It seems as though all of my friends and even my sister are getting on the wood-fired pizza oven bandwagon (think Uuni). I think it's great! These small ovens heat up to 900 degrees in about 30 minutes and make everything taste like it came out of a backyard oven in the Tuscan countryside. Pizza parties are a no-brainer...the guests bring a few topping ingredients and the host supplies the dough. (You could make your own but
Trader Joe's has a good one, ready to roll out. You can also buy from your local pizza place.) The possibilities are endless but simple combinations are best. I found two kinds of kale, some arugula flowers and thyme in the garden, added some caramelized onions, roasted garlic, fresh mozzarella and some sliced Yukon Golds for a deliciously different pie. Hang out, watch how quickly it's done, and marvel at the sight of these puffed and blistered discs from heaven.
Caramelized Onion +Potato + Kale + Fresh Mozzarella Pizzetta
1 head of fresh garlic
good olive oil, about 1/4 c
2 small Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 small bunch of kale, torn off the stem and chopped coarsely
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 dz small, fresh mozzarella balls, torn in half
fresh thyme, pulled from the stem
arugula blossoms or other sweet flower, violets would be good (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the very top off of the garlic, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until soft. Toss the sliced potatoes in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange on a sheet pan. Bake (at the same time as the garlic) for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet and add the onions, a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for about 15 minutes, stirring often, over medium heat until soft and golden brown. Remove from the pan, add a bit more oil and then add the kale. Sauté for about 5 minutes until limp. Assemble all of your ingredients in 'to go' containers for the party. Roll out your dough and brush with olive oil. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves and spread on the crust. Place the onions over the garlic then the kale. Arrange the potatoes on top and then dot with the cheese. Bake and then sprinkle with the flowers and fresh thyme just before serving. Makes 2 pizzettas.
Avocado toast is fairly ubiquitous these days but I had a version on my last trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico that surprised me. It featured a guacamole-style avocado mash with a crumble of feta cheese and—the shocker—capers! The bread was toasted on the grill which added a pleasant smokiness and rustic simplicity, which I liked. Cutting the toasts on the diagonal is a must according to Adam Rapoport (editor in chief at Bon Appetit magazine). It seems that the sharp points matter when enjoying an open-faced delight such as this! This recipe would work equally well as small hors-d'oeuvres, a plated appetizer and a healthy lunch by adjusting the size of the portion. Try this delicious take and see if you don't fall in love with avocado toast all over again.
2 Hass avocados
2 T red onion, chopped in a fine dice
2 T chopped, fresh cilantro
1/2 of a chile serrano, seeded (or to taste), chopped finely
5 T olive oil, divided (1 T for the mash and 4 T for the toasts)
1 T fresh squeezed lime juice
a pinch sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper
Rustic Italian bread or baguette, sliced thinly (depending on your purpose)
3 - 5 capers per slice
3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Mash the avocados in a bowl (with a fork) with the onion, cilantro, chile and 1 T of olive oil. Add the lime juice and season to taste with the salt and pepper. (Remember the capers
and cheese are also salty.) Brush the bread slices lightly with olive oil and grill
(or toast in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown). Spoon the avocado mixture on the bread slices, sprinkle with the cheese and place the capers on top.
This recipe comes from my friends at Daiquiri Dick's in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where this appetizer is a frequent favorite on their menu.
Every Saturday in Puerto Vallarta, there's a Farmer's Market at the plaza in "the romantic zone". It's always one of the highlights of my visit. Local farmers and food vendors come together to share what they've grown and produced with the 'snow birds', part timer's, permanent expats and Mexican nationals. Last Saturday, there was seafood paella, candied nuts (all kinds), Thai food, creamy coconut water, homemade yogurt, hummus, cheeses, tortillas, tacos and tamales (duh) along with baked goods and of course beautiful produce. I came looking for rocket (aka arugula) and in the process also found some beautiful fennel and a bunch of golden beets...perfect salad ingredients!. According to Gillian Riley, author of the Oxford Companion to Italian Food, rocket has a reputation as a sexual stimulant and it was "prudently mixed with lettuce, which was the opposite", who knew? The combination of the spicy, sexy rocket with the crisp and mild anise flavor of the fennel is a perfect base for the sweet, earthy beets. The addition of some thinly sliced red onion and salty feta cheese adds just the right touch. This salad just might be the perfect addition to your St. Valentine's Day menu... lucky devil.
Golden Beet, Shaved Fennel & Rocket Salad
a few big handfuls of fresh rocket (arugula), washed and dried well.
1 bulb fennel, cut in half and sliced thinly (I use a mandoline)
1 bunch of golden beets (or any color of beet)
1/4 of a red onion, cut into 1/4's sliced thinly
1/2 c crumbled feta (optional)
for the vinaigrette:
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 T dijon mustard
1 T honey
1 T chopped, fresh basil leaves
1 T rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper, a few grinds of each
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tops off of the beets, wash and dry them well. Place them on a piece of foil on a sheet pan and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Close the foil and roast until done 45-55 minutes. I like them to have a bit of resistance when poked with a knife since they will be eaten in a salad. Let them cool and then peel, the skin should come off pretty easily. Prepare the vinaigrette, mix the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking to emulsify. Toss the rocket in a bit of the vinaigrette and place on 4 plates by small handfuls. Toss the fennel and red onion together with a little vinaigrette and place on top of the rocket, then top with some of the beets. Drizzle lightly with more vinaigrette and then sprinkle with the feta. You could sprinkle with some torn basil if you like. Serves 4.
My dear friends Peter and Tari Bowman live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have credited them in my bio with giving me my start in catering - having to do with them moving to Mexico in 1981, buying a restaurant on the beach, and never returning. They not only gave me my start in catering, they gave me a thirst for adventure…in cooking and life. I have always admired them for their bravery, stamina and talents - no sissies could survive the restaurant world in Mexico. Survive they did and 36 years later I am still coming to visit and they are still running their very successful beach restaurant, Daiquiri Dick’s. On the first day of my vacation, I stopped in to the restaurant for a bite to eat, I try to eat as much fish as possible when I am down here so I ordered this dish on the menu described as 'Shrimp in a Wonton Canasta with Salsa Playera, (*fresh shrimp tossed in a spicy but sweet/tart green salsa and served in a fried wonton ‘basket’). It was perfect for my re-entry into Mexico! So fresh and prepared simply, it just might be the perfect appetizer for a Super Bowl (or any) party back home too! Try adding chunked avocado or diced red peppers for a bit more color and added flavor!
This recipe was originally printed in the cookbook "Sand in Your Shoes, The Daiquiri Dick's Kitchen Workbook" by Rafael Nazario. Available on Amazon. I highly recommend it.
* I have attached a you tube video (just for fun) for you to check out. I made this video about 9 years ago, my first and only video to date. It cracks me up. Maybe I will try taping a video again soon, this one borders on embarrassing!
Shrimp in Wonton Baskets with 'Playera' Salsa
4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cilantro roots (I know, difficult to find so... substitute stems and a few leaves)
2 serrano chiles, chopped (leave the seeds in for a bit of heat)
1 1/2 t sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
3/4 c rice wine vinegar
2 c shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked and cooled (cut into medium chunks if large)
12 baby tomatoes cut into quarters (or 1-2 plum tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly)
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
chunked avocado and/or thinly sliced red peppers, optional
12 wonton baskets (see below)
Place the first six ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour over the shrimp, tomatoes and green onions, (avocado and red pepper if using) and toss well. Allow to marinate for a few minutes. Just before serving, spoon into the wonton baskets. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
For the baskets:
1 pkg square wonton skins (found in the produce section of your local market)
1 egg, beaten with a bit of water (you'll need another egg if you are doing a bunch)
canola or veggie oil for frying
Brush the corners of the wonton wrapper with the egg wash. Pinch together both sides of the same corner on all four corners, creating the basket. Fry in the oil (325 degrees) until golden. Drain and cool on paper towels.
These baskets are great for stuffing with just about anything. Be sure to fill just before serving so they don't get soggy.
Here's the problem...when is chili 'chili' and when is it soup? I have been wondering about this since yesterday when I made a chili (Martha Stewart inspired) but ended up with a soup. It was my fault, really. When I was done with the recipe, it just didn't feel right to me, so I added two more cups of stock and it became... soup. Was it just me or does REAL chili need to be a "bowl of red" with beef? Is everything else just a chunky soup? I did some research to find out. According to one definition, "chili is a thick, hearty soup with beans, meat and chile powder". Another said that "the addition of cumin" makes it chili. All of these ingredients are in my chili, errrr...soup? I finally realized that it's more of a personal thing, if you want to call it chili, great, and if you prefer to call it soup, well, that's okay too.
Chicken and White Bean Chili
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t ground coriander
2 t chili powder ( I used New Mexico chile powder from The Spice Tin)
1 4 oz can mild diced green chiles
6 c chicken broth ( I like Swanson's if you don't have homemade)
3 T fine cornmeal
2 15.5 oz cans of white Navy beans, rinsed drained (any white bean will work)
Sour cream, cilantro sprigs, tortilla chips, and lime wedges for serving
Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large (6 quart) pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear chicken in batches, turning once, until golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium; add onion and poblanos. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, coriander, and chili powder, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Stir in canned chiles. Add chicken back to pot along with broth and juices, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through and flavors meld, about 15 minutes.
Remove chicken to a plate and shred into bite-size pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together cornmeal with 1 cup hot cooking liquid. Return to pot, along with beans, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in chicken until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. Divide among bowls and top with sour cream, fresh cilantro sprigs, tortilla chips and lime. Serves 6.
Voted Best Caterer for Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties 2016