Pizza is different things to different people. Sometimes it's a thick crust, sometimes a thin crust, sometimes a REALLY thin crust. Sometimes it has meat on it, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it's a white pizza -- hold the sauce, please.
Sometimes it's fun to take pizza "South of the Border,'' with salsa and other Tex-Mex toppings and flavors.
Cinco de Mayo (the Fifth of May) is a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. It's also an excuse to drink Margaritas, gorge on chips and salsa -- or make this thin-crust South of the Border-style pizza with Central New York accents.
The "sauce" on this super-thin pizza is Primo and Mary's Black Bean and Corn Salsa, made by Primo and Mary's Heritage Products, based in Cazenovia. The sausage is Hartmann's, from Canandaigua. They also make a chorizo.
Less is more when making any kind of pizza, but especially this one. Go easy on the salsa and toppings or the pizza will come out soggy.
Enjoy any leftover salsa with Terrell's tortilla chips, made in Syracuse, for a hyper-local snack.
South of the Border-Style Flatbread Pizza
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/4 red pepper, sliced
1 link Hartmann's Old World Chicken Supremo Sausage (or your choice), sliced and browned
One whole wheat or multi-grain flatbread/wrap (I used Flatout)
Pasta's Spicy Hot Tomato Oil
Approximately 1/3 cup Primo and Mary's Black Bean and Corn Salsa (mild or medium)
A few sliced olives, optional
Approximately 3 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Saute onion and red pepper in a little olive oil over medium heat until nice and soft and slightly caramelized. Remove from pan and add chicken sausage. Cook until brown.
Grease a pizza pan. Place flatbread on pan and spread a light film of Pasta's Spicy Hot Tomato Oil on flatbread. Add one-third cup Primo and Mary's Black Bean and Corn Salsa to flatbread. The sauce should cover the flatbread but you do not want it very wet. Spread the salsa around using back of a spoon. Add on the onion, red pepper and sausage and a few sliced olives, if desired. Sprinkle on the the cheese.
Place pan with pizza on lowest rack of oven. Check pizza after about 5 minutes. All ovens are different -- if the "crust" is getting brown and cheese isn't melted, move to top rack to finish cooking. Remove pizza from oven and cut in strips. Serve as a casual supper, with a green salad, or as an appetizer. Makes 1 or 2 servings, depending on your appetite and if you feel like sharing.
I've been thinking about gnocchi - dreaming about it, really -- ever since enjoying the world's lightest, pillowy homemade gnocchi at a trattoria in Haddonfield, NJ, last fall.
The search for the right recipe took me all over the place, but eventually to Food52.com, where I found a recipe for ricotta gnocchi and successfully turned out five dozen of the little pasta stand-ins.
I considered serving the gnocchi with a creamy pesto sauce, like the restaurant did. Then I saw fellow CNY food blogger Mark Strong's post on working to perfect his homemade vodka sauce -- and decided to serve that with the gnocchi.
Robert calls Mark's sauce "the best vodka sauce I've ever had." I made it again last weekend, to serve with penne and some excellent shrimp from the seafood vendor in Shed A at the Central New York Regional Market.
I suppose it would be possible to make both the sauce and the gnocchi the same day/evening for dinner, but I'm somewhat slow in the kitchen, especially when trying out new recipes. I made the gnocchi in advance and stuffed them in zip-top bags in the freezer.
The sauce was made on a Sunday morning -- the day we would have the gnocchi for dinner. The recipe calls for a cup of vodka, but I ended up adding an extra quarter cup, a tablespoon at a time, to get the flavor punch I was after. I added a big pinch of crushed red pepper to the recipe for some zip, but that is completely optional. It's a good idea to make the sauce early in the day and let it rest until you're ready to eat it, to allow the flavors meld.
As for the gnocchi, most recipes and instructions say to cook them in boiling water until they float to the top. If you like your gnocchi a little soft rather than al dente, leave them in the water an extra minute or so.
Seventy percent of the millions of pounds of candy purchased for Easter is chocolate, according to a recent survey.
Most of that chocolate is mass-produced bunnies and eggs. Not that there's anything wrong with, say, a Lindt bunny or Reese's peanut butter egg. We've nibbled he ears off many a drugstore bunny.
But Central New York's artisan chocolate makers are busy at work on hand-crafted, once-a-year treats to fill Easter baskets, gift bags and boxes. So, hop to it and buy some LOCAL chocolate!
The shops included below produce chocolate on a relatively small scale. Shop early for best selection.
Know of other local shops with excellent Easter chocolate? Let me know in the Comments section, below.
Chocolate Pizza Co.: Too pretty to eat? Not a chance. The crew at this Marcellus-based candy maker has been busy crafting one-of-a-kind Swirled Eggs, among other things. Also available for Easter: chocolate-dipped Peeps, decorated Chocolate Pizza slices, bunnies in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate and more.
Speach Family Candy Shoppe: The family-owned business on the North Side of Syracuse offers molded chocolate bunnies, chicks, sheep, lambs, eggs and flowers, among other things, as well as peanut butter eggs, gift baskets and a wide selection of nostalgic candies.
Not all items may be available in the case at all times, so it's a good idea to call ahead if you're looking for something specific.
Peanut butter eggs, photo courtesy of Speach Family Candy Shoppe
Lune Chocolat: Your headquarters in Manlius for Easter ooh-la-la and WOW! has a wide range of bunnies, chicks and eggs in milk chocolate, 60 percent dark chocolate and white chocolate. A five-piece Easter pack includes a "cotton tail," which is coconut and a carrot cake truffle. Shop owners Michael and Emily Woloszyn are repeating last year's best-selling egg: a hand-painted chocolate egg stuffed with peanut butter and potato chips. They also will have have eggs just for adults, filled with bourbon ganache. Yup - bourbon ganache. "Easter doesn't have to be just for kids,'' Mike Woloszyn says.
Hercules Candy Co.: Hopping bunnies, crouching bunnies, bunnies with packs, bunnies bearing baskets, rabbits standing tall and ready to serve as centerpieces - Hercules Candy in East Syracuse covers all the bunny bases for Easter. You'll also find bunny lollipops, lamb lollipops made of white chocolate, chocolate and white chocolate crosses, Happy Easter candy bars and molded chocolate baskets holding chocolate bunnies. No awkward Easter basket grass sticking to everything and no waste - you gotta love that.
Stone's Homemade Candy Shop: The family-owned candy shop in Oswego features the usual chocolate bunnies, but what sets it apart are the hand-made, cream-filled eggs: coconut cream, maple cream, vanilla cream, peanut butter cream. You'll also find Easter baskets wrapped in cellophane and ready to go and pretty, pastel-colored French Creams: bite-sized crystallized sugar candies (mint and fruit flavors) with a smooth and creamy center.
Cream eggs from Stone's Homemade Candy
Whisper Chocolate: Jelly Bean Bark? Road trip to Geneva, anyone?! Whisper Chocolate is noted for its lineup of truffles in outrageous flavors, but shop owners Linda and Jasmine Mead like to have fun with Easter chocolate, too. For the holiday bark, they sprinkle Jelly Belly jelly beans on Belgian milk chocolate and French dark chocolate. They also make bunnies in milk, dark and white chocolate and offer made-up baskets including chocolate bunnies, chocolate-dipped Peeps and Jelly Bean Bark. "Folks love to give our Easter baskets as hostess gifts,'' head chocolate maker Jasmine Mead says.
Bunny and egg alternative: Truffles, courtesy of Whisper Chocolate, Geneva
Sweet on Chocolate: Sure, Easter is about the chocolate bunny. And chocolate eggs. And chocolate chicks. And chocolate EVERYTHING.
Sweet on Chocolate, in Armory Square, has all the usual Easter offerings. Another way to say Happy Easter is with an elegant box of truffles or filled chocolates, or a mixed selection from the case, like chocolate covered marshmallows and/or graham crackers, chocolate nut clusters, barks, etc.
Lime truffles, photo courtesy of Sweet on Chocolate