Saturday, February 27, 2010

Recipe #20: Tuscan Chicken and Veggie White Pizza with Feta

I love making homemade pizza (see my first recipe as proof). Nothing against take-out pizza once in a while, but something about homemade pizza is just plain better. You can top it with whatever you like, as much or as little, throw any crazy toppings you like in and don't have to worry about tipping a delivery guy.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program, I received some free products from Bertolli -- a jar each of their Four Cheese Rosa and spicy Arrabbiata (pretty sure the translation is "cannot wait to use in a recipe") sauces. Normally, I'd do a red sauce with pizza, but this time I decided to shake things up and do a white pizza with the Four Cheese Rosa sauce. Though I normally shy away from jarred sauces as I like the purer flavor you get from making your own, I foresee a stocked pantry of Four Cheese Rosa in our future.

I used my pizza stone for this recipe, but you can also bake the pizza on a cookie sheet. Just be sure to drizzle with olive oil, make sure it's nice and hot, and coat with cornmeal. In case you do use a pizza stone, I've included my pizza stone maintenance tips at the bottom of the recipe.

Before I delve into my recipe, I just have to say that besides the taste, Bertolli impressed me in another way -- their serious packaging. Talk about intense, and beautiful at the same time.

The outside of the box is meant to resemble a menu...

...while the inside has cleverly-designed spaces for the sauces and offers a sample menu of ways they can be used.

Honestly, Bertolli -- bonus points for presentation. Now, onward with the recipe! Enjoy!

3 roma tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic, minced*
1 12-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup Bertolli Four Cheese Roma sauce
4 ounces grilled chicken breast*
1 cup feta cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup cornmeal
premade refrigerated pizza dough*
salt and pepper to taste

pizza stone (optional)
2 cookie sheets or 1 sheet pan and a loaf pan

Prep: Chop artichokes into one inch sections. Grill chicken (season with salt and pepper) until cooked through; separate into smaller pieces. Set both aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. (If using pizza stone, allow stone to sit in hot oven while preheating, up to 45 minutes) Slice tomatoes into three our four half-inch slices each. Place in loaf pan or on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar and top with two cloves of minced garlic. Bake for 15 minutes.



Stretch pizza dough to desired shape (I went for a rectangle that ended up being about a foot long). Coat pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal, to prevent stickage and give pizza a restaurant taste and feel.

Place untopped dough into the oven for 5 minutes to rise slightly. Remove from oven and carefully pierce with fork.*

Top pizza first with Four Cheese Rosa sauce, distributing evenly, but leaving area for crust. Top next with remaining minced garlic, then chicken, next tomatoes, artichokes, and finally, crumble feta over the top.

Bake at 450 for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese has browned. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.


-Garlic: I don't usually use fresh garlic when I cook, unless it's going to be almost raw in the dish. What I use instead is a huge jar of Spice World minced garlic. It saves me the time of having to chop (and have my hands smell like) garlic for any given recipe. For this recipe, if you use the jarred garlic, use three tablespoons (one for the tomatoes, the remaining two for the pizza).

*Chicken breast: I literally took about four ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders, seasoned with salt and pepper and stuck it on the grill. Once it was slightly charred, I removed it and broke it into smaller pieces. No fancy techniques here.

*Pizza dough: The type of dough I used for this is not the type you can roll out from Pillsbury, but the type usually sold in the dairy section in plastic bags. The amount of pizza you'll end up with obviously depends on how much you buy, but with a typical bag from the grocery store, I can usually get about 8 pieces of pizza. If your local store doesn't have that, that's OK. You can use Pillsbury pizza dough (it comes in the same type of container as crescent rolls). Just know that you'll have to do much less stretching and much more rolling to avoid breaking the dough. Also, the reason I slightly bake the crust before topping it is to avoid ending up with a crust that's not cooked on the bottom or in the middle because I loaded it with too many toppings when it was raw.

*Pizza stone: Oh, pizza stone, what a mystery you are. If you don't have a pizza stone -- a round terra cotta stone that can be heated to very high temperatures to give food a crisp -- that's okay. For this, you can use parchment paper on a cookie sheet, but you may need to slightly adjust the cooking temperature and time for whatever the parchment paper degree limit is. If you have a pizza stone and (like me) hadn't used it until recently, here are a few things you should know.

*Always let your pizza stone stay in the oven "baking" for about half an hour to 45 minutes before adding food to it. Otherwise, the stone can break if it's subjected to too much heat too quickly. Not allowing it to preheat can also cause whatever you cook on it to stick. In this case, sprinkle additional corn meal on the stone before you put the dough on it.

*Double up on the pot holders. You'll burn your hands very, very easily if you attempt to grab a 450-degree inch of terra cotta. Do yourself (and your fingerprints) a favor, and use two. Before you take the stone out of the oven to place whatever you plan to cook on top of it, make sure you have a plan for where you'll set it down to do that. You don't want to end up melting whatever you set it down on.

*Don't worry if pesto or oil gets onto the stone. That's actually good. The more oil bakes into the stone, the more "seasoned" and "weathered" it is for baking.

*Don't wash your pizza stone with soap. If you do, it will have the same effect as if you dumped oil all over it -- you'll be tasting Palmolive in all your foods from now on. Just use cold water, and let the stone cool completely (even overnight) before "washing."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Just for fun -- Double-glazed Pecan Sticky Rolls

Knowing my husband and I were both working at home today (completely unpredictable New England weather brings 2 inches of rain one day and a dusting of snow the next), I wanted to make a breakfast treat. I knew I had some extra store-bought pizza dough -- the kind that comes in the tube you have pop open -- pecans and plenty of butter and sugar, I decided a stick roll was the way to go. I just rolled out the dough, topped it with chunks of butter (about half a stick worth), chopped pecans, brown and pure cane sugar and rolled it up. I cut it into seven one-inch wide rolls, and set them on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. They baked for about 15 minutes at 350. I took the bit of sugar left in my bowl, added confectioner's sugar, water and about two tablespoons of half and half and mixed. When the buns were done, I turned the oven off, moved them into a pie plate, and glazed them with the sugar/milk mixture and put them back in the oven (which was just cooling down). After about five minutes, I repeated the step with more glaze, and in another five, voila! Double-glazed pecan sticky rolls!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Effortless Entree -- Recipe #19: BeeBeeFurter

Sometimes, I just don't feel like really cooking. As good as pasta sounds, as much as that chicken piccata is calling my name, I just can't muster the energy to break out all the pans and all the ingredients and spend an hour in the kitchen. On days like this, I take an easy way out with recipes like this one.

Though I guess that by my standards, I wouldn't consider this *technically* a recipe, since I don't really specify any measurements, it's a deliciously nitrate-ful plate of tastiness.

I grew up in a small town in eastern Connecticut. I have lots of good memories, and most of my family still lives there. In that town, there used to be a mall. The building is still there, but the vast majority of stores are long-gone. There was Puppy Love (a pet store that was like torture for two little animal-loving girls), Caldor, Shetucket Harness, the Candy Carousel (chocolate non-pareils = one of God's greatest creations), but more importantly... Bee Bee Dairy.

It was a little restaurant/diner that was a local icon -- though the one at the mall closed a few years ago, there's still actually a Facebook group dedicated to the restaurant being a landmark in Mystic, Connecticut. I can remember going with my mom when we'd stop at the mall, and I remember the first time she took us there specially for the recipe I'm about to share, known as the BeeBeeFurter.

It is just what it sounds like -- a hot dog special. It was made with a foot long frankfurter (though I had to substitute in my version, since our supermarket apparently doesn't sell footlong hotdogs), and TONS of fixins, most of which were up to you to apply from the four way condiment topper that was standard with Bee Bee's fare. At my mom's urging, of course, we tried it all. Even though it sounded odd at first, we managed to fit every available topping on top of that hot dog, and regret not one second of it.

By the way, not having a footlong dog didn't really detract from this. That's because I had the one part of this "recipe" that you truly need -- a buttered and pan-toasted (fried?) bun. It gives it that delicious greasy spoon taste.

It's not that this recipe is complicated. It's not that we had it all the time (or all of our cholesterol levels would be over 300). It's not that it's hard to make or SOOO crazy. But bottom line, it's delicious. The recipe below is intentionally vague -- add or subtract as you prefer. But this is the good ol' fashioned way that WE enjoyed our BeeBeeFurters.

hot dog (footlong preferable)
spicy mustard
diced onions
American cheese
hot dog bun

Cook hot dog -- either in butter in a pan, or boiled. I prefer boiled.

While preparing, cook bacon in microwave until very crispy -- place one piece cut into two pieces in the bottom of a microwave-safe bowl, cover with paper towel, and microwave on high for two minutes. Check to see how crispy it is (different microwaves have different temperature settings), and cook for lesser intervals until crispy.

...And I mean crispy.

Melt butter in a skillet on medium. When melted, add bun. Turn to toast the other side in butter. Repeat until both sides are crispy and golden brown but not burnt.

Remove bun, and line the bottom with cheese. Set the hot dog in the bun to allow the cheese to start to melt.

Add toppings of your choice and serve. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Become a fan of Madame Menu on Facebook!

That's right -- you can now become a fan of Madame Menu on Facebook!

Just visit HERE (or the logo above) and click "become a fan."

I'll be posting recipes, tell you what I'm cooking, what's coming up next, and refer you to some other cool culinary finds.

Come on over and "fan" me! If you have a fan page for your blog, please let me know, and I'm happy to return the favor by become your fan. Hurry on over -- and tell your friends! :^)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Recipe #18: Banana Walnut Bread

A looong time ago, in a kitchen far far away, my great grandmother Gibby (though I'm still not sure why we called her that) made her mark on our family. She passed away in 1997 at age 85, but I will never forget her. She was the kind of person whose home you never minded going over even as a little kid, even though she didn't have any toys for us to play with. My sister and I had "tea parties" with her using her old decorative tiny saucers and cups. She was a great lady, and I miss her.

Gibby with me and my sister (I'm the one on the left) in front of my grandparents' house. This was Easter Sunday sometime in the late '80s.

I can remember her personality, her sense of humor, her piano -- she could rock it out, and did. But most of all, when I think of Gibby, I think of her banana bread. We LOVED it. There wasn't a person alive who could eat a slice without going back for a second (or third or fourth) piece. My dad in particular was a big fan.

Since I hadn't had the bread since Gibby passed away, I started looking around for recipes to try and make for my dad. I came across a few very good ones, but they were missing some tastes, some smells, some tweeks to make it just like Gibby's. The below recipe is my best attempt at recreating the banana bread I so fondly remember from childhood. I hope you enjoy it as much as everyone I've made it for in the past few weeks. Though it's great right out of the oven, trust me when I say that if you wrap it in saran wrap or foil and let it relax in the fridge overnight... it is even better the next day.

Banana Walnut Bread

Cook time: 60 minutes
Chill time: Up to 24 hours

3 mashed/pureed bananas*
1 cup plus one tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cocoa powder*
2 eggs, beaten*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened salted butter
2 tablespoons salted butter (to top bread)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
pinch of salt
cooking spray for greasing the pan

2 mixing bowls
Stand mixer or hand mixer
5x9 loaf pan
large (gallon-size) Ziploc freezer bag (optional)*

Grease loaf pan well with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with vanilla. Set both aside.

Cream together sugar and butter in a stand mixer or with hand mixer.

Add egg and vanilla mixture to bowl (while on low speed). When combined, add banana. A little at a time, add the sifted ingredients until no raw powder is visible. Remove bowl from mixer, fold in walnuts.

Pour into pan and use a rubber spatula to distribute evenly. Cut remaining butter into four pieces, and place in pan on top of batter.

Bake for one hour. Allow to cool for 20 minutes to half an hour.

After cooled, remove from pan, wrap in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and allow to cool overnight in the refrigerator. Slice just before serving.

-Eggs: I used Eggland's Best eggs -- which I was able to try for free through Foodbuzz's Tastemaker program -- for this recipe.

I like using Eggland's Best because, aside from the fact that they're almost the same price (within about 20 cents) of the store brand and saving money is important to me, I also never have to worry about getting a "bad egg."

-Mashed bananas: I have a seven-month old son, and I like to have him help me in the kitchen as much as he can (future chef?). To mash or puree the bananas for this recipe, you CAN use a food processor, or just a fork in a bowl. But to get my little guy involved, I employ the use of a very simple kitchen tool... a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag. I put my three bananas into the bag, seal it up, and start the mashing process myself (to get things started), and then I hand over the bag to the littlest chef in our house. Of course, at seven months old he wants to put it in his mouth, but he gets some good squishing in, too.

Using the bag also makes it easier to add the bananas to the batter -- rather than trying to scoop as much as you can out of the bag, you can cut one corner off and squeeze it out. Much easier!

-Ripeness of bananas: This recipe is a great use of bananas that are past the point of snack-eating and into browning and overripening. Instread of throwing them away, use them in a banana bread recipe and the ripening brings out the sweetness of the bananas. On the other hand, the bananas don't HAVE to be browning for you to use them, especially because that requires planning ahead of time -- buying, letting them sit -- and that's really not something I have time to do as a working mom. Use what you have. If you happen to have a few bananas that you want to save instead of throw away, use them. You will notice that with the riper bananas, your batter may be slightly darker, even a little grayish in color. That's a-OK -- it's going to get good and brown in the oven anyway. If you're just in the mood for some bread and pick up whatever's at the supermarket, fresh yellow bananas will work just fine too.

-Bread rising: Anyone who has made bread from scratch knows that this "bread" isn't a bread in the conventional sense -- there is no dough. This is a quickbread made from a batter (trust me, that makes it no less delicious). With that said, this bread doesn't rise a whole lot. That's OK. The baking powder does help it a bit (thanks for the tip, Chrissy!), but it's just not something that is going to rise and crest like other loaves. That's OK. What it lacks in appearance it greatly makes up for in taste.