Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Pizza Polenta" with Creamy Parmesan Polenta, Homemade Brown Butter Rainbow Baby Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Crispy Pepperoni, a Drizzle of Gremolata Pesto, Burrata, + Fresh Basil

Okay, so I promised a couple days ago to feature a recipe that uses my favorite go-to Homemade Brown Butter Rainbow Baby Heirloom Tomato Sauce as a main component. And well, I think y'all are gonna really love this one because we sure did! Now the whole concept of this dish is to make a hearty bowl of polenta that tastes like a slice of fancy pizza. It starts with a big ole serving of my creamy parmesan polenta. This polenta is so versatile that you can eat it at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We make it at least once a week, it's that good. Anyway, on top of that dreamy porridge pillow comes a few ladles of that tomato sauce I've been raving about lately. The sauce has that perfect bite of acidity and sweetness that the tomato lends to the meal as a whole. Then comes the crispy pepperoni, which has texture. Now, I don't want y'all to go out and buy slices of pepperoni and just throw it on there because that just won't do. Go to the store, grab a log of pepperoni, and cut it into thick cubes, toss it into a skillet with a little bit of butter, and crisp it up until it has a gorgeous char to it. Next, I came up with a little mash-up of what I like to call "Gremolata Pesto", which is just mix of all of the ingredients from a traditional gremolata and a classic pesto. I have always loved the lemon zest that goes in a gremolata, it brings such brightness to any dish to put it on. And this condiment does just that in such a considerably rich recipe. I can't wait to drizzle it on my next homemade pizza or over some spaghetti + meatballs. Lastly and most importantly, like any good piece of pizza, you need some good mozzarella. Now, not any kind of mozzarella would do, so I quickly grabbed some Burrata while I was at the store. When you plop one of those ever-so-creamy Burrata balls into the center of the piping hot parmesan polenta and tomato sauce, the heat begins to melt the thin layer of cheese on the outside and the heavenly filling will begin to ooze out into the bowl. You meet heaven, heaven greets you and welcomes you inside, you can die happy now, rest assured. Garnish the dish with some fresh basil and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, and this bad boy is ready to go. I know y'all will enjoy this bowl of goodness just as much as we did!! Enjoy :)

Oh you know you want a bite of this...
For the Parmesan Polenta:
4C Unsalted Chicken Stock (Homemade or Store-Bought)
2 Large Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1C Stone-Ground Cornmeal
1T Kosher Salt + 1t Fresh Cracked Pepper
1C Freshly Grated Parmesan
4oz Creamy Fontina Cheese, Shredded
¼C Crème Fraiche or Sour Cream
4T Unsalted Butter
¼-½C Heavy Cream or Milk (to thin it out to your desired thickness)

For the Gremolata Pesto:
1 Small Bunch of Fresh Parsley
1 Small Bunch of Fresh Basil
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced into a Paste (with a little fleur de sel)
2 Organic Lemons, Zested
½C Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
½C Walnuts, Finely Minced
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste
1T White Balsamic Reduction (honey may be substituted)

For the Pizza Polenta:
Prepared Parmesan Polenta
1 Batch of Homemade Brown Butter Baby Heirloom Tomato Sauce, Warm
8oz Pepperoni, Cut into Cubes & Cooked until Crispy
Prepared Gremolata Pesto, For Drizzling
Balls of Burrata
Fresh Basil, For Garnishing
Red Pepper Flakes, For Sprinkling

1. For the Parmesan Polenta: In a large pot, pour in the chicken stock and add in the minced garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until the stock comes to a boil. Reduce to heat to medium-low and very slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps. Switch to a wooden spoon and add in kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Simmer, while stirring constantly, for 10-12 minutes or until they are thick. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly while you’re stirring. Move the pan off the heat and mix in the freshly grated Parmesan, shredded fontina cheese, crème fraiche, butter, and fresh herbs. If this mixture becomes to thick (either by overcooking and allowing it to sit too long), stir in some of the heavy cream/milk to loosen it again. Taste for seasonings and serve it immediately.
2. For the Gremolata Pesto: Finely mince the basil, parsley, garlic, and walnuts and place into a small mixing bowl. Using a Microplane, grate the Parmesan cheese and lemon zest in next. Stir in the olive oil and white balsamic reduction. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set it aside until you are ready to drizzle it on top of the dish.
3. In a small sauté pan, heat 1T of butter over medium-low heat. Add in the pepperoni and brown them until they are beginning to crisp up on the outside. This will take about 5-10 minutes. While the pepperoni is cooking, heat up a batch of your homemade Brown Butter Baby Heirloom Tomato Sauce in a small pot.
4. Assembling the Dish: Ladle in a few scoops of the Parmesan Polenta into a serving bowl, followed by some of the tomato sauce, burrata, some of the crispy pepperoni, a drizzle of Gremolata Pesto, chiffonade basil, and red pepper flakes. Serve while the dish is still piping hot!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Best Homemade Brown Butter Rainbow Baby Heirloom Tomato Sauce

This recipe might be a little boring for some of y'all... it might be exciting for the rest. It's a classic. Something that every gal needs up her sleeve for a multitude of dishes. This is a step-by-step to the best tomato sauce. This girl right here, loves brown butter. I would bathe in brown butter if I could. Hell, I'd make an eau de perfume if I could. It masterfully makes any dish better with its' nuttiness and lusciousness. But back to the sauce, the famous sauce. A great tomato sauce is important because all men love spaghetti + meatballs, lasagna, pizza... you pretty much name it. So, trust me with this one, and make this sauce for all of it. It starts with a shit ton of butter, three sticks, it's worth it, so hush. Along with the shit ton of butter comes a shit ton of heirloom rainbow baby tomatoes. And that's what I love about this recipe because most tomato sauces start with a can of plum tomatoes. Don't get me wrong, I love me some San Marzano Tomatoes, they are great! But, there is something about the freshness of this sauce because of the use of the heirlooms. The flavor is amped up with some fresh garlic, roasted garlic, bell peppers, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, red wine, dried basil, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, and a'whole'lotta fresh basil. Basil basil BASIL!! Each and every ingredient boosts the sauce in a very unique way. The red wine gives it body, the bell peppers give it some bite, the tomato paste gives a concentrated flavor, the roasted garlic gives it an aromatic smoothness, and the seasonings give it that little extra oomph! And y'all, it only takes about 45 minutes to make, but tastes like you've been cookin' it all day. Don't you worry either, you can say you've been slaving away on this masterpiece, I won't tell anyone!! Enjoy :)
Sauteeing the garlic, onion, and bell peppers...
Rainbow baby heirloom tomatoes being added in...
And the baby tomatoes bursting in the brown butter...

And that torn fresh basil....
Oh, it's starting to look real good...
Here's where you add in the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, and red wine...
Simmer, simmer, simmer...
And add all that good herbs and seasonings...
Girl, that shit's done.

For the Sauce:
3 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
4lbs of Rainbow Heirloom Baby Tomatoes
2C Diced Vidalia Onions
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
½C Mixed Bell Peppers, Diced
1 Tube of Tomato Paste
1 Head of Garlic, Roasted
2T Balsamic Vinegar
½C Red Wine
1t Dried Basil, Dried Oregano, & Coriander
1T Red Pepper Flakes   
1 Large Bunch of Fresh Basil, Half Chiffonade + Half Torn
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste (and a little sugar if needed)

1. In a pot, melt the three sticks of butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and let it come to a bubble and start to brown the slightest bit. Add in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes until they begin to soften and burst, while the butter browns, about 15 minutes.
2. In a medium pan, heat the EVOO over medium heat. Add in the onion and diced bell pepper and sauté for 10 minutes until translucent. Toss in the minced garlic and barely cook, just about 3-5 minutes.
3. Add the sautéed vegetables into the brown butter-tomato mixture, along with the tube of tomato paste, head of roasted garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, red wine, dried basil, dried oregano, coriander, and red pepper flakes. Simmer this mixture for 30 minutes.
4. Stir in the torn and chiffonade basil. Season with kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, and a little bit of sugar (if needed and all to taste).
5. It’s ready to serve!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Easy Peasy" Pizzadilla with Herbed Ricotta Stuffed Double Flour Tortilla, Homemade Brown Butter Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Grated Parmesan, Pepperoni, Italian Herbs, + Balsamic Reduction

"Easy Peasy" Pizzadilla with Herbed Ricotta Stuffed Double Flour Tortilla, Homemade Brown
Butter Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Grated Parmesan, Pepperoni, Italian Herbs, + Balsamic Reduction 
Raise your hand if you hate me or are mad at me. Seriously, do it. You can't see me now, but my hand is high up to the sky because I'm ashamed I left you high and dry over the last year. I think I posted less recipes in an entire year than I used to in an entire month, and I promise I'm going to change that. It has been a difficult year to say the least, one day my world was completely normal, and then I woke up and my world came crashing down. I struggled, I struggled a lot. I don't quite think struggle actually depicts on how depressed and sad I have been. Thank god for my amazing husband and the unbreakable friendships with my best friends because I was surely losing my sanity every hour that passed by. So, 2015 was a learning experience to say the least, but I think that it has made me a stronger person in the long run. I never thought in a million years that my mid-life crisis would occur at age 25, but hey, maybe that means I just got mine out of the way before everyone else goes through it. However, I do not want to make this blog post sad or kind of a drag, so the second the clock his midnight on New Years Eve, my year of hell was over. I was ready to begin the next chapter of my life and put my energy into what I love doing, starting a family, and experiencing as much as I can. So here is a list of my resolutions for 2016...
  1. Be a better blogger
  2. Learn how to make cute embroidery hoops
  3. Bake more; Cook more
  4. Try to let go of the bitterness and move onto the next chapter of my life
  5. Learn how to control my stress and anxiety
  6. Show how much I love my husband every single day
  7. Begin a healthy lifestyle and feature some healthy recipes on the blog
  8. Never EVER take my best friends for granted. They keep me sane and have been there for me during the worst year of my life. They are my family.
  9. Do whatever I can to help my father through this difficult time 
  10. Become a “half glass full” kind of girl AND stay positive no matter what!
The University of Alabama won the National Championship... ROLL TIDE!
With his hand in mine, I feel like the luckiest girl alive.
Meet Hercules: our brand spankin' new Blue Merle Great Dane puppy who sports an
Alabama themed bow tie on game days! How handsome is he??
fratty daddy + flower child
At the Farmer's Market with our doggie version of Biggie-Smalls
At our one year anniversary dinner party with our closest friends
celebrating where we got married, JCT Kitchen + Bar
We love our Dirty Birds!
Our wedding anniversary Celebration... fit with an amazing floral crown!
My Whole Damn Fam... Hercules, Cleetus, Eloise, + I
Okay, so now that we've caught up a little, it's finally time to move onto the first recipe post of the year, yippee!! There's a funny story behind this and it has to involve my diva of a niece, Miss Mollywood, as I like to call her because it's her world and we're all just living in it. When my husband and I babysit her, she always requests a pizza on a flour tortilla with tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni. I had never heard of the concoction, but I figured if she loves them that much, then heck I should make a grown-up version. And I trust her advice because she's 4 going on 30. I started off by making my famous brown butter-fresh tomato sauce (which I will post the recipe for that tomorrow, just in case you want to make it... if not grab a your favorite jar of sauce from the store). You can buy any kind of tortilla... I use super soft flour tortillas, but surely you can make it healthy by getting whole wheat, low-carb, or gluten free! Now, moving onto the cheese, I use three different types. The first is a homemade herbed ricotta cheese that I spread on top of the bottom tortilla "crust", and then I press the second tortilla onto the ricotta, so that they stay together. Warm up a big enough skillet to low-to-medium heat and place a few tablespoons of butter in the pan until they have melted. Continue assembling the "Pizzadilla" by spreading on a few generous spoonfuls of the brown butter tomato sauce, making sure to leave an edge for a crispy crust. Generously sprinkle about 1-2 handfuls of shredded mozzarella and as much freshly grated Parmesan, as you want. But hey, the more cheese, the better... right? Spice up the pizzadilla with Italian herbs, such as dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flake, kosher salt, + fresh cracked pepper. Just a little dab of each will do ya, so it's up to you how much you use! As for the toppings, this is way you can go crazy... add ANYTHING you want :) I had pepperoni on hand and it was just a great pizza alternative with a classic pizza topping. Place the assembled pizzadilla into the skillet of the melted butter and slowly let the bottom tortilla to turn perfectly golden brown and crispy. Don't keep it on there to long because you don't want a burnt pizzadilla, y'all. You just don't. I think I kept it on there for about 5 minutes, but just keep checking occasionally until the desired crust color has been reached (and don't worry about getting the whole p'dilla done in the skillet). After your crust in perfect, slide the p'dilla onto a baking sheet, lined with a Silpat, and place it in the oven. Turn your broiler on and watch it carefully, like really, don't leave its side. You will want your cheese melted, your pepperoni slightly crisping up, and an outside crunchy ring of tortilla "crust". Remove it from the oven and slide it onto a cutting board. I recommend letting it sit for a few minutes, so that when you cut it into slices, none of the cheese oozes out and the pepperoni doesn't slide off. Finish it all off by slicing it into triangle pizza wedges and add a healthy drizzle of yummy balsamic reduction for a little bit of sweetness! I hope y'all enjoy this easy peasy recipe, y'all! I know my niece and I sure do! Enjoy :)

For the Herbed Ricotta Cheesy Yum:
8oz Whole Milk Ricotta, Strained for Excess Water
½C Freshly Grated Parmesan
¼-½C Fresh Mixed Herbs, Minced (do this to taste; we used basil, oregano, parsley, & chives)
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

For the Pizzadillas:
2T Unsalted Butter
2 10-inch Super Soft Tortillas
Prepared Herbed Ricotta Cheesy Yum (to your liking)
¼C Homemade Brown Butter Tomato Sauce
½-1C Shredded Mozzarella (to your liking)
Freshly Grated Parmesan (to your liking)
10-15 Slices of Pepperoni
A Sprinkling of Dried Oregano, Dried Basil, & Red Pepper Flakes
Pinch of Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper
Homemade or Store-bought Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling

1. Assembling the Pizzadilla: Place one super soft flour tortilla on a cutting board and spread on some of the herbed ricotta cheesy yum on top, following this step, press a second tortilla onto the ricotta until they have completely adhered to one another. Next, spoon on some of the brown butter tomato sauce on top of the second tortilla, making sure to leave an edge in order to achieve a crispy outer crust. Mound a big ‘ole pile of mozzarella cheese all over the tomato sauce until it is covered, and then freshly grate some parmesan to finish it off. Don’t forget those slices of pepperoni, so make sure squeeze as many of those as you can onto the pizzadilla. Lastly, sprinkle the top of the assembled pizzadilla with the dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper.
2. Crisping the Tortilla: Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add in the unsalted butter and let it melt completely. Place the pizzadilla into the pan and cook it until the bottom tortilla is golden brown and crispy, about 3-5 minutes. Watch this carefully by checking the bottom of the tortilla “crust” with a spatula… trust me, you do not want a ruined, burnt pizzadilla.
3. Preheat your oven to broil and slide the pizzadilla out of the skillet and onto a Silpat lined baking sheet. Once the oven is up to the correct temperature, it’s time to put the pizzadilla in to finish cooking.
4. Finishing the Pizzadilla: Broil the pizzadilla until the cheese has completely melted, the pepperoni has started to slightly crisp up, and the outside tortilla “crust” has reached a delightful golden brown color and is crunchy in texture. Do not leave the oven while this is broiling because it can burn quite quickly, so stay there and watch until it is perfectly done. Remove the pizzadilla from the oven and put it on a cutting board. Let the pizzadilla cool for a few minutes, just to ensure that the cheese doesn’t ooze out and the toppings don’t slide off. After cooling, cut the pizzadilla into triangle-like slices. Drizzle the top with some balsamic reduction for a touch of sweetness and devour immediately.