Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All Dressed Up

Jazzing up old standby meals like pizza and burgers helps keep the blah from creeping in.  Don't get me wrong; a classic deserves its place in all its original glory.  But if we never tried to push the boundaries, our boundaries would be, well, unchanged.  In the spirit of keeping things interesting, below are two fun takes on popular, go-to, family-friendly meals.

I've had little success in past endeavors of homemade pizza in the oven.  Even with a pizza stone, I can't get the crust crispy or thin enough for my liking.  So naturally I flipped out when we were first introduced to the idea of grilled pizza, courtesy of Bobby Flay's flat bread appetizers mentioned here.  The crust texture is my idea of perfect, with a good crunch on the outside and a satisfying bit of tenderness on the inside. Given how scrumptious, easy (three cheers for store bought pizza dough) and fast these little guys are, we remain on the hunt for new and exciting flavor combinations. 

The ingredient list of this pizza provided inspiration, but I was halted in my tracks by fresh figs (arguably the most exciting component of this dish) not being in season - and thus, available - right now.  Our friends gave us a yummy present of FROG (fig, raspberry, orange and ginger) jam, and I decided to incorporate the fig flavor by making a vinaigrette from it to replace the dressing in the recipe.  I started by melting into a thin syrup.

Next, I added some strawberry basil balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Can I make a heartfelt, but quick comment about dressings?  They should not be feared!  I stopped buying them a while back after I grasped that you just have to add stuff until it tastes good.  If the result is altogether heinous or hopeless, starting it over is still far less expensive than dropping $3 for the bottled stuff.

Anyhoo, while the usual grill prep is to brush olive oil on the stretched pizza dough, I generously spread this dressing on instead.  After grilling the dough for a minute or two on each side, I topped it with the grated Fontina, sliced (grilled) mild Italian sausage, fresh arugula, thin red onion slices, crumbed goat cheese, and finally another drizzle of the dressing before its quick second round on the grill (just to melt the cheese).  The sweetness of the dressing was a pleasant balance to the savory sausage, peppery arugula and creamy cheeses. 

In the latest issue of Food Network Magazine, I found a cute little insert describing 50 things to do with pesto.   For those who adore garlicky, fresh pesto as I do, or for those lucky ducks who seem to nurture happy, thriving basil plants overflowing with excess crop each year (even with regular feeding, water and friendly greetings, mine always seem weak, malnourished and sad....so a lucky duck, I am not), I bet you'll appreciate the fun tidbits of this article.  I chose the burger option - identical to the meatball except squashed flat - primarily because it seemed like something my kids would go for, and secondarily because I love me some ciabatta bread toasted on the grill.  To dial up the yum, I brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled it with kosher salt and pepper before taking it to the coals. 

Check out the photo..... see that pretty ray of sunshine peeking out from under the lid?  It's a layer of gloriously oozy fresh mozzarella that gently mellows the pesto's punch.  I wish I was brilliant enough to add this element out of my own creativity, but I just dutifully followed the recipe for that addition!  The side salad is a base of arugula (remaining from the pizza adventure), topped with veggies and a white balsamic vinaigrette.  While the children would absolutely not tolerate the arugula (fair enough), they worked the burgers.  With pesto passing the first round of interviews, I'll likely test one of these other ideas down the road!


Post a Comment