Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pickin' on shrimp

For our Dinnertime Tuesday, I'm taking you all to my house on Christmas Eve.

Our dinner is a quilt of my husband's traditional Italian fish extravaganza, and the ironically Italian food my German family has made for Christams Eve for years and years.

For my husband, Christmas isn't Christmas without a table groaning under the weight of an ocean of fish. From fried chunks of succulent baccala to curly magenta tentacles of calamari, from salty anchovies to silvery smelt, there isn't a water-breathing beast safe while my husband is around. Especially juicy pink shrimp, which he pines to slather in a cocktail sauce so laden with horseradish it burns behind your eyes and makes you breathe so deeply you can feel the oxygen molecules in your blood.

At my house, Christmas Eve was usually lasagna or stuffed shells. Something more special than spaghetti, but easy to throw together hours beforehand and toss in the oven, forgetting about it until starving people gathered around the table. Then with a couple of quick steps, bubbling cheesy noodles are there like magic to satisfy the masses.

On Thursday, people will be gathered around my dining room table shoveling both traditions into their mouths as fast as they can. But in this post, you get the best of both in one lovely quick-to-make, easy-to-please pie.

Shrimp Scampi and pizza. Italian as the Mona Lisa, and great complements to each other. Shrimp, butter, garlic. What’s not to like? How about the expense? Instead of serving lots of pricey jumbo shrimp as a main dish, or using tiny, water-logged salad shrimp, stretch your shellfish budget by using good quality, middle-sized shrimp. Serving them on a crispy but filling crust means you can get away with fewer shrimp per serving, but everyone can have a real treat.

Buono Natale!

Shrimp Scampi Pizza

1 pizza crust

1 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small sweet onion, chopped fine

1 lemon (zest and juice)

1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined (I use the 31-40 shrimp, meaning there are that many to a pound. If I can find bigger shrimp for a good price, I use that, but this isn't a place where you need the biggest you can find. It's also an easy recipe to cut down if you find good quality frozen shrimp in a 10-ounce bag. No one will really notice a few missing shrimp.)

½ c. white wine (No wine? Cheat. Use apple juice. It won’t be as dry, but it will still be darn good.)

Salt and pepper to taste

½ c. parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

In a large skillet, melt butter in olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion. Add lemon zest, juice, shrimp, wine, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until shrimp is pink and firm, about 3-5 minutes. Spread on pizza crust. Top with parmesan cheese and parsley. Bake 8-10 minutes, just until cheese is melted. Overcooking will make shrimp tough.

Extra! Extra!!!

Statistical Slices – Americans are eating twice as much shrimp today as they did in the 1980s, more than a billion pounds a year. The only seafood more popular is tuna. (Source: Earth Summit Watch)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bigger than a bread box?

Not everyone who wants fresh homemade pizza wants to deal with mixing and kneading with her own two hands. Frankly, just thinking about the sticky, gooey feeling of a yeasty dough on my hands, where it dries into a tight, plastery mess makes me frantic to wash my hands.

But I love to make fresh bread. Oh, the quandry.

And that is why I love my brother. In a Christmas related tangent, several years ago, he bought me one of my favorite kitchen tools. My bread machine. (Insert delighted sigh here.)

My bread machine lets me make fresh bread on an almost daily basis. Everything from crusty Italian for my husband to "school made" rolls for my siblings to my updated version of my grandma's traditional Swiss pear bread, bitterbrot. And it doesn't require anything more than throwing things in the pan and pushing three buttons. No mixing. No kneading. Absolutely no icky hands.

Now...should I want to make rolls, or sticky buns, or...oh, I don't Then I have to get up close and personal with the dough, but by that point, it's an elastic, springy mass, perfectly pliable and non-gooey.

Making pizza dough in the bread machine doesn't just mean less mess. It can mean more flavor. Even a simple cheese pizza can get an influx of flavor by adding great ingredients to the bread dough itself rather than putting on toppings. And picky eaters might be more likely to try olives in the crust than seeing black polka dots on top of their cheese.

1 c. warm water

¼ c. milk

1 T. sugar

1 t. salt

1 T. oil

3 c. bread machine flour

2 t. bread machine yeast

Layer ingredients in bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Place on dough setting and let the machine work its magic. In about an hour or so, depending on model, you’ll have all the benefits of homemade dough without the work or sticky hands.

Variations are even easier in a bread machine since most models have a built in beeper that tells you when to throw in extras. You can try the ones here, or go for something different. There are things I will attempt with a bread machine that I never do by hand.


Olive Pizza Dough - Add ¼ c. sliced black olives to dough when your machine permits, or during the second kneading.

Red Pepper Dough - Add 2 T. coarsely chopped roasted red pepper.

Spicy Pizza Dough - Add 2 T. crushed red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper and 2 T. grated parmesan cheese.

Pepper Jack Dough - Add ¾ c. shredded pepper jack cheese.

Extra Extra!!!

The Best Thing Since What? – What’s the big deal about sliced bread? Well, until the 1928, nobody ever saw a whole loaf of sliced bread. Bread, if you didn’t bake it yourself, came to you from the bakery in one whole unsliced loaf. Otto Frederick Rohwedder initially built a machine in 1912 that sliced bread, but no one was interested because of fear the slices would quickly become stale. Sixteen years later, his upgraded model that both sliced and wrapped the loaves was first used in a Missouri bakery. No one is quite sure when “the best thing since sliced bread” was first uttered.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Grandma's Old Red Devil

Welcome to Saturday, the first in The Pizza Principle's "Special Request" series.

I got a lot of great feedback after yesterday's post on the day-by-day reformatting of the blog. So thanks so much for that.

The girls at the NestBump (Hi, Nesties! Hi, Bumpies!) have asked to see some of my non-pizza recipes. With Joseph's birthday (The Big 2) coming up next weekend, I mentioned the chocolate cake he'll be having for his special birthday dinner, and it's going to be our first "request."

My grandma made this cake ALL the time when I was a kid. And when my dad was a kid. And probably when she was a kid. It's a really old recipe, and as far as I'm concerned, it's absolutely perfect.

Grandma's Red Devil's Food is plain and simple, a moist, chocolaty cake that isn't too rich or too heavy, and is utterly perfect with a simple white icing. Grandma usually made hers with melted New York vanilla ice cream instead of butter and milk, just thickening it to a spreading consistency with powdered sugar. Absolutely divine.

Grandma's Red Devil's Food Cake

1/2 c. cocoa
1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sour milk (I've also used sour cream. It's good, but a little richer. Not a bad thing, but not Grandma's. If you don't have sour milk, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk.)

Just mix together, a step at a time. The batter will be a little thinner than your typical box of Betty Crocker. That's okay. Butter a 9x13 cake pan, pour it in, bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the center is springy.

Frost how you like. I've had it with Grandma's frosting, cream cheese frosting, 7- minute frosting, canned Pillsbury frosting...there's really no bad way to go. But give Grandma's ice cream icing a shot. It really is worth it. (And flexible. Whatever you've got in the freezer will be fine.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

A little structure, please!

Something I've noticed about the bloggers I'm reading is that they've developed a kind of set program for their posting.
My good friend Jenni at The Foster Family ( has her Wish List Wednesdays. (Hi, Jenni!)
Emily at has a whole slate of plans for her blog, including FAQ Fridays, where she answers questions about her often controversial lifestyle, and Can You Make Money Blogging, in which she takes you on a tour of how blogging affects her bottom line.
Jen at Cake Wrecks (, one of my absolute favorite blogs, does Sunday Sweets, spotlighting the best instead of the normal "holy crap, what is that?" cakes that make me giggle. She also has a set schedule for her postings, which appear like clockwork every morning. Emily, and others I read, have this kind of commitment as well. I admire that.
And so, this somewhat laissez-faire freelance writer is biting the bullet of structure.
I'm sure my editors (past and present) could confirm that I am a person who absolutely NEEDS a deadline. If I am told I have to submit something by 4 p.m., you will have it at 3:45 p.m. If you tell me to get it to you when it's ready, you may grow old and die waiting for it to show up.
And therefore...a schedule.
From this point on, The Pizza Principle will have a program schedule. Like Fox. Except hopefully with fewer cancellations. (Damn you for your treatment of Joss Whedon and "Dollhouse!" Damn you!!!)
My plan:
  • Back-to-Basics Mondays - either building blocks, like crust or sauce recipes, or simple classic pizzeria classics, like pepperoni rolls.
  • Dinnertime Tuesdays - taking favorites off your dinner menu and translating them to pizza form.
  • Cold Fusion Wednesdays - the very best in salads and sandwiches, with a twist.
  • Brunchtastic Thursdays - because there is more to pizza for breakfast than a fratboy fumbling in an old Domino's box under his bed.
  • Something Sweet Fridays - more than just the cinnamon sugar breadsticks every pizza chain slaps on at the end of the meal.
  • Special Request Saturday - Ask and ye shall receive!

So...what do you think? Give me some feedback, people. I need a topic for tomorrow morning!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hashing it out

Corned beef hash is great any time of day.

It’s a tasty lunch, a satisfying dinner, even a welcome late night diner munchie after an evening out with friends. (The stories I could tell you about 2 a.m. runs to Denny's...)

But there’s no time like breakfast for hash, particularly when you’ve got a big day that requires some serious carbing up.

And yet, unless you follow "hash" with "browns," a kid can look at you like you are speaking Cantonese when you talk about corned beef. What is that? Beef covered with corn? Is it cooked with corn? Vegetables? Are you giving me pot roast for breakfast? What are you talking about?

For the record, corned beef owes its name to the process that separates it from the same cut of brisket that spends hours in a slow smoker. The meat is basically pickled in a brine, like, oh, a pickle. The "corn" refers to the kernels of salt that draw out the juices and let the flavorful, seasoning sink back in, turning ordinary beeef into something extra special.

And "hash?" Well, that generally means a mixed up concoction. When you mix up chopped up corned beef with the mealy deliciousness of cooked potatoes, you temper the saltiness of the meat, and let the potatoes mellow into a creamy backdrop.

Paired with eggs and cheese, it’s the perfect topping for a morning pizza on a busy day.

1 pre-baked pizza crust

1 ½ c. corned beef hash (canned or leftover)

4 eggs, scrambled or hard-boiled, or 8 eggs, poached

1 c. shredded cheddar cheese


Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Spread with hash. Bake 10 minutes, or until heated through.

If you are using scrambled or hard-boiled eggs, arrange over hash layer and top with cheese. Bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Top with parsley and season to taste. Slice and serve.

If you are using poached eggs, skip the egg layer until after the pizza is sliced. Top each piece with a poached egg. (This is definitely a sit-down version. Drippy egg yolks make for unforgiving on-the-run meals.)

EXTRA EXTRA!!! Her Royal Hashiness – Don’t turn up your nose at corned beef hash just because it is the original leftover dish for yesterday’s meat and potatoes. Not only did Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, Princess Margaret, have a special dish just for their hash (they called it "hoosh-mi") as kids, now she frequently enjoys shepherd’s pie, a hash variation, to use up her Sunday roast at the palace.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Feeling hot, hot, hot

It's very cold out today. The kind of cold that comes in and grabs your feet in your sleep.

And then I look out the window. Snow. Piles of it. And I have to go outside and shovel the car out and scrape off the windows and wrestle my son into snow boots and zip-tie mittens to his hands, and I can just tell it's going to be one long, cold, cold, cold day.

And that makes me want something hot to eat.

I want something that isn't just steaming with warmth. I want a chemical heat, the kind that makes your eyes water when the full impact first hits you. In short, I want peppers. Chiles, to be precise. (Yes, there is a difference between a pepper and a chile. Don't ask me what it is. Go ask Alton Brown.)

I don't like a lot of heat. I don't need a habanero to make me happy. A little jalapeno, a fruity poblano, a smoky chipotle and I'm good to go. A little bit of spice can toast you like putting your shoes in front of the fireplace. (If you have a fireplace. I don't. Sigh.)

And nothing pairs with chile like cheese. Cheese tempers the fire of the chile, turning an explosion into a slow, pleasant burn.

To get the most out of this combo on a cold December day, I'm looking to my old appetizer menu friend...the jalepeno popper. But because I don't have a commercial fryer at my disposal, I'm getting the same flavor in a more convenient shape by turning it into a pizza.

Hot Popper Pizza

1 pizza crust
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 small can sliced jalapenos (use fresh, or more, or a different pepper for a hotter pop, or sub in chopped mild green chiles for all the flavor without the burn)
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
2 T. melted butter
1/2 c. breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on pan. Bake 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden. Set aside about 5 minutes.

Mix cream cheese with peppers. Spread over crust. Scatter with cheddar cheese. Combine butter and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over cheese. (If you want to top with some more sliced jalapenos at this point, you can.)

Bake 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and breadcrumbs a golden brown. Let pizza stand about 5 minutes before slicing to allow cream cheese to set.