Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sweet Potato Ricotta Pizza

I don’t know about you but I thought potato pizza was becoming a known thing. When discussing what to do with sweet potatoes and blue potatoes from a CSA load, I suggested slicing them thin on a homemade crust. I got some strange looks from my co-workers. Well, apparently this trend hasn’t hit the West Texas culinary stratosphere yet. 

Despite this set back, I think this sweet potato and ricotta pizza with caramelized onions would make anyone a convert. I'm definitely on a mission to change minds about sweet potatoes. They are so good for you and a lot more versatile than the Thanksgiving rut most people put them in. 

I think you'll love the combination of sweet from the onions and delicate taste of the ricotta, melding together with the unlikely star: the sweet potato. I hope you give it a shot.

Personally, my favorite pizza crust is from the Working Class Foodies Cookbook by Rebecca Lando. The secret is the bread flour. I know this sounds silly but I’ve made the crust with both bread and all-purpose flours and the former results in more tender, soft crust by a landslide. If it’s a special occasion and you can get your hands on some 00 flour, that’s even better…

But honestly, if your are looking for a simpler weekday meal, try Pillsbury’s Thin crust pizza dough. In my opinion it’s the best pre-made option on the market…and it’s really tasty.

Sweet Potato and Ricotta Pizza
(Makes one 18- inch pizza)

1 recipe homemade pizza dough or 1 Pillsbury thin crust, rolled out
½ large sweet potato (or 1 small), peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
½ cup ricotta (I use part-skim, but many prefer whole milk)
1 cup shredded mozzarella (commercial melts the best)
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
1 small yellow onion, halved and sliced into thin half moons
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp. herb de Provence (or mixture of dried basil and oregano)
1 tsp. sea salt, divided in half
black pepper
Olive oil
½ tbsp. butter
Optional: 2 tbsp. capers, rinsed


Prepare pizza crust according to directions.

Meanwhile, heat butter and a good drizzle of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Allow butter to bubble slightly and add onions. Saute for five minutes, stirring often so the onions brown but don’t burn. Reduce heat to medium low and cover with a lid. Allow the onions to sweat and soften. (Don’t add salt yet as this will impede carmelization.) Checking often, stir onions until very soft and browning. Take off lid and brown onions for about 20 minutes. If they start to burn, add a couple tablespoons of water and this will help. Cook until onions are a deep brown color and are still slightly wet. Add a pinch of salt and stir. Set aside. You can do this step a day or two ahead of time and refrigerate cooked onions.

In a small bowl, mix ricotta, ½ tsp. salt, herb de Provence, garlic, and half of the parmesan together.

Put sliced sweet potatoes on a large microwave-safe plate and sprinkle a little water and a pinch of salt over top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 3-5 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender and pierced easily with a fork. Allow to cool slightly.

When your crust is ready to be topped, start by smearing the ricotta as your base on the pizza crust. Evenly layer sweet potato over the ricotta. Sprinkle about half the mozzarella on top.

Scatter the caramelized onions and capers on top and cover with remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Cover the pizza with fresh black pepper.

Bake at 475 for 10-12 minutes if using homemade crust or according to package instructions. Sprinkle fresh parsley over the pizza.

Wait about 2 minutes until cutting, then serve.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mango Black Bean Salsa

It is always funny to me what a particular item will cost depending on the season. Last week, mangoes were 68 cents each while limes previously 5 for $1 the previous week are now 50 cents each! I soon found out that due to a terrible Mexican lime crop this season, restaurants and paying up to $100 for 40lbs. of limes while previously they were paying $15-25. So right now a mix of lemon and limes is more than a good rounded flavor but simply good economics.

So when I needed something to bring to a ladies night for snacks and cocktails, I wanted to make something everyone would like both taste and allergies wise while limiting how much time I had to cook. Empanadas were out of the question then so mango salsa seemed perfect. Especially with mojitos....

To say the least: I was right. The salsa was a hit and has always been a favorite recipe of mine when mangoes are in season. For Ladies' Night I served the big bowl of salsa with chips but it is unreal on tilapia, grilled tuna steak, shrimp, grilled chicken, or even on simple rice.

What is great about this salsa is that it almost acts as a fruit salad because it's so chunky and delicious. You'll want a strong chip for this dip.

If you want an easy, passable hor-d'oeuvres, try a spoonful of this salsa in a crispy wonton cup with or without a bite of grilled chicken.

No matter how you serve it, you and your guests will be going back for more than one bite.

Mango Black Bean Salsa
makes about 4 cups of salsa

2 ripe Mangoes, chopped into small chunks
2 cups Black beans, cooked (or 1 1/2 cans, rinsed)
1/2 Red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup Cilantro, finely chopped
2/3 cup Red onion, finely diced
1-2 Limes/lemons, juiced (2 tbsp.)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes


Mix all the ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Add salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. 

Allow salsa to chill in the fridge for several hours or over night for best flavor. Before you are ready to serve, taste the salsa and add more lime juice or salt to personal taste.

Serve with tortilla chips, on fish, grilled chicken, over rice, even in mini wonton cups.