The fact that this particular recipe caused me to emerge from my blog hibernation should tell you that it must be something special. I made it one night for dinner and literally could not wait to make it again so that I could share it with you. In fact I was so excited about it that when I went home this past weekend, I insisted on making this for my mom and brother so that we could have the mutual experience of this pizza to rave about for the rest of the summer. Kind of like when something really funny happens but there is no one around to laugh with you, this pizza is best as a shared life experience.
I could tell that my mom was extremely skeptical of this unusual combination, and I can’t really blame her. If I hadn’t already made the pizza myself, I may have caved under the funny looks I received when I told her that sirachi was combine with balsamic vinegar and strawberry preserves to make the sauce. Luckily, I was confident in the fact that everyone would love this pizza, and went ahead with my plans. It did not disappoint. The balsamic vinegar and siracha make this just savory enough to call it dinner, and the strawberries and cilantro keep it fresh enough to make it feel like summer. My brother said that he had never had such a refreshing pizza. And since the dog got the last two pieces of this off the counter – apparently animals like it too. As strawberries are coming into season, make this, pair it with a strawberry Abita, and hope for some more 80 degree sunny days in May – it doesn’t get much better.
Stawberry Balsamic Chicken and Bacon Pizza
- 1/2 cup strawberry preserves or jam
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce
- 1 ball prepared pizza dough
- 1/4 onion, thinly sliced
- ~1 cup cooked chicken, diced or shaved
- 4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked until crispy and then crumbled
- 4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1-2 oz finely shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cut strawberries, diced
Place the pizza stone in the lower middle of the oven and preheat to 500°F.
Bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced to half and mixture thickens, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the strawberry preserves and chili sauce. Mix well; set aside to cool.
Roll out the pizza dough to a 12 or 14-inch circle. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.
Spread the cooled strawberry sauce over the pizza top with chicken, bacon, sweet onion, mozarella and parmesean cheese, and 1/2 of the cilantro and 1/2 of the strawberries.
Transfer the pizza with the parchment paper onto the hot pizza stone and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly for 1 to 2 minutes. Top with the remaining fresh strawberries and cilantro. Serve hot.
When John and I took a trip out to New Mexico over spring break, in addition to skiing, hiking and visiting with my in-laws, we got to try this great restaurant called Graham’s Grill. (Side Note: it’s pretty nice to have parents-in-law that both happen to live in vacation spots :-)). The restaurant combines the traditional flavors of the southwest but puts it’s own unique spin on them. The chef, Lesley B. Fay recently came out with a cookbook called Straight From the Heart, and my mother-in-law was nice enough to surprise me at the end of the meal with my very own copy. I have looked through the cookbook so many times trying to decide what to make but I finally decided that I couldn’t pass up a recipe combining 2 of America’s greatest inventions – S’mores and Nachos. (Another side note: I used to think nachos were from Mexico – then I went there in college and searched every restaurant menu for them only to find out that they don’t actually serve nachos in Mexico… definitely an American creation.)
The original recipe called for deep frying tortillas, but after my recent frying disaster, I chose to make them in the oven instead . It was actually a good reinforcement that never again do I need to fry anything, because the “chips” still came out crisp and delicious without having to mess with hot oil. In fact, I think cinnamon-sugar chips would be a pretty great snack on their own – so next time I will likely make a double batch. The recipe itself is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll have to say Lesley must be some kind of genius for thinking up the idea of “S’more nachos” in the first place! If you really want to go crazy, you could try using ice cream as a dip for these nachos. I’m sure this would be fabulous – warm cinnamon chips against cool ice cream – but you might have to skip dinner all together if you want to try that. So if you don’t have the pleasure of a campfire this Fourth of July, make this instead….It’s definitely easier than building a fire ;-).
For the chips:
- 6-8 small (6 inch) flour tortillas
- 3 T. melted butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 T. cinnamon
For the Topping:
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
- chocolate syrup for drizzling (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix cinnamon and sugar together in a dish. Using a pastry brush, spread melted butter onto both sides of the tortillas. Sprinkle 1 side of each tortilla with a covering of cinnamon-sugar mixture. Using a kitchen scissors (or knife), cut each tortilla into 8-10 triangles. Without overlapping, place triangles sugar side up on a large baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges turn up.
Remove chips from oven and combine into a pile on a small baking sheet or oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and marshmallows. Turn the oven on broil, and place the baking sheet on the middle rack (too close to the heat will catch your marshmallows on fire). Watch carefully until the marshmallows are browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and drizzle chocolate syrup over the chips. Serve warm.
And the Aftermath:
- Nachos Adapted from from Straight From the Heart by Lesley B. Fay.
- Cinnamon Chips adapted from Our Best Bites
When I put this on our (new) menu board for the week, John had no idea what it was. I described it to him as crouton salad, partially because it’s true, and partially because John loves bread and I knew a salad made of it would intrigue him. I really liked this dinner because it was easy, fresh, and included more than a full serving of vegetables, but the really great thing about it was the John loved it as well. He even said, “Wow, this was a lot more filling than I expected.” I served this as a meal on its own, but I think it would also be great as a side dish for a summer picnic.
In terms of cooking, don’t be tempted (as I was) to turn the heat up on the croutons in order to make them brown faster – this actually only makes them burn faster. You do have to watch the croutons while cooking, which is why I think cooking them on the stove is better than the oven. Just be sure to use a large pan, and to toss the croutons every few minutes. Also, this makes a lot of salad (way more than John and I could finish), and unfortunately the leftovers aren’t good because the bread gets soggy. To avoid this, cook the bread and cut the vegetables, but only combine the ingredients you will actually use that day. Then you can make the salad again the next day for lunch!
- 6 cups rustic bread (about 3/4 loaf), sliced into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced (or 1 hothouse cucumber – no need to peel)
- 1 Red pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 Yellow pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 Green pepper, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 of a Red onion, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
- 8 oz feta, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes
For the Dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon combined)
1. In a large frying pan heat 1/4 cup olive oil on medium- high heat. Once hot, add bread and reduce heat to medium-low. Salt the bread with 1 teaspoon salt. Toss the bread for about 10 minutes until crisp and slightly browned.
2. Chop vegetables, and in a large bowl combine all vegetables, feta cheese, and olives.
3. In a small bowl combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until combined.
4. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss. Add in the crisp bread and toss until evenly coated.
5. Clean up the kitchen while waiting for the flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper as needed and serve.