Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Do you ever see a food item on TV, in a movie or flipping through a magazine and it looks so good that you just HAVE to make it? I was watching Julie & Julia a few nights ago and the scene where Julie is making bruschetta instantly started my stomach rumbling. Aside from the luscious looking tomatoes, what really interested me was the way she was preparing the bread. Instead of toasting it in the oven, she was browning it in a pan with oil. I probably wouldn't have thought of that on my own, but wow, did it ever look amazing!

I headed to the kitchen to gather my ingredients and get down to business. Over the years, I have perfected my tomato and shallot bruschetta recipe, so I decided used that for the topping and just wing it with the bread. It's bread, so it can't be that hard, right? Lucky for me, I joined a CSA this year, which meant that I received massive quantities of amazing heirloom tomatoes. Tomatoes are my favorite summer food, hands down. Anything that brings out the bright acidic and fruity flavors of a perfectly ripe tomato is heaven to me. And really, is there any better use for tomatoes than a good bruschetta?

Here's the rundown:
  • Flavor/Texture: A-MAZ-ING, if I do say so myself. The juicy sweetness of the tomato topping paired really nicely with the crunchy, garlicky bread. The bread soaked up the tomato liquid without being soggy. Perfection!
  • Difficulty: Very easy and looks impressive.
  • Pros: No fancy ingredients or techniques necessary. Everything comes together quickly. The tomato mixture is even better the next day. Since everything is fresh and there are very few ingredients, it's also a healthy dish.
  • Cons: The bread does not keep well, so if you have tomatoes left over, just do a new batch of bread each day.
  • Misc: Make sure you seed the tomatoes, otherwise you'll end up with far too much liquid and things will get soggy. You can substitute red onion for the shallot, if necessary. The bruschetta is good enough to eat on its own for dinner, but if you want to beef it up a bit, add a smear of ricotta cheese to the bread before putting the tomato mixture on. Any kind of tomatoes will work, but a mix of different varieties and colors looks pretty and adds some depth to the flavor.
  • Repeat Performance: In my kitchen, it's already in heavy rotation during the summer months.
Jami's Tomato and Shallot Bruschetta

3 large heirloom tomatoes - seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 loaf of chewy, crusty bread (sourdough, baguette, ciabatta or focaccia all work well)

Combine tomatoes, shallots, 1 TBSP olive oil, basil and vinegar in a medium bowl. Stir to combine and season with salt to taste. Cover and let stand at room temp for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Over medium heat, add 2 TBSP olive oil to a pan. While pan is heating up, cut your bread into 1/2 inch thick slices. When the oil is shimmering, add the bread to the pan. Brown on each side for 1-2 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Add more oil to the pan between batches, if necessary. Remove bread to plate lined with paper towels to drain. While the bread is still hot, rub the cloves of garlic over it.

Top each slice of bread with a generous amount of the tomato mixture, including the juices. Serve immediately.


Friday, September 2, 2011

White Beer Cookies

Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I love beer. I also love food, which is unsurprising, seeing that I write this blog, spend time writing local restaurant reviews (shameless plug: check us out at and am working on starting my own personal chef business. So when the opportunity comes up for me to combine two of my passions, I jump on it. 

These cookies are a perfect mash-up of food and beer. I got a message from my friend, Shelley, one night, saying that she was watching a cooking show and they were making beer cookies. I was intrigued. So I searched out a recipe and resolved to try them out. A couple of weeks later, I was looking for inspiration for my dish to pass at a birthday party for another beer fanatic friend. Beer cookies to the rescue!  I have no great love of baking, but the process for these cookies was relatively simple and I was pleased with how they turned out. Even better, they were a huge hit at the party. My only regret is that I didn't make more of them. The birthday gal's father even cracked a joke about whether or not I'd laced the cookies with some "herbal refreshment" because they were addictive! Rest assured, the only ingredients in the cookies are legal ones.

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: The cookies were more cake-y than crunchy, but they were very good. They were a bit like fancy sugar cookies, without being overly sweet. I loved how I could definitely taste the beer, but it didn't overpower the other ingredients.
  • Difficulty: Pretty easy and straightforward.  I was a little impatient while waiting for the beer to reduce. Taking two bottles down to 1/3 cup takes awhile.
  • Pros: It's an unusual twist for both beer and cookies. They turned out great and even friends who aren't beer-centric enjoyed them.
  • Cons: The recipe yields two dozen cookies, which isn't much. If you're making them for a group, I highly recommend making more than one batch. The recipe would not be well suited for just doubling up, since reducing four bottles of beer would take forever. Make separate batches instead.
  • Misc.: The one caveat about this recipe is that you must choose a white beer. Don't substitute for another style, or it won't work. I went with Bell's Brewery Winter White. In this method, the beer is brewed with coriander and orange. Those flavors are echoed in the dough and icing, which pulls everything together. Reducing the beer intensely concentrates the flavors. If you use something that is too dark or has heavy hops, it will turn into a bitter mess. Use orange blossom honey if you can. It's a great complement to the orange base in the beer and frosting. Also, I omitted the milk in the frosting and just used orange juice instead.
  • Repeat Performance: I can see myself making these for other special occasions.
White Beer Cookies
Food Network, Sean LaFond

2 bottles (12 oz. each) Belgian White style beer
5 tbsp honey
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1/2 vanilla extract
1 large orange, zested
2 tbsp ground coriander
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp milk
1 orange (peel off strips of zest with a bar zester for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the beer and honey to a medium saucepan and reduce over medium heat until you have about 1/3 cup of liquid. You may occasionally have to skim the foam off the top of the beer. You will know you have hit 1/3 of a cup of liquid as the liquid will suddenly begin to aggressively foam due to the high concentration of sugar (This looks different from foaming due to carbon dioxide, the bubbles are much larger with the sugar foaming). Let this reduction cool to room temperature.

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and blend thoroughly. Then add the vanilla, orange zest, coriander and beer reduction and blend again. Mix the flour and baking soda together then slowly add to the batter. The batter will be somewhat more loose than regular cookie dough.
Scoop mounds of cookies onto an aluminum cookie sheet lined with parchment. Make sure you do not overcrowd the cookies; you should be able to fit about 12 cookies on a half sheet pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet until they are cool enough (about 10 minutes) to transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Using the icing ingredients, whisk the vanilla into the sugar. Mix the orange juice and milk together. Add milk and orange juice mixture to the sugar, a little bit at a time, until you reach the consistency of a thick paste. Put a dollop of icing on each cool cookie and spread it over the top. Put a small piece of orange zest on the top, if desired. Let the icing harden to desired hardness and serve.

Bottoms up!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Grilled Pierogi and Kielbasa

During the first weekend of October, Grand Rapids celebrates all things Polish during Pulaski Days. Everyone wear red, watches parades, dances to polka bands and gets down with some great Polish food. The most popular items are always homemade kielbasa and pierogi. I love them, but I never seem to eat them outside of that one weekend in October. When Food Network's July issue came out with a new spin on the classic, I jumped all over it.

As a warning, the recipe as written contains a whopping 36 grams of fat. There are many versions of kielbasa that are made with turkey and they taste just as good as their pork counterparts. So instead of making the trip over to Frank's Butcher Shop to get kielbasa that all the Polish halls in town swear by, I headed to the local grocery store for the Hillshire Farms turkey variety. I know it's a bit sacrilegious, but I'll save the real indulgence for Polaski Days. Plus, I figured ditching the extra fat and calories justified eating some home made ice cream later. It's summer, after all!

The rundown:
  • Flavor texture: The smoky flavor added to the pierogi paired very well with the kielbasa. I loved the mustard dressing as well. It really brought everything together and the grilled onions added a nice sweetness.
  • Difficulty: Quick and easy. I put my sausage and the pierogi/onion on the grill at the same time, so that saved a few minutes.
  • Pros: An easy summer dinner that won't heat up your kitchen. The flavors were great and I think this recipe would please just about anyone. It's also nice to introduce people to Eastern European food that doesn't revolve around sauerkraut. You could also stretch the recipe a bit and double the pierogi and dressing, while leaving the kielbasa quantity the same. There would still be more than enough meat.
  • Cons: The fat content in traditional kielbasa is high. If that bothers you, do like I did and swap it out for the turkey version. Make sure you oil your grill grate and brush the pierogi with olive oil, or they will stick and tear apart.
  • Misc: Although I loved this dish hot off the grill, it was actually even better the next day, once the flavors had melded a bit more and the pierogi absorbed some of the mustard dressing. Seeing that I'm not a huge fan of leftovers, that is quite an endorsement.
  • Repeat Performance: Definitely a keeper!
Grilled Pierogi and Kielbasa
Food Network Magazine, July 2011
Serves 4

1 pound kielbasa or smoked sausage, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges
1 pound frozen potato-and-cheddar pierogi (do not thaw)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley

Preheat a grill to medium. Grill the kielbasa,  turning once, until marked, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter.

Meanwhile, whisk the mustard and vinegar in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons olive oil until smooth.

Toss the onion and pierogi with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, until the pierogi thaw and the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the pierogi and onion and continue to grill, until the pierogi are cooked through and the onion is tender, 4 to 6 more minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet or platter.

Slice the kielbasa into pieces and add to the bowl with the mustard dressing. Roughly chop the onion and add to the bowl along with the pierogi and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Divide among shallow bowls.

Smacznego! (The Polish version of "bon appetit")

Friday, July 15, 2011

Barbecue - Glazed Turkey Burgers

I like turkey burgers. Actually, I like burgers in general. Turkey burgers seem to be the easiest to experiment with, since they can take on a huge array of seasoning and flavorings. My only frustration is that the leanness of the meat can be tricky when you're trying to reach the correct temp for poultry and skill keep the meat moist. When I received Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness, she claimed that her turkey burgers always stayed moist and juicy. I was intrigued. I was skeptical. I was hooked.

In the "serious food community" (which sometimes equals a lot of elitist snobbery, in my opinion), this cookbook has been mostly panned or laughed at by the critics.  I happen to love Gwyneth. I find her funny (sometimes unintentionally), self-deprecating and whether or not she wrote most of the recipes in the book, the recipes are solid. This isn't the first of her recipes I've made and it won't be the last to appear on my blog. I like how she includes child-friendly or vegetarian options for many of the dishes.  The turkey burger recipe is nothing fancy. In fact, it's downright simple. And it's very good. Even a kid can't object to barbecue sauce and cheese, right? Yet it's still easy enough to dress the recipe up to grown-up standards as well.

The rundown:
  • Flavor/Texture: These burgers were exactly what they claimed to be, and they were definitely the juiciest turkey burgers that I have ever made. I especially liked the glazed barbecue sauce on the outside of the patties. I dislike both jalapenos and pickles, so I skipped that topping.
  • Difficulty: A handful of ingredients and a few minutes on the grill.  Doesn't get easier than that, folks.
  • Pros: A winner all around. East, great tasting, friendly for kids and adults alike. 
  • Cons: The recipe calls for seasoning the meat with salt and pepper only. Next time, I'd add a little bit of garlic powder and perhaps some hot sauce.
  • Misc.: I actually made this recipe twice, because the ingredient list called for "ground turkey". Did that mean the ground all white meat or the mix of white and dark? I bought one package of each and went turkey vs. turkey. The lean white meat came out the best.  The light/dark mix ended up being a very squishy mixture and I actually ended up adding some breadcrumbs to help hold it together so that I could shape it into patties. Definitely go with the all white meat for this one. It's healthier anyway.  I forgot to look for brioche buns, so I just went with regular wheat hamburger buns. I served the burgers with parsnip fries.
  • Repeat Performance: I definitely see myself making this one again.
Barbecue-Glazed Turkey Burgers
by Gwyneth Paltrow
makes 4 servings

1 lb ground turkey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp jarred barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet Vidalia Onion)
Canola or vegetable oil, for brushing
4 brioche buns, split and toasted
Pickled jalapeno slices, Swiss cheese and pickle chips, for serving

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan.

In a bowl, season the turkey with salt and pepper and gently knead in 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce. Shape the meat into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Brush with oil and grill over moderate heat, turning once, until nearly cooked through, 7 minutes. Brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce and cook for 1 minute longer, until cooked through and lightly glazed.

Transfer the burgers to the buns and top with pickled jalapeños, Swiss cheese and pickle chips and serve.

Roasted Parsnip Fries
makes 4 servings

3 medium parsnips
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash parsnips and cut into sticks (1/2 inch wide at the most). Smash garlic cloves and discard skins. In a medium bowl, toss parsnips, garlic and olive oil until the parsnips are coated.  Spread into a single layer on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 25 minutes and then turn the fries. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until nicely browned.  Serve hot.
*I like mine with some malt vinegar sprinkled on them.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Riviera Salad

Strawberry season may be my favorite two weeks of summer. To me, it's the true sign that summer is finally here. In Michigan, we're lucky to have U-pick farms and farmers markets in abundance, so it's easy to get your hands on the berries at their peak.  I make jam and freeze berries, but it's impossible to resist snacking on the little beauties as well.

This year, I happened to be going to a birthday party on the same day that I picked up a flat of perfectly ripe, locally grown strawberries. A Riviera salad was a natural next step.  The salad went over very well at the party. Who can resist fresh fruit and a creamy dressing?

The rundown:
  • Flavor/Texture: I love this salad because it's a mix of textures and complimentary fresh and bright flavors. You get a great crunch from the Romaine and walnuts, while the berries and oranges give it a sweet twist. The dressing has some savory notes, which is a nice balance.
  • Difficulty: It's a salad, so it's bound to be pretty easy. There aren't many ingredients, so quality really matters. Make sure your fruit is perfectly ripe, the lettuce is fully rinsed and dried, and that you choose a good quality cheese.
  • Pros: Quick and easy to put together. The ingredients are things pretty much everyone likes. The colors in this dish are also amazing. It's much more fun to eat food that's visually appealing.
  • Cons: The dressing will wilt the Romaine fairly quickly in the summer heat, so dress it just before serving so you don't end up with a soggy salad.
  • Misc.: The dressing is quick and easy, but if you must, you can use a store-bought version. Locally, you can get Arnie's, which is the best. Marie Callender's is good as well.
  • Repeat Performance: I have made this salad many times in the past and it will continue to be a summer favorite.
Riviera Salad

2 Romaine hearts, torn or sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 lb Swiss cheese, finely shredded
1 small can of mandarin oranges, rinsed and drained
1 cup sliced strawberries

1/3 cup mayo (don't use Miracle Whip, it will NOT taste good)
2 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vinegar (you can use any kind, but I prefer something milder, like champagne or sherry vinegar)
1 Tbsp of poppy seeds
1/4 of a small sweet onion
salt to taste

Whisk the mayo, milk, sugar, vinegar and a dash of salt together in a small bowl. Using the finest side of a box grater (or a microplane, if you have one), grate a tiny bit of the onion into the dressing.  Mix well and then taste. Add more onion if necessary. When you're satisfied with the dressing taste, mix in the poppy seeds and stir well. 

Put half of the Romaine into a large bowl.  Layer half of the berries, oranges, walnuts and cheese.  If serving immediately, add dressing the the layers and toss.  If not, store the dressing in a separate container. Repeat the layers with the rest of the ingredients and toss.

Chill until ready to serve.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Meyer Lemon Tart with a Layer of Chocolate

There's not much that I love more than a good lemon dessert. I've always had more of a liking for citrus or more savory desserts than for true sweets. With its thin layer of dark chocolate, this recipe is the best of both worlds. I'll admit that I was skeptic about the combination at first, but it came out great. I needed a dessert with a "wow factor" for Father's Day, and I think I inherited my lemon affinity from my dad. When I was young, he always shared his lemon drop candies with me on long car rides. A lemon tart seemed like a natural way to go.

The tart was a huge hit. After sneaking a taste, my dad was so eager to dig in that he wouldn't let me do my usual fussing to get a good picture! I had to use a stock photo from the cookbook, which was less than ideal, although it said a lot for the tart itself.

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: The flavors in this tart were amazing! I was a bit worried since I had to use regular lemons (the sweeter Meyer variety are out of season here), but it turned out great. The chocolate was subtle and really enhanced the lemon curd. The curd itself was very silky and in all honestly, it's the best one I've ever made.
  • Difficulty: More time consuming than difficult. I did have a rough go of it with the crust at first, but that was because making butter-laden pastry in summer is often difficult.
  • Pros: Amazing flavor and it looked great, too!  It was a very impressive dessert. Both the chocolate and lemon lovers in the crowd were happy, which is hard to accomplish in a single dish.
  • Cons: Oh, the crust. I knew that the heat and humidity of summer really don't condone making a butter crust, but I was determined.  In order to get a perfect crust, some of the butter pieces should remain solid in the dough. When the pieces melt, they leave spaces and make the crust beautifully flaky.  To accomplish this, all of the ingredients need to be cold and you have to be very careful not to overwork it. It can be accomplished even during the summer, you just have to be more patient and chill the dough a couple of times during the process. When I figured that out, my crust was light and flaky. If your butter gets too warm or you overwork the dough during rolling (as I did), the butter dissolves into the flour and the crust will be very dense. Just be careful and you'll get it right. 
  • Misc.: The chocolate layer is very thin. Next time I would use three ounces instead of two. I also added a bit of superfine sugar and a splash of vanilla to the whipped cream, just because that's how I like it.
  • Repeat Performance: It's not something I'd make every day, but I can definitely see myself putting another one of these together for something/someone special.
Meyer Lemon Tart with a Layer of Chocolate
by Suzanne Goin
from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, 2005

For the pâte sucrée (makes enough for two crusts)1/4 cup heavy cream
2 extra-large egg yolks
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter
For the tart2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 extra-large eggs
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
A pinch of kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream

Make the pâte sucrée
Whisk the cream and egg yolks together in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter on medium speed until you have a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream and yolks and mix until just combined. Do not overwork the dough.

Transfer the dough to a large work surface and bring it together with your hands to incorporate completely. Divide the dough in half, shape into 1-inch-thick discs, and wrap one of them to freeze and use later.

If the dough is too soft, put in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up a little. If the dough is manageable, place it on a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle a little flour over the dough, and roll it out into a 1/4-inch-thick circle, flouring as necessary. Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over a 10-inch tart pan. Gently fit the dough loosely into the pan, lifting the edges and pressing the dough into the corners with your fingers. To remove the excess dough, roll the rolling pin lightly over the top of the tart pan for a nice clean edge, or work your way around the edge pinching off any excess dough with your fingers. Chill for 1 hour.

Make the tart:
Preheat the oven to 375°F

Take the tart pan with the pâte sucrée from the refrigerator. Prick the bottom with a fork and line it with a few opened and fanned-out coffee filters or a piece of parchment paper. Fill the lined tart shell with beans or pie weights and bake 15 minutes, until set. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully lift out the paper and beans. Return the tart to the oven and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is an even golden brown. Set aside on a rack to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat. Spread the chocolate evenly on the crust and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes, until the chocolate has solidified completely.

While the crust is chilling, make the curd. Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, and lemon juice together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, alternating between a whisk and rubber spatula, until the lemon curd has thickened to the consistency of pastry cream and coats the back of the spatula.
Remove the lemon curd from the heat. Add the butter a little at a time, stirring to incorporate completely. Season with the salt. Let the curd cool about 8 minutes, and then strain it into the prepared tart shell. Chill the tart in the refrigerator.

Just before serving, whip the cream in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or by hand) until it holds soft peaks. Cut the tart into six wedges, plate them, and serve with dollops of whipped cream.
Grab a fork and get to it!

Baked Lemon Tart

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yummy Pork Ziti

This summer, I decided to participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share with two friends.  Every Tuesday, we get to pick up our veggies at the farmers' market near my house. Last week was the first pick-up and I was so excited to see all of the gorgeous produce. One of the items included was a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard. Never having cooked with it before, I set out on a hunt for an interesting recipe. I stumbled across this gem and had to give it a try. I am a big fan of mustard of any kind (seriously, it's the perfect condiment), I always like thyme, and who doesn't love a good pasta dish?

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: The bold flavors of the thyme and mustard worked very well with the pork. At the same time, they didn't overwhelm the more delicate flavor of the greens. 
  • Difficulty: No muss, no fuss! I whipped this one up in less than half an hour. How's that for a 30-minute meal?
  • Pros: Tasty, easy and quick. The trifecta of weeknight cooking, not to mention that it was a great way to incorporate veggies into a new recipe.  The recipe is also very adaptable. You could use chicken instead of pork or substitute almost any variety of dark/bitter greens for the escarole.
  • Cons: The recipe was intended for four people, but it yielded more than enough for six.  I don't like to have more than one meal of leftovers, so I would recommend halving the recipe.
  • Misc.: I used rainbow chard in place of the escarole, since that is what I had on hand. I used a grainy Dijon mustard and upped the quantity to more like two tablespoons instead of teaspoons. Taste the sauce and season it as you like. Make sure that your pork is just done, so that it stays tender. Now that the USDA has acknowledged that pork need only be cooked to 145 degrees, it's ok if there's a little pink in the middle.  Letting the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing will allow the cooking process to finish up gently. Start your pasta water as the first step. The pasta takes longer than everything else added together.
  • Repeat Performance: I don't eat a great deal of pork, but this recipe will definitely go into the rotation.
Ziti with Pork and Escarole in Creamy Thyme Sauce
Food & Wine, January 1997

1 lb pork tenderloin
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb escarole, leaves cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips (about 4 cups)
1 shallot or 2 scallions, including green tops, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp grainy or Dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound dry ziti pasta

Cut the pork into 1/2 inch thick slices. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat. Cook the pork until just barely done, about 1 minute per side. Remove the pork from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes, then cut into thin strips.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the escarole, shallot/green onion, 1/4 of the salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper and cook, stirring until the escarole wilts, about 1 minute. Add the broth and thyme. Simmer until the broth is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the mustard and cream and bring to a simmer. Add the pork and any accumulated juices to the sauce. Remove from heat.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the ziti until al dente (10-12 minutes). Drain and toss pasta with the sauce.

Grab some crusty bread and dig in!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grilled Flank Steak

First of all, I apologize for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks. But now, I am back from vacation and ready to go!

I am normally not much of a red meat fan. I eat beef or even pork only once a week or so. I gravitate strongly to fish, chicken and vegetarian meals.  Last week in New Orleans, though, my inner carnivore was making a strong showing.  I often find that when I visit the South, I want meat, and lots of it!  Maybe it's because most meat there is grilled or smoked. Whatever the reason, I had brisket, burgers, catfish, duck, pulled pork and some praline bacon that was to die for!  When I came home, a good grilled steak definitely sounded like it would hit the spot. So I picked up a beautiful flank steak and used my favorite quick marinade.

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: This is my go-to marinade for a reason. Not only is it easy, but it's very flavorful and goes well with just about any kind of meat. The flavors are bold, but not overpowering. I cooked the steak to medium-rare (medium is the max for a cut like flank steak) and cut it against the grain in thin strips, which kept it juicy and tender.
  • Difficulty: This recipe is a snap and all of the ingredients should be readily available in your pantry.
  • Pros: Easy and tasty! This steak will make you look like a pro. It would be great for Father's Day (hint, hint).
  • Cons: I should have let my grill heat up a little more to get some color on the outside of the steak.
  • Misc.: I served the steak with roasted herb potatoes and salad. The citrus vinaigrette that I whipped up for the salad made everything look a tad orange, but oh well. I added a bit of fresh rosemary to the marinade just to bring things up a notch. If you don't like cumin, substitute chili powder instead.
  • Repeat Performance: This steak already holds a prime spot in my repertoire.
Grilled Flank Steak

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp grill seasoning (mix salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder if you don't have grill seasoning)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 lbs flank steak

Mix first 6 ingredients together in a shallow dish.  Whisk in olive oil.  Add meat and turn to coat evenly.  Let meat marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat grill to high heat. Grill the steak 5-6 minutes on each side for medium-rare, 7 minutes per side for medium.

Remove meat from grill and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Get to grillin'!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cheddar and Onion Smashed Burgers

Summer is the season of farmers markets, relaxing in the backyard and grilling.  And what's more classic than grilling burgers? This year, I have resolved to do more grilling and I've been looking for interesting recipes. So imagine my surprise when I got this month's issue of Food & Wine and grill-master Adam Fleischman was extolling the virtues of making burgers on a griddle! It seemed wrong and intriguing at the same time. I decided to see how his burgers would stack up on a beautiful night when the smell of charcoal was wafting all over the neighborhood. 

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: Let me just be honest - these burgers were outstanding! Simple but strong flavors and the patties were moist and messy. In other words, they were perfect.
  • Difficulty: Amazingly easy and quick to prepare.
  • Pros: Everything about the burgers was great and I liked the twist on typical steamed onion sliders. I was worried that smashing the patties with a spatula would just end badly, but it worked out well. 
  • Cons: I wouldn't change or add anything, which is a rare thing!
  • Misc: I used 80/20 ground Angus beef, which was perfect. If the beef is too lean, I don't think the onions will cook properly. I like my meat medium, so I cooked the burgers for about 3 minutes per side. I went with a bun made of egg bread. I forgot to toast them, but they were still good. I also omitted the recipe step of covering your skillet with a roasting pan to help melt the cheese. I forgot to do it and it didn't make a difference overall. I don't like pickles, so I scrapped them and topped my burger with tomato, ketchup and mustard.
  • Repeat Performance: This will definitely be my go-to burger recipe when grilling isn't feasible.
Cheddar and Onion Smashed Burgers
Adam Fleischman for  Food & Wine, June 2011

16 thin bread and butter pickles, patted dry
4 potato buns, buttered and toasted
1 1/4 lbs ground beef chuck
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small onions, sliced paper thin
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, sliced

Heat a cast-iron griddle over medium heat. Layer the pickle slices on the bottom buns.

Without overworking the meat, loosely form it into 4 balls and place them on the griddle. Cook the meatballs for 30 seconds. Using a large sturdy spatula, flatten each ball into a 5-inch round patty.  Season the patties with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until well seared. Press a handful of sliced onions on each patty. Using the spatula, carefully flip each burger so the onions are on the bottom. Cook for 2 minutes. Top patties with cheese. Cover with a roasting pan and cook just until the cheese is melted, 1 minute more. Transfer the burgers with the onions to the buns. Top and serve.

Grab a napkin or two and dig in!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

I'm not much of a morning person, so anything that gets me on my way more quickly is worth a shot. One of my biggest challenges is actually eating breakfast. I don't like to eat right away when I get up, but my work mornings don't allow for a leisurely AM routine.  On weekdays, I often whip up a smoothie or grab some yogurt, fruit or cheese on the way out the door. When I came across this recipe, I just had to try it.  Muffins are a great portable breakfast, and a good PB&J is always high on my list.
  • Flavor/Texture: I liked the fairly dense texture of the muffins and it really did taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
  • Difficulty: These were a snap to throw together. I had all of the ingredients on hand without any special trips.
  • Pros: Easy to make, tasty and quick. 
  • Cons: Be careful to let the muffins cool completely before removing from the pan or taste-testing. The jelly becomes quite hot during baking and tends to bubble up.
  • Misc: Make sure to mix the cereal with the egg and other ingredients until it starts to break down. A minute or two should do it. I used chunky peanut butter to add some texture. You can use any kind of jam/jelly that you want. I used the last of the strawberry freezer jam I made last summer.
  • Encore Performance: These were a hit with the guys at work and I liked them as well. Definitely a keeper!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
adapted from "Parigi" by Andree Falls

1-2 tbsp butter (for greasing pan)
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup All-Bran cereal
1 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp jam or jelly of your choice

Preheat oven to 375. Generously grease a muffin pan with butter.

Pour the milk and cereal together in a bowl and let rest for a few minutes.

In a stand mixer, mix together the egg, melted butter, brown sugar and peanut butter. When combined, add the milk and cereal and mix.

Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add all at once to the rest of the ingredients and stir only until combined. Don't overmix or the batter will tighten up.

Fill the muffin tins with 1/4 cup of the batter, spoon 1 tbsp of jam on top, and fill with another 1/4 cup of batter.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the top feels firm and is slightly brown and crunchy around the edges.

Enjoy with a glass of cold milk!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake

Since Mother's Day is coming up next week, I thought I'd post this beautiful chiffon cake recipe.  It's very spring-y and the presentation is gorgeous.  I have made it for several special occasions and it's always well-received.  This is one of my favorite cakes to make. 

Chiffon cakes are naturally very moist and light, which is a perfect partner for the strawberries, mascarpone and whipped cream. The cake seems complicated, but it really isn't difficult. If you don't have time, you can use a boxed mix for the cake and just beat the batter on high for a minute or so to incorporate some extra air. If using a boxed mix, go with white or vanilla cake mix and make sure to add the lemon zest as indicated. It really does take the cake to another level.
  • Flavor/Texture: Not too sweet and the whole cake is very light. The vanilla, strawberry and lemon zest work together beautifully.
  • Difficulty: This recipe requires some work and a light hand, but it's not hard.  Make sure that your equipment (bowls, spatulas and beaters) are VERY clean and dry before whipping the egg whites or making the frosting. Do not overwork your batter when folding in the egg whites. Mix it gently until everything is just combined.
  • Pros: It's both delicious and stunning. Great for special occasions and everyday.
  • Cons: Takes a bit of work, but it's well worth it.
  • Misc: This time around, I added 1/4 cup of cocoa powder to the recipe to make a chocolate cake instead of white. The recipe works either way, but I just think the chocolate adds a little contrast and looks better. I don't worry too much about trimming the berries while putting the filling together. You can even out the tops of the berries with the filling itself, for the most part. I also add sliced strawberries to the top of the cake for some more visual interest. It is very important to do a crumb layer and then an additional layer of frosting because any flecks of the cake in the white frosting are very visible.
  • Encore Performance: This cake is already a regular in my rotation of favorite desserts. I make it frequently when strawberries are in high season.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake
adapted from a recipe by Amy Wisniewski

For the berries:
2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled (about 4 cups)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest

For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the filling:
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:
1 tbsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp sugar
3 cups heavy cream

For the berries:
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss the strawberries to coat. Let the berries macerate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before using.

Gently strain berries and reserve syrup for later use.

For the cake:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine vegetable oil, water, lemon zest, vanilla extract, egg yolks, and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar. Whip on medium speed, until mixture is airy and light in color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl; add dry ingredients and whip until smooth, about 1 minute more.

In a clean bowl, whip egg whites to medium peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the cake batter until evenly incorporated; gently fold in remaining egg whites until just combined.

Divide batter between prepared cake pans. Bake until surface of cakes springs back when pressed and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove cakes from the oven, and let cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of each, and turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling and the frosting.

For the filling:
Combine mascarpone cheese and heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the frosting:
Place the cleaned bowl of the stand mixer and the whip attachment in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Combine vanilla extract, sugar, and heavy cream in the chilled bowl and whip at medium speed until medium peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least one hour. (The frosting can be prepared up to 12 hours ahead

To assemble:
Using a long serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes as necessary so they are level. Place cake rounds on a clean, dry surface and, using a pastry brush, brush 1/2 of the reserved strawberry syrup on the cut side of the first cake round; repeat on the cut side of the second cake round.

Evenly spread 1/4 of the mascarpone filling over the cut side of the bottom cake layer. Arrange strawberries standing upright, stem end down, over the mascarpone layer and trim as necessary to create an even layer. Cover berries with the remaining filling, being sure to fill in any empty space.

Place second cake layer over mascarpone and strawberries, cut side down, pressing gently to secure it. Using an offset spatula or a long, thin spatula, spread 3/4 cup of the frosting in a thin layer over the top and sides of the cake. Return remaining frosting and cake to the refrigerator until frosting on cake is set, about 15 minutes.

Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides of the cake. Let sit in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes before serving.

I guarantee your mom will love it!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

I first saw this cake on Paula Deen's show on the Food Network. It looked delicious and pineapple upside-down cake has always been one of my favorites. I just had to make it and I figured that Easter dinner would be the perfect occasion. 

The cake came out beautifully and definitely had a "wow" factor.  I really, really wanted to love it, but it just didn't happen.  It was by no means a bad cake, but I just wanted it to be so much more. I liked it and my dad, who has a much stronger sweet tooth, loved it.  For me, the sweetness bordered on cloying and I had to scrape the frosting off.  The topping was good, but again it was too sweet for me.  The cake itself was fine, but I found myself wishing that it had some actual flavor instead of just sugar and butter. Maybe I should have known, seeing that it was a Paula Deen recipe, and I am generally not a huge fan of hers. I solidly dispute the fact that all Southern cooking has to be either fried, hot or sugar and butter-laden.  My mom's side of the family is from Louisiana and when I was growing up, we ate many things that didn't fall into those categories. 

All gripes aside, here's my review:
  • Flavor/Texture: The cake part was a little too dense for my liking, and it was very rich. The pineapple topping was great, as usual.
  • Difficulty: Nothing too hard, aside from resigning myself to using 4 STICKS of butter!
  • Pros: I like the idea of a double-layer pineapple upside-down cake. Everyone loves the topping the best, so why not double it?
  • Cons: Butter, sugar, powdered sugar and more butter. Too rich and far too sweet for my personal tastes.
  • Misc: I cooled my cakes in the pans for one hour and then stacked them, rather than following the method in the recipe. I was trying to avoid moving the cakes too much.  I had no issues with the cakes cracking or settling. I added 5 tbsp of juice to the frosting because mine was far too stiff after only 2 tbsp. There would have been no way to spread it on the cake without thinning it out a bit. Next time, I would cut down on the brown sugar in the topping as well. 3/4 cup in each cake pan is an awful lot. I would scale it back to 1/2 cup per per pan.
  • Encore Performance: I won't make this cake as written again. I loved the look of it, but I actually prefer the flavor and texture of the recipe on the back of the boxed cake mix.  Can't win 'em all!
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Recipe by Paula Deen

Non-stick cooking spray
3 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting pan
1 cup butter, softened, plus 1/2 cup butter, melted
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup whole buttermilk
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 20-ounce cans of pineapple rings, drained well (reserve some juice for frosting)
1 jar maraschino cherries
Pineapple buttercream frosting (recipe follows)
Chopped pecans, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and coat with flour.

In a large bowl, beat 1 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and set aside.

In a small bowl, add the 3 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the brown sugar evenly into each pan. Pour the melted butter equally over the brown sugar. Arrange the pineapple slices and cherries over the brown sugar. Reserve remaining pineapple slices and cherries for another use.

Pour equal amounts of batter over the fruit and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, carefully arrange 1 cake layer, pineapple side up, on a cake plate. Carefully stack the remaining cake layer, pineapple side up, over the first layer. Frost the sides of the cake with Pineapple Buttercream Frosting. Press chopped pecans into sides of cake, if desired.

Pineapple Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp reserved pineapple juice
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rainbow Cake!

I originally saw this cake on a blog that I follow, called Not Martha. The writer, Megan, is quite funny and I think we share the same outlook on food a lot of the time. On St. Patrick's Day, she posted a Leprechaun Trap Cake and I was so impressed that I decided right then and there to make it. Since St. Patrick's was done and gone, I decided to make it an Easter themed cake instead. I followed the instructions for the Leprechaun Cake and just ad-libbed my own decorations and frosting.

This cake nearly killed me. That sounds a tad dramatic, but I know the limits of my patience, and this almost got the better of me. I'm not daunted by a complex process; some of the cooking I've done is quite difficult. But this recipe reminded me of all the reasons that I shy away from baking: I dislike measuring, I like to see things happening instead of just waiting around, and I loathe not knowing whether or not something will turn out the way I want. With cooking, none of those issues phase me. Baking is a whole different story. I was on pins and needles the whole time the cake was baking. That being said, I was thrilled with the results when I cut into it. The rainbow itself looked good and the colors were great. Best of all, the kids at the party loved it and that was the main goal.

For the Easter decorations, I found some edible Easter grass at Meijer and a marshmallow bunny for the top. I went with a store-bought Rainbow Chip frosting for two reasons. One, it's my favorite and it fit with the "rainbow" theme of the cake.  Two, I was not in the mood to make frosting. Nothing fancy, but it worked. 

I literally jumped up and down and squealed in my kitchen when I cut out a slice of the cake. It's gorgeous, right?

The breakdown:
  • Flavor/Texture: Like the original blog, I went with a boxed cake mix and cooked it at a lower temp than recommended to prevent doming.  It was moist and fluffy.
  • Difficulty: I'm not gonna lie - getting a good rainbow was tough. I had a hard time trying to keep the rings relatively the same width, even with the help from the Not Martha blog. It was mainly successful, but it wasn't easy. An avid baker might have found this more enjoyable.
  • Pros: It looks awesome and I was very proud that my efforts paid off.
  • Cons: The method was time consuming, messy and dirtied quite a bit of equipment. I stained my hands up pretty good.
  • Misc: For the rainbow batter, I opted for professional gel "tasteless" food coloring to get the vibrant colors I wanted, without that nasty dye aftertaste. It worked quite well. I followed the 6-5-4-3-2-1 ratio in the original blog and worked under the fact that 1/4 cup is 2 fluid ounces. I did not trim the top of the cake to flatten it. My cake didn't really dome up much and I figured that cutting anything away might result in losing the last layer of the rainbow.
  • Encore Performance: Now that I am familiar with the method for creating the rainbow, I'm sure the recipe will be easier next time.  Even so, this recipe will only be pulled out for special requests.
If you attempt the rainbow cake, I would love to see your take on it!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grilling Time

The first nice weather of the year always gets people eager to start grilling again. This year, I have resolved to do more grilling. I like it, but I'm not particularly great at it since I rarely do it. That is about to change though, starting with this recipe! 

This recipe was great, and it was gorgeous to boot. I love sweet potatoes and they look especially pretty here with the parsley and scallions.  Also, this hash was genius. When I tasted it, I wasn't a fan of the thyme and thought that next time I'd just leave it out. It was a little strong and the woodsy taste didn't seem to balance with the sweetness of the potato.  When I took a bite of the steak though, it all came together. The thyme really elevated the hash to a new level and helped it stand up to the red meat. 

The breakdown:
  • Flavor/Texture: Great balance of sweet, salty, and savory. All very bold flavors, but they work together and don't end up being overwhelming.
  • Difficulty: Easy recipe to follow, no fancy equipment required.
  • Pros: A different take on "steak and potatoes", with a wide appeal.
  • Cons: The timing was tricky since I kept having to go out to the grill while I was keeping an eye on the hash.  Next time, I will definitely make the hash first and then tend to the meat, rather than working them at the same time.
  • Misc: Blanching the potatoes for 3 minutes was not long enough if you really want them to soften and brown in the hash in 15 minutes.  Increase the blanching to 5 min, or brown them in the pan for an additional 5 minutes. I forgot to get bone-in steaks, and I used scallions instead of chives. I substituted thick-cut bacon instead of slab bacon. I like my steaks medium, so I cooked them for 5 minutes per side.
  • Encore Performance: I would definitely take this recipe out for another spin.
Grilled Strip Steaks with Sweet Potato Hash Browns
By Frank Stitt for Food & Wine

Makes 4 servings

4 sweet potatoes (1 3/4 lbs) peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 ounces slab bacon, sliced 1/4 inch think and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound sweet onions, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp minced chives
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
4 12-ounce bone-in strip steaks

Light grill. In a medium saucepan of lightly salted boiling water, blanch the sweet potatoes for 3 minutes; drain well.

In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, 4-5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Add the onions to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until browned, about 12 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 15 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook without stirring until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bacon, parsley, thyme and chives; season with salt and pepper.

Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper and grill over high heat until nicely browned outside and medium-rare within, about 4 minutes per side. Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve with the hash browns.

Make Ahead: The hash browns can be prepared up to two hours in advance.

Fire up that grill and dig in!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pizza, Pizza

When I was growing up, my mom made pizza every Friday night. I loved it, and my friends always wanted to come over too.  When my mom found her dough recipe and sent it to me, it seemed natural to make pizza for and with people I care about. So I invited several of my friends and their children over for a pizza party on Sunday afternoon.  It was a hit!  I made the dough ahead of time and got the toppings ready. The kids had fun stretching their own dough and making little personal pizzas, while the adults collaborated on our tasty creations. We had a blast and ate a LOT of pizza - I made four double batches of dough!

 Whether you make this recipe for a crowd, or a party of one, I promise you'll love it.  It's easy to make, and the variations are only limited by your creativity with the toppings. I was surprised and impressed with the variety of meats and veggies that some of the kids put on their little pies. It's fun to bring your kids in the kitchen, especially with something that they can really express themselves with. That's how my love of cooking started and I'm always thankful for it. 

The Famous Farkas Pizza
Makes one pizza

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp butter
1 pkg rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg, slightly beaten

Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes or so, until the yeast starts to "bloom".

In a small saucepan, scald milk, sugar and butter. Let cool completely.

For the dough, it's easiest to use a mixer with a dough hook.  Add egg and yeast mixture to flour, then add the milk mixture a little bit at a time.  You may need to add a small amount of additional flour to get the dough to a kneading consistency. You don't want it to be too sticky.  Place the dough on a floured counter surface and sprinkle with a little more flour.  Knead dough for 5-10 minutes, adding flour as needed.  When the dough will accept no more flour, knead for 5 more minutes and then place the dough in a lightly greased large bowl.  Let rise for one hour in a warm place (placing a pan of hot water on the bottom oven rack and then placing the dough bowl on the top rack works great.  Don't turn the oven on - the heat and moisture from the water will make a perfect environment).

Heat oven to 350. Lightly oil pizza pan.  Punch down dough and shape to fit pan. Ladle on the sauce and add your favorite toppings.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned.

Jami's Favorite Sauce
*This stuff is to die for - great on pizza, or for dipping!

1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
3/4 cup wam water
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 Tbsp honey
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. 

Let the sauce sit for 30-45 minutes so the flavors can meld.  Spread over pizza dough and enjoy.