Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

I need a vacation.  The past three weeks have been pure craziness at work.  I’m dreaming of Excel and PowerPoint.  You know that is a sure sign that you are OD-ing.  I hate dreaming about PowerPoint.  Nothing angers me more than waking, feeling the stressful tension in my shoulders and realizing the night has provided me with no restful escape from the day.  It’s a sure way to make me grumpy and just sours my mood for the day.  It is also a sure way to keep me out of the kitchen.

At 5 o’clock, or whenever I manage to wrap things up for the day, I pack my laptop into my backpack, collect my things and head for home.  After a few minutes of bustling around the house and petting my pup, the laptop comes out and work begins anew.  At some point, I’ll retreat to the kitchen and find a few minutes for myself when I can focus on the things I want to focus on, my mind calmed by the rhythmic sounds of the knife hitting the cutting board.  One particular night, the fruit fly collection I’ve been working on had grown to the point where action was needed – immediately!  The beautiful heirloom tomatoes I’d picked up at the market were intoxicating the winged creatures and with a wave of my hand over the tomatoes, they dashed off in a wave.

Knowing my time was limited on this particular evening, I took a little help from Trader Joe’s and grabbed some pre-made pizza dough and some fresh mozzarella on my drive home from the office.  I snipped what are likely some of the last leaves from my basil plant as it gasps in the dry, insane heat.  No amount of water can save this year’s poor attempt at a garden…  With just a few simple steps, one of the prettiest pizzas I have ever created sat ready for the oven.  Now to find a bottle of wine…

Work still calls my name, but I’m taking the night off.  I’m trying to enjoy the last bit of summer and I might have to make this a few more times to ensure I’ve satiated my taste for ripe, fresh tomatoes.  Ha – if that ever happens, I’ll let you know!

 

Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

1/4 c. olive oil

3-4 heirloom tomatoes

Fresh mozzarella, in whatever form you prefer, drained

1 prepared pizza dough

Salt and pepper

about 1/4 c. basil leaves, finely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place garlic cloves and olive oil in a small oven-proof dish with a lid.  Roast for 40-45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  When ready to proceed, blend garlic and olive oil in a food processor until no large pieces of garlic remain.  Slice tomatoes in half and gently squeeze to remove seeds.  Slice into 1/4″ slices.

Increase oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a work surface and roll dough out to desired shape.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove dough from oven and spread roasted garlic oil/paste over the dough.  Place tomato slices across the dough.  Season with salt and pepper and scatter mozzarella over the top.  Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Mozzarella should be melted and the crust should be golden brown.

Scatter finely chopped basil over the top, cut into slices, and enjoy.

 

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

“Ode to Sweet Corn,” Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take something expected or ordinary and to turn it on its side.  I like funky.  I like unique.  I like different.  I love to reimagine and refresh dishes that are tried and true.  But I like to do so in a way that is still approachable for many people.  I am interested in the foams, molecular gastronomy and avant garde presentations of such people like Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz, but I know that style of cooking doesn’t have universal appeal across this great land.  And I know that for most people, the more comfortable you are with the general idea or ingredients, the more likely you are to approach a dish with an open mind and a willing fork.

So when I stumbled across a recipe for a fresh corn pesto, I was intrigued.  This was right up my alley.  Basil pesto has worked its way into our culinary vernacular and isn’t something that is too foreign/out there for most people.  A fresh, summery combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmiggiano Reggiano and olive oil, pesto has become a go-to condiment for dressing pasta, basting chicken, or adding zip to dressings and marinades.  And it is easy.  Throw everything in a blender or food processor and viola!  Instant sauce. 

Now I’m no stranger to turning pesto on its side.  In summers past, I’ve been known to whip up a variety of not-so-standard pestos including chive, lemon-parsley, cilantro, walnut-watercress – the list could go on and on.  But I’d never attempted to make a pesto with something that could stand alone, like sweet corn.  I was up for the experiment.  I happily swung through my Italian grocer on the way home from work and picked up some tagliatelle and headed toward my nearby sweet corn stand.

Think of this as summer carbonara, minus the eggs.  You start by frying up some bacon (bonus!) and sautéing the corn kernels in the reserved drippings (double bonus!).  Never a bad way to go, my friends…  Once the sweet kernels are lightly sautéed, into the food processor they go with the requisite pine nuts, Parmiggiano Reggiano, and olive oil.  To me, most commercial pestos are too oily.  I don’t like opening a container and seeing the Gulf of Mexico, oops, an oil slick, on top of my pesto.  My rule of thumb with oils is always this – disregard the volume specified by the recipe.  Add as much as you like for your own personal preference.  In this case, I added just enough to move the pesto along in my food processor while still leaving a little texture.  The resulting sauce was thick and creamy. 

Back to the pan it went, where I added reserved corn kernels for extra texture.  It is important to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water.  This normal throw-away provides a nice starchy way to thin out the sauce.  The recipe states 1 ½ cups, but I found I was happy with the results with only 1 cup.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of your pan too – nothin’ says lovin’ like bacon drippings on the bottom of a pan.  Into the sauce went the cooked tagliatelle, the reserved bacon, and the fresh basil.  Think of this as summer comfort on a plate. 

tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

recipe:  adapted from Bon Appetit

 

4 bacon slices, cut into ½” pieces

6 ears of corn, kernels removed

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt

¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ c. finely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1/3 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted

Extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. tagliatelle

½ c. basil, finely chopped

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside.  If necessary/desired, pour off all but 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings.  Add corn and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss for about 30 seconds.  Transfer about 1 ½ c. corn kernels to a bowl, set aside.  Place remaining corn in a food processor.  Add pine nuts and Parmiggiano Reggiano.  With motor running, slowly stream in olive oil until desired consistency has been reached.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, reserving cooking water.  Return pesto to skillet.  Add reserved cooking water until sauce reaches desired consistency (again, I used about 1 c.), scraping the bottom of pan to remove any drippings.  Add pasta, reserved bacon, reserved corn, and ¾ basil to the pan.  Toss thoroughly to coat and season to taste.  Place about 1 ½ c. pasta in each serving bowl.  Top with remaining basil and serve warm.

Serves 4.

Here’s to summer comfort (and bacon!)

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

“Ode to Sweet Corn” – Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

In the midst of the summer heat, we’ve managed to squeeze out a few days with low humidity and clear skies – the kind of day that begs for a lovely dinner on the patio and a chilled bottle of rosé.  A dinner party for three with my favorite boys as my guests, where locusts and neighborhood birds provide the background music.  A dinner where we’ll watch the bees buzz from our Russian sage to our purple coneflowers as we lazily enjoy our meal and sip our wine, and as the sun sets, we’ll talk as flames from our citronella torches dance and twirl in the gentle evening breeze.

The table is set, the wine is open, glasses are full and plates have been placed before us on the table.  The bees are buzzing, the torches are lit and the locusts are humming.  Ah, perfection.

And then, a siren.  A fire truck.  Soon enough, both of my dinner guests have their heads thrown back, mouths to the sky, howling away.  I’m so glad the hubs taught Brix to howl…

Try as I might, I can’t resist laughing at this spectacle.  Poor Brix has such a mournful little wail, his little doggy mouth forms into a perfect “O,” his small body goes rigid and the closer the siren comes, the more excited he gets and start to furiously wipe his feet as he throws his head back again.  And B, well, what can I say?  Ah well, you can dress `em up…

So often relegated to the backyard barbeque, corn on the cob and its requisite pile of napkins and waiting toothpicks is a veggie that could stand a little dressing up.  Not that I have anything bad to say about plain ol’ corn on the cob – I’m the girl that comes home from work and appears in sweatpants no more than five minutes later.  But every now and then, it is fun to get a little gussied up, and I thought it was high time sweet corn got the glamour treatment.  I knew just the thing.

I’d read recently about a benefit dinner where a sweet corn panna cotta was one of the featured courses.  I’d seen sweet corn panna cotta before, but always in a sweet setting as a dessert.  While the natural sugars and creaminess of really good sweet corn would be fitting for an after-dinner treat, the tomatoes fresh out of my garden led me in a different direction.  I thought back to a tomato and corn pie I’d made last summer and recalled the tasty combination.  So with a savory theme in mind, I set off to create a delicate summer first course.

Inspired by a version of panzanella salad I make every summer without fail, I wanted the fresh tomato salad to be full of bright flavors.  I strolled out to my garden with shears in hand and returned with fresh basil, chives and garlic.  To this I added some balsamic vinegar for a little depth, olive oil, and shavings of Parmiggiano Regiano cheese for a little salty accent.  The sweet corn and cream in the panna cotta provide such a creamy contrast to the fresh tomato salad.  Served cold or at room temperature, this was a perfect dish to prepare ahead of time and have ready and waiting for you. 

sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. whole milk

1/3 c. sugar

2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off and cobs reserved

2 c. heavy cream

¼ tsp. kosher salt

3 Tbsp. water

2 ½ tsp. unflavored gelatin

2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½” dice

2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 ½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

¼ c. shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small stockpot, bring milk and sugar to a slow simmer over medium heat.  Add corn kernels, simmer for about 5 minutes.  As corn is simmering, chop reserved cobs into four pieces each.  Add cream, kosher salt and reserved cob segments.  Bring to a simmer and once simmering, cover and remove from heat.  Let steep for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top.  Let stand for 15 minutes. 

Remove cobs from the cream mixture and discard.  Bring cream mixture back to a simmer and once simmering, add gelatin mixture.  Remove from heat and stir until gelatin is thoroughly incorporated.  Strain, reserving both cream and corn.  Divide corn kernels among six ramekins and top with reserved cream mixture.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Combine tomatoes, chives, basil, garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Parmiggiano Reggiano shavings in a medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To serve, run a metal spatula along the edges of each ramekin and carefully invert onto a plate.  Top with about ¼ c. tomato salad.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Enjoy – with or without howling in the background!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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summer corn soup with crisp prosciutto and basil

“Ode to Sweet Corn” – Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the summer food versus winter food kind of cooking.  I just can’t bring myself to make a big pot of chili in August, nor will I ever whip up a BLT in January.  It just feels wrong.  In winter, I want my food to be hearty and warming, a barricade against the cold and snow just outside my door.  And in summer, I want a light, refreshing meal, fitting for the temperatures and the summer activities that keep me out of the kitchen until the sun starts setting and I realize I’d better get moving on dinner.  And on those late nights (which admittedly, is every night in the summer), I want something that comes together quickly. 

B’s grandpa is crazy about soup.  Something about it just trips his trigger and every visit to my mother-in-law results in stacks and stacks of frozen containers of soup, each icy cube containing any and every variety known to man.  He just loves to make soup.  And while I understand the appeal of quickly thawing a cube and sitting down to supper, it is hard for me to accept such a tummy warming dish during the dog days of summer.  I’m weird like that.

My tendencies usually lead me down the path of gazpacho, vichyssoise, or other chilled concoction, ready and willing to showcase summer produce.  Soups that come together in no time and are the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich or grilled chicken or fish.  So when I saw this recipe for a warm summer soup, I was a bit doubtful.  Fast and easy with the promise of basil and prosciutto, this summer soup recipe lured the ears of corn into my market bag and soon enough, soup was on the menu.

With garden fresh sweet corn, potatoes, onion and basil in hand, I set off to quickly pull together a midweek meal.  The kernels of corn burst against the blade of the knife, sending juices and corn splattering across the counter.  With a few quick chops, the veggies were ready and waiting.  In went the naked cobs, adding extra corn flavor and sweetness to the simmering broth.  In no time, the potatoes were tender and the steaming soup went into the blender.  Pureeing the corn and potatoes created a creamy, chowder like consistency without the weight of heavy cream.  Reserved corn kernels added a bit of crunch and extra sweetness as the kernels burst against your teeth.  Paired with a light sandwich, this was the perfect late summer meal.  And should you be so lucky to have a bumper crop of sweet corn, this would freeze wonderfully for a quick meal when the weather outside is frightful.

summer corn soup with crisp prosciutto and basil

recipe:  adapted from Fine Cooking

 

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 medium onion, diced into ½” pieces

4 c. water

2 c. chicken stock

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

4 ears of corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved

¼ c. finely chopped fresh basil

4 paper thin slices prosciutto

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a medium stockpot over medium high heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add water, chicken stock, potatoes, half of the corn kernels, and reserved cobs.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

As soup simmers, place prosciutto on a baking sheet and place under a broiler for 1-2 minutes or until edges start to curl.  Turn prosciutto over and broil for another minute or so.  Crumble or coarsely chop.  Set aside.

Remove and discard cobs.  Working in small batches, carefully puree soup using a blender (remember – hot liquids expand, so use care).  Return the pureed soup to the pot.  Add the reserved corn kernels and bring back to a gentle simmer over medium heat until corn is tender, about 3-5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh basil and crisp prosciutto.

Serves 4.

Soup’s on!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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grilled steak sandwiches with sweet corn mayonnaise

You see them everywhere, shimmering in the mid summer heat, piles of emerald and gold spilling out across the back, eager lines of customers waiting with cash in hand.  Yes, sweet corn, a herald of summer, is here once again.  In our little corner of the world, pickup trucks with flatbeds filled to the brim with sugary sweet corn stand waiting at busy street corners, gas stations and abandoned parking lots.  Grocery stores announce the seasonal delicacy with bright yellow signs dotting the streets and the farmer’s markets host huge trailers bursting with ear after ear.

Home kitchens bustle this time of year as families buy up bushels of the golden kernels, canning and freezing their treasures for a sweet taste of summer come the doldrums of winter.  Family barbeques would be incomplete without steaming hot ears of corn slathered in butter, salt and pepper.  Entire festivals pay homage to the summer delight while local VFWs host sweet corn feeds for the masses.  Needless to say, it’s a big deal ‘round these parts.

Last summer’s sweet corn season passed in the blink of an eye, leaving us wanting more.  I felt we had somehow squandered the season.  As the last trucks rolled out of their spots following Labor Day, I vowed next year would be different.  We would buy our sweet corn in bundles and enjoy it steaming hot, butter dripping down our chins with toothpicks nearby.  And enjoy it we have, but a simple (albeit delicious) boiled ear of corn doesn’t exactly send the blogosphere’s tongues wagging.  And so, we present to you our “Ode to Sweet Corn,” five days of delicious, delicate kernels.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be rolling my ears in their sweet, salty butter bath until Labor Day, but these recipes may be just what you needed to sweeten the pot as you celebrate the season.

As August rolls in with its sweltering summer heat, grills throughout the neighborhood are being fired up in an effort to keep the thermostat and electric bills at bay inside.  When the days are so hot you can see the waves of heat off of the patio, I want something substantial, but not heavy for the evening meal.  Steak sandwiches are a great way to feed and fill the masses.  A single flank steak or skirt steak, sliced thinly and piled on ciabatta buns can really stretch the budget, leaving money left over for a late-night run to the local ice cream shop to cool off.

The sandwich has additional layers of flavor from grilled red peppers and onions (again, no stove/oven) but it really gets its zip from the sweet corn and basil flecked mayonnaise crowning it.  A touch of acidity from red wine vinegar helps to brighten the mayo a bit and prevents it from being overly heavy on top of the steak, peppers and onions.  Fresh, juicy bursts of sweet corn pop in your mouth as you bite down on the sandwich.  Be sure to have a fork nearby, as you’ll want to capture every escaping kernel that tumbles from your sandwich.  Depending on how many people you are feeding, you may want to have a second steak on hand, because I guarantee you’ll want seconds.

grilled steak sandwiches with sweet corn mayonnaise

recipe:  adapted from Bon Appetit

2/3 c. mayonnaise

1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 ears of sweet corn, husked

2 small bell peppers, halved and seeded

½ red onion, sliced into ¼” segments

1 ½ lb. flank or skirt steak

6 ciabatta rolls

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine first five ingredients in a small mixing bowl.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, set aside.

Preheat a grill to medium high.  Season steak liberally with salt and pepper.  Grill steak to desired doneness, about 5-6 minutes per side for medium rare.  Remove from grill and let rest about 10-12 minutes.  Meanwhile, grill sweet corn, peppers, and onions until done, about 15 minutes for corn, 8 minutes for peppers, and 5 minutes for onions (skewer with a wooden or metal skewer to prevent falling through grates).    Place peppers in a large resealable plastic bag and let steam for about 5 minutes.  Remove skins from peppers and slice lengthwise.  Slice steak thinly against the grain.  Remove corn from cob and add to mayonnaise mixture.

Place 3-4 pieces of steak on bottom half of ciabatta roll.  Top with slices of red pepper and onion.  Place about 1 ½ Tbsp. corn mayonnaise on top half of ciabatta roll.  Place on sandwich and repeat with remaining rolls.  Serve warm.

Serves 4-6.

Enjoy!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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cheesy tomato bread

Bonus recipe!

By now, you’ve read all about our adventures in Wisconsin and the tasty treats that have resulted from our trip.  I don’t have any other stories to tell, but I couldn’t let this recipe go by the wayside.  If your garden is behaving like mine, tomatoes are starting to pile up on the counter.  This easy and fast recipe is a great way to use several tomatoes as well as your fresh basil.  And really, who can resist warm, melty cheese?  I can’t, that’s a fact.

cheesy tomato bread

recipe:  adapted from Brennan’s Market

 

1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise

3 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into 1/4″ slices

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 c. fresh basil, thinly sliced

8 oz. farmer’s cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place loaf halves cut side down, toast for about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip so cut sides face up.  Layer tomato slices across bread.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle basil across tomatoes and top with shredded farmer’s cheese.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese has melted and is bubbling.  Slice into individual portions and serve warm.

Oh tomato love!  I’m drooling, have to go make this again.

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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steak milanese

It is hot.  And sticky.  And buggy.  I’m sufficiently covered with mosquito bites now that we’re mid-summer (thanks for all of the help, bug spray!) and finally, the garden is off and running.  Chartreuse banana peppers and emerald jalapeno peppers dangle from their perches, little cornichon cucumbers dance along their trellis, tiny jewels of baby eggplant have emerged from lilac blooms, slender green beans twirl along the poles, and green globes sparkle in the sun along the many tomato plants.  I love summer.  And I’m impatient.

It is always this time of year when summer is most certainly in full swing, yet we are still waiting for the fruits of our spring labor to come to dinner, and I begin to get antsy.  I’m ready for Caprese salad!  Grilled Eggplant Parmesan!  Cucumber martinis (mmm hmmm, refreshing)!  Panzanella salad!  Yikes, better stop, I’m getting awfully hungry.  Guess I shouldn’t have skipped lunch today…  Lucky for me, there’s a cure.  Cherry tomatoes, here to save the day!

Just when I think I can’t make it any longer and I’m going to have to pluck a few of those green ‘maters from their vines (for some FGTs) because I simply cannot wait for fresh garden goodness, I remember the cherry tomatoes.  Careful not to talk with your mouth full when munching on these babies, or you are likely to squirt those within shooting distance!  Cherry tomatoes are plump, juicy, sweet, and best of all, they taste like tomatoes.  Gone are the days of mealy grocery store tomatoes, banished for the next several months until insane cravings strike once again for a taste of summer when the evil four-letter “s” word (no, silly, snow) dominates daily life.  No, friend, it is time for real tomatoes once again!  Real tomatoes mean real flavor, and the additional fixin’s for this topping pack a real punch.  Briny kalamata olives, fresh basil, creamy gorgonzola cheese, and shallots ensure that this salsa-of-sorts makes your mouth take notice.  But what to serve it with?

Being the good wife that I am, one day I went in search of a recipe for one of the hub’s favorite recipes – chicken fried steak.  I guess I’m technically still looking for that recipe, because I found something similar to this and, um, got distracted.  It is still chicken fried steak, but rather than a creamy gravy as an accompaniment, I fell for this bright, briny, salty, yummy topping instead.  I think you will too.

steak milanese

recipe:  jb’s pour house

12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)

2 1/2 Tbsp. finely minced shallot

2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh basil

1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved

2 oz. gorgonzola cheese

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tenderized cube steaks, 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick

1 1/2 c. flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 c. panko

Canola oil

Combine tomatoes, shallot, basil, kalamata olives, gorgonzola, olive oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Season steaks lightly with salt and pepper.  One steak at a time, dredge in flour, dip into egg, and coat thoroughly with panko.  Set aside and repeat with remaining steaks.  Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan.  Heat over medium high heat and when oil begins to shimmer, fry two steaks at a time, about 4 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining steaks.

Serve warm with plenty of the cherry tomato topping.

Hooray for tomatoes!

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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