Thursday, May 30, 2013

Heirloom Pizza

 It's time to sit back and relax with a pizza.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday.  We were out of town and had such a relaxing time that it was almost impossible to come back and get in the groove again!  So much so that I haven't felt like cooking.  Do you ever get that way?

So we've been eating super simple things like sandwiches, some salads, and then I decided to make us a pizza.  There's something comforting about pizza.  Just chillin' and eating pizza watching Modern Family on the TV.  

The question that may pop up is how do you make a homemade pizza on a weeknight?  Yeast dough isn't the most "speedy" item to make.  So what I usually do is to make a batch of my the BEST pizza dough ever, on the weekend.  This recipe makes 2 crusts, so we cook one and freeze the other for later.  So when you want pizza on a weeknight you just need to thaw the dough that day and there you go...fresh pizza dough.

If you don't want to hassle with that then you can pick up pizza dough at most grocery stores these days.  Just make sure to let it sit out for a good 45 min to come to room temp so the dough doesn't keep springing back on you when you roll it out.

The rest is simple.  Fresh heirloom tomatoes, a smidge of sauce (store bought or homemade) and some excellent fresh mozerella cheese.  The heirloom tomatoes lend a freshness to pizza that you will just adore.  Simple, good food.  I always say that good ingredients equals good flavor!


Heirloom Pizza

1 portion of pizza dough (my recipe or store bought)
1/4 c pizza sauce 
2-3 different colored Heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
5-6 slices of fresh Mozerrella

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Roll pizza dough out to your desired thickness and then place on a prepared pizza pan, either using cooking spray, or a light cover of cornmeal.  

Top with a thin layer of sauce, the tomatoes, and cheese.  Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown, and toppings are bubbly.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Iced Tea Please!

Let's talk tea...

Iced tea to be specific.  A southern staple.  Certainly the most popular drink by far in my household.  There's nothing better than sitting down with a nice glass of iced tea.  Taking time to slow down and enjoy the flavor!

We serve iced tea with everything...and it's perfect for summer parties, grilling, or entertaining friends.  Right now everyone is just starting grilling season with Memorial Day tomorrow and this would be a perfect drink to make for a crowd.  Would you like a tall glass of iced tea?  Yes please!!

Today' I'm going to share the traditional iced tea with a few variations.  So let's talk a little about tea.

Brewing Tea:  There are several methods to making brewed iced tea.  My mom came from the school that took a small amount of water and boiled it, adding loose leaf black tea to it and let it steep to make a concentrate.  Then it was strained and divided among the jars and more water was added to finish the process.  You can tell the strength of the tea that way by the color of the tea.

I still make tea that way but I use tea bags instead of loose tea.  It's just easier, and you don't have to strain the tea.

What tea to use?  There are many types of tea out there.  We use a black tea.  I grew up on Lipton tea, so that's what I like, and still use.  It makes a nice strong black tea.  A lot of southerners swear by Lusianne Tea, but I never cared for it being a Lipton girl!  Use what you prefer, that's what counts!  I even experiment with peach teas or other fruit infused teas, and they work well, but black tea is the standard.

Sweetened or un-sweetened?  I make mine un-sweetened.  That way I can add Splenda to it if I like or leave it plain.  You can add a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled to form a syrup) to your finished tea all at once or by the glass as you please.  There are no strict rules! This is YOUR tea, do as you please.

Storing iced tea:  This is important.  If you don't want cloudy tea you must allow your finished tea to cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator.  Otherwise your tea will turn cloudy.  I usually leave mine out for an hour or so before storing it.  

Southern Iced Tea

Makes 1/2 gallon

1 cup boiling water
3 regular sized tea bags
7 cups of water

Boil one cup of water on the stove or microwave.  Add tea bags and let them steep for about 15 min.  You want to get a dark concentrate.  The darker the concentrate the more tea you will end up with.  Pour your concentrate in to a 1/2 gallon jug or pitcher and add approx 7 cups of water.  You can tell the strength of the tea by the color.  Very light colored tea is a more weak tea.  Dark will be strong.  Adjust your tea strength to your liking by adding more water, or more concentrate.

Add ice to your glasses and pour tea over.  If you add ice to your container with the tea, it will dilute it.  

Variations of Iced Tea:

Orange Ice Tea

Makes 1/2 gallon

1/2 gallon of iced tea (see Southern Iced Tea recipe)
1 orange, cut in to slices

To the brewed iced tea add 2 orange slices to the container.  Take the handle end of a wooden spoon and muddle the orange slices on the bottom of the container to release the orange juices.  Add more slices to the tea for flavor.  Add an orange slice to the individual glasses as well for garnish.

Apple Iced Tea

1/2 gallon of iced tea (see Southern Iced Tea recipe)
1 cup apple juice, at room temperature or cold.

To the brewed iced tea add the apple juice, stirring to combine.  Serve over ice. 

Peach Iced Tea

1/2 gallon of iced tea (see Southern Iced Tea recipe)
3/4 cup peach nectar (such as Kern's) at room temperature or cold.

To the brewed iced tea add the peach nectar, stirring to combine.  Serve over ice. 


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad with Feta Vinaigrette: Heirloom tomatoes that are bursting with flavor and topped with a light feta dressing!

We're gonna wrap up our Greek Memorial Day menu with a wonderful fresh salad.

One thing I learned in my recent cooking class about Greek food, (or inspired) is that they use food that is very fresh, and they eat it fresh.  That is, with minimal cooking.  This salad is a perfect example of that.  Nothing fancy schmancy here.  Just good quality ingredients put together simply. 

To make the flavors pop you need to buy the best ingredients that you can get that are reasonably priced.   (Don't go crazy)  Since tomato season hasn't started yet check out the market for heirloom tomatoes.  If they are not too overpriced pick up a couple of different colors to try.  They will give you great flavor for this dish, and remember each color of tomato has a different flavor.  I chose two that I love, a nice orangey red one with a more earthy flavor and a bright orange one which tastes a little more citrusy.  They both have great flavors that brought depth to the dish.  

Go Greek! Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad with Feta Vinaigrette: Heirloom tomatoes that are bursting with flavor and topped with a light feta dressing!

English cucumbers are great in this dish as they are crisp, but if you don't have one or can't find one it's no problem.  Just peel the regular kind to remove the waxy skin and slice them up.  A mandolin is perfect for this job, making nice long slices like I did.  Again, if you don't have problem!  Cut them however you want.  No fuss!

The other power flavor to this dish is the dressing.  Greeks use a lot of Feta cheese.  And rightly's fantastic!  I usually buy the kind that come's from Sheep's milk (made in France) that's sitting in the water,  since it is a little less tangy and lighter.  Valbreso is a great brand to try.  Or if you happen to have an ethnic market in your area and you can get your hands on a brand called Piknik you'll be in heaven as well!  Along with the other ingredients such as garlic and oregano this dressing is a winner.  So don't skip this part as it's key with this salad!

Go Greek! Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad with Feta Vinaigrette: Heirloom tomatoes that are bursting with flavor and topped with a light feta dressing!

To recap our Memorial Day Menu

Chicken Souvlaki
Kopanisti - Greek Feta Spread
Tzatiziki - Yogurt Dip with Garlic and Mint
Pita Bread
Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad with Feta Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Have a wonderful, safe holiday!

Tomato Cucumber and Onion Salad with Feta Vinaigrette

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Soup for Supper, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998)

For the salad:

4 beefsteak or assorted heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 large red onion, sliced paper-thin

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the feta vinaigrette:

1 cup olive oil

2 Tbs. dried oregano

1 Tbs. finely minced garlic

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup red wine vinegar, or as needed

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Arrange the tomato, cucumber and onion slices on a platter. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

To make the vinaigrette, in a blender or food processor, combine the olive oil, oregano, garlic, feta cheese, vinegar and pepper. Pulse briefly to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding a bit more vinegar if you like. Spoon over the tomato, cucumber and onion slices and serve.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tzatziki - Yogurt Dip with Garlic, Mint, and Dill

To go along with our Greek Memorial Day Menu we have to have an all time favorite.

If you've had Greek food them I'm sure you tried Tzatziki.  It's a tangy yogurt based dip made with cool cucumbers, garlic, mint and dill.  Just perfect for with wedges of pita bread.

Don't stop there though!  Use this wonderful dip as a spread as well.  On top of the Chicken Souvlaki...yum, yum!  Use it inside a pita pocket with a salad or chicken, or lamb tucked inside. Here's MGG's favorite way to eat it.  You take a piece of pita bread and put some rice on it.  Then add some Chicken Souvlaki and top it with the Tzatziki, fold it up and take a big bite! 

Use it as a dressing on a nice Greek salad.  The uses are endless!

I love this dip...straight up or combined with other foods!  Of all the dips I think this is the best during the summer.  The coolness from the cucumbers pleases your hot palate.  

Tomorrow I'll show how to make a fresh, straight from the garden salad with a wonderful feta dressing!


Yogurt Dip with Garlic, Mint, and Dill (Tzatziki)
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Small Plates, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1998)

2 cups plain strained yogurt (such as Fage)
About 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, halved and seeded
Salt, to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 2 to 3 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Using the large holes on a handheld grater-shredder, grate enough cucumber to measure 1 cup. Spread out the grated cucumber on paper towels, salt lightly and let drain for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint, dill, olive oil and lemon juice, to taste. Stir to mix well, then season with salt.

Transfer to a bowl and serve.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kopanisti - Greek Feta Spread

The other day I showed you a great Greek recipe for Chicken Souvlaki.

A wonderful dish to go with this is Williams-Sonoma's version of Kopanisti.  This is a Greek Feta Spread.  Kopanisti is really a type of cheese however, it also means beaten.  And this dish is just that....beaten.  You add a few ingredients to a food processor and "beat it"!

This version uses pepperoncinis as the wow factor.  Many versions use roasted red peppers, however the use of the pepperoncini gives this dip a definite kick!  Not for the person that likes things mellow, but if you can take a little heat, then this will put some zip in your step!

Easy to make, and goes perfect served with the chicken, along side, or used as a spread with pita.  Try topping the chicken with it too!  It's perfect anyway to try it.

Hope you enjoy this dish!  More to come later in the week.

Kopanisti - Greek Feta Spread

by Williams-Sonoma Kitchen
Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 1/2 lb. Greek or French feta cheese
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh mint or 1 tsp. crumbled
     dried mint
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 6 Italian peperoncini (pickled green peppers),
     chopped, plus more as needed
In a food processor, combine the cheese, olive oil, garlic, mint, the 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes and the 6 chopped peperoncini and process until smooth. Taste and add more red pepper flakes or peperoncini, if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chicken Souvlaki

Chicken Souvlaki: Grilled chicken kabobs with a major pop of Greek flavors that go great with pita and tzatziki!
We just love to grill in the summertime.  

I think that MGG and I do most of our cooking on the grill.  It keeps the house cooler, and the food just tastes so darn good.  It allows me to create different marinades, experiment with different cuts of meat, and try new flavors.

This dish is just perfect for grilling.  Since Memorial Day is fast approaching this would be a great dish to add to your menu.  I recently took a class at Williams-Sonoma where we spent a day on Greek food.  This was just one of the many dishes we made.  

Chicken Souvlaki: Grilled chicken kabobs with a major pop of Greek flavors that go great with pita and tzatziki!

What's better than chicken kabobs?  They are first marinaded and then simply grilled.  Nothing fancy, it's all about the flavors.  Serve with a fresh vegetable salad and some Greek dips and you are set. We grilled them on skewers and then removed them for serving.  You can leave them on.  For our purposes they were just a little easier to serve and eat with the pita and dips when removed from the skewers.

You have to take the time to try this.  Trust me, it's that good!  You can swap the chicken for beef or lamb if you like, however the chicken is so lean and juicy it's hard to pass this up!  

Chicken Souvlaki: Grilled chicken kabobs with a major pop of Greek flavors that go great with pita and tzatziki!

Kitchen Tip:  If using wooden skewers make sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning during grilling.

Stay tuned for the salads and dips that go along with this main course.  I'll be posting them throughout the week.  Enjoy!

Chicken Souvlaki

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Small Plates, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1998)

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. dry white wine

1 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 cup minced yellow onion

1 garlic clove, minced

2 bay leaves, broken or chopped into tiny pieces

1 tsp. dried oregano

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces

Lemon wedges for garnish

Flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish

In a bowl, stir together the olive oil, wine, lemon juice, onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to overnight.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. If using bamboo skewers, put 6 skewers in water to cover.

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and drain the bamboo skewers, if using. Thread the chicken pieces onto the bamboo or stainless-steel skewers, dividing the pieces evenly among them. Place the skewers on the grill rack 4 to 5 inches from the fire or place in the hot pan and grill, turning once, until the chicken is opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a warmed platter and garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Serve immediately. Serves 6.


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