When I was in high school, I would sometimes go over to my friend Kim's house after school. She always had a jar of this awesome, ready to spread pizza topping in the fridge.
We would pull out a piece of bread (English muffin, sandwich bread, French bread, whatever!), toast it and then spread this yummy mix on top and put it back into the toaster oven for a few minutes to melt and get crispy. What I love about this 'instant' pizza is just that - once you make a batch, it can hang out and be ready for you anytime you crave pizza...which is all the time for me! Top it with pepperoni for a classic taste or capers, anchovies and hot pepper flakes for a puttanesca style toast. It's also good with parmesan, fresh basil and arugula. I made these into an appetizer for my bocce league friends by using these super cute Naan bread 'dippers' that I found at my local supermarket, but any sort of bread will work. Now "that's amoré"!
Mini Pizza Flatbreads
1 cube of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 small can of tomato paste
1 1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese, grated (you could also use jack)
1 /2 tsp dried oregano
6 green onions, chopped finely
20 Stonefire Naan (flatbread) 'dippers' (or sliced baguette, English muffin, bagel)
olive oil for brushing on the Naan
grated parmesan for topping the pizzas (optional)
hot pepper flakes (optional)
fresh basil, torn (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the dippers on a sheet pan and brush with olive oil.
Bake for 8 minutes to get them on their way to being crispy. Mix the first five ingredients together by hand or in a stand mixer. Spread a tablespoon or so on to the middle of each mini flatbread leaving the edges exposed. Bake for 7 minutes or until starting to brown. Sprinkle with hot pepper flakes if desired and top with a bit of parmesan and fresh basil leaf. Put the leftover spread in a jar for the next time.
In just a few weeks we will officially start to celebrate summer but the barbecue grill will be fired up long before then as it's never really out of use here in California. Recently, while looking for ideas for a local wine pairing dinner, I came across this recipe for grilled rib eye steak on a Food and Wine magazine web page. I love the addition of chipotle powder in the rub mixture as it lends a mild smokiness to the steak. The lime butter was a bit surprising to me. On chicken maybe, but steak? OMG YES! This is the best flavor combination—unexpected but oh so welcome to my grilled dinner anytime. Pair this with a Malbec or Tempranillo. Let the sun shine in!
Spice Rubbed Rib Eye Steaks
1 1/2 t sweet paprika
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t chipotle powder
1 1/2 t kosher salt
Two, 16-ounce, 1-inch thick, boneless rib eye steaks
Combine the salt, paprika, cumin and chipotle powder and rub the mixture all over the steaks. Let sit for a couple of hours out of the refrigerator. Get a bbq ready and grill the steaks over moderately high heat, turning once, until slightly charred and medium-rare, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer the steaks to a platter and slather with the lime butter.
Let the steaks rest for 5-6 minutes before serving.
4 T unsalted butter, softened
1 small garlic clove, minced
finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, lime zest, lime juice and a pinch of salt. Keep at room temp until the steaks are done.
The spring weather is entirely unpredictable this month. Last week and again today it turned cold, rainy and damp. I wanted some soup, but not the heavy soups of winter. Something lighter but still soothing and comforting, maybe with chicken and rice like I had as a child. Ta-dah! This soup fits the bill perfectly. Leeks, fresh peas and carrots signal spring and the lemon zest, lemon juice and basil keep it tangy and fresh. What a wonderful, tasty, springtime bowlful of bliss.
Lemon-y Chicken Soup with Basil, Veggies + Rice
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 leek, quartered, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and black pepper
1 t herbs de Provence
1 cup fresh English peas (or frozen peas)
1 cup zucchini, small dice
1 small head of broccoli, sectioned into small pieces
8 cups chicken stock
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or cubed (I poached mine in some chicken stock in the microwave for about 10 minutes, covered, or you can use rotisserie chicken for convenience)
2 T lemon zest
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 cups cooked white rice, or more to your liking
1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil leaves
Melt the oil and the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the leeks, onions, carrots, and sweat for about 3-5 minutes until slightly tender and the leeks are becoming translucent. Add the garlic and a pinch or two of salt and pepper, and the herbs de Provence; stir to combine. Next, add the chicken stock, and bring to a gentle simmer; cover partially with a lid, and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until carrots are tender.
Turn the heat off; add the peas, the zucchini, the broccoli, chicken breast, the lemon zest and juice; stir to combine, and allow the peas and zucchini to become crisp-tender and bright green in the hot stock, about 3-4 minutes; check to see if additional salt or pepper is needed. Stir in the rice and the basil. Serve hot with more lemon and basil if desired.
This soup freezes well. Makes enough for about 12 servings.
In Texas, where I grew up, the state fair is legendary. In fact, it's so famous that in 1962 Rodgers and Hammerstein made a musical about it called State Fair. I have always loved a good fair with the stuffed monkeys on a wand, the Ferris Wheel, felt hats with your name magically embroidered on in minutes, and of course CORN DOGS! Here in Calaveras County we also have a legendary county fair called the Jumping Frog Jubilee, made famous by Mark Twain's short story about the "celebrated jumping frog." Every third week in May people come from all over and bring or borrow a frog. They then compete to see how far they can get their frog to jump, hoping to be the next big winner. The Frog Jump is great, but the first thing I look for every year is the food trailer with the hand dipped corn dogs—none of those frozen, inauthentic ones for me! I am 'old school' about these crunchy, tasty dogs and eat mine with a side of mustard. They are also good with catsup if you must. See you out at the fair!
Miniature Corn Dogs
40 miniature sausages or cut regular hot dogs into thirds
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t cayenne
2 T plus 1 t sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 T water
Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the buttermilk and water together in a separate, larger bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir. Mixture will be lumpy. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes. In a high sided 8 qt pot, heat 4 cups of veggie oil to 375 degrees (use a candy thermometer). Stick each sausage with a 4" skewer or a toothpick. Make sure you leave enough sticking out to grab on to. Give the batter a stir and transfer into a smaller, deeper container if easier. Dip each sausage into the batter and holding the toothpick end, drop into the oil, frying only 3 at a time. Turn with a slotted spoon until golden. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Serve with mustard and catsup or whatever your favorite condiment is. Makes 40.
I love the month of May! The signs of spring are all around us and the weather is warm, but not too hot yet. Among my family and friends, May has a lot of birthday and anniversary celebrations—and then there is, of course, Mother's Day! I am fortunate to still have my mother in my life. She lives a couple of hours away and I try to spend a few nights with her each month. My mother is a wonderful woman but she has a weakness—she has a scary sweet tooth. She and her roommate Pearl are devout cookie, candy, cake, brownie and ice cream aficionados...it's everywhere in their house! Candy dishes in the living room, baskets of deliciousness on the kitchen counter and always ice cream in the freezer. Every time I stay with her I have to be on my guard.
I am making this scrumptious lemon cake to take to my mother this weekend because she loves desserts and because lemon is her favorite flavor. Although this desert travels well, I imagine it won't last long—none of the sweets in their house ever do. Happy Mother's Day!
Lemon Buttermilk Cake*
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt
3/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 c buttermilk, at room temperature
1 t pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 c confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then add the lemon zest.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Pour the batter into the pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes then remove the cakes from the pan and set them on a rack set over a sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.
Note: I did not do the final glaze on the cake pictured above because I served it with my lemon curd. If you get my blog in your email or follow me on FB, you will see the cake with the glaze there.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"