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Archive for the ‘Mozzarella’ Category

Misfits, I am blown away at the response I’ve received to this vegetarian, mayo-free pasta salad.

I mean, I invented it on a whim.  In the kitchen.  Just, on the fly.  Without any magic sauce (mayo).  And oh.  Wow.  My inbox/voicemail/motherfucking carrier falcons have been flooded with requests for the recipe.

And it’s a pretty risky thing to overwhelm a carrier falcon.  They have those badass talons and shit.  So that tells you how good this stuff must be.

It’s guaranteed to please, impress, and save lives.  Pretty much a sure thing in an uncertain world.  So basically, I’m like the Red Cross.

Exactly!

So I recommend that you use this pasta salad to mitigate the risk in life’s various tenuous moments.  That barbecue your lover’s boss is throwing?  Bring this.  Your friend’s casual patio potluck wedding shower but oh my god no one I mean no one likes the guy she’s marrying he’s such a mama’s boy you know it’s going to be an uphill battle against her witch MIL for their whole marriag–

Where the fuck was I?

Oh, right, bring the pasta salad.  Your first date picnic?  Stow this in your basket, snuggled safely between the sparkling wine and the contraceptives.

What?  WE WERE ALL THINKING IT.

So to let tomato and basil (and pesto) season pass us by and keep this recipe all to Bad Mama Genny’s self?  Would be unthinkable.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I’m too much of a cupcake.

And you’re just too adorable when you flash me those big, sad, misfit eyes.  Yes, you are!  Ooooh, YESH YOU ARE WHO’S ADORABULZ PEEKABOO YOU ARE YESH YOU ARE!

Let’s never again speak of this moment we’ve shared.

So here you go: BMG’s Caprese Pasta Salad.  Make it and be just like the Red Cross!

Apparently.

My Most Requested Recipe of the Year: BMG’s Caprese Pasta Salad


Go Get:
1 lb. pasta (Campanelle is a great, dramatic shape for this, I used farfalle this time)
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (or several large tomatoes, diced, with extra tomato juice squeezed out for another use)
1 lb. small, fresh mozzarella balls, halved (or if you’re using one large mozzarella ball, cut into 1/2 inch chunks)
1/2 red onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper (a little coarse is best)
2 lemons, juiced
olive oil (about 6-8 Tablespoons, give or take)
a generous handful of fresh basil, chiffonaded finely; if it’s out of season, use 2 pesto buttons
3/4 to 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, depending on your tastes (parmesan works, too, but the flavor will be different)

Go Do:
Boil the pasta, keeping it pretty al dente. Rinse under cold water, toss with a bit of olive oil, and leave out about 2-3 cups for another use (otherwise it’s too many noodles).

Toss the tomatoes, red onion, basil strips, and mozzarella balls with the pasta.

In a large bowl, use a fork to smash 3 cloves of garlic into the salt and some freshly ground pepper.

When it’s a chunky paste, whisk in the lemon juice.  Now, while still whisking, drizzle in the olive oil.  Taste it.  Is it too sour?  Add a little more olive oil.  If you’re using pesto sauce instead of basil, whisk it in until evenly distributed.

Now use that fork to incorporate the pecorino romano cheese.  This dressing will be thicker than your average vinaigrette–kind of like a runny paste.  Add until you like the taste and texture.

Now toss the pasta stuff with the dressing stuff.

Taste it.  Adjust the salt, pepper, or cheese if necessary.  Refrigerate until serving.

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Folks, I’m going to be brutally honest with you.  Your Bad Mama Genny just hasn’t had the time or the inclination to impress anyone lately.

Firstly because I’ve been really busy, what with deadlines and watering the jungle and attending the National Homebrewer’s Conference with The Boy.  But also because impressing people can be problematic.  It can raise expectations.  It can set the bar too high.

It can result in people expecting you to be decent.

And who wants that?  Then when you decide to be indecent, people are all shocked and all offended and all put your pants back on and oh think of the children and whatnot.

See what I mean?  Totally not cool.

That’s why you need a good Antipasti Platter like this one in your arsenal.  Because if you’re anything like me, which for your sake I hope you’re not but let’s pretend, you’ve already been invited to at least fifty barbecues this summer and half of them fall on the same weekend.

That’s not good.  That’s not good for anyone.

Least of all people of the pale persuasion, like myself.  But the point is, you’re usually expected to bring something to said barbecue, and not having enough time to make something from scratch can render one sad, depressed, listless, and prone to alternating crying jags and fits of mania.

This just in: The Boy has informed me that neither fits of mania nor crying jags are verifiable symptoms of being invited to barbecues.  Thanks, The Boy.  I so appreciate your contribution to this blog post.  I hope that knowledge gives you peace as you sleep on the couch tonight.

Anyway, Antipasti platters, in case you haven’t noticed, are gorgeous.  They can also theoretically be constructed from all store-bought ingredients.  Granted, I threw a loaf of from-scratch baked artisan bread in with mine, but bread-baking is like breathing to me now, and WHAT NOW YOU DON’T WANT ME TO BREATHE I DO SO MUCH FOR YOU AND SLAVE AWAY AT THIS KEYBOARD AND NOW YOU CRITICIZE MY BREAD-BAKING ADDICTION HOW ABOUT I CRITICIZE YOUR ADDICTIONS HUH HOW ABOUT I MENTION THE LITTLE DEBBIES HIDDEN IN YOUR JUNK DRAWER OH WHAT’S THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO CRITICIZE ME ANYMORE THAT’S NICE I THOUGHT SO.

What in the hell was I saying?

Oh, yeah.  So you could throw in a loaf of fancy schmancy bread and some dipping oil with this here Antipasti Platter, but some nice skinny breadsticks from the grocery store would do just as well.  I also included some homemade arugula pesto butter, fresh apricot preserves, and some homemade ricotta, which is always inexplicably appearing at the back of my refrigerator (I said, INEXPLICABLY, and I meant, INEXPLICABLY).

But let’s get down to business, shall we?  Here are my suggestions for an appetizer that will have everyone stuffing their faces while simultaneously not raising their expectations of you.  Wanna send them over the moon?  Bring a nice, juicy, full-bodied red wine to serve with this.

But they might start expecting things.  I’m just warning you.

Antipasti Platter

Go Get:
Pepperoncini
Fresh Mozzarella Balls (either marinated or not, up to you)
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Marinated and quartered artichoke hearts
Roasted red peppers, marinated or not
Mixed marinated olives (I like to use kalamatas and stuffed green Spanish olives, but you feel free to go nuts)
Thinly sliced salami
Cubed provolone
Other options not pictured here:
Additional hams and sausages such as serrano, chorizo, etc.
Pickled cornichons
Sundried tomatoes
Infused olive oils
Roasted and mashed garlic cloves
Some nice pesto
Those apricot preserves I talked about
That fresh, homemade ricotta cheese I mentioned
Those delicious breadsticks, or that crusty home-baked artisan bread I noted
Some thin shavings of aged parmesan
Small cubes of a sweet melon, such as cantaloupe
Your firstborn child (Just kidding.  Mostly.)

Go Do:
Arrange this bad boy however you like.  As you can see, I used a decorative 13 x 9 dish with the ingredients arranged in rows, but a large, round serving platter with ingredients lined up in concentric circles or pie wedges would be striking as well.  Butters, oils, and soft cheeses can take up residence in ramekins that you smush onto the plate.  Breadsticks look striking in a tall glass, and a fresh loaf of bread would be just dandy in a kitchen towel set in a basket.

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You know how you start the weekend off with a bang?

Pizza.

For breakfast.

No, not that cold, congealed stuff–though that has a special place in my drunken little heart, too.

Real pizza.  Hot pizza.

“It’s pizza.

For breakfast.”

Couldn’t you just see a commercial or a full page magazine ad like that?  There’s also:

“Pizza.  That was easy.”

Oh, wait.  Staples already did that.  How about:

“Pizza for breakfast?  Way radical!” with a picture of a spiky-haired kid skateboarding past, grabbing the pizza out of his mom’s hands while she wears a half-shocked, half-bemused expression.

Nah.  Too nineties.  We could do:

“Rich.  Satisfying.  Smooth.  Pizza.”

Nope.  Sounds like a pizza-flavored cigarette.  Oh, oh, I know:

“Same great taste.  Now for breakfast!”

Didn’t McDonald’s do something like that?  Like, when they tried to market something that looked like a quadruple-pounder with cheese and three buns as a great way to start the morning?

But let’s get real.  The point of this post isn’t how to create a pizza advertisement.  It’s how to make a damn fine pizza.

“For breakfast.”

Last weekend I wanted to surprise The Boy with something special on Saturday morning.

You know.  Aside from the usual something special.

Since he’s a fiend for my homemade pizza–on the stone, but of course–I figured that was the way to do it.  You know, keep the spontaneity alive.  Well, it would’ve kept the spontaneity alive, except halfway through our movie on Friday night I lunged for the remote, paused the DVD, turned to him, pressed my face right up against his, and went, “OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD, GUESS WHAT, I’M MAKING PIZZA FOR BREAKFAST TOMORROW ANDAREN’TYOUSOEXCITED?!”

I never said I could keep a secret.

I usually use Chris Bianco’s recipe for pizza crust, which is excellent, to be sure.  But seeing as how I have a sourdough starter just lounging around, I used that instead.  WHICH WAS THE GREATEST IDEA EVER.  I didn’t measure.  Didn’t weigh.  Didn’t consult any recipes.  Just went with my gut.  And my gut told me to feed and proof the sourdough starter on the counter for 8 hours, then toss in enough flour, wheat germ, and salt to make a nice, soft dough.  Then my gut instructed me to knead the dough until it was firm and elastic-y, let it rise, punch it down, and let it rise again for another half hour.  Bingo–sourdough pizza dough.  And as we all know, sourdough bread makes THE BEST toast, and therefore is perfectly suited to tangy, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, makes you go “Mmmm” pizza.

“For breakfast.”

My gut is so smart.  And strangely specific.

Anyhow, I did all this during the afternoon on Friday.  Then I just stuck the dough in the refrigerator and prepped all the toppings so that the next morning would be effortless.  I don’t think I have to tell you how flexible pizza is, so just use whatever’s on hand, whatever appeals to you.  But in my case, I halved cherry tomatoes, snipped up a bunch of fresh sage, cooked and crumbled a few slices of applewood bacon, shredded some aged mozzarella, and painted my nails.  Oh, the nail thing was for me.  Not the pizza.  But I highly recommend it.

The next morning as I stumbled out of bed and zombied my way to the bathroom, I made a quick detour to put the oven on full blast at 500F degrees and take the dough out to rest on the counter.  About 45 minutes later, I dusted my pizza peel with cornmeal, stretched out my dough, and began piling it all on.

Mmm, piling it all on.

Ooh, this would be a good place to mention that I topped the pie with a raw egg carefully cracked on top.  I LOVE doing this.  When the pizza comes out the oven, the egg will be fully cooked with a still-runny yolk, so you can break it and spread it out all over the pizza.  Don’t give me that look, you know you want it.

Into the oven, on top of the pizza stone, it went and baked for about 8 minutes, with a brief run under the broil setting to give the cheese that…oh, you know, that golden, crusty, but still buttery and oeey-gooey quality.  When it came out, we indulged while emitting the most graphic “oohs” and “aahs,” probably causing our downstairs neighbor to think we had the other kind of Saturday morning surprise.  Nope.  Pizza.  Yum.  Of course, I had enough dough for two pies, which was one more than we could handle, so we flash froze the other one, already baked, and reheated it at 400F for dinner last night, which means it was:

Pizza.  For Breakfast.  For Dinner.

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