Summer White Pizza with Zucchini, Corn, and Chili Honey

It’s zucchini season, which, if you’re a home gardener, means stressful times trying to figure out how to use the plethora of zucchini you grew! Thankfully it’s one of my favorite vegetables, so I use it any and every way I can (which rarely disappoints).

The combination of zucchini and corn is a summer staple for me. The flavors pair so nicely, especially with something spicy alongside. This pizza is incredible, and uses all of the best parts of summer piled onto crust with cheese, garlic, and a spicy honey that takes 20 seconds to make. What could be better?

A quick note on dough- I have yet to develop my own pizza dough recipe that is better than any of the ones I’ve tried that already exist on the internet. So, at the risk of butchering an already-great thing by making my own, I use someone else’s. My favorite homemade dough is by one of my favorite food bloggers, Tieghan of Half Baked Harvest. She’s got a wonderful no-knead dough recipe in her second cookbook, Half Baked Harvest Super Simple. If I don’t feel like making my own, or I don’t have as much time, I’ll opt for a store-bought dough, either from the deli section of my grocery store or from our neighborhood pizza shop! Do whatever works for you!

Give this a try over the weekend and share your photos (and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram) so I can see what you’ve all been up to! Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini, sliced into ⅛-¼ inch rounds

2 ears corn, husked

½ pound low-moisture mozzarella, shredded

½ pound ball fresh pizza dough

4 ears garlic, minced

2 tablespoons honey

⅛ tsp crushed red chili flake

Fresh basil

Olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450. Arrange zucchini rounds and husked corn on a large sheet tray. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the zucchini has sweat out some moisture and is beginning to brown around the edges. Cut the corn off of the cob and set vegetables aside.
  2. Raise the oven temperature to 500. Place a clean sheet tray or pizza stone inside the hot oven and allow it to preheat for 5 minutes. 
  3. While the pan preheats, stretch the pizza dough into a round or oblong shape, about ½ inch thick. Remove the pan from the oven (it will be hot) and drizzle the pan with olive oil. Lay the dough carefully onto the hot oiled pan.
  4. Lightly drizzle olive oil around the dough and sprinkle the minced garlic evenly over it. Layer the shredded mozzarella, zucchini, and corn over the dough. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10-13 minutes, until the crust is browned and crisp on the underside. Once the bottom crust has achieved browning, turn the oven to Broil and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the top is browned and outer edges of crust are crisp to your liking. 
  5. While the pizza bakes, make the chili honey. Place the honey and chili flakes into a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 15-20 seconds, until the honey is thinner in consistency and the chili flakes can easily be stirred in. Set aside while the pizza finishes.
  6. Allow pizza to cool slightly and set up, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice. Drizzle the chili honey over the top- use as much or as little as you like for heat and sweetness- and top with fresh basil. Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken, Asparagus, and Brie Ciabattas with Garlic Aioli

Nothing is easier on a summer night than throwing literally EVERYTHING on the grill and calling it dinner. These easy ciabatta sandwiches are no different- even the buns get grilled!

I love the combination of asparagus and brie. The asparagus is earthy, while the brie is melty and rich. Layered on top of perfectly cooked chicken breast along with fresh basil, lemon juice, and garlic aioli, and you’ve got a winner in my book.

Don’t be intimidated by the word “aioli” by the way. It’s literally just some mayo mixed with freshly grated garlic. So easy but SO flavorful and takes these ciabattas to the next level, in my opinion.

This recipe makes 6 large sandwiches, so I typically have leftovers for lunches or dinners throughout the week. For leftovers, I grill everything the first night as outlined in the recipe, but save the buns and cheese until the last minute when I’m ready to assemble. Then, simply throw the buns on your grill (or under the broiler), warm the chicken and asparagus, top with the brie and fixin’s, and you’re ready to go. To bring for lunch, I put everything in a microwave-safe container and pack the bun (already sliced) in foil. Just microwave and assemble!

I love making these sandwiches on a weeknight, especially after a long run in the heat. We’ve been having them on repeat with small side salads from our garden, and they’re so refreshing. The buns give us the carbs we’re craving after running, but the protein and vegetables fuel our recovery. The best part is how quickly they come together: 20 minutes. I swear.

If you make these simple (but unique) sandwiches, please share your photos and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram so I can see! Happy eating!

Ingredients

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

6 ciabatta rolls

1 8oz wheel brie cheese, sliced into ⅛ inch pieces

1lb asparagus

¼ cup mayonnaise 

1 garlic clove, grated

Olive oil

Fresh basil, for serving

Fresh lemon juice, for serving

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the grill to high. Slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise so you have six equal pieces. Brush them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 
  2. Grill chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and top each piece of chicken with a couple slices of the brie cheese. Allow it to melt slightly while the chicken cools and the other sandwich components cook.
  3. Trim ends from the asparagus and grill on high on a piece of foil or in a vegetable basket until charred and just tender, about 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Halve each ciabatta roll and brush with olive oil. Grill face down until lightly charred, 1 minute or so. 
  5. Assemble the sandwiches. Mix the mayonnaise with the grated garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread the garlic aioli over each halved ciabatta roll. Place a piece of chicken on each roll and top with a heap of asparagus. Squeeze lemon juice and add a few leaves of basil over each sandwich, and top with the other half of the ciabatta. Serve immediately!

Chicken with Nectarines and Crispy Prosciutto

Summertime for me has always meant, among other things, ripe fruit season. While a lot of people head for peaches in summer, I’m unfortunately allergic (I wasn’t as a kid) and therefore miss out every year. Luckily, I can eat nectarines so I make due.

This chicken dish combines sweet, tender nectarines with salty, crispy prosciutto and an herbed pan sauce that requires only one skillet. I’m not going to lie, you do need a second skillet to make the crispy prosciutto, but I’m not counting that because the prosciutto leaves such little mess that you can just give the pan a quick wipe after use. Don’t sue me.

It’s Monday, I’m tired from the weekend, and this is the perfect meal. Serve it over couscous or rice with your favorite veggie on the side. I love asparagus, personally. If you make this chicken, be sure to share your photos and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram! Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1lb per breast)

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 ripe nectarines, pitted and sliced into eighths

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh sage

½ cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken stock

2 tbsp butter

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes 

4 slices prosciutto

OIive oil, for searing

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a medium cast-iron or other oven-safe skillet over medium heat.
  2. Pat chicken dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to the skillet and sear chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side or until the outside becomes golden brown. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add sliced shallots, herbs, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the pan. Sauté for a minute until fragrant. Add wine and stir to deglaze the pan, taking time to scrape all the crispy bits from the bottom of the skillet and incorporate into the sauce. Cook wine and shallots for an additional minute, then add chicken stock. 
  4. Return the chicken to the pan and top each breast with one tablespoon of the butter. The butter will melt down the chicken as it bakes in the oven and incorporate into the sauce. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven and place chicken on a plate to rest.
  5. After removing the chicken, discard the herbs. Add sliced nectarines and stir to coat in the sauce. Return the skillet to the oven for 5 minutes to continue reducing the sauce and soften the nectarines.
  6. While the sauce reduces in the oven, crisp the prosciutto. In a large, dry skillet over medium heat, crisp the prosciutto by turning the slices over frequently until they are shriveled and crispy. 
  7. Slice the chicken and return it to the skillet with the sauce and nectarines. Serve with a starch and vegetable of your choice, and don’t forget to spoon the sauce and nectarines over the top before eating. The sauce is the best part of this dish. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Bolognese

Bolognese is one of my favorite Italian dishes. The creamy, slow-simmered, and caramelized flavors offer the perfect balance of comfort food, elevated. I know that the entire concept of this vegetarian recipe is sort of sacrilegious, in that bolognese is literally a sauce made from meat. But you’ve got to trust me, this recipe is delicious!!

I chose to use white wine in this recipe rather than the traditional red wine. I felt that it really complimented the mushrooms, and overall lends to a more subtle flavor profile that a robust red wine would overtake. If you only have red, it will totally work, so don’t fret. But the white is really great in this case.

The mirepoix, a mixture of onion, celery, and carrot which is a foundational ingredient combo that originated in French cooking, is chopped using a food processor or high-speed blender to mimic the size and texture of ground beef pieces. The same technique applies to the mushrooms. If you don’t have a food-processor or blender, you can definitely achieve a similar texture chopping by hand, although it will take more time.

A few notes about the aromatics- the mirepoix and garlic in this recipe are mandatory in my opinion. You can get away without the bay leaf or nutmeg, however they do add dimension to the recipe, especially the nutmeg! I was the lucky recipient of a hand-me-down fresh nutmeg grinder from my Dad, which is why I call for fresh nutmeg in this recipe. You can find the whole spices at many grocery stores, but you may have better luck at bulk, specialty spice stores. If you find whole nutmeg and don’t have a fancy-dancy grinder like me, you can also grate it on a microplane. Or, just ignore me and use the pre-ground stuff.

This recipe is truly unique, and I really enjoy the mushrooms as a meatless alternative to a classic dish. I hope you love this riff on an old favorite, and if you make it, share your photos and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

2 TBSP olive oil, plus more

1 3.5oz container cremini mushrooms 

2 celery stalks

1 medium yellow onion

1 medium carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry white wine 

1 6oz can tomato paste

1 Bay leaf 

Fresh nutmeg, a few turns 

2 cups vegetable stock 

⅔ cup heavy cream

⅓ cup pecorino romano, or similar cheese, plus more for serving

Salt and pepper, to taste

1lb short, holed pasta, such as rigatoni or penne, cooked Al dente

Instructions

  1. Make your mirepoix. In a food processor, pulse celery, onion, and carrot until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, then pulse mushrooms separately, until they are coarsely chopped, resembling the texture of ground beef. Transfer to another bowl. 
  2. In a Dutch oven or large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. When the oil shimmers, add mushrooms, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. When mushrooms appear soft and some of their moisture has evaporated, push them to the outsides of the pot in a circle, leaving space in the middle clear. 
  3. Add mirepoix (celery, onion, and carrot mixture) to the clear space in the center of the mushrooms. Saute mirepoix for 4-5 minutes over the center of the pan, stirring frequently to avoid burning, until onions appear translucent and some of the moisture has sweat out of the mixture. Add garlic and stir for an additional minute. 
  4. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook for 3 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated and it no longer has a pungent alcohol smell. Add entire can of tomato paste and stir to incorporate. 
  5. Add nutmeg, bay leaf, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Then add vegetable stock and heavy cream. Cook on low heat for at least 1.5 hours, if not longer. The liquid will reduce significantly and the sauce will become thicker and richer. Taste as you go and add salt and pepper as desired. 
  6. Once sauce reaches the desired thickness, stir in grated pecorino Romano and another swirl of olive oil. Serve over pasta immediately and enjoy with additional pecorino on top! 

Italian “Salsa Verde”

This is probably the easiest recipe I’ve ever attempted, and it was inspired by an abundance of herbs (which I just can’t stop irrationally buying during quarantine times). I was craving some kind of pesto or chimichurri situation, but didn’t have the right herbs for the job, so out came this baby dubbed Italian “Salsa Verde”. “Salsa Verde” is written in quotes because that name implies a tomatillo-based, Latin-inspired salsa, which this recipe is not. It is, however, delicious and easy and can literally be put on ANYTHING.

This recipe calls for parsley and mint, but truthfully you could use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand and I think it would be great. The capers, while delicious, could also be subbed for some other briny ingredient such as olives or even a pickled jalapeno if you enjoy spice. The walnuts can also easily be substituted with any other nut variety. From there, all you really need is a lemon, some olive oil, and S&P.

I chose to shoot this recipe with salmon for a nice color contrast, but you could truthfully pair it with anything from chicken, to steak, to pasta, to chickpeas and it would be delicious. The purpose is to bring a little brightness to an otherwise boring meal with minimal ingredients.

I hope you make this recipe and spoon it over all of the things to your heart’s content. And when you do, be sure to share a photo and tag me @theardentcook on Instagram!

Ingredients

¼ cup parsley, finely chopped

⅛ cup mint, finely chopped

3 TBSP capers, drained and roughly chopped

Juice and zest of ½ lemon

⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup walnuts, chopped 

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine parsley, mint, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, walnuts, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. 
  2. Add olive oil and stir vigorously to combine (a fork works best here). Add additional olive oil if desired. 
  3. Spoon over fish, chicken, or steak for a bright compliment to your protein. Alternatively, use this like a pesto for pasta or grain bowls.