 1) keep everything very cold; 2) don't overwork the dough; and 3) don't use too much water. I have noticed, though, in our dry climate I often have to use the maximum amount of water suggested, if not a little more. Just add the water slowly.

Otherwise, it's simple :-)

Cut sticks of butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in freezer for at least 15 minutes so that they become thoroughly chilled.

I use a pastry cutter because I like the results better. But you can use a food processor if you prefer. Combine flour, salt, and sugar and mix with a whisk. Add butter and mix with pastry cutter until mixture forms into pea-sized pieces. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix just until mixture begins to clump together. Dough will be very crumbly looking. Pick up a bit and form it in your palm. If it sticks together, it is ready. But, if it doesn't, repeat process, adding a little more water each time.

When dough is ready, place on a clean surface. Gently knead to bring dough together--do not overknead! Shape into 2 rounds. You want to see little pieces of butter in the dough--these are what create the flakiness. Sprinkle each round with a little flour on all sides. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Remove one of the dough rounds from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle some flour over top and bottom. Place the round between two large pieces of parchment paper and roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll the dough, check frequently to make certain it isn't sticking to the paper. If it is, sprinkle lightly with flour and roll until dough is the size you want (place the pie plate on top of the rolled out crust to see if the crust is large enough.) If dough becomes warm during rolling, just place it in the freezer for a few moments.

When crust is a good size, remove the top layer of parchment paper. Lift and gently invert the pie crust into the plate. Pat the crust into place, making certain there is no air underneath the crust. Remove the other parchment paper layer and add filling. If you need to repair the crust, just moisten your fingers with a little water and work the shell back into one piece.

Roll out second round into crust as above. Cut crust into strips and place 5-6 vertically over top of pie. Weaving the strips in and out, add 5-6 more strips horizontally. Bake according to above directions.

Making pie crusts takes some practice but relax. However your crusts turn out they will be waaaaay better than anything you can buy in a store.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Empanada Queen!

I've been sharing recipes from our VIP party at Latin American Heritage Camp. Today we are talking empanadas.

It seems nearly every country has its own version of a "meat pie." But these empanadas come from Chile, a South American country known for its exquisite natural beauty. The diversity is astounding: The Andes and Patagonia, the Atacama desert, a breathtaking 4,000 miles of coastline, Easter Island (Rapa Nui National Park), Robinson Crusoe Island and of course the lovely vineyards, which make Chile the 5th largest exporter of wine. Chile's alpine skiing is a great destination for ski aficionados from the north due to its reverse ski season.

But back to the empanadas: My friend, Jan Harbert, is the Empanada Queen. Each year she and her family make dozens and dozens of Chilean empanadas. Her specialties are cheese, and beef/raisin. For this year's VIP party, Jan made 100 of these little little pockets of deliciousness! I especially love Jan's version because they are baked rather than fried.

By the way, empanadas freeze beautifully. Before baking, place them on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze. Remove frozen empanadas from the baking sheet, wrap tightly and return to freezer. If baking from frozen, add a few extra minutes to the baking time.

I got the recipe from a cooking teacher at camp (2002) who was married to a Chilean and I believe got the recipe from her mother-in-law. Both the dough and pino mix can be made ahead of time and refrigerated - makes preparation easier. --Jan

1 lb. ground beef
3 onions minced (I use 1 onion)
1-cup raisins
3 hard-boiled eggs
1 can black olives drained and coarsely chopped
3 T. olive oil
2 T. cumin
1 T. marjoram (very important)
1 T. salt
Dried red pepper to taste
Paprika to taste

Cook the ground beef over medium heat in a frying pan. Drain excess fat. Add the olive oil, minced onions, raisins, black olives and spices. Mix well and simmer over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. Set aside. Slice hard-boiled eggs; set aside.

Masa (dough)
1 T. yeast
1 C. warm water
1/4 C. olive oil
1 T. salt (use less – Doug said too salty)
Approx. 3-4 cups flour. (I use like 2 C. more)

Dissolve yeast in warm water; let sit two minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the flour; let sit five minutes. Add oil and salt. Add rest of flour a half cup at a time until dough acquires a smooth, elastic consistency and no longer sticks to the side of the bowl. Knead dough. Let rise in a lightly greased, covered bowl. After and hour or so, punch down, let rest, then pinch off pieces smaller that golf balls to make the empanadas or store covered in fridge for later use.

Assembing the empanadas:
Work area should consist of a lightly floured surface with pino mix, eggs, and lightly greased cooking sheets handy. Pinch off pieces of dough somewhat smaller that golf balls. Work into circles using hands or rollers. Use flour or corn meal sparingly to avoid sticking. Once into a circle about 5-6 inches in diameter, spoon on pino mix on one half. Place one egg slice on top of pino mix and fold dough over. Seal edges by crimping with fingers (or fork). Place on cooking sheet. Repeat. Bake in 350-degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Joe's Shrimp Ceviche

photo by virtualern

Joe Gutierrez and Margie Rodriguez graciously have agreed to present workshops at Latin American Heritage Camp for the past few years. Joe's family is from Mexico and Margie is originally from Puerto Rico. Each year, they bring their children and participate fully in the camp.

Joe is a soccer aficionado and teaches kids his love of the game. Margie is a wonderful cook and her cooking classes fill up immediately each year. Our camp is so lucky to have them!

Last year, Margie taught us how to make Joe's ceviche. She says he took parts of recipes until he came up with this one.

Margie says traditional ceviche, made with fish fresh from the ocean, is "cooked" by marinating it in lime. Shrimp ceviche, however, is quickly steamed and then soaked in lime.

This dish is so refreshing on a hot summer day. We love it with just a side of corn on the cob and a cold Mexican beer.

Joe's Quick Shrimp Ceviche

Serves 8 (as an entree) or 12-16 (as a first course)

2 lb bag large, raw shrimp

6 limes

2 firm Roma tomatoes

2 jalapenos (optional)

1 bunch green onions

Clamato juice (about 1 quart)

Pinch, powdered garlic

Dash of salt (optional)

1/3 cup shredded red cabbage

1/3 cup diced carrots

1/3 cup diced radishes

1/4 of a cilantro bunch, shredded

1/2 cucumber, diced

1/4 Granny Smith apple, diced

2 avocados

Hot sauce of choice (they recommend Tapitio), optional

Crunchy tostadas, 12 - 15

Thaw bag of shrimp, boil water.

Boil shrimp for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp turns white/pink. Rinse, cool, peel and cut each shrimp about 4-5 slices per shrimp and place in a bowl.

Squeeze 6 limes and pour juice over chopped shrimp. Add garlic powder and salt. Pour Clamato juice over shrimp until it is nearly submerged. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, place cabbage, radishes, and carrots. Cut off top 1/4 of cilantro bunch, chop and add to the bowl. Chop green onions, and add with cucumber and apple. Dice and drain the tomatoes and add to bowl.

Add veggies to shrimp. Pour a little more Clamato juice over until the veggies and shrimp are almost submerged. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour.

When cold, it is ready!

If you like, seed and slice 2 jalapenos and place in a separate dish. Slice the avocados and place on a separate dish.

Serve ceviche on tostadas and let everyone add avocado, jalapenos and hot sauce, as desired.

Delicious! Thanks to Margie and Joe for sharing this recipe!