Seattle products make a pizza that’s hard to top

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I’ve been attending a lecture series on animals by Seattle Arts and Lectures. During one of the lectures, the speaker discussed the farming industry and mentioned that the rate at which humans consume meat simply isn’t sustainable as the population continues to grow. He mentioned finding alternate products, such as items made by Field Roast, a Seattle-based company that makes meat-like products out of grains and vegetables as a protein alternative. On my next trip to the store, I spotted some Field Roast sausage on the shelf, so I picked it up to try it. I’ve never liked regular sausage—mostly because of the texture—but this appeared to be a little different. I broke one of the links up and added it to a scramble the next day. It was really good.

I still had a link left when I got a craving for pizza last night. I didn’t want to wait too long for pizza dough to rise properly, so I opened up my Smitten Kitchen cookbook to the recipe for Rushed Pizza Dough and got to work.

As the dough was rising, I looked through my fridge for more toppings and found some locally made goat cheese and some Beecher’s Smoked Flagship cheese. I thought they’d help tone down the spiciness of the sausage a bit. I also had some fresh pesto and dill on hand to round out the flavors. It was definitely the best pizza I’ve made in recent memory, and a combination I plan on recreating.

Rushed Pizza Dough
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
Olive oil, for coating bowl

Preheat oven to warm (200-225 degrees F) for 5 minutes; then turn it off.

Pour 1/2 cup warm water into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the flour, then salt, and mix with a wooden spoon until a rough, craggy mass forms. Turn dough and any loose bits out onto lightly floured counter, and knead for 5 minutes or until a smooth, elastic dough forms.

Coat inside of mixing bowl with olive oil, place dough back in bowl, then cover with plastic wrap. Place in previously warmed oven, and let it sit for 30 minutes, or until doubled. Remove dough from oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using your hands, shape the dough into a circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Toppings
4 tablespoons pesto
1 Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage
3 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces Beecher’s Smoked Flagship cheese
1 sprig of fresh dill, torn into small pieces

Spread the pesto around the shaped dough, leaving about a half inch of space between the sauce and the edges. Break apart the sausage and sprinkle onto the pizza. Do the same with the goat cheese. Grate the goat cheese over the top, and sprinkle the dill on. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned. Cut and serve.

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Deconstructed BLT salad is easy to assemble

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This protein-packed salad is a filling meal that’s easy to assemble if you prepare each component ahead of time. It’s like a deconstructed BLT or club sandwich, and just as delicious. It’s another gem from “Raising the Salad Bar,” which I’ve been using a lot more lately for fresh salads for weeknight dinners.

I’ve found that I enjoy salads for dinner instead of lunch because I can assemble them instead of combining them in a tupperware to sit for hours before lunch rolls around. Heartier salads such as this are a great meal to come home to after a long day.

Ingredients
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
5 slices bacon, cooked
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pesto
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups garlic croutons (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise and pesto until well combined. Add the chicken and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes, bacon, and croutons. Add lettuce and toss thoroughly.

Calzones and a lesson for an ambitious beginner

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Calzones are basically small pizzas folded in half and sealed around the edges. But sometimes, it’s a nice change.

Last week was busy, and I wanted to make a lunch I could eat at my desk if I needed to — something that didn’t require utensils or much cleanup. So, I went with calzones.

This is the second time I’ve ever made calzones. The first was years ago when my brother graduated from high school. I had just tried making them for the first time and got overly ambitious. I told my mom I’d make them for everyone at his graduation party. I made bowl after bowl of dough and kept the oven on for hours — even during the party — as I pulled them out of the oven. For me, that was one of those learning moments, particularly around cooking and entertaining. If you overcomplicate things, you won’t get to enjoy the gathering. Lesson learned.

That time I filled them with ham and cheese, but I liked the ones I made using this recipe more. While they may not look like they’ve been filled enough, the fillings I chose had stronger flavors, so it tasted like enough. Beware that using fresh vegetables such as spinach or peppers can make the bottom of the calzone watery if you haven’t sautéed them first.

Calzones2This recipe — the dough is from the Joy of Cooking — makes two large calzones. I like to keep my calzones basic, so I went with pepperoni, cheese, and pesto. You can put whatever you’d like in them.

Ingredients
2/3 cup warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons pesto
20 slices of pepperoni
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Combine water and yeast in a large bowl and let sit until dissolved, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly coat another large bowl with olive oil.

Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, or using your hands, mix in flour, olive oil, and salt. Transfer the dough to the oil-coated bowl, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, up to two hours. If you want to speed up the process, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and turn it off when you put the bowl of dough inside. I did it this way, and it took about an hour.

When dough is ready, remove from oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough in half. Shape each half the way you would for a pizza. Leaving about an inch all the way around the circumference of the dough, top with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni — or the toppings of your choice. Once topped, fold in half and pinch the edges to close. Place on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Shrimp pasta suited for summer

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Summer has me in the mood for seafood, since it tends to be lighter than red meats or poultry.

After making pesto last week, I’ve been jumping at any opportunity to use it. When I was looking for ways to use some shrimp I purchased, I came across Robert Irvine’s Fresh Pesto Shrimp Pasta.

I’ve seen Irvine on “Restaurant Impossible.” At first I thought he was pretty callous, but after watching more episodes I’ve realized he really does care about the people he helps. I hadn’t made any of his recipes until I tried this one, and it’s simple, delicious and can be made quickly.

The original recipe called for two pounds of shrimp, but I only had a half pound, so I changed the amount of each of the ingredients. This version makes enough for two servings, which was perfect for me for dinner one night and to have leftovers for lunch the next day. I also substituted white pepper for the black pepper, since black pepper tends to be too harsh for my taste.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1/8 cup dry white wine, plus more if needed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound spaghetti, cooked
2 tablespoons pesto
Salt and white pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons thin-sliced tomato skin, julienned

In saute pan over high heat, add the olive oil and allow to come to the verge of smoking. Next, add the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook the shrimp until medium doneness, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. After the shrimp are medium, add the onions and allow to cook until translucent, another 2 minutes. Add pesto, stir, and then deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the heavy cream and allow to reduce by half the volume, 2 to 3 minutes. Finally, add the pasta and stir. Finish seasoning with salt, pepper and additional wine if necessary. Allow to warm for 2 minutes, and then portion and serve. Top with the parsley and tomatoes.

Pesto provides endless possibilities

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Never underestimate a good pesto recipe.

Pesto can be used to coat chicken for baking; it can be tossed with pasta for an easy-to-make dinner; it can be combined with a bit of mayonnaise to make a potato salad dressing — the possibilities are endless. pesto2063013

Italian basil is usually available at Tahoe farmers markets, which run from about May through September, but can sometimes be hard to find in stores. During the months when it is available, I keep homemade pesto in my fridge at all times.

The recipe I use was given to me by one of the reporters at my last job. He got it from “Pasta Cooking” by Jeni Wright. He said it was his favorite recipe, and it has become mine, too.

While some pesto recipes are more Parmesan and olive oil, this one is all about the basil, as it should be. The original also calls for four tablespoons of butter and a dash of pepper, which you can add if you like. I leave it out. Be prepared for the strong basil flavor. I love it.

pesto3063013If the pesto gets a little dry in the fridge, just stir a little more olive oil into it. It’s definitely something worth keeping around.

Ingredients
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 packed cup of fresh basil leaves (about two bunches, just the leaves, not the stems)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Dash of salt

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.