Clam pizza

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Clam pizza is such a Connecticut thing. I'm sure some would argue that it's also a New York thing, but I feel like Frank Pepe, the New Haven pizza institution, is best known for it's clam pizza, and thus, clam pizza is a Connecticut thing. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I first tried this briny, garlicky pie on a trip to Connecticut long before moving here myself. And I've been on a Goldilocksian journey to find the best one ever since. They have either been too salty, not garlicky enough, or without cheese and that is not acceptable to me when it comes to pizza. (Don't yell at me, people who think seafood and cheese should never mingle.)

Some slapdash mis-en-place.

Some slapdash mis-en-place.

We have not yet found our favorite (sorry, Pepe's), but instead have been making our favorite. Full of three different kinds of cheese and two different kinds of garlic, this pizza tastes like clams and tastes like a proper pizza, but also SO MUCH MORE. 

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I used a pizza stone on a grill because a) not everyone has a grill, so you can easily recreate this in an oven with the pizza stone (see directions in the recipe); and b) because I've never grilled my pizza directly on the grates. If you're braver than I am, here are some instructions for that method.

If you aren't as into garlic (this recipe calls for 10 cloves!), either reduce the number of fresh cloves or just use the roasted ones. Their flavor is much mellower and blends well with the cheese.

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And please do garnish with the lemon and sea salt. They make a huge difference in the end product.

Clam pizza

1 pizza dough
Flour to prevent sticking when rolling out dough
Coarse corn meal, about 2-3 Tbsp
1 cup ricotta cheese
6-7 roasted garlic cloves (see method below)
2-3 large raw garlic cloves, minced
2 cans clams, drained (about 4 oz of clam meat)
1/2- 3/4 cup nutty cheese such as gruyere, sharp cheddar, gouda (not smoked), or fontina,
shredded
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
Parsley
Lemon wedges
Sea salt
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

For the roasted garlic:
Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400. Smash 10 cloves of garlic, but don't remove the peels. Add them to a small oven proof container. I usually use a ramekin or a coffee mug. Cover with olive oil. Cook in the oven until the garlic is bubbling and fragrant and the cloves are very soft when (carefully! hot oil!) pushed on with a spoon, about 10 minutes.

Preheat your grill on high or your oven at 500. Remove the top rack of your grill or the second rack of your oven and move the remaining rack to the lower middle portion of the oven. (You want enough room above the rack to negotiate your dough onto the pizza stone, but be close enough to the top of the oven to easily brown your cheese. Add the pizza stone and let heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep all of your toppings. Add the raw and roasted garlic to the ricotta, drain your clams, and shred and combine the mozzarella and nutty cheeses. Set aside. 

On a floured pizza board, roll out or press out your dough until very thin. Lift up half of the dough and scatter the coarse corn meal underneath. Repeat on the other side. Jiggle your pizza board to make sure that the dough will slide off easily. 

If cooking in the oven, add your toppings before placing the raw dough on the pizza stone, periodically shaking the pizza board to make sure that the topped dough will slide off easily. If the toppings are weighing down the dough too much, carefully add more corn meal under the crust.

Slide the topped, raw dough onto the pizza stone carefully. Cook for 6-8 minutes without opening the oven. Check the pizza and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the cheese and the sides of the crust begin to brown. Check the bottom crust for doneness (it should be golden brown and crispy). Remove from the heat and top with chopped parsley, sea salt, lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes (optional).

If cooking on the grill, make sure all of your toppings are measured and easily spreadable. Slide the plain, raw dough onto your grill and quickly top with the ricotta and garlic mixture, the clams, and the shredded cheeses. Close the lid to the grill and let cook for 5 minutes. Check for doneness continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until the crust and cheese begin to brown.

Check the bottom crust for doneness (it should be golden brown and crispy). Remove from the heat and top with chopped parsley, sea salt, lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes (optional).

One note about grilling, the number of burners on your grill will change the speed at which this pizza cooks. A 6-burner grill might take less than 5 minutes, so check it sooner. A 3-burner grill might take a minute more. Use your judgement based on your grill or oven.

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Lemon basil ricotta cake

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You may find the idea of turning on the oven insulting given that the weather is so unbelievably hot and humid. But hear me out: This cake requires one bowl and less than 30 minutes in the oven. AND is chock-a-block with sweet, tangy, summery flavor. A weeknight cake if there ever was one.

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One of my favorite things about finally having a yard is growing our own herbs. And we can't keep up with how fast the basil grows. It's a good thing I L.O.V.E. pesto. And we've definitely been throwing a handful of basil into just about everything, including our cakes.

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I didn't healthify this recipe at all; It's full of white flour and sugar. I did use the smallest amount of sugar possible in the batter to have a sweet cake without it being cloyingly so. Not for nothing, there's another 3/4 cup of confectioner's sugar in the glaze, so this baby doesn't want for sweetness.

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It took some tinkering to figure out the right amounts of basil and lemon to impart a strong flavor without turning the cake bitter (too much basil) or sour (too much lemon). In the end, the basil is a background herby note that plays really well with the bright lemon flavor.

And ricotta! I adapted this recipe from the famous French yogurt cake and the textures are very similar. I think the ricotta makes the cake ever-so-slightly more dense and a little more savory.

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A quick note: Be sure not to overcook the cake. It will cool completely in the pan, which means it'll keep cooking a bit while it cools. Check the cake at the shortest time listed, even if your oven doesn't run particularly hot.

Lemon basil ricotta cake

2 eggs
1 cup ricotta (I've had equal success with part-skim and whole)
1/2 cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tbsp lemon zest (zest of two extra-large lemons)
¼ cup basil (packed), minced
2 cups AP flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

For the glaze:
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup of lemon juice (juice of 1 very large lemon)

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9-inch cake pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, sugar, olive oil, vanilla, lemon zest, and basil and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix just until the wet and dry components are combined and no clumps of flour remain. The batter will be very thick.

Pour (or plop, as this is a thick batter) the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 22-30* minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (We have a very hot oven, so yours may need more time, but check often to avoid overcooking.)

Let cool for about 10 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Add the confectioner’s sugar to a medium bowl and slowly pour in the lemon juice, whisking constantly, until you’ve reached your desired consistency (a thin glaze soaks into the cake better, so use your judgment) .

Once the cake is slightly cooled, pour your glaze over the entire top, making sure that the liquid goes into the holes. I sometimes use a brush to coax the glaze into the holes, but this isn't strictly necessary. Let cool completely in its baking dish.

Yield: 8-10 pieces

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Meatless Monday: Spring vegetable baked gnocchi

Whelp, it's been a while since my last post and if I'm being honest, it's because I've been obsessively online shopping for shoes to wear to my college reunion. But it's not as shallow as it sounds! I'm focusing my energies on something I can control because there's a lot right now that I can't. It's easier to compare heel heights and debate the pros and cons of suede in DC humidity than to worry about, say, authoritarianism or long-term career plans or huge and imminent life changes. It's enough to give me an ulcer. Which is also something I worry about.

This casserole has been helpful on busy days and is, as always, a helpful vehicle for vegetables. The leftovers are also great when crisped in the oven. I tend to shy away from baked pasta since it requires an extra step that the original ingredients don't necessarily need to taste great. But smothering things in cheese is always better than NOT smothering things with cheese and since the gnocchi cook so quickly, the overall prep and cooking time isn't overwhelming. Also, the gnocchi have a lot of starch thanks to the potatoes, which thickens the ricotta so that a bechamel or flour-based sauce isn't necessary.

Baked gnocchi

1 package potato gnocchi, cooked al dente
1 large shallot, minced
1 bunch asparagus, woody stems chopped off
1 box baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 box shitake mushrooms, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup full fat ricotta
½ cup parmesan
S/P
½- ¾ cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat broiler. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is heating, melt butter in a sauté pan and cook the shallots until opaque. Add the mushrooms and cook until they start to release some water. Add the garlic and asparagus and cook until the water evaporates. If the mushrooms don’t release any water, feel free to add a tbsp or two with the asparagus and cook until it evaporates.

When water is boiling, add the gnocchi and as soon as they start floating to the top, scoop the gnocchi out with a slotted spoon or strainer and put into a large bowl. If only a few gnocchi float at a time, scoop them out in small groups. If the gnocchi aren’t floating or some seem to be cooking at the bottom of the pot for longer than 3-4 minutes, test for doneness and scoop out as long as they no longer taste doughy.

Mix the gnocchi with ricotta, parmesan, sautéed veggies, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish and top with shredded mozzarella. Bake under the broiler until cheese is brown and bubbly, about 10-12 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

Carrot and ricotta turnovers

Carrot and ricotta turnovers | Me & The Moose. The puree that fills these barely sweet turnovers is delicious on its own or as baby food, a toddler pouch, or a dip. Premade puff pastry dough makes this an easy treat to whip up for unexpected holiday guests. #meandthemoose #carrotrecipes #desserts #babypuree #toddlerfood #carrotandricottaturnovers #turnoverrecipes

I keep choosing holiday recipes that are either multi-stepped, super complicated, or painstaking. I mean, who doesn't love sugar cookies painted with luster dust and puppy cupcakes? But not every holiday dessert or appetizer has to be a labor of love, know what I mean?

These carrot turnovers are a little sweet, a little savory and completely delicious. They're also easy to put together and seem fancier than they actually are. And there are vegetables! I made these guys fairly large when they were just a part of our dinner, but for a crowd, I would cut the rolled out pastry dough into 12 squares and check them after about 14 minutes of cooking.

Carrot and ricotta turnovers | Me & The Moose. The puree that fills these barely sweet turnovers is delicious on its own or as baby food, a toddler pouch, or a dip. Premade puff pastry dough makes this an easy treat to whip up for unexpected holiday guests. #meandthemoose #carrotrecipes #desserts #babypuree #toddlerfood #carrotandricottaturnovers #turnoverrecipes

Carrot, apple, and thyme turnovers

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 medium apple (1/2 large apple), peeled and diced (about ½ cup)
½ cup whole milk ricotta
2-3 tsp honey
2 sprigs thyme
1 sheet puff pastry dough

Preheat the oven to 400. Chop the carrots and apples. Place the carrots in a deep pot and cover with cold water, plus one inch. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once the carrots are boiling, add a steamer basket on top and steam the apples for 8 minutes. Drain the apples and carrots and let cool slightly.

Set aside half of the cooked apple chunks. Pulse the cooked carrots and the rest of the apples with 2 Tbsp water until you've reached your desired consistency, adding more water if necessary. At this point, you have a tasty apple and carrot puree. If stopping here, you could also add a glug of olive oil or some pureed protein for a complete baby meal.

Carrot and ricotta turnovers | Me & The Moose. The puree that fills these barely sweet turnovers is delicious on its own or as baby food, a toddler pouch, or a dip. Premade puff pastry dough makes this an easy treat to whip up for unexpected holiday guests. #meandthemoose #carrotrecipes #desserts #babypuree #toddlerfood #carrotandricottaturnovers #turnoverrecipes

For the turnovers, combine the puree with reserved apple chunks, ricotta, honey (to taste), and thyme. Stir to combine and set aside. Again, you can stop here and have another tasty puree for a baby over the age of one year or sub maple syrup for the honey if feeding to a younger baby.

Carrot and ricotta turnovers | Me & The Moose. The puree that fills these barely sweet turnovers is delicious on its own or as baby food, a toddler pouch, or a dip. Premade puff pastry dough makes this an easy treat to whip up for unexpected holiday guests. #meandthemoose #carrotrecipes #desserts #babypuree #toddlerfood #carrotandricottaturnovers #turnoverrecipes

Cut a piece of parchment that is slightly larger than your sheet pan. Place the puff pastry dough on the parchment and gently roll out the dough to lengthen it, allowing you to cut out squares instead of rectangles. Cut into 6 squares. Move your parchment and dough onto the sheet pan. Spoon 2 Tbsp of the carrot, apple, thyme, and cheese mixture into the bottom corner of the turnovers. Fold over to make triangles and gently press the sides together. Bake for 16 minutes, or until golden brown.

Yield: 6 large turnovers or 12 small turnovers

Carrot and ricotta turnovers | Me & The Moose. The puree that fills these barely sweet turnovers is delicious on its own or as baby food, a toddler pouch, or a dip. Premade puff pastry dough makes this an easy treat to whip up for unexpected holiday guests. #meandthemoose #carrotrecipes #desserts #babypuree #toddlerfood #carrotandricottaturnovers #turnoverrecipes
Carrot and ricotta turnovers | Me & The Moose. The puree that fills these barely sweet turnovers is delicious on its own or as baby food, a toddler pouch, or a dip. Premade puff pastry dough makes this an easy treat to whip up for unexpected holiday guests. #meandthemoose #carrotrecipes #desserts #babypuree #toddlerfood #carrotandricottaturnovers #turnoverrecipes