Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gourmet Pizza, Take 2!

On Monday, February 2nd, I shared our "homemade foodie adventure" we had here at home with some gourmet pizza.

I had based my own pizza creation on two recipes I'd found for fig and prosciutto pizza, because it sounded really good - just the right balance of sweet, salty, savory, tart.

Well, since I'd been way too heavy-handed with the fig preserves and way too light with the prosciutto and sauteed shallots on the first attempt, I decided to try again. I mean, I knew with the first attempt that this creation had awesome potential. I just had to tweak my recipe a bit.

In addition to using a LOT LESS fig preserves, I made a couple other changes:  The first time I tried this recipe, I'd used two fairly small shallots. This time, the two shallots I'd picked were much bigger. Also, the first time, I'd used the pizza dough marked "thin crust." This time, I used the regular/non-thin crust dough. And instead of baking the pizza on a sheet of foil on top of a baking stone, I used a 12" cast iron skillet.

So, this past Sunday (Feb 15th), I tried again.

2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
Pizza dough (you can make your own. I used the dough that comes in a tube in the grocery's refrigerated section.)
Fig preserves (just enough to lightly cover the dough, leaving a bit of room at the edge for the "crust")
Ricotta Salata cheese (which is crumbly, kinda like feta)

The instructions:
First, I preheated the oven to 500°F and took the pizza dough out of the can and set it aside. I wanted the dough to get somewhat close to room temperature so it would be easier to handle.

Then I thinly sliced the shallots and sauteed them in 2 tablespoons' worth of olive oil (plus an added few drops partway though sauteing).

Once they became soft, I added two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (and then a small splash for good measure), sauteing them a little bit longer, until they seemed glazed. They took on a sort of plum color due to the balsamic vinegar.

I then set the shallot mixture aside and let it cool.

At this point, I took my 12" cast iron skillet and worked the dough into a circle rough imitation of a circle. It ended up not filling the bottom of the 12" skillet completely, but I didn't mind that.

Then I added the thinnest layer of fig preserves onto the dough, leaving about an inch around the outer edge, for the crust. It was such a thin layer, you could barely tell it was there, aside from the bit of gloss the preserves left on the dough, and the occasional bit of fig.

Next came the prosciutto. I hadn't torn/cut it into smaller bits. I just layered the prosciutto as it came out of the package.

On top of the prosciutto, I sprinkled the cheese and  the sauteed balsamic shallot mixture, sort of haphazardly, as I was going for an "artistic, foodie" look.

Into the oven it went. I set the timer for 10 minutes, and checked on it through the oven window on occasion.

After 10 minutes, it looked like it needed to bake a little more. All in all, it spent about 14 minutes in the oven. I think I should have taken it out at about 13 minutes, as the bottom of the crust was just on the verge of burning, getting black around the edge of the "circle."

Here's how it turned out: 

(Note: my large cutting board is lime green. The color made the pizza look really weird and alien-like, and really, really bad. So I used the B&W option on PicMonkey to make the cutting board a light gray (as best I could), so the pizza would look at least sort of good.)

Okay, so this pic (taken on Andrew's smart phone) really doesn't do the pizza justice.

But let me tell you, it tasted AWESOME!! Yum! It was so good!! I can't wait to make it again.

It made two good sized pieces each for two adults. 

Liv refused to taste it again. And Andrew? Well, he ate one piece, and picked the prosciutto of his second piece, leaving his second piece all picked-over. Which was too bad, because if he hadn't, I would've saved it for my lunch the next day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It's Almost Time!

In eastern Iowa, Girl Scouts can start selling Girl Scout cookies on February 13th (including taking orders). We are ready!

As you can see, my trunk is loaded with cases of Girl Scout cookies - 22 cases (meaning 264 packages!) of cookies, to be exact!

That's a lot of cookies.

So on Feb 13 (and not a moment sooner!!), Liv can start taking orders and getting cookies to her customers.

Friday, February 6, 2015


I like Mother Nature's winter fashions (so long as the roads are clear). The sunshine and blue skies help.

This is a tree outside my bedroom window (on the eastern side of my house). It had a lot of snow blown onto its limbs during the blizzard we had last weekend - a bit of snow continued to stick to the branches, even a couple days later.

However, add a sunny, seemingly "warm" winter day, and some of the snow starts melting.

But then, when the temps dip to around zero, all that melting snow turns icy.

Then we get a lovely "glittery" tree.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Not the Usual Pizza This Time

Saturdays are usually pretty busy for us. I usually chauffeur Liv around to various extracurricular activities. We're usually out of the house by 9 AM and don't get home til around 3 PM. Then we have about an hour to hang out before we leave for our weekend church service from 4:30-5:30 PM.

Oftentimes, Liv will ask if we can just order a pizza on Saturday evening. Since a couple of the local (chain) pizza places deliver (and I don't have to cook or clean up), she typically doesn't get an argument from me, after having driven what seems to have been 200 miles back and forth, back and forth. . .

This past Saturday, though, I had a better idea. I was going to try making a "gourmet" pizza at home, just for something different. Earlier in the week, I'd gotten the ingredients for this pizza I'd been wanting to try. I have been meaning to try it for months, now, and last week, I finally found the last remaining ingredient at a new specialty store/food co-op that opened up in December 2014.

Yes, I know. What kind of pizza is it?! Fig (or fig preserve) and prosciutto pizza.

I'd seen a catalog for fancy chef tools, and inside, it had the most scrumptious-looking pizza among all their beautiful chef/cook tools. It was a fig and prosciutto pizza. Andrew and I had tried prosciutto on other pizzas in the past. A few times, we'd had prosciutto added on a pizza we'd ordered at one of our favorite pizza places in the Boston area, as well as adding onto pizzas we made at home, using one of those pre-made pizza crusts, that you get in a package in the "Italian" section of the grocery store.

But this time, I was going to make a completely different kind of pizza - no tomato-based pizza sauce, no shredded mozzarella, no pepperoni, no pre-made pizza crust out of a package. It was going to be this "gourmet" pizza I'd seen in the catalog.

Well, I did kind of get "help" on the crust. Instead of using the pre-made one, I got a "can" of raw pizza dough from the grocery store's refrigerator section.

I was going to see if I could buy a couple balls of raw pizza dough from our favorite local pizza parlor (not one of the chains that you'd find anywhere, from LA to NYC to Miami). This is a local place and they don't even deliver. There are only two of these pizza parlors and one is just about a 5 minute drive from our house (the other is about 15 minutes away from us). But I ended up not getting the chance to do so. So the "can" of dough would have to do, as I have little (no) experience making doughs from scratch.

I ended making my own recipe based on two fig and prosciutto recipes I found online (one being that one I'd originally seen in that catalog).

Here are a couple of the big changes I'd made off the bat: instead of using either a red or yellow onion, I used a couple shallots. And while I could've used fig slices (fresh, not dried), I opted to go with just the fig preserves for now (that last ingredient I'd found last week).

First, I preheated the oven to 500°F. I have a pizza stone, which I put in the oven before preheating.

Ingredients (the ones I used):
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
Pizza dough (you can make your own. I used the stuff in a can, for "thin crust")
Fig preserves
Prosciutto (to taste)
Ricotta Salata cheese (crumbly, like feta)

What I did with the ingredients:
I sauteed the shallots in a couple tablespoons' worth of olive oil. Once they became soft, I added a couple tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Then I sauteed that all together until they seemed kind of glazed.

Then I set the shallot mixture aside and let it cool.

In the meantime, I had a baking sheet lined with foil (which was supposed to be parchment, but I realized too late that I was out of parchment). I sprinkled a little flour onto the foil. Then I took the dough out of the can and split it in two. Then, using my hands, I shaped two pizzas out of it (note to self: next time, let it come to room temp, as cold dough is hard to work with).

Then I scooped fig preserves onto each. I hadn't measured, but it was about a few tablespoons on each. It ended up being about the same amount you'd use if you were using pizza sauce instead of fig preserves. (Note to self: This was way too much.)

Then I took the prosciutto and coarsely tore it into smaller pieces before putting it onto the pizzas.

Then I sprinkled on the cheese. I sprinkled on an amount that seemed just right - not too much, not too little.

Here's where I added the shallot mixture, half on one pizza and half on the other.

I baked the pizzas at 500 for about 8-9 minutes.

 Here's what they looked like.

Liv tried a piece, picked at another, and gave her "Yuck!" face. Needless to say, she was not pleased. She said she never wants it again.

Andrew and I both agreed that I was a little too heavy-handed with the fig preserves. The pizzas were way, too sweet. He said he'd like it again, and I definitely would like it again - so long as I'm sparing with the fig preserves. We realized that the flavors would be very good together - the sweetness of (just a little fig preserves) with the saltiness of the prosciutto, and the tangy/sweet flavor of the shallot and balsamic vinegar mixture.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Let it Snow!

Well, the Midwest is getting snow (and winds, lots of high winds!) again this weekend. It started raining here yesterday afternoon and into the evening. By around 7 PM, it had started changing over to snow as the temperature dropped. And it has been snowing ever since, even still, at 3:30 PM. I think new snow is still falling but it's sometimes hard to tell with the heavy winds blowing and causing lots of drifts.

There has been heavy snowfall around my neighborhood. A couple cars have already gotten stuck on our street before snow plows started clearing our neighborhood roads.

In the meantime, Liv and Jock have been enjoying the snow (but not for too long because the wind chill's right around zero).

Jock really seems to enjoy playing in the snow. Here are plenty of Pembroke-Welsh-Corgi-in-the-snow pics, most are kinda blurry because he was having so much fun zipping around quickly.

Bookin' it through the snow!

Over the drift

Peek a boo, Jock!

Running along the fence line

I included this pic, even though Jock's a blur, because of how quickly he ran to me and turned around for another lap in the snow!

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