Pizza on the Grilling Stone

I received a special grilling stone from our two chef friends (Gretchen and Aaron) for our wedding – thank you guys! This is the one that I am lucky enough to have. It is pretty versatile and you can cook a lot on it, I definitely recommend it.

We tried it out a few weeks ago and I am ready for another go at using it. It was fun but I definitely need some practice.

I made pizza dough using this recipe that I found. Pizza dough is yet another thing that I really need to practice making. This one came out ok, it didn’t rise as well as I would have liked. I need to get in to the habit of planning ahead and making my dough a little farther in advance. I often decide on a whim that I want pizza and then become a little impatient and end up not giving the dough enough time to rise because I am starving!

We heated the charcoal up and placed the stone on the grill. I had enough dough to make two pizzas. I got the dough ready by stretching and rolling it out and putting cornmeal on the bottom to keep it from sticking to the stone. I got all my ingredients ready and headed out to the grill.

We placed the dough for pizza #1 down on the stone and then tried to put all the toppings on. We covered it and waited about 10-15 minutes. That was too long! We definitely burnt our first attempt at grilled pizza. It tasted ok, but it was really burnt on the bottom…

So my next attempt was a little better. I got the dough ready for pizza #2. This time I put it right on the pizza peel so I could slide it off really fast onto the stone. I put all the toppings on it before I put it on the grill.

Here we go, pizza #2:

Roll out the dough

Fresh tomatoes


prosciutto and chopped up kalamata olives


Fresh basil


Topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and a little salt and pepper.

I carried the whole thing out to the grill and slid pizza #2 off pretty quickly, covered up the grill and waited another ten minutes.


Pizza #2 was pretty successful!

It got stuck a little bit on the stone because there were some burnt  spots from pizza #1 that I couldn’t get off. It was a great first attempt but I think next time I will do a much better job.

Improvements for next time:

  • Do not burn the first pizza or all other pizzas will get stuck.
  • Put the prosciutto on the top so it gets crispy instead of soggy.
  • Try putting the cheese under the toppings.
  • Less toppings, so they aren’t fighting against each other, the olives kind of took over this time.

I also really want to try to grill a pastry on the grill using the stone. I think I may attempt a peach tart!

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Sandwich Wednesday: Prosciutto Caprese

I enjoyed a sandwich last Wednesday with one of my friends (Dan Z) who also has summer afternoons free. This summery sandwich was made with Washington Boro tomatoes that I bought at the tomato festival. I got the rest of the ingredients at Mandro’s Imported Foods. They have a great selection of meats and cheeses. I got a frozen baguette made by Slow Rise Bakery (they carry it at Mandro’s). These baguettes are baked, froze, and then placed in your oven for 5-10 minutes. They taste like they are freshly baked right out of your oven in your home! And they get nice and crispy, but not too hard. They are perfect for sandwiches because you can bite through them easily. I hate when I get bread that is hard to bite into… then all of your sandwich fixin’s squeeze out of sandwich… you know what I mean… bummer.

To build this sandwich, I started with the warm toasty baguette and drizzled good olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar from Global Gardens over the inside. I laid two slices of very thinly sliced prosciutto down – don’t over do it, two is plenty. Top that with sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, sliced summer tomatoes, salt and pepper, and cover it with the top of the baguette. Simple and delicious. A perfect summer sandwich.

Washington Boro Tomato Festival 2012

The Washington Boro Tomato Festival took place this past Saturday at Washington Boro Park. If you missed it this week you have one more chance next weekend. The festival always runs the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays in July, at the peak of Washington Boro’s tomato season.

I had a great Saturday this weekend! It started with my usual Saturday morning visit to Central Market. I rode my scooter and had quite an enjoyable ride downtown. A couple pulled up next to me at a stop light on a bicycle built for two – how cute!

As I pulled up to market, I heard the lovely music of Leo DiSanto and Jeff Bryson. They were standing outside on Market Alley playing to promote their music show that took place that evening – the Lancaster Original Music review, part II. I’m sure there will be a part III, so check the Lancaster Dispensing Company‘s website for show times and updates.

I went into market and loaded up on veggies – they are all local right now! Everything has come into season around Lancaster and all the veggies are fresh, vibrantly colored, and taste delicious!

I walked back out of market and I was going to head home, but Leo and Jeff were still playing outside. I couldn’t really leave when they were singing “All I Have to Do is Dream…” It made everything seem to slow down and seem dreamy. So I sat down next to my friend Steph and her kiddos and wasted some time listening to the rest of Jeff and Leo’s songs… or maybe it was time well spent…

I rode the scooter home and unloaded my veggies. Monk really needed to go for a walk and it was slightly cooler than the rest of the week, so we took him up to the dog park .

We made a little stop to celebrate National Ice Cream Day – one day early. We went to Splits and Giggles, our neighborhood ice cream shop. They had two awesome flavors of frozen yogurt – wildberry (I got this one) and honey cinnamon (Dan got this one). I am getting a scoop of each next time!

We headed down to the Boro and the Tomato Festival was in full swing. We were greeted by a giant tomato and her red tomato bug.

The band was playing and the line for tomato sandwiches was quite long by the time we got there.

Don’t worry… we got our fill of sandwiches and enjoyed some time down by the river.

I don’t think white squishy bread has ever taste so good…

You still have time to get down to the Boro and get yourself a sandwich – next Saturday (July 21st). Don’t miss it, the tomatoes are yummy! You can also buy the famous Washington Boro tomatoes at the Tomato Barn on route 999. The Tomato Barn is open pretty often but you’ll have to make your own tomato sandwiches at home… and they probably just won’t taste the same..

Food Photography and Caprese Salad

Last month, my photographer friend Jason Bleecher took some photos of some food I created. I’ll be sharing the photos and the recipes over the next few weeks!

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

1/2 cup good quality Balsamic vinegar

3 fresh mozzarella balls

3-4 medium size red and yellow heirloom tomatoes

1 cup of red and yellow cherry tomatoes

purple and green basil leaves

Salt and pepper

Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a small pan, reduce the balsamic vinegar to half over medium heat. Slice the mozzarella and tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and half the cherry tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella in alternating layers on the plate. Chiffonade the green basil and spread it over the salad, garnish with purple basil leaves. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction and olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper.

Simple and delicious, especially when tomatoes are in season.

Stirred Up Caprese Salad… With Shrimp!

This is super easy!

1/2 lb. medium sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined

4 tbsp. olive oil

12 large basil leaves

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella

8 oz. heirloom cherry or grape tomatoes

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper

You don’t have to use heirloom tomatoes but I love the colors! If you want to plant some in your garden, look for a variety of grape tomatoes called Isis Candy. They are sweet and the plants that I had the last few years produced tomatoes that were all different colors all on the same plant!

Cut the tomatoes in half, cube the mozzarella into similar size chunks, and chiffonade the basil. I used purple basil this time because I found it at market the other day and I love the color. It was so aromatic that the smell traveled out of my market bag and up to my nose the whole walk home.

Place the cleaned shrimp in a bowl with 1 tbsp of olive oil, half of the basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir it up until all of the shrimp are coated in olive oil. Heat you pan to medium-high heat. Place the shrimp into the pan in a single layer. Cook the shrimp until it turns pink and it is opaque all the way through. Try not to over cook it or you’ll end up with rubbery shrimp. Place your shrimp in a shallow dish and let it cool for a few minutes.

Add the halved cherry tomatoes, basil, and cubed mozzarella to the dish. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar and remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything together to be sure everything is coated with the vinegar and oil.

This is a simple salad but it will impress your guests! We had it the other night along side the cool cucumber soup.

Crispy Prosciutto and Cherry Tomato Pasta

I had a great dinner with Dan out on the back deck last night. The weather was breezy and cool outside, it reminded me of a nice fall day. It is still the last bit of summer and the tomatoes are still flowing so I made another pasta dish with raw tomatoes.

I got these really nice heirloom cherry tomatoes from Sweet Annie Produce at Central Market this week. They were dark in color almost looking forest green on top. If you want to find them, the variety is called black cherry. It’s supposed to be easy to grow and have a sweet smoky flavor. I think they are great for pasta dishes because they are pretty hearty and hold up to some bolder italian flavors. Good tomatoes are such a bargain this time of year and we are eating a lot of them. I feel like I should eat my fill because come October they will start to disappear.

Fun fact I learned from the Today Show on Monday: Tomatoes can help prevent sunburn… because of the phytochemical lycopene! I wrote a whole paper on lycopene for my nutrition class in college. I think phytochemicals are pretty neat <insert dork comment here>. You could also build up your lycopene by eating ketchup. Lycopene actually intensifies when it is cooked!

Here’s the recipe for this fabulous pasta, it’s simple, quick and easy:

Crispy Prosciutto and Cherry Tomato Pasta

6-8 slices of prosciutto, sliced thin

12 oz. farfalle (or your pasta of choice)

2 large balls of fresh mozzarella

1 quart black cherry tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 large vidalia onion, chopped

a big handful of purple basil leaves

a big handful of parsley leaves

Lay the slices of prosciutto on an aluminum foil or parchment covered baking sheet. Place it in the oven at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes (depending on how thick your slices are). The prosciutto will turn crispy and brittle and look kind of like bacon. Let it cool before handling it, it will be hot! When it cools you should be able to crumble it into small pieces. It is so much better than bacon! Once you try making this you’ll have a hard time going back to bacon crumbles for your salads. You can use the crispy prosciutto on anything! It is great with eggs, salads, sandwiches, and pasta. Try putting it in potato salad, yum!

Just a note* these slices were a little small so I used extra, I think they were cuts from the end of the piece of prosciutto so they were not as long as slices of prosciutto usually are. This filled up a medium sized baking sheet in a single layer. Use however much you want, it really depends on how much you like it!

Cook your pasta to Al dente and prepare your other ingredients.

Slice the black cherry tomatoes in half. If you can not find heirloom cherry tomatoes, use any kind of good cherry or grape tomatoes.

Cube the fresh mozzarella, chiffonade the basil and chop the parsley.

Mix these ingredients together and season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. You could eat it just like this too, it makes excellent tomato basil salad!

Saute the onions and garlic until the onions begin to turn translucent. Mix the onions and garlic into your tomatoes and mozzarella mixture, add in your pasta and crispy prosciutto and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and you are done, easy! I had a little white peach sangria with this dish and enjoyed a great dinner on the deck.

Raw Tomato Sauce

I have been eating tomatoes morning, noon, and night right now. I am certainly getting my fill. I made this easy pasta dish a few times now. It’s easy and quick and it tastes great hot or cold. The only thing you have to cook is the pasta!

Summer Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce:

1 box of pasta in any shape you like… I love mini-penne made by Barilla.

1/2 medium red onion, cut into thin 1 inch sections

3 garlic cloves (smashed and minced)

3 tbsp unsalted butter

salt and pepper

3 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)

1/2 lb feta cheese or fresh mozzarella

A handful of fresh basil leaves

Cook the pasta in salted water. Reserve at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water when draining the pasta. Place the onion, garlic and butter in a bowl and pour 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water them. Let the mixture sit for at least ten minutes, the butter will melt and the garlic and onion flavor will infuse in the water.

Chop up the tomatoes and mix them in with the pasta in separate large bowl. Take the basil leaves, stack them up, roll them together, and slice them into thin strips (chiffonade) and  mix them in with the pasta and tomatoes. Pour the pasta water mixture over the pasta and mix. Break up the feta or cut up the mozzarella and add it into the pasta and serve. The heat from the pasta makes the tomatoes kind of melt, creating a sauce that coats the pasta. This meal is really good the next day because the pasta soaks up all of the flavors.

This is the simple version I made the other night when I had some of my girlfriends over for dinner. I used whole wheat pasta this time.

You could also add other veggies really easily. I added yellow wax beans and baby zucchini to one version of this dish. I just cut the zucchini into little circles and the beans into 1 inch pieces.

You do not have to cook the veggies in a separate pan. Just drop them in the boiling water with the pasta about a minute before the pasta is done. You won’t have another pot to clean and they will be perfectly cooked, not over cooked. I have also been using local garlic because a few stands have it at market right now.

I added green beans into this version. I used the same technique of dropping them into the boiling pasta right before it was done. I used the fresh mozzarella cut into cubes in this one as well. I also added some extra herbs in addition to the basil (I used purple basil this time) I also added Italian flat leaf parsley and a few chives.

Be creative with your veggies! I usually just walk around market and get what ever looks the best and freshest. Simple, easy, quick and delicious.

Fresh Summer Salsa

I have an abundance of tomatoes lately and I love salsa. I gathered all of the ingredients to make my fresh summer salsa. There are so many veggies available right now that every ingredient in this is local. Yes, even the garlic is local! This recipe is both green tomatillo salsa and tomato salsa in one. It makes a lot so it is perfect for parties. It’s also super quick and there’s easy clean-up because I make it in the food processor.

Green Summer Salsa Base:

1 jalapeno pepper

1 small red onion

1/2 cup packed cilantro

3 cloves garlic

3 mini bell peppers – yellow, red, and orange (I like to add these for a hint of color and sweetness)

1 lime, zested and juiced

5 medium sized tomatillos, husks removed, washed and quartered

salt and pepper to taste

Put all the ingredients in the food processor (you might have to do it in batches depending on how big your food processor is) and pulse until all the ingredients are chopped. Here’s what it should look like:

You can eat it just like this, as a green tomatillo salsa. You can also use it as a base for other salsas. It’s really good stirred into chopped mango for a sweet salsa or stir a little bit into mashed avocado for a guacamole upgrade.

To make Fresh Summer Salsa:

Pulse 3 big (~ 1.5 lbs) red tomatoes in the food processor, working in batches if you have a smaller food processor.  If you’re from Lancaster, I recommend the Jet Stars from Washington Boro that I wrote about a few days ago. Mix your tomatoes with about half (~1 cup) of the green salsa base from above. Season it with salt and pepper to taste. It makes about 4 cups.

Washington Boro Tomato Festival

One of my favorite things about summer is tomatoes. You really can’t get anything better than a late summer tomato. They always have amazing color and flavor that just can’t be matched any other time of year. My favorite place to get tomatoes is the tomato barn in Washington Boro, Pa.

I went for a ride the other day to pick up their famous Jet Stars. They claim to be “the sweetest tomatoes on earth” and I believe them. They are sweet, juicy and that bright red that reminds me of the fourth of July. I love seeing the tomatoes and other veggies all lined up together in the barn. I couldn’t help taking some pictures.

I always end up buying the “seconds” tomatoes. They aren’t perfectly round and they have some lines across the bottoms that I guess make them less desirable. I kind of like the messed-up look to them and for some reason I think they taste better. They look like a lot of heirloom varieties that grow in all funky sorts of shapes. They are also cheaper… you get a big flat box for $5!

I am going to use most of them to make sauce and salsa… I think they have character.

I noticed that the Tomato Festival was this Saturday! So of course I had to go, it’s one of my favorite events of the summer. There is something about eating a tomato sandwich on a grassy hill across from the Susquehanna river that makes it taste like no other tomato sandwich that you could ever make at home.

 

Jet star tomatoes, squishy white bread, lettuce, onions, mayo = the tomato festival sandwich.

I don’t know how I love these so much. I don’t normally eat squishy white bread or mayo… it must be the magic of the river or something.