Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tomato Pesto Pizza

This recipe actually came from The Pioneer Woman and she called it Tomato Basil pizza HOWEVER, since the only basil is in pesto form, I've decided to dub this pizza Tomato Pesto pizza. I'll often make things at home with no regard for whether my pre-teen daughter will like it or not. Sure I WANT her to and sometimes she does and other times she doesn't but I've never let the fear of her potentially not liking it stop me from trying something new. Worst case if she doesn't like what I make for dinner, she can have a bowl of cereal (or twenty as young people are apt to do!). I did wonder if the pesto base would scare her off but not only did she like the pizza, this is her FAVORITE! Whenever I mention we're having pizza for dinner, her eyes light up and she asks "The green one?!". Anyhow, so when my girlfriends and I got together for a pizza party, I knew I wanted to make this Tomato Pesto Pizza. Even better, I recruited my daughter to help put it together. If you're feeling plucky, make your own pesto. It's easy! Or so I hear... I hadn't gotten around to doing that yet. My favorite pre-packaged pesto to use is by Buitoni and it can be found in the refrigerated deli section before you get to the fruits and vegetables (at least in all my area stores). I also buy the shredded Parmesan and fresh mozzarella in this section. Feel free to buy a hunk of Parmesan and shred it yourself but PLEASE do not skimp on the fresh mozzarella. PW shared a tip about freezing the mozzarella for about 1/5 hour to make it easier to slice. I hadn't had a chance to try that tip yet but I make sure to use a sharp knife. I always stick to Roma tomatoes but I suppose any type of tomato would probably be fine in a pinch.

You'll want to thinly slice the tomatoes which will allow you to cover the entire pizza in tomatoes without their moisture making a mess of the end result. You'll want to do the same with the mozzarella... thin slices covering almost every visible inch.

Let's keep it real kids. You may have already guessed from the fact that my pesto is store-bought that I'm no snob when it comes to using some pre-made products. It's just a fact of life. Sometimes it'll be made from scratch and sometimes there will be short-cuts. In the past I've used the Pillsbury pizza crust but most recently I used the Boboli crust. Either way worked in the end. So you start with your crust of choice and add a layer of pesto. Not too thick but enough to cover the entire surface. Skywalker laid on a bit thick per my direction. I got pesto-happy! Oops!

Sprinkle the pesto with Kosher salt, layer on the thinly sliced mozzarella and then the tomato slices. I sprinkle the tomatoes with freshly cracked peppers THEN sprinkle generously with the Parmesan. Don't be shy!

Bake in the oven per the crust directions but I'm prefer sure both were around 15 minutes at 450 (I think that's right, ha!).

Listen... this is dangerous. Skywalker and I POLISH this off. Every time... no matter how big or small that pizza is... we simply cannot stop eating it.

Roasted Leg Quarters

You know what’s awesome? A ten pound bag of leg quarters for .49 cents a pound!! Oh yeah, I snagged a bag this weekend. Leg quarters are SO versatile. Plus I’m a fan of chicken. Oh who am I kidding, I’m a fan of food! Anyhow, this recipe is not my mom’s recipe (that’ll come) but it is inspired by one of her meals. Her roasted chicken legs are the BEST! I can not begin to explain. But anyone can make some really tasty roasted chicken. It’s a super delish main dish (say that 3x really fast!), slap a couple of sides together and you have one lovely Sunday dinner! Oh and don’t forget that roasted leg quarters are an easy way to feed a large group of people.

The first thing we have to do, after removing the excess fat and skin, is season them and good. Now about the whole chicken skin debate. I often cook with it on… fat adds flavor. Sorry! HOWEVER, I will remove it afterwards and not eat it. Kinda like patting my slice of pizza. I feel better because although I COULD have made it with LESS fat, I did in the end reduce the amount of fat I consumed. So I win, right?!

Shout out to my SIL Dee... the Wildtree products are FANTASTIC!!! All natural and many other advantages that I can’t quite recall at the moment but I do know I love to use ‘em. As you might have guessed, I’m a fan of garlic so this is why there are three layers of garlic in the ingredients I chose to use when I seasoned the leg quarters. After rinsing and patting the leg quarters dry, I drizzled the grapeseed garlic oil on them. Keep in mind this is dark meat and thus has a higher fat content. Don’t use too much oil! Just enough to lightly coat the chicken. Then I finely minced two cloves of garlic and added to the chicken. I sprinkled the seasonings along with salt and pepper to taste. I mixed the leg quarters around to thoroughly coat. I may have even rubbed the herbs in. It can’t hurt right?

I had one leg quarter that was much larger than the rest so I scooted the similar sized pieces close together and left Sasquatch all by his lonesome. I did this to try to ensure they all cooked evenly. I baked this at 400 for 30 minutes, flipped it over and basted and baked it for 10 more minutes. I flipped it over one last time, basted and cooked it for 10 more minutes. DO NOT COVER! You want that skin to crisp up and brown nicely.

Oh it was good.. so, so good… tender and full of flavor. And the juices it made? Shut up. YUM! Now I will say next time I’m gonna bake them at 425 for 45 minutes because I want to get more brown into that skin (yes, the skin I don’t eat) but really, roasted chicken is super versatile, quick and simple.

6 leg quarters
1 tbsp WildTree grapeseed garlic oil (sub plain olive oil)
adobo (sub chicken flavored seasoning)
WildTree garlic & herb mix (experiment with whatever herbs you have on hand!)
freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves
Kosher salt

Easy Cheesy Good

I love easy recipes that are also tasty. This recipe is SUPER easy. Like “I just graduated from Ramen noodles” easy. The original recipe had literally only three ingredients so hey, feel free to try it that way. I, of course, could not leave well enough alone so I added a couple of other “flavor enhancers” if you will. Anyhow, it came out pretty darn good. Even better? It’s easy enough that I can make my daughter Skywalker make it! Suddenly the recipe has been transformed to super, duper easy.
Original Ingredients:

Spiral Noodles, Block of Cheddar, Can of Stewed Tomatoes

Real quick I have to go on a quick shredded cheese tangent. Thanks to Ree the Pioneer Woman I came to realize there are some things just worth the effort. Did you know that pre-shredded cheese is coated with stuff (no, I have no idea what this stuff is) that affects not only the taste but consistency of cheese. I love cheese. I just can’t buy pre-shredded cheese knowing that with a little extra effort, I could have a much better end result. PLUS it’s cheaper to buy the block o’ cheese! Veering off my cheese tangent real quick to say that supposedly it is key to use stewed tomatoes. Now ya can’t say you didn’t know.
My extras:

One clove of garlic and 1/4 of an onion, both finely chopped.

Another tangent!! So I’m lazy. I can admit it and honestly that’s one of those negative traits that I am not terribly concerned about. I kinda like being lazy! Anyhow, my lazy ways allowed me to start relying on jarred minced garlic. NO! Bad, bad, bad. I mean it’s not baaaad, but listen, when you compare jarred minced garlic to freshly minced garlic, you just can’t compare!! The investment is so worth the rewards. I threw my jar of minced garlic AWAY!! Never again! I am now and forever more a garlic mincing fool. Join me. 

Okay so tangent's over. I took one clove of garlic and about 1/4 of one white onion and finely chopped them. While I was grating the cheddar and chopping the onions and garlic, the water was bowling for the pasta. Always make sure to season your pasta water!! Someone many years ago taught me that. Rachael? I dunno. Anyhow, make it taste like salt water. This is the only time to really season the pasta. Or at least that’s what they told me. Once the water is boiling, I decide to add the garlic and onion along with the pasta (only using half of that box). I boiled for about 9 minutes (or however long the box tells you to boil the noodles).
Once the noodles are cooked, I drain them reserving some of the pasta water. I add the shredded cheese and stewed tomatoes to the pot, throw the noodles back in and add maybe 1/2 cup of the pasta water and mix it all up. The recipe calls for baking it but I purposely cooked the pasta a bit longer so I could just heat through on the stove top instead of baking it. I also mash some of the tomato pieces with the back of a wooden spoon.

Tastes like a grilled cheese sandwich with a fat, slice of tomato.

This dish is one ooey, gooey, cheesy mess and it is SO GOOD!

1/4 white onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
8 oz cheddar cheese
8 oz of macaroni (I used spiral)
1 15oz can of Stewed tomatoes