Spinach Salad with Pears and Gorgonzola

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Pears with gorgonzola is  just one of those classic combinations. Put them in salad with any kind of greens. Pick what you like best, anything from a spicy arugula or watercress to a mild butter lettuce.We used fresh baby spinach.The same goes for the pears: Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou or Comice would all be great choices.

And since the ingredients in this pear salad are so delicious, a champagne vinaigrette with a hint of lemon juice and Dijon mustard worked best for this salad. A heavy dressing would mask the delicate flavors.  A sprinkling of cheese, walnuts and  pomegranate arils also adds flavors and makes for  delicious lighter first course to start off a meal.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 tablespoons minced shallot
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces baby spinach, washed and dried
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese*
1 medium Bosc pear, cored and thinly sliced*
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (arils), for garnish
1/2 toasted walnuts, roughly chopped, for garnish

Champagne Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
For the Salad:
In a large bowl, add shallot,  salt and pepper. Add the olive oil, whisking constantly while drizzling the oil slowly. Add the spinach and toss with tongs until the leaves are well coated.

For Champagne Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl or glass jar, add all the ingredients except the olive oil. Mix well, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil  and whisk until the mixture is emulsified. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, evenly divide spinach greens between 4 salad plates. Top each plate with cheese and garnish with pear slices, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts and serve with a drizzle of champagne vinaigrette.

*Cook’s Notes:
You can substitute Blue cheese or Roquefort cheese for the Gorgonzola.
Any variety of apple can also be used as a substitute for the pears.

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Roasted Pork Loin Stuffed with Prosciutto, Spinach, Apples and Apricot Preserves

pork.jpgServes 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 bunch baby spinach, washed and trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2-lb.) pork loin, trimmed
4 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto
1 Honey Crisp apple, cored and sliced into 1/8 inch
1/2 cup apricot preserves
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup Japanese Panko Breadcrumbs
Pomegranate nibs, for garnish

Directions:
Saute the spinach in a hot skillet 3 minutes; plunge into an ice bath for 1 minute. Drain well. Wrap spinach in paper towels; squeeze dry. Chop spinach into small pieces. Place in bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; stir well.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cut into pork loin lengthwise from right to left, 3/4 inch from bottom, keeping knife parallel with cutting board; do not cut through the other side. Continue slicing lengthwise from right to left, unrolling loin as you slice, to form a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Season with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Arrange prosciutto in layers to cover inside of loin. Add apple slices. Spread the apricot preserves over the apples. Spread the spinach mixture on top, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll pork up left to right. Tie with twine in butcher’s knots at 2-inch intervals.

Lightly dust the loin with flour. Roll in breadcrumbs, pressing lightly to make sure the crumb coating adheres.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Place loin in pan; cook 12 minutes turning until all sides are browned. Place loin on rack; cover loosely with foil. Roast at 325°F for 50 minutes or until meat registers 150°F. Remove pork from pan; let pork stand 20 minutes. Swirl butter into pan juices until butter melts. Cut pork into 3/4-inch slices garnish with nibs and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
Click on this link for a quick tutorial on: “HOW TO CUT AND TIE A PORK LOIN FOR STUFFING”  

You can substitute the spinach for broccoli rabe seasoned for a change of pace.

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Thank you so much!

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Stove Top Pizza

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There is an Australian company called “The Chef’s Toolbox” that has an extraordinary line of culinary tools and kitchen gadget to make the home cook’s life a little easier. Their specialty line of cookware that is featured by the company is the Como Advanced™  line, which is touted as  exceptional cookware for serious cooking. The cookware come in a   a modern charcoal matte finish,  with a hard-anodized exterior and non-stick interior. The cookware is perfect for stovetop (including induction) and oven cooking.

The also have a collection of amazing recipe showing you how to use their tools bakeware and cookware  as well.

I found out about the company when  a friend shared a Chef’s Toolbox Video demonstrating the recipe for “Stove Top Pizza”, which was cooked in a specialized Como Advanced™ 28 cm saute pan as seen below.The pan sells for $235.00 AUD, which is about $182.00 U. S. Dollars. I have seen the Como Advanced line featured on Amazon.com, but I do not think the saute pan is widely available in the United States.

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Photo Credit: Chef’s Toolbox, 2015

I did not have a Como Advanced™ saute pan, but I do have a 12 inch cast iron skillet by Lodge  and a heavy glass lid, which worked out as perfectly in making this dish.

Here is the recipe and I hope that you will enjoy this one skillet meal that takes less than 25 minutes. It makes for on small pizza that is perfectly suited to serve two people.Making a freshly homemade  pizza on a stove top is much more  quicker than waiting via delivery or take out or even baking a frozen pizza in your oven. Trust me, you are going to love it.

Serve 2

Ingredients:
1/2 cup self rising flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour*
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast**
1 teaspoon honey
2/3 cup warm water, 110-115 Degrees F


For the Sauce:

1 can diced roma tomatoes, drained
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon good quality red wine


For the Toppings:
***
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 cooked Italian sausage links, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup black olives, pitted and sliced
1/8 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup baby spinach, torn


Directions:

Grease a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a 12-inch oven proof skillet with 1 tablespoon oil.

For the Sauce:Pulse drained tomatoes, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon olive oil  and the red wine together in a small food processor until coarsely ground. Remove from the processor and set aside.

To the skillet, add dry ingredients (self-rising flour, all-purpose flour, salt, yeast) and stir until combined. Add the honey and the water and stir until a stick dough forms. Spread the dough evenly over the bottom of the skillet.

Spread the sauce over dough, leaving ½-inch border at edge. Sprinkle most of the mozzarella evenly over sauce. Add sausage and spread it evenly on top. Scatter the shallots an sprinkle the basil and oregano evenly over the pizza. Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

Set skillet over medium heat and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until outside edge of dough is set, pizza is lightly puffed, and bottom crust is starting to get cooked when gently lifted with spatula, about 4 to 6 minutes

Reduce the heat to low , rotate the skillet 180 degrees and continue to cook covered with a lid for another 10 minutes. When done, the cheese should be nicely melted. Carefully remove skillet from burner. With two  flat spatulas, carefully lift pizza out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with fresh torn spinach. Let pizza cool for a couple minutes before slicing into wedges and serving.
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Cook’s Notes:
In using quick rapid rise yeast, there are two very good brands to consider:

Red Star and Fleischmann’s, both which come in a jar and in individual packets.
The jars sell for about $5.00 and the individual sell for about $1.80 at most local grocery stores. I prefer buying it buy the jar, because I do bake a lot. Once the jar is opened, it must be refrigerated.

Fleischmann’s also offers a yeast specifically made to be used in pizza dough. I have not tried this product yet, but it does look promising.

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*SUBSTITUTION TIP: You can use whole wheat flour instead of all purpose white flour, if desired.

Also note that you desire a chewier crust, use bread flour. If you desire a  Neapolitan style pizza (made with San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala Campana, cheese made with the milk from water buffalo) , use San Felice Tipo 00 Flour or  Anna Tipo “00” Extra Fine Flour which creates a light crust that is crisp on the outside but tender to the bite.

Tipo 0 or Tipo 00 denotes that it is a tender wheat flour.

When making authentic Neapolitan pizza, I prefer Anna Tipo “00” Extra Fine Flour,  because it an is an old world, authentic Naples-style flour that holds up to the high temperatures required for pizza making. It is finely milled with a soft texture, yielding a crispy crust every time. Anna Type “00” Flour is an excellent choice for any of your baking needs.It is also more widely available in most local grocery stores.

**SUBSTITUTION TIP: If you don’t have instant or rapid rise yeast, use 1 teaspoon (instead of ¾ teaspoon) of active dry yeast and proof it first. Just dissolve it in a little warm (110 degrees) tap water and a pinch of sugar. Wait until it gets foamy, like a beer from the tap. When the mixture is foamy, add it to the flour mixture and proceed as normal.

***ABOUT THE TOPPINGS: You can use any toppings of your choice, as desired.