Sunday, January 24, 2010

Local Flavor: Este Pizza

Last night hubby and I got together with my best friend, Angie, and headed out to the Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy. We had a great time exploring and taking a peek at some really awesome creatures!

Afterward we were hungry and headed out to Este Pizza in Sugarhouse (or, as Angie calls it, "the Sugarhood"). It was billed as a New York style pizzeria, and came highly recommended by my brother and a few other people I spoke with.

First Impressions: Pretty cool vibe going on. Fun decor, including this painting that Ang and I really took a liking to. It certainly smelled delicious in there, and the Bob Dylan soundtrack won us over right away (though, sadly, it didn't last). We were lucky to snag our table -- the place filled up quickly after we sat down.

From our vantage point, you could watch the cooks in the back hand-toss the dough for the pizza with a lot of flair and finesse. Encouraging, to be sure.

We ordered the "Terra" pizza (without green olives) and waited for our order to be filled.

Then we waited some more.

And then we waited even more.

Nearly a full hour after we placed our order, the girl at the register came out with three plates and told us it would be a few minutes for our pizza. Gotta say, at that point I was not amused. But lo, a few minutes later we got our meal: a gigantic pie piled high with veggies.

The Dish: In a nutshell, not bad. Not worth waiting an hour to eat, but decent all the same. The mushrooms were obviously canned (yuck) and the crust was a little too done in places. I found it a little difficult to eat, since the crust was cardboard-like on the edges and floppy/soggy in the middle -- it wouldn't fold properly, like an East-coast slice should.

But really, not bad.

Ringing in at about $28 dollars for an 18" pizza and a couple of drinks, it was pretty average pizza for a bit more money than it was worth and much too much waiting around. That said, I would be willing to give Este another chance to live up to the hype. I think that we would have fared better with a simpler pie, like the "Pink" or the "White" with fewer moist veggies to weigh down the thin crust. I'm also dying to try their zeppole (Italian doughnuts) with agave nectar. (Mmmm!)

**UPDATE: P and I have ordered takeout from the downtown location twice since having visited their location in Sugarhouse. We have been really pleased with their quick service (seriously lightning-fast delivery) and overall quality. So far, the white pizza has been the favorite, and the zeppole were amazing!

So I'm not sure if it's the location or if we caught them on a bad night, but I can heartily recommend at least the takeout from Este downtown.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

S'mores Cheesecake

My mother often accuses me of telling her that recipes are easy when they are not.

Like these and these, which I made as Christmas gifts for our ward friends. (And they were easy, if you'll believe me, and I hope you do!)

When I spotted this recipe this past summer, I thought instantly of my cheesecake-loving brother, and declared I would make it for his birthday in January.

Since my brother's birthday often coincides with Sundance and he is a big film buff, we had planned on celebrating as a family the week after his birthday and I was all prepared to tackle the mighty cheesecake then... until his girlfriend called to tell us that she was coming in from Baltimore the weekend before his birthday instead of the weekend of (my brother having much occupied his birthday weekend with many Sundance viewings) and we pushed the festivities up a week or two.

Head held high, I marched to the store to buy supplies and readied myself for the impending battle. The recipe has three parts: crust, cheesecake filling, and marshmallow topping. The cheesecake and crust had to be cooked up the night before and refrigerated overnight, and there had to be adequate time for the marshmallow topping to cool after I made it the next day.


I felt a little like I was on Iron Chef, trying to beat the clock to get the cheesecake topping cooling before church. And if I had been on Iron Chef, that topping would have disqualified me because it made me miss the first hour -- but the cheesecake was so good, I think I still could have won sans marshmallow.

So, friends, I will not tell you this was easy, but I will tell you that it was scrumptious and rich. And I will also tell you that I loved it, and that is not my usual reaction to desserts of the cheesecake variety.

For your consideration, here's the recipe. I prefer dark chocolate, so I substituted good quilaity 70% dark chocolate for the milk chocolate in the recipe. My mom said it would have tasted more s'more-y if I had used milk, but I think if would have been too sweet. And if the topping intimidates you too much, the cheesecake stands up perfectly on its own.

S'mores Cheesecake
adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 cups (roughly 9 crackers or one sleeve, finely crushed) graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

9 oz. high-quality chocolate, chopped
2, 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream, at room temperature
3 large eggs 

1 c. sugar
2 egg whites
3 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
12 large marshmallows, cut into quarters with wet kitchen scissors
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar in medium bowl. Add melted butter, and stir until well combined. Press into bottom of 9' springform pan. Bake 12 minutes to set. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

For filling:
Melt chocolate in a double boiler set over barely simmering water until smooth. Remove from over water and let cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
Using a food processor or mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, and salt, and blend until smooth. Continue to mix while adding cream, then add melted chocolate, and then add eggs 1 at a time, blending and scraping down sides after each addition until mixture is smooth. Pour batter over crust in pan.
Bake until outer edge is slightly puffed and cake is barely set in center (center will look shiny and move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 55 minutes. Transfer cake to rack. Run small sharp knife around the edge of the cake to loosen. Chill uncovered until cold (8 hours or overnight).

**I put a pyrex full of water on the rack below my cheesecake just to be sure it wouldn't crack. I would do it again, as this was the creamiest cheesecake I've ever had!

For topping:
Whisk sugar, egg whites, water, cream of tartar, and salt to blend in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens and is hot to touch, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water and stir in marshmallows (keep water simmering in saucepan). Let stand until marshmallows soften, about 3 minutes. Set bowl with mixture over simmering water again; using hand held electric mixer, beat until stiff shiny peaks form, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
Scrape topping onto cheesecake. Using offset metal spatula, spread topping to edges of cake, swirling decoratively. Let stand until set, about 15 minutes.
Using kitchen torch, lightly brown topping in spots. (Or preheat broiler; place cake at least 4 inches from heat source and broil just until topping is lightly browned in spots, watching closely to avoid burning, about 2 minutes.) Chill cake until cold.
Slice and serve!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Easy Ham & Cheese in Puff Pastry

After a rather long reprieve, I have returned to the world of blogging.

It has been a marvelous holiday season for me and my family, and I hope yours has been as nice.

I haven't done much cooking lately. Work has been crazy, and I just haven't felt like working that second shift of cooking and cleaning when I come home.

For those of you following along at home, yes, I am back at work! It has been a tough fall/winter, but, after much more ado than was necessary, my co-workers and I are all happily situated back at work. I feel so blessed to work with such wonderful people who make it easy to go to work in the morning, and, really, so blessed to have a job at all in this economy, let alone one that I enjoy.

I hope to have more to share with you in a bit, but for now I have a tasty morsel to tide you over.

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I served this at the small New Year's Eve gathering we had at our house and it was a big hit. A simple recipe with few ingredients and very little prep/cook time -- it's a winner all around.

It would also make a nice simple supper alongside some soup. (Mmmm... yes please!)

Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry
recipe courtesy Ina Garten and

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1 pkg. (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1/4 lb. thinly sliced ham
1/4 lb. thinly sliced Swiss cheese (Ina used Gruyere, but I used plain old Swiss with the holes and it was lovely)
egg wash - 1 egg, beaten together with 1 Tbsp. water

 Thaw puff pastry according to directions on package. Roll each sheet out to about 10"x12" (I didn't measure, but you could if you felt the need). Place one sheet of puff pastry on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and spread with mustard, being sure to leave a 1" border all the way around the edge. Lay down a layer of ham, followed by a layer of cheese, maintaining the 1" border. Brush edge with egg wash, and cover with  remaining sheet of pastry. Using a fork, crimp layers of pastry together all the way around. Cut slits in the top, brush with egg wash, and bake at 450 for 20 - 25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Serve while still warm.