Friday, August 26, 2011

Grilled Chicken Parmesan Pizza

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of posting a recipe for a delicious savory crust pizza. This week’s new recipe uses the same crust (or any crust you like, really, whether home-made or purchased) in a different way: Grilled Chicken Parmesan Pizza. Rolling the dough out thinner than for a baked pizza, and grilling it rather than baking it, results in a crisper crust that combines wonderfully with any of your favorite toppings. Here we’re making it with a chicken parmesan topping, crowned with parmesan and one of the truly great cooking cheeses: fontina. (The parmesan is grated, and the fontina is shaved into thin slices with a cheese slicer.) The saucing method – grilling tomatoes till soft and then mashing them onto the dough and adding an herb or two – is borrowed from a classic method for saucing margarita pizza.

A note about the grilling part: Although grilled pizza is generally made on an outdoor gas or charcoal grill, my weapon of choice for such things is a stove-top grill pan, and this recipe was prepared on that basis. If you prefer an outdoor grill, heat it to about medium hot and the recipe should work just as well.

Now let’s grill some pizza! This recipe makes 4 single-serving pizzas.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Blanch 3 large tomatoes (beefsteak or similar) for about 1 minute, rinse in cold water till they’re cool enough to handle easily, and remove the peels. Slice the tomatoes into ½” thick slices, and set aside.

Dry 1-1/2 pounds of chicken tenders or thin-cut breasts with paper towels. Brush each side with olive oil, and season both sides with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.

Put the sliced tomatoes into a hot grill pan lightly coated with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and few drops of white wine vinegar and heat until just soft, turning over half-way. Set the tomatoes aside. Scrape any tomato residue off of the pan with a wooden spoon.

Place the chicken on the grill pan. Cook until the chicken is browned and cooked through, turning over half-way. Set the chicken aside. After it has rested for a few minutes, cut the chicken into bite size pieces.

Divide a pizza dough (large enough to make a normal 16” pizza) into 4 equal parts on a floured surface, and gently roll each out to about 1/8” thickness.

Working one dough at a time, lightly brush one side of the each dough with olive oil and place on the grill pan, oiled side down.

As the dough cooks, air pockets may form as shown in the photo at right. This is a good thing; it means your dough will have a light crispness.

When the dough is browned, after about 2 minutes, brush oil on the top side and turn the dough over.

Immediately place ¼ of the roasted tomatoes on the dough, crush them and spread them around as a sauce. Sprinkle ¾ teaspoon of chopped fresh oregano on the dough.

Put ¼ of the chicken, 1/3 cup of shaved fontina cheese, 3 tablespoons of grated fresh parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon of chopped fresh basil, ½ teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley and ¼ teaspoon of butter substitute on the dough. (If you like some heat on your pizza, you can also add a pinch of dried red pepper flakes.) Cover with a large bowl and cook for about another 2 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Keep the finished pizza warm in the oven while cooking the remaining pizzas as described above. For an extra special touch, drizzle each pizza with olive oil before serving.

And there you have it: a special grilled treat your whole family will enjoy. (At least my whole family enjoyed it; I assume yours will too.) If you’d like a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this or any other Kissing the Cook recipe, send me a note with your e-mail address and I’ll send it along.

See you next week with a special family recipe from my favorite cook. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pastry Ravioli

The origins of Strawberry-Rhubarb Pastry Ravioli go back several years. I was preparing a pie and had leftover dough trimmings. Such leftovers are normal, of course, but I was determined not to waste anything, even the scraps. I think when you make the dough yourself you feel a little parental toward it and want to give it every chance to make something of its life.

Whatever the reason, I took small roll-outs of the dough, placed some preserves on them, topped them with another small dough roll-out, and baked it till it looked something like a ravioli. They tasted pretty good. Elated and proud, yet disarmingly modest for someone who had just revolutionized the culinary world, I took time out from writing the speech I was going to give when awarded the Nobel Prize for Pastry to showed my great invention to my wife. She informed me that baking preserves between two pieces of pie dough was something mothers had been doing with small children to keep them occupied for about as long as there have been preserves, pie dough and, for that matter, small children.

Oh well, I thought. Back to the cutting board.

Despite the idea’s childish roots (or maybe because of them), it stayed in my head until, a couple of weeks ago, Facebook friend and, let me be sure to mention, award-winning and published baker Isabel asked me when I was next going to have a recipe for something sweet. It seemed a chance to explore the pastry ravioli idea again, this time bringing more experience to the process and taking it up a level or two. Experience, in this case, meaning:
  • Using a strawberry-rhubarb filling instead of jarred preserves;
  • Cutting the pastries with a ravioli cutter and topping them with fresh strawberry syrup made to resemble tomato sauce; and
  • Topping the “sauce” with shaved white chocolate to resemble fresh-grated parmesan.
I’ve always said one of my favorite ingredients is whimsy. Fun food tastes good!

This recipe makes about sixteen 2-1/2” pastries. You’ll need two pie doughs which you can either buy, make using your favorite recipe, or click on the link for a reduced fat pie dough that really works.

Start by hulling one pound of fresh strawberries and dividing them into two equal piles, one for the filling and one for the topping.

To make the filling, combine the following in a bowl, mix well, and cover and refrigerate until ready to use: ½ pound of the strawberries, finely chopped; 1-1/2 cups (about 1-1/2 large stalks) of red rhubarb, finely chopped; ¾ cup sugar; 1-1/2 tablespoons of corn starch; ½ tablespoon of all-purpose flour; ¼ teaspoon fresh lemon zest; ¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice; ¼ teaspoon cinnamon; and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.

Begin preheating the oven to 425 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll one of the pie doughs into a thin pastry. Being careful not to cut the dough, use a ravioli cutter to lightly mark where the dough will be cut into individual pieces. Lay out as many pieces as possible.

Draining each spoonful as much as possible, place about a teaspoon of filling onto the center of each marked piece. (You will probably have filling left over.) Place a small dab of butter substitute on top of each mound of filling.

On another floured surface, roll out the other pie dough to the same thickness as the first. Place the second dough on top of the first and lightly press down around the mounds formed by the filling.

Brush an egg wash (1 tablespoon of water mixed with either one egg substitute egg or 1 beaten fresh egg) to the top dough. With the mounds as a guide, use the ravioli cutter to cut separate pastries that look like ravioli. Place the pastries on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake the pastries at 425 for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake until lightly golden, about 35 minutes, turning the baking sheet half-way.

While the pastries are baking, let’s make our strawberry “sauce” topping.

Place a small glass plate in the freezer. (This method of checking the final cooled thickness of the topping while it’s still hot comes to us from the world of jelly-making.)

Place ½ cup of sugar and the juice of ½ lemon into a medium saucepan. Mix until combined, then heat over a low heat until the sugar mixture is melted. (Keep an eye on it; you don’t want this to burn.)

Crush the remaining ½ pound of hulled strawberries by hand into the saucepan. (Crushing by hand will give the finished topping a lightly chunky appearance similar to tomato sauce.) Add a pinch of nutmeg and ½ tablespoon of butter substitute. Cook the mixture down to the desired “sauce” thickness. (You can check the thickness of the cooled liquid by placing a few drops of the hot liquid onto the plate you put in the freezer and letting it cool.)

When the pastries and topping are done, let them rest until cool.

The cooking is done; now it’s time for the stagecraft.

After the pastries and topping have cooled, lay the pastries on a serving plate similar to ravioli and top with the strawberry “sauce.” Shave white chocolate on top of the sauce, giving it an appearance similar to parmesan cheese on tomato sauce.

As always, if you prefer a cookbook-style, notebook-ready version of this or any other recipe you see here, just give a holler (along with your e-mail address) and I’ll get it right out.

See you next week with another recipe for something tasty and reduced fat! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shrimp Stuffed Fish Fillets

Sometimes recipe ideas come from the strangest places.

The idea for Shrimp Stuffed Fish Fillets was actually a collision between two thoughts:  I’d been thinking about court bouillon (literally, “quick broth” for those who parlez-vous), the wonderful and classic  liquid used for braising fish, and also thinking about braciole, a delicious Italian dish made by stuffing and rolling a thin piece of beef or pork with, well, pretty much anything you want to stuff it with. Since my favorite recipe projects usually involve doing something twisted with a dish that would otherwise be considered normal, I saw an opportunity to combine the two ideas by doing a stuffed, rolled thin fish fillet, braised in court bouillon, and topped with a drizzle of sage-infused olive oil. For sides, I selected a tomato casserole my wife taught me, and some admittedly nondescript rice cooked in vegetable broth.

The recipe as described below serves four.

If you decide to make the tomato casserole as a side dish, you’ll want to get that going first so you can prepare the fish and filling while the casserole is baking:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Melt ¼ cup of butter substitute in a saucepan over medium heat. Put in 1 small chopped onion and cook until tender, the remove from the heat and stir in 1-1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs (fresh works especially well for this); 1 teaspoon of kosher salt; ½ teaspoon dried basil; and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Cut 2 pints of cherry tomatoes in half, and line the bottom of a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish with ¼ of the tomatoes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar on top of the tomatoes, then 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan, then ¼ of the bread crumb mixture. Repeat the tomatoes-sugar-parmesan- bread crumb mixture process three more times until everything has been used.

Cover the casserole and back for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. To brown the top layer of bread crumbs slightly, uncover the casserole and bake for another five minutes.

To make the fish, we first prepare the court bouillon. Court bouillon is technically defined as an acidulated vegetable broth, but that’s much too complicated a way to think of something that really is very simple. How simple? Check this out:

Combine your ingredients in any pot large enough to hold them: 4 cups of water; 1 cup of dry white wine (I used Chardonnay); the juice of ½ lemon; 1 medium onion, chopped;  ½ stalk of celery, chopped; 1 crushed garlic clove; 6 whole peppercorns; ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme; 1 bay leaf; ½ carrot, chopped; 1 teaspoon of kosher salt; 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley; and 2 tablespoons of fresh sage. (The solids will be strained out after the broth is made, so you don’t have to make the chopped vegetables very beautiful, and can even leave the papery outside on the crushed garlic for extra flavor.) Bring it to a boil, lower the heat a bit to a simmer. After simmering for 30 minutes, strain out the solids and pour the liquid into a pan deep enough to hold whatever fish you’re planning to braise.

While it’s simmering, you can prepare the filling. (This part is even easier than the court bouillon!)

Put your filling ingredients together in a large bowl: 1 pound of finely chopped raw shrimp (cleaned and shelled, of course); 2/3 cup chopped fresh basil; ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley; 4 sprigs fresh thyme; 2 shallots, finely chopped; ½ cup plain bread crumbs; 2 chopped garlic cloves; 1 egg-substitute egg; 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt; and ¼ teaspoon fresh-ground pepper. Mix till combined, then cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to fill your fillets.

Since that doesn’t take long to do, you’ll probably also have time to make your sage-oil:

Finely chop 2 tablespoons of fresh sage in a mini-processor. Add ¼ cup of olive oil, and process a few more moments till the oil and sage are combined.

And now for our fish. I used flounder fillets, but any fish fillets you like should be fine.

Brush both sides of your fillets lightly with olive oil, then season with kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper. Spread some shrimp filling on top of each fillet, roll them up, and secure each with one or two toothpicks. (You’ll have extra filling when you’re done stuffing the fish. Not to worry; cook it in a pan for a few minutes until the shrimp pieces are cooked through, and spoon some onto your plate as a bed for the stuffed fillets when you’re ready to serve.)

Bring the court bouillon back to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and carefully place the stuffed fish into the hot braising liquid. Simmer till the fish flakes and the shrimp is cooked. (This should generally take 6 – 10 minutes depending on your fish fillet, but check it while it’s cooking.)

To serve the stuffed fish, put some of the cooked extra stuffing on the plate, place a stuffed fish fillet on top of that, and finish it by drizzling some of the sage-olive oil. Add your sides, and you’ve not only got yourself a delicious fish dinner, but also a great method for braising other fish dishes too.

That’s it for this week. Please visit again next week for another fun, easy, reduced fat recipe!

If you prefer a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of these or any other recipes you see here on Kissing the Cook, just say the word!

Hope to see you next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pickled Delight Sampler

Warm greetings to new subscriber (and Facebook friend) Barbara!

What better way to celebrate one year of Kissing the Cook than with what may be the ultimate in reduced fat foods: pickles! More specifically, with a selection of easy-to-make pickled items, made with a variety of brines, that I call “Pickled Delight Sampler.” 

If the word “pickled” conjures images of large canning set-ups, I have good news. While three different brines are used in preparing the sampler, everything in this recipe is prepared using the simple method that has come to be known as refrigerator pickling. Refrigerator pickling doesn’t involve the canning process that, while not difficult, is still off-putting to some people. Refrigerator pickling is really just your normal food preparation: make the food, put it in a container, and store it in the refrigerator for consumption within a reasonable amount of time. (Long-term storage, particularly if non-refrigerated, does, of course, require proper canning equipment and methods.) With refrigerator pickling, the flavor of the vegetables is the direct result of the brine and seasonings used, rather than coming from the controlled fermentation process of other methods.

Pickled vegetables, once you get involved with them, are a world unto themselves. According to our friends at Wikipedia, festivals in Japan often feature a snack called ippon-tsuke, which translates, roughly, to “stick pickle.” (For some reason I’m reminded now of “poke-mon,” the Japanese word familiar to most parents that translates to “pocket monster,” and which begs the question, “Why does the Japanese language have a word for ‘pocket monster’?”) Even pickle-loving  Japanese have nothing up on our American south, which has put its own unique stamp on the world of pickling. Southern offerings include “Kool-Aid pickles," which are dill pickles made in a mixture of Kood-Aid and pickle brine, and the self-explanatory “Deep Fried Pickles.”

While pickling can be done with many different vegetables, cucumbers are used most often, so a few words about them are in order. Pickling is generally done using the small, crisp Kirby cucumber, rather than the more usual cucumbers used in salads, etc. Be sure to pick Kirby’s that have a firm texture and a deep green color. Otherwise your pickles could end up mushy and seedy. And no one likes mushy, seedy pickles. You can pickle your Kirby’s whole, cut into halves or quarters, or even slices. They’re your pickles; you make the call.

The sampler pictured includes a couple of items my grandmother used to delight us with as children: pickled celery, and pickled lettuce. For the plate pictured, these and the roasted red peppers were prepared in a garlic pickle brine. The mushrooms were prepared in the same brine but with some lemon zest added. And the pickles themselves were done in a “half-sour” dill pickle brine. Needless to say, you can pickle these or any other vegetables in any of the brines. (Some vegetables, like green beans, should be blanched before the brine is applied.)

The details of each brine are presented below. Once the brine is made, the refrigerator pickling approach is as follows:

Prepare the brine by putting the water, vinegar and salt in a pot and bringing to a boil. (Use kosher salt. The iodine in table salt has an adverse affect on the color of the finished pickle.) Once it has started boiling, turn off the heat and let the brine cool before pouring it onto the vegetables. We want to pickle the vegetables, not cook them.

Place the seasonings in the bottom of your jar(s), and then the vegetables on top of that. (I’ve seen recipes in which the seasonings are cooked directly into the liquid rather than being placed in the individual jars. I think that would work well if you’re using one big jar, but if you’re dividing your vegetables into two or more small jars, placing the seasonings in the jars individually ensures they’ll be distributed evenly between the jars. If you put all the seasonings into the brine at once, each jar will get whatever distribution comes out when you pour.)

Pour the brine of your choice onto the vegetables. (It’s important to make sure the brine covers the vegetables completely. If necessary, place a water-filled sandwich bag or other weight on top of the vegetables to keep them submerged.)

Seal the jars, and place them in the refrigerator. Give them a gentle shake once or twice a day. Now comes the hard part: waiting. Half-sours generally should take about two days to be ready. Give the garlic pickled items a week to a week and a half.

Now let’s bring on the brines! Using the general method above, prepare the brines using the combinations of ingredients below. (All of the brine recipes below are based on two pounds of Kirby cucumbers, which is usually around 12.) First, the half-sour dill brine (used for the cucumbers in the plate pictured):

Basic Brine:
  • 2-1/2  cups water
  • 2-1/2 cups white vinegar
  • ¼ cup Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (paper on is ok)
  • ½ tsp dried red pepper flakes.
Next, our garlic pickling brine (used for the lettuce, celery and roasted red pepper in the plate pictured):
Basic Brine
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic per pint jar
  • 10 peppercorns per pint jar
Finally, the lemon-garlic brine (used for the mushrooms in the plate pictured):
Basic brine: same as garlic pickling brine

Seasonings: same as garlic pickling brine, with the addition of 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest per pint jar.
And there you have it: an introduction to the wide, wonderful world of refrigerator pickling! If you’d like a cookbook-style copy of this recipe, drop me a line and I’ll get it right out.

See you next week as we begin our second year of reduced-fat recipes! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)