Stuffed Escarole Pizza

Last week, I continued my reign as the Girl That Blows Up Appliances. It’s quite the regal title, don’t you think? Although I prefer to look at it this way…. if nothing else, I’m consistent.

Consistently.

Anyway, as I was making the dough for this pizza, the mixer motor was skipping, chugging, sputtering and kept slowing down. A few minutes later, J walked into the kitchen and said, “Why do I smell a burning motor?”

Uh ohhhhhhhh. I finished making the dough by hand and silently thanked my mother for giving me her stand mixer, so I didn’t have to go into crisis mode yet.

Yet.

The next day, I set out to prepare the fig filling for our favorite Cucidati Cookies, as they are a MUST during the holidays. If you’re not familiar with them, they are close to a Fig Newton, but far, far superior. Of course, copious amounts of rum in the filling might have something to do with it. But I digress. I set a little mood music on Pandora (Jazz Holiday Hits), and tossed the figs, orange peel, almonds and spices into the food processor. And then pushed the start button. Chopping, chopping, chopping, stop.

What? No stop, keep chopping! The food processor, however, had other ideas. Like not working. Dang it.

I scraped the filling into a container and left to pick up the posse. When we returned home, J was at the house waiting for me. Imagine my surprise when he handed this to me:

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He said, “I don’t think the other mixer is going to make to the holidays”.

I was so overcome by his thoughtfulness and generosity that I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the food processor……

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Stuffed Escarole Pizza – adapted from Epicurious

  • 3 lb escarole (about 3 heads), tough outer ribs discarded and leaves thinly sliced (20 cups loosely packed)
  • 1 lb pizza dough at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 oz chilled Italian Fontina, coarsely grated (2 cups)

Put oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 500°F. Lightly oil 9″ springform pan. Cook escarole in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, then immerse colander in a large bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain again and press gently to remove excess water. Transfer escarole to a large kitchen towel, then gather corners and twist tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.

Cut off one third of dough (keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap) and pat into cake pan, covering bottom. Brush with 1 tablespoon oil and prick all over with a fork. Bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Let crust stand in pan on a rack.

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add escarole, black pepper, and crushed red pepper, and sauté, stirring, until escarole is coated with oil, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large shallow bowl to cool slightly, about 15 minutes, then stir in cheese.

Spread escarole filling over crust in pan, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edge. Roll out remaining dough into a 10-inch round (on a lightly floured board if it sticks). Transfer to pan, covering filling and tucking edge under bottom crust to form a flat top and completely enclose filling (stretch dough if necessary). Press edges to seal. Brush top with remaining tablespoon oil and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Run a sharp thin knife around edge of pan. Invert a rack over pan and, wearing oven mitts and holding pan and rack firmly together, flip pizza onto rack. Turn pizza right side up and cool 15 minutes before serving. Slide pizza onto a cutting board and cut into wedges.

 

 

Leek and Greens Pie

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat

Or at least in this house, it’s the Shih Tzu that’s getting fat:

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It’s not nice to say “fat” though …. so we shall say she’s getting….. plumpish.

She waits until Dyna the Indomitable Dachshund walks away from her bowl (Dyna eats one.piece.of.kibble.at.a.time… it’s maddening), then Daisy nonchalantly and very quietly moves in for the kill.

It’s quite genius, actually.

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And that story has nothing to do with this pie.

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However, making this recipe was a genius move on my part, because not only was it a cinch to put together, it was perfect warm from the oven (J and I had it for Thanksgiving dinner), and even better the next day.

Wait – I sense a familiar theme here… a genius move on Daisy’s part and a genius move on my part.

Great – I’m as intelligent as the dog.

Leek and Greens Pie – adapted from Food52

Cornmeal Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • pinch salt
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water, plus more as necessary

In a mixing bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt.

Add in the butter, then working quickly rub it in with your fingers or cut it in with a pastry cutter until it is mixed in and you have lumps about the size of peas. Stir in the quarter cup water with a fork until the dough just comes together into a bunch of large dough clumps. Add more water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to form the dough. Gather the pieces together and press them into a ball. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other, flatten them into discs, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate them at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.

When you are ready to make the pie, take the larger dough disc out of the fridge. If it is too hard to roll, let it sit at room temperature 5-10 minutes, but you don’t want it to get too soft. On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of dough out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lightly drape the rolled dough over a 9-inch round pie pan, press it into the pan and trim the edges. Wait to roll out the other piece of dough until the pie is filled.

Line the bottom crust with parchment or foil and weight it. Bake in a 425F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, remove the weights and lining, return to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes. Then, set aside.

Greens Filling: 

  • 1 large bag of mixed winter greens
  • cloves of garlic, minced
  • medium leeks, washed well and thinly sliced – just the white and light green portions
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • cup packed grated Gruyere cheese
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • eggs
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the leeks. Stir and cook for 5 minutes over medium, then turn the heat to medium low and cook until the leeks are a lovely soft golden pile, about another 20 minutes. Turn the heat back to medium, stir in the greens and garlic, and cook for another 5 minutes until the flavors have mingled and any extra liquid has cooked off.

Transfer to a bowl. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the cheese, lemon juice, eggs and sour cream until everything is well combined.

Spread the vegetable and cheese mixture into the prepared tart crust. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the second piece of dough into a 9 inch circle (use a pie plate to trace and trim it into a perfect circle), cut a shape or slits in the top and lay this over the tart filling. You don’t need to seal the top crust with the bottom, leaving a space gives the tart another air vent, and adds aesthetic interest.

Place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom shelf of your oven to catch any drips, and place the tart on the middle shelf. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly and fragrant. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before attempting to serve

Serve the pie warm or at room temperature.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi

True story: up until last week, I have never tried a Pierogi, much less attempted to make one. So how, inquiring minds want to know, did I find myself making 10 dozen of them last Sunday evening?

The answer, believe it or not, is surprising simple – J and I were inspired after catching an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, and when I casually mentioned that I’d never had them, he suggested that we make some.

And oh-by-the-way he could then have a few dozen to take to work for the Holiday party they were having the next day.

Am I imagining things, or did he have an ulterior motive? Hmmmmm.

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A word from the wise: this is a time-consuming project, albeit a very tasty one. The recipe states that it takes an hour and a half  – which it might, if you’re a professional pierogi-maker… I, however, am not. Allow several hours, and recruit other suckers friends to assist, it will go much more quickly.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi – adapted from Food Network
Pierogi Dough:
4 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tbs. olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
Nonstick cooking spray

Mashed Potato Filling:
2 pounds red potatoes (I used russets)
Kosher salt
4 oz butter
4 oz cream cheese
3 oz sour cream
1 tbs granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 pound soft European farmer’s cheese
Milk to thin, if necessary
Nonstick cooking spray

For the pierogi dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, olive oil, eggs, salt and 2 1/2 cups warm water. Start the mixer on slow for a minute, and then switch to high for another couple of minutes until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Then slow the mixer down to medium speed and slowly add the remaining 1 cup warm water. Once the water is absorbed, return the mixer to high and let the dough beat for 10 minutes.

Remove from the bowl. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Form into balls, spray with nonstick spray, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in a warmer area for 20 minutes.

Spray the counter or large cutting board with the nonstick spray and begin to roll the dough with a rolling pin. Roll until a consistent thickness of 1/4-inch. Then spray with nonstick spray. (If it gets too thin, that’s ok as you can re-ball and roll out again.) Use about a 3-inch circle cutter and press down hard and give a slight twist to completely separate from the rest of the dough, continue this throughout the entire piece.

Remove the scraps and in-betweens, save, re-ball and re-roll. Then flip the circle cut-outs; they are ready to be stuffed.

For the mashed potato filling: Boil the red potatoes, leaving the skin on, in a stock pot with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Once the potatoes are soft, drain off the water and place in the mixer bowl with the dough hook or paddle attachment. Add the butter right away so it will start to melt. Then add the cream cheese, sour cream, granulated garlic, onion powder and black and white peppers into the bowl and mix on a medium speed. Mix until smooth and free of all lumps. Now add the farmer’s cheese and mix on high for a couple minutes until a little fluffy. Season with kosher salt. Loosen with milk if necessary. Let cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray (so the delicate dough doesn’t stick. Place about 1 teaspoon of the potato and cheese filling in the center of all the cut-outs. (I like to use a bamboo skewer or large toothpick to remove the filling from the spoon to keep your hands clean.) Then pick up the dough with two hands and fold over the filling. Slightly pull out both sides at the base of the fold, then continue to pull, then pinch, and form and seal as you continue around the half moon. Double check for any areas that aren’t smooth or completely sealed. Repeat. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

In a large saucepan bring three-quarters of a gallon of water to a rapid boil. One by one, drop in the pierogis. Par-boil them until they float, about 5 minutes. Then place them back on a greased baking sheet to let cool.

To serve: Cover the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, saute the pierogis; they should sizzle once they hit the oil. After a minute or so, flip them, looking for a golden brown color. Plate with sauteed onions (if desired) and a side of sour cream for dipping. Drizzle with the butter and sprinkle with the parsley. Enjoy!

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole

It just dawned on me that Thanksgiving Day is 5 weeks and 1 day away.

Say WHAT?

Whoa. Dare I say I’m ready for it? I truly am, because this holiday season is going to be epic. J and I have a few options this year, as the posse will be away from home again. Oh, it’s ok, don’t feel sad for me, because Thanksgiving, to me, is akin to a Sunday Dinner. Which means, quite frankly, you can do it any day of the year. Everyone comes together, there’s lots of chatter, reminiscing, sharing, love, family, and of course, copious amounts of food and wine.

Wait, that sounded like my birthday week in Vegas…..

Anyway, as I said, it’s not a holiday that has monumental sentiment for me (that would be Christmas, and you can bet your last dollar they will be home with us for that!), but don’t think for one minute that I don’t get sucked into every glossy magazine showing off their finest and most delectable dishes for the season.

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With 98% of my cookbooks/baking magazines still  in storage, I’m having to exercise tremendous self control not to buy each and every one of them. Actually, I told Sabrina this morning that next week, we will break into the storage unit and start pulling out holiday lights and a few boxes of books.

Yes, I’m one of those people that starts decorating in November. Like November 1. 

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole – adapted form Southern Living

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Bring milk just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in butter and grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until grits are done. Remove from heat.Stir in egg, cheese, and pepper. ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture is set. Serve immediately.

Roasted Cauliflower and Ricotta Pizza

I have a very complex and complicated relationship with homemade pizza. I have multiple kitchen gadgets (dough docker, iron pizza stone, and mini pizza oven, to name just a few) to assist me in the creation/baking process, yet I am invariably disappointed with the results. Either the crust is flavorless, underdone, overdone, lacking that wonderful crispy/chewy bite you get from restaurant style pizza, or is just plain blahhhh.

Until now. 

This recipe, from the current issue of Bon Appetit, was foolproof and delicious. The crust had the perfect ratio of crunchy edges to chewy middle, the topping was outstanding, and although there were a few steps to creating this masterpiece (i.e don’t attempt it for a weeknight dinner unless you have all the components prepped ahead of time), it was well worth every bit of time and effort to make it.

In fact, I think I’m going to try one of the other variations for tonight’s dinner.

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Roasted Cauliflower and Ricotta Pizza – adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters, seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Breadcrumbs

  • 1 cup finely ground breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup)

Assembly

  • Cauliflower:

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss cauliflower, lemon, and garlic with oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.
Roast, tossing occasionally, until cauliflower is tender but not browned, about 20 minutes. Squeeze lemon juice over cauliflower and toss to coat. Discard lemon and garlic, if desired.
  • Breadcrumbs

Meanwhile, toss breadcrumbs and oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Let cool; toss with Parmesan.

  • Assembly

Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 525° or as high as oven will go.
Once dough has risen in baking sheet, top with mozzarella, dot with ricotta, and top with cauliflower mixture. Bake until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes. Top pie with toasted breadcrumbs and bake 1 minute longer.

Serve topped with parsley.

 

Collard Green Gratin

Prior to our big move to Texas, I never would have thought to try collard greens. I could blame ignorance, apathy, or my personal favorite, my unyielding force of habit to always reach for either spinach or arugula.

Silly girl.

I really wish I had been enlightened to their deliciousness sooner in life. Not as bitter as rapini or swiss chard, and with a texture similar to escarole, these greens are good and good for you.

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That was my sales pitch to the posse, in case you were wondering why I sounded like I was selling something.

Really though, anytime you take crisp greens, sauté them with onions and garlic, and smother them in a homemade white cheddar cheese bechamel sauce, you can’t lose.

Well, at the end of the day, I guess I did, because Sabrina ate the last of gratin yesterday when she came home from school ….. and now there’s none left.

Collard Green Gratin – adapted from epicurious

  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb. bag chopped collard greens
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk

Combine breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet; toast over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat and season with pepper.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Add greens and cook until wilted, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and very pale brown, about 4 minutes. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil. Whisk in cheese, and pour the sauce over the collard greens mixture and mix to combine; season with pepper.

Pour the mixture into a large gratin dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Bake until the gratin is bubbling – about 15-20 minutes.

 

Samosas

These little devils…… innocent as they may seem, they almost caused me to have a breakdown of sorts.

Interestingly enough, it was neither the filling nor the preparation of the dough that caused my inner turmoil.

It was forming them. 

I couldn’t get the hang of shaping them the way the recipe instructs… so rather than throw everything out the window, I took a piece of advice from Sabrina and made them into a mezzaluna shape.

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Which made me wonder…. is it possible to commit a cross-cultural offense by using an Italian shape for an Indian snack food?

Samosas – adapted from Saveur

Note: I baked these at 375 degrees instead of frying them.

3 cups flour
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
¾ cup ice-cold water
½ lb. russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. canola oil, plus more
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 (1″) piece ginger, peeled and minced
¾ cup frozen peas, defrosted
¼ cup minced cilantro
¼ cup minced mint
½ tsp. garam masala
2 small green Thai chiles or 1 serrano, minced
Tamarind and mango chutneys, for serving (optional)

1. Make the dough: Pulse flour and butter in a food processor into pea-size crumbles. Add water; pulse until dough forms. Divide into 12 balls; chill 1 hour.

2. Make the filling: Boil potatoes and carrots in a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water until tender, 8–10 minutes. Drain; coarsely mash. Add 2 tbsp. oil to pan; heat over medium-high. Cook cumin seeds until they pop, 1–2 minutes. Add onion and ginger; cook until golden, 4–6 minutes. Let cool; stir into potato mixture with peas, cilantro, mint, garam masala, and chile.

3. Form and fry samosas: Working with 1 ball at a time, roll dough into a 6″ round; cut in half. Gather straight edges of 1 half-round together, overlapping by ¼” to form a cone. Moisten seam with water; press to seal. Spoon 1 tbsp. filling into cone. Moisten edges of cone with water; pinch to seal. Heat 2″ oil in a 6-qt. saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. Fry samosas until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Drain on paper towels; serve with chutneys if you like.