Sunday, September 25, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: Cook What You've Got - Improv Food & Wine Pairing Party

Special ingredients, a week's worth of salary for groceries, untested recipes to impress guests and weeks of planning.  It's a Dinner Party, right? 


Let me simplify it for you:

Cook What You've Got!

It's how I manage to spend less on a month's worth of groceries for four - two hungry, growing boys included - than most singles or couples do (without "couponing"! Extreme or otherwise.).

With no income for three months in 2009, it was how I was able to feed my family fresh, delicious and balanced meals that did not include the processed foods which make up the majority of meals for low-income families.(Which ultimately led to the development of this concept.)

What does it mean?

"Use local, seasonal produce and what's already in your kitchen to create fabulous meals on a budget."

When Foodbuzz put out the challenge to create a budget-friendly dinner party using only what's on hand for the monthly virtual feast they call 24 x 24*, I knew it was time to put my philosophy to the ultimate test.  It's easy to throw something together for your family; but to WOW guests, it's tempting to go all out and break your budget and then be too stressed to enjoy your guests.

I wanted to prove to my regular readers and the entire Foodbuzz community that it's possible to do an awesome dinner party using the Cook What You've Got philosophy so I begged them to let me have one of the coveted spots.(I had just been featured in the "Over the Top Dinner Party" 24 x 24 in August so I wasn't sure it would happen.) 

We took the challenge further and asked each guest to bring a bottle of wine so we could use the characteristics of the various wines as well as our ingredients on hand to create our impromptu menu.  Needless to say, the generous people at Foodbuzz chose my proposal.  Thanks, guys!

My planning process for dinner parties:
  1. Look on counter and in fridge - what fruits and veggies do I have?  These are the stars of my menu and will allow me to cook without recipes since they are super fresh and require little to make them shine.  
  2. Look in my freezer for meat, poultry, fish or pre-cooked beans, pesto, tapenades
  3. Look in pantry for fillers:  grains, potatoes, pasta, canned tuna or tomatoes, onions, garlic, etc.
  4. Match everything up to make a complete meal.

Here's how it played out with for our dinner at about 5 o'clock when the first guests arrived last night:

Heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, chard, melons, onions, zucchini and green beans from my Riverdog Farm veggie box.  Tiny heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers my son picked from his school's garden as well as Tokyo turnips and eggplant that were still in the fridge from my veggie box a week before. A couple of our guests shared veggies they had picked including cherry peppers, serranoes, more baby tomatoes and lemon cucumbers.  Then in my own "garden" (wine barrels) there was sage, rosemary, lavender, basil and mint.

Armed with a variety of beautiful veggies, I looked in my pantry and fridge to see what I could come up with:  two kinds of olives, preserved lemons, caponata (an Sicilian eggplant based relish I had made two days before), smoked tomato butter (also made ahead), balsamic vinegar, feta and parmesan cheeses, butter, chicken breasts (only 3 for 10 people), bacon (1/2 of a 12 oz pkg), super dark and semi-sweet chocolate, two kinds of nuts, cream, half & half, cold espresso from a stovetop brew that nobody drank, and bread dough I keep in a large bowl in my fridge almost all the time. 

Fortified with munchies to get the creative juices flowing -  Lavender Almonds and Olive Oil Popcorn with Brown Butter, Sage & Parmesan - we went on to create the rest of the meal.

Our wines with which we were pairing the meal were a French rosé; two tempranillos, one from Spain and one from Winters, CA a lesser known area near Napa; a Pinot Noir and Cabernet from Napa.  The red-heavy wine selections steered us away from my original thought of a Morrocan feast utilizing the preserved lemons and olives to a more spice and smoke driven menu all tied together with grilled bread.

Here's what we finally developed (wine pairing notes in bold):
NOTE:  I am including recipes for the more complicated items, but if it's just a few ingredients, I've broken it down in the list.
  • Meze platter:
    • Herb Marinated Olives (olives, olive oil, dried herb blend in spice drawer) French rosé with the Mediterranean flavors was a natural.
    • Balsamic Syrup (inexpensive store-brand reduced to 1/4 the amount) & Rosemary Infused Olive Oil (olive oil with a branch of rosemary brought up to simmer and turned off to sit for 30 minutes) The intensity of the syrup begged more for the reds than the French rosé which was surprising to me.  California rosés love vinegary preparations, but not the French.
    • Smoked Tomato Butter (use another flavored butter unless you have a stove-top smoker then peel, seed and slice a tomato before smoking for 30 minutes over any type of wood chips) Put it on anything, a shoe even, and it would go with the red wines.
    • Caponata (recipe below) - The sweet and sour nature of this dish didn't work by itself but along with the chicken it was perfect with the Tempranillos.
  • Quick Pickled Cherry Peppers and Tokyo Turnips (1/2 cup apple cider vinegar with 2 bay leaves, 2 tbsp brown sugar, large pinch of salt and about a lb of mixed whole baby vegetables.  Cover with water and boil until just barely tender. ) The cherry peppers killed the wine, but the turnips were sweet and almost worked with the rosé, again, it would have very much worked with a California style.
  • Heirloom tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt, fresh basil and lots of freshly cracked black pepper (just what it says) The French rosé was a classic pairing with the simplicity of this dish.
  • Lemon cucumber salad with feta, yogurt, dill and fresh mint (again, just what it says)  Pinot Noir was a surprising perfect pairing with the briny and herbal notes. 
  • Spiced rubbed and bacon-wrapped chicken Pinot Noir again (the workhorse wine of the evening) and the Cabernet were especially good with the spices and smoke.
  • Grilled Flatbread (basic Artisan Bread in 5 minutes A Day boule recipe.  See my Pesto Piadini post for the how-to's) - Bread and wine, what else can I say.
  • Double Chocolate Gluten-Free Brownies with Quick Vanilla Ice Cream and Espresso Syrup  The most unexpected pairing of the night...dessert with Tempranillo.
Everyone set about creating the menu and an hour later we sat down to a feast which finally ended around 11:30.  It never ceases to amaze me how food and wine cause people to forget about time and just enjoy life!

(Okay, I'm admitting up front, this is poor photography, please don't judge. ;) I wanted to capture the spirit of the night without flash and with a simple camera, so this is what you get.)

Here are the recipes, but I encourage you to simply use this as inspiration.  The whole idea of CWYG is to make cooking as enjoyable and flexible as it should be.

As a special gift for my readers, subscribe for RSS feed or as a follower and email me with "Send Me The List" in the subject line and I'll send you a code to download my list for FREE.  Keep it on your fridge and slowly gather the ingredients on the list. Once you do, you will be able to easily make hundreds of meals without worrying about anything but fresh items.


Olive Oil Popcorn with Brown Butter, Sage and Parmesan
Leave out the sage if you don't have it.  Substitute other hearty herbs like rosemary or thyme or just use lots of black pepper.

1 stick butter
20 or so sage leaves
olive oil
black pepper

In a small skillet over medium high heat, melt one stick of butter along with several fresh sage leaves.  Once the sage has become a little lighter in color and slightly brown around the edges, remove the leaves to a paper towel and let them drain.  Reduce heat and let the butter continue cooking over medium low heat until it is brown and has a very nutty fragrance.  Watch carefully because it will go from the perfect point to black and burnt in a few seconds.

Once the butter is ready, eyeball enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large pot followed by enough popcorn to cover the oil.  Cover the top with a lid offset or if you have a steamer insert for your pot, turn it upside down over the top so the popcorn won't come out, but the holes will allow steam to escape.  Cook over medium high heat, shaking once the popping starts, until all the kernels have popped and the popping really slows down. Dump the popped corn into a large bowl and toss with the brown butter.  Add a generous handful of grated parmesan, lots of freshly ground black pepper and the sage leaves.  Toss again and serve.

Lavender (or Rosemary) Almonds
Toast 2 cups of raw almonds in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until fragrant.  Meanwhile, measure 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium glass or metal bowl.  In a ramekin, stir together 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsps salt, and 2 tsp lavender buds or rosemary leaves, slightly crushed or chopped.  When almonds are fragrant remove them and toss with the oil until the nuts have almost completely absorbed it.  Sprinkle on the sugar mixture and toss well.  Let cool then serve.

1 medium eggplant
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
large pinch red pepper flakes
1 lb tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped (or substitute a 14 oz can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp capers
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, optional (very expensive ingredient, so feel free to leave out.)

Cut ends off of eggplant.  Cut into large 1/2" thick planks lengthwise then cut into 1/2" wide sticks.  Cut across to make 1/2" cubes. Sprinkle heavily with salt and place in a strainer over the sink to drain.  Using a paper towel, pat the eggplant pieces to remove excess water.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet.  Transfer the eggplant into the oil and cook until brown on all sides.  Remove and add the remaining olive oil and immediately saute the onion, celery and carrots until softened.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the eggplant back in along with the remaining ingredients.  Cook together until all the vegetables are soft and the tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar have almost been absorbed.  It will be a very thick relish-like mixture.  Can be served cold, hot or room temperature. Very good with grilled, meaty fish such as tuna, salmon or swordfish.

Spice Rubbed and Bacon Wrapped Chicken
I only had 3 chicken breasts to serve 10 people so we cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make thin filets.  We then cut the filets into three pieces each to make about 20 small pieces.  Using half strips of bacon worked perfectly.  They were perfect appetizer portions but you can simply use chicken breasts and wrap them with whole bacon slices.  This was awesome with the Tempranillos.

1 tsp each fennel seeds, ancho chile powder, and paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
large pinch of kosher salt
1 lb chicken breasts (about 3 chicken breasts)
1/2 lb bacon

In a clean spice grinder, blend up all the spices and salt.  Coat the chicken in the seasonings and wrap in bacon.  Place on a baking sheet and broil on the middle rack of oven on both sides until cooked through and the bacon is crisp.

Double Chocolate Gluten Free Brownies
Adapted from Great Gluten-Free Baking by Louise Blair

4 1/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

11 tbsps butter
1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
3/4 cup ground almonds
3 tbsps rice flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
3 oz chopped very dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 86% dark chocolate because that's what I had)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray or grease with butter.

In a large bowl, microwave the semi-sweet chocolate and butter on high for 1 minute.  Stir well until chocolate is totally melted into butter.  Add remaining ingredients except walnuts and dark chocolate.  Fold in walnuts and chopped chocolate.  Spread into pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is shiny.  Cool completely and cut into squares.

Quick Vanilla Ice Cream
Requires a countertop or other ice cream maker.  Just serve the brownies with whipped cream if you don't have an ice cream maker.

1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half & half (light cream)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk the ingredients together until sugar dissolves.  Pour into ice cream maker and process until the ice cream is like soft-serve.  Freeze in coldest part of freezer until ready to serve.

Espresso Syrup
1 cup brewed espresso or double strength coffee
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cream
Cook the espresso and sugar together over medium high until it is reduced by 2/3 and syrupy.  Stir in the cream and let cool completely.

*Fascinating and fun to read, 24 x 24 is twenty four bloggers from all over the world hosting dinner parties then blogging about them on the same day.

Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

Monday, September 19, 2011

Farm Fresh Oven-Baked Ratatouille over Herbed Polenta

Beautiful produce from Gibson Canyon Farm

I have this dream of planting and harvesting the food for all my cooking endeavors. The closest I get most days is picking herbs from my wine barrels and buying produce from local farmers.

Besides creating wine dinners for clients, teaching occasional cooking classes, blogging, writing recipes and taking care of my family (my real full time job) I also cook for anywhere from 3 to 15 families every week.  The broad range generally reflects what's on the menu. Surprising to me, the vegetarian entrees are usually the big draw.  So I guess I shouldn't have been shocked when Ratatouille over Polenta was the most popular choice on my menu this week, but somehow I was. 

Beyond passionate about supporting local small farms for my ingredients, I love crediting the farms for the ingredients I use in my menus.  Knowing Gibson Canyon had a plethora of the typical late summer produce, I highlighted the farm's offerings on not just one, but two of the three choices of entrees on my menu.  Big mistake!

But turned out okay.

My first clue that things weren't going as planned was as I turned off the road winding into the hills, there was a "WEEKENDS ONLY" sign plastered over the normal sign.  Though I had made an appointment to arrive early to pick up my produce, there was no vehicles and no movement on the property.  Having waited a bit, I was so happy to see the old Chevy truck drive around the corner of the barn and my friend Sue (the farmer) get out. (I was dreading having to bow to my contingency plan of supermarket shopping to fulfill my clients' meal orders.)

We chatted about what was happening with the farm and found out that a lack of traffic forced her to pare down to just three days a week.  As we're talking, my wheels were turning and I was realizing my published menu was falling apart as we spoke.  Not one to give up easily, I asked if there was anything in the field.  My words, "I wore my picking clothes" prompted Sue to fetch me scissors and gloves then walk me up to the location in her field of all my beloved ingredients.

Suddenly, it's not about simply food or cooking.  I'm thrust into a different world where I am enthralled with creation.  Yellow-centered, lavender toned blossoms of Japanese eggplant as well as the deep purple fruit caught my attention immediately.  I had never seen eggplant blossoms before and had no idea how lovely they were. Had I not forgotten my phone in my car, you would be looking at them right now.  The brilliantly pigmented and shiny fruit against the green vines was truly beautiful, I was at once entranced and just walked around the eggplant patch for a few minutes admiringly.

Finally pulling myself out of the eggplant "trance"  I noticed butterflies everywhere. Giant sunflowers were watching the sun. Discovering brilliant red perfect tomatoes among tangled, stubborn vines became an enjoyable and addictive treasure hunt that resulted in way more fruit than I needed.  While I went about the work of harvesting sweet red and grassy flavored green bell peppers, super sweet carmine peppers and tomatoes, Sue had found enough squash, while working on irrigation pipes, to complete my basket.

After all the searching, watching for stickery weeds, lunging to avoid stepping on rows, 45 minutes had passed and I had harvested 15 pounds of produce out of what appeared from the road and my non-farmers' eye, to be a weed patch.  I realized once again how organically raised produce is so different from the pristine, pesticide/ herbicide laden gardens that are lovely  to observe.

So while I could have gotten my shopping done in 10 minutes at a supermarket, without sweating or itching, in the end, not only did this ugly duckling farm feed me and my clients well this week; it fed my soul and spirit in the moment.

CWYG Stats

Seasonal Items - eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, rosemary, sage, thyme

CWYG Items - olive oil, garlic, onions, polenta, milk, parmesan cheese, butter

Oven-Baked Ratatouille over Herbed Polenta
Enjoy this with a cold rosé or lighter red wine.

1 lb each eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large sprig rosemary
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste
red pepper flakes, optional
1 cup polenta
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups milk
1 tbsp mixed chopped herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme is what I used, but basil and oregano would work, too.)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut all vegetables into uniform pieces.  (I cut mine into about 1" chunks.)

In a large roasting pan, toss the vegetables with sliced onions, minced garlic, a teaspoon of salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Bury rosemary sprig in the middle and cover tightly with foil.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the vegetables have cooked down and are very tender.  Remove foil and cook for another 30-45 minutes or until the juices have reduced to create a thick sauce around the vegetables.  Taste for salt and add to taste.  This can be served hot, cold or at room temperature.  With the polenta, I tend to serve it hot or room temperature.

To prepare polenta, whisk the polenta with 2 cups water in a heavy-bottomed 3-4 quart saucepan.  Add the milk, herbs and salt.  Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, whisking often.  Keep whisking until the polenta thickens significantly.  Reduce heat to low, whisk until the bubbling stops then cover.  Cook over low until the polenta has lost the gritty texture and is smooth.  Check it every few minutes to make sure it's not sticking and isn't developing into lumps.  When it is smooth and very thick, add the butter and cheese.  Whisk well.  Serve it warm and soft or let it harden at room temperature.  It can be pan-sauteed in olive oil or butter to serve as the foundation for a multitude of toppings.
Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cheese, Please!

So one of the fun things about being associated with FoodBuzz is that we get to try products out.  Through the Tastemaker program, we were given the opportunity to try out several varieties of Sargento cheeses.

Being from the Northwest now, I typically buy Tillamook or on a really good day and I'm at farmer's market or local shop, I buy cheeses made right around here so I haven't really given Sargento a second glance.

But for this challenge, we were asked to try Sargento cheese up against processed cheeses. After going on a cheese shopping spree courtesy of Sargento, I went about my Cook What You've Got thing and began trying them in different ways.

The first was simply using the shredded Mexican blends - Artisan Authentic Mexican and "Classic" 4-Cheese Mexican (they only make shredded and sliced varieties). The Artisan Mexican blend definitely had a more complex flavor with a bit more tang and subtle bite on the finish (By the way, doing a taste test on shredded cheese is a bit tricky.  The dog got what didn't make it!)  The Classic would be more comparable to mild cheddar/monterey jack blend which was perfect for quesadillas in the boys' lunches the next day.  In the end, for my enchiladas I was preparing that night, I used a mixture of both.

After trying some of the slices in sandwiches and such, we finally got to the fun part. Our "official" taste test of the processed cheeses against the Sargento slices.  Since my whole family are cheeseaholics, it was a great picnic.  Besides the cheeses, we packed a few fresh off the vine tomatoes, cocktail bread slices (my youngest's favorite), whole grain herb and garlic crackers and some cucumbers from the veggie box.

I gave the processed versions the benefit of the doubt and didn't even bother with the individually wrapped orange cheese slices or worse, the loaf of orange cheese (which my kids deemed "gross" when I made my one-time-a-year queso for the Super Bowl).  We instead went to the deli counter and found a horseradish flavored processed "cheddar" and some soft spreadable cheese featuring a humorous bovine.  As it turned out, what I thought I remembered about processed cheeses was still true.

As a child, I had a pretty complex palate.  When other kids were pleased with Ritz and squeezy cheese or saltines and American cheese, I knew that the two didn't taste right.  Too much sweet and nothing else really.  I always would go more flavorful crackers that had onion or garlic or really grainy varieties like Triscuits or Rye melba toast.  It balanced out the sweet flavor.  My favorite sandwich as a child was a Reuben.  I loved how there was so many different flavors.  I didn't know what exactly I was missing then, I just knew what I wanted and I searched until I found things that tasted right.

The two processed varieties brought me back to my childhood.  The cocktail bread was just too sweet to go with them.  They needed the whole grains and herb/garlic flavors in the crackers.  And the spreadable cheese was palatable with the cucumbers. In the end, the processed varieties were simply filler for two growing, indiscriminate (except for orange cheese loaves) cheeseaholic boys. 

The Sargento slices, however, were great as little cheese sandwiches on the cocktail bread.  Though we had Swiss and Mozzarella, my favorite was by far was the Pepper Jack.  Replete with the typical Monterey Jack tang, it also had two peppers - jalapenos and habaneros - which offered a better-than-average kick.

There's one Sargento shredded blend I haven't tried, but will as our weather is cooling off a bit.  While I don't expect it to taste like my favorite cave aged Gruyere, I have high hopes the Artisan Swiss, a blend of Gruyere and Swiss, will taste great on a Gratin Daphinois.  I'll keep you posted...

Final word?  Faced with artisanal cheeses from local fromageries versus Sargento, which would I choose?  Well, I think that's obvious if you know me (or have read more than this post) at all.  But they certainly did confirm my belief that there is no reason processed cheese should ever be in our grocery basket again.

Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Grilled Pesto Piadini

The first time we grilled pizza, it was one of those hand-hitting-head "Duh" moments.  What's not to love about lightly charred chewy bread?  Top it with a good drizzle of olive oil, a few off-the-vine tomatoes, torn fresh cheese and you've got a timeless dinner enjoyed around the Mediterranean for millenium.

So when I noticed my basil was growing at lightning speed, I knew pesto was coming.  Once it was made, the only question was pasta or pizza.  When I asked my husband which he wanted, there was no question.


Noticing my growing pile of tomatoes on my counter and the baby lettuces that were heading downhill in my fridge, I bumped that idea into Piadini.  If you aren't familiar with this concept, it is simply warm pizza with a cold salad on top.  Usually it's a individual sized pizza and you fold it like a taco.  I simply made one large and topped the whole thing with salad and we served right off the pizza peel.

The juices from the salad mingle with the pizza crust offering an instantaneous version of Panzanella. If you grew up in the US outside of an Italian family or neighborhood like me, the gourmande version of dipping your pizza crust in ranch or bottled "Creamy Italian" dressing.  (It was the only way to make a tasteless crust more palatable and even as a small toddler, I knew there had to be more flavor to almost everything I ate. Condiment "shopping" in the fridge was part of every meal.)

So, here's how it works.  Heat 1/2 of grill to high.  The other half to low or off.

Make or buy pizza dough. (Here's my basic dough recipe and you can keep it in your fridge for up to 2 weeks.) Spread the dough into a large circle (or individual size circles will work fine too.) on a pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet sprinkled with flour or cornmeal.  Gently lift onto the part of the grill on high.  Watch the beautiful blisters form and the sides looking slight charred then turn over with tongs and grill spatula.  Grill for a minute or until the dough is not sticky.  Using tongs remove to pizza peel or cookie sheet with the less grilled side up. Top it however you want to, but, SPARINGLY.  Remember this crust is good with nothing more than salt and olive oil.  Don't cover it up.  A spiral of marinara sauce, a drizzle of olive oil, a schmear of pesto.  A few torn pieces of mozzarella, sprinkle of feta, chunks of chevre.  A bit of proscuitto for carnivores. Pre-cooked veggies only - carmelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, roasted peppers.  (There won't be time to cook them if they are raw.)

Back on the low side of the grill until toppings are heated and cheese is melted.

Toss your favorite salad greens with a basic dressing (we used reduced balsamic and rosemary olive oil) and have any other salad ingredients fully prepped.
As soon as the pizza comes off the grill, slice it and pile the salad in the middle.  Serve.  If there are more than four eating (or you're feeding teenage boys), Repeat.

Feel free to use whatever greens or lettuce you have on hand for the salad or simply use a mixture or chopped big tomatoes or halved baby tomatoes.  The point is to have something cool and refreshing to pair with the warm pizza.

This is wine pizza.  Beer is reserved for the pizza out of the box.  We like tempranillo, Barbera or another full-bodied fruity wine if we have Balsamic in the dressing.  Otherwise, chianti or any other red wine works fine.

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box Items- Tomatoes (some from box, some from garden), basil (garden)

CWYG List Items - walnuts, flour, olive oil, salt, parmesan, garlic, lettuce mix, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar (reduced from 1 cup to 1/4 cup over low heat)

Grilled Pesto Piadini
1 lb bread or pizza dough
flour or cornmeal for sprinkling
Prepared Pesto
8 oz fresh mozzarella
4 cups mixed lettuces (or tear up a variety of whatever you have on hand)
1 pint cherry tomatoes or 1 lb large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp reduced balsamic vinegar 
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat grill.  (Remember, half to high and the other half to low)

Sprinkle a pizza peel or very large cutting board with flour or cornmeal.  Carefully press the dough out until it's only 1/4" - 1/2" thick.  It should be fairly large, 14"-16" in diameter.  (As an alternative, use 1 1/2 lbs of dough, make 4 pieces and press into 8" very thin circles.)

Carefully slide onto the hot side of the grill.  When blisters form and the sides look slightly charred, flip and grill for 1-2 minutes or until you can move it easily. Flip it over and off the grill spread some of the pesto and tear the mozzarella over the top.

Place the pizza on the low side of the grill and cover to bake for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

While the pizza is grilling, toss the lettuce and tomatoes with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Remove the pizza from the grill and slice.  Top with the salad and serve.  (If making individuals, no need to slice.)

Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thai Turkey Burgers with Peanut Slaw

I've always contended that September is hotter than August.  No one really believes me, but it's true every year.  Today it's supposed to be almost 100 degrees and in early August we had a beautiful week of 80 degree days.  Grilling is still the go-to cooking method at least for a few more weeks.  Little cleanup afterward and the heat dissipating into the air instead of into my kitchen - Yes, I'll take that!

Thai is my favorite Asian cuisine with it's balance of sweet-sour-salty-spicy as I've mentioned before. It also uses lots of fresh herbs (basil and mint especially) which are prevalent in my wine barrel garden. Combined with the fact that it pairs well with refreshing rosés (not white zinfandel, real rosé) and crisp white wines that are so much more appealing than heavy reds during the heat, I naturally think this direction when considering the ground turkey in my freezer.  Thai flavored ground turkey sort of stir-fry doesn't sound appealing at all, but a Thai burger with peanut slaw! Now that I can do.  My favorite locally produced rosé (Ledgewood Creek Vineyard, check it out) is chilling in the fridge so it's officially a "GO".

Feel free to sub ground chicken or pork for the turkey.  Beef will be heavy, but you can always try it.  The Peanut Slaw also makes a refreshing salad when tossed with cooked buckwheat, whole wheat or rice noodles and is a perfectly acceptable vegetarian meal.

CWYG Stats
Veggie Box Items - Purple carrots, cabbage, Armenian cucumbers (yum!  Look for them) basil & mint from garden
CWYG Items - ground turkey, Thai red curry paste, ginger, garlic, green onions, peanut butter, tamari (can use soy) sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, chile garlic paste

Thai Turkey Burgers with Peanut Slaw
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (organic or look for hormone-, steroid-, and antibiotic-free)
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 whole wheat buns

Peanut Slaw
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy, chunky, it just doesn't matter.)
1/4 cup very hot water
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp tamari sauce (or 1 tbsp soy)
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots ( I used purple)
1 cup shredded cucumber (if using grocery store waxed cucumbers, peel, then remove seeds before cutting into matchsticks)
1 cup shredded fresh herbs such as mint and basil (can use cilantro, too if you have it.)

Preheat the grill to medium high.  Or have a grill pan or large skillet ready for cooking on the stove.

Mix together all the turkey burger ingredients (NO, not the buns).  Form into 4-6 burgers using the buns as a decision maker for final size.  Put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to make handling a little easier.

Meanwhile, prepare the slaw.  Mix the peanut butter, water, brown sugar, tamari and rice wine vinegar in a large bowl until smooth. Add chile garlic sauce to taste if you like it spicy.  Toss in the cabbage, carrots, cucumber and herbs.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Grill (or pan saute) for 7-8 minutes on the first side, turning a quarter turn half way through to get good grill marks.  Turn and grill for another 4-5 minutes or until the internal temp is 165 degrees.  Remove and keep warm under a foil tent.  Toast buns on grill or stovetop. 

Place a burger on each bun and top with slaw.  Drizzle with Chile Garlic sauce if desired.
Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, TablaVie Cooking Classes

Copyright 2012 TablaVie Personal Chef Service

All photos and recipes may not be used without express permission from Christi Flaherty, owner and creator of Cook What You've Got Concept and blog.
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