Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fig and Prosciutto Pizza with Spinach and Goat Cheese

The inspiration for this pizza came from one I tried at a restaurant on Cape Cod. I would have never thought to use fruit as a pizza sauce otherwise. This is one that can be a meal or an appetizer (my pictures are from Christmas when my sister asked me to bring it as an appetizer. Just substitute 3 or 4 mini pizza shells for 1 large one and cut into 1/8ths). I love eating this for dinner. It's not low-calorie but figs are high in fiber so that makes them okay in my book.


1 cup Black Mission Figs (dried are fine)
2 - 3 tbsps olive oil
5 cloves roasted garlic or 2 fresh
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
kosher salt and black pepper
4 oz prosciutto, chopped
10 oz box frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry.
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1 premade thin style pizza crust
optional: caramelized onions, mushrooms and/or bell peppers.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop the figs roughly and bring to a simmer in a small saucepan with a little water. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the figs begin to soften. Drain the water and reserve it for later. Put the figs, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary in a food processor. Pulse until well chopped. Slowly stream in some of the reserved fig water while pulsing. The mixture will be thick but should be easily spreadable. Add more liquid if needed. Adjust the seasonings if needed (I like mine flavored with a lot of garlic and rosemary). Line a cookie sheet or pizza pan with foil and place crust on top. Spread the fig puree onto the crust. It's very sweet so it shouldn't be too thick. If you have extra puree, you can freeze it for later use. Lay the prosciutto pieces across the pizza, covering it evenly. Do the same with the spinach and any other veggies you decide to add (no really, try caramelized onions!). Top last with the goat cheese. Bake for 10 minutes and then leave under the broiler for an additional 3 minutes. Cut in 4 pieces and serve (unless using as an appetizer).

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Pan Seared Scallops and Spinach and Tomato Risotto with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

Serves 4

I had something similar to this at Giorgio's in Milford, NH a few years ago. It was delicious and simple and I was so thrilled that mid-meal I told J "I can recreate this!" No, it doesn't taste exactly like theirs but I think I've done a pretty good job in creating a similar dish. And the great thing about this meal is that individually each component can be paired with other dishes. The scallops can be added to pasta or served over a salad. The risotto can be served with steak or chicken or swap the spinach and tomato for mushrooms and peas. The aioli can be spread on crusty bread (can't almost everything?) or used as a pasta sauce. Versatility!

People are always afraid to make risotto because you need stir it "constantly". Constantly is a little bit of an exaggeration. If you cook it at the right temperature, you can walk away from it here and there. Enough so that you can prepare the other parts of this meal (which are easy!). I'll start with directions for the Aioli, since that can be made a couple of days ahead of time or while you start the risotto.

One other thing: The reason I use unsalted butter and real wine (rather than cooking wne) is partially because I have high blood pressure (yay genetics!) and need to be careful about my salt intake but also because I don't like my food super salty. Another reason to use real wine is that it tastes better and that's important because that flavor is going to show up in your risotto.

Roasted Red Pepper Aioli

1 1/2 roasted red peppers, patted dry
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, whole or minced
4 tbsp light mayo
kosher salt and black pepper

I run my garlic through a garlic press first so that it evenly distributes finely through the aioli. It's not necessary (since you are using a food processor here) but J and I are both sensitive to textures so its just something I do. Otherwise put all ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor and pulse until the pepper is well chopped and the ingredients are well blended. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse again. Slowly stream in the olive oil with the machine on(most food processors have an opening in the lid for you to do this) until the whole mixture emulsifies. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a squeezable condiment container or a plastic ziplock bag. If using for a recipe other than this, a container with lid is fine.

Simple Risotto

5 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tbsps unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3/4 cup white wine
1 large onion, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and black pepper
3 ripe tomatoes, diced and dried gently with a paper towel
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves

Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and turn heat to medium-low. In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the onion and shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to coat the rice with the pan liquids. When it's well coated add the wine to the pan. Stir and let simmer until it's mostly absorbed. Once the wine is mostly absorbed, add a small ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir. It should be absorbed into the rice in about 2 minutes. Continue adding small ladles full of stock to the rice, one at a time, allowing it to completely absorb ino the rice before adding another. Do this until the stock is gone (20 - 25 minutes). Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach, and tomatoes. Stir well to combine and wilt the spinach. Stir in the parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Pan Seared Scallops

12 Sea Scallops, rinsed well and patted dry
Kosher salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter or olive oil

Liberally season the scallops with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat your choice of fat over medium heat in a medium sized skillet. I use 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil. The butter helps the scallops to caramelize and the olive oil prevents the butter from burning. You can use one or the other or a mixture. It's a personal preference. I even made them with a generous coating of non-stick spray. Once the pan and oil are very hot, place the scallops in the pan in a single layer (you may need to do this in two batches) and sear for 2-3 minutes. Turns the scallops with tongs (they'll easily give when ready to flip) and sear on the other side for 2-3 more minutes. Hopefully your risotto is ready and you can begin to plate everything. If not, place on plate and cover with foil till ready to serve.

To start plating, trim one of the corners of the plastic bag you have the aioli in. Squeeze a repeating zigzag line on each plate. The aioli will act as a flavoring and a garnish so there's a fine line between using too much and not enough. Top the aioli on each plate with 3/4 cup risotto and 3 scallops on top of the risotto. It'll look like you slaved away all day but if you've made risotto before, you can make the entire meal from start to finish in 45 minutes.

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Risotto on Foodista

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pardon the Hiatus

My internet has been funky at home all week. I have a few things I want to post (pan seared scallops with risotto, calzones, fig and prosciutto pizza etc! mmmm!) but can't seem to log in to blogger when I get home at night. Grrr, Comcast!

Hopefully I'll be back up and running this weekend. I don't think work would appreciate it if I spent time updating my blog from there! haha

Friday, January 9, 2009

Roasted Garlic

The smell of garlic cooking in a kitchen. It's hard not to like it. It can be sharp, spicy, savory, creamy, or sweet and one can find a way to incorporate it into almost anything. Because garlic burns and becomes bitter when you cook it for more than a minute or two at high temperatures (like on a stovetop), my favorite way to make it is by roasting it at a low temperature for a long time. Cooking it like this brings out its buttery sweet flavor and it tuns soft, which means it'll practically melt when you use it.


1-3 heads of roasted garlic
1-2 tbsp olive oil per head of garlic
kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 375. Lay the head of garlic on it's side and slice across the top so that all the little cloves are now exposed. If the skin is still covering some of the outer cloves, you can pull it off with you fingers or carefully cut them open with a knife. In a small casserole dish, lay a piece of aluminum foil (about twice the length of the dish) and place the heads of garlic in the center. Drizzle the olive oil over the heads on the exposed cloves. The oil keeps the cloves from drying out while cooking. Sprinkle the heads with a little kosher salt and then close the foil over the heads. I pinch the top so that I can easily peek in the little packet and see how they're doing. Put the casserole dish in the oven and set a timer for 45 minutes. Check the garlic at 45 minutes. Open the foil packet and poke the larger cloves gently with a fork. If its done, it'll be really soft and light caramel in color. If its not, drizzle a little more oil, close the foil, and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Let cool and then squeeze the cloves out of the skins. Your hands will get a little greasy but they should pop out pretty easily. Grab yourself a hunk of crusty bread, spread and enjoy. It'll stay good in the fridge for a 7-10 days and freezes well.

Some of my favorite ways to use roasted garlic:
1) Top with olive oil and salt and spread onto crusty bread. It'll spread better than butter.
2) Cook some pasta. Cook a few ripe tomatoes on the stove for 3-4 minutes. Mash 1 or 2 heads with a fork, then whisk into a 1/2 cup of reserved pasta cooking water. Pour the garlic water and cooked tomatoes onto the pasta. Season with salt, pepper and fresh basil.
3) Use alone or mix with a little mayo for a sandwich spread (awesome with veggie paninis and turkey with gruyere and tomatoes).
4) Stir into soups.
5) Add to creamy sauces like alfredo, hollandaise, bearnaise etc.

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Most Exciting Christmas Presents! EVER!

I ended up with a little TV in my kitchen after my Aunt N passed away 3 years ago. One thing led to another and I became a die-hard Food Network fan. It's only fitting since Aunt N was a bit of a foodie herself!

I'd watch the shows while making dinner and soon bought the cookbooks of several hosts. Every show had these brightly colored pots and pans as background props (and occasionally they'd cook in them too!). The photography in the books highlighted the gorgeous pieces of enamel and iron like they were the focus of the recipe. I eventually developed pot-envy. Why do they flaunt these spectacular things in front of my face (as I cook in old cheap pots of J's or T-fal pans that belonged to his ex-girlfriend)? hmpf! Once I figured out what they were, the holy grail of cookware LE CREUSET, I wanted my own! But holy crap, who can afford to cook real food when they've spent all their money on pots?? I've been dying to get my hands on this stuff for years but just couldn't get myself to shell out the dough.

Fortunately, I didn't have to because J finally realized that giving a girl like me fancy cookware is better than jewelry! For Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive a 5 piece (count them!) Le Creuset set! I got a 3.5 quart dutch oven (with lid), a 9 inch skillet, and a 1 1/4 qt saucepan (with lid). Unwrapping the astronomically heavy box led to much squealing and celebration! Christmas felt like Christmas again!

For those of you who don't know the brand, Le Creuset makes high quality enameled cast-iron cookware. It's oven and dishwasher safe, needs no special treatment like regular cast iron, food won't stick or burn (you have to really let something go to get it to burn in one of these), it heats up evenly no matter how skewed your cooktop burners are, and all their products come in several fun, bright colors. It is a bit pricey, but I think if you're someone who does a lot of cooking, it will end up paying for itself (after you eat Ramen and oatmeal for the first 6 months that is. I think that's actually written in the warranty). It'll last long enough for you to pass on to the next generation, and as a bonus, it can be used as a weapon (the small pot I got weighs 6 lbs!! My cat weighs 7.).

I excitedly used them tonight for the first time. It's so nice to finally be able to cook delicious meals in good pots!

Next, on my list: the 7 1/4 qt dutch oven and 12x9 casserole dish. Maybe I'll spring for one of those myself. Tax refund is coming! Then you'll have something to look at in my pictures other than my ugly stove from 1983.

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Smoked Gouda and Sundried Tomato Spread

I have an unhealthy love for all things cream cheese (bagels, cheesecake, creamy soups etc). It's always in my fridge. I needed another appetizer for Thanksgiving a few years ago and didn't feel like hitting the store again so off I went to rummage in the cabinets and fridge to see what I could come up with. This cheese spread is what I ended up putting on the table. Super easy to make and super tasty to eat. All you need is a food processor. The flavor of the smoked gouda will make your vegetarian friends think you are trying to trick them into eating bacon.


1 8oz block light cream cheese, softened
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated smoked gouda cheese
5-8 sundried tomatoes*
3 cloves or 2 tsps of roasted garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Put the first four ingredients in food processor and pulse until well blended. Taste before adding the salt and pepper (the cheese is salty so it may be unnecessary). Garnish with parsley or basil and serve at room temperature with crackers or pretzel thins.

* I use oil-packed sundried tomatoes but you can certainly use dried ones if that's what you have on hand, just reconstitue them first by pouring boiling water over them and let them soak for 20-30 minutes. They'll release more flavor and be less likely to break your food processor blade if you soften them like this first!

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley