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Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza

In Fun Foods, Pizzas, Savory Tarts & Quiches On May 15, 2011 2 Comments

ENTER OUR KITCHEN, WATCH & LEARN

If you’re not in the mood to make pizza, go and enjoy it at your favorite Italian restaurant.

By popular demand, I’m sharing my recipe for pear and gorgonzola pizza. And, all you need is pizza dough, pears, gorgonzola, mozzarella and oil. The best part is that all the ingredients (including premade dough) can be found at Trader Joe’s® stores. Prepare this pizza in less than 15 minutes.

Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 (as an appetizer)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
One 16-ounce Trader Joe’s® plain, refrigerated pizza dough
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 to 1-1/2 large ripe pears (any variety), peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 1/16-inch thick slices
1/2 to 3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese*
1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450ºF.

2. Using a pastry brush or your fingers, spread the vegetable oil evenly on a 12 X 16-inch rectangular or 16-inch round baking sheet.

3. Place the dough over oiled sheet and flatten slightly.

4. Flip the dough over and begin stretching the dough gently with fingertips until it fits into sides of baking sheet.

5. Brush the dough with olive oil. Arrange the pear slices evenly over dough, followed by the gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses.

6. Place sheet with pizza on a rack positioned in upper third of oven and bake 10 to 11 minutes or until cheese begins to turn light golden.

7. Transfer the pizza to bottom rack and bake an additonal 4 to 5 minutes or until bottom of pizza is golden brown.

Serve the pizza hot with a green salad.

Wine suggestion: Cabernet Sauvignon

*Note: When assembling the pizza, use the lesser amount of the cheeses. If you are a cheese fanatic, feel free to add more.

Text & Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Cinco de Mayo Tabasco Parfaits

In Desserts, Creams & Sauces, Fun Foods, Holidays On May 1, 2011 0 Comments

Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is a holiday that was created by Mexicans living in California. It is not a Mexican national holiday, but instead, commemorates the Mexican army fighting the French at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. Although this battle was not a victory for Mexico, Cinco de Mayo symbolizes Mexican heritage and pride.

I’m celebrating this holiday by going to a “fiesta” and contributing these Tabasco Parfaits which combine Tabasco® Spicy Pepper Jelly and the French dessert “parfait”. The pepper jelly’s “bite” adds a nice surprise to the strawberry gelatin and overall flavors. My dessert unites Mexico and France – peace at last!

Active prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Inactive prep time: 2 hours (chilling in refrigerator)
Makes: 10 parfaits (4 ounces each)

Ingredients:
One 3-ounce box lime Jell-O®
One 3-ounce box strawberry Jello-O®
3 tablespoons Knox® gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
One 10-ounce jar Tabasco® Spicy Pepper Jelly (red label)
One 8-ounce package Cool Whip®, thawed per package directions
10 lime or orange chewy candy wedges (substitute with 10 wedges fresh lime)

1. Place contents of lime Jell-O in a 1-quart bowl and stir in 1 cup boiling water until Jell-O is dissolved. Add 1 cup cold water and stir; set aside.

2. Place contents of strawberry Jell-O in a 2 or 3-quart bowl and stir in 1 cup boiling water until Jell-O is dissolved. Add 1 cup cold water and stir; set aside.

3. Fill 10 glasses or ramekins each with ¼ cup lime Jell-O liquid (glasses or ramekins should look 1/3 full). Place in freezer to set, about 18 to 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes to make sure they do not freeze).

4. Once set, top lime Jell-O with some Cool Whip (to fill the middle third of the glass) and transfer to refrigerator.

5. In a drinking glass, stir together the Knox gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water; let rest 5 minutes. Stir the gelatin mixture and the spicy Tabasco pepper jelly into the strawberry Jell-O.

6. Place the bowl with the strawberry Jell-O mixture in freezer to set, about 20 minutes, or until the Jell-O has thickened and looks lumpy (it should not set completely).

7. Using a 1/4-cup measure, pour the partially set strawberry Jell-O mixture over Cool Whip in each glass, filling it to the rim.

8. Place the parfaits in freezer to set, about 15 minutes; transfer to refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

9. Garnish each parfait with a lime or orange chewy candy wedge.

Note: Tabasco® Spicy Pepper Jelly is available at most supermarkets or online at the Tabasco® Country Store – http://countrystore.tabasco.com.

Text and Photograph © Nancy DeLucia Real 2011
“Fiesta” theme decoration by © Amsan, Inc.

Vegetarian Calamari

In Fun Foods, Vegetables On April 9, 2011 2 Comments

While growing up in Southern Italy, I became an apprentice to my “Nonna” or grandmother, aka the “maestra” or master chef of the town. Although I learned how to prepare the peninsula’s finest cuisine, my focus was on the bounty from the “orto” or garden. I never liked some of the seafood delicacies that the cooks in the Campania region are so famous for. Among these are fried calamari.

Because my Nonna knew I didn’t like those rubbery circles that pretended to be crispy, she would go to her orto, pick fresh cauliflower and turn it into golden nuggets. She would then smile at me and say, “Ecco i tuoi calamaretti vegetariani” or “Here are your vegetarian fried calamari” – made exclusively for me!

This appetizer is fun to eat with a sweet pepper spread*.

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 fresh cauliflower (about 1-½ to 1-¾ pounds), leaves discarded and florets cut into 2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, for coating cauliflower florets
2 to 3 large eggs
¾ teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

1. Rinse the cauliflower florets and put them in a 4-quart saucepot. Cover florets with cold water. Set saucepot on a stove burner and bring to a boil.

2. Add ½ teaspoon salt, and boil, uncovered, on medium heat until cauliflower florets are crunchy-tender when pierced with a fork, about 4 minutes.

3. Gently drain the cauliflower florets and set them aside in a glass or porcelain bowl to cool, uncovered, about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, put flour in a shallow, 8 or 10-inch bowl and set aside.

5. In another shallow, 8 or 10-inch bowl, beat 2 eggs with ¾ teaspoon salt and black pepper; set aside.

6. When cauliflower florets are cool, coat them first with flour, shaking off excess, and then roll them with two forks in the beaten egg (heat the oil as you do this).

7. In an 8 or 10-inch skillet or a deep fryer of the same circumference, heat the oil on high setting. Test by dropping a tiny amount of beaten egg – if it sizzles and rises, the oil is ready.

8. Immediately lower heat to medium and fry the cauliflower in batches. This is a quick process (after a few seconds of frying, gently lift bottom of a floret to check if it is golden); turn once and fry other side until golden.

9. Drain fried cauliflower (Vegetarian Calamari) on a dinner plate lined with paper towels.

Serve immediately with sweet pepper spread.

Note: Vegetarian Calamari can be made early in the day and stored in a baking dish and covered with aluminum foil. Set on a counter until ready to serve.

At serving time, heat oven to 350˚F. Warm the Vegetarian Calamari, covered, about 20 to 25 minutes and serve warm.

*Suggested spreads: Peloponnese Sweet Pepper Spread®, found in gourmet supermarkets; and Zergüt Mild Ajvar® (made with sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, garlic and onions), found in Middle Eastern or International gourmet food stores. Both brands are reddish-orange in color.

Text & Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Tortilla & Nutella

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Fun Foods On April 2, 2011 3 Comments

One of the best things in every culture is the food, right? I’ll start with my own – we Italians can’t live without Nutella®, a chocolate-hazelnut spread that is served with bread and caffè latte at breakfast time. In Mexico (also in Mexican restaurants in California and yonder), warm, flour tortillas are used as bread alongside breakfast, lunch or dinner. Filled with savory ingredients, tortillas can turn into a satisfying pick-me-upper whenever one has the munchies.

Years ago, I gave tortillas and Nutella® a green card (or permanent residence) in my kitchen. Now, can you guess what happened one day when I was craving a chocolate-filled crêpe, but only found tortillas and Nutella®? You got it.

Get ready to enter chocolate bliss the moment you taste this anytime-treat.

Prep time: 3 to 4 minutes
Serves: 3 to 4 minutes

Ingredients:
Two 8-inch* flour tortillas
4 heaping tablespoons Nutella®

1. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet set on medium heat, warm the tortillas through (turn them over once in a while to prevent blackening) – about 2 minutes.

2. Transfer the tortillas to a flat surface such as a dinner plate or a cutting board.

3. While still warm, quickly drop 2 heaping tablespoons of Nutella® on one-half of each tortilla and fold the plain tortilla half over the Nutella®.

Serve immediately.

*Note: Larger flour tortillas can be substituted – just be sure to double the Nutella®!

Text and Photograph ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real

Corn Pudding with Coconut Sauce (B’baw Poat – Cambodia) – Vegan

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Fun Foods On February 27, 2011 2 Comments

Recently, I’ve been preparing to teach a culinary course related to the J. Paul Getty Museum’s exhibition on Cambodian sculptures. When I first viewed the small-scale, bronze sculptures of Hindu and Buddhist deities (hailing from Angkor, the ancient capital of Cambodia), I was captured by their refined elegance.

I’ve also quite impressed with the cuisine of Cambodia. Eternally possessed by a sweet tooth, I decided to share this  pudding made with fresh corn and coconut sauce – B’baw Poat. Enjoy it as a quick breakfast, snack or dessert.

Active prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Inactive prep time: 10 minutes (for cooling)
Makes: Six to eight 1/2 cup Servings

MAKE THE PUDDING:
3 ears of fresh corn, kernels sliced off with a knife (yield 3 cups)
-OR-
3 cups frozen yellow corn kernels (slightly under 16 ounces)
3 tablespoons pearl tapioca
2-1/2 cups cold water
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a 4 or 5-quart saucepot, combine all ingredients and stir.

2. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, and cook on lowest heat setting for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (pudding should gently simmer as it cooks). For a thinner consistency, stir in a small amount of water.

3. Cook an additional 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. The pudding is done when you can see the white centers or dots of the tapioca pearls.

4. Cover saucepot and remove from heat; let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Transfer pudding to six 1/2-cup glass bowls or porcelain ramekins.

6. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool to room temperature; then refrigerate.

MEANWHILE, MAKE THE COCONUT SAUCE:
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (for topping)

1. In a 1-quart saucepot, combine all ingredients except for the sesame seeds. Mix well until mixture is smooth.

2. Bring mixture to a boil, uncovered. Boil and stir 1 minute over medium-low heat, until mixture thickens slightly.

3. Strain the sauce into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.

4. At serving time, spoon a little sauce over individual puddings and top with some sesame seeds.

Note: B’baw Poat can be served lukewarm or cold. It will keep in refrigerator 3 to 5 days.

Text and Photographs ©2011 Nancy DeLucia Real