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Wednesday
Feb022011

Leek and pecorino pizza

This is Week #5 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

This may only be the fifth week, but this recipe is by far my favorite of the bunch so far. The flavors from the leeks, lamb and pecorino cheese mix scrumptiously well.

And the style in which the pizzas are cooked was new to me, but so slick! I will make this again. Yum.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Ok, onto the recipe!

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Wow, that is HOT! Heat a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven for 45 minutes. If you do not own a pizza stone, heat a large inverted baking sheet on the bottom rack for 5 minutes.

Divide 1 1/2 pounds of pizza dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each piece into a 7-inch round. Oil 4 large baking sheets and place the dough rounds on the sheets.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Being pizza dough is exhausting.

I have never used leeks in my cooking before, and I must say that I have been missing out! They are delicious and who knew that leek towers would be so much fun to take photos of?!

Slice 2 large leeks into 1/4-inch pieces.

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened (about 8 minutes).

Transfer the leeks to a plate. They need rest, too.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet, along with 3/4 pound of ground lamb, salt and pepper. Break up the meat with a spoon or spatula and cook until the meat is no longer pink (about 5 minutes).

Generously flour a pizza peel. If you do not own a pizza peel, like myself, generously flour a flat baking sheet. Place a dough round on the peel and brush the dough with olive oil. Top with:

A handful of cooked leeks

A handful of cooked lamb

A handful of halved cherry tomatoes (you will want to halve about 32 total tomatoes for all 8 pizzas)

Thinly sliced pecorino cheese (you will need about 1/4 pound total for all 8 pizzas)

Slide the dough round onto the hot stone or baking sheet and bake for about 4 minutes, until the pizza dough is crisp.

Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients and serve! I hope you enjoy this pizza as much as I did! 

Click here for a printable recipe!

Thursday
Jan272011

Creamy onion dip

My husband and I have a common love of dips. It is one of the first things we discovered that we both enjoyed, along with skydiving, kissing and margaritas. Not all together. Well, dips and margaritas go together (we have even managed to make skydiving and kissing go together, ha!). When we were first dating, we made a lot of different dips and we would sit out on my patio and eat and talk until the sun went down. Aaaaahhhh, those were the days.

The appetizer/dip section of our personal recipe book is pretty extensive, but we are always looking for things to add to it. We recently discovered this simple, yet delicious little dip that tastes wonderful with chips, crackers and veggies alike. It is a perfect party staple and it is guaranteed to get devoured. Baby carrots will undoubtedly be found scraping the sides of the bowl, searching for every last morsel of dip yumminess.

In a medium bowl, stir together:

1 1/2 cups sour cream

2 tablespoons dry onion soup mix

1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese (use feta if you are not a bleu fan)

Cover and chill for up to 48 hours. Sprinkle with fresh parsley just before serving. Enjoy!

 Click here for a printable recipe!

Wednesday
Jan262011

Broccoli à la Catalan

This is Week #4 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

I adore broccoli and peppers alike, but this recipe is most definitely not one that I would have picked out of a cookbook on my own. Which is precisely why I am loving this challenge! I'm broadening my horizons, and I am finding that I should not be judging recipes so harshly.

This was a fantastic side dish! My husband made chicken to go along with it for dinner, and everything tasted great together. Oooo, I just had an idea! Tomorrow night I am going to cube the leftover chicken and toss it in with the broccoli and peppers. Mmmmm, can't wait. Why do I get so excited about food?

Roast 4 red bell peppers. When they are finished (keep the oven on!), allow the peppers to cool.

Once they have cooled, peel, seed and core them and cut them into thin strips. Place the pepper strips into a bowl along with:

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

Salt and pepper, to taste

Spread 1 tablespoon of pine nuts (I used chopped walnuts for this reason) on a pie plate and toast in the oven until golden, about 2 minutes.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine:

1 tablespoon golden raisins (I used 2 Tbsp)

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons water

Microwave for 30 seconds, until the raisins are plump. Let cool, then drain the liquid from the raisins.

In a saucepan fitted with a steamer basket, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add 2 cups of broccoli florets cut into 3/4-inch pieces, cover and steam until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer broccoli to a bowl and toss with:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Microwaved golden raisins

Toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Spread the peppers on a platter and top with the broccoli salad. Serve immediately. Enjoy! 

Click here for a printable recipe!

Wednesday
Jan262011

How to roast bell peppers

Aren't roasted peppers pretty? Of course, I think all food is pretty, hence my interest in food photography. If you would like to gaze at and photograph some beautiful roasted red peppers (oh, and eat them, too), here is what you will need to do. It's the simplest thing in the world! Aside from maybe breathing.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Cut the bell peppers (of any color) directly down the middle and place them on a baking sheet lined with lightly greased aluminum foil.

Put the baking sheet in the preheated oven and roast for a total of 25 minutes, turning the peppers once at the half-way mark.

And that's that! Peel, seed and core the peppers to your liking. Easy, right?

Tuesday
Jan252011

Focus lock

Aside from exposure compensation, focus lock is perhaps my favorite feature on my camera. This feature can be found on almost every digital camera that has been made within the past few years. I use it ALL. THE. TIME. There is a time and place for changing focal points on a camera, and I will cover that in another post, but most of the time focus lock is all I need.

Focus lock allows your camera to quickly focus on a subject that you don't necessarily want to appear directly in the center of your photograph.

For example, I didn't want these leaves to appear directly in the center of my photo. I looked through my viewfinder and positioned the center focus point directly over the object I wanted most sharply in focus, the uppermost leaves in the foreground. I held my shutter button down half way until I heard a beep. Once I heard the beep, I knew my camera understood the exact point I wanted it to stay focused on.

Keeping my shutter button held down half way, I moved my camera down and to the left a bit until I liked where the leaves were positioned in my viewfinder. I pressed the shutter button the rest of the way down to capture this picture.

The leaves remained sharply in focus and they didn't have to reside directly in the center of my photo.

Keep in mind that this only works if both the camera and the subject do not change depths/planes. If I would have taken even a tiny step forward or backward after I had pressed the shutter button down half way, the leaves would not have remained in focus. I would have had to release my shutter button completely and start over.

Here is another example where I held my shutter button down half way after center-focusing on the big tree you see on the left and then moving my camera over to the right and snapping the photo. The tree trunk remains in focus, but it is not in the center of my photograph.

Getting to know this feature on your camera will allow you to view your subject, and the composition of your entire photograph, in a whole new way. It is fun to stray from the belief that everything you take a photograph of must remain directly in the center of your photograph.