Friday, November 22, 2013

Mortadella and Pistachio Pesto Pizza

It's no secret my favorite way to consume meals is via sandwich.  I love me a good sammy, and of course the classic BLT is numero uno.  In my top five favorites of all time is the Monster from Hero's Submarine Sandwich Shop.  This place is my go to sub shop in Chicago, and there are plenty of good ones to choose from.  The Monster is my usual, piled into a local Turano hero roll is swiss, provolone, mortadella, salami, ham, pepperoni, lettuce, tomato, pickle, extra onion, oregano and oil.  It's so damn tasty- especially the mortadella.  If you're not familiar, mortadella is basically sliced pork sausage that is heat-cured and seasoned.  The wife doesn't love it, so her half of the pistachio pesto pizza had slices of salami. 

Pesto (especially on a pizza) is such a versatile food.  It can be made from so many different ingredients, substituting various herbs and nuts.  The classic pesto calls for pine nuts, but since they are on par with gold in terms of cost per ounce, I mostly use toasted walnuts.  But for this version, we're using the always delicious pistachio.  Have you had this yet?

Are you ready for the big T-Day?  You know, the holiday that puts gorging on food the highlight (besides, you know, being thankful for stuff) of the occasion?  How are you going to cook the bird this year if going with the conventional protein?  Anything new or daring or sticking to the familiar?  Need help

This year, the main turkey (the secondary, usual grocery store-variety brined and grilled bird will be for leftovers) will have lived a happy life running around outdoors on a local farm, eating insects and enjoying the outdoors and growing to become a delicious feast for my Thanksgiving dinner table.  The Hoka turkey is advertised to be much more flavorful than a mass-produced bird due to its lifestyle, so this year we are going basic- turkey, a little canola oil, salt and pepper.  I'll refrain from the usual cavity flavors of onion, celery, lemon, rosemary and thyme.  We won't make a compound butter of sage, thyme, garlic, and gently place that between the skin and the breast.  It's all about the pure turkey flavor this year, no helpers. 

What dish do you look forward to the most?  For me, it's the stuffing.  Closely followed by leftover cold turkey sammiches with mayo and lots of black pepper. 

The garden is a tad cold for basil this time of year, so instead of spending $4 on a tiny ass portion of basil in plastic box from Mexico I prefer to buy the pureed basil in the tube.  It tastes pretty good for processed food, and is super easy for making pesto in winter. 

I just found my preferred grocer carries bags of shelled, roasted and salted pistachios.  Exactly the amount I need for this recipe.  And at $6.50 a bag, it's cheaper than paying $8 per lb including shells, so that's an easy decision. 

Mortadella and Pistachio Pesto Pizza

1 pizza crust (recipe here)

for the pesto-
4 TB basil puree or 1.5 C fresh basil leaves
1/2 C fresh Italian parsley
1.5 C shelled pistachios, roasted and salted
3 medium cloves garlic
1 ts lemon zest
pinch freshly cracked black pepper
~2/3 C EVOO
3/4 C good parmigiano reggiano

for the pizza-
1 pizza crust (recipe here)
3 oz thinly sliced mortadella, sliced into 1/2" ribbons
8 oz ball fresh mozzarella, 1/4" slices

Preheat your oven with a pizza stone to 500°F for at least 30-45 minutes, 60 is preferred.  Now that it's winter, there's no problem in heating up the kitchen. 

In the bowl of your food processor, add the basil, parsley, pistachio, garlic, lemon zest, and pepper.  Pulse a dozen times or so to break up the nuts and get everything loving each other.  Flip the switch to on and add the oil in a steady stream until you reach your desired consistency, about 2/3 C.  Add the king of cheeses, parm-reg, and pulse a couple times to mix. 

Stretch or roll out your dough on a clean work surface and once into something that resembles a pie shape, place onto your pizza peel sprinkled with corn meal or flour for release purposes.  Evenly spread the pesto on the dough, there may be a few TB leftover which will be repurposed with love.  Add the slices of mozzarella and then top with your mortadella. 

Slide the pizza off your peel onto the pizza stone and bake for about 10 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is bubbly and delicious.  Let sit for 5 minutes until you can't stand it anymore, then slice and enjoy.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto

I eat the hell out of butternut squash this time of year, come mid November I will be tired of them and that is a good thing.  Every fall you should at least make bs soup.  We even put that shit on our pizza pies.  Butternut squash is tasty, healthy, and tres cheap.  The only intimidating thing might be how to approach the slaughter.  A good sharp knife is key.  Santa (thanks Mom!) brought me this big ass cleaver which gets most use breaking down giant veg like squash.  Once you peel it and scoop out the seeds and soft flesh, it's just a matter of slicin and dicin.

We often have risotto when there is some leftover white wine from a fish entree, you definitely need wine in this recipe to max flavor compounds.  Most every time I cook with wine I think of that quote by somebody, "I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food."

The recipe below is for a double batch of risotto, as freezing leftovers for lunch is way better than shelling out $6 at Subway.  And the guy at my Subway sing-talks your order and checkout, which is kind of annoying. 

A risotto myth is that you have to stand there and stir constantly for 30 minutes.  You could do that if you wanted, but its certainly not necessary.  The arborio rice likes to swell gradually, which is why you add the stock in increments.  The stirring part comes just before and just after each addition.  While the lovely liquid is being absorbed, it doesn't need constant stirring.  Just don't walk away and do a load of laundry or wash the dog.   

See you next winter.  I'm on vaca.  Food and Wine Expo at EPCOT.  Disney with the young foodie and the in-laws.  We're freaking magically excited! 

Butternut Squash Risotto
6-8 servings

10 C low-sodium chicken broth
4 TB unsalted butter
4 C diced butternut squash, 1/4" dice
2 medium onions, 1/4" dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 C dry white wine
2 C good parmigiano reggiano
3 C arborio rice
2 TB unsalted butter
parsley/chives/sage garnish

Warm the stock in a medium pot on a back burner of your stovetop, probably the one for 'simmer'.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the EVOO.  Once hot, saute the  squash cubes (season with a pinch of S&P) for about 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until softened.  Introduce the onion, cook for about 4-5 minutes, until softened, stir occasionally.  Add the garlic during the last 60 seconds.

Deglaze the skillet with the wine, scraping up and browned bits with a wooden spatula.  Reduce the wine and cook off for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and begin to add the stock, 1/2 C or so at a time, stirring with each addition.  Add more stock once each phase is absorbed by the rice, total cooking time will be about 25-30 minutes, until creamy and tender yet firm to the bite, aka al dente.  You may have a 1/2-1 C or so leftover stock, depending on your preferred texture.

Once tender to your liking, add the 2 TB butter and 1 C of the king of cheeses, parm-reg.  Stir well and remove from the heat.  You may also want to season with S&P and add a colorful garnish such as chopped chives, parsley, or even some torn sage leaves.  Plate and then top with more cheese please.