April 22, 2015

Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza

On a recent trip to The Borgata in Atlantic City, for one hell of a bachelorette weekend, I found myself in a basement, under the casino floor.  Wandering drunk, right?  Nope!  When I say "basement", I really mean "a gorgeous restaurant built below the casino" where there was stone and marble everywhere you looked.  It looks like a wine cellar would look in a million-dollar mansion, however, when we were greeted by the employees, it still kept the feel of a casual Italian dinner at home.  Anywho, this isn't a review of the restaurant, rather my take on their seriously delicious Funghi Pizza which boasts, "oyster mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, and fresh goat cheese", and should have added, "with a crust that you'll want to devour in seconds."  You would think they would get me right there with the mushrooms and the goat cheese (and the simple fact that pizza is just about my favorite thing ever), but then you keep reading the menu, and they have about 10 more pizzas that you feel like you NEED to have or you'll absolutely explode.  I can't remember entirely, but I'm pretty sure 80% of our party alone got a different pizza.  You can check out their pizza selection, and the rest of their menu here, but for now, read on to find out how to copy-cat the creamy, salty, chewy-and-crunchy-at-the-same-time, mushroom pizza. 

What You'll Need:
  • (4) 7" pie crusts
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium portobello mushroom, sliced
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sherry wine
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Prep your pizza dough depending on your preference of crust texture.  I like my personal pizzas and flatbreads to have a crisp, crunchy crust, so I par-bake the crusts before topping them on 350-degrees for about 5-7 minutes.  Be sure to prick the crust with a fork all over beforehand, so it doesn't turn into a big bubble.  If you like a soft, chewy crust, you can skip this part.

2.  Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt butter and add mushrooms and garlic.  Stir to coat, add sherry wine, and simmer on low until wine reduces and mushrooms are soft.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.

3.  Brush the pie crusts with olive oil and sprinkle with a little garlic salt.  Cover each pizza shell with 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, leaving about 1/2-inch around the outside for the crust.  Divide the mushrooms between the four pies, and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese, reserving a little bit for the end.

4.  Bake in the 350-degree oven for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the crust begins to turn golden brown on the outside.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs and remaining goat cheese.  Let cool for 3-5 minutes before slicing and enjoying!

April 15, 2015

Dijon Vinaigrette with Poppyseed

Sweet, savory, all-around great vinaigrette to dress up greens, toss pasta salads, use on vegetables, and much more!  Enjoy...

What You'll Need:
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • Juice from 2 large lemons, about 1/4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 2 tablespoons poppyseeds
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Salt, pepper, onion powder

1.  Whisk all ingredients in a bowl until completely incorporated.  Season to your own taste with salt, pepper, and onion powder.  Enjoy on just about anything! (I even had mine on some chicken fingers!)

March 22, 2015

Cajun Shrimp Pasta with Garlic Parmesan Alfredo

 Generally, I start off my blog posts with a small blurb about the dish I created, what inspired it, or how my day was, etc.  However, I was in the most beautiful wedding last night and my brain isn't functioning at high speeds right now, so I will simply leave you with the recipe.  Enjoy!

 The most beautiful bridal party!!

And, of course, the most beautiful bride!! :-)

Here's the recipe!
What You'll Need:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 small broccoli crowns, chopped
1/2 quart heavy cream
1/4 cup sherry wine
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup Cajun/spicy seasoning (I really like Chef Paul Pruhomme's Blackening Seasoning)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium tomato, diced
1 pound angel hair pasta

1.  In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt butter and add garlic to the pan.  Add broccoli crowns and stir to toss and coat.  Add heavy cream and wine and cover.  Simmer on medium-low to let broccoli soften and wine to incorporate, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper as desired.

2.  Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, toss shrimp with Cajun seasoning, making sure they are coated liberally and evenly.  Drop shrimp in cream sauce and stir.  Simmer for about 3-4 more minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through and pink in color (under all that good seasoning).  It doesn't take long for shrimp to cook.  Add Parmesan cheese and diced tomato and work into the sauce.

3.  Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Use about 1/4 cup or less of that cooking water in your sauce, until desired sauce consistency.  Transfer drained pasta to the sauce and stir together.  Garnish your plate with fresh lemon zest and torn basil leaves, and enjoy!

February 24, 2015

"Finnochio" - Simple Fennel Salad

My Pop-Pop Gino used to make this salad for us at least once a week.  I'm not a huge licorice fan, but I will eat fennel this way... by the bowl-ful.  It's simple, it's easy, and the tangy red wine vinegar downplays the sweet anise flavor of the fennel perfectly.  We used to call it, "finnochio", pronounced "fin-oik" around our dinner table.  For what would have been Pop-Pop Gino's 86th birthday, here's a super easy recipe from my childhood that you can share with your family!  Enjoy!  

And Happy Birthday, Pop!

What You'll Need:
  • 4 bulbs fennel
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (break out the good stuff for this)
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

1.  To prepare the fennel, cut right above the fennel bulb to remove the stalks.  Reserve the "leaves" (which look like fresh dill) for garnish.  Slice the root end off the bulb, and slice in half lengthwise.  Remove the core like you would a head of iceberg lettuce or cabbage.  Cut-side down, slice the fennel into about 1/4-inch thick strips.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Toss the fennel to coat generously, and cover.  Let sit in the fridge for about 3 hours to marinate.

3.  Remove from liquid or let it stay, your choice!  Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the reserved "leaves" and extra fresh cracked pepper.  Enjoy with crusty, warm bread!

February 23, 2015

Broccoli-Pepper Jack Soup in Bread Bowls

Pop Quiz time!

Q:  What is the reason this soup was made with pepper jack cheese and not traditional cheddar?
A.  I was being creative and wanted to switch things up
B.  I didn't have cheddar cheese, but I had a whole block of pepper jack hanging out in the fridge

Well, I'm sure the answer is pretty clear.  You can use any cheese you have on hand for this recipe - but I suggest you use a block cut into cubes instead of already-shredded cheese.  For some reason, the cut block cheese melts a whole lot better than throwing shredded cheese in there.  Toast your bread bowls for about 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven to get them nice and crusty.  Cut off the top, scoop out some of the bread from the inside, and enjoy your soup while you watch the snow fall outside!  (That's what I did anyway.)

What You'll Need:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup carrots, diced
  • 4 shallots, small, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 large broccoli crowns, roughly chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes

1.  Melt butter in a large stock pot and saute carrots, shallots, and garlic cloves until soft.  Add white wine and reduce by half.  Add 3/4 of the chopped broccoli and vegetable stock and lower heat.  Let everything simmer and let the broccoli soften, about 25 minutes.  Add cream.

2.  Transfer soup to a blender or use an immersion blender.  Blend soup until smooth.  Return to pot and add the rest of the chopped broccoli.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.

3.  In a separate mixing bowl, make a slurry by whisking water and cornstarch until cornstarch has dissolved.  Use this mix to thicken your soup to your liking.  Add the slurry to the pot in increments, stopping when your soup thickens to your desire.  (I used all my mixture.)

4.  Mix in cheese, in thirds, stirring continuously until melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy in a crusty, warm bread bowl with extra cheese on top!