Our common love of good food is one thing that attracted Michael and I to each other, and if we had to give one dish credit for getting us cooking together, it would have to be pizza. Both of us have been making pizza since before we ever knew each other. I had experimented with cracker thin crusts, and Michael played with deep dish and Chicago-style stuffed pizzas. When I saw his authentic well-seasoned deep dish pizza pan, I decided this was a man I wanted to get to know better. And Meyers Family Pizza Night was born….
Our family has been making pizza since Michael worked at a pizza joint back in his teen years. We each have our favorite style and toppings, but no matter what kind we make, we all enjoy working the dough and assembling the pies. I went vegetarian for this pizza on our favorite whole wheat pizza dough, and topped it with homemade basil pesto, roasted eggplant slices, sun-dried tomatoes, and just a light sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s a nice, light pizza for summer, and good meal to make with the family. It’s also a great appetizer, just make mini pizzas with one slice of eggplant per pizza….
I can’t think of Mother’s Day without also musing on strawberries, probably because the beautiful red fruits come into season around this time and they seem like such a wonderful treat after cold winters. Strawberry season is also one of my children’s favorite food times of the year and we can’t resist celebrating with luscious strawberry desserts, though we are also happy simply biting into a sweet juicy strawberry….
Risotto is creamy, beautiful comfort food, and I can’t think of a better meal to make it for than Thanksgiving. Because it’s not a fix it and walk away kind of dish, I do not make it for weekday meals. The constant stirring and adding liquid demands careful attention, and the usual chaos surrounding our meal times prevents me from tackling anything involved on a weeknight.
This recipe from Marcella Hazan calls for quite a bit of sage, though it’s not overpowering. If you prefer you can make it with half the leaves and still enjoy a hint of sage, which will go beautifully with a turkey dinner. Hazan uses homemade meat stock, though I substituted homemade vegetable stock made with mushrooms for a slightly woodsy undertone. The finishing step, mantecare, gives risotto its characteristic gleam and adds to the natural creaminess. In this case, Hazan adds the sage at the end and finishes with a little butter and some Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Our sage, mint, parsley, oregano, and thyme are still going strong outdoors, amazing considering the cold temperatures we’ve had. Many varieties of sage die off after a frost, but the Woodcote variety that we have in our Zone 7a (but right on the edge of 6b) garden has persisted even with temperatures well below freezing at night, so we will be able to use it on Thanksgiving day as well.
This is my contribution to Grow Your Own, a blogging event that celebrates the dishes we create from foods we’ve grown, raised, foraged, or hunted ourselves. Rachel of The Crispy Cook is our host for this round, so be sure to visit her blog for more information about submitting your post. If you are new to the event, you can read more about the rules for participating at the Grow Your Own page….
Some beautiful foods just aren’t pretty to look at, and these eggplant cakes fall into that category. They taste wonderful and take on a beautiful brown color, but on the plate it looks like fried mud and grass clippings. In spite of their unassuming looks, we enjoyed these little tidbits from Marcella Hazan’s tome Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It has long been a favorite of mine and was my introduction to true Italian cooking….
When the leaves start to turn red and gold I begin thinking of my favorite cold weather comfort foods, and this dish certainly qualifies. It’s perfect homestyle food, a dish of fried chicken and vegetables with a delectable sauce….
After posting the Napoletana Pizza Dough recipe, I just had to follow up with my favorite way to use it. Our basil and tomatoes are coming in like crazy, and this is certainly a tasty and easy way to enjoy our garden bounty. You just layer on sliced tomatoes and chopped basil, sprinkle on some olive oil, and then top with sliced fresh mozzarella. If you want to get adventurous, throw on some minced garlic. The idea is to keep it simple and allow the flavors of the fresh ingredients to shine.
I like the cheese to melt a bit in the oven, so I put it on before baking, but you can also reserve the cheese until the pizza is out of the oven and then lay it on top, which will soften it just a bit before slicing.
- thin crust pizza dough
- 2 roma tomatoes
- 15 basil leaves, chopped
- 8 ounces (227 g) fresh mozzarella
- extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 500° F/260° C.
- Cut tomatoes into thin slices and lay them on a paper towel to soak up excess liquid.
- Cut the mozzarella into 1/4-inch slices and lay them on a paper towel to soak up excess liquid.
- Chop the basil leaves.
- Press the dough into a 12-inch circle. Lay the tomatoes on in concentric circles around the dough, about 1/2-inch away from the edge. Sprinkle on the chopped basil and some olive oil. Lay the sliced mozzarella around the top.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until crust is browned and cheese is just starting to bubble. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Allow to sit 5 minutes, then slice and serve.
12-inch or larger pizza stone or pan
Make the dough a day ahead.
Add 1 clove of minced garlic to the tomato and basil layer.
Reserve the cheese until the pizza is out of the oven. Lay the sliced mozzarella around the hot pizza and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.
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I believe that each of us has a food that we could eat every single day and never tire of. For Michael, it’s pasta; for me, it’s pizza.
I’ve been through several pizza phases in my life. In junior high, you either went to Godfather’s or Monical’s. In high school, the deep dish pizza made the big time and everyone flocked to Pizza Hut and Garcia’s. In college, Domino’s was hitting it big with their delivery service, although the people with cars could go to Noble Roman’s.
When I moved to Saipan in 1989, I went into pizza withdrawal…
Baked pasta dishes are really enticing for us. We love how the sauce wraps around all of the pasta and how the cheese melts and gets stringy and a little brown on top. Mmmmm.
This is a basic baked pasta dish that requires only a few ingredients. When we first tried it, we felt that the flavor was too mild for us, so I jazzed it up by doubling the garlic and adding a lot more basil than originally called for. You can make this in the summer or winter, although I like it in the summer because I can use lots of fresh basil from my garden.
[Updated September 30, 2013.]
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 20 leaves of fresh basil, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- kosher salt
- 16 ounces penne, ziti, or other tube-shaped pasta
- 8 ounces mozzarella, shredded
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in the 8-quart pot. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Add the olive oil to the nonstick pan and saute garlic for about 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and juices. Stir and bring to a simmer over low heat until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the basil, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and turn off the heat.
- Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Bring back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook just until the pasta starts to get tender, but is still a little firm, not quite al dente. If you cook the pasta too long, it will be mushy after baking.
- Set aside 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain the rest. Return the pasta to the pot and add the tomato sauce. Stir together well. Add as much of the reserved pasta water as is needed to thin the sauce a bit.
- Build the dish in layers. Start with half of the pasta and sauce to the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle half the cheeses on top. Layer on the rest of the pasta and sauce, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Bake about 20 minutes, or until the cheese turns golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes, then serve.
8-quart pot with lid
12-inch nonstick pan
9x13 dish, coated with nonstick spray
Make your own sauce with fresh tomatoes. Stir in 2 quarts diced fresh Roma or San Marzano tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce reduces by one third, about 30 minutes. Puree the sauce with an immersion blender, then add the basil, sugar, and salt.
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All the prep work on my summer garden has me fixated on vegetable dishes. As I scooped more seeds from bell peppers and eggplant today, my mind drifted towards a pasta primavera for dinner. I love this dish in the summertime with fresh peppers and eggplant. You can adapt the dish based on whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand.
[Updated August 12, 2011.]
- 1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 red bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 yellow bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 orange or green bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium zucchini sliced into rounds
- 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
- 6 basil leaves torn (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
- 16 ounces gluten-free or regular pasta, cooked castellane, rotini, penne, rigatoni, or other similar shape
- Prepare the pasta in the 8-quart pot.
- In the 6 quart pot, saute the onion in olive oil until the onion glistens. Add the garlic and saute until garlic starts turning golden.
- Add the eggplant. Saute about 8 minutes, until it starts browning. Add the bell peppers and saute until the peppers are just hot.
- Stir in the zucchini, tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender. Don’t overcook or the vegetables will be mushy.
- Drain the cooked pasta and put it back in the 8 quart pot. Add the vegetables to the pasta and stir. Let it sit for about 5 minutes or so, until the pasta absorbs some of the juices.
- Serve with fresh grated Parmesan.
More Summer Pasta Dishes
In the summertime, our garden is filled with the scent of sweet basil. We usually try to devote an entire raised bed just to basil. We use it fresh in dishes such as this pesto throughout the summer and into the fall. When we near the end of season, we cut down all the remaining stalks and spend an afternoon making different kinds of pesto and freezing it for the winter. We usually make several batches of this so that we can pull it out for a quick meal, and the wonderful flavor always reminds us of our summer garden.
To freeze and save it for winter cooking, pack the pesto into small plastic containers (about 4 ounces) and press a layer of plastic wrap over the surface of the pesto. Add the lid. It will keep for up to 6 months in the freezer.
[Updated: October 19, 2008]
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
- 12 ounces sun-dried tomato halves, packed in oil
- 6 medium garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups basil, packed
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1½ teaspoons honey
- Process tomatoes and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 1 minute. While machine is running, drizzle in olive oil and vinegar and process for 1 minute. Add basil, pepper, and honey and process until completely mixed. Add more balsamic vinegar if desired.
- Toss pesto over hot pasta and sprinkle pine nuts and grated Parmesan on top.