Participant(s) of the Week

Landing apartments has a beautiful garden.  It was easy to spot as we pulled around the bend not only because of the position of the garden, but also what they had around it protecting it from invaders. Aka deer.  It is the type of ribbon you use for tying up balloons.  They said at night when the wind is blowing, it creates a howling/whistling effect when the wind cuts through the ribbon.

In spite of all the rain, they were able to produce some wonderful and delicious looking vegetables.  Actually, even though most people or should I say everyone has had their issues with all of the rain this summer, everyone’s gardens have turned out quite well.  It just goes to show you how hard work can go a long way, even under not-so-ideal circumstances.

They were also growing a variety of plant I had never heard of before seeing their garden.  A Mexican cucumber.  It is relatively small cucumber that is used when making salads.  It has a citrus taste to it and a nice crunch.  It would definitely help give a salad a fresh taste with the added benefit of a crunch which can act as a substitute for croutons.

Three-for-One Recipe Week!

So, I’ve been needing to do something with my basil.  Actually, I’ve know what I’ve wanted to do with my basil, I just haven’t had the time to do it.  Plus it takes quite a bit to make this recipe.  It’s……….PESTO!  I love making pesto.  It has so many uses.  For instance you can use it for sandwiches instead of mayo.  Or, mix it with some mayo to make a spread.  You can also use it as a substitute for marina sauce in pasta dishes.  But today we are going to use it for Pizza.

I’ve always loved pizza, but found it a bit boring at times.  So the more I got into cooking for myself, the more I tried out different combinations by either seeing them on food shows, the internet, or just out of my own head.  Though I love marinara as a base for pizza, it can get old.  So something to use instead of it is pesto.  You can also just use a good olive oil as your base as well.   With all of this said, here is the recipe for pesto.

  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup of pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic (9 cloves)
  • 5 cups of fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups of good olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Place the nuts and garlic in to a food processor or blender and process for about 30 seconds.  Then add the basil, salt and pepper.  While processing, pour the olive oil through the feeding chute.  After that add the Parmesan and process for about a minute.  To store in the refrigerator or freezer add a thin film of olive oil on top of the pesto.  FYI: This makes a decent amount of pesto

Now were are to the pizza dough.  I honestly just don’t like pizza anymore unless it has been prepared completely homemade.  Pizza dough from the market, restaurants, or chain fast foods just taste too sweet for me.  Yes.  I said it.  Too sweet.  When you have changed your lifestyle the way I have and don’t eat out, but on special occasions (and usually at places where the food isn’t heavily processed), you begin to notice just how much sugar is placed in processed food.  Seriously.  Look it up.  The first time I had pizza from a chain store, it tasted as though I was eating sweet dough.  And so do the buns from burger joints.  The sad truth is food companies put sugar in all of their products at markets and fast food chains because your body is addicted to sugar and wants more.  It’s an interesting way to get you hooked, but quit sad since it has caused a lot of major medical issues for most Americans today with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.  Anyways, enough of me being on my soap box.  Now to the recipe.

  • 1 ½ cups of warm water (110°-120°F)
  • 1 package or 2 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups of flour: bread flour gives a crispier crust however all-purpose does just as well
  • 2 tbsp of good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of salt

If you are using a stand mixer, place the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Let it dissolve for about 5 minutes.  If you want to make your dough have a bit of a kick add Italian seasoning (i.e. rosemary, oregano, basil etc.) to the water mixture.  Once time is up and it doesn’t looked dissolved enough, give it a little stir.  Add the olive oil.  In a separate bowl mix together the flour and salt.  Then add the flour one cup at a time till combined.  When the dough pulls away from the bowl, it has enough flour.  In a separate bowl already greased lightly with oil, place the ball of dough and roll it in the oil to be coated.  Cover and allow to rise in a warm area (about 75°-80°F) until it doubles.  About 1 to 1 ½ hours.  Punch the dough down, form into 2 balls, or 4 depending on how thin you like your crusts.  Allow them to rise for 10 minutes.  To store the extra dough, place in an air tight container or plastic wrap.

Now we are enter into the pizza phase of the recipes.

  • ¼ – ½ cup of pesto
  • Goat Cheese
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • Roma Tomatoes (or any kind of tomato you want)
  • Green Peppers (or whatever your pepper preference is)
  • Sausage
  • Onions

So, when your dough gets close to being finished, begin preheating your oven to 425°F.  I like using a pizza stone except instead of just putting it in the oven and heating it then using a pizza paddle to place it in the oven, I heat the stone and then take it out and make the pizza on top then place it back in the oven.  The real reason why is I didn’t have the paddle when I first started doing this.  Plus it gives a crispier crust I think.  Warning: don’t do this unless you know how to without getting burned.

Once you have rolled out your dough spread the pesto on the dough.  Then start placing your ingredients.  Typically I place my veggies first, then meat, then cheese.  Allow to cook about 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool and enjoy

Buon Appetito!

-David Mayfield