Zucchini-Ricotta Pizza Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The peonies in the garden are in bloom!

The peonies in the garden are in bloom!

I caught the sky looking like this on my way home before the storm.

I had to stop to take a picture of the sky before the storm.

Happy summer! It is finally the glorious season of local vegetables and the big strawberry sign is up in town, signally the berries are ripe! It will be strawberry shortcake for dinner very soon!

This recipe, which I found in the June issue of Cooking Light is a combination of foods I normally wouldn’t put together (mint on pizza?), but it is SO good! With a creamy ricotta base with a hint of garlic, then fresh ribbons of zucchini, it was a perfect meal for the end of the day, especially in the summertime. And is a different way to use up your CSA vegetables and herbs if you have one.

This recipe is actually one of three; the pizza dough makes a large batch, and divided into three portions, you can make Shrimp Panzanella or Broccoli, Cheddar and Ranch Chicken Calzones. Me? I prefer to have two extra batches of pizza dough in the freezer for a quick summer dinner. Just wrap the portions in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Take out in the morning and defrost on a plate and you’re ready to go when it’s time to make dinner! And a time-saver tip is to make the dough over the weekend so you don’t have to make it on a weeknight!


Zucchini-Ricotta Pizza

This recipe first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

2 cups warm water (100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
3 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
23.75 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 5 cups)
Cooking spray
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
1 garlic clove, grated
2 medium zucchini, shaved (about 2 cups)
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)

1. Place first 3 ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and black pepper. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add flour to bowl; beat at low speed just until combined. Cover; let stand 20 minutes. Uncover; beat at medium-low speed 8 minutes. Turn dough out onto a work surface. Knead 1 minute; form into a ball. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°) about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Divide into 3 portions. Wrap 2 portions in plastic wrap; reserve for Shrimp Panzanella and Broccoli, Cheddar, and Ranch Chicken Calzones. Cover remaining dough portion; let rise 30 minutes.

2. Place a pizza stone or baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 500°.

3. Combine tomatoes and 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 500° for 7 minutes.

4. Roll dough portion into a 13-inch circle on a large piece of parchment paper; pierce well with a fork. Place on preheated stone; bake at 500° for 4 minutes. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, ricotta, basil, mint, milk, and garlic; spread over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Combine zucchini with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil; arrange on pizza. Top pizza with feta. Bake at 500° for 10 minutes. Top with tomatoes; bake at 500° for 4 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges.

The-Changing-American-DietMVK’s *Like* of the Week: The Changing American Diet
I found this interactive article online last week and just knew it would be my like of the week. Want to know what people ate more of in the 1970s? Beef, potatoes, and whole milk. Know what it was in 2013? Chicken, potatoes, and American cheese. And apples have been the most popular fruit every year! Really interesting trends here.  You can see the map and read the article here.  

It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!


Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!


Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.


Mad Men Manhattan



sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Mystic Pizza

I took a short hike the other morning. This is looking west to the Adirondacks. I couldn't help but notice the complete lack of snow below in Vermont!

I took a short hike the other morning. This is looking west to the Adirondacks. A weird winter indeed; a complete  lack of snow and Lake Champlain isn’t frozen over despite the cold temps in January!

An addendum to last week’s recipe. I was corrected by my mother that the correct title of the cookies is Coconut Orange Refrigerator Cookies. Duly noted and a correction has been made!

A favorite movie of mine from the late 1980s was “Mystic Pizza,” a coming of age story of three young women who worked in a pizza parlor in Mystic, Connecticut. While I always wanted my own pizza parlor days to resemble theirs (it didn’t), it certainly gave me lots of experience making pizza, which I brought back to my kitchen.

I usually make my same pizza recipe at home, but it’s always nice to make something different once in a while. You might think a combination of oregano, cilantro, and fennel seeds is odd, but it makes for a flavorful and different sauce than the usual tomato or marinara, especially with the kick of garlic. The local market I go to sells single containers of herbs for just .99, so you won’t have to buy a big bunch of cilantro–unless you want!

Mystic Pizza
This recipe first appeared in the March 1998 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package quick-rise yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (105° to 115°)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons cornmeal
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.

2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 1/4 cups flour, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; stir to form a soft dough.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

4. Place dough in a bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover; let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

5. Preheat oven to 450°.

6. Punch dough down; roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on a baking sheet or 12-inch pizza pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough to form a rim. Let dough stand, covered, 10 minutes.

7. Place a small saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium heat until hot. Add garlic, and sauté 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, oregano, cilantro, fennel seeds, pepper, and tomato sauce; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. Spread sauce over pizza crust; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden. Remove pizza to cutting board; cut into wedges.

Portobello “Pizza”

One day on my walk I can’t see because it’s so humid outside the sweat is dripping off my brow into my eyes. The next I’m contemplating turning the heat on because it’s so chilly. Welcome to September in Vermont, one day you can’t breath it’s so hot, and the next you’re digging around for a sweater and turning on the oven to warm the kitchen!

In full admission, this recipe is a total knockoff of something I saw in the vegetable section of the supermarket one night after work. Big portobello mushrooms made into pizzas! I thought what a smart idea, then decided to make my own healthier version one chilly night.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: I made my sauce from a low-salt tomato sauce because I wanted something a bit lighter than regular spaghetti sauce (I also didn’t have any at home). But if you have that on hand, by all means use it and ignore the instructions to make the sauce. 

These are so easy, and a gluten- and carb-free way of making pizza. And it’s perfect on those nights you want a light dinner. I served it with some sautéed Swiss chard and a salad, but thought some grilled polenta on the side would be equally perfect.


Portobello “Pizza”
While I added onions to this, play around with whatever toppings you like on your own pizza!

1 8 oz. can low-salt tomato sauce
Dried oregano
Dried basil
Salt and pepper
4 portobello mushrooms
Finely chopped onion
Mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a small bowl, add the tomato sauce, and oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

3. Take each mushroom, remove the stem, and with a small spoon, carefully scrape the gills to remove and place them in a baking dish, bottom side facing up.

4. Spoon a little bit of tomato sauce on to each mushroom. Add a little bit of the chopped onion or your toppings of choice. Top with cheese and sprinkle some additional oregano and/or crushed red pepper on top. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Tarte Flambée

One of these days, I will draw up a map of my flower garden. In the meantime, look what is popping up! Spring is coming!

Look what is popping up in the flower garden! Spring is coming!

As I mentioned once before, there is a small French bakery near home, where I love to spend a lazy Sunday writing and eating. One day last fall, they served in the late afternoon slices of tarte flambée, topped with local Gilfeather turnips and fresh rosemary. Tarte flambée could be called a French pizza, made with or without yeast, topped not with tomato sauce but with a creamy base instead. It was heaven and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since. A recent stop had the bakery filled with college students and nary a seat to be had. I was so disappointed, I figured it was time to pull out a recipe I found online and make my own!

The crust is super easy and you could make it on a work night for a quick pizza dinner since there is no yeast, but there is a 30-minute waiting period. The texture is a bit different from a yeast crust, though; a bit more on the bready side, I found. The toppings came together nicely; Gilfeather turnips are an heirloom vegetable native to Vermont. The size of a rutabaga, they are a bit sweeter than the traditional purple-topped turnip. I sliced them very thinly and sautéed them with a little bit of butter and onion before placing them on the tarte and scattering some fresh rosemary needles on top. The recipe I found came from The Boston Globe and uses bacon instead of turnips, which, honestly sounds perhaps even more delicious! If you prefer, just fry up a few slices and crumble them on top. The original recipe also called for the topping to have 2 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. If you have the cream on hand you can make that adjustment, but honestly, it wasn’t worth buying a pint  to just use a tiny portion.

This was delicious, but I will advise you to eat this immediately, hot, right out of the oven. I had some left over to eat later and it didn’t stand the test of time. So get a crowd together and munch on this tasty treat!

Tarte Flambée
Adapted from an April 17, 2012 Boston Globe recipe

2 cups of flour
½ cup warm water, or more if necessary
3 Tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup sour cream
3 Tablespoons water, or more if necessary
1 cup Gilfeather turnip, thinly sliced
½ medium-sized onion, thinly sliced
A scattering of fresh rosemary

To make the dough
In a bowl, combine the flour, ½ cup water, olive oil, and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Sprinkle more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, on the mixture until it forms crumbs. Knead with your hands directly in the bowl until it is smooth and no longer sticks to the sides.

Roll the dough into a ball and sprinkle it with oil, rolling it around so it is oiled all over. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, water, and 3 tablespoons of water. The sauce should be the consistency of regular yogurt; add more water, if you like. Refrigerate.

In a warm skillet, add a little bit of butter and the onions. Sauté gently. Add the turnips and sauté until soft.

To assemble
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Lift it on to the rolling pin and transfer to the baking sheet. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Spread the dough with the cream and top with the turnips and onions. Gently pat the toppings into the cream so they stay put. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary.

Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 minutes or until the edges are brown and the topping is crisp. Cool slightly before cutting into pieces.

Cook’s Note
• Instead of oiling the baking sheet, I covered it with parchment paper

Pizza Fridays

Most Friday evenings, I come home from work, exhausted from the week, and desperately wanting dinner to just magically appear after my week-end cocktail. In the dead of winter, we don’t want to bundle up and go back out in the cold to go to our local pub. Even making a simple soup usually requires a bit of chopping and dicing, more energy than I’m willing to devote to the evening’s supper. But I have a recipe that allows even the laziest of moods to make a healthy and easy dinner—pizza.

I love whole wheat pizza dough, but it’s sometimes hard to find one that is tasty. After many tries at different recipes, this is by far the best I’ve found; I discovered it years ago online, so my apologies to the lack of direct credit. When I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make up a batch of this dough, divide it into three or four portions, wrap it in plastic, and freeze it. (This makes at least two pizzas.) Friday mornings, or any morning  that pizza is on the dinner menu, I’ll take out a portion and thaw it in the fridge. When I’m ready to make dinner, just roll it out, top with leftover spaghetti sauce (my favorite is a local one, Bove’s roasted garlic), cheese, and any vegetables that are hanging out in the bin. Pop it in the oven for 20-30 minutes, and dinner is served. I don’t worry about making a perfect circle, as you can see from photos; free form is best–and the easiest! If you’re feeling really ambitious and feel you need your greens, throw together a simple salad with some olive oil.

My favorite pizza toppings, a hold over from college (where we used to scrounge together $2.75 for a personal pizza with extra toppings; times have changed!), is green peppers and onions. Although this past week, I added black olives and chopped mushrooms. Whatever is on it, a hot dinner is waiting, and I am very happy and content, and ready for the weekend!



Basic Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
1 packet of yeast (or 2 ¼ quarter teaspoons)
1 Tablespoon honey or sugar
1 cup warm water

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon olive oil (if desired, it’s not imperative this is included, but it makes the dough more flavorful)

1. In a large bowl, add the water  and honey and sprinkle in the yeast. Stir and let it sit for 5 minutes or so until it becomes foamy.

2. Add whole wheat flour cup by cup. Add white flour, or enough to make it elastic and ready to roll out.

3. On a floured surface, take the dough, knead until smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl that is lined with either cooking spray or oil. Place in a warm spot for 30 minutes or so, or until doubled. (Sometimes I don’t wait until it is doubled and it’s fine.)

4. Divide for later, or roll and place two crusts on a cookie sheet lined with a little bit of oil and cornmeal. Dress the pizza to your liking, place in preheated 350 degree oven, and cook for 20-30 minutes or until done.