Creamed Beet Greens with Lemon Breadcrumbs

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Have you all been watching Sur La Table’s new show Scraps? If you haven’t, drop whatever you’re doing and head here for full episodes! FYI has partnered with Sur La Table to produce the new series Scraps, where national Sur La Table Chef Joel Gamoran travels cross country creating incredible meals using the things most people throw away: scraps such as bruised apples, shrimp shells and carrot tops. What they’re doing is so creative and inspiring. They’ve taught me to think twice about the things I would normally throw away. You’d be surprised how absolutely delicious something scrappy can be. Save your scraps!

I recently bought beets for a cake recipe. Left over with a bunch of greens, I immediately saw this as an excellent opportunity to get scrappy. I’m a huge fan of creamed spinach. The beet greens and stems have a similar flavor. AND did you know that there’s even more nutrients in the leaves and stems than in the beets? Packed with antioxidants, fiber, zinc, protein, vitamin B6, the list goes on! Paired with a cream sauce and crispy lemon breadcrumbs for crunch, this is a serious keeper recipe. I’m pulling it out the next time I host a dinner party. Scrappy is the new sexy, y’all.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

 

  • 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt
  • 2 large bunches beet greens and stems, cut into 1/2″-1″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium shallot, diced
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine breadcrumbs, oil, and lemon zest on a baking sheet and season with salt. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Cook beet green leaves and stems in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 1 minute. Drain and place into a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well and squeeze well between paper towels to remove excess water.
  3. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, beet greens and stems. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cream and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with breadcrumbs just before serving.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

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Spinach & Cherry Tomato Quiche

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Summer’s here. I checked: a high of 94F in Long Island today. It’s totally official. Never was there ever a better afternoon for an iced coffee!

I checked out a beautiful farm in Eastern Long Island this past weekend. They were up to the brim in plump blueberries, greens, rhubarb and herbs. A lovely reminder that tomato season is soon upon us! Perfect raw, roasted or thrown into a quiche like this. I used cherry tomatoes, but you can use whatever you like. The best part? Throw in whatever you have (the sadder it looks in your fridge, the better) and give it new life in a quiche or frittata. This is my favorite way to use up veggies. All that protein in there makes this dish a triple threat– good for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All summer long.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

  • 1 package store bought pastry dough or frozen pie shell
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups packed fresh spinach leaves, trimmed and washed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cups creme fraiche
  • 1/3 cup grated sharp gruyere cheese
  • 6-10 cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. If using frozen pastry, take dough out of the freezer to defrost 2 hours before you’re ready to use it.
  2. Fit the dough into either a 10-inch quiche or springform pan, making sure you have enough dough to form a crust around the edge. Sprinkle the gruyere onto the crust.
  3. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Cook spinach and until wilted, about 5 minutes. Spread the spinach over the cheese.
  4. Beat the eggs, creme fraiche and garlic together. Pour mixture over the spinach and cheese mixture. Slice cherry tomatoes and arrange on top. Sprinkle with chives and black pepper.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Food.com.

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Pork Chops in Sage Brown Butter

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Sunday supper: pork chops in a well-loved cast iron pan. I grew up slathering apple sauce on pork chops. That’s still one of my favorite ways to enjoy them! But, there is nothing quite like the smell and savoriness of brown butter. Add in sage and you have a delicious little pan sauce to accompany the chops. Choose bone-in chops for much needed fat and flavor.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Serves 6

  • 1/3 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp lemon pepper seasoning (see below)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 bone-in pork loin chops
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 sage leaves
  1. In a large bowl, mix soy sauce, oil, water, lemon-pepper seasoning and garlic cloves. Add chops to the marinade and let sit in the refrigerator at least 2 hours (preferably overnight).
  2. Heat the grill or stove top to medium-high heat. Let a cast-iron pan get hot over the flame. It’s ready when it begins to smoke lightly. Cook chops for no more than 15 minutes total time or until done. For chops 3/4″ or thinner, cook 5-6 minutes maximum per side. For chops thicker than 3/4″, grill 6-7 minutes maximum per side. Do not overcook.
  3. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add butter and sage to the pan. Whisk and allow butter to brown. You’ll know its done when you see tiny brown bits in the butter and the smell is fragrant and nutty.

To make fresh lemon-pepper seasoning, combine the zest of 1 lemon with 1 teaspoon of course ground black pepper.

Recipe adapted from Food.com.

Summer Cheese Board

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Happy Memorial Day! I’d like to tell you I’m currently lounging in the pool, sipping on a cold drink atop a float in the shape of a pineapple…but that simply would not be true.

I hope you are getting your fix of R&R this weekend. Believe it or not, my favorite thing to do with some extra time off is clean. Organize and clean. De-cludder, de-stress. They go hand in hand. Ever since I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve felt an urge to purge. To rid myself of the unnecessary “stuff.” I’ve always loved purging, but this book gave me a whole new outlook on it. Things I had been hoarding became easier to say goodbye to. It became more simple to let go of the things that did not bring me real joy. Organized home, organized life!

I’ve decided to curate a cheese board each season, starting with summer. Memorial Day, the un-offical official start! I could eat cheese and charcuterie every single night for dinner. It just never gets boring. Why? Because there are endless combinations and configurations and ways to make each bite different and exciting. Textures and flavors, salty and sweet, soft and crunchy. There are countless ways to adapt to your tastes, offering a new experience with each little pick and taste.

For the summer edition, I centered everything around a cheese I recently discovered: French Brie with Garlic & Herbs. Brie is wonderful all on its own. The addition of the dried herbs takes it to level 2, with new depth and freshness that wasn’t there before. Creamy and dreamy. From there, I selected an assortment of fruits, nuts, and meats that say summer to me. I can personally guarantee that if you show up to any gathering with this in toe (don’t forget a bottle of Riesling, chilled) you will be the instant life of the party. No questions asked. Get on it!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

  • Fresh burrata
  • French brie with garlic & herbs
  • Extra sharp cheddar
  • Black pepper salami
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Dried apricots
  • Red grapes
  • Blackberries
  • Sesame breadsticks
  • Black pepper water crackers
  • Parmesan crips
  • Walnuts
  1. Leave cheese and meats out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to board assembly.
  2. Arrange cheeses, meats and remaining ingredients as you see fit. There is no wrong or right way in my book! Place things next to each other that you want your guest to experience together.
  3. Pair with chilled Riesling.

Mint Infused Chocolate Chip Cookies

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

For months I’ve been itching to by fleur de sel. Fancy, delicate sea salt… perfect for topping chocolate chip cookies resulting in that balance of salty and sweet. The other day I finally sprung for it. The above shot was like the moment I’d been waiting for. Pure satisfaction: perfectly round balls of cookie dough. I resisted the very real temptation to eat the dough raw.

The awesome Andrea Bemis is the author of this recipe, found in her new book Dishing Up The Dirt. Fresh mint, infused into melted butter, gives these cookies a subtle yet super fresh twist. I am all for it. The best part? Nature has given me free mint for the picking, right on the side of my landlord’s driveway. These cookies were destined to be.

Without a doubt, this is the best cookie recipe I’ve ever tried. Melted butter makes for thats perfect chewy consistency that I love in cookies. I’m sold on Andrea’s recipe. I doubled it the first time I made these. Take that, Monday!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Makes about 12 large cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • heaping 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus additional for topping cookies
  • sprinkle fleur de sel on each cookie
  1. Place the butter and the mint in a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter, swirling the pain occasionally. The butter will foam and froth, then crackle a bit as it cooks. A few brown bits may form, and thats totally fine. Once the mint is fragrant (after 2 to 3 minutes), set the mixture aside to cool for 30 minutes (you don’t want it to solidify, just to cool down and let the mint infuse the butter). Strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to press the mint leaves to extract any juices.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and both sugars until the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, beat for 1 minute longer.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, scraping down the bowl as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips and continue to mix until well incorporated.
  4. Scoop the dough into a ball, place it on a piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap, and flatten it slightly into a thick disk. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to begin baking, place racks in the center and upper third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  5. Use a scant 1/4 cup scoop to form he dough into mounts on the prepared baking sheets, placing more more than 4 cookies per sheet. Leave about 3 inches between each cookie; they’ll spread while they bake.
  6. Top each cookie with a few extra chocolate chips, a sprinkle of fleur de sell and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking, until they’re golden and lightly brown on the bottom. 14 minutes was the sweet spot in my gas oven. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Let one baking sheet cool to room temperature before reloading with the remainder of the dough.
  7. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to a couple of months.

Recipe adapted from Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up The Dirt.

Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

I started this blog almost immediately after a close friend of mine suggested it a year and a half ago. That same evening I came up with the name Cuoco Contento. For those who don’t know, Cuoco is my married name. It translates to the noun “cook” in Italian. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know that when Joshua and I got married in 2014. I also didn’t like to cook before we were married. Actually, it wasn’t that I didn’t like to, it was that I simply never tried to. Living at home I commuted to college and, towards the end, lived off a less-than-stellar diet of boxed soup and sushi takeout. My wild passion for the kitchen began the very first night I cooked for Josh. If you are wondering, it was chicken parm. He approved.

With that in mind, the word “contento” translates to “happy.” It was simplest and most straight-forward word I could think of. No frills, no elaboration. Recipe planning, grocery shopping, food prep and cooking make me truly happy. The entire process is like therapy. Hosting guests in our my home makes me giddy. I am, quite literally, a happy cook.

Through my teen years and into young adulthood I’ve sought after contentment at different times. The word “content” means to be “mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” What a virtue! I am far from perfect, a feeling we can all relate to. Life throws different things our way. How we handle them is up to us.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV). You can interpret this how you like, but on some level I believe this means that we need to look at the big picture. The bright future. No one can convince me otherwise: the best is yet to come. Always. How terrible would it be if we thought that today (or 10 years ago) we hit our peak? That our prime time was up and over with? I believe that we’re all ever-developing beings, constantly changing, growing and learning– even if you’re 85 years old. Often times we need to go through the storm in order to appreciate the sun. Having patience through the rain is the tough part. There is glory to be revealed in all of us.

I’ve been looking for a way out of a storm in my life for a while now. But every time I do, I feel God telling me that instead of getting me out of it, he will get me through it, if I only trust Him. Really trust Him.

I am a “working document.” Constantly making mistakes, coming under discipline, learning and growing. There will never come a day when I will wake up and say, “okay, now I’m perfect!” It’s just not possible. We are human. We fall. We are tempted. We try to hold the weight of our world on our shoulders. And we come back to the realization that we are not the one in control. And really…thank God for that.

It all boils down to one thing: trust. If I truly trust God, with my whole being, I would not worry about my job. I would not worry about money. I would not worry about my family’s future. Being content means being satisfied and happy with the way things are right now. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve struggled with it for years. You’re not alone if you do. There’s nothing wrong with having a hustler’s mentality, always wanting to reach higher levels. I believe God honors that ambition. But it is not healthy is to find it impossible to enjoy today because you can’t stop daydreaming about tomorrow.

There is a huge, bright light at the end of my husband’s medical school journey. We talk about our plans, even though there are about 200 different directions we could be lead at that time. Everything about our lives after his graduation is completely up in the air. Where we’re live being at the forefront of our minds. That part excites me even though it is so unknown. Yet, getting to a place where I can patiently wait for that huge, bright light has been one of the biggest challenges for me. I get why people say that patience is a virtue. So many times Josh has said to me, “you need to enjoy today.” And I know he’s right. I’m emotional just writing this, because it’s a message that hits me like an arrow straight to the heart.

Why is it so hard for us to wait? Why is it so hard for us to let go of the steering wheel and let God drive? The most interesting thing to me is that I have no problem having the biggest faith when it comes to Josh’s career. If ever even the smallest speck of doubt or fear enters his mind, I jump on it immediately and with such confidence tell him that God’s already worked it out. That God has made a way for him already. Look at His provision for you so far! Trust Him! I’m so sure of that, when it pertains to his life. So much so, it’s often frustrating when he doesn’t always see it for himself. How is it that we can be so sure of God’s provision in the lives of others but can’t seem to grasp it on our own lives?

God is watching over us. More than that, he is right there beside you, holding your hand, wanting so desperately for us to trust Him with our whole hearts. He’s the one who is saying to us, “I’ve already worked it out. I’ve already made a way for you. Look at my provision in your life so far! Trust me!”

Every day I am learning that nothing is too difficult with God’s help. What might seem impossible in our human weakness is not impossible with Him. I’m so fragile. So prone to complaining, to discontentment, to unhappiness if I let it take hold of my heart. Stand firm against it.

I pray that if you are struggling with being content that your heart would be filled with peace today. To rest and know that God’s timing is perfect. That he longs to give good gifts to his children who only trust him. Be happy today. Enjoy this moment, because you’ll never get it back.

Whenever I start to feel less than content with my current situation, I rehearse these things in my heart:

  1. Crush every fear. It has no place in my life.
  2. Trust God. His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts. Let Him take control of the things we can’t.
  3. Be still and know that He is God. He is good. He is love. His promises remain true for all of time.
  4. Be thankful for where you are, how you got there and what you have been given.

My dear friend Liz and I shared a quiet Sunday afternoon in my pint-sized apartment talking, laughing, cooking (and eating) as we reminisced about our college trip to Milan now five years ago. Liz is a HUGE talent, and so humble, check her out on Insta!

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Serves 2

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, plus more for shaving
  • 1 bunch asparagus tips, blanched
  • 1 ball fresh burrata cheese
  • course ground pepper
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Add the eggs and yolks and mix just until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add a few drops of water if the dough is dry. Turn the dough out into a bowl, sprinkle it with a little flour, cover it with plastic or a cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes. You may refrigerate the dough wrapped in plastic, until you’re ready to roll it out, for up to 24 hours.
  2. In a food processor, combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic and about half the oil. Blend, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container, and add the rest of the oil slowly. Add the toasted nuts and cheese. Pulse until relatively smooth, or you can leave it a bit more on the chunky side.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Divide the dough into four sections. Roll though through the pasta attachment on the number 1 setting about 10 times, folding the dough in half with each pass. Pass through the number 3 setting once or twice. Repeat this with the other 3 sections of dough until you have 4 pasta sheets.
  4. Cut the dough sheets into 3×3 or 4×4 squares. They can be rough, no need to break out the ruler. Gently add to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. The dough squares should rise to the water’s surface. Reserve the pasta water.
  5. Toss the pasta with the pesto and blanched asparagus tips. Add a spoonful of pasta water if pesto needs to be thinned out. Sprinkle generously with black pepper and shaved parmesan cheese.
  6. Divide burrata between two dishes and serve.

Pasta recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking.

Beignets

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

“I’d give my right arm for one of those beignets!”

I still laugh when I remember hearing those words. The request came from one of my husband’s friends. In order to save her precious limb, I immediately went into the kitchen and made a big batch of these babies. I love my husband so much that I woke up at 4:30am that next morning to fry them so they’d be super fresh. That, my friends, is true love.

If there’s one thing I learned from making these doughnuts, it’s this: don’t overwork the dough and be *very* gentle when handling before frying. You want as much puff as possible before it hits the oil. And, drop into the oil ever so gently so they don’t collapse.

Secondly, pile on the powdered sugar!!! There is not much sugar in the dough itself, so I promise it’s okay. Pair 3 of these with you morning coffee.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Yield: 24 beignets

*Dough needs to be refrigerated overnight

  • 1 package instant dry yeast (or 2-1/4 tsp) I prefer SAF Red Instant Yeast)
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water (100-115 degrees F)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 7 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • vegetable or canola oil (for deep frying)
  • confectioners sugar (for dusting)
  1. Put the warm water into a large bowl, then sprinkle in the yeast and a couple teaspoons of the sugar and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Let sit (also called proofing) for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the sugar, salt, eggs, and evaporated milk. Gradually stir in 4 cups of the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and thoroughly blended. Beat in the shortening, then add the remaining flour, about 1/3 cup at a time, beating it in with a spoon until it becomes too stiff to stir, then working in the rest with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in a greased bowl.
  3. Roll the dough out onto a floured board or marble pastry surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch, then cut it into rectangles 2-1/2 inches by 3-1/2 inches with a sharp knife.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 360 degrees F.
  5. Gently transfer the dough to the oil (don’t over crowd the pot). Fry the beignets about 3 or 4 at a time until they are puffed out and golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per batch.
  6. Turn them over in the oil with tongs once or twice to get them evenly brown, since they rise to the surface of the oil as soon as they begin to puff out.
  7. Drain each batch on paper towels, place on a platter lined with several layers of paper towels, and keep warm in a 200 degree F oven until all are fried.

Recipe courtesy of Food.com.

Chipotle Chicken Tacos

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

There only a few meals I really crave. These tacos are one of those meals. If you’ve never had chipotle peppers, they are firey little guys. Full of flavor. I’m not big into spice, but these are more smokey than spicy. Chipotle peppers are actually smoked and dried jalapeños. Adobo sauce is a tangy, kind of sweet sauce. You can find chipotles in adobo sauce in specialty stores or in your local Whole Foods. The smoky pepper gives these tacos such a bold flavor that even Bobby Flay would give his stamp of approval. Chicken thighs make for the juiciest taco!! Give your tortillas a nice char and slice up an avocado. Chop up a little cilantro. Mix up a mojito (or a faux-mo) while you’re at it.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

4 servings — 1 hour total time

  • 4 large bone-in chicken thighs, about 1 1/2 pounds (with skin for more flavor)
  • 3 scallions, left whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme branch
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1 allspice berry
  • 2 cloves
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 or 3 chipotle chilles in adobo, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons adobo sauce, from the can
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (use broth from simmered chicken)
  • 8 fresh corn tortillas
  • 1 cup monterey jack, shredded
  • 1-2 avocados
  • chopped cilantro
  • creme fraiche
  • lime wedges
  1. Put chicken thighs in a saucepan and cover with 3 cups water. Add scallions, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, allspice, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Simmer for 30 minutes, then remove chicken and cool. Shred chicken with your fingers, discarding chicken skin and bone. Strain broth and reserve. You should have about 2 cups shredded chicken.
  2. Put olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced yellow onion, season with salt and cook until softened and a bit browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook for 1 minute more. Add chopped chipotle chile and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Add shredded chicken, salt lightly and stir to coat. Add chicken broth and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, until sauce has thickened somewhat. Keep warm.
  3. Heat the tortillas over steam or by your favorite method, keeping them soft and pliable. I like to char tortillas over my gas burner for a few seconds on each side.
  4. Build the tacos quickly: Put a spoonful of the saucy chicken in the center of each tortilla. Top with avocado slices, shredded Monterey jack and a teaspoon of crème fraîche. Add a few cilantro springs. Serve immediately with lime wedges on the side.

Recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking.

Walnut Basil Pesto Pizza

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

One of my biggest kitchen struggles has been good pizza crust. I have an old gas oven (love it) but my crusts had time after time come out soggy. I tried a pizza stone but to my despair, it left all crusts limp. All I want is some crispy, browned bottomed crust! Too much to ask? I tried my faithful cookie sheet and I think that was 50% of the crispy battle. This lovely pizza dough recipe comes from the amazing Andrea Bemis’s new cookbook, Dishing Up The Dirt!!! So excited for this girl! Get yourself a copy. It’s a treat for the eyes and the stomach. It makes my heart so happy to see her in her element, getting down and dirty with real food. She’s seriously inspired me to live on a farm. I will have chickens one day or my name isn’t Cuoco!

This crust is super!! Thin and crisp. It’s almost focaccia-like. My favorite part is that you can do it all from the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook, so there’s little to no mess. All you need is time! While the dough is rising you can get other tasks done, so don’t worry. Look at you go, you multi-tasker! Own it. Be wonder woman in the kitchen and don’t let anything scare you. Thank you Andrea for this tasty dough recipe!!! Congratulations, lady! #DishingUpTheDirt #DUTD

Yield: A little less than 2 pounds of dough, enough for 2 large thin crusts

For the Dough:

  • 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water, more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl
  • 1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Pesto & Cheese topping:

  • 1-1/2 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • wild arugula
  1. In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and sugar in water warmed to 110 F. Give it a good stir. Proof for 10 minutes or until frothing.
  2. Mix in the salt, olive oil, and the flours until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and knead it on low for 6 minutes. If the dough appears too dry, drizzle 2 tablespoons more water.
  3. Rinse out the large bowl, pat it dry, drizzle it with oil, and use a bowl to rub the oil all over the bowl. Return the dough to the large bowl and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Transfer the dough back to you stand missed and knead it on low for 3 minutes.
  5. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover it with the damp towel, and set it aside to rise for an additional hour, or until it has doubled in size again.
  6. Slice the dough in half. Freeze one half for a rainy day! (see note below). Take the half you’re going to use and roll thinly onto a oiled baking sheet.
  7. Add basil, olive oil, walnuts, parmigiana region, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Grind until smooth, about 30 seconds. Taste it… devious all on it’s own! Spoon half of the mixture onto the pizza and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 500 F for 10 minutes. Top with wild arugula and serve.

*Be sure to transfer your frozen dough to the refrigerator the morning before you plan to use it. Remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you make your pizza so the dough can come to room temperature.

Dough recipe (Chesua’a Perfect Pizza Dough) is from Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up The Dirt, 2017. Pesto recipe is from Saveur Magazine.

Vanilla Bean Caramel Apple Tart

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Although March is not apple season, we’re a week away from Spring and my heart is already thinking about Autumn! I picked up pink lady apples and decided to try out this tart. What could be more simple and delicious than store-bought puff pastry? Almost nothing. When you’re in a pinch, it’s texture can’t be beat. It’s a beautiful canvas for just about anything. The apples are slightly cooked in a little caramel sauce and baked till super soft, contrasting beautifully with every bite of crispy pastry. You can try this with any tart apple like honeycrisp, granny smith or braeburn. Quick, easy and with so much reward. This is my new breakfast on rotation.

  • 5 tart apples (such as pink lady) peeled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sheet fresh puff pastry (14 oz package)
  • all-purpose flour, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut apples as close to core as possible into three lobes. In a small, heavy pot, add sugar, water, and scrape in vanilla seeds; discard pod. Cook over medium heat until sugar comes to a boil is dissolved, as it starts to caramelize, 6–8 minutes. Keep at a boil (under 375 degrees with a candy thermometer). Don’t stir! When it becomes a nice amber color, remove from heat immediately and shock pot in an ice bath. Stir in butter, vinegar, and salt.
  2. Add apples into a skillet and cook until they start giving up some of their juices and shrink slightly, 5–8 minutes. Remove apples from skillet and combine with  caramel, pouring into prepared 9″ baking dish. Carefully turn apples so the cut side is facing up and scoot them together so they overlap slightly. (The apples will shrink more as they bake, so they need to be tightly packed.)
  3. Gently roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface just to smooth out creases; cut into a round that will fit snugly inside your pan. Drape puff pastry over apples.
  4. Bake until pastry is puffed and starting to brown in spots, 20–25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown and cooked all the way through, 20 minutes longer. Let rest 5 minutes before inverting onto a platter. Don’t wait too long to invert or else the apples with stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.