SOUP SATURDAY: MEXICAN SOUPS

SOUP SATURDAY IS ON!

Third Saturday of the month, it’s time for soup! This month our event is hosted by the one and only, Karen from Karen’s Kitchen Stories. I’ve been a follower for a long time, and if you read my blog, you might remember I’ve made quite a few recipes from her site. The Bread Queen! For this event, she chose Mexican Soups. My first thought was tortilla soup, since it’s something I’ve been meaning to make for a while. But before settling on that classic, I sat down with some of my cookbooks. Maybe I should say I sat down with my iPad to electronically browse through my cookbooks. Yes, I might have a slight cookbook obsession, but I do so while sparing trees. The moment I laid my eyes on Marcela Valladolid’s Manchego and Poblano Soup, I knew it had to be it.  First, I love poblanos because their heat does not scream at you or threaten to strip the outer layer of your larynx. Second, Manchego cheese is a favorite of ours. We got hooked on this Spanish delicacy many years ago through our friends and next door neighbors back in Oklahoma. Ever since that time, we always seem to have a piece of Manchego in our fridge. Just because.  If you have trouble finding it, a Monterey Jack, with its nice melting qualities will do.

MANCHEGO AND POBLANO SOUP
(adapted from Marcela Valladolid’s Fresh Mexico)

7 poblano chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 medium shallots, halved
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 + 1/2  tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese (or Monterey Jack cheese)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
diced Manchego cheese for serving, to taste
Tajin seasoning (optional)

Bring a medium-size heavy saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the poblanos and shallots and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain them and transfer to a blender. Add  ¼ cup water. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, whisking constantly, but not allowing it to brown. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the chile mixture. Cook, whisking, for a few minutes until slightly thickened. Whisk in the milk. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, whisking every minute or so to prevent scorching, for about 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Whisk in the grated Manchego cheese. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, and top with the diced cheese, plus a sprinkle of Tajin seasoning, if using.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I modified the recipe quite a bit from Marcela’s version. She used double the amount of poblanos. Fourteen. You read me right. I could not bring myself to make it so peppery. I also modified the cooking method. I am really pleased with the resulting soup, creamy, just the right amount of heat, and that final touch of adding small cubes of Manchego cheese floating on top is sublime! As you get a spoonful, that cheese melts and fills your mind with happy thoughts. Then you get all cozy and warm inside. There was a bit of texture in my soup, even though I used a powerful Vitamix to blend it. It did not bother me, but just for fun I passed leftovers through a chinois. It turned out quite spectacular that way, I would follow the extra step if serving it for company.  There I go again, dreaming with soup shots. A recurring theme. Must do something about it.

Wendy, thanks for organizing the Soup Saturday Event, and Karen, thanks for hosting this month! 

You can take a nice tour of Mexican Soups made by my virtual friends with a click on the link at the bottom of the post. Have fun!

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ONE YEAR AGO: A Smashing Pair

TWO YEARS AGO: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

THREE YEARS AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

SIX YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

 

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PRIME RIB ROAST, MEXICAN STYLE

A prime rib is not cheap. Actually, I should be glad that we live in Kansas, where meat is of excellent quality and, compared to other places in the country, quite affordable. Still, it would be terrible to mess it up, something easy to do if you over-cook it.  I normally keep seasoning to a minimum, but for our dinner last Christmas we went with a recipe from Marcela Valladolid, that gave the roast her unique Mexican twist.  Yes, it is March.  Yes, it took me three months to blog about it.  Better late…. than never!  😉

Prime Rib Roast

PRIME RIB ROAST, MEXICAN STYLE
(from Marcela Valladolid)

1 (4 rib) prime rib roast with ribs  (9-10 pounds)
Salt as needed
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup assortment of ground peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground chile de arbol
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoon ground rosemary
Beef broth as needed

Heat oven to 400°F. Let roast stand for 1 hour at room temperature.  Season the roast heavily with salt.

In a separate bowl, mix the rest of ingredients (up to rosemary)  to form a paste. Rub all over prime rib roast.

Place prime rib roast on a roasting rack, add 2 cups beef broth to the roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes, until it is browned. Remove from oven, and reduce heat to 350°F. With aluminum foil, form a tent over the prime rib roast to cover it. Make sure the aluminum foil does not touch the prime rib, since it can damage it crust that it is forming. Return to oven and roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until thermometer registers 110°F. Add broth to the pan while roasting if liquid begins to evaporate.

Remove from oven and let rest, uncovered, for a least 20 minutes before carving and pour pan drippings into a separate bowl, reserve and set aside for gravy. Internal temperature of meat should rise to 130°F for medium rare.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

What to serve with it?  You can go simple with a humble veggie like green beans decorated with toasted almonds, or you can tell  yourself what I did: there’s only one month of December in the year, and December means festive…  Therefore, green beans were out, cheese souffle was in.  However, there is also a single month of April in the year. May? Another only child.  Those are important things to consider when planning a side dish. In case I convinced you to indulge, follow this link for my default cheese souffle recipe.   😉

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This was a wonderful meal, the prime rib was perfectly cooked, with a delicious spicy coating, not so strong as to mask the flavor of the meat.  I strongly advise using a meat thermometer because just like Beef Wellington, a prime rib must be cooked medium rare and a few minutes longer in the oven can pretty much ruin it.  Marcela Valladolid did it again, another winner recipe at our table!

plated

 Dinner is served! 

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

TWO YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

THREE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

 

OUR MEXICAN HOLIDAY DINNER

As I mentioned in a previous post, we had an early Christmas celebration with one of my stepsons.  This year all our holiday meals were decided on a whim, serendipity playing a pretty big role. I happened to catch Marcela’s episode “My Favorite Holiday Dishes“, and while watching it with Phil he suggested we make that full menu for our Christmas dinner. Avocado-Cilantro Mousse, Pork Tenderloin, and Mexican Chocolate Souffle.   You know how we felt about the mousse, so now it’s time to share the recipe for the second course, a pork that ended up moist and tender, surrounded by the sweetness of prunes and pearl onions.

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ROASTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PINEAPPLE GLAZE
(from Marcela Valladolid)

for the brine:
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 cups warm water
6 cups cold water
2 pork tenderloins
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for the herb rub:
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
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for the final roasting:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dried prunes, halved
1 pound pearl onions, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup pineapple juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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For the brine: Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and 2 cups warm water in a large bowl. Stir until the salt dissolves. Add 6 cups cold water. Add the pork, cover, and refrigerate overnight (the pork should be submerged in the liquid).
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Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.For the herb rub: Mix the garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl. Remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry (discard the brine). Spread the herb mixture over the pork loin, making sure you coat all sides of the loin.
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For the pork: Heat the olive oil in a medium, heavy saute pan over high heat. Add the pork and sear until browned, 4 minutes. Carefully turn the pork over and sear until browned, another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, add the prunes and pearl onions to a baking dish, creating a bed for the loin. Transfer the seared pork loin to the baking dish (making sure the loin fits in the baking dish, leaving a 1-inch border on every side). Add the wine to the same saute pan used to sear the pork and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove the browned bits, until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in the pineapple juice and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the pork. Season the prunes and onions with salt and pepper.
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Place the pork in the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 160 degrees F, or to your desired level of roasting. Baste with the pan juices every 20 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice the pork into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Top the pork slices with the pearl onions, prunes, and sauce.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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Comments:  I loved making this dish, it is perfect for a day spent at home, relaxing, enjoying the aromas and the anticipation of a more elaborate meal to come.  Brining the meat is the way to go when roasting pork loin (or tenderloin), as the delicate meat, so low in fat these days, can dry out in the oven.  I left the tenderloins in the brine from 8am until around 5pm.
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Pork and prunes are a classic combination for good reason! This recipe is not too different from a typical meal served in my family in Brazil during the holidays, except that they like to roast a pork shoulder or butt. We call it “pernil assado“, and prunes or pineapple slices are often part of the sauce.

Leftovers were awesome on day 2 and amazing on day 4, the sauce intensified in flavor, the meat retained its moisture and tenderness. I can tell this recipe will become a regular appearance at our table.  Next time I’ll add some fennel to the bed of prunes and onions, I think its flavor would be great here.

Pork with Prunes in Pineapple Glaze

ONE YEAR AGO: The Ultimate Cranberry Sauce

TWO YEARS AGO: Edamame Dip

THREE YEARS AGO: Gougeres

FOUR YEARS AGO: Beef Wellington on a Special Night

THE AVOCADO MOUSSE THAT STOLE THE SHOW

MERRY CHRISTMAS!   FELIZ NATAL!  JOYEUX NOËL!

This year we had a pre-Christmas celebration with one of my stepsons, because he had to fly back to California on the 23rd. The evening before his departure we made a special dinner that featured the whole menu of a recent show from the one and only Marcela Valladolid, entitled “My Favorite Holiday Dishes“.  The main dish was Pork with Prunes and Pineapple Glaze (on the blog soon), and I expected it to be the star of our meal, but truth is that the first course,  a simple, unassuming avocado mousse put up a great fight and according to some, took the Christmas Eve spotlight…  😉

Avocado Cilantro Mousse
AVOCADO AND CILANTRO MOUSSE
(slightly adapted from Marcela Valladolid)

1 to 1 + 1/2 bunches fresh cilantro, washed and dried, leaves picked off and reserved (about 2 cups loosely packed)
1  avocado (I used two small ones)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from about 1 lime
1 Serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 cup cold water, divided
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
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Spray 3 (1 cup) or 6 (1/2 cup) ramekins with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Place the cilantro, cream cheese, avocado, salt, lime juice, and chile in a food processor and puree until smooth.
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Pour 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it sit for a few minutes. Place the remaining 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the softened gelatin and whisk until the gelatin has dissolved.
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Add the gelatin to the mixture in the food processor, pulsing until pureed and thoroughly blended.
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Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. To unmold, fill a large container with very hot water. Dip the ramekins in the water for 1 minute. Run a small, sharp knife tip around the edge of each mousse. Invert onto a platter. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I made my own tortilla strips to serve alongside the mousse, and I must say the work involved is minimal, but the pay-off huge.  They were so much better than store-bought versions, both in texture and flavor.  I just cut some yellow corn tortillas into strips, placed them on a baking sheet, sprayed with olive oil, and coated very lightly with salt and more liberally with Southwest Spice mix from Penzey’s.  Baked at 375F until  they start to crisp up and get brown.

The mousse… WOW!  We started enjoying it quite politely, a little bit spread on a cracker, a little more on a tortilla strip, but by the end of the dinner we were slicing it and adding the cold slice on top of the pork tenderloin and moaning about it…  We decided it will go well with pretty much anything, from grilled salmon to lamb burgers, and in case of emergency, licked from the tip of a finger when no one is looking.   It is THAT good.  Please, make it for your next dinner party, and stop by to thank me later… 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Popovers

TWO YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

THREE YEARS AGO:  Sourdough Focaccia, with a twist

FOUR YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

MEXICAN RICE & SUPERNOVA

This recipe will always be special for me, because it was the first thing I cooked in our new stove.  I needed to make something simple because the kitchen was still not completely functional: the central countertop was not yet there, the cabinets and pantry were still all empty.   I actually made the prep work a couple of days earlier, as we were not sure when the stove would be installed.  Every day that week we arrived home with fingers crossed, hoping that the big box with our Blue Star would no longer be sitting in the garage.  Finally, on Friday, October 18th the box was gone, and our stove was waiting inside for us, in all its beautiful red glory! Two exact months since the beginning of our kitchen hellnovationRemember?

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MEXICAN RICE
(slightly adapted from Marcela Valladolid)
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3 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup medium-grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 whole Serrano chile
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed

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Cut the tomatoes in half, and remove the seeds. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of broth to a blender and puree. Strain into a bowl and reserve the liquid. Add enough extra broth to make 2 cups of liquid.In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, carrots, and celery pieces, and saute for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute longer. Stir in the rice and cook until slightly toasted, stirring constantly. Add the tomato broth mixture, stir and bring to boil. Add the salt, bay leaf, and the Serrano chile. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from heat. Scatter the peas over the top of the rice, cover, and let the rice stand 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork, transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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tomatojuice
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Comments: The popularity of electric rice cookers is a clear statement of how tricky cooking rice can be.  During the past year, I attempted to make rice pilaf once on “Poltergeist“, our old electric stove.  Results were just as expected from its nickname:  scary. 👿  I was obviously very anxious to see how the Blue Star would behave, and it did pass with flying colors!  Perfectly cooked rice, not a single bit burned at the bottom, control of the flame was smooth and precise.   As it’s been happening often in the past few days, I did a happy dance around the kitchen, much to the amusement of Oscar, who immediately jumps up and joins me. That little mutt  is super cute, and a great dance partner…
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The recipe, shown recently at Marcela’s show “Mexican Made Easy – Man Food” on FoodTV is simple but delivers a ton of flavor.  In the website they suggest using tomato paste in addition to fresh tomatoes if you want a deeper, more intense red color.  I didn’t. In my opinion, using tomato paste adds a harshness that can only be balanced by long cooking.  Rice cooks too fast, I prefer to have the brighter, lighter flavor of the fresh tomato, even if the resulting red color will be less dramatic. And, speaking of red, our gorgeous Blue Star adds enough red to our culinary environment.  In fact, we named it “Supernova”.   😉

As Marcela mentioned in her show, the Serrano pepper sitting on top of the rice is a real delicacy. Offer it to your guest of honor, or if you are having dinner with your partner, fight hard for it,  cut it in half so that you can both enjoy it.
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Phil’s remark at the end of the meal:  “This was the best Mexican rice I’ve ever had!“.

I could say thank you, but I think all credit should go to Marcela instead… 😉

Before I leave you, here is a link to Blue Star site, where you can dream about and customize your own Supernova stove….

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ONE YEAR AGO: Jumping on the Biscoff Bandwagon

TWO YEARS AGO:  A Soup with Memories of Los Angeles

THREE YEARS AGO: Sabu’s Spicy Coconut Chicken

FOUR YEARS AGO: Poolish Baguettes

BEER-MARINATED GRILLED SKIRT STEAK

When grilling meat, I normally follow the Brazilian rule of using only salt as seasoning.  We are all about the flavor of the beef, preferring not to mask it with spices and rubs. But, I thought that Marcella’s take on skirt steak was too tempting to pass.   She marinates the meat in beer and soy sauce, and also adds orange slices to the party.  I normally reach for lemons or limes, but whenever I use oranges in cooking I am  surprised by how much I enjoy their subtle citric tone, a tad less aggressive.   We both loved the flavor they imparted to the meat… the beer definitely comes through loud and clear.  I marinated the meat from early morning to dinner time.

sliced

BEER-MARINATED GRILLED SKIRT STEAK
(adapted from Mexican Made Easy)

1 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 + 1/2 pounds skirt steak
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup light-colored beer (preferably lager style)
1/2 cup soy sauce
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In a wide, shallow glass baking dish, scatter half of the orange slices, half of the onion slices and the garlic on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the steak all over with salt and pepper and put in the dish on top of the orange and onion slices. Scatter the remaining orange, onion and garlic over the steak and pour in the beer and soy sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
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Prepare a grill on medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and discard the marinade. Grill the steak to your taste,  about 4 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second for medium-rare.
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Let the meat rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes before slicing it.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here
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served
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Comments:  Skirt-steak is one of the busy cook’s best friend!  Less than 10 minutes on the grill and you are on your way for a tasty dinner.  Now, if not only you are very busy but you also don’t have a functional kitchen, this type of meal will be a life-saver.   I like to wrap the meat in large butter lettuce leaves, top with salsa and/or guacamole, but this time I made it even simpler and only added fresh, juicy tomatoes, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of grated Cotija cheese, just to keep it on the Mexican environment…    😉 Of course, corn or flour tortillas, fajita-style are the most authentic way to go.
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The same marinade worked great on chicken thighs, as you may remember from a recent post.  I marinated the chicken the whole day in the beer-soy-oranges, roasted low and slow with the skin side down, then flipped the pieces to have the skin up, and finished them off under the broiler.
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ONE YEAR AGO:  Secret Recipe Club: Corn Chowda

TWO YEARS AGO: Page-A-Day Calendar (Pits and Chief 5 minutes of fame…)

THREE YEARS AGO: Home Sweet Home (our beloved Pits in one of his last photos)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Marbled Rye

TLAYUDA, A MEXICAN PIZZA

Every once in a while a photo makes no justice to the dish. Case in point: tlayuda. But this recipe turned out soooo delicious that I must share right now, I don’t want to wait until I make it again.  It is tastier than you would imagine from its simple ingredients put together. Very quick to prepare, perfect to make a weeknight feel special…  The recipe was recently featured by Marcela Valladolid in her show Mexican Made Easy.  It comes from the Oaxaca region in Mexico and her description of the place made me want to buy a ticket and fly there.  Tlayudas are a typical street food, and everybody loves them.   I can tell you, the combination of refried beans with the Oaxaca cheese, the lettuce and Mexican crema is spectacular!  The chorizo adds a lot to it, but if you are vegetarian, simply omit it, the tlayuda can shine on its own without it. Avocados on the side (or sliced on top) would be amazing too…

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TLAYUDA
(adapted from Marcela Valladolid)

 for topping:
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 ounces raw pork chorizo
One 16-ounce canned refried pinto beans

for tortilla base:
2 cups instant corn masa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 + ¼ cup water
1 tablespoons vegetable oil

for final assembly:
1/2 cup Oaxaca cheese
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crumbled queso fresco
Mexican crema

For the chorizo and bean topping: In a large heavy saute pan, heat 1 tablespoons oil on medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve. Heat the beans on low heat or in a microwave until very hot and easy to spread.  Reserve, keeping warm.

For the tortillas: Combine the corn masa, 1 cup of water and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly by hand to form a soft dough, about 2 minutes. If the dough feels dry, add more water (one tablespoon at a time).  You may not need to use the full amount of water left.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron or heavy skillet. Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. Put half of the dough onto the parchment paper and place another piece of parchment paper on top. Using a rolling-pin, roll out the dough until it is 1/4-inch thick and 10 inches in diameter.  Drizzle the oil into the hot skillet and place the rolled out masa dough into the skillet to cook for about 2 minutes. Turn over to cook on the other side.

Spread 1/2 cup of the warm refried beans onto the cooked side of dough. Add 1/4 cup Oaxaca cheese and 1/2 cup cooked chorizo. Continue to cook for until the cheese is melted, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pizza from the pan onto a round serving platter. Top with the iceberg lettuce. Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco and a drizzle of Mexican crema. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining half of dough and toppings.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The recipe makes two 10-inch discs. I did not use the full amount of the dough, and instead  made two 8-inch discs. They were perfect for our dinner, with a little slice leftover.  If you make the full recipe, it could be a wonderful appetizer for a get-together, cutting each tlayuda in squares.  That is exactly the suggestion for serving as published in the FoodTV website, by the way.

The only challenging part of making tlayuda is transferring the rolled out dough to the hot skillet.  My first production reminded me of a book I was quite fond of growing up, Le Petit Prince, by Saint-Exupéry.  Quite a popular book in Brazil at the time. Yes, that was more or less the shape of my first tlayuda.

petitprince

Undeterred, I moved on to the second pizza, and managed to get a round enough shape to justify the name.  Oh, well. Taste is more important than looks, and even the elephant-shaped concoction was devoured with gusto. Plus, cutting the odd-shaped tlayuda in 4 pieces is a nice way to exercise your brains. And knife skills.

The dough is of course quite similar to a tortilla, but thicker and absolutely perfect for a pizza-like base.  I will definitely keep this recipe in mind to improvise with other types of toppings, including options traditionally associated with Italian pizza.

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“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur.

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

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ONE YEAR AGO: Paradise Revisited

TWO YEARS AGO: Feijoada, the Ultimate Brazilian Feast

THREE YEARS AGO: Vegetable Milhojas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Italian Bread