Whole and Hearty Asparagus Pizza

This delicious whole wheat pizza is a wonderful addition to your spring menu, and works equally well as an hors d'oeuvre or entrée.  It's also a savory, healthy alternative to store-bought pizzas that are loaded with preservatives, sodium and additives. Make it a wonderful, heart-healthy vegetarian pizza by eliminating the bacon; you will still retain depth and complexity of flavor. It gets its name from using whole wheat pizza dough, and its hearty list of ingredients: mushrooms, onions, two cheeses and roasted fresh asparagus spears.  4-6 servings, or more for hors d'oeuvre.
Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb fresh asparagus
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large sweet onion
  • 4 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms
  • Whole wheat or white pizza dough
  • Olive oil
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces (optional)
  • 6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tbsp grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Process
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread fresh asparagus on baking sheet with sides. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Mix well, using hands. Spread out in single layer. Bake 10 minutes.

3. While asparagus is roasting, slice sweet onion thinly and saute in 1 tbsp of butter until caramelized, about 10 minutes, then set aside.

4. Slice mushrooms; saute in 1 tbsp of the butter until they give up their liquid and are browned, about 10 minutes; set aside. 
5. Prepare the pizza dough by rolling out on a floured surface, transfer to pizza baking sheet brushed lightly with a little olive oil, and brush dough lightly with more olive oil.



6. Cut cooled asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces. Layer ingredients onto dough in this order: caramelized onions, bacon pieces, mushrooms, asparagus (in a pinwheel arrangement, if desired), mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees, until dough is crusty and browned on edges, and cheese has melted.

Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Goes really well with a crisp Pinto Grigio or Reisling!
 

Chicken Soup for a Winter that Won't End

"Snow is cold, rain is wet, chills my soul right to the marrow ..." Carole King




If you're suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous spring, with snow and wind and weather that resembles January rather than April, here's a way to warm it up inside. Put on a pot of chicken soup! It is a perfect dinner, rich and delicious lunch, pairs perfectly with crusty bread, white wine and pasta/noodles. It's easy (easier than it looks!) and can serve six or more. Just put it into the pot and let it simmer! Top with grated parmagianno reggiano or your favorite oyster crackers.

Total cooking time – about 3-4 hours including prep

 Ingredients

1 whole air-cooled or air chilled chicken (about 3 lbs)

1 large onion, quartered

3 stalks celery, cut in half lengthwise and then into 3” pieces

1 lb. carrots, cut into 3” pieces (or get the small ones in bag)

1-1/2 cups College Inn chicken broth

3-4 chicken bouillon cubes

6 cups water (be sure the water is warm or hot before you add it to the pot – I use cold water out of the tap, put the bouillon cubes with the water in a measuring cup, and microwave it for a minute or two, then add to the pot)

Salt and pepper (I use French Sel de Mer and freshly ground pepper)

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. high quality organic olive oil

Bouquet garni – 6 cloves garlic, 10 sprigs fresh parsley, 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme), 1 tsp. herbes de provence – wrapped up tightly in cheesecloth


Process

1. Into a large stock pot, heat butter and olive oil.

2. Salt and pepper chicken, and place whole chicken upside down in butter/olive oil,

3. Sear until browned. Turn chicken and sear on the other side.

4. Add onion, celery, carrots, broth, water, bouillon cubes, bouquet garni. Be sure the liquid covers the chicken almost completely.

5. Simmer on medium for about three hours. Watch the pot, maybe put a lid askew on it so that all the steam does not escape.

6. As it is simmering, you might want to add a little dried thyme to the top of the chicken and/or more salt and pepper.

If you use the air cooled chicken, there is (magically!) no scum to skim!! The best chicken ever!

7. When the soup is done, remove the chicken from the pot and debone it. Throw away the bones and put the chicken back into the pot. 

Serve piping hot with bread, buttered noodles, salad or just by itself. 










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Happy Easter!

Irish Soda Bread

Nothing more delicious than a hunk of Irish soda bread slathered with some authentic Irish butter. This is our "from scratch" loaf, hot from the oven, baked fresh this morning.

May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be forever at your back!


Gettin' Our Corned Beef On!

It's time for corned beef and cabbage ... now as St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow, and really anytime of the year. It's always delicious and always a big hit ... day of, and day after! You'll need a big pot of water, lots of pickling spices, a quality cut of corned beef, a bunch of yellow or russet potatoes, an onion or two and time to let it simmer on the range. Here's how we do it:

Corned beef simmering in large pot of water with pickling spices (recipe below).


Add cabbage and potatoes ...

Cabbage, cored and quartered, ready to jump into the pool!


Ingredients

One 4-lb. corned beef brisket, thin cut (get the best you can find)
2-6 tbsp. pickling spices
4-6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
One large onion, peeled and quartered
One medium head cabbage, cored and cut into 8 quarters

Process

1. Put the corned beef into a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 tbsp. pickling spices. Cover and bring to a boil.
2. Skim the gray residue that comes to the top of the pot. Cover. Simmer for 30 minutes. Skim residue. Add 1-2 tbsp. more pickling spices to make up for ones you skimmed away.
3. Cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours on medium heat.
4. Add potatotes, onion, more water (boil it first) to cover corned beef. Adjust spices by adding more if needed. Simmer 30 minutes.
5. Add cabbage and simmer 30 more minutes.

Serve with Irish soda bread and a pint of Guinness! Top of the evening to you, mateys!

Curried Lentil Soup with Kielbasa

An oldie but goodie - snow day = soup day!

Enjoy!

We woke to mountains of white billowy drifts of snow this morning, some as high as five feet. Cars and shrubs were covered, and picket fences that yesterday separated us from neighboring yards were blanketed by snow. The landscape was punctuated only by the tiny red bows on our trees, vestiges of holiday color.

After a few hours of clearing and digging out, hot and spicy curried lentil soup seemed the perfect foil to 18 new inches of snow, in what is becoming a record-breaking winter.  This soup is filled with hearty, complex flavor, and its aromas filled the house in late afternoon. 

Ingredients

1 16-oz. bag dried lentils, looked over and rinsed with cold water
8 cups cold water
2 cans beef broth (about 3 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped (including some with celery leaves, minced)
4 large carrots, chopped
1 smoked ham hock
1 bay leaf
1 lb. Polish beef kielbasa, cut in 1/2" "half moons"
4 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
One package "Tasty Bite" chickpeas (seasoned with cumin and ginger)*

* Available at Costco   (www.costco.com)



To water and beef broth, add lentils, ham hock, vegetables, kielbasa, and all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for 1-1/2 hours, partially covered and stirring every 15-20 minutes.  During last 15 minutes of cooking, stir in chickpeas.


When peas are thoroughly heated, serve with French bread and salad.

2-Napkin Wings for Super Bowl

Extra gooey, super spicy wings, on New Year's Eve

Super Bowl-inspired platter of sauce-laden BBQ wings, which we call "2-Napkin Wings." Put them on the table and they don't last too long -- why this photo is missing at least a dozen! Put out plenty of napkins, too -- enough to dab the sauce from cheeks, chin and fingertips.

The alchemy of these sweet yet spicy wings is simple -- use a base of your favorite BBQ sauce, but amply sprinkle garlic salt, chili powder, fresh-cracked five-pepper peppercorns and hot Hungarian paprika over them before saucing up.

Roast in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, turn, re-season, and brush on more sauce. Repeat two more times, reducing oven to 325 for last 20 minutes.  The sauce will be the consistency of molasses and turn from ruby to a glistening mahogany reddish brown.  Pile onto a platter with a 1/2 cup of your own homemade bleu cheese dressing, and watch them disappear!