Say what? Are my eyes really seeing what they see? Does that sign say ‘Heirloom Tomatoes’? It’s the middle of winter…must be a mistake. But they look like heirloom tomatoes. They have variegated colors and bumpy exteriors, they must be heirlooms.
Imported from Mexico….ahhh, that’s right, not every place in the world right now has two feet of snow. I just couldn’t resist taking home a little bit of someone else’s better weather conditions into my own home. Everyone deserves a reprise, and since a vaca to Hawaii is not in my near future, these tomatoes will have to do.
Plus they give me the perfect opportunity to discuss a little food photography. Sometimes it’s hard to decide how to photograph food. Picking out all the accessories is fun, but shooting food in a unique and different way, well…it’s difficult.
I knew that I wanted to keep my recipe very simple to highlight my wonderful tomatoes. I also thought they might look beautiful just shot by themselves. I put them in a gorgeous bamboo bowl and set them down on my hardwood floors, a nice tone on tone look so you only notice the tomatoes….that is until you get photo bombed by Summer (the dog).
“I heard it from a friend who, heard from a friend, who heard that you’ve been messing around”
Can you name that band?
Folks, I’ve been messing around. That is on other food blogs. Some of you know that I belong to the Secret Recipe Club, it’s a place where you get assigned another blog, you cook one of their recipes and then post it. There is blog hop on each of the posts so everyone can check out the big reveals. In August, while I was hopping around, there was one recipe I just could not get out of my mind. Plus I had one sheet of puff pastry that was in my freezer for an undetermined amount of time (Christmas, I think?).
Jam Hands had posted a recipe for an Asparagus Gruyere Tart that she got from The Chefanies who got it from Martha Stewart, who’s been heard to be messing around….no wait, that’s me, I’m the one messing around (Sorry Martha). This tart was so beautiful, seemed relatively easy (bonus) and had gruyere cheese. I was done for and I had to try it.
True to most cooks form, I couldn’t leave a good enough recipe alone. To make it my own I added a roasted garlic puree under the cheese, grilled the asparagus (you know I’m a grilling queen), and added crispy pancetta bits. I think lately it’s become my goal to take things to an unhealthier level if possible.
Truthfully, the layers and levels of flavor were so. freaking. good. Now my Baby boy kept calling it asparagus pizza, but who cares, he ate asparagus so call it what ever you like honey. I imagine this as a perfect brunch dish, or cut into smaller squares as a great appetizer.
I’m thinking of making another one tomorrow and the next day and the next….
Can I just tell you that the bees have been horrible here, this is the second bee that has invaded my photos. Not only that, I’ve been stung TWICE this summer. Hold on, I have to make a public announcement.
This is actually not a bee, it is a yellow jacket from the Wasp family. It’s true, I wouldn’t lie to you. Actually, I had to clarify that or McGyver would surly leave me a comment (we had a little debate over whether yellow jackets are bees or not—guess who was right…again). Because I’m a rebel, I’m still calling them bees. After all, if McGyver can call a harvest chili a stew and the Baby boy can call a tart a pizza, I think I can call a wasp a bee.
To prepare the garlic (can be done ahead of time) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove all the loose outer skin of the garlic bulb. Cut the top of garlic off (the pointy side) to expose the garlic. Place garlic on some aluminum foil, drizzle with the olive oil and generously salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until the head is soft to touch. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Squeeze the garlic from each of the cloves, place into a food processor or blender, pour in any remaining oil. While pureeing slowly add more olive oil until the roasted garlic is the consistency of of mayonnaise (1 to 2 tablespoons of oil is usually plenty).
On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
While the pastry is baking, grill the asparagus. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; lightly coat asparagus with olive oil and grill over high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, rolling the asparagus occasionally for even cooking.
Remove pastry shell from oven, spread the roasted garlic puree evenly over the shell and sprinkle with Gruyere. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Sprinkle the cooked pancetta over the top and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the cheese completely melts, 10 to 15 minutes. Serves up to 10-12.
Wondering who that band was? Here’s a little video clip to help you along.
Did you know that REO Speedwagon is touring again, Seriously, I saw them in concert in 1980 (yes, I know, I’m old). Good for them, I’m sure it’s great to be back on the road again.
This post is dedicated to my not daughter. Unbeliever of grilled pizzas. Recently on Facebook, she announced that she was going to make homemade pizza…
Naturally I had to post a grilled pizza recipe. I took photo’s of all the steps, it’s good for the kids. We were at the cabin so I made the dough the old fashioned way, but it can be done in a food processor, mixer with a hook, or use a bread machine on the dough setting.
After the dough rises, it gets punched down, has a second rise and then it is rolled out into personal pizzas. Paint each side with olive oil and salt and pepper one side if desired.
During that second rise, get all the desired toppings together. I used this opportunity to experiment with different toppings. If you are grilling a pizza, any toppings that you don’t want raw, pre-cook them (for example my pancetta, spinach and mushrooms). Make sure you prep all your toppings prior to grilling.
You can grill pizza over coals or a gas grill. If you use coals, make sure that they are totally ashen, it’s the radiant heat that will cook the dough. If you use a gas grill, fire it up all the way to 500F or or as high as your grill will go if it doesn’t go up to 500F.
When grilling a pizza, always start with the top side down first (the salt and pepper side), flip it over with tongs or a spatula. Immediately place your toppings on while the other side is grilling, this way is so the cheese has time to melt. If you have a lid, you can cover the pizza for a couple of minutes to help the melting along.
I grilled four types: a regular Margherita, pepperoni and sauteed mushrooms with a red sauce, pancetta and sauteed spinach with a roasted garlic puree, and what ended up being our favorite, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and a roasted garlic puree. For all pizza’s I used a mozzarella/asiago cheese combo and some fresh basil and oregano.
If you are a thin crust lover, this is the absolute best way to cook pizza at home. If you like big puffy and doughy pizzas…order out.
1 cup warm water (100F to 110F)
1 tsp. sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast
2 tsps. extra virgin olive oil plus extra for coating dough
2 1/4 cup flour, plus extra for dusting
Salt and pepper
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
6 oz. warm water
2 tbsp. red wine (optional)
3 tbsp. grated parmesan
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of salt
Roasted Garlic Puree
What ever else your little heart desires.
Dough: Pour 1 cup water into a medium bowl, sprinkle on sugar and yeast. Let stand until foamy , about 10 minutes. Whisk oil and 1 tsp. salt into yeast mixture. Add flour and stir until blended. Knead dough in a floured work surface until it forms an elastic ball, about 2 minutes.
transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm dry area for 45 minutes or until it has doubled. Punch down, recover and let rise another 30 minutes. When the sough is finished with it’s second rise, divide the dough into fourths. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and form with fingers. Let rest 15 minutes.
Lightly bush each side of the dough with some olive oil, salt and pepper one side if desired. Carefully transfer dough to a hot grill. Grill top side (salt and pepper) down first. Place over direct heat and grill for a couple of minutes, flip the dough and add the toppings. Cover the pizza and finish grilling for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Pizza Sauce: Mix dry ingredient. Add tomato paste, water and wine, whisk together and let sit for 30 minutes before using. Do ahead tip, you can make this the day before, just omit the Parmesan cheese and stir in at the last minute. You may need to add water if it thickens too much. If using it on grilled pizza let it come to room temperature first.
Cooks Notes: Make sure you prep all your ingredients first, the grilling time goes very quickly. Use minimal ingredients, too many and they won’t get cooked and the thin crust won’t be able to handle it. Pre-cook any toppings that need to be cooked thoroughly or you like cooked, such as sausage and bacon, onions, spinach and mushrooms.
This weekend we went up to the cabin, like we do most of the Summer time. This time McGyver suggested we go for a stroll through the woods. A stroll through the nice shady woods on a hot summer day, who could resist. We loaded up in the Rhino and Becca was coming along (Summer dog is deathly afraid of our 4 wheeler) and we headed to where the state land begins.
We snaked through some barbed wire fence and went on a freaking 500 mile hike, okay maybe 50 miles, would you believe 5 miles? Right, it was only about two miles round trip. And let me tell you this, when you are going up a mountain, it no longer becomes a stroll it becomes a, gulp, hike. For all my huffing, puffing, wheezing and complaining, it probably felt like 555 miles to McGyver!
My calves were screaming and my lungs were crying…suddenly I became weirdly fascinated with moss. “Hey honey, look how the sun is making the moss look. It’s such a vibrant green, I really should take some photos of it!” I’m so sneaky, a person can’t take pictures and stroll hike at the same time, can they?
Turns out there was an ulterior motive to our little stroll, deer hunting starts in less than a week and McGyver was merely stalking out a place to put his tree stand. I made it to our destination without dying, but I was in no mood to go inspect every tree in the area.
That is when I decided to become the world’s foremost leader in thistle photography. Count yourself lucky that I am only showing a miniscule amount of what I shot. (I’ve been reading books on digital photography and I think I’m becoming obsessed, shhh, don’t tell McGyver, he knows that means $$$$ and time….)
Then I began channeling Georgia O’Keefe and that’s when McGyver noticed the crazy budding photographer look in my eyes and insisted we head back.
By now it was after noon and blazing hot (here in Montana that is anything over 80°F). I wasn’t the only fat ol’ gal who was panting and heaving. Poor old Becca dog was so thirsty (we are bad parents and did NOT bring water for our…well, we were just going for a stroll…). That poor dog drank out of the nastiest water I could imagine…so I had to take a picture…someone help me….
My old Becca dog was so tired, I don’t think we had walked 20 yards past her ‘drinking hole’ before she just decided to flop down and take 5. If I wasn’t so prissy, I might have done the same thing!
I am not used to exercise, so let me tell you, I was hungry when we got back. I needed protein and Gatorade quick! It’s tough to maintain this athletic body of mine…riiiiight. Fortunately I had done a little planning and had made up some Greek Style Chicken Salad ahead of time.
I need to share with you that this did not start out as a chicken salad sandwich. I originally shredded some cold rotisserie chicken, put in a pita half, slapped some spinach leaves in it, added tzatziki sauce, feta cheese and olives on it. Problem was, I was getting dry bites of just chicken in places and not enough feta cheese in every bite. My solution was to turn it into a chicken salad, Greek style, sandwich. It was brilliant, I choose not to mix in the kalamata olives because I enjoyed the occasional surprise of a nice briny kalamata olive.
Some recipes call for the yogurt to be drained for a couple of hours so that it becomes super thick and isn’t affected by the cucumbers breaking down. I prefer to leave my Greek yogurt as is, and salt the cucumbers and let them drain on a rack for 30 minutes to rid them of the excess moisture. This ensures a super creamy tzatziki! I also used mint instead of dill, it gave it a real pop! I heart tzatziki so much that I even piled extra sauce onto my sandwich…slap my hand…bad girl!
Budget hint: Did you know that a lot of grocery stores have cold rotisserie chicken in their deli section for up to 50% off? When the hot birds go over their time limit, they get put into cold storage and get reduced by 50%. The draw back? The breasts tend to be a little dry, reserve them for things like soup or creamy chicken salad!
Greek Style Chicken Salad Sandwiches
2 cups Greek Yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
1 medium cucumber
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 2 tbsp. chopped mint (or dill)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pita bread, halved
1 1/2 cups diced cook chicken
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
baby spinach (if desired)
kalamata olives (if desired)
diced red onion (if desired)
Tzatziki sauce: Peel cucumber, slice cucumber in half length wise. using a small spoon, scoop out seeds so that the cucumber looks like a canoe. Lightly sprinkle the cucumber with the salt and invert on a rack for approximately 30 minutes to remove excess moisture. Dice cucumbers into small pieces. In a medium bowl mix in the diced cucumbers, yogurt, minced garlic, mint and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Mix well.
In a medium bowl add the chicken and the feta cheese. Add approximately 1 cup of the sauce to the chicken and mix, if it isn’t creamy enough add more sauce in a small portions and add until you get the desired consistency. (I like mine super creamy, if you have left over tzatziki, it’s perfect for pita chips.)
Place the Greek styled chicken salad in a spinach lined, split pita. Top with Kalamata olives and diced red onion if desired.
The stroll hike wasn’t the only thing we did this weekend. McGyver made us a compost bin. I rocked the idea from Young House Love. Of course McGyver did the work.
McGyver decided to teach himself bow hunting so he got this cool bow.
He also spent a good amount of time ‘arrow hunting’.
We’re heading back up there for Labor Day weekend…I’m going to challenge myself with some outdoor cooking…stay tuned.
Ask my family what their favorite Seafood is? Shrimp, they’ll cheer! Ask my family what their favorite starch is? Pasta, they’ll cheer! Ask my family what their favorite meat is? Bacon they’ll cheer! Ask the doggies what’s their favorite? And they’ll cheer, EVERYTHING!
Poor Summer thinks she’s a Circus dog, until she looses her balance and tips over.
McGyver and I couldn’t stop laughing!
Summer dog finally succeeded, but then she thought every noodle was for her.
Becca dog had something different in mind (see those greedy little eyes?).
I couldn’t go wrong with Shrimp, Pancetta and Spaghetti.
Shrimp and Pancetta Spaghetti
16 oz. dried spaghetti noodles, cooked
3 oz. pancetta, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. peeled shrimp
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for the table
1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs
In a large fry pan, cook pancetta over medium high heat until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove from pan and drain on a paper towel. Set aside. To the left over fat add olive oil and butter. Saute the garlic for approximately 2 minutes. Add shrimp, thyme and lemon juice. Cook until the shrimp turns pink. Add the noodles, pancetta and cheese. Toss/mix well. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately and top with toasted bread crumbs and extra parmesan cheese.
Fall bounty abounds and from the earth comes the turnip. A friend told me once that he heard that when God made the turnip, he looked at it and said “this is not right, I am going to bury it underground so hopefully no one will find it”. Looks like burying it wasn’t enough, although many people wished the poor turnip would stay in the ground.
I always thought of the turnip as an old fashioned vegetable. Only served by depression era grandparents. The same grandparents who put it in any soup or stew they thought they could get away with. As a child I didn’t care for turnips, actually I detested them. They had this sharp overpowering flavor, too strong for my sensitive child taste buds. Every Time my grandmother made soup or stew I was suddenly not hungry. I didn’t eat another turnip until, well, until just recently when Sam brought a bunch to work and declared they were free for the taking. If it’s free its for me! I couldn’t resist free homegrown veggies. It was time to give the maligned turnip another chance.
Not ready to go full on turnip, I went halfsie with potatoes and then smothered them in cream and Parmesan cheese, I dotted it with some pancetta and I just have to say “ Hallelujah”! Welcome back to my life…
2 cups heavy cream
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbs dried thyme
pinch of cayenne
1/2 stick of butter
1 pound turnips, peeled and sliced very thin
1 pound red bliss potatoes, washed and sliced very thin
6 0z pancetta, diced
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
Butter a 9 x 9 casserole pan
Smash and peel cloves.
Put cream, garlic and salt in a medium sauce pan (be careful with the salt since the Parmesan and pancetta are both salty).
Fry the pancetta until nice and crispy.
Add the thyme and cayenne to the cream. Bring to a boil, turn off heat and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a mandolin or food processor, thinly slice the turnips and potatoes.
Drain the pancetta and set aside.
Please bear with me…I was losing light very quickly. I prepped at my dining room table to squeeze the last little bit of light out, but I didn’t take a full array of photos.
Darn the fall, please don’t take my sunshine away!
Okay enough ranting and back to the job at hand. Take one third of the turnips and potatoes and layer them in the pan.
Then take one third of the grated Parmesan cheese and pancetta, and layer on top of the potatoes and turnips.
Dot with one third of the butter.
Continue with the remaining two thirds of the turnips, potatoes, cheese, gratin and butter.
Remove the garlic cloves from the cream mixture.
Pour the steeped cream over the layered turnip/potato mix.
Cover with foil. Bake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove the foil and cook for another 20 minutes until golden. When it’s finished a knife should slide in and out of the center of the dish easily.
Let the dish rest for approximately 10 minutes prior to serving.
Enjoy layer after layer of pure goodness. I can’t tell you how great this dish is. The salty pancetta and cream was a perfect compliment to the “sharp” taste of the turnip. If you have a chance to score some turnips, you must make this dish, no question about it!