Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mario's Weekend Cooking Challange: Grilled Pizza with Fontina, Tomatoes & Basil

Mario's Weekend Cooking Challenge is a Facebook Group for people to get together, once a month and cook the same recipe, compare notes and discuss outcomes. It is put together by Mario Bosquez host of "Living Today" on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius 112 & XM 157

This month's weekend Cooking Challenge
was Grilled Pizzas! Something I've never done before, pizza on the grill, was not only scrumptious, but quick and easy! Try this at your next cookout and get your guests, including the kids, involved in making pizzas to their liking!

The recipe for this month's cooking challenge was provided by Chef Jamie Gwen and can be found here: Grilled Pizza with Fontina, Tomatoes and Basil.

Because I was pressed for time, I did use a pre-made pizza dough bought from one of my favorite Italian Markets, Nino Salvaggio. Shape the dough as thin as you like and the point here is to make the pizzas look rustic and hand-made. If you prefer that perfect round shape, use the inside of a "Cool-Whip" lid as a template and also remember, when working with pizza dough, always pull from the center out underneath the dough and not stretch from the top or else the dough springs back to it's original shape.

Remember, the recipe is just a guide. Any and all of your favorite pizza toppings will work with this recipe. Be creative! I used minced garlic, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, green bell peppers, basil and fontina cheese.

Brush the tops of your pizza dough lightly with olive oil and place, oil side down, on the hot grill. The dough will begin to get puffy, lightly brush the tops with olive oil, and when you see a nice light browning and grill marks on the underside, using tongs, flip the pizza crust over, onto the coolest part of the grill.

Scatter the garlic and cheeses over the crusts and top with your topping choices. Using tongs, rotate the pizzas around the grill so different sections receive high heat. Check the underside often to see it's not burning. The pizzas are done when the top is bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Sprinkle the tops with torn fresh basil leaves and serve immediately!

Savory Coeur a la Creme with Parmesan Crackers

Recently, I was invited to an outdoor party and was asked to bring an appetizer. Me always wanting to introduce something new and unique to my friends, I found this recipe for a Savory Coeur a la Creme.

French for "heart with cream", Coeur a la Creme is normally served as a dessert, and made in a special heart shaped basket or mold with small holes.
Cream cheese is mixed with sour cream or whipping cream (and sometimes sugar) and placed into the cheesecloth-lined mold. The dessert is then refrigerated overnight, during which time the whey drains out through the basket or perforated mold. To serve, the dessert is unmolded and garnished with fresh berries or other fruit.
This recipe is for a savory version which was delicious and very well received.

Before making the Coeur a la Creme, I needed something to serve it with. Regular store bought crackers are just plain boring and it's usually expected of me to come up with something a little bit "out of the ordinary." so I thought this wonderful Parmesan cracker would do most wonderfully and were so simple to make.

To make the crackers, you'll need:

1 stick (1/4 lb) unsalted butter
3 oz. freshly grated Parmesan-Reggianno Cheese
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teas. kosher salt
1 teas. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teas. freshly ground black pepper

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix until creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 13-inch log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.

Cut the log, crosswise, into 1/4" to 1/2" thick slices. Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 22 minutes.

Allow the crackers to cool on a wire rack before storing them in an airtight container.

To make the Coeur a la Creme, you'll need:

12 oz of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon, zested
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teas. kosher salt
1/2 teas. freshly ground black pepper
1 bottle "Major Grey's" Chutney, such as Cross & Blackwell brand.

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip until it is firm like whipped cream. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick.

Line a 6" coeur a la creme mold or a 6" fine sieve (all I had was a sieve) with a few layers of cheesecloth, allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the cheesecloth and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Fold the excess cheesecloth over the top of the cream. Suspend the mold over a larger bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
There should be some liquid in the bowl that has drained from the mold.

When ready to serve, unmold the creme, upside down, on a plate and pour the chutney over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides. Serve chilled with the Parmesan crackers neatly arranged around the creme.