Pork, Provolone & Spinach Stromboli

A few months ago Matt and I discovered A Casa, a local “bake at home” pizza shop that sells amazing homemade strombolis. A Casa’s strombolis are frozen and available in wonderful flavors like sausage, pepper and onions, Philly cheesesteak, buffalo chicken, and – our favorite – pulled pork and long-hot peppers.  YUM!

1239 Assembling the stromboli 2

Today we planned to pick up some A Casa strombolis but unfortunately the local market didn’t have them in stock.  A Casa itself is only a few miles down the road from our house, but it’s closed on Sundays so we found ourselves looking for other options.  Then we realized that we had 6+ lbs. of freshly smoked pork shoulder* in the fridge… we could make OUR OWN pulled pork stromboli!

After a quick stop to Trader Joe’s to pick up some pizza dough, provolone and spinach we were ready to go. The stromboli itself was very easy to assemble… just spread out the dough, add the cheese and fillings, fold and bake. The finished stromboli was delicious. Fresher, cheesier and less greasy than our beloved A Casa equivalent and so much more satisfying because we made it ourselves!

*Matt just got a smoker and this pork shoulder was the second recipe he’s made in it. Matt smoked a 9 lb. pork butt for 14+ hours yesterday and we had BBQ pork sandwiches for dinner. Now we have lots of yummy pork left over for lunch and dinner all week, but after tonight’s meal we also plan on using some of the meat to make a second pork stromboli to freeze for a future dinner!

I’ll post the smoked pork recipe at some point, but we want to make some tweaks to it first before it’s blog-worthy. 😄 For this recipe, you can use any left over slow-cooked pork.  (Try making it in a slow-cooker if you don’t have a smoker!)1264 Pork Stromboli

Pork, Provolone & Spinach Stromboli

1 – 6-8 oz. bag Baby Spinach
3-4 spoonfuls Semolina Flour or Cornmeal
1 – 16 oz. ball Raw Pizza Dough
4 slices Provolone Cheese
1 cup chopped Roasted Pork Shoulder
4-5 spoonfuls chopped Long-hot Peppers or hot salsa; we used Trader Joe’s Hatch Valley Salsa which has a fiery, long-hot-like kick
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Cooking Spray

Preheat the oven to 475°F. If you have a pizza stone, put the stone in the oven while it preheats.

Heat 3-4 tablespoons of water in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When the water begins to sizzle add the spinach and toss constantly for 1-3 minutes until wilted. Transfer the wilted spinach to a strainer and allow to cool for a few minutes. Once cool enough to work with, use a paper towel to press down on the spinach in the strainer and squeeze out as much water as you can. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and roughly chop.

Spread a few spoonfuls of semolina flour onto a dry cutting board or pizza peel, then drop the dough ball onto the flour. Knead and spread the dough ball into a rectangle approximately 20″ long by 10″ wide.

1233 Assembling the stromboli 1

Place four slices of overlapping Provolone cheese on the dough, then distribute the spinach and pork over the cheese. Spoon the long-hots or salsa over the pork. Sprinkle a thin layer of Mozzarella cheese over top of the pork and spinach filling. Fold the long sides of the dough over the filling, then stretch and pull the dough on the short ends over top of the folded sides to close up the stromboli.

Carefully remove the hot pizza stone from the oven and place it on a heat resistant surface. Flip the stromboli over and place it in the center of the hot pizza stone so that the folded sides are facing down. (If using a pan, position the stromboli on the pan this way, too.) Poke the top of the stromboli with a fork 3-4 times to vent and spray the top of the ‘boli with 3-4 quick shots of cooking spray.

Bake the stromboli in a 375° oven on the stone for 12-13 minutes or until the top of the dough is golden brown. Rotate the stone 180° about halfway through the cook time to make sure that the stromboli cooks evenly. Remove the cooked stromboli from the oven, transfer to a pizza peel or cutting board, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Cut the cooled stromboli, serve, and enjoy! 😄

1244 Finished Stromboli on the pizza stone

White Pizza with Sausage, Spinach and Ricotta

Crumbled Sausage, Spinach and Ricotta Cheese… yes! When Matt suggested that we try these toppings on our latest batch of Trader Joe’s pizza crust I enthusiastically agreed and, after enjoying the end result last night, I don’t know why we never tried this delicious combination before!

White Pizza with Sausage, Spinach and Ricotta_c

For Christmas Matt gave me My Pizza by Jim Lahey and, although I haven’t actually made any of the recipes yet (I’m holding out for a pizza stone and peel first!), the cooking method that we used for this recipe was definitely inspired by the book. I usually cook pizza at 425°F but, after reading Jim Lahey’s chapter on cooking dough, we decided to try something radically different and instead broiled the pizzas in a preheated 500°F oven. The resulting pies had a whole new level of caramelization and wonderful crispiness that I’ve never before experienced in a home-cooked pizza. Yum!

White Pizza with Sausage, Spinach and Ricotta

You will need…
2 Sweet Italian Sausages
Olive Oil
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
2-3 handfuls Baby Spinach
1 package fresh Pizza Dough (as usual, I used Trader Joe’s dough)
Flour, for dusting pizza dough
Approx. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped Yellow Onion (optional)
12 oz. Ricotta Cheese
3-4 cups Shredded Part Skim Mozzarella Cheese
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Ready to go in the oven!

Ready to go in the oven!

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Remove the sausage from the casings and press into the bottom of a preheated skillet over medium-high heat. Allow it to cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes and then use a metal spatula to stir the sausage and separate it into crumbled bits. When the sausage is completely cooked through (and, ideally, getting a little crispy on the edges!), transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove over medium heat and, if needed, add about a tablespoon of olive oil (there might already be enough fat in the skillet from the sausages). Add the minced garlic and allow it to cook in the oil until it is fragrant and just turning golden brown. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the spinach. Use tongs to toss and stir the spinach until it is wilted then remove from heat.

On a flour-dusted surface, halve the pizza dough and stretch each piece into a generous individual-sized pie. (Mine usually each end up being about 6” by 10” which fits well on my rectangular pan.) Place the crusts on a non-stick or lightly oiled pan (or use a pizza stone, if you have one!).

White Pizza broiling in the oven.

White Pizza broiling in the oven.

Spread about half of the ricotta cheese onto the two pizza crusts with the back of a spoon, leaving a 1” margin around the edges. Sprinkle on some chopped onions if you want (Matt didn’t want any but I tried them and they were great!) and top with the shredded Mozzarella. Next, evenly distribute the cooked sausage over the pizzas and add the wilted spinach and garlic. Drop the remaining ricotta onto the pizza in spoonfuls and finish off the pizzas with freshly grated Parmesan.

Just before putting the pizzas in the preheated oven, switch the oven to “Broil” and cook the pizzas on the top rack for approximately 10 minutes. Check on the pizzas frequently (it’s OK to open the door) to make sure that they are not burning. The pizzas are done when the cheese is turning golden brown and the crust is just starting to brown on the edges.

White Pizza with Sausage, Spinach and Ricotta 2_c

Summer T.B.M. Pizza with Corn Relish

Last weekend as I was paging through this month’s volume of Martha Stewart Living I came across a delicious-sounding recipe for Grilled Pizza with Cheesy Corn, Fresh Tomatoes, and Basil.  I was already planning on making pizza for dinner on Sunday and happened to have some extra frozen corn, garlic, and Parmesan, so I decided to mix up my standard Tomato-Basil-Mozzarella pizza and make this recipe instead.

Since I made this on short notice I had to improvise a bit.  I didn’t have any fresh corn so I used frozen corn which I rinsed and drained before blending into the relish.  Although I’m sure corn freshly sliced off the cob would have been even better, I thought that the corn was pretty tasty.  I also cheated by baking the pizza in the oven rather than grilling it because it was waaaay to hot out to stand over a grill (we’ve been having a major heat wave here on the east coast) !  All in all I thought the pizzas were quite yummy.  Thanks, Martha Stewart!

Summer Tomato-Basil-Mozzarella Pizza with Corn Relish (from Martha Stewart Living)

You will need…
15 oz. store-bought Pizza Dough (I used Trader Joe’s dough, of course!)
1 1/3 cups Corn Kernels (from two ears of corn or just measured out if using frozen)
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1-2 medium Garlic Cloves
4 tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
Salt, to taste
2 Tomatoes, thinly sliced (I used small plum-sized “on the vine” tomatoes)
4-6 oz. Mozzarella, thinly sliced (this worked out to 12 of TJ’s small marinated mozzarella balls)
1/2  cup Basil Leaves

Make the corn relish by combining the corn, Parmesan, garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender and blend well.  Stretch the pizza dough into two pizzas and place them on a greased baking pan.  (For best taste let the dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour beforehand.)  Season the dough with a few pinches of coarse salt, then bake in a 425° preheated oven for 6 minutes.  Remove from oven, flip the dough, then top with the corn relish (spread it on with a spoon), tomatoes, and mozzarella.  Bake the pizzas for another 6 minutes until the mozzarella has melted.  Top with the basil leaves and enjoy!

Herbed Pizza with Spinach and Feta

We made these delicious pizzas for dinner a few weeks ago just when the spinach in our garden was at its peak.  I picked about 3 cups of baby spinach leaves (almost wiping out the whole crop but that’s ok… I was making room for pepper plants and basil!) and rinsed and dried them well before using them in this recipe.  Fresh spinach leaves from the garden are juicy and bright green – very different from the bagged stuff you buy in the store!  I’ll definitely be planting more spinach when the weather cools off in the Fall so we can continue to enjoy this delicious leafy green.

Herbed Pizza with Spinach and Feta

View the recipe

Eggplant Parmesan – Trader Joe’s Style!

Matt has lacrosse practice one evening a week which means that Bailey and I are left to our own devices.  I usually make some kind of simple, vegetarian meal for myself and then Bailey and I snuggle on the couch and watch TV.  My latest guilty pleasure is the NBC show “Smash” which is about the drama and excitement of Broadway.  I’m sure that Matt is very happy that I watch that when he’s at practice rather than subjecting him to it every week!

For tonight’s meal, I wanted to use up some of the Trader Joe’s Ciliegine Mozzarella and fresh basil that we had left over from our Sausage TBM Pizzas.  After rummaging around in the freezer, I discovered half a box of Trader Joe’s Eggplant Cutlets and some frozen tomato sauce that we made back in February.  So… what do you do with eggplant, mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce?  Make Eggplant Parm, of course!  Granted, I’ve never made Eggplant Parm and I never looked up a recipe (or actually used Parmesan cheese…), but those ingredients came together as a very tasty Eggplant Parmesan “Tower” for one.

Quick and Easy Eggplant Parmesan  (serves one)

You will need…
8 Trader Joe’s Breaded Eggplant Cutlets (or make your own!)
3 Small Mozzarella Balls (I used and recommend TJ’s ciliegine mozzarella balls)
1/4 cup Tomato Sauce (I used some smooth tomato sauce that we froze several weeks ago)
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced into “chips”
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Handful Fresh Baby Spinach (Mine was straight out of my garden, woohoo!)
Sprig of Basil for garnish

Cook the Eggplant according to the package instructions.  For Trader Joe’s Eggplant Cutlets, this involves baking the eggplant slices in a 425° oven for 12-14 minutes.  As soon as the eggplants are done, remove them from the oven and carefully begin to stack them on the baking sheet with the biggest slices at the bottom.  When you get halfway, place one mozzarella ball between the 4th and 5th eggplant, then continue stacking upwards.  Drizzle the stack with a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce then top with a mozzarella ball.  Insert your eggplant tower into the over under the broiler.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic slices in olive oil over medium-high heat until they start to turn golden.  At that point, add the spinach and stir constantly until the spinach wilts.  Remove from heat.

Check on your broiling mozzarella tower.  Once top cheese ball is melted, carefully add another mozzarella ball to the top of the tower and continue to broil until that ball is about 3/4 melted.  Remove the eggplant tower from the oven.

To plate your dish, spoon about 3/4 of your remaining sauce into the center of a plate.  The diameter of your sauce should be slightly larger than your largest “base” eggplant cutlet.  Place your bright green, wilted spinach and garlic chips around the edges of the tomato sauce, then carefully transfer your eggplant tower to the center of your plate.  Spoon the remaining tomato sauce around the top of your eggplant tower so that it drips down the side.  Top with a spring of basil and enjoy!

Another Delicious Pizza!

Mmm… is there anything better than homemade pizza fresh out of the oven?  Pizza is easy to make, the toppings are fun to experiment with, and the results are tasty and rewarding.  For me, the one problem with pizza is that I only like to use Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough which means that I can only make pizza once or twice a month after we visit TJ’s.  We used to live within walking distance of a Trader Joe’s but now a 20 minute drive (and bad rush hour traffic!) separates us from my favorite dough.  I have tried the pizza dough from Whole Foods and, although it isn’t bad, it simply can’t compare with the crispy, chewy flavor of the dough from Joe’s.

So, as you might have guessed, we stopped by Trader Joe’s over the weekend and I picked up a bag of dough.  We already had some hot Italian turkey sausage and basil so I decided to make a Sausage Tomato Basil Mozzarella (TBM) pizza for dinner last night.

A note about the cheese… TJ’s was sold out of the marinated mozzarella balls that I typically buy so I tried their Ciliegine mozzarella which is billed as stringier, softer, and more authentic.  More authentic it may be but it also was much more watery and seemed to melt into nothingness on these pizzas.  Next time I’ll hold out for the good mozzarella!

Turkey Sausage T.B.M. Pizza

You will need…
2 Turkey Sausages (we used Shady Brook Farms Hot Italian Turkey Sausage)
1 12 oz. can Diced Tomatoes with Italian Herbs
1 package Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough
Pepper, Parmesan Cheese and Garlic Powder to taste
Approx. 10 Mozzarella Balls (I highly recommend Trader Joe’s Marinated Mozzarella Balls, but for this recipe I used TJ’s Ciliegine Mozzarella Balls)
10-20 Basil Leaves, cut into strips

Crumble and brown the turkey sausage in a large frying pan or wok.  When the sausage is nicely browned, remove it from heat and set aside.  Drain the diced tomatoes slightly and then saute over medium heat for 10-15 minutes to reduce.  If you want a smoother tomato base, use a potato masher to slightly crush the tomato chunks.  Meanwhile, stretch out your pizza dough into two rectangular pies on a large cookie sheet (see my Homemade TBM Pizza for instructions on how to do this).

Spoon and spread the reduced diced tomatoes evenly onto the two pizza pies.  Sprinkle the browned sausage over the pizza and top with ground black pepper, Parmesan, and garlic powder.  Next, distribute the mozzarella balls evenly over the pizza.  I like to use a pair of kitchen shears to cut each mozzarella ball into several pieces — this helps to cover the pizza evenly without using an entire container of cheese!  🙂

Bake pizzas in a preheated 350° oven for 12 minutes.  Remove the pizzas from the oven and top with your sliced basil.  Enjoy!

Cilantro-Lime Rice

In this recipe, simply adding some cilantro and lime can transform a mundane frozen package of Trader Joe’s white rice into a fancy-tasting side dish.  Try this with Tequila Shrimp or substitute it in for normal rice in your favorite burrito recipe.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

You will need…
2-3 tablespoons of chopped Cilantro
2 tablespoons Lime Juice
Lime Zest from one small Lime
1 pouch of frozen Trader Joe’s White Rice

Place the Cilantro, Lime Juice and Lime Zest in a serving bowl.  Cook the packet of rice according to the package instructions (for TJ’s white rice, microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes).  Add cooked rice to serving bowl and stir to combine.