Odd Couples, Watermelon and Chili Oil

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For those of us old enough to remember the movie or TV series called the “Odd Couple“, you know the plot was all about the ups and downs of two recently divorced and very different guys living together in a smallish New York City apartment.  Felix was the worrying, fussy, conservative, martini drinking type, while Oscar was the care-free, sloppy, live in the moment, beer slugging type.   Audiences were entertained by how they managed to stay friends despite their many differences.

After the movie became a huge success, the popular TV series took the oddities of their daily relationship struggles to the next level, entertaining fans for years.  In the end, the stories about their lives together always made us laugh, because people can be fascinated by how odd couples, unusual matches, opposite personalities, or widely disparate cultures can find ways to work things out.  The series was not the most intellectually challenging, certainly nothing too complicated, but there was always a life lesson in each episode.

The truth is that opposites are attractive to us because it’s fun to get to know someone who isn’t like you.   The fact is that each of us are affected by the people around us.  Some of them teach us things.  Some of them bring out the worst in us.  Some of them bring out the best in us.  Some of them just accept us for who we are.  I submit there is value in every relationship because each one forces us to constantly test where we are in our personal evolution.  Sometimes we make dramatic changes because of the impact others have on us.  At other times we make imperceptible changes in our perspectives, attitudes and behaviours because people with different points of view, philosophies and mannerisms make us more aware of the impact we have on those around us as well.

I honestly believe life is more interesting when it is less predictable–when we are open to adventure and exploration with the people around us and with ourselves.  We love it when something surprises us.  For example, is there any guy out there that isn’t thrilled when our ladies show up for date-night in a new dress or with a new piece of jewelry?  And Guys, I’m pretty sure our ladies love it when we surprise them with something unexpected–like flowers on a day other than their birthday, your anniversary or on valentine’s day.  (Hot! Guys–do it now!!  Call the Florist!!  Order flowers ‘Just Because She Makes Everyday a Special Day Because She is in Your Life’.  Use your words, but do it!!  There’s some serious WOW! Points right there. I guarantee it.)

I think it’s hard for another person to be your soul mate if they always think like you, live like you, love the same things you do or play like you.  I agree that as a relationship progresses we discover many things we have in common, but we also discover more things we have in contrast.  There are some who may disagree, but I believe relationships last longer and remain vibrantly sustainable when there is always something new to discover about your commonalities and differences.  In the end, it’s good to know you aren’t like everyone else out there, and that someone loves you because of your differences.  That’s a pretty powerful validation of who you are and who you will likely become, and good reason to celebrate the differences you and your soul mate have.

watermelon

S&B La-Yu chili oil - Momotaro Rahmen

Get Chili Oil in Asian Food Stores or at Whole Foods Store

So what does Watermelon and Chili Oil have to do with all this?  Well, let me ask this:  would you have ever guessed watermelon and chili oil could ever be companions in a salad?  No, me either.  But this Odd Combination is not only compatible, they do a fantastic dance together in a salad with Arugula, Pistachios and Goat Cheese!

A couple of weekends ago, we had this salad at a neighbor’s home.  We were shocked by how good it was.  We tasted the cool sweetness of the watermelon followed by the peppery arugula and then this slight spark of heat from the chili oil in the back of the mouth.  It was not spicy it was just an amazing experience.  While our neighbor didn’t have a recipe, per se, she told us the general ingredients.  I spent yesterday experimenting with the recipe, and last night we served it to 11 dinner guests in our home.  Virtually EVERYONE raved about Kathy’s meatloaf and the Watermelon, Arugula and Chili Oil Salad.  To a person, everyone asked if I would blog it so they could make it while watermelon was still in season.

Guys, this is one of those recipes that couldn’t be simpler.  I know you can cut up watermelon?  Can you pull Arugula out of the bag and put it in a bowl?  Can you buy some toasted pistachios or pine nuts and add them in?  Can you squeeze a lemon and add some chili oil?  I’m pretty sure you can find goat cheese at the store and crumble it on top.  Guys, that’s it.  Couldn’t be simpler.  I guarantee this salad will surprise and delight her.  She will have discovered something about your cooking skills that will make you an interesting person.  Serve it with a chilled New Zealand Marlborough County Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp Pinot Grigio and you have an incredible luncheon salad or a side salad for burgers or beef off the grill.  There’s major WOW! Points for this one too.

Make it a double play!  Buy her some unexpected flowers and make her this unexpected salad combination.  That’s serious WOW! Points in the bank!  Good luck.

 

Watermelon, Arugula, and Chili Oil Salad

 

Prep Time: 15 mins | Makes: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 4 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes

    Looks Great! Tastes Fantastic!

  • 2 cups arugula or watercress
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tbsp chili oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or pistachios (toasted)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta salata, goat or feta cheese, crumbled
  • fleur de sel (optional)

 

Directions:

 

1. Whisk together lemon juice, chili oil and salt in a large bowl, whisking until well mixed.

 

2. Add watermelon to bowl and mix well.

 

3. Let watermelon marinate (macerate) in the dressing in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Taste the watermelon. The sweetness of the watermelon should be followed by the subtle heat from the chili oil at the back of the tongue. Add more chili oil if desired, to taste.

 

4. Just before serving, add the arugula or watercress and nuts and toss to coat well. Then sprinkle with cheese and fleur de sel (if using).

 

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

 

Perfect Steak–The WOW! Way

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Butcher Shop

My Kathy’s Favorite Store: A Butcher’s Shop

Not long ago, I learned a valuable lesson in my relationship with Kathy.  Turns out, I can dazzle her (and win significant WOW! Points) when I prepare and cook her favorite food items.  You ask: How did you not know that sooner than recently?  Well, it’s because SHE always prepared and cooked her favorite food items because she liked them HER Way.  I sort of thought that since they were her favorites, and because she knew how she liked them prepared and cooked, it was better to leave those items to her skills.  Seemed logical rational to me.  Until recently.She has been busy of late, and hasn’t had much of a chance to cook.  But one day recently, she had selected a nice, thick steak (her #1 favorite dinner) while she was at the store, and intended to grill it for dinner that night.  Some days don’t go as planned, and on that particular day she called home to let me know she was running very late.  So I volunteered to take on the task of preparing the steak, with the proviso that I could prepare it ‘my way’.

Keep in mind Kathy thinks steak is at its best when grilled to a black char on the outside, and to a perfect rare to medium-rare on the inside.  She calls it ‘black and blue’.  I have no idea what that description means other than it’s a Pittsburgh thing, and her father called steak prepared this way ‘black and blue’.   She also knows I don’t like to grill, and ‘my way’ would not be ‘her way’.  But at that point, it was me or her preparing dinner at 10 pm—she chose me.  Wise choice.

There was a lot at stake–pun intended!  I knew I was setting myself up for Kathy’s “it’s good, but not as good as mine” evaluation by doing the steak My Way, but I had not done it for her in quite some time and I had honed my skills and know-how over the past several months.  I was ready and up to the challenge of demonstrating my prowess at the altar of the Best Steak Competition with Kathy.   I was already getting some serious WOW! Points for getting dinner ready while she was on the way home.  But if I got a WOW! out of her for the steak preparation, I’d also get a bunch of Bonus WOW! Points.  And to tell the truth, I’d made a few large POW! Point withdrawals recently, and needed a big WOW! Point deposit to replenish the account!   

So I went to work.  She loves a Simple Salad with my Balsamic Vinaigrette [see June 8,2012 Post] to go with her steaks.  So I got one done and got the steak ready for cooking.  When she walked in the door, there was a glass of Bordeaux to go with her while she changed (Bonus WOW! Points awarded).  And then I got the steak cooking.  In the time it took us to catch up on our day, about twenty-five minutes later, we were at the table with ready to eat.

The outcome?  She enthusiastically declared that Perfect Steak—My Way was at least as good as Her Way.  YES!!  Bonus WOW! Points in the bank.  And better yet, even though she will still do steak her way when she cooks it, she stated she would let me do Perfect Steak—My Way more often.

So Hot! Guys here’s the Rule to take from this post:  Nothing demonstrates how much you care for the lady in your life more than identifying and memorizing her favorite foods and preparations.  It shows you are paying attention to the ‘little things’ in your relationship with her.  Then spend the time and effort to learn about them, because that shows you are enthusiastic about investing in your relationship with her.  Finally, amaze her by preparing them as well, if not better, than the way she does it.  This shows you want to please her.  This is one of the few Hot! Guy Rules that gives you a triple  shot at becoming Hot!  Take it and enjoy the windfall of WOW! Point rewards.

It might be chicken, fish or something else, but my guess is that many of you Hot! Guys are with women who love a great steak.  This really is a fantastic way to prepare a perfect steak every time.  If it’s not already one her favorite food items before you prepare Perfect Steak–My Way, it may become one.  Good luck and have fun!

I know this recipe has a long list of directions, but don’t panic.  Most of it is really good advice on how to choose the right cut of meat.  Then I guide you on how to take 4 other  ingredients and turn them into a steak masterpiece of artful taste, texture and tenderness.  Read through the directions and go to work. 

Perfect Steak–My Way

Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 15 mins | Servings: 2 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 12 to 16 ounce New York Strip, Filet Mignon or other high-quality (Choice Cut) steak

    The signature New York Strip Steak

    Perfect Steak–My Way

  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Sea or kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Small pats unsalted butter

Directions:

1. BUYING: First off, we already know the best ingredients yield superb results. Therefore, you need to buy a great steak. And here’s my thinking on the subject. I don’t eat red meat very often, but when I do, I want to indulge myself with the very best. Therefore, I buy a nice 1-1/2 to 2 inch thick New York Strip, one of the best sirloin cuts, and by far my favorite. Many people love Filet Mignon because it is the most tender part of the tenderloin and the taste is milder. I also like a T-Bone Steak because it has two cuts of meat on-the-bone: one side of the bone is from the top loin, and the other is a strip of tenderloin. Keep in mind that cuts of meat are called different names in different parts of the country, so do your homework.

The key is to look for cuts of steak that are well-marbled with medium to large size pockets or long narrow strips of fat, evenly distributed throughout the meat. This fat is the key to the caramelizing I want to achieve and to the superior taste of these cuts of meat.

Prime grade beef makes up only 2% of all the beef produced in the United States and is usually sold to the very best restaurants. (That’s why high-end restaurants have the best tasting, most tender and most expensive steaks.) What you will normally find on the shelves at the store or in butcher shops is Choice and Select cuts of meat. Since I’m indulging, I always buy Choice cuts, and so should you. You will notice a difference. The price is higher, but the tenderness and marbling of the meat will be far superior to Select cuts of meat.

Here’s the best advice I can offer in the buying department. Find a good butcher and take his or her advice on both the quality and cut of the meat and the portion sizes for your steak purchases. My butcher is at the Whole Foods Store down the street from me, so don’t think you need to go far to find one.

2. SEASONING: If a high-quality cut of meat is cooked correctly, you really don’t need much more than salt and pepper. Which makes you think that seasoning a steak should be easy. Well my Kathy and I have hot debates on this topic all the time, and we don’t usually agree on the “salt early” or “salt late” philosophy.

Advocates of the Salt Early Approach argue that salting meat many hours or even days before cooking breaks down the protein in meat and makes it more tender. Initially, the salt draws out moisture, but over time the meat re-absorbs the juices, which is now flavored with salt and thus adds more succulent flavor to the meat.

The Salt Late Advocates admonish that salt dries meat out. No more argument needed. Don’t add it until immediately before cooking.

Since this is Steak My Way, and since I spent a fair amount of money for a Choice Cut of meat that is already tender, I find salting the meat about a half-hour before cooking is ideal, but doing it right before cooking works just fine, too. I will admit that if you choose to buy the less expensive Select Cuts of meat, salting early is a good way to go, but you need to do it at least 3 to 4 hours before cooking to get the benefits of this approach.

3. PREPPING: Before seasoning, always make sure to pat the steak dry with paper towels. This simple step is critical. I also brush the steak with vegetable oil (avoid olive oil, which can become bitter at high heats) or a combination of melted butter and oil before seasoning to help the outside of the steak brown. Season both sides of the steak, using a teaspoon or less of either kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Remember, you can always add more seasoning after the steak cooks, but you can’t unseason the meat.

4. After seasoning, let the meat sit quietly so it comes up to room temperature, about 20 minutes for a 2 inch steak.

5. COOKING: You already know I’m not much of a griller. And I actually love browning my steak stove top and then finishing it in the oven. When I do it this way, I get a crisp, caramelized coating on the outside of the steak without over-cooking the inside. In my view, this is harder to achieve on a grill. Using a combination of the stove top and the oven is a tried and true method for perfect steak, and often used by high-end restaurants to prepare their most flavorful steaks.

But of course, Kathy and I debate this issue too. Kathy thinks the ONLY way to cook a steak is on a hot, uncontrollable grill, over flames jumping up trying to set fire to my precious meat after sucking the all the life-giving fat out of my carefully selected, beautifully marbled steak. Kathy claims cooking steak on a grill is an Art-form that takes years of practice and experience before perfecting. My view is this is how our ancestors living in caves cooked their meat. Some of us have now evolved beyond caveman cooking techniques, and should use them to our advantage.

Here’s the thing about grilling. Before gas grills, I think the slight taste charcoal or wood-fired cooking gave to the meat was a nice layer of flavor, worth the extra effort and investing in the know-how. But now that more than 90% of us use gas grills that impart virtually none of this wood-based taste, it’s not worth the effort.

My Way is the more evolved, sophisticated approach, requires much less guesswork, and yields perfect steaks EVERY TIME. As mentioned, I first sear the steak on the stove, then finish it in a hot oven. This is my preferred method, and the one I use most often. It involves:

A. Pre-heating the oven to 450° to 500° Fahrenheit.

B. When the oven is ready, drizzle a little oil in an oven-proof pan (cast iron works great) and then heat the pan on the stove over high heat for several minutes until it just barely starts to smoke.

C. Put the steak in the pan and let it sit without touching it for 3 minutes.

D. Turn on the exhaust fan or open some windows–there’s going to be smoke.

E. If the steak is stuck to the pan, it’s not done browning yet and needs a little more time. When it comes up relatively easily, usually after 3 minutes, flip the steak.

F. Put the pan, with the steak in it, in the oven.

G. Let it bake for several minutes, then check it with a thermometer or ‘feel’ the texture for doneness. (see discussion below).

6. TESTING FOR DONENESS: A thermometer is the most accurate way to gauge if steak is done to your liking. If using an instant read thermometer, slide it about an inch or so into the side of the steak for,the best reading.

Although your thermometer will probably tell you that 145 degrees is rare for beef, most chefs will tell you differently. Rare in a chef’s mind, meaning very pink, is closer to 125° ; medium-rare is 125-130°; medium, 130-135°; medium-well, 135 to 140°; and well, 140° and above.

You can also give the steak a poke with your finger. Rare is squishy, medium-rare is spongy, and medium-well is taut. The steak will continue to cook at least five degrees when it’s out of the pan, so err on the side of taking it away from heat earlier rather than later.

7. SERVING: The last steps are critical and include cutting a small pat of butter and placing it atop the steak. Then, before cutting it, I let the meat rest under a loose cover of aluminum foil. As the meat cools down the proteins begin to firm up and hold moisture, so when you cut into the steak all the juicy goodness won’t run out. Furthermore, while the proteins are firming, they will also absorb the butter to add some flavor and richness to the meat. About 8-10 minutes should do it. Coincidentally, that’s about the time it takes for me to break open a French Bordeaux or rich California Cabernet Sauvignon and grab a couple of wine glasses for the table!

Source: My Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

 

 

Pizza Margherita–My Grandmothers Way

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Italian Cuisine

Italian Cuisine (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m Italian.  My paternal grandparents emigrated from Bologna and Naples, Italy and my maternal grandparents arrived from small villages in Sicily.  Depending on whose home in which we were eating, there would be styles of cooking ranging from the lighter and sophisticated cooking from Northern Italy to the North African influenced Sicilian styles, and just about anything Italian in between.We only ate italian food–I didn’t even know there were other food cultures until I was in high school.  My two grandfathers owned an Italian Restaurant in the Italian neighborhood called Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island.  When we ‘went out’ for dinner, we went to the family restaurant and ate italian food.  The only difference was my grandfathers prepared the food instead of my grandmothers.   My friends were italian, and I ate italian at their houses when I visited.  My Uncle Mario married Aunt Bobbi.  She was Irish, and the first non-italian in the family–a very difficult position to hold.  She suggested we try irish stews, corned beef and cabbage and other non-italian dishes, but my grandmothers were in charge of the food.  They ate Italian.  Therefore, there was very little chance of anything irish, french, mexican or any other culture ever making it to the Sunday Supper table.  Besides, my Uncle Mario didn’t like anything that wasn’t italian either.  That’s just the way it was.

Federal Hill neighborhood gateway arch with

Federal Hill Neighborhood Gateway Arch with “la pigna” (pine cone, sometimes mistakenly called “pineapple”) sculpture over Atwells Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island

Everything was homemade, including the linguine, paparradella, or macherroni for every Sunday Supper.  We ate at one of my grandparents home every Sunday, and attendance was mandatory.  If you missed one of the Sunday Suppers, you better be in the hospital, in jail or dead, because…well just because!My two sets of grandparents were great friends, creating a wonderfully fun and safe environment to grow and learn about the food culture of our extended italian family.   And I was also the first grandson, a very privileged place in the family, except at meal times.  That’s because my grandmother’s routinely competed for the ‘favorite meatball’, or the ‘best pizza’, the lightest homemade gnocchi or the best sour cream coffee cake, my favorite childhood sweet.  And I found out early on that if I told one grandmother her meatball was the best ever, it wouldn’t be long before my other grandmother was making her best meatball recipe.   As you can imagine, I wasn’t leaving the table until I said IT was the best meatball ever.  So at the ripe young age of about 10, I learned how to become a politician–mainly from my mother who had learned over many years how to keep peace among the grandmothers.

What my mother taught me was how to be more attuned to the ingredients in the food my grandmothers prepared.  That would give me an edge on staying out of the ‘favorite’ battlefield.  I’d say, “Grandma, I love the lemon rind you put in your meatballs–makes them special and just great”.  To my other grandmother, I’d say, “Wow Grandma, those pine nuts in the meatballs are just a great idea–I love them!!  I told one grandmother her Neapolitan thin, crusty and simply dressed pizza margherita was “like nothing I had ever eaten before”.  I told the other grandmother that her Sicilian-style pizza, thick and covered with tomato sauce, anchovies, black olives and garlic was ‘like nothing I had ever eaten before”.  Clever huh?  I became quite adept at the politics of staying Number One Grandson for both grandmothers, and at the same time learned how to pick out every ingredient in their recipes.  A skill I still use today to duplicate dishes I’ve liked at restaurants or other people’s homes. 

Now that my grandmothers have passed into the Big Italian Kitchen in Sky–I am absolutely certain every street corner in Heaven has an Italian Restaurant run by all our italian grandmothers–I can admit that my one and only favorite pizza is my paternal grandmothers Pizza Margherita.  It is one of those simple pleasures in life that can and should appropriately be different every time it’s made, even though it only requires four ingredients:  extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on a thin crust.  Somehow, with just these four ingredients, the taste is interestingly and subtly different each time I make it.  Sometimes the fresh tomatoes are slightly sweeter than the last time, or I use San Marzano tomatoes out of the can.  When I can get it, I use Buffalo mozzarella instead of the ‘regular’ mozzarella.  During the winter, the basil comes from the grocery store rather than from my garden.  But the beauty of this pizza is it’s sophisticated and simultaneously simple; it has many layers of taste from the nicely browned crust, the aromatics emanating from the baked olive oil and tomatoes, the cheese and the basil, all melted together, but individually tastable. 

My grandmother always made her own dough, and it was the best.  I’ve made my own in the past, but to tell the truth, it’s not something I like to do, and my shortcut works great every time!  I buy it from the local pizza shop that makes the best thin crust pizza in town.  Most of them will sell it to you for a reasonable price.  Try Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough–it is also very good.

Hot! Guys, I know this recipe looks daunting.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I’ve just put the steps in detailed explanations so you cannot screw it up–even if you try!!  Guys, pull out this recipe for your lovely lady some Friday night after work, have a glass of wine or a beer with some cheese and crackers while the dough is getting ready, throw together the Simple Salad (See Blog Recipe Index), and then throw a romantic chick-flick into the Blu-Ray while sharing your homemade at home Pizza Margherita and Salad.  I guarantee it–you have just earned some very serious WOW! Points.  And I’m betting she is going to ask for a repeat performance the next weekend.  Try it–you gonna like it!

Pizza Margherita–My Grandmother’s Way

Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 15 min | Servings: About 6 nice slices per pizza | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 2 large fresh tomatoes or 1 cup San Marzano (canned) whole tomatoes, lightly crushed with your hands
  • 1 – 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or chiffonade
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (optional)
  • 1/2 pound buffalo or other fresh-style mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • About 2 pounds pizza shop dough, or store-bought frozen pizza dough (thawed), or Basic Pizza Dough (below), rolled out for 2 (12-inch) pizzas (See Notes)

Basic Pizza Dough:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups flour, plus more if necessary

    Traditional Neapolitan pizza.

    Traditional Neapolitan Pizza Margherita with Buffalo Mozzarella

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

For the Pizza:

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and, if you have one, place a pizza stone (a good investment if you make this often enough) on the bottom rack of the oven. I’ve even used thin bricks I bought from the hardware store, washed them and placed them in an old cookie sheet to heat up in the oven. It works really well. Otherwise, you can bake the pizza in a dark cookie sheet.

2. If using shop bought or fresh store-bought dough, follow Steps 7, 8 and 9 in the below Basic Pizza Dough Recipe. If using frozen dough, follow the packaging directions.

3. Cut the dough in half, and use your fingers and the palm of your hand to gently stretch the dough on a floured surface. Don’t use a rolling-pin– it compacts the dough and squeezes all the valuable air bubbles out.

4. When the dough is about 12 inches round, its thin enough.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly round–rustic is preferred.

5. Carefully transfer the dough to the thoroughly cleaned BOTTOM of a cookie sheet or to a pizza paddle (peel).

6. Scatter the sliced tomatoes or place a light coating of the San Marzano tomatoes over the top. If using can tomatoes, be careful not to use too much of the juice on the pizza–it makes the dough mushy when cooking.

7. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes.

8. Sprinkle sea or kosher salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper over all.

9. Spread the basil over all.

10. If using, sprinkle the Parmesan-Reggiano cheese over the top.

11. Carefully place the mozzarella cheese over the top. Do not cover the whole pizza with cheese. The mozzarella is intended to be ‘islands’ of white in a sea of red tomatoes.

12. Transfer the pizza on the cookie sheet to the oven, or slide the pizza onto the hot stones in the oven.

13. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling, the edges are golden brown, and when you lift the bottom edge, there’s a slightly burnt appearance.

14. Remove pizza from oven by sliding it onto the pizza paddle or using tongs to ‘pull’ it back onto the back of the cookie sheet.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes while ou get a nice cold Peroni Beer, Coca-Cola or Italian red wine.

15. Slice and think about your grandmothers cooking when you were a kid– it was just like this pizza, but just a little different.

For the Dough:

1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, stir together the water, yeast and sugar; let sit until the mixture is foamy, which takes about 5 minutes.

2. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the oil and salt into the yeast mixture and, using the paddle attachment, combine until mixture is smooth.

3. Switch to the dough hook.

4. With the machine running at low, add remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time; make sure each addition of flour is incorporated before adding the next.

5. Once all the flour has been added, turn up the speed and let the machine knead the dough for about 3 minutes; it should be very smooth and perhaps a bit tacky.

6. Don’t be afraid to knead the dough an extra minute or two by hand if you wish; it won’t hurt the dough at all.

7. Rub the insides of a large mixing bowl with a little olive oil; remove dough from machine, form into a ball, and place into oiled bowl, turning dough over to make sure all sides are oiled.

8. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area to rise; the dough should nearly double in size, which will take about 60 to 90 minutes.

9. I place a towel around the bowl, just to make sure no drafts get to the dough.

Notes:

A. Go to the local pizza shops and find one that’ll sell you their pizza dough. You’ll find one or two. It’ll coast about $2 or $3 a pound, but it’s worth the money and little effort.

B. Some of the fresh store-bought pizza dough is really good–try Whole Foods or Trader Joes–you’ll not do better making it yourself.

C.  Of course, this is a basic pizza recipe as well.  Add some italian sausage or a few pieces of peperoni for a change of pace.  Try mushrooms or spinach with ricotta cheese instead of mozzarella.  Guys–this is all about what you and your special lady like.  Don’t be afraid, just try it!!

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

English: Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pi...

Another Nights Pizza Margherita with the same four ingredients, a different presentation, but the same great tastes.

Tomatoes, Peaches, Lemons and Heaven

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Peaches (The Presidents of the United States o...

Peaches…one of the goodies in Tuesdays Surprise Fresh Box!

A couple we had dinner with last week informed us they would be out-of-town this week, and unable to pick up and use their weekly fresh food basket from one of the local fresh vegetable cooperatives.  They had told us in the past they had a subscription membership to this cooperative, and we had always wanted to try it out.  So, they invited us to pick it up and use the goodies, and of course we jumped at it!  We had heard our friends talk about the adventure of receiving this weekly surprise basket (it’s actually a box) of goodies every week, because they sometimes got items they hadn’t tried before.  It forced them to figure out what they had and then how to cook it.  Interesting concept.

On Tuesday, I picked up the box and in it was a couple of cucumbers, some mixed butter lettuce varieties in a plastic bag, fresh basil, a small bag of sugar snap peas, two fresh sweet onions with the green tops attached,  a dozen fresh eggs, beet greens (we think), swiss chard (we pretty sure) and 8 small fresh ripe local peaches!  What fun!

We are still making our way through the ingredients, but I immediately latched onto the peaches.  We were heading to the mountains for the July 4th weekend, and I knew there would be farmer roadside vegetable stands full of the early ripening tomatoes.   And I have this very simple salad that is just right for this time of year.  Sure enough, there were plenty of great tomatoes to buy as we made our way to the mountains.

When got to the mountains, we were hungry.  In 15 minutes flat I had this great little salad sitting atop the outside deck table along with some crusty bread, a couple of glasses of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and I ordered up a sunny, beautiful view of the mountains.  Hot! Guys, this is a double doze of Heaven–a great simple salad of two sweet summer treats, ripe and full of taste and I ordered up an absolutely gorgeous view of the mountains.  It just ain’t getting much better than this.  Give this one a shot Guys.  You’ll like it–she’ll love it. 

Fresh Tomatoes and Peaches Simple Salad

 Prep Time: 15 mins | Cook Time: 0 hr 0 min | Servings: 4 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 medium homegrown or local vine-ripened tomatoes, thick sliced into rounds

    Tomatoes, Peaches Lemon and Heaven–Oh Yeah!!

  • 3 – 4 medium fresh ripe peaches, stone removed, thick sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 sweet (Vidalia) onion, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips (optional)
  • 4 fresh lemons, halved and juice extracted
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 – 8 large fresh basil leaves, rolled together and sliced (chiffonade).
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces fresh soft cheese (buffalo mozzarella, Brie, Danish Blue, goat cheese)’ cut into 1 ounce portions
  • French banquette, sliced

Directions:

1. On individual serving plates, arrange tomatoes and peaches in alternating, overlapping layers.

2. Top with a few sweet onion strips, if using.

3. In small bowl combine the lemon juice and sugar to mix well. Spoon 1/4 of the mixture over each portion.

4. Drizzle olive oil over each portion.

5. Sprinkle with sea salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

6. Distribute basil strips among each plate.

7. Place 1 ounce of cheese on each plate.

8. Serve with French banquette slices.

Notes:

A. Guys, this is one of those recipes where ‘less is more’. Don’t try to do too much. Keep it simple. I’ve served this with just the tomatoes and the peaches, lemon and EVOO and it’s Fantastic! If the tomatoes and peaches are sweet and ripe. B. Don’t try this if the peaches are not ripe, sweet and fresh because it becomes a tasteless grainy mish mash. C. Serve this with any main course or as a nice luncheon salad with some crusty French or Italian bread and a glass of Sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. Amazing!

Source:Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection

Another Presentation…Don’t You Love the Plates?

Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

‘Dressing Up’ the Garden Salad

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Kathy’s Garden

This is my Kathy’s (wife of nearly 40 years) garden.  It’s one of those earthly places where heavenly angels hang out after a hard day in the office.  Really, I’m not kidding.  I’ve seen them.  At this time of year, my Kathy is busy planting all of her summer friends, checking in on her permanent residents and making sure the spring, summer and fall around here are full of blooming happiness and green goddesses.

Lou’s Garden

This is my garden.  You’ll notice my garden is not located on the main plantation.  In the past, I have tried and failed to negotiate terms to rent or own space on the main plantation. But Kathy the Landowner (she wears many hats in our lives together–I, on the otherhand, wear very few hats)  has been unable to find sufficient vacant space for my paltry 3 foot by 3 foot garden anywhere on the one full acre of grounds ‘she’ owns.  Thus, my garden is located behind the car, in the driveway, perched on a precipitous wall, in darkeness other than 3 hours a day, at best!

If you pay careful attention, you’ll notice that while my garden is small, all of ‘my friends’ are edible.  I feed them, water them and mostly neglect them, but they never-the-less grow and grow and grow, and proudly produce beautiful tomatoes, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme and mint.  Kathy’s friends located on a full acre of land produce absolutely nothing edible.  But I need to admit they produce a special kind of beauty almost equal to that of Kathy the Gardener.  (Hot! Guy Rule #1–if you think your lady is going to read your sarcasm and deduct WOW! Points, make sure you plant offsetting WOW! Point Comments for her to read!  It doesn’t always work, but it’s better than leaving the deductions without some chance for recovery.)

This is also my Kathy’s garden, and my dog Skye is helping me wander around the gardens looking for Kathy the Gardener.  We think it’s dinner time for the humans and dogs in the family.  Dinner is a problem around this time of year.  Kathy is very busy planting, feeding, watering and pruning her garden family.  Each April the humans and dogs of the family  (I’m not sure which category I fall into, and I’m pretty sure it changes from day-to-day) are informed that our daily nutritional and watering needs will be secondary to those of the outdoor family.  When we finally find Kathy in the front garden, the ‘fend for yourself’ phrase is unspoken, but nevertheless clearly visible in her expression.

Skye and Me Looking for Kathy

Accordingly, Skye and I desperately find our way to the refridgerator to see what is available for ‘fending’.  We discover that the fullness of the outdoor gardens is offset by the emptiness of the refridgerator.  Yeah, shopping is an issue too.  When I inquire about that, I’m frequently asked, “do you have a broken leg?”  That’s Kathy’s version of sarcasm.  Nevertheless, Skye and I discover the vegetable bin has some fresh spring lettuces already washed and bagged, a few cherry tomatoes and some left over sliced peppers from dinner the other night.  I look over the counter and see some Rustic Italian Bread from the other night too, a lttle stale, but that’s OK.  I’m going to make one of my favorite salads, with a side of toasted italian garlic crostini,  and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough County, New Zealand.  I’ll make enough for Kathy, and invite her to join me for so I can gather a few WOW! Points as well.  I offer Skye the salad option, but he decides he’d rather have his McDonalds style dinner–chicken nuggets and potatoes right out of the can.

Hot! Guys, this is an amazingly easy salad recipe, and I’m pretty darn sure there isn’t a lady out there that will turn away a cool, fresh-made salad this time of year.  AND, if you make a homemade salad dressing, for some reason I haven’t been able to figure out, the ladies think you deserve WOW! Points.  I think it has to do with you actually having a recipe, and then taking the time to make it (albeit very little time), and then gently coating the greens with it.  It’s complicated, but it does sound sensuous, doesn’t it? Well, I just take the points and go with it.

Here’s the recipe.  It’s a snap, and the picture is one I made just recently for a larger group.  I added some blueberries and toasted pecans for color and texture, but you can do whatever you want.  Make it yours.   You can easily scale this recipe down or up to accomodate as many or as few people as needed.  Impress your main lady by making one of these for an afternoon lunch on the patio.  This is a sure bet WOW! Point or two.  Impress your friends when they invite you to dinner by bringing the salad.  No one ever asks ‘the guy’ to bring the salad, because most people think guys are incompetent in the salad department.  We typically get to bring the beer and chips.  How boring is that?  I guarantee that if you prepare this salad just like in this picture, putting it in a pretty bowl, and ‘Dressing it Up’ with your homemade viniagrette just before serving, you will be the Hot! Guy of the party.  Be careful now–ladies with other guys are going to think you are a Hot! Guy too!  Enjoy basking in the Hot! Sun, but don’t go picking flowers from other guys gardens!

Simple Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 15 min | Servings: 6 to 8 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

Simple but Hot! Salad

  • 2 Bags Pre-Washed Spring Greens, Mesclun or other Greens
  • Pinch salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette, recipe follows
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, halved and thinly sliced

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  • 1 shallot or small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, chives, or thyme      (optional)
  • 1 heaping tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions:

1.  Make the viniagrette by adding all of the ingredients into a medium size bowl and vigorously whisking them unti the oil has emulsified (mixed) with the vinegar.  Taste it.  If it needs more salt-do it.  Like it with a bit more of kick?  Add a bit more fresh ground pepper.   Put aside until ready to dress the salad.

2. Assemble the greens, tomatoes, peppers and any other additions you choose into a nice bowl.  Make it pretty but not fussy.

3.  When ready to serve, toss the greens mixture together with just enough vinaigrette to coat tem, about 1/2 cup. IThe salad should not be drenched in the dressing.  Put the excess dressing in a nice bowl and pass it around the table for thos that might want a bit more.  Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

4.  Serve the salad with a nice crusty French Baguette or Rustic Italian Bread.

Notes:

This is a basic viniagrette that can be altered in so many ways.  You want a Raspberry Viniagrette?  Replace the Balsamic with red wine vinegar and add a nice heaping tablespoon of raspberry preserves out of a jar, and you got it!  You want a champagne viniagrette (Whoa!  Hot! Guy is feeling cocky today)?   Just replace the vinegar with last nights left over champagne and a little fresh squeezed lemon, and you got it.  Just remember to keep the ratio of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to vinegar or citrus the same–4 to 1.

Add: Orange or Grapefruit Sections, Blueberries, Raspberries, Fresh figs or anything you like.  But keep it simple.  Excellent with some crumbled blue cheese!

Source: Lou’s Hot! Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager