Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday


Monday, September 24, 2012

Meatless Monday: Pizza Margherita

My food tour of Italy is almost over and I couldn't leave without having a pizza. I mean, what says "Italy" more than a pizza? And this recipe is one of the easiest pizzas you'll ever make!

The history of Pizza Margherita goes back to 1889, when Chef Raffaele Esposito created a pizza featuring the colors of Italy - tomatoes (red), cheese (white), and basil (green) - in honor of Queen Margherita's visit to Naples. His recipe is wonderful in its simplicity and unbelievably delicious. I didn't miss the sauce typically found on most pizzas and have already started thinking of other sauce less combinations for pizza! Pizza Margherita is a fantastic Meatless Monday recipe and one I'll definitely be making again.

This recipe calls for a pre-baked pizza crust. You can use a store-bought crust, like Boboli, or you can make your own. If you need an easy pizza crust recipe, you can find one HERE. For this pizza, I omitted the Italian seasoning from the pizza crust recipe.

Pizza Margherita

1 - 12" pizza crust (you can make your own or use a pre-made crust, like Boboli)

2 - 3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, thinly sliced

16 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced (you can use shredded mozzarella, but fresh it best)

basil leaves (you can leave them whole or slice or tear them)


olive oil

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Pre-bake your pizza crust, if you're using a homemade crust. You'll want it almost completely cooked through. Brush olive oil on the top of the crust before adding the remaining ingredients.

Arrange the tomato slices on the crust, followed by the slices of mozzarella cheese. Next, lay the basil leaves on top of the cheese, distributing evenly. I chose to chiffonade the basil, but you can do whatever you like. Sprinkle the pizza with salt and about 1 tbsp. of olive oil.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.



Friday, September 21, 2012

The Tour Continues: Chicken Piccata

I'm still on my food tour of Italy. I found a super recipe for a classic Italian recipe. Chicken Piccata originated in Italy using veal. In the U.S., this dish is prepared with chicken more often than veal. For those of you not familiar with Chicken Piccata, it is a lightly breaded chicken breast, browned in a combination of butter and olive oil, and topped with a lemon-wine sauce. The only change I made to the recipe found in the link below was with the Parmesan cheese. I didn't have grated Parmesan cheese on hand, so I omitted it from the flour used to dredge the chicken breast in and added shredded Parmesan cheese as a topping over the sauce. It was delicious!

You can find the recipe I used by following this link:  Chicken Piccata

I decided on a wonderful pasta recipe to serve as a side dish to the Chicken Piccata. You can use any type of pasta you like. I chose to use spaghetti. The sauce is simple in its preparation, but the flavor and texture are outstanding.

You can find the pasta recipe I used by following this link:  Bacon, Rosemary & Tomato Pasta

To bring everything to the table at the same time, I made the pasta sauce while the water for the spaghetti was heating. The sauce comes together very quickly and was simmering on the stove top by the time the water was boiling and ready to cook the pasta. While the pasta was cooking, I made the Chicken Piccata. In less than 30 minutes, dinner was ready! The key is to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking.


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Monday, September 17, 2012

Meatless Monday: Manicotti

This week's Meatless Monday post is short and sweet. I'm still trying to find a routine for homeschooling lessons and my class assignments that works, so time is very short these days!

I'm sharing a vegetable-filled manicotti that is super simple to make. The trick to this dish is filling uncooked manicotti - so much easier than trying to fill the shells once they are cooked! The manicotti cooks during the baking process. What could be easier?

I don't care for the texture of ricotta cheese, so I usually substitute cottage cheese. Just be sure you don't do what I did, if you do decide to substitute with cottage cheese (see the photo below). Cottage cheese should be drained before adding it to this recipe. You don't want any excess liquid in your finished dish.

Vegetable-Filled Manicotti

Serves:  4 - 5

26 oz. (3 1/4 cups) of your favorite spaghetti sauce

3/4 cup water

15 oz. ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (drain the cottage cheese)

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup finely chopped bell pepper (any color)

1 tsp. black pepper

1 egg, beaten

12 uncooked manicotti

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine the spaghetti sauce and water; mix well. Spread 1 cup of the sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the cheeses, carrot, bell pepper, black pepper and egg. Mix well to combine. Using a teaspoon or a piping bag (if you like), stuff the cheese mixture evenly into the manicotti. Arrange the manicotti in the pan. Pour the remaining sauce mixture over the manicotti and cover the baking dish with foil.

Bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top of the manicotti. Return the baking dish to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Very Important:

Remember to drain your cottage cheese in a fine-mesh sieve (preferably lined with cheese cloth) before adding it to the cheese mixture. You don't want any excess liquid in the cottage cheese or you'll end up with manicotti like mine! It was still tasty, though . . . .

Do you see the black arrow pointing to the excess
liquid? That's because I didn't drain the cottage cheese.

You can substitute or add other vegetables to the cheese mixture, if you like. Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and cauliflower are also really good in this dish and any combination - up to 1 cup of vegetables - will work in this recipe.


This post is linked to the following:


Friday, September 7, 2012

Form Following Function

Do you know what I love most about "touring" other countries via their cuisine - other than the food? I learn things!

The other day, I posted this photo on my Facebook page and asked it anyone knew what this was:

Isn't it beautiful? 

Obviously, it's bread, but it's a very special kind of Italian bread. Anyone?

It's an Italian muffuletta! 

So, what's a muffuletta? It's a large, round, flat loaf of bread used for muffuletta sandwiches. It looks a lot like a focaccia, doesn't it? 

Like I said, it's used in muffuletta sandwiches. In fact, it's key to the muffuletta sandwich. Ask any muffuletta expert and they'll tell you it's not a muffuletta without the bread.

This bread originated in Sicily and it's been around for a long time. How it came to be a sandwich is kind of cool:

"According to Marie Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery's founder, it was born when Sicilian farmers selling their produce at the nearby Farmers' Market would come into her father's grocery for lunch and order some salami, ham, cheese, olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or a round muffuletta loaf. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately sitting on crates or barrels while precariously balancing their meals on their knees. Her father suggested cutting the bread and putting everything on it like a sandwich, even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. The thicker braided Italian bread proved too hard to bite and the softer round muffuletta loaf won out. Shortly, farmers came to merely ask for a "muffuletta" for their lunch." (

I couldn't find muffuletta bread in Sioux Falls, so I went online and found a recipe. The one I used can be found at this LINK. I did make just one adjustment to this wonderful recipe:  I used a bread machine to mix the dough. The steps I used were these:

Muffuletta Bread

  1. Visit the link above for the muffuletta bread recipe.
  2. Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and shortening.
  4. Add the flours.
  5. Set the bread machine for the "dough" cycle and turn on the machine.
  6. When the bread machine stops mixing and the dough begins to rise, I like to spread a little bit of olive oil, using a pastry brush, on top of the dough to keep it from drying out. You don't have to do this, if you don't want to or if you forget.
  7. Once the dough cycle is complete, just follow the instructions at the recipe LINK.

When you're done, you'll have a beautiful loaf of bread that's perfect for sandwiches. I think I may have found my "go-to" recipe for sub-style sandwiches! And you won't believe how unbelievably light this bread is. So good!!

Now, on to the muffuletta sandwich!

The origin of this sandwich can be traced back to Italian immigrants in New Orleans. The signature of the muffuletta sandwich is the olive salad which is made of diced olives, celery, cauliflower, and carrots in a giardiniera, seasoned with oregano and garlic, and covered in olive oil. All of this marinates for at least 24 hours before becoming part of the sandwich. My mouth is watering just describing the olive salad to you! You're off to a GREAT start with the bread and olive salad alone, but to all that deliciousness you add salami, ham, mozzarella, and provolone!

Well, my son doesn't like olives, so I tried a replacement - an artichoke hearts salad. I was thinking if I chopped the artichoke hearts small enough, my son wouldn't notice. He did, but it didn't stop him from enjoying the sandwich!

You can find a recipe for a more traditional muffuletta HERE.

Here's my version:

Muffuletta Sandwich

Serves:  6 - 8

1 - 6 oz. jar artichoke hearts, drained (reserve the liquid) and chopped

2 - 3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (use fresh, if you can - you'll love it!)

1/4 cup reserved liquid from artichoke hearts

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 - 1/2 lb. sliced Italian or Genoa salami (depending on how much you'd like on your sandwich)

1/4 - 1/2 lb. sliced ham (depending on how much you'd like on your sandwich)

1/4 - 1/2 lb. sliced Provolone cheese (depending on how much you'd like on your sandwich)

3 medium tomatoes, sliced

1 muffuletta bread, sliced horitonally (like a hamburger bun)

Several hours or the day before, combine the artichoke hearts, garlic, basil, reserved artichoke hearts liquid, and vinegar in a bowl. Stir to mix well and cover. Marinate in the refrigerator.

To assemble the sandwich:

Arrange the salami on the bottom half of the muffuletta bread . . . . 

Next, arrange the ham on top of the salami . . . . 

Now for the cheeses (I forgot to pick up mozzarella, so we just had Provolone. It was still good.) . . . .

The tomatoes . . . .

And then the artichoke salad (I used a slotted spoon to spread the salad over the tomatoes and then used a brush to spread the very flavorful salad juice on the top half of the bread) . . . .

Place the top half on the bottom, cut into wedges (or slices), and . . . .


This post is linked to the following: