It’s A New Year and A New Country

I’m still cooking my way through as many countries as I can. This next stop is

Italy

The dish I chose for this country is

Pizza Margherita

I really had a tough time choosing what to cook from Italy. I am such a pasta lover and I know that most of the “Italian” dishes we have here in the states are more Americanized. Don’t get me wrong, I love them but I really wanted to keep this as authentic as I could, so I chose not a pasta dish at all, but pizza….and one of my hubby’s favorite at that.

One of my hubby’s favorite pizza is a Pizza Margherita ( or as some call it a Margherita Pizza). I’ve eaten a few slices in my time and I can understand why my hubby loves it so much. I knew the color of the basil, mozzarella and the sauce represented the colors of the Italian flag, but I never really thought about the history behind it and is it truly an Italian pizza, not one born here in the US?

I did indeed find that yes, it is originally from Naples, Italy.

Should I point out that while I was doing this research I was savoring a few slices of pepperoni and bacon pizza….which does not originally come from Italy, but what can I say, I’m a pizza lover of just about any type and on a side note, typing while holding said pizza can get a little messy….I’m just saying.

Getting back to the topic at hand…

It is believed that in 1889 King Umberto and his wife Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples. The queen grew tired of the French cuisine that was offered. She asked Raffaele Esposito, chef of Pizzeria Brandi to create a pizza for her, for she had already heard of the Neapolitan pizza and wanted to try one. He created 3 for her, one with cheese and basil, one with garlic and one with tomato, mozzarella and basil. She liked the 3rd so much that Esposito named the pizza after her. Whether the story is indeed true or not, it has grown into one of the most recognizable symbol of Italian food culture.

I’ve made a lot of pizza, but never this type so I really wanted to do it justice….and well, impress the hubby. It did turn out a little rustic and maybe not as pretty as some I have seen, but the taste was well….heavenly. The sauce is a simple sauce, like a Pizza Margherita should be, and I have to admit I had to restrain myself not to add any herbs and I’m so glad that I didn’t because less is truly more. The fresh mozzarella and the basil add such a wonderful flavor. When using fresh mozzarella, look for the kind that is not packed in water, but if that is all that you can find be sure to drain it really well. Also, use fresh basil leaves, not the dried kind because it truly does make a difference.

I did use a store bought pizza dough, but you can make your own of course. If you are going to use pre made dough, look for a good quality kind. Some pizza places even sell their dough as well. The only thing that I will do differently the next time that I make this, is to make the dough thinner because it did come out a little thicker than I intended, but the flavor was really good.

Here’s what you need to make your own:

*1 LB Pizza dough; pre made or your favorite recipe (this will make 2 pizzas)

*olive oil

*28 oz. can San Marzano whole tomatoes

*salt and pepper to taste

*2 large garlic clove grated with a microplane or pressed

*Mozzarella, fresh and not packed in water or drained and pat dry with a paper towel.

*Basil leaves

Prepare dough according to package directions or follow your favorite recipe

Divide into two balls and drizzle with olive oil.

Preheat oven to 450°.

In a blender add the tomatoes and blend until smooth; pour into a bowl.

Stir in the salt, pepper, 1 tsp. olive oil and the garlic.

Brush pizza pans with olive oil.

Stretch dough into roughly a 10 inch circle…or as best as you can. If the dough is too elastic, let rest for 5 minutes.

Spoon some of the sauce onto each pizza dough.

Tear a few large pieces of the mozzarella and place it evenly around the pizza.

Tear the basil leaves and place on top of the mozzarella. I know some add the basil after the pizza has been cooked, but I like mine cooked with the pizza. It’s your choice.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the pizza.

Bake for 12 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly.

Cut into slices and serve.

Enjoy!

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My Food Journey To England Pt2

Pigs In A Blanket

I simply could not turn down the chance to make these, it has bacon after all. How can it not be good.

I have made my share of the U.S. version, which is sausages wrapped in some sort of dough like biscuit dough or croissant dough. I’ve even had them with hot dogs instead of sausages, but never just the sausage wrapped in bacon and baked to a crispy perfection. These were sinfully good. It was very hard not to eat the whole tray.

Pigs in a blanket are traditionally served as a side with a Christmas turkey dinner. These are great also with a roasted chicken or even as an appetizer for New Year’s.

Here’s how you make them…..just in time for Christmas lunch or dinner:

*8 to 12 slices of bacon

*cocktail sausages

*preheat the oven to 400°

Spray a baking sheet with no stick spray or line with parchment paper; set aside.

Cut each slice of bacon in half.

Place one of the sausages on one end of the bacon slice.

Wrap the bacon around the sausage.

Place on the baking sheet seam side down.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is as crispy as you prefer.

*Note* These can be made ahead of time. Just place on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Remove the plastic wrap when ready to bake.

Enjoy!

The Journey Continues

The Journey Continues to

England

Part One

For this country I chose two little dishes, Yorkshire Pudding and Pigs in a Blanket.

The journey to this country is special to me. Ever since I was a little girl and discovered a little sci-fi British show called Doctor Who (ok not so little), I have been drawn to our friends across the pond. It wouldn’t be until many years later that I would actually make friends and meet with some wonderful people from there via online and in person. One in particular helped me immensely in trying to decide what delicious foods I should discover from here. Liz has been a friend for several years. We met online and later I had the pleasure of meeting her in person (wave Liz). If it were not for her and another in particular (yes, you too Ali my friend, I would never forget you.) I would not have met my hubby and had some memorable times that I will always cherish. Those were indeed some of the best times. But that is another story of a group of wonderful people, that although we may not chat everyday, I still consider them as my life long friends.

As I said before I have been drawn to this country, the history, the people, the magnificent shows, and yes, as a child I would even try the accent.

I really hope that I did these two dishes justice. I hope Liz and the UK FoodTribers at my home away from home, FoodTribe, think so at least. So let’s begin with the first one…the one that when I looked through the oven door and saw that those little golden delights had poofed up (not sure if that’s the correct term but hey, it was a proud moment) I did let out a joyous yell.

Yorkshire Pudding

I will confess, for the longest time I thought Yorkshire pudding was…well…a pudding. It wasn’t until I started watching British cooking shows that I found out it is pretty similar to popovers. Yorkshire puddings are commonly a side dish made from a batter of eggs, flour, milk or water and cooked in a bit of oil or beef fat. The first ever recipe for this was in a book titled The Whole Duty of a Woman in 1737. It was listed as a dripping pudding. Wheat flour began to come into common use for making cakes and puddings. Cooks in the north of England had begun baking batter puddings while their meat roasted to make use of the fat that in the dripping pan. It was later published in 1747 in the book The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse with the name Yorkshire Pudding. It was she who renamed the original version. Originally the Yorkshire pudding was served with gravy as a first course to help fill the appetites so diners would not eat so much of the more expensive meat.

Today Yorkshire pudding is still as popular as ever. It still mainly accompanies a Sunday roast dinner. It can be served as a whole in a cast iron type pan or baked in individual tins and is still served with gravy. There is also the ever popular Toad in the Hole which is roasted sausages enveloped in a giant, crispy Yorkshire pudding.

I opted to do individual ones baked in muffin tins. The key to making a successful pudding is letting the batter rest and, as Liz warned, getting the oil very hot before adding the batter. I will admit, I was really skeptical that mine would come out right the first time, but as I stated earlier, those babies did indeed rise. The outside was a nice crispy shell while the inside was tender and moist with an eggy texture. I can see why these are still popular to this day.

Here’s how you can make a Yorkshire Pudding:

*3/4 cups all-purpose flour

*1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs

*3/4 cups milk

*pan drippings from a roast or canola oil; enough for 1 tsp in each muffin tin

In a bowl, sift together the flour and the salt.

In another bowl add in the eggs and the milk.

whisk until well combined.

Slowly add the flour to the egg and milk mixture.

Whisk until the batter is smooth.

Let the batter rest for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 450°

Pour in 1 tsp. of drippings from a roast or any other meat drippings you can save in each cup of the muffin tin. I used drippings from some bacon I had cooked earlier. If you do not have any meat drippings you can use oil such as canola, although the puddings will not be as flavorful, but they will still be mighty tasty.

Place the tin in the oven until the drippings are hot.

Take out of the oven and fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full with the batter.

You should see the batter start to bubble as soon as it hits the liquid.

Bake until the puddings have puffed up about 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.

You can store leftovers and reheat in a toaster oven. They also can be frozen in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.

Enjoy!

Don’t worry, part two of my English food journey featuring pigs in a blanket will be posted soon. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.