Lebanese Style Pizza

For John’s 40th birthday, I got him a pizza oven. My gosh, we have been loving it – our waists not so much, but it allows for impromptu pizza parties…acts as another oven for roasting chicken and Thanksgiving sides. We are loving it. Instructions in the recipe are included for baking indoors our in the pizza oven.

Below is a pizza we put together at the end of summer, it has za’atar, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a salami (with Mediterranean spices) we got from a local shop called Panino.

We’re still testing different pizza dough recipes, this one, was the one we tried out for the pizza below. I delivered a nice crunchy crust.


Lebanese Style Pizza – 4 pizzas
1 recipe of pizza dough
3 tablespoons Za’atar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup feta
4 campari tomatoes, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup kalamatas, slices
6 oz salami, sliced (about 6 slices per pizza)

Bring pizza dough to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (if you are using a pizza stone, put it in now) – for the pizza oven, get it around 700 degrees F.

Combine Za’atar, lemon zest, minced garlic, and olive oil.

On a lightly floured surface, prepare your dough by rolling out to around 8 inches. Distribute Za’atar mixture among the 4 pizzas, and spread leaving a 1/2 inch border. Place on a pizza directly on pizza stone, or on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake 9 minutes. If you have a prepared wood fired oven, this will only take about 75-90 seconds to bake, turn twice. Remove from oven, and immediately sprinkle each pizza with some feta. Then top each pizza with 6 slices of salami, olives, tomato, and cucumber. Serve!

Happy Cooking!
Bon Appetit!


Banana Espresso Upside-Down Cake

Sometimes you don’t want to make banana bread…and sometimes you only have 2 ripe bananas, and the rest are, well, firm.

I highly recommend serving these about 20 minutes after baking, they will still be hot, and it give the caramel enough time to soak into the cake.

You can bake these in muffin tins, make sure to grease the tin well, then just divide the caramel evenly and slice bananas for each muffin well.

Banana Espresso Upside-Down Cake – Make 2 loaves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 medium ripe bananas, peeled and mashed; about 1 cup
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon instant espresso powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 recipe “Caramel” topping (recipe and ingredients below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 2 baking loaf pans by greasing and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the sugars and butter at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined, then the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture by the spoonful, mixing until thoroughly combined. Set aside and make “caramel”.

To make the “caramel” topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 firm bananas, peeled

Melt the butter in a saute pan. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring until evenly combined, and most of the sugar is melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Divide mixture among loaf pans.

Cut the bananas in half crosswise. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on top of the caramel.

Divide batter among both loaf pans – pour evenly over the bananas, use an offset spatula to smooth over the batter.

Place the loaf pan (baking 1 at a time) on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes.
Invert onto serving platter.

Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 5 days. Warm before serving.


Happy Cooking

Bon Appetit!

Giant Toasted Pecan Bourbon Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I prefer putting together a bag of goodies to give to friends, versus buying something I’m not entirely sure they will like.

My friend Callie is a bourbon lover. So while I put together a tin of bourbon balls, I thought some cookies would never hurt.

Tip: I used the cookie scoop linked to below, 2 scoops dough per cookie made 24 evenly sized cookies.

Toasted Pecan Bourbon Chocolate Chunk Cookies – 24 giant cookies
1 1/2 cups pecan, finely chopped
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (unpacked)
DSCN16611 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons bourbon
2 large eggs (room temperature)
10 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate chunks
24 pecan halves for decoration

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Roast finely chopped pecans for 6 minutes, remove from oven and allow time to cool. Prepare two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda mix to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, fitted with a paddle, combine butter and sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in vanilla and bourbon and beat until combined.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, until well combined. Add half the flour and half the sour cream mixture, stirring only until the flour begins to look incorporated, add remaining flour and sour cream, chocolate chunks and chopped pecans. Mix until combined.

Using a medium cookie scoop, drop 2 scoops per cookie on the baking sheet. Press a pecan on top of each cookie dough mound. (I fit 8 cookies onto a sheet, keep space, the cookies will spread).

Bake 10 minutes, or until the cookies are golden at the edges, they will still be soft in the middle. Allow to cool for 2 minutes, then move to a cookie rack to continue cooling.

Repeat baking with remaining cookie dough.

Happy Cooking!

Bon Appetit!

Roquefort Spread

Hello Summer!

I’m sorry I’ve been MIA for a while, our house isn’t quite done, and I’ve always got at least 1 contractor buzzing around. And somehow we skipped Spring and went straight into Summer, so I wanted to share a fun app we put together for a night on the patio with a bottle of chilled white wine.


Roquefort Spread – 24 crostinis
Olive oil
2 onions, minced
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup walnuts
8 oz Roquefort, crumbled
6 oz crème fraîche
Baguette, sliced


Crostinis + Walnuts:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place sliced baguette rounds on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, season with freshly ground white pepper. Bake 8 minutes or until golden brown, remove from oven and set aside while working on the walnuts. Spread walnuts on a separate baking sheet, bake 5 minutes, stir, and bake another 5 minutes, remove from oven and set aside to cool. Continue with remaining recipe.

Roquefort Spread:
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, add onion, cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and transparent, about 15 minutes. Uncover and stir occasionally until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Season with freshly ground white pepper, transfer onion to a bowl and cool.

Coarsely chop cooled toasted walnuts.

Combine Roquefort, crème fraîche, caramelized onion and chopped walnuts. Mix to combine and season to taste with freshly ground white pepper

Serve with a cheese knife and crostini. (It’s also excellent on celery hearts!)

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Ratatouille Vol-Au-Vents

I wanted to serve ratatouille in an hors d’oeuvres type fashion, and I think I have it down however I believe the next step is going to be to slice the zucchini and squash thinner, and fan them out once roasted – according to John though, I definitely have the concept and flavor down. We will be serving the vol-au-vents at our annual Christmas party.

Be sure to purchase similarly sized squash and zucchini.

Ratatouille Vol-Au-Vents – 20 servings
1 zucchini, thinly sliced rounds
1 summer squash, thinly slice roundsDSCN1630
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion, diced
2 tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 sheet Puff Pastry, chilled
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


Prepare a baking sheet with parchment. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. Cut 20 rounds (or more) using a 2 1/4 inch-diameter fluted pastry cutter, then using a 2 inch-diameter press two-thirds of the way through each round, leaving 1/4 inch edge (the picture to the side is an example). Place on prepared baking sheet, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Prepare vegetables.

In a large bowl combine zucchini, summer squash, thyme leaves, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix to coat. Prepare an 8×8 baking pan, alternating between zucchini and squash overlap the slices until pan is full. Bake for 30 minutes, or until vegetables have softened and slightly browned. Meanwhile prepare a very quick soffrito.

Over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan. Add onions, and lower heat to soften. Meanwhile blanch 2 tomatoes, peel skin and discard, chop tomatoes. Once the onions have softened, add tomatoes, and cook down for about 30 minutes, until there is no longer any juice in the pan and tomatoes have broken down. Add garlic, and red pepper flakes to taste, combine and remove from heat.

Once vegetables and soffrito have cooled, turn oven temperate to 425 degrees.

Top center of the puff pastry rounds (stay within the 2 inch ring) with cooled 1/2 teasppon soffrito, lay a slice of zucchini and squash on top of soffrito. Sprinkle with Parmesan, and repeat on the other rounds. Brush exposed pastry with eggwash, and bake for 12 minutes until golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

TIP: You can prepare every step, and prior to brushing the pastry with eggwash, place the baking sheet in the freezer, freeze overnight, then stack and store in an airtight container in the freezer. To defrost, place in the refrigerator overnight, and continue with the steps by brushing with eggwash, etc.

Happy Cooking! Bon Appetit!

Sweet Corn & Peach Pot de Crème

There’s a recipe for my chocolate espresso pot de crème in my cookbook, it’s very decadent, so I decided to try my hand at a “lighter” custard.

My sweet neighbors brought us peaches from Asheville – and I just have to say: I don’t know what I was eating before! I had to eat my peach over the sink, and while at the grocery store, I was totally inspired by the sweet corn…

I use these Weck canning jars as my pots, they are heat resistant, and come with a lid.

Sweet Corn & Peach Pot de Crème – 12 servings
2 ears of sweet cornDSCN6015 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2 peaches, peeled and diced

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Prepare the 2 ears of corn by pulling back their husks (without removing), and pulling out the silk. Cover the corn back up with their husks, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool. Discard husks, and cut away the kernels.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat melt the butter – add the corn kernels. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to coat in butter. Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream, and 3/4 cup of whole milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender or a blender, carefully blend the corn and milk mixture until fully puréed. Return puréed mixture to clean saucepan, add the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole milk and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together sugar and egg yolks until combined, set aside.

Strain cream mixture, discard corn purée, and whisk strained cream into the sugar yolk mixture. Return to saucepan over low heat, occasionally stirring, until thickened (my recommended test: draw a line through the back of a wooden spoon, if the mixture doesn’t run – it’s done!). Remove from heat, and use a fine meshed sieve to strain.

(I decided a third strain wasn’t a bad idea, so as I was dividing the mixture, I actually strained it into each pot). Divide into 12 10-ounce pots, and place in a water bath, where the hot water comes up half way up to the pots. Cover baking tray with aluminum foil – poke a few holes. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

Remove the pots from the hot water, and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate over night.

To serve, dice peaches and top custards. Serve immediately.

Bon appetit! Happy Cooking!

Tarte au Tomates

My lovely neighbors have this incredible garden (*jealous*) and they have been sharing plenty of it! With the gorgeous tomatoes they brought over this week, I made one of John’s favorites – a tomato tart. It’s simple and flavorful. I even got to share some with my neighbors who asked for the recipe…so I thought I should share.

You can use any kind of hard salty cheese, typically I’ll use pecorino, Parmesan, gruyere..comte..I could go on.

Tomato tart (Tarte au tomates) – 4 main course servings/ 16 appetizersIMG_0558
1 sheet of packaged puff pastry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup finely grated hard/salty cheese
4 sprigs of thyme
3-4 tomatoes, different varieties, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional: greens and red onion salad

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly salt tomato slices and allow to sit while preparing pastry, they’ll release quite a bit of water.

Roll out your puff pastry on a floured surface to a 10in X 13in rectangle. Place on prepared baking sheet. Spread with mustard, leaving a 1.5cm border. Scatter with cheese, thyme leaves from 3 sprigs (discard stems), then layer the tomato slices on top, slightly overlapping – season to taste with freshly ground pepper. Fold in pastry edges to form a border, lay fourth sprig of thyme on the center and drizzle tomatoes lightly with olive oil. Increase temperature to 425 degrees F and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, use leaves from garnish thyme to sprinkle over tart, discard the stem.

A typical way to serve is to dress lettuce leaves and red onion or shallot with a light dressing: champagne vinegar (1 teaspoon) + olive oil (2 teaspoons)

Serve hot or at room temperature, slice tart into 4 or 16, garnish each slice with a few lightly dressed greens and onions.

Bon appetit! Happy cooking!