I don't know what I'm going to do when Pizza Month is over. Luckily for me (and you) we are only about half way through, because we've got some good ones for you. Including today's feature: Roasted Pumpkin Pizza with Fried Sage and Toasted Pecans. And as a special treat - at the end of the post Astor Wines has again treated us with some wine pairings. So don't forget to check those out.
So, by now I am assuming that you have roasted your wee lil' pumpkin just like I told you to on Monday. If not, get to work, post-haste, because you are going to need those little golden nuggets of roasted pumpkin-ness right now. And go:
What you need:
Roasted pumpkin slices (use your judgment on how many)
A handful of whole pecans (more if you snack on them while you cook, like I do)
A small bunch of sage
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp butter
Pinch of nutmeg
1/8 cup grated Parmeggiano Reggiano
salt and pepper
What To Do:
Heat up your oven (with pizza stone if you've got one) to 500 degrees. Prepare your dough. Maybe by now you've tried your hand at making some? At this point it should be ready to go, so get it ready by rolling it out and placing it on your pizza peel (sprinkled with semolina flour or cornmeal so your dough doesn't stick) and set it aside.
In either a grill pan or a frying pan, melt 1 Tbsp of the butter. Then place your slices of roasted pumpkin in the pan to toast them. Give them a sprinkling of salt while they are in there.
Once you've got those pumpkin pieces nice 'n' toasty, set them aside in a bowl.
Now, get excited everyone, because we are going to make an Alfredo sauce - or a variation on it - for the pizza. Get out a frying pan (or wash and reuse the one in which you toasted your pumpkin). Melt the other 1 Tbsp of butter in there. Pour in the 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Add some salt, pepper and the dash of nutmeg and stir. You will want the cream mixture to start bubbling a bit. Keep stiring. You need it to thicken (so it doesn't run right off the pizza and make a big ol' mess, setting off all the smoke detectors in your kitchen....not that that's ever happened to me or anything. I'm just warning you). As it thickens, you will notice that it will start to coat the back of your wooden spoon (or whatever stirring implement you happen to be using - I find a small squeegee works in a pinch*). Once you have the sauce at a nice thickness, remove from the heat and stir in your grated parm. Oh so creamy!
Ok, before we get too excited, let's put all the pieces together.
Using a spoon, smooth that Alfredo sauce on your uncooked, rolled-out, fantastic-looking pizza dough. Then, place your roasted, toasted pumpkin slices on top of that, in a nice arrangement. Then, place some pecans on top of that.
How's it going? Good? Good. Now, shimmy that thing into the oven and onto your pizza stone (which by now should be nice and hot) via your semolina-coated pizza peel.
Now, we are gonna need that frying pan a THIRD time. I know, it's nuts. But it's worth it. Heat a little olive oil in the pan. How much? 1 Tbsp? Just a bit. Take about 5-6 leaves from your bunch of sage, and once your oil is nice and hot, throw those little leaves in the pan. They should start to fry and get crispy. Once that happens you can take them out of the frying pan. And put them in the fire. NO! Put them aside (on a dish or paper towel).
Now I know you've been keeping an eye on your pizza that's in the oven during this time. Please don't forget about that. Take a peek at it and see how things are moving along in there. Is the sauce bubbling? Are the outer crusts turning golden brown? If so, you have my permission to remove the pizza (carefully) from the oven using your trusty peel. Once your masterpiece is out, place it on a serving dish and garnish with the fried sage leaves.
You're gonna like it.
When we made this, we added a salad of spinach, purple figs and cucumbers with a honey dressing. Like this one:
Now, the obvious question remains. WHAT are you going to drink with this? To answer this question, I turned to the experts at Astor Wines in NYC. These guys are just so helpful. They seemed intrigued by this combination in a pizza and have offered 4 different wines. Below, I give you their recs with tasting notes.
1. Bourgogne Rouge "Le Chapitre", René Bouvier 2006 (20558) – A pinot noir with nice red fruit, here you get rustic raspberries, again will work well with the pumpkin. This wine also shows a bit of herbaceous notes and is slightly earthy on the end making it a no brainer with the sage and pecans.
2. Lagrein, Muri Gries 2008 (45679) - Pizza/Italy/Italian wine – a natural choice for the type of dish but also will go beautifully with the ingredients. Like the pinot noir, it will offer some lush fruit, but as a relative to Syrah, it also offers some spice and herb qualities that can bring all the flavors together in a unique and delicious way.
3. Moscato Giallo "Vigna Giere", Vivallis 2008 (20466) – This Italian white has a touch of sweetness on the palate that will actually play off the natural sweetness of the pumpkin, making this dish a touch more savory as a whole. The slightly floral aromatics will blend nicely with the sage. Watch to not over-chill the wine or you’ll miss out on the subtle orange aromatics.
4. Stuhlmuller Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2008 (22188) – Chardonnay that has a touch of oak influence will blend the creamy aspects, the pumpkin and cream. The food and the wine together will create a nice round feeling in your mouth and with hints stone fruit in this white the fruit will bring out the pumpkin flavor.
* We would like to note that a squeegee actually makes a terrible Alfredo sauce stirring device. We just really like the word "squeegee". Squeeeeeeeegeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee... ok, sorry.
I know it's pizza month, but even the most dedicated of blogs should include some variety here and there. Those warm for iconic, Jersey burger joints should be familiar with White Manna in Hackensack which, quite possibly, may have invented the modern slider. The place has been around for ages; its decor appears to pre-date the 1950's actually. I was in the area recently and decided I was in the mood.
Ironically, White Manna is located directly across the street from a McDonald's. But in terms of quality, the two establishments could not be further apart. Approaching and entering White Manna is an experience. I opened the front door at about 12:30 p.m. and it was packed. I walked right into the last person in line - the place is tiny. I patiently waited my turn to give my order - "Three cheeseburgers, grilled onions please." The woman takes my order, reaches into a metal chest, pulls out three balls of fresh ground meat, splatters them on the grill, and proceeds to whack the hell out of them with a metal spatula until they are flat.
One end of the grill represents the burgers which are almost ready to be served. The other end cooks the newbies. It's a slightly confusing process; particularly at lunch, where dozens of hungry, drooling patrons would be more than happy to jump ahead of you and steal your order, but the woman working the grill seems to know the exact destination of each slider.
The time spent waiting for my burger gives me a chance to survey the inside: tiled floors, old time decorations, and hilarious orders (one high school kid ordered 12 burgers. From the looks of him, he was not sharing) pass the time. The grill woman is like a Hibachi grill chef - using her metal spatula to flip, serve, organize, scrape, chop and whatever else she feels like. It's like a poor man's chef table. Good stuff.
After about 15 minutes, my burgers are ready to be served. I am seated at the right hand side of the semi circular bar/table, and the woman puts the burgers and onions, which are now sandwiched between a Martin's potato roll , on a paper plate. The masterpiece comes along with a side of pickles. I never have to put my hand up or anything, she just knows those bad boys are mine. Side note on Martin's potato rolls - for my money, these are the best hamburger buns in the galaxy. Fluffy, moist, substantial, yet not so much as to dwarf the presence of the burger - there is simply no better compliment to a burger in my mind; or a pulled pork sandwich; or a hot dog. You can see the "give" in the bun as I hold the slider. So tender and wonderful.
The final result is just fantastic; a hot mess of satisfaction. The meat is perfectly cooked (typically, they only cook it one way; Medium well-ish. I've yet to hear anyone have the audacity to ask for a "medium rare" slider at Manna), the onions provide a strong complimentary balance, the cheese is melted just right - not overwhelming or bubbly - and the Martin's roll is fresh.
I devour the three sliders in record time. Manna is definitely one of the ultimate destinations if you are fixing for burgers. Affordibility is off the charts as well. A recession buster!
Overall Movie Equivalent - The Big Lebowksi
1) Butternut squash soup - Just follow the recipe and get lost in the fun. Everybody's doing it. No, really, this is one of my favorites - such a dreamy, buttery, creamy treat that, let's face it, is as appropriate during this time of the year as it will ever be.
What You Need:
2 T butter
1 med. Onion. Chopped
½ t. thyme fresh if you have it
½ t. curry powder
2 T flour
1 c apple juice and 1 c chick stock
½ pound butternut squash peeled seeded and cut into cubes
½ c heavy cream
salt and papper
For garnish (optional):
thin wedges of granny smith apple
1 T hazelnut or walnut oil
1 T finely chopped hazelnuts or walnuts
What To Do:
In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add ion and pinch of salt. Cook until onion is translucent but not brown. Add thyme and curry powder, cook 1 minute longer. Sprinkle flour over onion mixture, whisk until smooth. Cook 3 minutes. Slowly add stock and apple juice, then the squash. Raise the heat to high and bring to boil. Cook until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool.
Transfer to a blender in small batches, taking care to fill blender jar no more than half full. Personal experience has taught me that hot liquids tend to blow up in the blender (Yikes - remember those safety glasses!) if it is filled too full or started at a high speed. Hold the lid on the blender jar tightly with a pot holder . Then turn on starting at low speed. Strain soup though a sieve if desired (not necessary in my opinion).
Return to heat. Add cream and correct the seasonings.
Ladle into bowls and garnish.
Makes 4 cups of soup
2) A football with a good, sticky grip enables me to channel my inner Uncle Rico after Jets' victories.
3) Enjoy a glass of the Cadillac of Bourbons with a few, but not too many, ice cubes. Sip slow and let Maker's warm you up to compliment the crisp fall weather. Drink it neat for deeper taste, respect and chest hair growth.
4) Honey Crisp Apples - For those seeking a non-sour apple option with optimal snap and flavor, get to your local grocery store and stock up on these guys. Better yet, get out to rural neighboring parts of the tri-state area, participate in a Hayride (6), and do the apple picking yourself. Perhaps at Wightman's Farms in Morristown, NJ.
5) Leffe Blonde - Described as a Belgian Abbey Ale, and claiming to be around since 1240! That is impressive. Indeed, it almost tastes like something from the middle ages. And I don't even know what that means, because I wasn't there. But these guys were. It's creamy and complex, and deserves a spot in your fridge.
Today's review is of West End Station on 700 1st Street in Hoboken, NJ. As a resident of western Hoboken, I was eager to check this place out. It is located on the first floor within the Sky Club condominium complex and is another one of Anthony Pino's restaurants (Anthony David's and Bin 14 being the other two - which have yet to be officially reviewed, yet each "unofficial" visit has so far yielded very positive experiences).
West End gets out of the gate quite nicely, giving off a nice first impression. On one side there is a bar with roughly 4 flat screen tv's (which conveniently allows me to watch the Yanks own the Twins) while the other side is more of a restaurant. It all blends pretty nicely, with a new tin ceiling, unfinished concrete floors and an awesome private party room that is shaped like a barrel. Elana is a little puzzled by the multiple personality thing going on, but I seem to think it works.
We kick things off with a drink. West End appears to have a nice drink menu, listing a wide range of custom mixed drinks. On Thursdays, these drinks are 5 bucks each; which ain't so bad. Still, however, baseball is on....so, give me a beer. Elana opts for a glass of wine which, to be honest, could have been more generously filled for 11 bones.
Since it is Pizza month and all (both for JohnandElana and Nationally), we decide to try their Marghertia Pizza which is listed under the "Brick Oven" heading. PIZZA TIRADE WARNING. At $9 this sucker is a little small. And, yes, I understand many pizzerias make pizza to be served for one... but it is still small. In addition, the "brick oven" must not have been that hot, because the pizza is pretty crispy all the way through. That comment may not make any sense, so let me quickly clarify: better brick oven pizza is typically charred and chewy... (Grimaldi's, Luzzo's, Keste, Lucali, etc). That doesn't mean good pizza cannot be crispy, it can. But crispy pizzas are usually not the product of a good brick oven, whose heat is typically too intense to create an evenly cooked pie. The West End crust is also a touch bland, but the sauce and mozzarella are decent, making the pie satisfactory in the long run.
For our main courses, I order the homemade gnocchi in the duck ragout sauce while Elana orders the barbecue pork chop with pumpkin bread pudding. Both meals, as you can see, are handsome in appearance. The dishes are well presented, even if they are in fact benefiting from Elana's brand spanking new camera, which she cradles/oogles at throughout the evening. As for my gnocchi, it is indeed homemade and of very good consistency; not too tough. The shredded duck is a nice touch to the whole thing. One minor problem - where is the taste? It was lacking quite a bit unfortunately. Elana samples my meal and wholeheartedly agrees. Taste is nowhere to be found - not in the gnocchi, not in the sauce, not in the duck.
Elana's dish is a bit better. The Chop is meaty, perhaps a touch tough, and of sizable portion. The BBQ sauce is smokey and sweet - nice taste here. Also, the pumpkin bread pudding is quality - great taste, perfectly moist and substantial. It is easily the highlight of the experience - which is simultaneously a good and bad thing.
For dessert, we ordered doughnut holes with chocolate chili sauce - solid. The doughnuts lacked a little taste, but the chocolate chili sauce was very good. It was sweet, bitter and, true to its name, spicy. My sister and I ate all of the doughnuts, and even shoved our forks into the sauce to clean up the last drops of it. A success here.
The bathrooms were quite luxurious. A nice wide open space with cool tile work and the vanity included a spacious farmhouse sink with dual faucets.
Service is also good. Our waiter was attentive, prompt and of good positive energy.
Was I impressed? In presentation, decor and scene - yes. In the taste of our food? Not really. The place has potential, but is not of the same caliber of Anthony David's or Bin 14.
Overall Movie Equivalent - Miami Vice
As I'm sure it has occurred to you (because our readers are SHARP), it is BOTH October and Pizza Month. Yes, yes, it is! The first (it being October) means that I go out of my way to incorporate pumpkin into things that I'm cooking. The second (it being Pizza Month) means that I am going to put pumpkin on a pizza. And you are going to like it. Yes, yes, you are!
First, because it is "Something Simple" day, we are going to concentrate on roasting a pumpkin. You can do a lot of stuff with a roasted pumpkin.
Here are the Top Ten Things You Can Do With A Roasted Pumpkin:
10. Puree it and use it for stuff like pies.
9. Replace deflated basketballs with it.
8. Use it in soups.
7. Cut it up and use it in pasta.
6. Mix it with sweet potatoes for a different take on mashed yams.
5. Caulk your bathroom tiles with it.
4. Use it in ice cream (homemade OR grab a pint from Van Leeuwen)
3. Hydrating face mask.
2. Mix up a pumpkin spice latte (homemade version of Starbucks').
1. Use it as a pizza topping.
* Disclaimer on points #3, #5 and #9: We actually have no idea if this works. We just thought this would be funny to say.
And this last one is what we will be doing with this particular roasted pumpkin.
What you will need:
1 small sugar pumpkin
a roasting pan (one of those disposable foil ones is just fine, I have this fancy one)
What you need to do:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Using a large knife and cutting board and being VERY CAREFUL, cut the pumpkin in half. Like so:
Side note: I had to use two knives because the first one got lodged in there, and I needed a second to extricate it. Remember what I said about being careful? Helmets, everyone! Safety goggles wouldn't hurt either.
Scoop out the seeds and pumpkin guts. Some people like to reserve the seeds for other things (trail mix, snacks, etc.). I find that there are two types of people: those who can handle reserving pumpkin seeds for later and those who can't. I threw mine out.
Fill your roasting pan 1/3 full with water. Place your 2 pumpkin halves, flat side down, in the water-filled pan. Place the pan in the oven and let it roast for about an hour.
Check on it occasionally. Your pumpkin's skin will start to get dark orange and crispy and it may even look like your pumpkin is deflating. This is a good thing.
When it's done, you can stick a fork in it and it should be very soft. Kind of like the consistency of a sweet potato that has been baked. Take the little guy out of its spa and let it cool on a plate for a bit. Then cut out the pumpkin flesh. You can try peeling away the skin (which works sometimes). You do want slices of pumpkin if possible.
Then, you can reserve this stuff, covered in the fridge, for a few days.
On Friday, we will explain how to make a ridiculously good pizza topping with this roasted pumpkin. You could make this as an appetizer for Thanksgiving. Just some ideas. We'll try and dream up some wines for you to try with it as well.