Pizza Week: 2016

As promised, these are the few slices I had during Portland Mercury’s Pizza Week. It’s like their burger week, but for pizza [you’re welcome]. My idea of heaven. Pizza is my weakness. I would eat it all day, every day, and have no shame. I like it hot. I like it cold [especially for breakfast]. I like just about every pizza combination. It’s also that one food that I have no qualms lowering my standards. Crappy pizza is still pizza, and I’ll happily eat it. Some of my fondest memories are eating a Totinos pizza all to myself when my dad was out of town. Classy is my middle name.

There were 31 slices to be had over the course of the week, and I only had a measly five but they’re worth talking about. Three of them were on a mini-pizza tour.

Pizza1

Left: The week after tax day, I treated myself to half-days of work. I’d go in for the first few hours, and then head home at lunch. Having that kind of freedom meant pizza. The first stop was Bella Faccia Pizzaria’s “She Bangs.” That’s the slice on the left. The base was deli mustard! My favorite condiment of all time. They added sausage, mozzarella, caramelized onions, feta, basil, and chili flake. It was tart and spicy and meaty and so, so good. I also had a generic [but also delicious] veggie slice. I hadn’t been to Bella Faccia in years. That’s another reason I love these types of events. If it’s not getting you out to try new spots, it’s rekindling your relationship with old ones. There are so many [too many?] restaurants in this town to keep up.

Right: I’m kind of a sucker for sausage, but I’m pretty sure you knew that based on the high percentage of sausage and chorizo recipes I make around here. This slice was from Old Town Brewing Co.’s “The Bellelujah.” Again, the base. This time = beer cheese sauce. Think about the goodness of that for a second. Does it get much better [hint: it does, but only barely]? Seeing that Old Town’s thing is being a brewery that happens to serve pizza, it seems like the only logical choice. They took that base and topped it with sausage, caramelized onions, fresh jalapeños, and tomatoes. It was another combination of delicious proportions. Those meatballs are the ones that they use in their meatball sandwiches, which is really good to know as someone who loves a meatball sandwich from time to time. Maybe they’ll start making one drowned in that beer cheese sauce.

Pizza2

Left: This was the beginning of what was a beautiful evening of pizza. Like I mentioned before, events like this get me out to places I would have never tried otherwise. East Glisan Pizza Lounge was “holy-shit-that’s awesome” from start to finish. They make this crazy good berry balsamic house soda. All of their pizza combinations sound awesome, not just the one we had for pizza week. They also apparently have lasagna Sundays because who doesn’t love lasagna? Their pizza week slice was “The Montaverde.” Again with the creatively awesome bases. Tomatillo cream base? WHAT. It was unreal. They topped it with a generous layer of cheese, roasted mushrooms, and pickled jalapeños. No one misses meat on their slice when it tastes like this. It might be my favorite slice of the week. I keep changing my mind.

Right: East Glisan makes cannoli. Cannoli! It’s perfectly seasoned ricotta. Delicious little chocolate chips, and a light, crispy cannoli shell. I’d go back for one of those without hesitation [and pizza because who says no to pizza?].

Pizza3

Left: Another place that wins on all accounts. UFO Pizza has been in business for 18 years, and yet somehow I’ve never heard of it [maybe because it’s in a part of town I hardly ever go to, but still…]. We’ve been back a couple of times because their pizza game is on point. We went last night even. They have many slices all the time and their to-go pizzas are equally good. Their slice for pizza week wasn’t that special since its on their menu all the time but why mess with success? It’s called “Danger Bird” — a spicy peanut sauce, chicken, bacon, red onion, and jalapeños. So spicy delicious. The crust was probably one of my favorites. It’s not too thin but still crunchy despite having substance.

Right: We ended the pizza tour with a heavy, rich slice from Atlas Pizza. Their “Whiskey-Soaked Smoked Brisket Pizza” is exactly what you’d expect, and really awesome. It takes so many of my favorite things and puts it right on my favorite food. Does it get much better?

PizzaWeek2016-7

This was taken after I picked Andrew up from the airport. We went straight to UFO Pizza. Did I mention that they have grape soda? Be still my heart.

Sweet Potato Spinach Pasta

No long hours at the office. No studying. No class. No exams. Nothing. I leave the office like a normal human, and I find myself with an abundance if free time. I haven’t had free time like this in years. Even though I would still do what I wanted during school, CPA exams, and busy season, I always had a lot going on mentally. That to-do list ever present. And now? Nothing. It’s weird and it’s awesome. I’ve already read a few books, read a ton of magazines thanks to the library’s magazine app, and am a few lessons into German on Duolingo. I went out to eat only once last week. Once! Who am I? That means there are several new recipes to come. We have a loose timeline for the Germany trip, but I can actually focus on details now. Plans for replanting the patio flowers will have to wait until we’re back from Germany. They need all the help they can get to not die this year.

Pizza week was a success. I have a few photos to share once I get them off the phone camera. It’s probably my favorite in the burgers vs pizza weeks that go on. I’m such a sucker for pizza.

It’s funny that I’m sharing a pasta recipe today, and I have at least two more coming up. Apparently I’ve been on a pasta kick lately. I hardly ever cook pasta because…I don’t know. I don’t really have a good reason. It’s just not something I think about most of the time. Maybe because it’s a little lower on the difficulty scale. It’s also just an excuse to eat whatever is with it. I am actually a little more partial to loading up my pastas with all kinds of vegetables. It takes a lot of vegetables to get me to feel full enough to stop eating, so pasta helps me out in that department. This was a result of me craving vegetables towards the end of busy season when all I getting sick of all the snacks and catering. Plus, blue cheese. I love blue cheese.

Sweet Potato Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into uniform cubes
  • 2-3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped into smaller pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2lb pasta of choice [I used spaghetti]
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato pieces with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet in an even layer. Place in the oven and roast until browned on the edges and cooked through, approximately 30-40 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes roast, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. In a large bowl, add the spinach. Pour the drained, hot pasta on top of the spinach so it will wilt.

Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet. Saute the minced garlic until it’s  browning and fragrant. Add the olive oil to the top of the pasta. Top with the roasted sweet potatoes and blue cheese crumbles. Toss together until well mixed. Serve.

 

Massaman Curry Chicken Noodle Soup

It’s hardly soup weather anymore. Tax season ended with 80+° weather, and it’s hovered in that range ever since. Despite it being pizza week [think burger week, but y’know, with pizza], I made Thai basil pork my first meal back in the kitchen. Surprise, surprise. I have grand plans, but I’m easing back into it. Besides, pizza week.

This soup was stellar in that way that making something from scratch can be. I had a Massaman curry paste container in the fridge, but I went with the directions. Fresh lemongrass? Check. Fresh ginger? Check. Thai chilies? Check. It’s really, really simple in that way. It makes for a more complex chicken noodle soup, a soup that I normally avoid for its plainness. I spent way more time julienning carrots than I care to admit. My knife skills aren’t THAT good, and I don’t have time space for some fancy peeler. It left me with a ridiculous satisfaction though. Worth it.

Massaman Chicken Noodle Soup

Inspiration: Food52

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce + more to taste
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass
  • 4″ piece of ginger root, peeled
  • 2 Thai chilies
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 large carrots
  • 10 small baby potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 3 scallions, greens and white parts sliced and separated
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 12-14oz udon/rice noodles
  • 1/4 cup toasted peanuts
  • Lime juice

Preparation

Heat the chicken stock and fish sauce in a large pot on medium-high heat. Remove the tough, outer shells of the lemongrass stalks. Cut off the root, and then into 6″ pieces. Cut those pieces in half. Add the lemongrass pieces to the stock. Cut the ginger into slices and add to the pot. Smash and peel the garlic cloves and add those. Slice the tops off the chilies and then cut them in half. Scrape out the seeds, or leave them in for more heat. Add to the stock. Increase the heat if the stock hasn’t started simmering.

Cut the carrots so they’re close to a uniform diameter the whole way. You can julienne those pieces for garnish. Slice the remaining carrots into thin medallions and set aside with the potatoes.

Taste the stock for salt or more fish sauce.  You want it to be fairly salty to stand up to the chicken and vegetables it’s about to cook. Add the chicken breast. Simmer until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before shredding.

Skim the stock to remove the lemongrass, garlic, and ginger. Stir in the curry powder and add the carrots, potatoes, and peanuts. Cook until tender. Slice up the scallions, leaving the sliced dark green parts for garnish. Stir in the coconut milk, shredded chicken, and remaining scallions. Once the noodles are cooked through, the soup is ready to serve in bowls topped with the remaining scallions. Taste for more fish sauce or lime juice.

Broccoli Cheddar Rolls

New [to me] pizza was had on Friday night. Handsome Pizza is a sweet little pie shop over on Killingsworth. Their special had stinging nettles, mozzarella, shaved onion, Calabrian chilies and parmesan. I ate it. It sounded so intriguing. My parents have been on a big stinging nettle tea kick, so it seemed only appropriate to eat it on pizza. It was leafy, yet tender. It didn’t have a super strong flavor of anything specific despite being all over the pizza. It was really quite nice. Plus you can’t go wrong with Calabrian chilies.

This was another one of those recipes where I saw it one afternoon and then made it that night for dinner. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. The siren call of pizza dough is strong. I ate an obscene amount of the rolls immediately from the oven. I’m convinced that broccoli negates any ill effects of eating nearly an entire ball of pizza dough to yourself. There is something so satisfying eating these to the gooey middle. Who needs cinnamon rolls when you have these? I’m pretty sure I’d eat them over cinnamon rolls every time.

Broccoli Cheddar Rolls2

Inspiration: Shutterbean

Ingredients

  • 1 ball of pizza dough
  • 2 heads of broccoli, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • liberal application of red chile flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400° and ready a baking sheet. Roll out the ball of pizza dough about 9″x16″. In a large skillet heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the broccoli and sauté for a good five minutes. It’s going to turn bright green and soften. Add the garlic and stir often until it is also softened.

Sprinkle the broccoli mixture evenly across the rolled out dough. Leave about an inch around all sides. Top with the cheese, the red chile flakes, and salt and pepper. Starting with one of the 16″ sides, roll everything up. Cut them into rolls. I don’t have a dough scraper, but I do have a bread knife, and that seems to work well. Place the rolls face up on your baking sheet. Sprinkle any of the cheese that escaped while cutting the dough on top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minute before eating. It’s necessary because boiling hot cheese is the worst, but it’s going to smell so good!

Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Meatballs

Another rapid fire update and a recipe during busy season:

*Prince Coffee is a new coffeeshop in the ‘hood and they make stroopwafels. STROOPWAFELS. Yes.

*Speaking of coffee, our office now has Water Avenue espresso and Stumptown drip coffee. My caffeine intake is at an all-time high.

*Vitamix is sending me a new container. The old one has died after four years of heavy use. That warranty is the best.

*Amazing chicken sandwiches and waffle fries can be had at CHKCHK.

*Tickets to Germany have been purchased. Let the countdown begin. We’re flying in and out of Frankfurt, but have yet to solidify any other plans. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

*Spring appears to be short lived. It’s supposed to be in the 80s next week. WTF.

*Reading for fun again — making my way through the Wildwood series. I really like them.

This recipe is my first of what will probably be a ton over the summer. Tasty by Buzzfeed, if you aren’t familiar, is a video series that breaks down really simple and delicious sounding recipes. Andrew sent me this one and I think we made it same-day. Cheese stuffed meatballs will do that. Stuffing the meatballs are time consuming in the scheme of how long this recipe takes, but it’s worth it. Besides the obvious reasons why one would like a meatball stuffed with cheese, the addition of fennel seeds are key. I can’t get enough of that flavor. Also, using chicken instead of ground beef or pork seemed to make a more sturdy meatball. Less grease. Seriously good stuff. They’re fried to a golden brown before baking the cheese to ooey-gooey perfection.

Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Meatballs

Inspiration: Tasty by Buzzfeed

Ingredients

  • 1lb ground dark meat chicken
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • flour for dredging
  • 1 container small mozzarella balls [or a big ball chopped into 1/2 inch pieces]
  • oil for frying

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400º. In a large bowl, add the chicken, onion, parmesan, parsley, fennel seeds, garlic, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Take a golf ball sized scoop of dough and stuff a piece of mozzarella into it. I found it was easier to flatten it out and wrap the meat around it. Once all of the balls are made, set up a station with the whisked egg and a plate full of the breadcrumbs. Roll the balls in the flour, coat the them in the egg mixture and then dredge them in the bread crumbs.

Fill a skillet with 1/4″ of oil. Heat on high. Fry the meatballs on all sides before placing them on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.