Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shrimp & Pesto Pizza

I read in a Martha Stewart Home Living issue that cast iron skillets are the perfect medium for making pizzas at home. Now even though I am a pizza fanatic, I never really thought about making my own pizzas until I read her article and then discovered that my local grocery store sells pizza dough. So I picked up some dough and decided that homemade pizzas had to happen. I may not have a pizza stone or even a pizza roller but I had a skillet and pre-made dough so I was set!

But then I kind of forgot about the dough and realized it's expiration date was approaching right before a snow storm. I didn't have time to run out and get what I needed to make my favorite kind of pizza (margherita) so I decided to just use what I had on hand. I discovered some store bought pesto right next to a bag of shredded mozzarella. Seemed pretty legit. But what would I top it with? I opened the freezer hoping to find some chicken or sausage but all I had was shrimp. When I thought about shrimp and pesto, it sounded good to me so I got busy. The results?? Well you see the picture! It was so simple and delicious, yet unique. Plus I got lots of assistance from the grocery store so this pizza came together in minutes, making it the perfect weeknight meal! Do try this!

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1lb store bought pizza dough
3 heaping tablespoons store bought pesto
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled, deveined (if large, give them a rough chop)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for brushing and sautéing 
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red Pepper Flakes, to taste

Special Tool: Cast Iron Skillet

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Once oven is hot, place your cast iron skillet in the oven to warm up (this step is optional but will help create a crispy crust) While skillet is heating, sprinkle shrimp with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and, in a small sautéed pan, cook shrimp in a tablespoon of olive oil for just a few minutes on each side (barely cooked through). Remove from heat and set aside. 

Then, on a cutting board, roll out your dough into a circle about the same size as your skillet. You can use a rolling pin if you have one. I didn't so I used my fists to press it out. 

Right when you're ready to assemble your pizza, remove the hot skillet from the oven (using a pot holder of course). Brush the pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and place the dough into the pan, pressing it out to the edges of the pan if necessary. 

Then use the back of a spoon to spread the pesto onto the dough leaving about an inch around the edges for the crust. Next, sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the pesto, but don't get heavy handed. You want a thin layer of cheese and you even want to see some of the pesto peeking through. Next arrange the cooked shrimp over the cheese in an even layer and sprinkle red pepper flakes over the entire pizza. Brush the crust with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, place the pizza into the oven and bake for 20 mins. 

Remove the pizza from the oven and, using a spatula and tongs, gently move the pizza from the skillet to a cutting board. Immediately cut the pizza into 8 slices using a pizza roller or sharp knife and serve!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This recipe for Stuffed Chicken Breasts came about one blah weeknight.  I was too tired to really cook and planned to simply grill some boneless skinless chicken breasts, throw them on a salad and call it a night.  But once I discovered the goat cheese and peppers in the fridge, (both of which I probably would have added to my salad anyway) I decided to use them to stuff the chicken.

My dinner came out great and because I felt like it was such a simple and delicious way to transform chicken breasts, which everyone always has on hand, I decided to send the recipe to  Click HERE to view the recipe or scroll below to see the process.  When I took the pictures, I was actually trying to do a Roulade or roll the breasts around the filling.  But that was kind of a disaster so the next time around, I stuffed the breasts as the directions explain.  Enjoy!

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)

·       ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
·       4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
·       ½ Red Bell Pepper, sliced
·       ½ Small Red Onion, sliced
·       2 Cloves Garlic, minced
·       Salt & Pepper, to taste
·       Oregano or Italian Seasoning
·       Paprika, to taste
·       4 ounces Goat Cheese or Feta Cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Make the filling by sautéing the red bell pepper and red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle veggies with salt and pepper to taste, a few pinches of oregano and stir to combine.  Then, Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.  Remove filling from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, season both sides of each chicken breast generously with salt, pepper, oregano and paprika.  Then, insert a pairing knife into the thickest part of each chicken breast and slice lengthwise until you have made a 4 inch long and 3 inch deep pocket.  You want to be able to lift and fill the pocket, but not completely split the breast in half.

Now the pepper mixture should be cool enough to handle. Divide it into 4 portions and do the same with the goat cheese or feta.  Then, stuff each chicken breast with a portion of the pepper mix and top with a portion of the cheese.  Try to press the mixture into the pocket leaving nothing hanging too far out.

Side Note: Another cooking method for this recipe, as you see pictured above, is the roulade where you roll the filling inside the chicken breast.  However, if you do this method, I would suggest using toothpicks to hold everything together because all of mine fell apart, except for the breast that's sliced and pictured.  Oops!

Heat the remaining quarter cup of olive oil a skillet (can be the same one you cooked the veggies in) and when the oil is hot, gently add in each breast and sear for 5 minutes or until brown.  Using tongs and a spatula gently flip each breast over and sear for 5 minutes more. Transfer the breasts to the oven to finish cooking (about 12 minutes).  Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Serve each breast whole or for dramatic presentation, use a sharp knife to make 2 inch slices at an angle.  Then, fan out the slices when plating.  I served my breasts with a lightly dressed salad, keeping the dinner carb-free yet satisfying.