Tag Archives: Mozzarella

{ Thanksgiving Pizza }

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I consider sage to be the dominant flavor of Thanksgiving. My mom and I use it in just about every dish, from our roasted butternut squash, to our stuffing, and our delicious turkey butter baste! So when a customer at my restaurant requested that I come up with a recipe for a Thanksgiving-inspired pizza special, I knew sage would be the foundational building block of the pie.

The savory, and slightly peppery, flavor of sage lends itself well with just about any ingredient but since I needed to construct a pie that tasted like Thanksgiving, I decided to pair it with butternut squash, caramelized onions, and cranberry sauce. Instead of using just mozzarella, I opted to add brie cheese which is a soft French cheese made from cow’s milk. The creamy cheese melts very easily when baked and the sweetness of the cheese lends itself well with the tartness of the cranberry sauce.

I have served this pizza to several taste-testers thus far, and each of them have said the same thing…”tastes like Thanksgiving!”

I consider that mission accomplished.

{ Ingredients }

  • One pizza crust — I use this recipe by Peter Reinhart
  • 1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 butternut squash, roasted, peeled, and cubed
  • 1 wedge brie cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 spanish onion, sliced, and caramelized
  • 1 bunch fresh sage leave, chopped

{ To Make the Pizza }

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Using a spatula, spread the cranberry sauce over the prepared pie crust to the outer edges. Lightly sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese over the cranberry sauce. Thinly slice the brie cheese and place slices onto the pie a few inches apart from each other.

Top the cheese with the caramelized onion and the cubed butternut squash.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges turn a golden brown and the crust is crispy.

Sprinkle with the chopped sage and serve!

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{ Homemade Empanadas }

I’ve been hunting for BA’s most delicious empanada for months now, and so far, my favorite contenders for the title also happen to be the spiciest (list of top 10 picks coming soon!). However, finding the right combination of tender meat, flakey dough, and proper spice can be quite a challenge in a country where hot sauce and chili peppers are shunned like the the plague. Also, Argentines don’t like to combine different food groups when it comes to stuffing empanadas (in a manner akin to children segregating their mashed potatoes from their meatloaf, as if an imaginary forcefield was dividing their plate). It’s either meat or cheese….never both in one pastry!

This continues to boggle my mind, because they have all the best ingredients at their disposal…they just never seem to get assembled in the way that I would combine them. I love meat and I love cheese….so why not put them together in one super delicious empanada, rather than forcing me to take a bite of caprese followed by a bite of carne (besides that fact that it always lures me into purchasing two empanadas, of course)?!

In an effort to solve this rather distressing empanada dilemma, I have decided to try making my own! Which brings me to TheGrubDaily’s first ever food event–a DIY Empanada Party, hosted in conjunction with the fabulous KitchenParty.org and LVstudio! I offered my home and empanadas caseras in exchange for good company and a bottle of wine to share! It turned out to be a wild success, as 120 empanadas were served before people began using their paper plates as fans in my tiny, overheated apartment.

I laid out a buffet table with various ingredients for filling the empanadas (chicken, beef, cheese, tomato, act…), and all 25 attendees were given the opportunity to come and make their own creations! With the help of a few native Argentine girls (Valeria and Elvira), everyone was shown how to properly stuff and close the empanada dough and then they were sent into the oven for baking!

The following recipe is a very Traditional Argentine Beef Empanada filling, showed to me by my very dear cleaning lady. The one below it, is a spicy “Gringo” version of that recipe, as adapted by myself. I recommend using Saltena empanada shells (or Goya, if you are in the US), rather than wasting time on homemade ones.

Traditional Argentine Beef Empanada Filling:

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 kg (1 lb) of lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 2 scallions, chopped (white & green parts)
  • 1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped

{ To Make the Filling } Heat the vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and kosher salt. Sautee until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the ground beef, breaking it up with back of a spoon. Add the cumin and beef bullion. Cover pot with a lid and allow to cook for 2 minutes.

Mix beef, stirring in scallions and chopped olives. Once the meat is cooked through, remove from heat and fold in chopped egg. Allow to cool and then use for empanada or taco filling.

“Gringo” Spicy Beef Empanada Filling:

{ Ingredients }

  • 1/2 kg (1 lb) of lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 beef bullion cubes
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 2 scallions, chopped (white & green parts)
  • 1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1 yukon potato, boiled and chopped small

{ To Make the Filling } Heat the vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, peppers, and kosher salt. Sautee until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the ground beef, breaking it up with back of a spoon. Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, tomato puree and beef bullion. Cover pot with a lid and allow to cook for 2 minutes.

Mix beef, stirring in scallions and chopped olives. Once the meat is cooked through, stir in chopped potato and remove from heat. Allow to cool and then use for empanada or taco filling.

**I like my meat extra spicy, so I also added a couple of dashes of Cholula Hot Sauce while cooking!

Spicy Shredded Chicken Empanada Filling:

{ Ingredients }

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2-1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 scallions, chopped (white & green parts)
  • Slice Jalapeños (optional)

{ To Make the Filling } Place chicken breasts in a large stock pot, adding enough water to cover the meat. Heat over a medium-high flame, allowing to simmer until cooked through.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, before beginning to shred chicken (using hands or two forks).

In a large stock pot of a medium high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and sautee until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, green onion, kosher salt, chicken stock, and 1/2 cup of the tomato puree. Return the shredded chicken to the stock pot and stir to combine (if the meat needs more moisture, add more of the tomato puree).

Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and use to as empanada filling or taco meat!

{ To Assemble the Empanadas } Remove an empanada dough from the package and wet one half of the pastry edge using a finger dipped in water. Spoon a your desired filling into the middle and fold over the ends (so moist end meets dry end), pinching hard to ensure that they are properly shut.

Then crimp the edges using a fork or your fingers, as we have done here:

Place onto a greased baking sheet and allow to bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees until the edges and tops are golden brown (about 10 minutes).

Remove from oven and enjoy!

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{ Eggplant Parmesan }

 

You know those “learn-to-love it” foods? The strange vegetables and odd aquatic animals that you refuse to eat throughout your childhood but eventually develop a tolerance and than passion for as you get older. I think it is safe to say that eggplant is one of these foods–along with brussel sprouts, olives, shell fish, and stinky cheeses (just to name a few!). And the way most come to love this waxy, purple sponge of a vegetable is through eggplant parmesan–people will give almost anything a chance if it is breaded, fried, and/or covered in cheese. And most likely, they will enjoy it!

If you have tried eggplant parmesan before and the texture still bothers you, do not stop reading and dismiss this recipe. I too have had some bad eggplant parm experiences, but I promise this one might just convert you. Oftentimes, I find that restaurants don’t slice the eggplant thin enough because they want to minimize the preparation and frying time. This shortcut compromises the entire dish, still leaving you with that mysterious itching sensation on the roof of your mouth. But my recipe calls for a very thin slices, which mask the spongy texture under breaded, salty, cheesy goodness!

I fry up an eggplant or two in the beginning of the week, leaving the disks in the fridge for a light snack or as an ingredient for a more complex meal (i.e. eggplant parm lasagna or sandwiches). Of course, I also use them for this easy eggplant parmesan dish!! Enjoy the recipe and give eggplant a chance!

{ Ingredients for Fried Eggplant }

  • 1-2 large, ripened eggplants (sliced about 1/4″ thick)
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups of Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 3 large eggs, beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Kosher Salt

{ To Make Fried Eggplant } Set up three bowls; one with the flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with the breadcrumbs combined with the parmigiano reggiano cheeses.

Run the sliced eggplant disks through a standard breading proceduredredge in the flour (shaking off the excess), then through the egg wash, and then through the breadcrumbs.
Pour the vegetable oil into a large skillet until it reaches a 3/4″ thickness. Heat the the oil over a medium high flame until it is good and hot (test by flicking in pieces of breadcrumbs–they should sizzle, but not burn!). Fry the eggplant in batches for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until it appears golden brown.

Remove the eggplant from the pan and sprinkle with kosher salt. Allow eggplant to cool on a bed of lettuce leaves or paper towels (although the lettuce absorbs the grease much better!).

{ Ingredients for Simple Sauce } 

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

{ To Make Simple Sauce } Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Sautee the onion for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or two (do not burn the garlic). Add the salt, pepper, parsley, and tomatoes.

NOTE: If you like your tomato sauce spicy, then add some crushed red pepper flakes at this time! Cook for 10 minutes.

{ To Assemble the Eggplant Parmesan } Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

Arrange the eggplant on a baking sheet, one layer thick. Spoon some of the simple tomato sauce onto the tops and then add a 1″ cube of fresh (or aged) mozzarella cheese on top of that.

Bake for 18-10 minutes, or until the cheese becomes bubbly and golden. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve!

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