Monday, August 23, 2010

A Classic Basil Pesto

In my opinion, everyone's recipe box should include this easy and versatile sauce.  It takes just a few minutes to make and has so many uses.  I prefer to simply toss the pesto with some homemade pasta, but it's great on sandwiches, pizza, bruschetta, in soups, or whatever you want to use it for!

Try out different combinations of nuts, herbs and cheeses to create your own variations!  Does anyone have any interesting, tasty versions they'd like to share?

I've played around a bit with my recipe for the classic version and I find that this is my favorite combination, enjoy!

Classic Basil Pesto


2 cups packed basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2/3-3/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste


1. Place basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until coursely chopped.  With the motor running, add oil in a thin stream until well incorporated.

2. Stir through parmesan and season generously with salt and pepper.  Be sure to taste as you season gradually.

To freeze, transfer to an airtight container, smooth the surface and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.  Thaw and stir to use. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pizza Off!!!!

I love trying out new, different, and sometimes even strange varieties of pizza.  I certainly have my favorites, but I'll always try out something new!  My fiance, on the other hand, not so much.  He grew up in Chicago, eating a lot of pizza... no, not 'Chicago-style', but the crispy thin-crust pizza that most Chicagoans prefer.  This, in his opinion, is real pizza and it's best topped with Italian sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, and onion.  He has very strong opinions about his pizza.  I think he might even believe pizza was invented in Chicago.

We have yet to ever find his magical combination in Australia so I knew how excited he would be if we re-created it at home.  I was also itching to get him to try some new varieties... this lead to the Pizza Off!!!  He was confident that there wasn't a combination out there that could beat his sausage version so I knew I had to bring out the big guns... a fancy buffalo mozzarella, is there anything better?!  I picked up a nice gorgonzola as well for a pear, gorgonzola and walnut version (which was deemed 'disgusting' when I mentioned it).

We made a big batch of pizza dough and got to work.  As we only had one pizza stone, I was selected to present my dish first.  So let's get to it..., Pizza #1:

Classic Margherita Pizza


1/4 pizza dough (see recipe below)
1 large ball of fresh buffalo mozzarella, sliced into rounds
10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
2 roma tomatoes sliced
1/2 cup roasted tomato sugo (see recipe below)


1. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2. Flour a surface to roll out dough. Sprinkle with semolina and roll dough evenly to about 1/8 in thick. If available, place dough on a pizza pan or baking tray to slide onto pizza stone.

3. Spread tomato sugo over pizza leaving a 1/2 inch border.  Arrange toppings over pizza. 

4. Cook for 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp. 

The results?  You can't go wrong with margherita pizza.  The success of the combination of tomato, basil and mozzeralla is undeniable.  We both savored every bite but had to leave room for the next contender.  A minor set back for me was getting a little too excited and putting my pizza in before the stone was hot enough, the crust could have been a bit crispier on the bottom.

Onto Pizza #2:

'Real Pizza'
(Italian Sausage, mushrooms, pepper, and onion)


1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup roasted tomato sugo
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 Italian pork sausage (removed from casing)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano


1. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2. Flour a surface to roll out dough. Sprinkle with semolina and roll dough evenly to about 1/8 in thick. If available, place dough on a pizza pan or baking tray to slide onto pizza stone.

3. Break sausages into small pieces and cook for 5-10 minutes or until sausage is about 3/4 cooked.

4. Spread tomato sugo over pizza leaving a 1/2 inch border.

5. Place Italian sausage pieces throughout as desired and then add chopped onions, green peppers and mushrooms in a similar manner.

6. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and oregano over top of pizza.

7. Cook for 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp.

The verdict?  Both pizzas were fantastic, and very different which was nice!  Pizza #2 won due to it's perfect crust.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr, need to work on my patience...  I demand a rematch!  I don't think our stomachs will mind.  Here are a couple of great recipes for dough and sauce that can be used for a variety of different pizzas.  The dough is enough for 4 pizzas (or calzones) and the sauce can be made in large batches and frozen for future use.  Enjoy!

Pizza Dough


1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 sachet of dried yeast
4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 1/2 lbs “00” flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tablespoons fine salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup milk

1. Dissolve the yeast in a couple tablespoons of water. Add remaining water and sugar and still to dissolve.

2. Put flour and salt into bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook. Turn on low and slowly add yeast mixture. Mix until dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

3. Add oil and milk to bowl and mix until smooth and elastic, 4-5 minutes.

4. Dust a work surface with flour and empty out dough onto surface, making sure to scrape any off of the dough hook. Knead for a few minutes, adding more flour if necessary and shape into ball. Dust a baking sheet with flour and place dough on the sheet under a tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes to prove.

5. Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll into balls. Again, place on flour dusted baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes.

6. The individual portions are now ready to be rolled out on a floured and semolina dusted work surface.

Roasted Tomato Sugo


1 lb tomatoes, halved
1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves (skin on)
2 sprigs basil
2 sprigs oregano
1 sprig thyme
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp baslamic vinegar
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Place tomatoes, garlic and herbs on a baking tray and toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper, and arrang the tomatoes cut side up. 
3. Roast for 1 hour and peel tomatoes when cool enough and place in a blender.  Squeeze garlic from the skins and add to the blender.  Blend to a coarse puree and taste to adjust seasoning.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls... yummmmm....

There's nothing better than the smell of cinnamon rolls baking away on Saturday morning.  Wait... there is one thing that's better, the smell of homemade cinnamon rolls!  If you have a bit of extra time on your hands, it's so worth it to make these delicous treats from scratch rather than buying the pre-made packages.

They aren't difficult to make, but there is quite a bit of 'wait time' involved, so plan on baking something else in the meantime!  I think the waiting makes the final product even more rewarding!  Our mouths were literally watering as the rolls sat on the cooling rack!  These were perfectly gooey and delicious but to try something different, next time I think I'll skip the orange zest in the icing and add chopped pecans to the filling for a bit of a crunch!  Can't wait! 

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls with
Zesty Orange Icing


1 cup warm low fat milk
1/3 cup sugar, divided
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 package dry yeast
3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 tsp salt
non-stick cooking spray
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablspoons cinnamon

3 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp orange zest


1. In a large bowl, combine milk, 1 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp butter, and yeast.  Let stand 5 minutes

2. Add egg, remaining sugar, and 1 cup of flour.  Combine and let stand for 10 minutes.

3. Add remaining flour and salt, stirring until a dough forms.

4. Lightly flour a working surface and turn dough out.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Add bit of additional flour to dough if it is sticky. 

5. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and place the mound of dough in the bowl.  Cover and let rise in a warm area for 30 minutes.  Check by pressing 2 fingers into dough, if indentation remains, dough is risen enough.  Punch the down down , cover and let rise for 30 more minutes.  Punch down again, cover and let rise for an additional 5 minutes.

6. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a large rectangle (about 18 x 12 inches).

7. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon.  Brush the dough with melted butter and spread with brown sugar mixture. 

8. Roll up dough tightly beginning on the long side.  Cut dough into 1 inch slices.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and arrange rolls into baking dishes coated with cooking spray so that they just fit.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. 

9. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.  Cool in dishes on a wire rack then turn out rolls and cool for 5 more minutes. 

10.  Meanwhile, prepare icing by combining softened butter, cream and vanilla extract.  Gradually add powdered sugar until blended.  Stir in orange zest. 

11. Spread rolls with icing and serve immediately.  Should be warm, but not hot. 


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