Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet Cocktail

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet with Mint recipe.

Cocktails, Recent Posts | July 20, 2018 | By

What advice do you give your child the night before they leave for college? When I think back, I am not sure I gave my children advice when they went off to school. It was more of a plea to stay safe.  The advice given to me the night before I flew 3000 miles away to school took me by surprise. I can remember it as clear as a cloudless California summer night, Dad said to me, “If you are going to drink, drink vodka. It is the purest of all alcohol so you won’t get a headache, and the cops can’t smell it on your breath.” “Ah, ok Dad.” Whaaat…?  I mean what is an 18-year-old supposed to say to that?

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet with Lime, recipe.

Flashback to 1977 in California where I lived. I was moving to New York and in 1977 the drinking age was 18. I’m guessing Dad figured the likelihood of me drinking alcohol was a distinct reality. So maybe that explains his peculiar advice.

The other shock about Dad giving me advice on alcohol and drinking is Dad was not a big drinker. Yes, Dad enjoyed his cocktail at night, but he never had more than one drink. His ritual was a gin and tonic in the spring and summer months and a bourbon on the rocks in the fall and winter. He never drank in excess or was he a big fan of people who did drink a lot. Furthermore, I do not believe he ever took a sip of vodka in his life, so how did he know? Yet, there he was standing before me telling me what to drink. Maybe in his own way, he was telling me to stay safe and keep out of trouble. Giving practical advice is less emotional than saying I will miss you and you are moving so far away.

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet with Mint recipe.

Minty Advice

It wasn’t until I was married and with college-age children of my own, that I took Dad’s advice and vodka became my beverage of choice for cocktails. Maybe my influence came from Cosmos featured so elegantly in Sex in the City. Though, I made up my own Cosmo recipe using pomegranate juice, lime juice and vodka. However, the vodka gimlet I can distinctly point to my husband’s cousin for the credit.

We were at a pool party at Joe’s cousin’s home enjoying a small Palumbo family reunion one blistering hot summer day. His cousin was making vodka gimlets in honor of his father. I mean Uncle Frank was Joe’s Godfather so how could we refuse? Wow, Steven made them strong, but they were the perfect antidote on that sweltering hot day. Maybe more refreshing than the pool. It was love at first sip. From that day on, vodka gimlets became our preferred cocktail and set the standard for all vodka martinis to come.

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet with Mint, recipe.

Vodka Gimlet

Traditionally, gimlets are made with gin, lime juice and a splash of simple syrup. However, I prefer my gimlets made with vodka and without simple syrup. Adding mint leaves to the shaker and muddling the leaves with a slice of lime softens the strong vodka bite. The mint quickly infuses the cocktail with its herbal charm and tones down the alcohol. In my opinion, the mint infusion eliminates the need for the simple syrup.

I must confess, I do not mind strong cocktails because I like to taste the alcohol in my drinks and not be masked by a sweetener. Yet, making the perfect cocktail is all about balance, that is why I like adding fresh herbs to cocktails. In my opinion, herbs balance out all the flavors. Also, tasting the alcohol in your drink helps you to sip the cocktail at a slower pace. If a cocktail tastes like sweetened fruit juice, that cocktail will quickly disappear with a second trip to the bar already underway.

Vodka

You do not need fancy vodka for a vodka gimlet, just a smooth and clean tasting one. For fun and to educate myself about local distilleries, I bought a vodka made in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Republic Vodka. It is made with grains from the Midwest, the NY Hudson Valley, and Brooklyn water. Don’t get turned off by Brooklyn water, the New York City Watershed is in my backyard with reservoirs all over Westchester County and this water is good and clean.

Brooklyn Republic Vodka has a clean taste with a silky smooth viscosity. I cannot drink most vodkas straight up, but I can drink Brooklyn Republic Vodka ice-cold as is. This is a delicious vodka and it is clear Brooklyn Republic Vodka knows what they are doing.

New York State, and in particular Brooklyn is developing a solid reputation for distilling local vodka, gin, bourbon and brewing beer all made with New York grain. It is an exciting development that is part of a resurgence for small wheat and corn farms all over the state.

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet with Mint recipe.

Vodka Gimlet Variations

Vodka gimlets are a refreshing summer cocktail, but I enjoy them year round. For some variety, you can switch up the herbs. Thyme, rosemary or basil make terrific substitutions for the mint in a vodka gimlet or martini. Cucumbers are a nice addition as well. Muddle a slice of cucumber with the mint, or another fresh herb, then proceed as directed.

My Advice

Maybe Dad was right about vodka being the purest alcoholic beverage which could reduce the likelihood of getting a headache after a night of fun. Yet, just to be on the safe side, please drink vodka gimlets, or any cocktail, responsibly. Have fun and please be safe.

Enjoy any one of these appetizers with your cocktail

Deviled Eggs, 4 Ways

Salmon Mousse

Ricotta Toasts with Grilled Ramps, substitute grilled leeks for the ramps.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Fig, Mozzarella and prosciutto Salad

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet with Mint recipe.

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Lime Mint Vodka Gimlet

Vodka gimlet is a very refreshing cocktail with the bright flavor of lime and fresh mint. There is no simple syrup added, which keeps the cocktail bright with a slight citrus sourness. The mint muddled in the vodka ties it all together. Fresh herbs make a wonderful addition to martinis. To me, they are a necessary ingredient to tone down the sharp bite of vodka. 

Feel free to adjust the amount of vodka to suit your taste. 

Course cocktail
Keyword vodka cocktail, vodka gimlet, vodka martini
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 3-4 small fresh mint leaves
  • 2 limes 1 lime for juice, the other used in the cocktail and garnish
  • Handful of ice cubes
  • 5 oz vodka clean tasting vodka that is not flavored

Instructions

  1. Add the mint with one thin slice of lime to a cocktail shaker and use the handle of a wooden spoon or a muddler and press down on the lime and mint to release the oils. Add a handful of ice cubes, then add freshly squeezed lime juice of one lime and the vodka into your cocktail shaker. Put the top on the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 15-30 seconds. 

  2. Pour the cocktail in two 4 oz (125 ml) martini glasses, add a slice or wedge of lime for garnish. Serve immediately while it's ice cold. 

Refreshing Vodka Gimlet with Mint recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style. Recipe.

In Spain they call it, a la plancha. Italians refer to it as, a la piastra. In Greece, on a staz. No matter what you call it, it’s a centuries old Mediterranean technique for grilling vegetables, fish and meats. In Spain they use a round metal plate, but in Greece they use a piece of sheet metal placed directly on the grill.  From Italy, a stone or a metal plate creates a hot flat surface over an open flame. Essentially, it is a flat metal or stone griddle, set over a grill grate over an open flame. Mediterranean cooks know how to grill their vegetables because these grilled vegetables never tasted so good.

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style, recipe.

This technique does not produce fancy crisscross grill marks on your grilled vegetables, but what you do get are tender vegetables that retain some bite and have a good sear from the stone or griddle. Ultimately, the more surface area that touches the vegetables, means more flavor on your grilled vegetables from the sear. Another bonus is, no more vegetables falling through the grates and flare ups. Mediterranean style grilled vegetables are sweet, lightly flavored from the fire’s smoke, and seared to perfection.

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style, recipe.

A New Way with Grilled Vegetables

It all started yesterday on an impulse after coming upon the phrase, “… a la piastra,” in one of my cookbooks. It was an “Ah ha” moment for me with the realization of a refrigerator full of vegetables and an old cast iron griddle begging for use.  With my fingers crossed and plans for dinner and a blog post on the horizon, I decided to give “A la piastra” grilling technique a try. It was just meant to be.

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style, recipe.

I do love the flavor of grilled vegetables, but when I grill chicken or meats, I don’t always grill vegetables for a side dish. Mainly, I do not want my whole dinner tasting all the same. Also, depending on how many people we are cooking for, there is just no room on my 22-inch charcoal grill.

Because this was somewhat impulsive, and I was “recipe testing”, I did not cook the vegetables in an organized manner, but fit the different vegetables here and there along with our dinner of stuffed rainbow trout. I was not sure how long the grill would stay hot, so I cooked things together instead of one at a time. Regardless of my cooking organization, I don’t mind a hodgepodge of grilled vegetables because my job was to use up a bunch of vegetables and test out this grilling technique. I call this mission a delicious success, hodgepodge or not. Now, I have a beautiful mess of tasty grilled vegetables ready whenever I want them.

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style, recipe.

Grilled rainbow trout with grilled garlic scapes and grilled lemons

Grilled Vegetables a la Piastra

What I discovered is if you have a cast iron pan or griddle, they create a hot surface to make delicious grilled vegetables, fish and meets. I have yet to test other types of food, but I can’t imagine there is an issue using this technique for shellfish, chicken or steak. Grilling a la piastra or plancha, works particularly well with thin vegetables or sliced vegetables that would normally fall through the spaces on a grill grate. I loved using this technique with thinly sliced zucchini, asparagus, sliced onions, and garlic scapes. Some additional vegetables I want to try are fennel, eggplant and mushrooms.

It is my opinion that grilling bell peppers works better over the open grill grate. They just took longer to get blistered and charred when on the hot surface vs the grill grates. Also corn works better over the open fire and by better, I mean it does not take as long to cook.

Fruit like lemons and oranges grill nicely on a hot plate, but my mind is not made up for peaches. My peach halves stuck to both the grill grate and the cast iron griddle, but this was also the first time I grilled peaches.

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style, recipe.

Grilled toast with ricotta cheese and minced grilled garlic scapes and leeks.

How to Grill Vegetables a la Piastra

First, this technique is best using a charcoal grill, but I believe will work with a gas grill, but you won’t get the smoky flavor. Using either grill you must make a hot fire that will last for a while depending on how much food you are grilling. Get the charcoal good and hot, then place the griddle pan or stone on your grate. Heat up your griddle surface for 15 minutes until the surface gets really hot. Close the lid if you are using a gas grill, keep the lid off if you are using a charcoal grill.

Once the grill is hot, oil the grill grate. Do not oil the hot griddle. It is possible that the oil soaked paper towel could burst into flames from the heat of the pan. Instead, generously coat the vegetables and fish in canola oil or other oil with a high smoke point. Arrange the vegetables on the surface of your “griddle” and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the vegetable.

Depending on the surface area of your plate, you will need to cook the vegetables in shifts. Just to be organized, cook the same vegetables all at the same time. Once done, remove the vegetables off the grill and place them spaced out on a tray or plate. If you pile them up, the vegetables will steam and get soggy.

Once done, let the grill plate cool completely before handling. If possible, use tongs and a scrubby to scrape off any stuck on bits while the surface is still hot. It is easier to clean off the charred bits when the plate is still hot, but not at the expense of getting burned.

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style, recipe.

Equipment for Grilling Vegetables

  • You need a grill, preferably a charcoal grill but a gas one will work fine.
  • Good quality charcoal without lighter fluid and a charcoal chimney to start the coals.
  • BBQ quality oven mitt or glove.
  • A cast iron pan or griddle, pizza stone, baking steel or food grade metal or stone surface that can tolerate temperature up to 700°F (371°C). Some pizza stones can only withstand temperatures up to 500°F (260°C) or lower.
  • Long metal BBQ tongs without plastic tips.
  • A good BBQ spatula.
  • Several trays for putting the grilled vegetables on.
  • A timer is helpful

Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style, recipe.

What to do with all these grilled vegetables?

Serve grilled vegetables with grilled fish, grilled tofu, grilled chicken or steak, or roast chicken.

Assemble a platter of grilled vegetables, olives, cured meats, cheeses and crusty bread. Dine al fresco for a light dinner or a cocktail party.

Serve grilled vegetables as an appetizer made with grilled toasts and ricotta cheese topped with grilled vegetables.

Make a light pesto dressing with muddled basil leaves, smashed garlic, olive oil and vinegar and dress the grilled vegetables.

Grilled vegetable sandwiches with crusty bread, basil mayo or sriracha mayo, with Gouda or mozzarella cheese (smoked or plain) and grilled vegetables.

Frittata with grilled vegetables.

Where to buy a La Plancha griddle pan?

The Big Green Egg has a la plancha griddle for the Big Green Egg. It could work on other round grills depending on the size of the pan and your grill. (Not an add)

Lodge makes a round carbon steel griddle pan. They also make griddle pans in different sizes, shapes and materials. (Not an add)

Sur la Table has a variety of options with an Emile Henry Flame Charcoal Pizza Stone, Swissmare Raclette Granite Stone, Baking Steel Griddle, Lodge round griddle. Plus many more. (Not an add)

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Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style

Grilling vegetables is so easy when you use a griddle surface on top of a charcoal or gas grill. This grilling surface prevents vegetables from falling through the cracks of the grate or incinerating tender vegetables from sudden flare ups. I had an old cast iron griddle pan that served as a perfect surface on top of my grill, but a 12-inch cast iron skillet or baking steel will work nicely. A stone surface also works if it can withstand temperatures up to 700°F (371°C). My grill pan has a surface area of 16 x 10 inches (40.5 x 25.5 cm). Any food grade metal or stone surface with a surface area of 14 x 11 inches (35.5 x 28 cm) or larger will work nicely as long as it fits on your grill. This is a grilling technique originating from the Mediterranean and possibly first developed in Spain. Serve hot or at room temperature. Grilled vegetables are best eaten the day they are made but will last if kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
Course Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword grilled vegetables
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Heating a charcoal grill 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red onion sliced into rings about ¼-inch .5 cm thick
  • 1-2 leeks sliced in half lengthwise, cleaned and root and dark green parts trimmed off
  • 4-6 garlic cloves peel on
  • 2 zucchini sliced lengthwise into ¼- inch .5 cm thick slices
  • 1 yellow squash sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch .5 cm thick slices
  • 12 or more asparagus spears ends trimmed
  • 8 garlic scapes optional
  • 2 lemons cut in half across the width.
  • 1 peach cut in half across the equator optional
  • 2 ears of corn husk and silk threads removed optional
  • 1 fennel bulb stalks removed and sliced in 1/4 -inch (.5 cm) slices (optional)
  • 2-3 TB Canola oil or other oil with a high smoke point
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 loaf French bread sliced on a diagonal optional
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TB Red wine vinegar
  • 1 large bunch of basil leaves cleaned and stems removed

Instructions

  1. Prepare your grill. If using a gas grill, heat to 450°F (230°C). For a charcoal grill, fill a charcoal chimney to the top with charcoal. Rest the chimney on the charcoal grate. Light the chimney according to manufacture instructions. Heat the charcoal until all the coals are very hot. They will look mostly grey with streaks of black throughout each lump or briquette. Put on an BBQ mitt and carefully empty the hot charcoal onto the grate. Add an additional half chimney’s worth of charcoal and spread out over the hot charcoal. Arrange the charcoal over the bottom of the whole grate, but with one side having more charcoal than the other. Place the top grilling grate on the grill and the grill pan over the side with the most charcoal. Heat until the grill pan and grate are good and hot, about 15 minutes. Close lid if using a gas grill. The grill pan is hot when you flick water on the grill pan and it bubbles up and dances on the surface.
  2. While the grill is heating up, add the zucchini slices, asparagus and scapes in a large bowl and drizzle about 1 TB (15 ml) of oil over the prepared vegetables. Use the remaining oil to baste the remaining vegetables. Arrange the onion slices and leek halves on a sheet pan and baste with oil on both sides. Baste some oil over the cut surface of the cut lemons. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of Kosher salt over the vegetables, except the bell peppers.
  3. When the grill is hot, arrange the bell peppers on the side of the grill without the grill pan. Every few minutes, use long tongs to turn the bell peppers over so the whole pepper gets a good char and is blistered, about 15 minutes. Once the bell peppers get black all over, place them in a medium bowl and tightly cover with foil and plastic wrap. Set aside to allow the peppers to steam in the bowl for at least 15 minutes.
  4. If using corn on the cob, place them on the grill grate with the bell peppers. Start the corn when you start the peppers. Cook the corn turning them periodically to get an even char on all sides, about 8-10 minutes total.
  5. Meanwhile, arrange the onion slices, garlic cloves and leeks on the grill pan. Cook for 2 minutes then turn over on the other side. You want the onions and leeks to get soft with a nice sear on both sides. Once done, remove from the grill and place on a tray. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. The garlic is done, when you see some brown spots on the peel and they are soft in the middle.
  6. Place the lemon halves cut side down on the grill or grill pan and cook until a good sear develops on the cut side, about 3-4 minutes.
  7. When there is room on the grill pan, arrange the zucchini and yellow squash slices on the grate and cook about 2-3 minutes per side. You want browned surface on both sides and tender slices of squash with a slight crispness. Place the squash on a tray when done. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to evenly coat.
  8. Cook the asparagus and garlic scapes on the grill plate. Turning each asparagus spear and garlic scape over around 3 minutes per side. You want the asparagus and scapes to get soft but still have some bite. When done, place the vegetables on a tray. Lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat.
  9. If you are grilling the fennel add the fennel slices when there is room on the grill pan and cook 3 minutes per side, or until soft but still firm. Place on a tray when done. Sprinkle on Kosher salt and black pepper and toss to coat.
  10. Add the sliced French bread, if using, on the grill and toast until the bread is golden brown. How long it will take will depend on how hot your fire is at this time.
  11. When all the vegetables are cooked, remove the skins off the bell peppers by rubbing your hands over the charred skin and pulling off the skin until it is all clear. Do not run the bell pepper under water, or you will wash away all that delicious flavor you worked so hard to make. Clean hands and remove the core from each pepper and slice into slices.
  12. Remove the garlic peels off each clove. Take 1-2 grilled garlic cloves and rub it over the toasted French bread. Add any remaining cloves to the vegetable platter.
  13. Arrange all the vegetables on a platter in piles. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, and torn basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.
  14. Grilled garlic scapes taste great minced and placed on top of ricotta cheese toasts. Or, mince and add to the olive oil and fresh basil, then sprinkle over the grilled vegetables.
Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style. Mediterranean technique for grilling vegetables. Grilled vegetables develop a great sear when grilled on a stone or metal surface over an open flame.
Hodgepodge of Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean Style. Mediterranean technique for grilling vegetables. Grilled vegetables develop a great sear when grilled on a stone or metal surface over an open flame.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

If I were to make myself a birthday pizza, Squash blossom pizza would be it. I can’t imagine a prettier and sunnier looking pizza. It has everything I love, fresh edible flowers, soft and decadent cheese, and crispy bread all in one gorgeous pizza. Squash blossoms are a rare treat available only for a about a month in the summer when there is an abundance of male and female flowers on zucchini plants. The male flower is picked, leaving some to continue pollinating the female flowers to grow squash. Luckily my birthday falls during this time allowing me to indulge in one of mother nature’s seasonal gifts. Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

Squash Blossom Pizza

Unless you grow your own vegetables, finding squash blossoms is challenging. It is like going on a scavenger hunt but instead of knocking on the doors of strangers looking for a wire coat hanger to shape into a sculpture, you go from farmer to farmer looking for squash blossoms. Ask your favorite farm stand vender if they have squash blossoms and if they can sell some to you. Also, I recommend getting to the farmers market just as it opens pick out the squash blossoms before it gets too hot, or before they disappear. Fortunately, I was able to arrange to get these squash blossoms from Rochambeau Farm Stand, for which I am very grateful.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza, recipe.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza, recipe.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza, recipe.

For a 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza you will need around 12 squash blossoms. From my experience squash blossoms come in all different sizes so I recommend buying a few extras.

Preparing squash blossoms for this pizza is not difficult. All you need is to trim the stems off each blossom then cut the flower open and remove the stamen. Once the pizza dough is ready, arrange the open blossoms in two concentric circles to cover the pizza. The blossoms curl up somewhat but try to get them as close together as possible. The next time I make this pizza I will cut a few extra blossoms in sections, so I can fill the bare spots and get more blossoms per square inch.

Watch out for bees and other insects hiding inside the closed flowers. Once you cut open the flower, carefully inspect each flower and shake off the little critters.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

Pizza Dough

Use store-bought fresh pizza dough from your favorite pizza parlor or buy the dough from the grocery. I hear Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods has delicious pizza dough for sale. My local family run grocer has good pizza dough as well, so look around they are usually found in the refrigerator aisle.

If you feel up to it, make pizza dough, but keep in mind some recipes require you start the process 4 days in advance. I have not posted a recipe yet, as I am still developing my pizza dough recipe. Developing a pizza dough recipe takes time and lots of practice so until then, I have tested pizza dough recipes from Serious Eats, or the 72 hour pizza dough with whole wheat flour in The Baking Steel Cookbook.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

Cheese for Squash Blossom Pizza

Creamy burrata is recommended for squash blossom pizza. It pairs well with the tomato sauce and the squash blossoms. It is not too rich, and you add it after the pizza is done baking. If you cannot find burrata, look for any soft and creamy type of cheese like good quality fresh whole milk ricotta, goat cheese, or fresh mozzarella. The goat cheese I would add to the pizza after baking, but the ricotta and mozzarella I would arrange on the pizza before I place it in the oven.

A 10-inch pizza is a small pizza, often considered small enough for one serving. In good conscious, I cannot recommend one person eating 4 oz of burrata. It’s just not healthy to eat a quarter pound of cheese no matter how much you love burrata. If you want your pizza as a single serving, please dollop half the amount of cheese over the pie using 2 oz instead of 4.

Birthday Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata, recipe.

 

More pizza recipes Four Cheese Pizza, Pesto Shrimp Pizza

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Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata

This pizza is one of the prettiest pizzas ever. I love the flavor of squash blossoms, a floral scent of summer squash with a slight vegetal note. This pizza reminds me of a sunflower stretching its petals open towards the sun. The burrata gives the pizza a luxurious kiss of creamy bliss. 


Use store-bought pizza dough enough for one 10-inch pizza (about 7.5 oz / 212 g in weight) or make your own pizza dough. Making your own pizza dough takes some advance planning as some recipes takes from 48- 72 hours to mature. 

Makes one 10 inch (25.5 cm) pizza and serves 1-2 people. 

Use a quick, fresh tasting tomato sauce flavored with olive oil. See notes for a recipe. 

This pizza recipe is from Nancy Sliverton's Mozza Cookbook

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword Pizza Recipe, Squash blossom pizza
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Resting and Preheating Time 1 hour
Total Time 23 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 10 – 12 fresh squash blossoms
  • 1 fresh pizza dough portion for a 10-inch 25.5 cm pizza
  • 1 TB 15 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing the pizza
  • Kosher Salt
  • ¼ cup 75 ml fresh tomato sauce
  • 4 oz 125 g burrata
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Prep

  1. Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking. This step allows the pizza dough to relax and come up to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 500°F / 260°C /Gas Mark 10 one hour before you want to cook the pizza. If you have a pizza stone, lower the rack at the bottom position and place the stone on the rack. If you have a baking steel, position the rack 6 inches (15 cm) under the broiler (top rack) and place the baking steel on the rack. Or, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Preheat stone or steel in the oven.

  3. If you have neither stone or steel, place a baking sheet pan upside down on top of the bottom rack, similar to the baking stone, and preheat. 

    If you do not have a pizza peel,  reserve a sheet pan to the side of your work space and cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Once the dough is shaped, you will assemble the pizza on the sheet pan instead of a peel.

Prepare the squash blossoms

  1. Trim off the stems of each squash blossom and discard. Open each blossom by cutting down the side of each blossom with kitchen scissors then and cut away the stamen. Discard the stamens. Set aside.

Shape the dough

  1. When you are ready to cook the pizza, assemble all the equipment and ingredients you need for the pizza. The peel, extra flour and some corn meal for the peel, and all pizza ingredients. Arrange them on either side of your work space, giving you plenty of space to shape and assemble the pizza, but  still within arm’s reach.

  2. Lightly flour your work surface and pizza peel, if using. Tip your pizza dough in the center of the floured work surface. Press down on the center of the dough ball and flatten to form a disk. Press near the edge of the dough with your fingertips, creating a rim border about 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick around the pizza dough.

  3. Hold your hands in a loose fist and drape the disk over the tops of your fists. Holding your fist in front of your body stretch out the dough and allow it to drape down over your hands. Move the pizza dough around in a circle to evenly shape the pizza dough. Stretch the dough from the outer rim with your thumbs, and from the weight of the dough draping over your fists.
  4. When your dough stretches to a 10-inch diameter (25.5 cm) pizza, place it on your floured pizza peel or prepared sheet pan. Shake the pizza peel back and forth to see if the pizza dough will slide off the peel. If it sticks carefully add more flour or corn meal over the pizza peel by lifting up the edges of the pizza and dust the pizza peel. Do this around the pizza until the dough slides easily.

Assemble the pizza

  1. Quickly assemble the pizza. Spoon the tomato sauce in the center of the pizza and spread it evenly over the surface leaving a one-inch (2.5 cm) border. Starting at the inside edge of your border, arrange the squash blossoms in an even and circular pattern around the pizza in two concentric circles. The exterior side of the blossom faces up. The tips of the flowers in the inner circle will overlap the stem end of the flowers in the outer circle. Place two blossoms over the center of the circle with the stem ends touching each other. 

  2. Shake the pizza peel to see if it is loose and will slide. If the pizza is sticking, carefully lift up the edges and dust with flour or corn meal until it easily slides.

  3. Slide the pizza off the peel and position on the stone, steel or sheet pan. If you are not using a peel, place the sheet pan holding the pizza on top of your baking steel, stone, or upside down sheet pan. 

    To slide the pizza off the peel, position the pizza peel towards the back of the stone or steel. Give the peel a definitive shake, pulling your peel towards you. You want the pizza to slide off the peel with one good shake so don’t be timid about pulling the pizza peel towards you. One good jolt helps the pizza slide off and retain its shape. Pull the peel out of the oven then close the door and bake.

  4. Bake in the oven until the crust is golden and crispy anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on your oven. Lift up the pizza with a large spatula and inspect the bottom crust. That should be golden as well.  If you are using a Baking steel it may take less time. Use the time as guidelines because individual conditions vary. Half way through baking, Use a large BBQ spatula to rotate the pizza from front to back to ensure even cooking. 

  5. When done, remove the pizza from the oven and slice into quarters with a large and sharp chef knife or pizza cutter. Cut the burrata into 4 even sections and place in the middle of each pizza wedge. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. If you have good quality finishing extra virgin olive oil, use it here with a few grounds of fresh black pepper.

  6. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Nancy Silverton’s specifies a Passata di Pomodoro sauce for this pizza. It is made with 2- 28 oz (794 g) cans of whole plum tomatoes, a shy tablespoon of sugar, a shy tablespoon of Kosher salt, and ¼ cup (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil. The skins and seeds are removed from the tomatoes using a food mill, “passed through” as the name indicates. I do not have a food mill, so I just puréed the tomatoes and can liquid with an immersion blender after I removed the seeds. FYI, the brand SM whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes from California) have the skins already removed. Heat up the olive oil in a large pot and carefully add the tomato purée and the remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens. About 30 minutes.

Squash blossom pizza with burrata. A delightful pizza recipe made with squash blossoms and burrata. Squash Blossom Pizza with Burrata is a special treat in the early summer when the blossoms are available.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Two Summer Salad Menu Ideas

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

No matter where you are on Independence Day, dinner needs some planning to make sure there is enough time afterwards to watch the fireworks.  Even if you are home for the holiday, it is possible to put together a summer holiday feast that makes everyone feel like they are on a vacation. With hot summer days and vacation dreams in mind, I developed two summer salad menus. One salad menu is focused around a vegetable and steak salad and a second salad menu is for a vegetarian meal. Both salad menus are perfect for 4th of July or any summer weekend at home or away.

One full meal is easily made by pairing several salads each with distinct and complimentary flavors. One perk for using a salad menu is, a good chunk of the work can easily get done in advance. Additionally, salads give you some flexibility in timing as they taste great either at room temperature or chilled.  At mealtime, all that is left are the final touches and adding fresh herbs and the dressing. Once done, you can relax and enjoy the company of your friends and family. 

Steak Summer Salad Menu

Appetizer

Fig and Prosciutto Salad

Main Course

Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad 

or 

Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing

Dessert

Nectarine Blueberry Galette

or

Point Reyes Baby Blue Cheesecake with sliced Figs

 

Appetizer

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

 

Jamie Oliver refers to the Fig and Prosciutto Salad as the sexiest salad in the world. That may be true, but it is totally family friendly. Besides, wrapping a fig in prosciutto might be the only way you can get your child to eat a fig. It is a light and flavorful salad with mozzarella cheese squeezed in the middle of each fig with a drizzle of honey and lemon juice.  Also, fig and prosciutto salad is perfectly delicious and acceptable as a light dinner on those hot summer nights when you do not want to cook. Serve a green salad and a glass of chilled rosé and unwind.

Main Course

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

The main course for this summer salad menu is a steak dinner loaded with fresh vegetables. It is like two salads in one.  Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad is full of summer produce like green beans, grape tomatoes and peaches or nectarines and paired with grilled steak. Along with the vegetables the citrus vinaigrette makes the salad very refreshing. There are some spice notes in the citrus dressing because that is the way I like it. However, you can easily omit the sriracha if you prefer.

Summer Salad Menu Ideas

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

A creamy salad like Potato Salad with Sorrel Dressing pairs nicely with the green beans and grilled steak. Sorrel is difficult to find so substitute is with some lemon zest and juice. Serve the potato salad chilled.

If you do not want to make potato salad, an alternative is the Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad. It is a true work horse salad that everyone loves. It has the salty, creamy and fresh flavors scattered throughout the salad and satisfies those creamy cravings without being heavy.

Dessert

Summer Salad Menu Ideas

Galettes are really easy to make and always appreciated. I love mixing fruits together like Nectarine Blueberry Galette. For variety, you can substitute the blueberries with black cherries. Make the pie dough the night before and keep in the refrigerator, then assemble and bake the galette in the morning or early afternoon. You just want to make sure to give yourself plenty of time to allow for the galette to cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

Another make ahead, and sophisticated dessert is sweet with a slightly savory bite from my favorite blue cheese, Point Reyes Baby Blue Cheesecakes. For a summer variation, garnish the cheesecakes with sliced figs or any summer fruit that pairs well with blue cheese. The blue cheese flavor is subtle, and well suited as either an appetizer or a dessert.

Vegetarian Summer Salad Menu

Appetizers

Muhammarra with herb pita chips

Blue cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots

Main Course

Tortellini Salad with Basil Pesto

Green Bean Salad with Lemon Dressing

Leafy Green Salad with Lemon Cream Dressing

Dessert

Strawberry Basil No-churn Ice Cream with fresh Strawberries

and/or

Fudgy Brownies with Sea Salt and Caramel

 

Appetizers

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

Dips are easy to make with some dips, like these two, you can make in advance. Often, dips taste better given some time for the flavors to meld. Muhammara and Blue Cheese Dip with Caramelized Shallots are two of my favorite dips.

If you want something that is on the lighter side, make an artichoke or black olive tapenade and serve with cut up vegetables or crackers. Olive tapenade is delicious with goat cheese as well.

Main Course

Summer Salad Menu Ideas

For a vegetarian main course, pasta salad makes a great main course meal. Make my Tortellini with Basil Pesto recipe into a salad by rinsing the cooked tortellini under cold water to stop the cooking. Shake out any excess water and add the tortellini to a large mixing bowl along with the pesto and grape tomatoes. Omit the green beans because you will have them with the three bean salad. I prefer this salad at room temperature, but you can make this ahead then refrigerate it until time to serve. Here is a link for my pesto recipe. You will find a link for the pesto recipe with the tortellini recipe as well.

Summer Salad Menu Ideas

Photos for blog post, 3 bean salad

This is not your ordinary green bean salad. It is made with green beans, yellow wax beans and kidney beans, essentially it is a three bean salad. It is perfect for the summer or anytime you have vegetarian or vegan guests. The ginger in the lemon vinaigrette recipe does not pair well with the pesto so replace it with fresh basil or parsley. If you cannot find yellow wax beans, as they are not quite in season yet, substitute is with another legume like black beans or chick peas.

Dessert

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

Summer Salad Menu Ideas.

Everyone loves ice cream and brownies and these recipes are real crowd pleaser. Strawberry Basil No-churn Ice Cream is delicious served alone or with some fudgy brownies with sea salt and caramel. This best brownie recipe ranks up there as one of the best I have ever had.

Lemon Cream Dressing

This recipe is from Joshua McFadden’s cookbook, Six Seasons.

Toss the green salad with any dressing you prefer, but since the green bean salad has a vinaigrette I thought it would be nice for something that was different yet compliment the other salads in the meal.  Despite the cream, Lemon Cream Dressing is very light. Infuse 4 smashed and peeled garlic cloves in a half cup (125 ml) of heavy cream for two hours in the refrigerator. Once the garlic is infused, remove the cloves and add a pinch of Kosher salt, several rounds of freshly ground black pepper, and zest from a quarter of a lemon. Whisk the cream. As soon as it starts to thicken add two tablespoons (30 ml) of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of extra virgin olive oil. Continue to whisk the cream until the dressing is light and airy. You are not making full-out whipped cream, but one you can pour that has a light and creamy texture.

Final Thoughts

Each salad menu has unique and flavorful salads that compliment each other. They also create a balanced dinner filled with summer produce. The amount of  servings per salad is the same as the number of servings stated in the original recipe. Unless otherwise stated, each menu will feed a family of 4-5. Fortunately, each recipe is easily scaled up to serve any number of guests. Depending on how many guests you are planning for, you might need additional appetizers like guacamoledeviled eggs, or roasted shrimp cocktail, and desserts like Nifty Cake or peach sabayon.

Hope you get to see some fireworks. Have a delicious and happy Independence Day.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Pineapple Salsa

Grilled Mahi Mahi with strawberry pineapple salsa recipe.

At least twice a week, we enjoy eating fish for dinner with the usual choices being, salmon, char or plaice. These fish varieties are easily available, heart healthy and sustainable choices. However, I do appreciate having some variety and like to switch up my routine. On those occasions I enjoy fish like Mahi Mahi, especially grilled Mahi Mahi.

Once I got over the confusion from its name, dolphinfish, I lost any queasiness about eating it. Rest assured, Mahi Mahi is a fish and not related to Dolphins the mammal. They are fast swimming migratory fish found around the world’s tropical, temperate, and subtropical oceans.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Pineapple salsa recipe.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with strawberry pineapple salsa recipe.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with strawberry pineapple salsa recipe.

Seafood Watch recommendations for Mahi Mahi

Salsa for Grilled Mahi Mahi

Like many fish dinners, Mahi Mahi is easy to prepare, and does not take a lot of extra work to flavor it up. Because this recipe is paired with a fruit salsa, I kept the seasoning on the fish on the light side. Fruit salsa compliments the flavor of Mahi Mahi well and makes a light meal to enjoy during these hot summer evenings.

Pineapple is a reliable fruit choice for salsa, yet strawberries add a nice contrast with its bright berry flavor and vivid color. Unfortunately, fruit salsas should not be made in advance, but give yourself an outside work space near the grill and make it while you heat up the grill and cook the fish.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with strawberry pineapple salsa recipe.

Surprisingly, even local farm fresh strawberries benefit from some extra sweetness and pineapple compliments the strawberries with the extra sweet kiss they need. So does adding some heat in the form of fresh chili pepper like jalapeño. Any fresh green chili pepper will work in the salsa, even poblano chilies if you want the salsa on the mild side.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Pineapple salsa recipe.

One ingredient I think works well in the salsa is pickled red onion. The salsa needs a pop of acid and pickled vegetables supplies that perky note without the acid breaking down the strawberries and turning them to mush. You don’t need much, just a tablespoon of chopped pickled vegetable like pickled red onion or pepperoncini.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Pineapple salsa recipe.

Switch it Up

This recipe is for grilled Mahi Mahi, but can easily adapt for stove top grilling, or baked in the oven.

If you cannot find Mahi Mahi, substitute it with grouper, trout, halibut, striped bass, or arctic char.

Use Grilled Mahi Mahi for Fish Tacos.

Originally, I wanted to make a strawberry avocado salsa, but my fresh local strawberries turned the avocado and the minced fruit into one big red mushy mess. However, if you still want avocado in the salsa, add it right before serving the grilled Mahi Mahi, or in slices on the side. You will be surprised how well avocado tastes with strawberries and it adds a nice creamy texture as well.

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Pineapple Salsa recipe.

Print

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Salsa

Mahi Mahi is a delicious fish and perfect for cooking on the grill. Topped with fruit salsa made with pineapple and strawberries adds just the right amount of sweetness and spice for bright and flavorful meal. Feel free to adjust the ingredients in the salsa to suit your flavor preferences. If you do not want a spicy salsa, use poblano pepper instead of the jalapeño. 

I like adding pickled onion to give the fruit some punch. Click on the link for my pickled onion recipe. Or, add just a small splash of red vinegar, or pickled jalapeño, or other pickled pepper. 

The salsa recipe makes just over 2 cups (500 ml) and will supply more than what you need for 2-3 servings of grilled Mahi Mahi. 

Makes 3- 5 oz (148 g) servings of grilled Mahi Mahi.

Course Dinner
Keyword grilled fish, grilled Mahi Mahi
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Mahi Mahi

  • 1 lb Mahi Mahi filet
  • Kosher Salt
  • Herbs de Provence
  • Sweet paprika
  • 1/2 TB Canola oil

Salsa

  • 6 oz /175 g Pineapple about 1 cup chopped
  • 5 -6 oz / 190 g strawberries about 11 medium strawberries
  • ½ Kirby cucumber (about 2 ¾ oz / 80 g)
  • ½ -1 jalapeño pepper 38 g / 1 oz
  • 2 green onions minced (white and light parts only)
  • 1 TB pickled onions, finely chopped optional
  • Small pinch of Kosher salt less than a 1/4 teaspoon
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 g basil leaves about 4-6 leaves depending on size
  • 6 small mint leaves
  • Squeeze of lemon juice from a quarter of a lemon optional
  • ½ avocado optional

Instructions

Prepare the grill

  1. Prepare your grill according to manufactures directions.
  2. While the coals are getting hot, sprinkle Kosher salt over both sides of the fish filet. Sprinkle the herbs de Provence and sweet paprika over the top of the filet in a light but even layer. Lightly coat the filet with canola oil and set in the refrigerator. 

  3. When the coals and the grate in the grill are hot, oil the grill. Set the filet top side down on the grate. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn over and cook the other side for an additional 5 minutes. The fish is done when you touch the filet it springs back and with little resistance. Remove from the grill and add fresh black pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Garnish with the strawberry salsa.

Strawberry Salsa

  1. Make the salsa while the grill is heating up and when the fish is grilling. Cut up the pineapple into small bite size pieces less than an ½ inch (1 cm) in size. Add to a small bowl.

  2. Remove the stems and slice the strawberries in half and remove the core. Slice each half in thirds or quarters depending on size of strawberry. Add to the bowl with the pineapple.
  3. Cut the Kirby cucumber in half. Slice one half lengthwise in half and remove the seeds. Chop the cucumber into pieces similar in size to the pineapple and strawberries. Add to the bowl with the fruit.

  4. Depending on how much heat you want in your salsa, use a half of jalapeño pepper or a whole one. Slice the jalapeño in half and remove the stem, seeds and white pith. Leave some of the pith if you want it spicier. Mince the jalapeño and add to the fruit.

  5. Chop up the pickled onion, if using, and add to the bowl with the fruit. Add the minced green onions. 

  6. Sprinkle the small pinch, less than a ¼ tsp, of Kosher salt over the prepared fruit and give a few grinds of black pepper over the fruit. Chiffonade the basil and cut up the mint leaves then add to the fruit. Mix everything together. Set aside.

  7. If you want to add avocado chop it into bite size pieces and add to the salsa just before serving.
  8. Add a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving. Best eaten immediately. 

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Pineapple Salsa. Recipe for grilled mahi mahi and strawberry pineapple salsa. This is an easy dinner to make during the week and an impressive choice for entertaining.
Grilled Mahi Mahi with Strawberry Pineapple Salsa. Recipe for grilled mahi mahi and strawberry pineapple salsa. This is an easy dinner to make during the week and an impressive choice for entertaining.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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