the penicillium roqueforti blues…

I am not a subtle girl. I’m invariably drawn to strong flavors, strong opinions and strong personalities. So it probably comes as no surprise that I’ll take a sharp, pungent and complex blue cheese over a mild cheddar any day. Blue cheeses are those that have been exposed or “needled” with a kind of mold, usually Penicillium roqueforti, and allowed to age and develop gorgeous blue-green veins. Blue cheese may seem too tangy for some, but in reality it’s the perfect accent to nearly any dish it’s added to. Blue cheese with a simple drizzle of honey… Perfect. Blue cheese on a spinach salad… Yum. Blue cheese in a turkey and fig panini… Amazing. Blue cheese with any type of beef…. Fantastic. Blue cheese with caramelized onions, sweet red peppers and toasted walnuts… sensational and as it happens this weeks recipe!

Making pizza from scratch is a pretty common occurrence at our house, but it generally only takes place in the winter months. I would prefer not to crank up the oven during the summer heat and while I’ve thought about trying to make grilled pizza, until recently I never actually attempted it. I don’t know why, maybe I thought that if things went awry I would have a giant hard to clean mess on my hands. Or maybe I was suspect that it would actually turn out as good as traditional oven baked. Whatever my reasons were, they couldn’t have been more off base. Grilled pizza is easier than oven baked and actually believe it or not, takes less time. As long as the grill is crazy hot the dough will immediately form a crust and puff up beautifully. Then you layer on some lovely toppings, pop it back on the grill and presto— pizza is served!

We’ve tried a lot of topping combos since first discovering this new style of pizza making. I’m still experimenting but I’d have to say the front-runners appear to be a simple sausage and tomato for the kids and a caramelized onion, red pepper, blue cheese and walnut for the adults. I’m thinking next week we’ll try shrimp and pesto with crumbled bacon. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

Caramelized Onion, Red Pepper & Blue Cheese Grilled Pizza
Not only is this pizza delicious but making it on the grill is much easier than making it in the oven. Give it a shot, become a convert!

blue cheese pizza slice++**

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 huge sweet onions, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large red bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or store bought), at room temperature
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
4 oz. buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnut pieces

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sugar and cook until golden, about 45 minutes, stirring frequently. (Caramelizing onions is a slow process that can’t be rushed. This recipe calls for more oil than ordinarily used, but you need it to keep the pizza crust moist.)
  2. Transfer the onions to a bowl and set aside. Place the bell pepper in the same pan, sprinkle with salt and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the walnuts to the pan and quickly toast, set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, gently stretch the dough into an 18-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a rimless cookie sheet or a pizza peel dusted with flour and let sit for 10 minutes. Preheat your grill to 400°F.
  4. Dip paper towels in olive oil and carefully wipe them on the grates of the grill to grease them. Slide the circle of dough onto the hot grill; close the lid and let cook until it puffs up and brown grill marks form on the bottom, about 2 to 4 minutes. (As you transfer your circle of dough to the grill it may become more of an amoeba shape than a circle. Don’t worry, it will still taste delicious.)
  5. Transfer the crust back to your pan and with the grilled side facing up, begin layering on your toppings. Start by spreading on the onions as evenly as possible, then add the mozzarella, red peppers, blue cheese and finally top with the walnuts.
  6. Return the pizza to the grill and cook (with the lid closed) another 2 to 4 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is crisp. Transfer to a cutting board, slice into wedges and serve.

*adapted from weber

sanity saving stir fry

There are some nights when dinner at our house is a leisurely, dare I say enjoyable affair; everyone is in a good mood, eats their meal without complaint and is rewarded with something rich and decadent for dessert. But then there are nights when everything is rushed, everyone has something to complain about and dessert is nothing more than yesterday’s memory. Sometimes I can anticipate ahead of time that were heading for disasterville and cook accordingly. Breakfast for dinner always makes them smile, my turkey meatloaf never fails to get a thumbs up and believe it or not any meal featuring shrimp is a Greco family favorite. Shrimp sautéed with onions and garlic over spaghetti, shrimp and veggie shish kabobs or even super easy shrimp stir fry is always a winner.

I’m a big fan of stir fries. They’re a great way to clean out your vegetable drawer, throw together a quick dinner and keep clean-up limited to one pan, one cutting board and one bowl for each person. I like to make mine with shrimp not only because everyone will eat it, but also because it literally cooks in minutes. I throw in a big variety of vegetables (this way any “offending” vegetables can be picked out and there will still be plenty remaining) and serve it over some brown rice with a few sliced scallions, chili flakes and soy sauce on top. Voilà! Dinner is served, peace reigns and all is once again right with the world. Until tomorrow night anyway…

Shrimp Stir Fry
To really make this a quick weeknight dinner you can buy pre-cut veggies and use instant brown rice.

stir fry4A

1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup water
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. sugar

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
5 cups mixed vegetables (broccoli florets, carrots, red peppers, etc.)
3 oz. snow peas
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 cup water chestnuts
2 tbsp. peanut oil
4 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
sliced scallions, for garnish
red chili flakes, for garnish
soy sauce, for garnish

  1. Place the cleaned shrimp in a small bowl. Mix together the water, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, and sugar. Pour mixture over the shrimp and let marinate for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes remove the shrimp and set aside, but reserve the marinade.
  2. Cut the vegetable into bite-sized pieces. Heat the peanut oil in a wok or a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger and all the vegetables (except mushrooms and snow peas) and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and snow peas and cook another 2-3 minutes or until all the vegetables are nearly cooked through. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.
  3. Add the marinade to the pan and heat until it begins to thicken. Add the shrimp and cook about 3-4 minutes or until shrimp are just pink. Stir in vegetables, coating evenly with the sauce, cover and let cook an additional 2-3 minutes until everything is heated through and the broccoli is crisp-tender. Serve over brown rice and garish with additional sliced scallions, chili flakes and soy sauce if you like.

*adapted from better homes and gardens