Monday, April 20, 2009

Roasted Garlic Pizza Topped with Basil & Fontina

"We're Making Italiano!"

A little Twilight reference to kick things off. Guilty Pleasure!
I tried this pizza for Steve's birthday. Fresh and Easy offers two types of fresh pre-made doughs: white flour and wheat flour dough.

The doughs are actually pretty good and cut down on your prep time; they do still need to be rolled out. For this pizza, I used the wheat flour dough, which I actually prefer over white flour in homemade pizzas.

*Kitchen Tip: Play with your food:
By rolling your own dough, you control the thickness of your pizza crust. I love thick, cheesy pizza but try to stick with a thinner crust for my hips.Be creative, add your own flavor profiles, build on the recipe, and play with cheeses & toppings.


1 Whole Wheat Dough Ball, rolled out
Roasted Garlic Sauce (see below for instructions)
1 to 2 cups Fontina Cheese
1 to 1 & 1/2 cup Fresh Mozzarella, 
cut into large dice (depending on how cheesy you like it)
1 package basil, chiffonade

Visit the following link for instructions on a large dice...again I eyeball it
Roasted Garlic White Pizza Sauce:

1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 heads Roasted Garlic, recipe follows

Roast your garlic first.
You'll Need:
2 heads garlic, upper quarter removed
2 teaspoons olive oil

Roasted Garlic: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet and rub 1 teaspoon of oil into the top of each head. Place cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake until the cloves are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Squeeze each head of garlic to release any cloves that you cannot remove individually.

Back to the SAUCE:

In a saucepan, melt butter.

Once melted, add the salt, nutmeg and pepper and heat to simmer. Add flour and stir until smooth, not on too high of heat so as not to burn. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring.

Gradually add the milk, whisking as you go til smooth.

Cook the mixture, whisking continuously, until the sauce comes to a boil and is thickened.

Remove from heat and add 1 head of the garlic cloves

Pour the hot mixture into a blender, cover tightly, and process until smooth.

Transfer to a small bowl and cool slightly, placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface.

Assembling the Pizza:

You will need a baking pan sprayed with pam, Trader Joes spray olive oil, buttered or rubbed with olive oil.

Place the rolled out dough in a baking pan; either pizza pan or other baking pan.

Spread with the completed sauce (recipe as seen above) liberally in the middle of the dough. Leave the edges sauce free, pizza style.

Sprinkle with shredded fontina cheese, basil and mozzerella.

Note: Recipe adapted from

What's my favorite pizza?

Pizza Hut! Gross, I know. Again, guilty pleasure!

What's my favorite pizza when travelling? 

My favorite all time traditional pizza in my travels is Gino's Chicago Deep Dish pizza; the real thing is only to be found in Chicago, or so the "Chicagoans" say.

When staying in Westwood, Los Angeles we usually pickup an Enzo's pizza which is HUGE at a whopping 23" (Picture below taken in Los Angeles at Steve's brother's old condo...that's an Enzo's original)

Until next time...Happy Cooking!!!!


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner to the Tenth Flavor Power

I made this dinner for family in town, at the last minute we invited them over...luckily I had stocked up on supplies in advanced which makes entertaining in a pinch, very easy and stress free... which leads me to one of my favorite kitchen tip:

*Kitchen Tip; Buy more in advanced: catch the sales that pop up around the holidays...stock up and save! Then, You also have little side dishes waiting in the pantry, just in case. For example, corned beef at St. Patricks time, turkey at Thanksgiving, frozen veggies on sale, boxed pasta, stuffing, etc.. You are prepared for entertaining on the fly, you CAN do this!

This has worked out perfectly for me, today. I thought, "okay, what in the heck am I going to make?" In the pantry I had standard bag of red potatoes, a box of corn bread stuffing and, lucky me, I even have a turkey in the freezer. SO, buying extra and keeping the basics on hand has paid off today. Yay! The menu tomorrow night:

~Roasted turkey
(with an orange glaze using ingredients on hand from last week's dinner of cornish hens) 
Recipe for the glaze can be found here:
~Corn Bread Stuffing
( I will use the box and doctor it up with fresh sage, white french bread that I have a fresh loaf of on hand and fresh veggies)
~Steve's Loaded Mashed potatoes
~Green Beans
( *Kitchen Tip; freeze the extras: I got the idea to use these from my boss Michelle: I keep several bags of Italian cut green beans in the freezer, which keep a firm texture when steamed. They are my favorite fast veggie in a pinch. Thanks Michelle)
~Bercy Small Sauce
(this is a french shallot sauce derived from the mother Velouté sauce. Traditionally, it uses a fish veloute but for this dinner, I will use chicken stock. It can be used on top of all of the dishes, and really adds a wow to this basic American dinner)

Italian Cut Green Beans:

I package frozen italian cut green beans

Tablespoon of butter
Salt TT

I put the green beans in a dish right before dinner is to be served, microwave and doctor them up with butter, salt and stir.
Usually, mine only stay in for about 6 minutes.
I hate overdone vegetables, but these little beans are resilient.
Unless you leave them in for a ridiculous amout of time, they usually keep their firmness.
The Bercy sauce:

First, make the master Veloute sauce, which will include making a roux:
2 cups white stock (veal, chicken, or fish) -
white stock just means the bones were not roasted (if you have done what I suggested in an earlier blog, you will have lots of frozen flavorful homemade stock ready in the freezer)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (don't let it burn) and *clarify the butter.

*Clarifying butter:
Once it has melted, the "scum" which is the fat solids, will rise to the top.
Take a spoon and skim all these solids off, until all you have left is the clear melted fat, yellow in color.

Making the roux:
Add the flour.

Raise the heat to medium and stir the butter and flour together for about 2 minutes.
You are making the roux.
Take a good whiff and it should have a pleasant toasted smell.
Whisk the simmering stock into the roux and keep heating and whisking. When the stock begins to simmer again, turn down the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens. A thin skin may form, just skim it away with your spoon. Depending on your stovetop, the sauce may take 5 - 10 minutes to get to your desired consistency.
Season with salt and pepper
Strain if you have a fine mesh strainer

Now that you have made the master veloute sauce, you will add ingredients to make it the small sauce, Bercy. Of course this version is not a true bercy sace because I replaced the fish veloute with a chicken stock. *Please correct me with the true name of this type of sauce, if any chefs out there know the name

"Bercy" Sauce:

In a sauce pan, reduce down by two-thirds 2 oz. chopped shallots and half cup white wine
add one quart veloute (made above) reduce slightly
finish with 2 tbsp raw butter, chopped parsley and lemon juice to taste

Mashed Potatoes, Loaded:
Steve makes the mashed potatoes and he has a secret recipe that includes
Red Potatoes, boiled
cream cheese,
sour cream
cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
I've come to call them loaded mashed potatoes
I could also call them artery clogging potatoes, because they are just that good.
Let me tell you, Paula Deen would swoon over these potatoes
And there it is, an American dinner with a gourmet twist.
I promise you, that one little sauce will just wow your guests with the flavor it brings to the meat and sides.
It adds such flavor that your friends will think they are dining at a French American Fusion 5 star restaurant.
Try it out sometime for a special night.
Happy Cooking, all

Friday, April 17, 2009

Orange Glazed Cornish Hens & Baked Aspargus with Balsamic

My godparents came to town last week so we invited them over for dinner, since they had not seen the new pad yet. The menu from the night:
Orange Glazed Cornish Hens
Olive Oil Garlic Couscous Quinoa
Baked Asparagus topped with Balsamic Sauce

Herb Salad
Dessert- Coffee Custard Charlotte

Starting with dessert, well don't we all like to do that?:
A couple of years ago I was watching Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee (I love her 70% ready made, 30% fresh theory and her magnificent tablescapes) and she made a seemingly easy and very beautiful looking custard charlotte...let me tell you, it is as good as it looks.

*Kitchen Tip; Don't be afraid to mix it up: I sometimes have trouble finding the ladyfingers and am not ambitious enough to make my own so if you have this problem, replace them with a layer of vanilla wagfers softened in coffee. I think it works similiarly. See the following link for the full recipe
I also had the idea to slice up sponge cake and soften the pieces with coffee and use this instead of the softened lady fingers. I haven't tried that one yet, so if you do let me know how it works out.

Now onto the hens:
I sprayed the thawed hens with Trader Joes spray olive oil (good stuff) and sprinkled with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. I put the 4 hens in a roasting pan, stuffed each hen with an apple wedge and a yellow onion wedge. I scattered large pieces of the rest of the onion around the hens in the pan, for flavor.

While in the oven at 350 degrees for the first 20 minutes, I made the Orange Glaze:

half cup of orange marmalade
couple of splashes of orange juice
pinch of kosher salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp of onion powder
1/4 cup melted butter to be added later

After the first 20 minutes, I brushed the hens liberally with this orange dressing and back in for 20 more minutes.
Take them out, repeat.
Leave them in on 350 degrees for ten more minutes, for a total of 50 minutes, so far.

During this ten minutes, add a fourth cup of melted butter to the remaining orange glaze.
Next, you will crank the oven up to 425 degrees for the asparagus (see below for recipe).
While heating to 425 degrees, take hens out and glaze liberally one last time with remaining glaze/butter mixture.
Once oven is heated to 425 degrees, put hens and asparagus in oven for thirteen to fifteen minutes (until asapargus is done) and viola...hens are done. I pulled mine out and let them sit for about 5 minutes.
I halved them with my handy electric carver, but this is not necessary. Don't forget to discard of the onions and apple wedges before serving.

( I must thank my Mom and Grandma Jean for this recipe. They tried it for Thanksgiving and now I use it all the time.)
As seen above, you will bake in the oven for thirteen to fifteen minutes depending on how well done you like them and how thick they are. Before putting in the oven, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper over the asparagus tops in a baking pan(remember to cut off the bottoms about 2/3 down the stem and discard).

Balsamic sauce:

While asparagus is in the oven, make the following sauce to top the asparagus:
fourth cup of butter
3 tbsp of soy sauce
4 tbsp of balsamic
Heat on the stove until the butter is melted; stir and set aside.
I just eyeball the balsamic and soy sauce...bring the mixture to a boil for just a second before turning off the heat.
Take asparagus out and drizzle with this sauce.

If you like asparagus you will love this; everyone I've made it for does.

Olive Oil Garlic Couscous quinoa:

Vons carries a variety of boxed couscous flavors, my favorite is the olive oil garlic.

*Kitchen Tip; Chicken Stock: Whenever I roast chicken, I reserve the bones to make stock and then freeze little containers of this homemade stock. In the stock, I use one onion, celery (preferably the middle leafy part), and usually 2 to 3 carrots, chicken bones/leftover meat, celery salt, kosher salt and a big pot of water. I boil for an hour to two hours and let it cool. When it first starts boiling the "scum" will rise to the top, so skim the scum off the top and discard. Its then ready to freeze.
*Kitchen Tip; Replace water w/ Stock: So, when I make rice, couscous, etc I always replace the water in the recipe with this homemade stock...definately an easy trick that adds a lot of flavor.

Back to the couscous...
I medium dice one carrot; add to one and half cup of chicken stock and half a cup of quinoa (I find this at the Sunflower Market in the bins).
Simmer the quinoa for 20 minutes while the hens are cooking.
Next, add the amount of chicken stock called for on the back of the couscous box to the cooked quinoa and complete the directions for the couscous.
It will only take about 5 minutes to be done at this point.
Kitchen Tip: Replace Rice w/ quinoa for health: I will post a separate blog about quinoa but this stuff is great. Your body processes it as protein, making it a great substitute for rice. I'm a fan.

Until next time....HAPPY COOKING

Welcome: Fast & Easy Taco Fiesta

So I am cooking, entertaining, and throwing meals together pretty often. Now that we have the house, it seems weekly that we are entertaining...and I love it. I have been keeping my recipes and mental notes of menus for years and decided that its time to start keeping track and share a little of my knowledge from this kitchen diva to another. Hopefully my recipes and menus will give ideas to others on side dishes to pair with main dishes and maybe new and different yummy food. I love to experiment with different things from cornish hens, quinoa, couscous, to seaweed dishes, fondant cake topping, purees, and master sauces. I love to try gourmet dishes, create my own when I have time, but I also enjoy challenging myself to shopping on a budget or doing meals that I can turn into leftovers. Basically, Danielle Dishes will be a little bit of everything, and lots of delish. My hope is to take lots of photos and get recipes up as often as possible...and I promise to only put up those which are successful.

So tonight Steve's cousin, Rocco, is in town from Chicago and he's coming over for taco night. About 3 years ago I met Rocco when We travelled to Chicago to visit and he showed us around the town. We were only there for 48 hours and had a ton to see, being my first trip. We used almost every minute to sight see...and there was the getting drunk in a neighborhood bar, kareokeing until the sun came up, before flying home completely hungover, maybe still drunk, and exhausted. Sorry to whoever sat next to us on the plane ....there are probably pictures online somewhere captioned "hot mess Midway to McCarren."

But, between neighborhood bar binges, we did experience everything great about Chicago food in about 48 hours. Beef Sandwiches, deep dish pizza, and good ole Chicago hot dogs (my favorite).

Does Vegas have a signature food? I thought of shrimp cocktail, of course, and the buffet. Ah yes, I could do buffet style, that counts, right? So I went with it...alright that's a stretch, but whatever. I had to whip this buffet up, and fast, so I went with a Semi Homemade Taco Fiesta:

Chips (fresh and easy has some good flavors of tortilla chips)
Homemade pico de gallo (so refreshing)
diced tomatoes
diced onion
fresh squeezed lime juice
fine chopped cilantro
half jalapeno fine dice
kosher salt to taste

*Kitchen Tip; Put the measuring cups away: I do not measure often, I eyeball and taste. It takes a little intuition to just know when something is done or right, so I will try my best to give exact measurements and timing. However, there will be times when I just say "check it for doneness or "to taste", so I apologize in advance. The good news is practice makes perfect, and you will gain culinary intuition with practice.
*I use kosher salt instead of regular salt, not sure why but I just like it better


Refried beans (canned) I topped these with cheese and onions and baked on 375 for about 15 min
Cilantro Lime scented brown rice (fresh and easy has a good instant brown rice)
Browned Ground Beef flavored with montreal seasoning, taco seasoning, pinch of garlic, and season salt
Minibar of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheddar cheese, and sour cream toppings. Taco Shells, white flour tortillas, and wheat flour tortillas

So, it's simple, "semi-homemade" having some homemade elements make it special and pre-made item (instant rice, canned beans, tortillas, and chips) which make it easy.

Until next time...Happy Cooking