Chili-Baked Ribs

January 3, 2012

For years, my husband has continuously asked me to make “saucy ribs.” But for some reason, every recipe I have tried, although good, never really gave me that sweet, spicy, sticky, lick-your-fingers ribs. Until last night.

Thanks to my parents, a bottle of liquid smoke was in my stocking this year (which is apparently available in many specialty food stores or online and can be used in many dishes!). I had heard of the ingredient and was curious about the depth of flavor it would add to items made in the kitchen vs. the grill. So when I found a saucy rib recipe that required liquid smoke, I knew I had to try it.

You need a weekend day for this one, but it is WELL worth it. I will never make another rib recipe again. The sauce is AMAZING and has such complex flavors – layering the liquid smoke, molasses, coffee and cinnamon. Then, it combines that sauciness with a great dry rub along with slow roasting the ribs until they fall off the bone.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit, but I made a few changes based on user reviews. I changed the recipe for a slower roast, and reduced the sugar for the right balance of sweet and spicy/smoky.

As someone who has tried many rib recipes, take my word that this one will be your favorite. And, if you have any doubts, just ask my rib-requesting husband!

CHILI-BAKED RIBS
Serves 8

Sauce (might want to make extra!)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup unsulfured (light) molasses (although I used dark and it tasted great!)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Ribs
6 baby back pork rib racks (about 9 pounds total weight)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
6 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced to 3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For Ribs:
Score white membrane on underside of ribs. Place ribs in large roasting pan. Mix vinegar and liquid smoke in small bowl; brush over both sides of ribs. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix chili powder, cumin, sugar, onion powder and cayenne. Rub over both sides of ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange ribs, meat side up, in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Roast 3 hours, covering loosely with foil if browning too quickly.

Remove ribs from oven. Brush both sides of ribs with 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 10 minutes. Brush both sides of ribs with additional 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 15 minutes longer. Remove ribs from oven. Cover with foil; let stand 15 minutes.

Cut ribs between bones into 3- to 4- rib sections. Serve with remaining sauce.

Baby Ruth Cookies

November 7, 2011

If you are like me, you tell yourself you won’t buy the Halloween candy that you have a weakness for, yet somehow it always ends up in your pantry. And eventually, your stomach. For me, that candy bar is a Baby Ruth. So, every Halloween, I have a bowl full of extra Baby Ruths that I continuously eat during the remainder of the week.

So this year I thought I would get a bit crafty – “what if my favorite candy bar were a cookie?” So, I took my remaining Baby Ruths, chopped them up, and put them in my favorite basic cookie recipe (from The Cookie Book by Peggy Cullen).

So during the 11 minutes the cookies were in the oven, magic happened. The nougat melted and turned chewy and sweet, and the peanuts and chocolate infused the entire dough. These might actually be the best cookies I have ever made.

So, my Halloween experiment turned into a new favorite. And, I would bet that your favorite Halloween candy would also be worth the little experiment of seeing how it translates into a cookie.

So, thanks to my basic cookie recipe and Halloween imagination for inspiring my new favorite cookie!

BABY RUTH COOKIES
2 dozen

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
7-10 fun size Baby Ruth candy bars, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugars, salt and vanilla until well combined. Beat in the egg. Scrape down the bowl using a rubber spatula and beat for a few more seconds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix on low speed just until absorbed. Combine the Baby Ruth pieces into the dough.

Shape the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and drop them about 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. For perfectly uniform cookies, scoop the dough using a 1 1/2-in cookie scoop, leveling the dough off across the top before dropping onto the baking sheets. Bake for 11 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Pumpkin Bread

October 27, 2011

For those who read my blog, know it has been a long time since I have posted. A few months in fact. And the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t because of my lack of time to blog. It is my lack of time to cook. Apologies to all who blog, but the latter is much more concerning.

Cooking and baking is part of what makes me calm, helps me keep things in perspective, allows me to feel control when other things feel out of control. And, most importantly, it allows me to share my food with others, and therefore share my love through the gift of food.

But, my busy job and travel schedule has resulted in nights of take out, frozen pizza and late night visits to our favorite local restaurants.

So, this past weekend I was finally in town. No work trips. No packed social calendar. Just a weekend to enjoy fall and reset for the busy week ahead. And fall being my favorite culinary season, I knew I had to take this opportunity to get back to what I love.

So, after 8 mini loaves of pumpkin bread that filled our house with the scents of fall, and was shared with neighbors, coworkers and friends, I rekindled what had been missing in my hectic life.

Although I love my job, and feel blessed every day that I go into work, I remembered the many other things that make me who I am. I had been missing going for a run, reading the latest Bon Appetit and spending the time with my husband that we both deserve.

So on Sunday, with the aroma of cozy and spicy fall filling our house, after delivering a loaf to our neighbor and packing up the others for coworkers, after making my butternut squash risotto with a glass of red wine listening to Italian music…..I knew that my life needed to shift. I needed to go back to what makes me happy, and prioritize it, no matter how hectic my life becomes.

So, this pumpkin bread symbolizes my commitment to spend more time doing what I enjoy doing – and that is spreading love through food.

And, it was only fitting that the pumpkin bread recipe I found was that of Bobby Flay, who I surprisingly met the weekend before at Keeneland. A sign? Maybe.

So besides the emotional connection I now have to Bobby Flay’s pumpkin bread, it is quite possibly the best recipe I have ever made. Granted, there is more sugar than in a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but his mixture of spices (especially All Spice, my favorite cold weather spice) make this a  comforting taste of fall.

So, for those who need to rekindle their love of cooking, or those just looking to make a great fall treat for the ones they love, I thank Bobby Flay for giving me the recipe that made me realize what I had been missing.

PUMPKIN BREAD
1 9-inch loaf or a 4 small loaf pan

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* Scant 1 cup canned pumpkin puree, not flavored pie filling
* 2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (if you are using a small 4 loaf pan bake for only 45 minutes). Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Maryland Crab Cakes

July 4, 2011

I recently finished a book called “I Loved, I Lost, I Make Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci. The book was a quick read, and a wonderful mix between Sex in the City and Bon Appetit. The book takes you through Guilia’s dating life, along with the food she makes along the way. Recipes sneak into many of the pages, so the creations can be made by the reader.

When I read her crab cake recipe, made for her boyfriend at the time as an “all American dish,” I thought I could give it a try with the crab I had from a month ago (frozen) on this Fourth of July Weekend.

I have to admit I have tried crab cakes before and although they are always good, I could never get the texture just right. I am unsure if it was this particular recipe or my previous “practice,” but these cakes had the perfect crab cake texture. After reading more on the subject, I have a few tips for making crab cakes that don’t turn into crab scramble.
1. Make sure your recipe includes an egg as a binder.
2. Make sure your recipe includes some panko/bread crumbs as an additional binder.
3. Make sure to refrigerate for at least one hour to solidify before baking or frying.

Now that I have the basics down, I might get creative with this classic recipe – but for now, this is one of the best crab cakes I have ever had. I created a lemon mayo sauce to be served on the side.

Thanks to Giulia Melucci for her recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.

MARYLAND COLONY CRAB CAKES
Serves 2

2 tablespoons celery, minced
2 tablespoons scallions, green parts only, minced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 pound crabmeat
1 1/2 cups panko
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 lemon, cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, mix together all but the olive oil, butter (and lemon wedges, of course). Shape into 4 patties. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour.

Over medium heat, fry in olive oil and butter until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Serve with lemon wedges.Yields 4 small crab cakes (2 per person).

LEMON MAYO SAUCE
Add 2-3 tablepoons of mayo with lemon juice, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Put a dollop on the crab cakes.

Homemade Fresh Pasta

May 22, 2011

There are certain things I just won’t cut corners on. I won’t make cookies from a box, bag or anything that says “break and bake.” I won’t ever buy marinara sauce from a jar. And I certainly wouldn’t dream of buying a pre-made cake.

But, before you think I don’t have a full-time job, multiple hobbies and a life outside the kitchen, let me tell you what I DO cut corners on. I will, every once in a while, buy a pie crust (my grandmother would cringe). I have been known to buy jams from a jar, salsa from a jar and – gasp – dips from a jar. But the one shortcut I did every week, every Thursday, without batting an eyelash, was buy fresh pasta. That is, however, until I went to Italy.

When I experienced a cooking class outside of Varenna with the talented Moreno, I had a new outlook on Italian cooking. Much like the view I have on cooking, Italians enjoy making the food as much as eating it. And, the more steps of the process your hands touch, make or mold, the more love you can put into the dish you will serve your loved ones. Dear Moreno made pasta from scratch. No attachments to mixers. No crank machines. Just his hands, a rolling pin and a few simple ingredients.

I would be fooling myself (and overestimating the size of my kitchen) if I thought I could make pasta with a rolling pin. But it did inspire me to make pasta. After all, I call it a sin to not make your own gravy, so why would I buy fresh pasta?

Step one was a pasta maker, and I was lucky enough to get one from my parents for Christmas. I couldn’t wait to try it. I searched back for Moreno’s recipe which had semolina flour (and I couldn’t find it anywhere) so I looked up a few recipes online for all-purpose flour. I cleared a Sunday afternoon, got out my machine, and went to work.

I would be lying if I told you the first time it was perfect – in fact, it was far from. The dough just didn’t feel right in my hands (sign one) then the crank number the recipe called for made the pasta feel too thin (sign two). But, it gave me enough hope to try again.

Four times, and four recipe alterations later, I finally got it. The perfect pasta noodle. While I am still mastering tagliatelle, I think ravioli might be a natural progression. However, anything more complex, I am buying from the store!

A few tips when you make pasta:
1. Don’t cut short kneading the dough. If you don’t do it for at least 10 minutes, the dough won’t be right. You will be tired, and wonder why, but you feel it in your hands when the dough takes form.
2. Don’t forget to let it rest. It needs this time after being needed for so long. At least for 3o minutes.
3. Don’t be afraid to use flour once the noodles are made in order to separate them.
4. Go into the process knowing you will tweak your recipe many times before finding one that works.
5. Allow yourself at least an hour for the process (if not a little more).
6. It tastes better and is much more fun if you make it while sipping red Italian wine and listening to Italian music.

I would love to give credit to someone this recipe but I used one I found online and changed it so much, I don’t even recognize it anymore. So, I suppose I should credit myself (although there surely are many duplicates out there).

So in Italian fashion, when I make pasta, the whole meal tastes of the love I put into it. I recently revisited my pistachio cream pasta the time I finally nailed my noodle recipe. It was almost like a different dish – a dish entirely made from scratch. No shortcuts. But lots of love.

HOMEMADE FRESH PASTA
Serves 2-3

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon olive oil
½ Tablespoon warm water

Put flour on a marble, wooden or smooth countertop and create a “volcano” and create a well in the center. In a bowl, mix the eggs, salt and olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the well and slowly incorporate the flour into the eggs, pulling flour from the area around the well. You might have to add the yolk in multiple phases in order for it to fit in the well without spilling over.

As things begin to get incorporated, keep kneading (even if your well breaks) and add the water if necessary. This will be messy, but keep going! Once you have the mixture in a ball form, begin kneading the dough. Fold it in have and press against the counter. Start a timer and knead for no less than 10 minutes and you will see your dough begin to take shape.

Once your 10 minutes is up, cut your dough in half to form two little balls. Put them in a bowl (or two separate bowls) and cover with plastic wrap. Let them sit for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

If you are using a crank machine, take the first ball and press onto the counter to push into a flat pancake. Make sure your pasta maker is on the widest setting (mine is 7) and crank the dough through. Keep flour on the dough to keep it from getting sticky. Keep changing the setting every time until you get the thickness you want (for mine the perfect thickness is level 3). Then, crank it through the cutting side, keeping it floured and you have fresh pasta! This pasta can also be frozen, I am told, but I have yet to do it.

The flour with the well of egg mixture in the center.

My husband demonstrating how to knead the dough!

The balls of dough after they have been kneaded.

Passing the dough through the pasta press.

Cutting the pasta. The last step!

Dinner!

Chocolate Covered Macaroons

May 19, 2011

What I find in my cooking and baking is that sometimes amazing recipes come from unexpected places. I recently blogged about a recipe a woman got from her mother’s blender box. Sometimes I look at the back of a chocolate wrapper and steal that recipe for my own. And sometimes you are on a airplane traveling for business, catching up on your People magazines (fortunately it is official work reading) and you see a celebrity recipe and think “wow, that does look amazing!”

So, when the torn out macaroon recipe found its way to my dining room table later on that week, my husband innocently asked “oh, is this what you are baking this weekend?” (and for those who know me know that wasn’t a subtle hint, but a realistic question). He inspired me to give it a try.

Having never made macaroons before, I was a bit concerned, but optimistic when I revisited the short ingredient list. Coconut, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, vanilla, cream, baked and dipped in chocolate I figured I could handle the challenge.

Let me start off by saying I am not sure I could have made this recipe without my cookie scoop so if you don’t have one, use this as your excuse to buy one. Also, don’t “save a step” by not dipping them in chocolate. The dish isn’t complete without it. Also, the recipe says it makes 24, well I got 40 (perhaps my scoop is small).

So 40 macaroons later my husband and I tried one and were speechless. So easy to make, yet SO good. They made their way into my office Monday (gone in minutes) as well as my husband’s office (gone in seconds). So, as people continue to ask me for the recipe, I thought I would divulge my unexpected source and share in my secret.

So, thank you to People magazine (and Jill Zarin of The New York Housewives) for this fantastic sweet treat!

CHOCOLATE COVERED MACAROONS
Makes 40 (although recipe says 24, if you use a larger ice cream scoop)

2 (14-ounce) bags shredded coconut
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
12 oz of bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli and mixed in a little bit of milk chocolate. I would assume any chocolate combination would do! Maybe next time I will do semi-sweet…)

Preheat the oven to 325.

Mix together in a large bowl the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla. Add the shredded coconut.Mix together. Make sure that all of the coconut is covered with the milk mixture. Use a cookie scoop and place mounds on parchment lined baking sheets or silicone lined baking sheets.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the coconut is nicely browned. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the macaroon halfway. Let the chocolate harden in the fridge (on a wax paper lined jelly roll pan) at least 20 minutes before serving.

Yukon Gold Potato Gratin with Horseradish & Parmesan

May 8, 2011

There are certain recipes you need a staple for – your go-to recipes. The basic chocolate chip cookie. Mashed potatoes. Spaghetti sauce. For me, the one I kept trying but never found “the one” was potato gratin.

After perfecting my mashed potatoes – Yukon golds smashed rustic style with butter, cream, creme fresh and rosemary – I now needed a great alternative starch to serve with my favorite filet, roast or ham.

When making filet mignon for my parents the other weekend, I tried this one as another attempt at finding my new go-to gratin recipe. After much searching, I found it. I am convinced the thing that sets it apart (aside from the large quantities of cream, of course) is the addition of horseradish. I never would have thought of it, but it is such a natural combination that I sure should have. This gratin has a creamy sauce, a little kick from the horseradish and a salty top layer of parmesan. The perfect gratin dish.

A little tip – I didn’t have cheesecloth so instead I chopped up the garlic, thyme and just used ground pepper. Worked just fine!
Thanks to Epicurious for this great recipe that I will now frequently serve with my balsamic filet mignon.

Also to note, it is clear that I am not able to take a photo as beautiful as this one. Like some of my other posts, I have been lucky enough to have my dad be able to take a photo, so credit goes to him – http://www.robertstonephotography.com.

YUKON GOLD POTATO GRATIN WITH HORSERADISH AND PARMESAN
10 servings

1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 dried bay leaf
3 pounds boiling potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices
2 tablespoons sea salt
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with back of knife
4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh horseradish, grated
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

Place rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.

Generously butter a 2 1/2- to 3-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish.

Make a bouquet garni by wrapping thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf in 6-inch square of cheese cloth and securing with kitchen string.

In heavy, 6-quart saucepan, combine potatoes, bouquet garni, salt, garlic cloves, and cream. Set over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes can just be pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove bouquet garni and garlic and discard. Stir in horseradish.

Spread potato mixture in buttered dish and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Cheddar Chicken

April 25, 2011

Sometimes you want to make (and eat) something simple. Something humble. Something ungourmet. Something that uses ingredients you know taste amazing, but might not be best for your diet. Something that makes you feel warm, fuzzy and “oh so bad” for eating it. I found that dish last week, from a somewhat unexpected place.

In my Real Simple, I read an article about a woman’s comfort food that her mother made – a recipe found on the box of her mother’s new blender. The recipe was called Cheddar Chicken and only included 5 ingredients – chicken, Ritz crackers, cheddar cheese, garlic and butter. Now that you have read the list of ingredients, you can surely understand my sentiment at the beginning of this post.

The dish is so drenched in butter (from the pure butter and the crackers) with a hint of garlic and the sharp, gooey cheddar cheese. It tastes nothing short of amazing. Nothing gourmet. No rare ingredients. No need to spend hours in the kitchen.

So anytime you want something that makes you feel satisfied, a bit guilty and takes nothing more than 45 minutes with your pantry staples, put this one in the oven. Serve with rice pilaf and you have a simple, flavorful dinner.

CHEDDAR CHICKEN
Serves 4

16 buttery crackers (such as Ritz), crushed (about 3⁄4 cup)
6 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
wild rice pilaf and steamed green beans (optional)

Heat oven to 350° F. In a bowl, combine the crackers, cheese, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken in the butter, then in the cracker mixture, pressing gently to help the crackers adhere. Place the chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle any remaining cracker mixture on the chicken and drizzle with any remaining butter. Bake until the chicken is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with the pilaf and green beans, if desired.

Spaghetti with Anchovy Carbonara

April 17, 2011

For those who have been reading this blog, there is no need to reiterate my love for carbonara. When you put pasta and bacon together, let’s face it, you just can’t go wrong.

It isn’t surprising that when we spent a few weeks in Italy last spring, this was the dish I was seeking out most. It is more common in the Umbria and Rome area (although you can find it many other places). So I knew when we arrived in that region, I wouldn’t need to look at menus very long.

We had spent a few days in our Villa by Spoleto and had decided to take a side trip to the religious mecca of Assisi (45 minutes away). It is a beautiful town, filled with amazing stone buildings, commanding views, and a spiritual aura. We had just visited Minerva and someone must have been scouring down on me because (I am convinced), because it was the one time on the whole trip that I didn’t cover my shoulders in the church. As we exited the building and went down the marble steps my clumsy feet just couldn’t get it together – and I slipped down the stairs. O Madon! No matter what country you are in – when you fall onto marble, it hurts like nobody’s business. So, after going to the pharmacia and showing the clerk, who got us appropriate bandages and some neosporin looking stuff (at least we think that is what it was), I needed a pick me up.

My husband joked that for me, carbonara, a glass of wine and a scoop of gelato will make anything better! (the truth is, he is right!) So we set out down some less traveled paths to find the perfect resting place. We saw a little restaurant, unassuming and filled with locals, and knew we had found the place.

The carbonara in Assisi, Italy

This was my first official carbonara of the trip and I barely needed to look at a menu to know what I would have. I took one bite and knew it was the best carbonara I had ever tasted in my whole life. The sauce wasn’t overly creamy, it had an amazing saltiness, and was filled with pancetta. There was something intangible in that dish – something that set it apart. Not sure if it was the state of shock I was in from my fall, the glass of wine I had to wash down lunch or the food itself.

So, when I started seeking out the perfect carbonara recipe upon my return, I did lots of research on the traditional way Italians make it. Much to my surprise, a common ingredient is anchovies – and I knew at that moment that it was the little fish that had made it into my dish that day.

Now, my husband claims to not like anchovies, yet I knew when you cook them in olive oil they actually disintegrate so you don’t bite into them, yet they infuse your sauce. So, I gave it a whirl.

Hands down it was the best carbonara I have had outside of Italy. I made my own tagliatelle (my new favorite past time) but you could surely use any spaghetti or fettuccine you would like. I also added a bit of pancetta – because let’s face it, everything is better with pancetta.

So nothing can quite compare to the throbbing pain in my knee, the refreshing wine out of a jug, the views of St Francis and the Italian language surrounding me. But, this dish at least transports me, just a little bit, to the land that invented carbonara.

Thanks to Food and Wine for this amazing rendition of an Italian classic. If you don’t like anchovies, still give it a whirl – just cut back on the amount a bit. They might just surprise you!

SPAGHETTI WITH ANCHOVY CARBONARA
Serves4

12 ounces spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 2-ounce can flat anchovies, drained and chopped
Pinch of Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped oregano
Pancetta (optional)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil with the garlic and anchovies and cook over moderately high heat until the anchovies have dissolved, about 2 minutes. (If using pancetta, add and cook until cooked through.) Add the red pepper, zest, oregano and parsley, then add the pasta and toss to coat. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the yolks with the reserved cooking water and add to the pasta. Cook over low heat, tossing until the pasta is coated in a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

White Pizza with Tomato and Basil

April 11, 2011

For Christmas this year, my sister-in-law bought me a pizza stone. But not just any pizza stone – one that you can use in the oven as well as on the grill. There is something so utterly Italian about pizza over a fire, so I knew my love of pizza needed to spill into the grilling world.

What started as a gift that I intended as a summer staple, has now turned into a year-round necessity.

The purpose of a pizza stone is to evenly distribute the heat, as well as to extract moisture to give a crispier crust. And, after experiencing various methods, I have to give the win to the pizza stone.

And a pizza stone is a great way to cook this flavorful vegetarian pizza recipe – inside or outside. The pesto adds a great flavor and the cheese and tomatoes are, well, essential to a good pizza. You can use refrigerated pesto (which is what I used to make it an easier weeknight meal) and by doing so you can put this pizza together in 20 minutes. I tend to actually roast the tomatoes, though, to bring out the flavors – but it is your call on whether you want them cold and fresh or warm and sweeter.

Thanks to Gina for opening my eyes to the best way to make a pizza. And thanks to Cooking Light for this great, go-to quick pizza recipe!

WHITE PIZZA WITH TOMATO AND BASIL
4 Servings

1 (10-ounce) Italian cheese-flavored thin pizza crust (you could also make this with refrigerated dough as well, but your cooking times will vary)
1 teaspoon cornmeal
Cooking spray
3 tablespoons refrigerated pesto with basil (such as Buitoni)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sliced small tomatoes (such as Campari tomatoes)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup small basil leaves
Crushed red pepper (optional)

Preheat broiler to low.

Place a pizza stone in oven; heat for 10 minutes.

While pizza stone heats, place crust on another baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Lightly coat crust with cooking spray. Spread pesto evenly over crust, leaving a 1-inch border; sprinkle mozzarella evenly over pesto. Dollop ricotta, by teaspoonfuls, evenly over mozzarella. Slide crust onto preheated pizza stone, using a spatula as a guide. Broil 5 inches from heat for 5 minutes or until cheese begins to melt. Remove from oven; top evenly with tomatoes, black pepper, and basil. Sprinkle with red pepper, if desired. Cut into 8 slices.


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