Saturday, June 26, 2010

Friday Dinner - Grilled Lemony Zucchini and Eggplant Goat Cheese Pizza

This recipe has been on my mind for about a month now. I knew I wanted to make it one sunny evening this summer and enjoy it with a glass of Pinot Grigio. Last night was a nice, warm evening so we decided to make it. But, and this was the rub, how could we use the grill? I've recently read about grilled pizzas (here and here) and I really wanted to try my hand at them. I figured I'd just take the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and grill it instead of bake it. Awesome.

Pizza dough is one of those things that is super easy to make - that is if you make it an hour or two ahead. I usually don't plan my meals that far in advance, nor do I typically have the time to prep things an hour or two ahead of time. So last night, we figured we'd buy the dough pre-made from Zupan's. Well, they were out of their dough. So, then I found a recipe which I thought said you only have to let the dough rise for 20 minutes. Perfect! I went home tossed the dough together and re-read the recipe only to realize it said 1-2 hours. Oops. So my next move was to start calling all the pizza joints on Hawthorne to find out if they sell their dough. Apizza Scholls? Not frequently. They run out of dough all the time, and on a Friday night? Not gonna happen. Rovente's said they don't sell their dough, but Hot Lips said they do! And it was a good buy - 2 lbs. for $3 or 1 lb. for $2. I scooted down there and picked up a pound. It was a good call - it saved me time and it tasted really good.

The thing about grilling pizza (and please don't let this deter you) is that all of your toppings need to be cooked first. It'll only be on the grill with the toppings for about 5 minutes, so get your toppings prepped ahead of putting the dough on the grill. Use any toppings you like, but I highly recommend our version. We just put the zucchini and eggplant on the grill for 5 minutes per side to get them ready. Easy! It was so amazing - in fact, the it was the best pizza I think I've ever had. I had to run a slice over to our foodie neighbor, Jeff, to get his opinion. He agreed it was a success.

If you try this recipe, be sure to let me know how it goes!

Grilled Lemony Zucchini and Eggplant Goat Cheese Pizza (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

Your favorite pizza dough, homemade or picked up from your local Pizzeria (we used Hot Lips)
1 lemon
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
Few leaves of fresh basil, cut into thin slivers
1/2 medium yellow zucchini, sliced into thin coins
1/2 medium green zucchini, sliced as the same as above
1/2 medium eggplant, sliced the same as above
Prosciutto, cut into thin slivers*
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

*We added the prosciutto to the recipe and I wouldn't make it without it. It added a protein into the mix as well as a nice salty crunch to the pie that I felt was necessary. 

Preheat your grill to medium. Roll your pizza dough into a thin 12-inch circle and lay it on a tray or stone that has been dusted lightly with cornmeal. Brush one side of the dough thoroughly with olive oil.

In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese with the juice of half your lemon. Season it with salt and freshly ground pepper, set aside.

Drizzle zucchini and eggplant slices with olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini and eggplant on medium heat for about 5 minutes per side. This will vary depending on the thickness of your slices, so keep an eye on them as they can from 0 to burnt in no time flat. Remove from heat and cover with tin foil until you're dough is ready to be topped.

Using a pizza stone or whatever you have available, slide your raw dough onto the grill. Turn it (don't flip it!) once after about two minutes, clockwise 180 degrees to ensure even heat distribution. We didn't do this so you can see how we ended up with a burnt corner. Grill for another two and a half minutes or until the bottom is nicely browned and crisp. Brush the up side with olive oil and using spatulas, flip it over. Spread the goat cheese mixture over the browned side and add your grilled zucchini and eggplant. Grill for about 5 more minutes or until dough is golden brown and crisp. Remove from grill.

Scatter fresh basil and prosciutto slivers over the cheese. Slice and enjoy!!! 

At this point I became so excited to eat this slice, I took a bite. Which you'll notice in the next photos...My bad.

And then I took a lot more bites...

Bon Appetit!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday Dinner - Grilled Chicken with White BBQ Sauce & Grilled Salad

Please be sure to check out my favorite blogs on the right over there ---> I've found some really great food blogs over the past couple of days.

One of those blogs was sent to me by Trey's Mom, it's called the Bitten Word. Every single thing on that site looks delicious! We found this grilled chicken with white BBQ sauce on there as well as the grilled butter lettuce salad with buttermilk-chive dressing. In this season of grilling, how cool is a grilled salad?! Very very cool. And very very yum, too. The white BBQ sauce was really good, too, but next time I might add just a little less vinegar. The chicken was really good. The spice rub made for a great crisp skin and added so much flavor.

Also, our hydrangeas are blooming right now and I am obsessed with the combination of purple and green. Lovely.


Grilled Chicken With White Barbecue Sauce (found on the Bitten Word, from Southern Living magazine, May 2010): 


    •    1  tablespoon  dried thyme
    •    1  tablespoon  dried oregano
    •    1  tablespoon  ground cumin
    •    1  tablespoon  paprika
    •    1  teaspoon  onion powder
    •    1/2  teaspoon  salt
    •    1/2  teaspoon  pepper
    •    10 chicken thighs (about 3 lb.)*
    •    White Barbecue Sauce


1. Combine first 7 ingredients. Rinse chicken, and pat dry; rub mixture evenly over chicken. Place chicken in a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Seal and chill 4 hours. Remove chicken from bag, discarding bag.

2. Grill, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 180°. Serve with White Barbecue Sauce.

*4 chicken leg quarters (about 3 lb.) may be substituted for chicken thighs. Increase cooking time to 20 to 25 minutes on each side.

White Barbecue Sauce
Yield: Makes 1 3/4 cups
    •    1 1/2  cups  mayonnaise
    •    1/4  cup  white wine vinegar
    •    1  garlic clove, minced
    •    1  tablespoon  coarse ground pepper
    •    1  tablespoon  spicy brown mustard
    •    1  teaspoon  sugar
    •    1  teaspoon  salt
    •    2  teaspoons  horseradish


1. Stir together all ingredients until well blended. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Grilled Butter Lettuce Salad with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing (found on the Bitten Word, from Southern Living magazine, May 2010):

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 4 large heads butter lettuce, halved lengthwise
  • Bacon, cooked and crumbled (we added this ingredient!)
In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, crème fraîche, mayonnaise, chives, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. (The dressing may be made up to 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated.)

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for direct cooking over medium-high (500°F) heat. Lightly oil the grill grates.

Lightly season the lettuce with 1/4 tsp. salt. Grill cut side down until wilted, lightly charred, and the cores are crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the grilled lettuce to a serving platter and drizzle with the dressing (you won’t need all the dressing; refrigerate leftovers for 2 to 3 days). Lightly sprinkle the lettuce with salt, top with bacon crumbles and serve.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wednesday Girl's Night - Burgers and Fries

Nothing says summer like a good burger, am I right? We've been making these "English Muffin" burgers for about two years. My Dad always used to have burgers on English muffins and, at first, I thought it was weird and just not right. And then I tried it. And I will never go back to a regular bun. I like my burgers on the small, slider-like size and the muffin is the perfect vessel for a small burger. It toasts easily and holds your condiments in the nooks and crannies. It's truly the only way to go.

As far as toppings go, I am pretty set on the "Classic Burger". I like to add grilled onion, bacon, American cheese, lettuce and mayo to my burger. It took me awhile to get turned on to the pre-packaged American cheese (Kraft Deli Deluxe). Tillamook cheddar was always the standard growing up and who likes pre-packaged stuff anyway? Well, it turns out, it's pretty good on a burger. And breakfast sandwiches. It melts nicely and has a great flavor, it doesn't overpower like sharp cheddar can do. I suppose you could add tomato, too, but I'm not a fan of tomatoes on burgers. Or ketchup. That's just me.

Last night Ashley and I made four burgers, two for each of us. Two we made "Classic-style" with the aforementioned toppings, and two we topped with grilled onion, lettuce, mayo and the goat cheese dipping sauce we made for the fries.

Now, let's talk about this goat cheese dipping sauce. I am always looking for new ways to incorporate more goat cheese into my life, and now I may never be the same. I had a goat cheese dipping sauce a few weeks ago at Foster Burger (recently named one of the top 10 best new burger spots in the country by Bon Appetit! magazine). I never knew such a thing existed, but boy, am I glad it does. The recipe follows, but we'll make some adjustments next time such as, no yellow onion. We'll also cut the recipe in half and use a little more cream to make it creamier. Other than that, it was pretty perfect last night. I mentioned to Ash that it would be good on just about anything. Like spread on a bagel or English muffin for breakfast and served with strawberries on the side. Yum.

To talk about the fries for a second, we use the frozen fast food-style fries. They take about 15 minutes in the oven and taste great. I season them with salt, cayenne and paprika and usually serve them with a garlic aioli. But I'll never go back to aioli after having the goat cheese sauce. You could go all out and make your own fries, but you know what? It's a mess and a lot of work and the result is never as good as say, McDonald's fries. I'll stick with my frozen ones, thank you very much.

One last note, we fired up our new propane grill for the first time last night! Yay!

Ground meat - any ground meat will do. We used ground sirloin, but Trey also like ground pork.
Yellow Onion
English muffins
Kraft Deli Deluxe American cheese (pre-sliced)
Garlic Salt
Lemon Pepper
Lawry's Seasoning Salt
Worcestershire Sauce

Pre-heat your grill to medium-high.

Form small balls with the ground meat, just a little bigger than a golf ball.  Squash them down a little into a patty and make an indentation in the middle with your finger. Season with garlic salt, lemon pepper, Lawry's and put a few drops of the Worcestershire sauce in the indentation you made. Roll up into balls again, spreading the seasonings. Flatten back into patties.

I always cover my work surface with plastic wrap when I'm doing burgers. It makes clean up a snap.

Place your burgers on the grill, directly over heat, along with cut-up onion, and grill for about 5 minutes per side or until done. Take them off the grill, add the cheese and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook bacon and start toasting your English muffins. Spread condiments on toasted English muffin, add onion, lettuce, bacon and burger patty. Enjoy!

Goat cheese dipping sauce (from the City Cook):
1 3.5 to 4.0 oz. log of goat cheese, about 2/3 cup when crumbled
3 tablespoons grated yellow onion or shallot
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 to 3 tablespoons of snipped chives (reserve a few pieces to sprinkle on top as a garnish when the sauce is finished)
4 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half; an alternative could be low fat plain yogurt

In a small bowl, crumble the goat cheese

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate about 3 tablespoons of a yellow onion. Add about 2 tablespoons to the crumbled cheese, saving the rest to gradually add later as you adjust the sauce's taste.

Add the salt and cream and with a fork, mix to combine. If you want the sauce more liquid, just add more cream or yogurt until you get the consistency you want.

Add the chives and combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning, including adding more grated onion, salt or chives to taste.

\When the sauce is ready to serve, sprinkle a few snipped chives on top as a garnish and so that others will know what flavors to expect.

This sauce keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for a day or two. However it tastes better if you let some of the chill come off of it before serving. Stir before serving as the sauce may separate a little while it chills.

Use as a dip for french fries, veggies or as a spread on your burgers. 

Bon appetit!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Trey's Birthday Dinner - Scallops Two Ways and Salmon, Asparagus and Simple Penne Pasta

 Let's talk about scallops, shall we? I think the first time I had scallops I was in college, and we were on a road trip through the Baja Peninsula. We stopped in a quaint little beach/fishing town on the Sea of Cortez called Bahia de los Angeles. I remember getting stung by sea lice, yelling at pelicans ("We're not fish!") and fishing with Velveeta cheese. I also remember eating huge scallops and getting very very sick.I did not try scallops again until about 4 years later at a restaurant in Austin called Cibo. It closed in 2008, shortly after I moved back to Portland. It was pretty expensive, but had great fresh food. The scallops they served there were served raw, carpaccio-style, pounded flat and dressed simply with lemon and olive oil and some arugula. It was a refreshing appetizer, light and very very very tasty. We've talked about making it for sometime, and got the urge to finally follow through yesterday while shopping for salmon at Zupan's. I am so glad we did.

We did the scallops two ways - one Cibo-style and one seared. They were both out of this world - even if you don't like scallops I recommend at least trying one of these recipes. This was my first time making scallops and I found them to be an easy, quick and delicious appetizer.

I think I've mentioned this before, but Trey loves salmon. Like is obsessed. I think he'd eat it every day if I allowed it. So, for his birthday dinner he chose salmon (of course), asparagus (duh), and his favorite penne pasta.

We got wild Columbia river King salmon ($22.99/lb at Zupan's). We caught a break in the rain and grilled it over charcoal (new propane grill coming today!) with the asparagus. When dinner was ready, we looked outside and realized it was actually quite nice - so pulled up our tiny little outdoor table, new chairs and ate al fresco. We did some yard work yesterday so the backyard was really pleasant. It turned out to be a great dinner for a great guy!

 Scallops Two Ways:
4 scallops - feeds two (though I told Trey if we do it again, we'll each need 4 scallops cuz they were so yummy!)
Olive Oil
1 tsp. Soy Sauce
1 Lemon
Good quality Balsamic Vinegar
Lemon Pepper
Pancetta or Prosciutto

For the pounded scallops carpaccio, take 2 scallops and cut them into coins (about 4 or 5 coins each scallop). Put a coin between wax or parchment paper and gently pound until very thin. Try not to over-pound, as they will break up and become mushy. Place the pounded scallops in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat. They need to be served very cold. I put them in the freezer for the last 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing for the scallops carpaccio. Juice one lemon into a jar. Add salt and pepper, and 1 tsp soy sauce. Give it a shake. Add the olive oil (about 1/3 C.) gradually until mixture is well blended. Set aside.

Bake the proscuitto or pancetta in a 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes, until crispy. Drain on paper towels and serve with scallops carpaccio.

For the seared scallops, take 2 scallops, cover them with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and lemon pepper. You can sear them right away or put them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until you're ready.

For the dressing for the seared scallops, emulsify 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar with about 1/3 C. olive oil and add salt and pepper. Set aside.

When you're ready to eat, take a good pan and heat 2 tbsp. butter and about 1 tbsp. of olive oil until it smokes. It took me about 4 minutes to get it good and hot. Sear scallops for about 1 1/2 minute each side. They should be nicely seared on each side and translucent through the middle.

Serve the seared scallops atop a bed of the arugula dressed with the balsamic/olive oil emulsion. Drizzle extra balsamic vinegar on top - I would have done a balsamic reduction had I thought of it for drizzling, but I didn't. I think it would be really good, though. Serve immediately.

To serve the scallop carpaccio, take the pounded scallops out of the refrigerator and arrange on a plate. Top with arugula that's been tossed in the lemon/soy vinaigrette and drizzle some extra dressing all over. Add your cooked pancetta or prosciutto. Serve immediately.

2 salmon filets
Lemon  Pepper
Garlic Salt
Olive Oil

A note on the salmon: Trey (and the dogs and the cats) loves the skin, and I don't. Last night, I got the bright idea I would take the skin off before we grilled it. I don't know if it made any difference in taste, besides both sides being well seasoned. It was kind of a pain the neck, so I don't really recommend it unless you really really hate salmon skin, then go for it.

Drizzle both sides of salmon fillet with olive oil. Season both sides with lemon pepper and garlic salt.

Heat charcoal or propane grill to medium-high. We started using this chimney starter. It makes lighting coals so easy and fast. It was only $13 at the Home Depot. A smart buy if you ask me!

 Make sure you clean the grate with a grill brush and oil it. I learned a neat trick recently; take a wadded up paper towel and soak it in canola oil. Using your tongs to hold the paper towel, rub the oil over the grate. Voila! A well oiled grate. We also use lemon (or lime) slices sometimes to clean/flavor the grill for fish. Just cut a lemon in half and rub the cut side all over the grate. It helps clean and imparts a subtle flavor to whatever you're grilling.

Place salmon fillets, skin side up (if you kept the skin on) and grill for 3-5 minutes per side. Take off grill and drizzle with lemon, if desired.

Serve with grilled asparagus and either penne pasta or white rice.

Trey's Simple Penne Pasta:
Penne pasta
Garlic Salt
Lemon pepper
Parmesan, shaved
Olive Oil

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and put in a large saute pan. Saute with olive oil, garlic salt and lemon pepper. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese.  Garnish with basil, if desired.

Trey wanted these cupcakes from Saint Cupcake for his birthday dessert. I was happy to comply. He ordered the vanilla with chocolate frosting and I got the chocolate with cream cheese/vanilla frosting. They are super cute so I thought I'd share a couple pics!

 Bon appetit! And happy birthday, Trey!