BLT skillet pizza

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The beloved BLT just got a lot more interesting in this pizza in a skillet. It's fun and easy to make and transforms a sandwich into a meal, with a salad on top. Just add a glass of wine for the grown-ups and supper is ready.

To make spectacular pizza at home, follow three rules: Make a long-rising dough to develop the best flavor. Use a blistering hot oven and a hot surface to achieve a crisp crust. Don’t overload the dough with toppings.

This dough comes together in a stand mixer or by hand in five minutes; all you have to do is stir and wait, the longer the better. Use instant yeast, since it can be mixed directly into the flour without proofing in water. The dough is ready after three hours, but you can store it in the refrigerator for up to four days. Deflate the dough each day, and keep it covered. It is soft, bordering on sticky, but behaves well after it rises. Dust it and the counter generously with flour while you roll it and let it relax for a few minutes if it becomes too springy.

A pizza stone is traditional because it gets so hot, but apply the same principal to a trusty, worn-in cast-iron skillet, which holds heat beautifully and is less fussy than working with a stone. Here, the skillet goes into the oven and acts like a stone. If you have (or can borrow) a second skillet, these individual pizzas are done in a flash. You’ll love how the rich bacon and cheese and sweet, baked tomatoes contrast with a topping of fresh tomatoes and peppery greens.

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BLT pizza in a skillet
Makes 4 10-inch pizzas, to serve 4

4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (slightly less than a full packet) instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon olive oil

1. In an electric mixer on low speed, mix the flour, yeast, and salt to combine. Add the water all at once and mix until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. To mix by hand, follow the same procedure using a large bowl and a wooden spoon. Form the dough into a ball and leave it in the bowl.

2. Drizzle the dough with the oil, and pat with your hands to spread it over the dough. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the dough. Let rise for 3 to 8 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator (take it out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before shaping).

16 (1 1/4 pounds)  “cocktail” (golf ball-size) tomatoes, sliced
Flour (for rolling)
12 slices (slightly less than 1 pound) bacon, cut into thirds
Cornmeal (for the skillet)
8 ounces fontina, sliced
Olive oil (for drizzling)
4 handfuls of arugula
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Arrange one oven shelf close to the bottom of the oven and one close to the top.  Set the oven at 500 degrees. Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf, and heat until very hot. Set aside half the tomato slices for garnish. Use the other half for baking the pizza.

2. On a generously floured counter, turn out the dough and cut it into 4 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, shape into balls and press them into 5-inch flat disks, dimpling with your fingertips as you flatten them. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rest for 10 minutes to allow the dough to relax.

3. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel lined-plate.

4. Stretch or roll each ball of dough into a 10-inch round. If the dough becomes difficult to stretch, let it relax for a few minutes and try again.

5. With oven mitts, carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Transfer one dough round into the pan, and arrange it to fit (watch your fingers!) Arrange 1/4 of the fontina slices over the dough and top with 1/4 of the bacon. Distribute 1/4 of the tomatoes reserved for baking over the top. Drizzle with olive oil.

6. Bake the pizza on the bottom shelf for 8 minutes, or until the dough is firm and set and the edges are lightly browned. Transfer the pan to the top rack and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is crisp and brown. Slide the pizza onto a cutting board, and repeat with the remaining dough and toppings.

7. Toss the arugula with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Top each pizza with 1/4 of the reserved tomatoes and a handful of the arugula. With a sharp knife, cut into wedges and serve.


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Posted on September 1, 2017 .

The best salad of the summer: Farro salad recipe

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I just can't stop eating this. Once I discovered quick-cooking farro, it has gone into my summer menu regularly. I love its chewy texture and how well it goes with almost anything I want to throw into it.

Farro, an ancient species of wheat, is both nutty and chewy, and makes a substantial end-of-summer dish when you stir in snap peas, sweet corn, chickpeas and tomatoes. It can be confusing because the word farro actually refers to three different varieties of wheat (spelt, einkorn and emmer.) Luckily, when you shop, you will most likely encounter “pearled” or “instant” farro. The outer husk of the grain has been removed to shorten the cooking time, which can be extensive otherwise. Toasting it in a dry pan prior to cooking brings out its full flavor. This is a grain you will want in your repertoire all year round.

Toasted farro salad with summer vegetables
Serves 4

Salt, to taste
2 cups (6 ounces) sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
1 cup quick cooking (pearled) farro
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bay leaf
Pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn kernels (from 2 ears cooked corn)
1/2 pint (about 15) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 handfuls baby arugula
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute, or until bright green and tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the peas to a colander and let run under cold water until cool. Drain and pat dry. Do not drain the water in the saucepan; return it to a simmer over medium heat.

2. In a dry saucepan over medium heat, stir the farro for 5 minutes, or until it darkens slightly and smells toasty.

3. Add the toasted farro to the saucepan of simmering water with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and the bay leaf. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is tender. It should be pleasingly chewy. Drain in a large strainer and remove the bay leaf.

4. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the warm farro and chickpeas and cool to room temperature. Add the corn kernels and cooked snap peas. At this point you can refrigerate the farro for up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

5. Just before serving stir in the tomatoes, arugula, radishes and almonds. Taste and add more salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice if you like.

Posted on August 25, 2017 .

Linguine with clams

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With summer’s end approaching it's time to celebrate local seafood.  This simple, classic combination of clams with pasta stays close to its Italian roots: Cook only a few very good ingredients and quit while you’re ahead. Scrub the clams well rather than soaking them, and deal with sand at the end of cooking by straining the broth. Many available clams do not have much sand, unless you are digging them yourself.

Lay out all the ingredients before you start cooking. While the pasta cooks, you have just enough time to sauté the pancetta, garlic and chilies, add wine to the pan and cook the clams. As they release their delicious juices, the salty, smoky pancetta and heat from the chili combine to make a flavorful sauce. Just toss and enjoy.

Posted on August 22, 2017 .

Slow roasted salmon on a bed of greens

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The season for wild salmon from Alaska ranges from mid-May until September, so now is great time to enjoy it with the fresh herbs of summer.  Because wild salmon is lower in fat than farm-raised, it is easy to overcook it. The solution? Roast it slowly so it doesn’t dry out.

Slow-roasting fish isn’t new, but it’s a technique that can be applied to almost any fish that you want to cook in the oven. Instead of cooking it at high heat for the usual maxim of ten minutes per inch, turn down the oven and cook it for slightly longer; the total time expended is still minimal. Ask the fish seller to remove the skin and place the salmon on a bed of herbs so the flavors permeate the fish as it cooks. Salmon has pin bones, and the job of removing them is most often the cook’s. To facilitate locating them, try this trick: lay the salmon on top of an upside-down bowl so it is convex, run your fingers along the fish to find the bones, and firmly grasp them with tweezers or needle-nose pliers. The rest is as easy as summer living.

(Previously published in the Boston Globe)

Posted on August 18, 2017 .

A cranberry cookbook from me to you

I haven't made much of this. It came and went so fast my head is spinning. But, after a long break, I finished another cookbook. And it's in bookstores now!

One day last summer I told a friend I probably wouldn't write another cookbook, and she said, never say never. You don't know what is going to happen.

And that is the lesson learned, my friends. We don't like to acknowledge how little control we actually have over our lives. It is just too damn scary--especially for us the-sky-is-gonna-fall anxiety types. The upside is that what is right around the corner might be a good thing, a challenge we can embrace and celebrate. 

Which brings me to this book. It came to me from a friend who passed on it, but recommended me to the publisher (Globe Pequot Press in Connecticut.) I had no ambitions to write a single subject book, or another book for that matter. This one was to be a quick turnaround, no time to wait for cranberry season, but I decided to go for it. One of the best challenges for me was that I would be able to shoot all the photos myself. So it's a first, but not the last, as it turns out. More books are in the works, but I'll let you know when I sign on the dotted line.

This cake recipe is a sleeper, but one you must have in your pocket over the summer. Cranberries (frozen are fine) are tart and fabulous in this cake, but substitute other fruits as the summer progresses: apples, pears, plums, especially plums, peaches, even grapes would be good in this cake.

Cranberry Almond Skillet Cake
Makes one 10-inch cake

Butter (for the pan)
2/3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into slices
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
Confectioner’s sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Generously butter a 10-inch skillet with a heatproof handle.

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar until fine. Set aside 1/4 cup of the almond-sugar mixture for the topping.

3. In a bowl, whisk the remaining almond-sugar mixture, the flour, baking powder, and salt until blended.

4. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar together for 3 minutes, or until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Beat in the vanilla.

5. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thick. Scrape it into the pan, spreading it evenly with the back of a spoon.

6. Distribute the cranberries over the cake and sprinkle with the reserved almond sugar.

7. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with only a few crumbs still clinging to the skewer. Set on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cut into wedges.


Find the cranberry cookbook on Amazon THE CRANBERRY COOKBOOK

Posted on April 30, 2017 .