Caramelized Onion, Baby Kale and Goat Cheese Pizza

baby kale pizza

Hooray!! It’s another weird pizza! I’ve had some pretty fabulous pizzas on the blog. I absolutely love experimenting with pizzas, mostly because it’s so easy it’s stupid, but also because a store-bought pizza crust is the PERFECT blank canvas to try interesting flavor combinations. I would argue that any of your favorite flavor combos would make a good pizza. Are you a fan of truffles, gruyere cheese and garlic? Throw it on a pizza! What about a cheeseburger with mustard, lettuce and special sauce? Think In-N-Out. Why couldn’t that be a pizza? Oh my goodness, In-N-Out Burger Pizza coming soon to a blog near you. Wow, I’m excited!

This little pizza pie really took BJ by surprise. I took some of my favorites…caramelized onions, goat cheese and pine nuts…and added a few newcomers to create a perfect bite. Fresh baby kale and a sweet balsamic drizzle give it enough green to ease your guilt over the cheese and buttery onions, and enough acid to cut through the richness. De-lish. This would be a fabulous holiday party appetizer. Cut it into rectangles and call it a flat bread. People will “oooh” and “ahhhh” and think you’re a secret celebrity chef or something. If you want to serve it as a quick lunch or dinner, throw some bacon into the mix and call it day. Protein, veggies, dairy. Done.

slices of baby kale pizza

Happy cooking!

Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Baby Kale Pizza

1 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 whole wheat Boboli pizza crust
2 large red onions, sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 oz baby kale
5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Balsamic Drizzle

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and slowly caramelize, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir in honey and salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.
  3. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pizza crust on a pizza stone or cookie sheet, and top with mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, goat cheese crumbles and red pepper flakes. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese in melted.
  4. Remove from the oven and top with baby kale, pine nuts and drizzle with the balsamic drizzle. Slice and serve.

Caramelized onion and baby kale pizza with goat cheese

Dinner Parties, Good Friends and Olives

marinated olives appetizer

Dinner parties, good friends, and olives…just a few of my favorite things. I LOVE having people over for dinner. The more the merrier! It can be a challenge to wrangle all of my favorite people together at the same time, but the stars aligned this weekend and we had ten wonderful friends slated to eat dinner at our home.

When I’m cooking for a lot of people, I try to keep it simple. I like to choose a meal that can be mostly prepped and cooked in advance, and then reheated as my guests arrive. This works well for a lot of reasons, but my favorite reason is because my kitchen can be all cleaned up with no dishes in the sink when the party starts. Always a plus! When cooking for more than four to six people, it’s way too stressful to try to serve a meal that has to be cooked and served immediately. That’s even tough to do for a weekly family dinner, but throw in wanting to socialize with friends and keeping your kitchen  moderately presentable, and it’s nearly impossible.

So for our little dinner party I made my Mega Meaty Pizza Lasagna, caprese salad, arugula tossed with a quick vinaigrette, butter-charred crusty bread, marinated kalamata olives, and a simple ice cream dessert. With just a little planning, I was able to do almost all of it HOURS before the party started. So easy!

One of the surprises from the night was how much everyone liked the marinated olives. Really? The two-minute, simple, no-recipe-needed appetizer was the show stopper? Figures. So! Whenever something is REALLY easy and yet REALLY yummy, I always feel compelled to share it with you so you can wow your crowd as well. This is a great appetizer to make when you want to stretch a dollar yet make a big impact. Kalamata olives are marinated with minced rosemary, garlic and the zest of one lemon and one orange. That’s it! It’s great for holiday entertaining- especially at Christmas. I chuckle as I type that because ever since my best friend, Haley, told me that rosemary tastes like a Christmas tree, I always pair the herb with that holiday. I mean, she’s right after all, so why not go with it? (She also thinks goat cheese tastes like a farm, but I’m not yet willing to only serve the delicious cheese when I’m having a hoedown…which is never.)

bowl of marinated olives

This is a really great dinner party menu. It helps you, the host, have the best of both worlds- a delicious spread of food and plenty of time to enjoy your friends. And the olives…yum! Give them a try soon; even if you aren’t having a dinner party. They’re easy and inexpensive enough to make for absolutely no reason. Enjoy!

Happy cooking!

Marinated Olives

2 jars kalamata olives, pitted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 large orange
drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Mix all of the above ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap for an hour or up to overnight. Serve with crostini, crackers, or alone.

marinated kalamata olives

 

Why I’ll Leave the Hummus-Making to my Friends

spinach artichoke hummus

BJ and I have been a part of a wonderful Life Group for more than five years. During that time some of those dear friends have since moved out of state, but we’ve always been really fortunate that the new couples who join in their place are really awesome. We’ve hit the life group jackpot for sure…five solid couples, most with children and the rest with babies on the way. Super fun girls, great guys, and the best part…a bunch of amazing cooks. We eat well every time we’re together and we eat A LOT of hummus. Of the group, half are Armenian and I’ve learned the Armenians know their hummus. They know their food in general. I’ve been introduced to some of the most delicious food because of these sweet friends…

Yalanchi (stuffed vegetarian grape leaves), Cheese Boureg (baked cheese in phyllo dough), Pilaf (my friend Ani still can’t believe I called it Armenian Rice-a-roni), Shish kabobs, Armenian string cheese and Soujouk (Armenian cured meat), and hummus.

Oh yes, the hummus. It’s straight forward enough, right? I mean, we can all make hummus. Combine chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seed paste), garlic and lemon juice and let it go for a spin in the food processor. Done.  And we’ve all seen the variations…roasted red pepper hummus, roasted garlic hummus, spinach hummus, etc. You’ve seen the hummus trios on restaurant menus, right? So I had the grand idea to whip up my own variation, Spinach-Artichoke Hummus. I thought it would be so smart to take that super fattening, but super delicious dip, and lighten it up a tad.

So I made a traditional hummus and started adding stuff. I added spinach, artichoke hearts, I roasted an entire bulb of garlic, and threw in a handful of parmesan cheese. Ta-da!! Spinach Artichoke Hummus. I was impressed and thought it was quite tasty. BJ came home and asked what I made.

“Hummus!” I answered.

“That’s hummus? It doesn’t taste like hummus.” He argued.

“Well it’s my spin. It’s Spinach-Artichoke Hummus.”

I was annoyed. I didn’t think it would warrant an explanation after he tasted it. Wasn’t it so obvious?

Hummus with pita

He reassured me that it tasted wonderful but maybe not like hummus. I still thought he was wrong and I packed it up to take to the beach where we were meeting our friends Reed and Ani. Ani is Armenian. She’s Armenian and she’s honest.

I proudly whipped out my fresh pita triangles and my hummus. She tasted it. She liked it. Then she called to her husband, “Reed, do you want some dip?”

“Dip??” I asked, “It’s hummus.”

Ani replied thoughtfully, taking care not to offend me, “It’s really good, but I wouldn’t call it hummus. I mean, it has the consistency of hummus…but…is there parmesan cheese in there?”

We laughed and I thanked her for making this blog really easy to write. This blog for Spinach-Artichoke Hummus-like Dip. Whatever you want to call it, call it your snack next time you rent a movie or throw a party. It’s very tasty; full of all of the flavors you love in Spinach-Artichoke Dip, but with half of the fat and calories. It’s a snack you can feel good about. We gobbled it up and I’ll absolutely be making it again soon. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. Hummus…or dip?

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

Spinach-Artichoke Hummus (Dip)

15 oz. chick peas, drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini, plus more to taste
1 bulb of garlic
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top 1/4 inch of an entire garlic bulb off. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until garlic is soft.
  2. To remove garlic cloves, simply squeeze the entire bulb into the bowl of a food processor. Garlic will slide right out, leaving the peels behind.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process. Drizzle in olive oil while the machine is running until it reaches your desired consistency and taste.
  4. Serve with pita chips or raw veggies.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta with Shallots and Thyme

roasted cherry tomato bruschetta

This might be my favorite way to make bruschetta. Scratch that– this is definitely my favorite way to make bruschetta. I serve this as an appetizer every time we have someone over for dinner, and it’s usually gobbled up so quickly that I only get to sneak a bite or two.

Assorted cherry tomatoes roasted with shallots, thyme, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of brown sugar. Di-vine. I usually put the tomato yumminess in a bowl and serve it alongside toasted crostini and a log of goat cheese topped with lemon zest and red pepper flakes. So good! I love goat cheese, even if my best friend Haley thinks it smells like a farm. She’s kinda right. I ‘ve actually noticed lately that the goat cheese has such a strong presence that the subtle sweetness of the roasted tomatoes can be overlooked, and that’s just a shame. To remedy that and to help the tomatoes shine like the star they are, I served it up with…you guessed it…the homemade ricotta from a few days ago.

roasted tomato crostini

One bite and I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing the Hallelujah chorus. Hello match made in heaven! The creamy ricotta with its mild hint of saltiness is the perfect base on which to serve the bright tomatoes bursting with sweetness and flavor from the shallots and thyme. We took these little cuties to our sunset picnic at the beach with my mom and dad, and they ate them up long before the sun dove into the Pacific. My mom referred to them as “crack”. I double checked and confirmed that was a compliment.

If you heeded my advice and made yourself a ton of ricotta, let this be one of the ways you enjoy it. It will be hard, but don’t use it all up because I have a few more suggestions coming your way soon. Once I started brainstorming it was hard to turn it off! There are apparently an infinite amount of ways to cook with ricotta, each more delicious-sounding than the next. What’s a girl to do? I guess I’ll go curdle more milk!

ricotta-and-roasted-tomato-crostini_forweb

Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

4 cups assorted colors of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 shallots, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stem
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare a sheet tray by lining with aluminum foil. This will make clean up easier and keep all of the goodness from sticking to the pan.
  3. Scatter halved cherry tomatoes, shallots and thyme on the tray and lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper and toss to coat tomatoes evenly.
  4. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes are bursting and shallots are softened and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Remove from oven and spoon everything into a serving bowl.
  6. Serve alongside toasted crostini and ricotta cheese.

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Asparagus’ Last Hurrah!

aspargus tart

I’m a big asparagus fan. I eat it year-around because I like it and because let’s face it, I can. We live in America and can get our hands on pretty much any produce any time of year, we just might pay a pretty penny for it. That’s the beauty of seasonal eating though. If you eat what’s in season it will not only taste better, it will cost less. So that’s why this dish is asparagus’ last hurrah…of the season.

I love how versatile asparagus is. It aims to please; making it easy for any cook to accomplish something wonderful with it. Grilled, roasted, battered and fried, sautéed, served raw in a salad, pureed into a soup…there is truly something for everyone. There’s not much I haven’t done with asparagus, and now I can mark even one more preparation off the list. Please marvel at this gorgeous tart with me. I mean, how yummy?!

asparagus-tart-horiz

Flaky, buttery puff pastry is the perfect vehicle to house nutty gruyere cheese, caramelized leeks and bright green asparagus. This tart is a cinch to put together, taking very little time and effort but looking like a million bucks. You could cut it up into squares and serve it as an app at your next get together or dinner party, but it would also be a nice alternative side dish to a grilled steak. Starch and veggie in one bite, throw it in the oven and tend to the grill. Done.

However you serve it, just serve it. It’s pretty to look at and even more pleasant to eat. A fun alternative to what you’ve probably been doing with Spring’s favorite veggie.

Asparagus Tart with Gruyere and Leeks

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
1½ pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned, sliced lengthwise and chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep a parchment lined baking sheet and place the two puff pastry sheets on the baking sheet, overlapping them about an inch to connect them. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges all around to mark a rectangle for the outer crust. Then, using a fork, pierce the dough all around in the center, not the edges. Bake the pastry dough until golden, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until caramelized, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Remove the pastry shell from the oven, sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and caramelized leeks.
  4. Arrange asparagus spears in a single layer over the Gruyere cheese, alternating ends and tips. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  5. Slice and serve. Enjoy! 🙂

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