Out of curiosity I wanted to know just how much pizza Americans eat. The information is a couple of years old, but according to an article in Food Network Dish, Americans eat over 6,000 slices of pizza over the course of their lifetime (Reiter, Amy FN Dish, News, 2015). 6,000 slices of pizza is difficult to imagine, but for some odd reason I thought it was more, Yet the other surprise is, according to The Pizza Joint, a pizza trivia website, pepperoni is America’s favorite pizza. I would have put money down that the Americans favorite pizza is cheese pizza, especially with extra cheese.
Four Cheese Pizza
In our household, if I bought pepperoni, my sons would devour every crumb of pepperoni pizza, so I should not be surprised at that statistic. Their next favorite is cheese pizza, especially our homemade Four Cheese Pizza. Globs of melted cheese oozing off pizza slices appeals to everyone’s inner cravings. I can just see the scramble to grab the first slice of cheese pizza hot out of the oven with the strings of melted cheese stretching away from the pizza pie. Ah, don’t you just want to scoop up all those stings of melted cheese and layer it on top of your slice?
I made this recipe with a blend of mozzarella cheese, Italian Fontina cheese, Asiago Cheese, and Romano Cheese. It is a nice blend of creamy good melting cheeses with harder sharp tasting cheeses for contrast. The mozzarella and fontina cheese get mixed together, then sprinkle a layer of grated Asiago over the top so it stands out. Once the pizza is done baking, I sprinkle finely grated Romano cheese over the top and watch it melt as it hits the hot cheesy surface.
The reason I add the Romano cheese after the pizza is done, is to prevent the Romano cheese from burning. Those crispy burnt layers of cheese taste great in a lasagna, but people like crispy pizza crust, not crispy cheese with their slice.
Putting it together
Just like my post for Pesto Shrimp Pizza, I did not include a pizza dough recipe. If you want to try your hand at making pizza dough, try Jim Lahey’s No Kneed Pizza Dough. Or, try this pizza dough recipe from The Kitchn. I have yet to test this recipe so please let me know how you like it.
The down side to making pizza dough is, it requires advance planning in order for it to get done in time. Yet there is a reasonable alternative, buy a store made pizza dough. This makes Friday night pizza more doable.
The cheese pizza recipe has a quick tomato sauce with lots of garlic and fresh basil. It is easy to make while you are waiting for the oven to preheat and the dough to come up to room temperature. All that is left to do is grate the cheese. For more detailed information about making pizza and special equipment please read my post for Pesto Shrimp Pizza, (linked above).
Four Cheese Pizza
A delicious cheese pizza made with a blend of mozzarella, Italian Fontina, Asiago, and Romano cheeses. The mozzarella and Fontina cheeses have a creamy base and are good melting cheeses, while the Asiago and Romano cheese provide a sharp contrast and make all the cheeses pop.
Garnish with fresh basil and red pepper flakes.
Makes one 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza. For a larger pizza adjust the ingredient proportions as needed.
- 1 14.5 oz (411 g) can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 TB olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar
- 6 leaves basil chiffonade sliced
- 1 7 oz (200 g) Pizza Dough
- 3 TB (45 ml) Tomato Sauce
- 3 oz (75 g) grated low moisture mozzarella
- 2 oz (50 g) grated Italian Fontina cheese
- 1 oz (25 g) grated Asiago cheese
- ½ oz (15 g) grated Romano cheese
- Fresh Basil leaves for garnish
One hour before you want to bake the pizza, preheat the oven to 500°F 250°C/ Gas mark 8
If you are using a pizza steel or stone, place it on a rack according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Place the pizza dough on the counter and rest for one hour before baking.
Mix together the grated mozzarella and Fontina cheese and set aside. Keep the Asiago and Romano cheeses separate.
Make the tomato sauce
Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds and remove the core over the strainer. Place the tomato halves into another bowl. Press out the juices from the seeds and core pieces in the strainer. Pour the tomato juice in the bowl with the tomatoes and blend with an immersion blender or add to a blender. Process until smooth.
In a 2 quart sauce pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and heat until shy of smoking. Add the minced garlic to the sauce pan, aiming away from the hot spot in your pan. Cook for a minute then add the puréed tomatoes. Turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for one two minutes. Add the salt sugar and half the basil then simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the remaining fresh basil. This can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for two days.
Assemble the pizza
When it is time to bake your pizza, sprinkle some flour over a pizza peel and set aside. Or, place a piece of parchment paper over a rimmed sheet pan large enough to hold a 10-inch (25.5 cm) pizza. Lightly spay with cooking oil on the parchment paper.
Flour your work surface and your hands and pour the pizza dough onto your surface. Press down on the dough with your fingertips and shape into a circle. Drape the dough over the tops of both hands, shaped in a loose fist. Let gravity and your thumbs stretch out the pizza dough to a 10-inch (25.5 cm) circle. Use your thumbs to stretch out the edge and rotate the dough around. Do not pull out from the center of the dough.
Place the dough on the prepared pizza peel or sheet pan. Check to make sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel by shaking the peel back and forth. If it is sticking add more flour to the peel. If you have any holes, patch them up so the topping does not ooze out while baking.
Spread the tomato sauce in an even layer over the pizza dough, leaving an inch border around the pizza. Check to make sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel. Sprinkle all the cheeses, except the Romano cheese, over the tomato sauce in an even layer. Shake the peel back and forth to make sure it is not sticking to the peel.
Bring the pizza on the peel over to the oven and aim toward the back of the baking stone or steel. (If you are using a sheet pan, just place it on the rack and bake). Slide the peel towards you and shake off the pizza so it slides onto the baking stone or steel.
Bake for 6 minutes, or until the pizza is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Half way through baking, turn the pizza from front to back for even baking.
Remove the pizza from the oven by using a spatula to slide it onto a pizza peel. Slide the pizza onto a cutting board or pizza pan. Sprinkle the Romano cheese and remaining fresh basil leaves over the pizza and serve immediately.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite foods, ever. I loved it since I was a child and have never stopped. My love affair with guacamole comes from an even greater appreciation for avocados. They are on my desert island list of food that I can’t live without. It is just so hard to imagine what life would be like without them. Avocados remind me of California and eating them is one way I stay connected to my home town.
For most of my lifetime, I have made guacamole and never look at it as a recipe, but something that is fluid and develops into a moment depending on place and time. There is a foundation to build on, but each time I add or omit an ingredient whenever I see fit. Over the years, my guacamole recipe is the one food that people always ask me, “What is my secret for making delicious guacamole?” My answer is not one they expect or want to hear but, I feel like I am stating the obvious. The secret to good guacamole is, making it with perfectly ripe avocados.
Ripe Avocados make the Best Guacamole
Ultimately, guacamole is only going to taste as good as the avocados you make it with. So, it pays to learn how to identify when they are ripe. It is rare to find them ripe at the market so, it is important to let your avocados ripen to that sweet spot at home. Too hard and the flesh will look pale in and taste bland. Too soft, and the avocado gets gray veins and has bruises on the flesh and tastes over ripe.
The sweet spot is when there is some firmness in the body, but also has some yield when you press on the north and south poles of the avocado. It is like Goldilocks, looking for the right chair to sit in. One that is not too hard, or not too soft. Just right. With experience it gets easier to identify that perfect state of ripeness and learn which store sells the best avocados.
Living in New York, avocados travel long distances to reach our markets and usually are as hard as a granite counter top. Typically, when I buy avocados I let them rest on my window sill for 2 days before I use them. On occasion, they need more time, sometimes less. First, remove them from any bag, even the mesh bag, but especially a plastic one. Then place them in an area where they will get some sun and air circulation. Never put avocado in the refrigerator unless they are cut open. Check them daily and handle them carefully so they do not bruise.
My kitchen windows do not get a lot of direct sunlight, and two to three days usually is enough time. If your kitchen streams with sunshine all day, your avocados may take less time. None of the tricks, like putting them in a paper bag to quickly ripen avocados, work. Time, warm air and sunlight are essential for ripening avocados.
How to Make Guacamole Without a Recipe
When your avocados are ripe, begin making guacamole with the foundation ingredients, avocados, garlic, lime juice, pinch of salt, and minced cilantro. As you make guacamole remember this rule, start with less and add more if needed. It is a lot easier to add seasoning then take away. My preference for guacamole is create a nice balance of all the ingredients to enhance the flavor of the avocados without any one flavor coming on too strong. There are other traditional ingredients in guacamole like white onion or chopped tomatoes, but I prefer a smoother guacamole. Plus, I am not a big fan of raw onions. Feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of chopped white onions or tomatoes if you wish.
Once you get the foundation mixed together, taste and assess what the guacamole needs if anything. With perfect avocados it doesn’t take much to make good guacamole. Sometimes, the avocados lack some flavor and need some boosting. The easiest way to boost up the flavor is by adding a tablespoon of salsa, either tomato salsa or tomatillo salsa. Also, a small spoonful of mayonnaise helps make the guacamole creamy. Even a scant amount of Dijon mustard can offer the right amount of tang when the guacamole needs some acid to brighten it up. However, be careful not to add too much because you don’t want to taste the mustard or mayonnaise, these flavors should be in the background.
Extra Tidd-Bits for Boosting Guacamole Flavor
Just like adding a spoonful of salsa to your guacamole, you can achieve the same effect, if not better if you roast a tomatillo, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and garlic then add them to the guacamole. Personally, I love adding these roasted vegetables to guacamole, especially the garlic. The roasted garlic becomes sweet, and the harsh bite disappears. These roasted vegetables bring a slight tangy smokiness to the guacamole that just fits, like bacon and eggs.
A couple of years ago, I discovered how fresh fruit like strawberries is delicious with guacamole. Either serve strawberries on the side or chop some up and mix in the dip. You may need to add more salt and adjust the other seasoning, so taste and build the flavor as you go.
How Many Avocados?
3 avocados are a good place to start. It should make enough guacamole for 5-6 people. However, if your family is like my family it will disappear in less than 5 minutes and you will feel like you did not make enough. Avocados are expensive, at least in NY, so buy as many as is within reason. The most avocados I ever used to make guacamole are 6-7 avocados. It was for a decent size party of 15 or more people. However, if there are several appetizers in addition to the guacamole, there is no need to make so much.
Keep in mind, guacamole does not keep well. No matter how much lime juice is in the guacamole, eventually it turns gray from being exposed to the air. The oxidation also effects the flavor. Guacamole is a dip to serve right away and at room temperature.
Family Favorite Guacamole
The secret to delicious guacamole is using perfectly ripe avocados. Avocados are ripe when they are still firm but there is some give in the top and bottom of the fruit. I find it is best to buy avocados a couple of days in advance and let them ripen on a sunny windowsill.
This is a foundation recipe to build your guacamole as you make it. Adjust any amount of your preferred seasonings to enhance the flavor of your avocados.
This is not a recipe to make in advance. Guacamole is best served at room temperature and immediately after it is made. Serve with corn chips or some fruit like strawberries and vegetables such as jicama, carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers.
- 3 avocados
- 1 -2 cloves garlic peeled and green germ removed
- 1 lime
- 1/2 tea Kosher Salt
- 2 TBS chopped cilantro
- 1 roasted jalapeño chili optional
- 1 medium roasted tomatillo optional
Cut each avocado in half by holding the avocado in one hand and with the other hand make a slice with a 6-inch chef's knife though the top of the avocado towards the middle until you reach the pit inside. Rotate your knife around the perimeter of the avocado. Set down the knife and hold the avocado in both hands then twist the avocado halves in opposite directions until they separate. Pull apart the avocado halves.
Securely hold the avocado with the pit like it is resting in your palm and the pit is facing up. Make sure your fingers are away from the edge of the avocado. Carefully, but firmly, take your chef knife and hit the sharp edge of the blade in the center of the pit until the knife sticks. With the knife blade secure in the pit, twist your knife counter-clockwise to loosen the pit from the flesh. Lift your knife with the pit still attached and remove the pit from the flesh. Whack the side of your knife against the edge of your cutting board, or the rim of a garbage pail, to loosen the pit from the knife and falls off. Repeat until all the avocados are cut in half and pits removed.
Use a soup spoon and scoop out the avocado flesh. Run the spoon around the inside edge of the avocado to loosen it free from the skin. Scoop out the avocado flesh and place it into a mixing bowl. Repeat until all the avocados are scooped out.
Mash the avocados with a fork until all the flesh is mixed together but still chunky. Add lime juice from half a lime. Stir to mix with your fork.
Mince or press the garlic and place into the mixing bowl. Add a pinch (less than 1/2 a teaspoon), of Kosher salt. and the cilantro to the avocados. Stir to mix.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Too bland add more salt or garlic. Needs more acid add more lime juice or tomatillos or salsa. Start with less and add more if needed.
The roasted tomatillo, process in a food processor first then add it to the guacamole.
The chili peppers, remove the stem and scrape out the seeds and white pith according to how spicy you want the guacamole.
Instead of the roasted tomatillo or chilies, add a spoonful or salsa verde or tomato salsa.
For extra creaminess, add a spoonful of mayonnaise. For extra tang, add a half teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
Sliced fresh grape tomatoes for garnish or in the dip.
Cover with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Best eaten immediately with corn chips or cut up vegetables and fruit.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
I have a few recipes that stand the test of time, is always there when I need it, and never fails me. This pumpkin bread recipe is one of them. It is always a crowd pleaser and it is so easy to make. If this recipe could talk, it would tell many tales of my children’s’ preschool snack time, their school bake sales, our weekends away visiting friends, homemade gifts, learning how to bake, swim meets, college care packages, and easy mornings at home.
Some foods and recipes are like that. They exist as part of our collective experience spanning a family’s history and time well spent with friends, teachers, colleagues, neighbors and family. They are treasured artifacts in the family archives. For me, I have a couple symbolic recipes that mark my parent’s heritage, but very few. Hopefully, I generated a selection of treasured recipes for my children to remember their childhood by, and create new ones that hold a special place in our growing family’s future.
My pumpkin bread is a throwback recipe from the 70’s when I was in high school. A dear friend gave me the recipe. I cannot remember what initiated this gift, but I believe she just wanted to share it. Harriot and her family loved to cook and were always generous with recipes and information about food. Whenever I was at their house, someone was in the kitchen making something. If I remember correctly, Harriot and I had a few cooking adventures of our own.
Besides the delicious taste, this pumpkin bread recipe has a couple of great features. One, it is easy to make and second, it makes two loaves. After all these years, I still can’t believe one small can of pumpkin purée makes two loaves of pumpkin bread. There is no need to measure out a cup of pumpkin mash and worry about what to make with the rest. That is a real pet peeve of mine. It is not the case for this pumpkin bread. One recipe, one can of pumpkin purée, two loaves of spicy pumpkin bread. A practical quick bread recipe.
Because it is so easy to make, it is perfect for a baking project with young children, or anyone who wants to learn how to bake. This recipe rarely fails. However, if it has been a while since you used baking powder or baking soda, make sure the leaveners are fresh. There was only one time this pumpkin bread did bake properly. Once, after I gave this recipe to a friend who said she couldn’t bake, she made it and came over to share it with me. She was so proud of her accomplishment I did not have the heart to tell her the bread did not rise. When that happens it usually means the baking powder and baking soda lost their leavening powers. Still, it tasted great and hopefully she kept on baking.
More family favorite recipes:
The spices are a mixture of cinnamon, allspice and a generous amount of ground clove. Not all pumpkin bread recipes include ground cloves, and I believe they fall flat. There is twice as much cinnamon and allspice to cloves in each loaf, yet the ground cloves gently stand out. I like that the cinnamon does not dominate the spicy favor. Often, after I serve pumpkin bread to friends I get a delighted question, “Oh nice. What spice am I tasting? ” My anser is always received with a surprised and happy expression, “It’s clove.”
Over the years I have made a few variations of this pumpkin bread, but I keep coming back to the original. I made it with canned pumpkin purée and fresh pumpkin purée. With orange zest, crumble topping, candied ginger, and different flours. Each variation slightly changes the texture of the bread. I discovered, the fresh pumpkin makes an airier bread. Also, I noticed the crust is crispier with the fresh pumpkin.
If you want to use fresh pumpkin, roast wedges of sugar pumpkin in a 400°F (200°C) oven until very tender. Scrape the roasted pumpkin from its’ peel and purée in a food processor, or blender until smooth. Cool and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. Best Pumpkins to bake with.
I should call this Friendship Bread, because the recipe is enjoying a life span of over 40 plus years and growing. I never thought twice about sharing it with friends and family. The name Friendship Bread is already taken, so Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread it stays. A treasured heirloom for sharing over the years to come.
Family Favorite Pumpkin Bread
- 4 cups (574 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 3 cups (613 g) granulated sugar
- 1 15 oz can (425 g) pumpkin purée or 1 lb (453 g) fresh pumpkin purée
- 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable or canola oil
- 2/3 cup (150 ml) cold water
- 4 large eggs
Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (175° C / Gas Mark 4)
Prepare 2- 9 x 5 inch (24 x 13.5 cm) loaf pans. Lightly grease with butter or oil spray, then line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, Kosher salt, cinnamon allspice, and clove into a large mixing bowl. Then whisk the ingredients in the bowl until you see all the spices are evenly mixed in the flour. Add the sugar and whisk together until combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, then add the pumpkin purée, oil, and water. Stir until just combined. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, scrape along the bottom and sides of the bowl to get everything thoroughly mixed.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly with each addition.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, about 3/4 full.
Place the bread pans in the oven and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove the pumpkin bread from their pans.
Cool on the cooling rack before serving.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.