Monday, July 6, 2009

the andrew knowlton situation

I’m sorry, but this can’t be just me.
I must channel my inner Seinfeld and ask: what is the deal with Andrew Knowlton?
Because from what I see, he simply cannot be a guest judge on any Iron Chef America episode without getting into some kind of tiff with another guest judge about how his opinion is right and their opinion is just wrong.
It gets even better when he proceeds to try to get the other judge to just admit that their opinion is nowhere near correct and everybody should bow down to him.
Way to go Barbara Fairchild for shoving that lovely "Restaurant Editor" title up Mr. Knowlton’s ass. It’s been blowing hot air straight to his head ever since.
Goodness, I’m surprised he can get through those Iron Chef America doors.
Somebody please throw the man a dictionary. And then, if you will, tell him to shove it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


and while you're at it, in your ice cream kick, drowning in the summer sun, go ahead and bake up a batch of irresistable chocolate chip cookies.
then whip up a batch of simple vanilla ice cream.
smush them together for the perfect summer snack: ice cream sandwiches - rolled around in toasted coconut or chopped almonds or just left alone to be admired and eaten as is.
such a treat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

nothing says summer like tie-dye

And margarita ice cream.
Taken from a Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer - a cookbook I recieved one christmas and didn't take one look at for about 2 years - this is so divine.
Holy crap.
It's like the heavenly Blue Bell Key Lime Pie ice cream, but better.
Cause there's tequila!
You get the pucker from all the lime juice and a slight backdrop of orange from the liqueur (yes, there's more alcohol!) and then, right in the back of your throat, that warmth from the tequila.
It's an interesting recipe, with the use of condensed milk in place of sugar and the addition of liquor. To my surprise, the lime juice didn't cause the mixture to curdle. It worked extremely well.
And on a ridiculously hot summer day (we're hitting it close to 100 degrees over here), it's refreshing. Your cocktail and your dessert in one.
You can even make yourself feel extra fancy by scooping it into margarita glasses and dipping the rim in sugar.

Nigella Lawson's Margarita Ice Cream
(with slight change - the original recipe calls for 6 egg yolks, but I hate eggy ice cream. four yolks worked perfectly fine.)

1 1/2 cups + 2 T heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups sweetened condensed milk (one can)
3 1/2 oz (7 T) tequila
2 T Grand Marnier/Triple Sec/Cointreau, whichever
juice of 6 limes and the zest of 1

1. Heat the cream. While it heats, whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl.
2.When the cream is almost to a boil, slowly whisk into the yolks. Pour back into the pan and cook until thickened. Cool slightly.
3. Stir in the condensed milk, tequila, orange liqueur of choice, lime juice and zest and let cool completely.
4. Freeze in an ice cream maker and then eat the hell out of it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

from a foodie to a foodie

My birthday has passed leaving behind trails of balloons and wrapping paper and ribbons in its wake.
Which is fine by me, except for the mess to clean.
Leave it to my culinary school galpal to go overboard on the presents and find some rather cool kitchen gadgets to excite me.
One of them being a salad spinner, that I must admit excites me beyond belief.
The other being a set of measuring scoops. Not cups. Scoops.
And the best one yet? The shot glass maker. The ice shot glass maker. Yes, your shot glass is ice. Way cool.
How can you not RSVP to a cocktail party when ice shot glasses are on the menu??
You can’t. Oh no.

And as for dinner?
When it comes to the big Birthday Dinner, I go for divine. I go for something to blow me away, take me away, lift me onto a cloud and float away to this-is-the-most-amazing-dish-ever land. My stomach is happy; my heart is happy.
But this year, I just opted for the fun. Because as many chateaubriands as you may consume, and the caviar and the lobster and the risottos and the fancy froo-froo, if you cannot sit down to enjoy a simple, fun meal then you cannot love food. Then you do not love food.
Ruth Reichl once wrote about Benihana: " establishment no self-respecting critic would set foot in. It is a marketing strategy disguised as a restaurant...", but even she went off with her son and husband and had a good time.
So there.
And besides, sometimes there is absolutely no reason to resist a flip of an egg, a turn of a spatula, and an onion volcano.

Oh and the birthday cake?
As chocolate-y and peanut butter-y as one could ever hope for.

Monday, June 1, 2009

salad days

Im a South Florida girl.
And as a true South Florida girl I’m used to the warm weather and the humidity and the constant wearing of flip flops. Really.
I’m also quite aware of the fact that Florida is what I like to call "seasonally challenged".
While all you lovely people out there are enjoying your snowy winters and fall leaves, we’re stuck with 4 different seasons of our own: almost summer, definitely summer, kinda-still summer, and "winter". And "winter" is that random week of 60º weather that has us busting out with our gloves, overcoats, and scarves, while the rest of the country is really bitching about the justified 30º. And so.
We are in Definitely Summer. It’s beach weather. It’s flip-flop weather. (But more accurately, right now it’s shitty weather. Rainy and cloudy and thunderstorm-y. Le sigh.)
So when these days roll around the last thing I even want to think about is turning an oven on and getting too fussy with heavy meals. I want light and crisp and refreshing. Like salad.
And for the longest time I was such an awful picky eater. I didn’t eat anything green. That included parsley garnishes when we would go out to eat.
"None of that green stuff, please".
I shuddered at the idea of salad, but as I grew older I got into the habit of better eating. And one day decided: a salad can be comprised of anything I want so why not make a salad of everything I like?
Thus My Favorite Salad was born. Dumb name, I know, but there is no other way to name it. It is my favorite salad. The salad I make constantly. Especially when the days are humid and hot and yucky.
And I must say: there isn’t much not to love about this salad.

So here’s the deal. Grab yourself a medium-sized bowl. Juice a lemon or two right into it. Add in a couple of glugs of olive oil, some soy sauce (and that is the key here), salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Toss in the meat of your choice (chicken breasts are such a perfect option) and let sit for about 10 minutes. This is the simplest marinade and the marinade I use on literally everything. It’s so good and it’s simple. It doesn’t need 4 hours, it doesn’t need overnight, it doesn’t need fussy. My kind of thing.
So as that sits, grab a big bowl this time. Chop up your favorite lettuce (I’m partial to romaine. And spinach. I could eat spinach by the bowl-ful every single day. Oh how things have changed..). Add in cucumbers - seeded and peeled, grated carrots, some handfuls of corn kernels, and a good bit of feta cheese. Toss that around.
For a vinaigrette, I keep it just as simple as the marinade. A couple of lemons, juiced, some olive oil, chopped parsley, and a sprinkle of sugar to balance out the acidity. You don’t even need salt and pepper. Really.
Grill the chicken breasts (or whatever meat) and then let rest for about 5 minutes. Slice up and toss into the salad. Pour on the vinaigrette and sprinkle on sliced almonds (I like them toasted. The toasting gives them an even bigger crunch). Toss.
Now, of course this is a salad and a salad can be anything you decide to throw into a bowl, but you have to try it like this just once.
The heat from the chicken soaks up the vinaigrette and the almonds add the most wonderful texture. Every time I make this salad, it’s common to see every one grab seconds and thirds. It’s that delicious, and on a Definitely Summer day, there is definitely nothing better.

Monday, May 4, 2009

green thumb for dummies

At my local Target.
Perusing through the oh-so-addictive Dollar Spot.
With spring dollar items from mini-shovels to gardening gloves to the I-cannot-help-myself-I-want-it-now grow kits.

Little flower pots, probably a quarter of the size of my palm, containing soil pellets and seeds and it’s your own personal growing kit!
For those who simply cannot get it!
And that’s not to say that I can’t get it. The basil flourishes every spring and summer here. An abundance of basil that I can’t help but admire and then tear leaves off and just let the aroma waft around the air and straight into my nose.
It’s addicting.
Kind of like the Target Dollar Spot. Kind of like these absolutely adorable grow kits.
Of course once they start to grow you’ll have to transplant everything, but what an adorable way to start!
I opted for the chives and tomatoes. Though between you and me, I know tomatoes are finicky. And I know they’re a pain. So my money isn’t particularly riding on it.
There were tons of flower options, as well as some fresh oregano and even sweet peppers.
Absolutely adorable. Really!
And what a great little thing for kids to get into.
April showers brings May flowers, no?
So yes, happy planting, indeed!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

i scream: ice cream!

On a hot spring day, I glued my eyes to Food Network and watched Giada, in all her cleavage-baring glory, talk about Nutella gelato and then...and then! make Gelato Coolers out of it. It was almost too much for a girl to handle. So I said "I have to make that. Now."
And I did. And it is...holy crap.
One taste and the only words I could muster up were "oh my god".
Nutella is a fabulous - and I mean fabulous - concoction of chocolate and hazelnuts. A sort of chocolate-and-peanut-butter combination that is so divine, so rich, so creamy, so good. I hadn’t had Nutella in ages, but my undying love of chocolate and peanut butter is indication that I love Nutella just as much.
Funny enough, my all-time, hands-down, absolute favorite ice cream is Haagen - Daaz’s Chocolate Peanut Butter.
I can’t say this tops it, but it is super close. The hint of the hazelnuts in the background add for this really distinctive, really fabulous flavor.
It’s slightly rich, but it’s not terribly chocolatey. It’s just plain good. Great, in fact.
And it’s so easy.
Homemade ice cream is a term that just comes across as so daunting. But homemade ice cream is easy. It’s a simple process and the rewards are fabulous.
I mean Nutella. And ice cream.
On a hot day, even on a cool night, one bowl of this is the perfect remedy for anything.

Giada DeLaurentiis' Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella (or any other chocolate-hazelnut spread, though I can't say I know any others. And I'm not too sure I'd want to...)

1. In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves and it comes slightly under a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage: pale yellow, thick, and falls back in ribbons.
3. Temper the yolk mixture by slowly adding ladle-fuls of the milk mixture and whisking to incorporate. Do this until half of the milk mixture has been added to the yolk mixture.
4. Pour the yolk mixture into the milk mixture and cook until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. This can take anywhere from 5 - 7 minutes. But keep your eye on it. No scrambled eggs, please.
5. Once thickened, strain to make sure everything is smooth and add in the vanilla and nutella. Whisk to melt and combine. Chill the mixture completely.
6. Once chilled, pour into ice cream maker and follow the ice cream maker's instructions. Once it's churned you could do as I do and attack it right there, as is. No need for scoops or other bowls. Just the ice cream maker and me.
Or you could freeze it until it hardens up a little more, garnish it with some chopped hazelnuts, and float away into a chocolatey heaven.

Friday, April 10, 2009

homecoming sweets

So the boyfriend has been gone for the past week.
Hanging around the snowy mountains and fishing in the icy lakes of Tennessee. Not entirely successful, though why do I have a feeling it’s because of that charming 27º weather..?
When I see his oh-so-lovely face on Friday, I will greet him with one big hug, many big kisses, and a plate of brownies. Loaded peanut butter brownies.

That are big bites of chocolate fabulous-ness hiding little bitty treasures and swirled with peanut butter.
See also: I took just about all I had in my pantry and threw it into the batter.
Brownies - like cookies (though, technically they are cookies) - are the perfect vehicle for anything and everything you may want to get rid of.
Got some extra walnuts on hand? Ok. Perhaps some chocolate or chocolate chips? Perfect. Marshmallow fluff and peanut butter? Why the hell not?
And this brownie recipe is divine. I’ve been using it for years and years and it’s such a hit every single time.
The main thing about brownies is to really mix everything by hand. It’s how I have always done it. Put away your electric mixers and stop being lazy for a second. It’s almost therapeutic: the whisking of the butter and sugar and the eggs and the gradual addition of the flour and cocoa.
For me, sometimes cooking is so much more about the process and the ritual and the calming sense of it all, than it is about the end product.
This is one big instance where that rings true.
Boyfriend will love them. Or, rather, he better.
If anything, I’m sure he’ll love the warmer weather he’ll be coming home to.
And hey, my kisses too!

Loaded Peanut Butter Brownies
Brownie base recipe from

3/4 cup butter, melted
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
1 pack of Reese's peanut butter cups, cut into cubes
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, etc.)
½ cup peanut butter (good quality peanut butter, not store brand stuff. it really makes a difference.)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9x9 square pan. (A 13x9 inch pan works ok, but I really wouldn’t recommend it.)
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until combined. Add in eggs one at a time, whisking in after each addition.
3. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add into the butter-egg mixture, whisking slowly to combine.
4. Sprinkle a little flour over the nuts, peanut butter cups, and chocolate chips to keep them from sinking to the bottom. Gently fold them in. Pour batter into pan.
5. Place the peanut butter in a small bowl and microwave to loosen up, about 10 seconds. Pour over batter and, with a toothpick, swirl around.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes. The recipe calls for 40-45 minutes, but it never takes me that long. Keep an eye on them. Your oven may vary.

These are pretty fabulous all on their own. But, hey, a little vanilla ice cream never hurt anybody.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

comfort for when you need it

The house currently smells like butter and wine. It’s fabulous.
It’s been a rough week. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, honestly.
A week that made me not give a shit about the sun beating down on me; this was the week for comfort food in all forms.
And so I comforted my boyfriend who (really and truly) needed it with a big slab of a delectable, delicious Shepard’s Pie.
A Shepard’s Pie so good, the name doesn’t even do it justice.
This is the kind of food you might as well just curl up on the couch with: fork in one hand, remote in other, big casserole dish resting on your lap.
Oh yes, it’s that good. And oh yes, it warms your soul.
Just as comfort food should.
Honestly though, I don’t care for the whole "comfort food" term. Because it rests so easily on the typical meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes blahblahblah.
(Granted, this is a meat-and-potatoes dish, but I digress...)
Comfort food to me is something that’s gonna fill you up, change your mood instantly, and make you feel good.
I find that in a pint of Haagen-Daz. I find that in my mom’s soup. I find that in my Shepard’s Pie.

Shepard’s Pie
I first heard about this dish in high school on a recipe handout about pot-pies and casseroles. This one has stuck with me, with additions made along the way. Oh, and ps: no peas in my Shepard’s Pie. Oh no, no.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1 stick butter, cold and cubed
2-3 T ice water

1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced
salt, pepper
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
handful of chopped parsley

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
salt, pepper
½ cup red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon here)
8 oz can tomato sauce
½ cup chicken stock (I like the mellower flavor from chicken, but beef is fine, too)

1. For the dough: dump flour and salt into a bowl. Add in cold, cubed butter and cut in with a fork. Or honestly, your hands. Cut in until there are little bits of butter running all throughout.
2. Add in the water 1 tablespoon at a time until a dough forms. Wrap in plastic and chill. You can do this up to a couple of days in advance. (Makes it easier).
3. Preheat oven to 425ºF.
4. For the potatoes: add the potatoes to a pot of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water. Cook until fork-tender.
5. Meanwhile, for the meat: heat a pan on medium heat and add a bit of oil. Brown the beef. Once browned, add in the onion, garlic, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Turn on high and caramelize.
6. Deglaze the pan with the wine and stir until it reduces to a glaze. Lower the heat to medium and add the tomato sauce and stock. Cook for about 10 minutes.
7. When the potatoes are done, drain them and mash together with milk and butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley.
8. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to fit the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan. Dock with a fork and pop into the oven for 5 minutes.
9. Pull the pan out and add the beef on top of the dough. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Dot with butter and throw back into the oven for 20 minutes.

Oh, the sweet taste of comfort.

Monday, March 30, 2009

the tale of a lopsided banana cake

That - I’m almost ashamed to say - is still sitting in my fridge. Almost gone, but it’s been a little tough.
And listen: sweets do not last very long around here. A week at the very most.
This is going on two weeks.
It just wasn’t a success like I hoped it would be.
I wanted gooey and big-banana-punch-in-the-face.
Instead I got, "Eh, it’s ok."
And I do not like mediocre pastry. No, no, no.
I thought: a brown sugar-cinnamon custard for the filling. It’ll complement the banana flavor so well and really create such a nice, gooey cake.
And the peanut butter frosting that worked so well when I made the banana cupcakes will be a perfect accent.
The custard was barely noticeable. Actually, it’s not noticeable at all. Only way you’d know is if I told you. And the frosting? It’s good. Well, of course it’s good. How can peanut butter be bad?
But I kinda have to agree with the boyfriend here (now watch the ego blow up): it’s a little overpowering. A little too much.
So much for something I really thought could work.
Oh, le sigh.
The culinary crappers every now and then can really damper a mood, huh?
Not for long in my book, though!
Grab another pot, another pan and move on, I say!
But, I still have to get rid of the big pink elephant known as banana cake just sitting in my fridge. The unloved dessert that nobody wants to get near or finish.
Sorry, buddy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

chocolate chip cookie & me: a love story

I couldn’t tell you when the love affair started, but I can pinpoint when it got intense. Sort of.
Somewhere around my junior year of high school when the boy drama reached all sorts of crazy peaks and every bad day was calmed with a cookie, where every great day was brought to new heights by a cookie. (But more often than not, the bad ones...)
And just like those bad ones years ago, they still emerge on occasion. Like tonight. Where hatred for my job reached all sorts of levels. Still, a job is a job, I know. But every now and then isn’t too much, too much?
So opening the door to my house, coming face to face with the kitchen, I decided this was the time for chocolate chip cookies.

It’s something about the ritual, the process.
The creaming of the butter and sugar at 2 in the morning. The cracking of eggs and folding in of chips.
Baking, unapologetically, in my underwear and fuzzy pink slippers, bathing the whole house in the smell of baked goods in the oven. There is something about all of it that calms me down and makes my irrational thoughts just melt away. Good for not only me, but possibly the well being of anyone around me.
And it’s perfect.
Sometimes, I crave chocolate. Or rather, always...
And more often that not, I crave it in the form of a home baked, warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie.
And still, I don’t back down from my belief that most of the happiness in the world lies behind the warmth of a homemade chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven.
This is the best recipe I have ever found for chocolate chip cookies. You can throw all your other ones out because this one is just perfect. Given to me in my Introduction to Baking class by best-baking-instructor-ever Chef Rob (the hilarious kook from that Food Network Challenge Mickey Popcorn thing), these are soft and chewy. What I always do when baking cookies is I like to take them out a minute or two before they’re done, and I let them cool right on the baking sheet. They bake up just right and the yummy, chewy goodness is too much to resist. Which is why I’ll eat a good 10 or 12. In a sitting. If you are not a chewy cookie fan, you can leave them in a little bit longer and they’ll crisp up a bit for you.
But really, why would you want to?

Chef Rob’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe is in ounce-form, sorry to say. Good scales are quite inexpensive and a nice investment if baking a lot. And honestly, a worthy investment if making these cookies.

6 oz light brown sugar
6 oz granulated sugar
9 oz butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (really: optional. I very, very rarely use vanilla in my chocolate chip cookies. It’s not really necessary here if you ask me.)
2 eggs
13 oz all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz chocolate chips
6 oz walnuts, chopped (optional, but I do love the texture)

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, parchment paper, or lightly grease.
2. Beat butter, sugar, salt and vanilla together until "light and fluffy". I like to say it looks more like the consistency of frosting. It gets pale and smooth and creamy. About 2-3 minutes.
3. Add in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.
4. Sift the flour and baking soda together. Add in all at once to the mixture and mix until just combined. Don’t over do it. You’ll develop gluten and make a tough cookie. Nobody likes a tough cookie. Really.
5. Fold in the chips and walnuts. Drop by teaspoon-fuls onto the baking sheet. I make about 50-60 2-inch cookies with this recipe, but the outcome really depends on how big you like your cookies.

Pour a glass of milk and pile some cookies onto a plate. These are so, so delicious.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

in the meantime

So since I last wrote, I've just been cooking. And baking. And cooking. And baking. And...well, you get the idea.And it's not so much that I haven't wanted to write in here, I guess I've just been so pre-occupied in eating is all.
Because, really, what good is cooking if there's no eating?? Eating - though not more than laughing - is one of my favorite things.
Like the pizza-kick I was on for a good bit that included a pizza for my lovey:

With goat cheese and spinach and bacon and caramelized shallots and a light tomato sauce. Mmm. Mmm.
Or the (not-so) traditional Cassatta Cake:

The first cake I fully made and truly loved. I used to have a cake thing. A terrible cake thing. Where frostings were awful and cakes would fall apart and it never looked like the cover of the magazine or whatever other picture I was trying to emulate and the discouragement was almost too much. So I'd plop the pile of cake crumbs held together with unbearably sweet frosting into the fridge and I'd try not to scream when I opened the fridge again.
But. I've mastered cakes. Oh, I have. And my mastery of cakes is leading me down a path I am way too excited about.
The Cassatta though, is a gorgeous orange chiffon with ricotta filling and covered in whipped cream. The traditional is decorated in candied fruits, but mine is a simple array of fresh fanned strawberries. Almost too good to eat. But really...
And there was that divine meat-and-potatoes dinner:

Because at the end of the day, you can spare me your froo-froo and your ridiculously gourmet and your over-exertion of a dish. There is absolutely nothing better than a perfectly seasoned peice of meat, a nice heap of potatoes (a good sweet potato mash is always nice), and a good bit of green to balance everything out (like the sauteed spinach with shallots for a mild, onion backdrop) . There is beauty in simplicity. Especially when we're talking food.
And that picture does not do it much justice.
And the chocolate cake:

Ooey and gooey and a tad underdone, but the light mousse in the middle and the nice, thin layer of ganache bring it all together for a perfect bite of chocolate heaven.
And to finish it off, my favorite spaghetti-and-sweet-potato pasta that I am so fond of. I can't help it.

So I've been keeping a little busy eating. So sue me. But now I need to get busy excersicing.
So if you will excuse me...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

pizza: it's what's for dinner

Every now and then, I run into a bit of a rut. A cooking rut.
I don’t know what to make, I don’t know what to do with anything I’ve got on hand, and worst of all - I have no idea what I’m in the mood to eat.
So I grabbed hold of my recipe folder that is still in tact after all these years, but just exploding with possibilities. (Or really, just exploding).
And the first thing to slide out was a photocopied recipe my brother had given me. A recipe for pizza dough.
It clicked.

My brother makes the best pizza.
A friend of mine once mentioned "I think the more toppings on a pizza, the better". I couldn’t agree. I’m such a pizza purist at heart. I love the simplicity of a little bit of sauce and a good handful of cheese.
My brother’s pizza is so far from that.
For my pizza, I took inspiration from my brother’s delicious pizza and an old pizza we used to make at my job years ago. The underlying sweetness of the tomatoes and onions goes so wonderfully with the briny quality of the olives and the soft spinach. Turkey adds a little meaty element, but this could easily be vegetarian.
Working with yeast dough has always resulted in a bit of tragedy for me, but this is such a simple recipe - you can’t screw the thing up. The dough is fluffy and soft, not thin and crisp. So if you’re a thin-and-crisp fan, this recipe may not be for you. But give it a shot anyway. It’s such a light dough and it’s just so, so good.
This is a good pizza. This is a great pizza. A bit of work, yes. But worth it? Oh, you have no idea.

Pizza á L’homage
how witty and clever, no? this is essentially my version of my brother’s pizza, with the volume turned up a bit. Dough recipe adapted from Basic Italian. Serve this up with a nice little salad (perhaps some lettuces growing in the backyard, some orange segments and juice, some olive oil, and a good grind of black pepper). What a fabulous dinner.

2-3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ c olive oil
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
salt, pepper, oregano

pizza dough:
2 c all-purpose flour (plus more for shaping)
1/4 c olive oil
1 (1/4oz) packet yeast
2/3 c lukewarm water

1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian-blend cheese
8-10 slices deli turkey
a good handful of spinach
1 (3 oz) jar manzanilla olives, halved

1. In a small saucepan, heat up olive oil and garlic gently on low. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, constantly stirring not to burn the garlic. Let cool.
2. Lay the tomato slices in a single layer and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oregano. Spoon some of the garlic oil (with garlic slices) onto the tomatoes and let marinate.
3. For the dough: Add flour, a good pinch of salt, and oil to a mixing bowl. Separately, stir yeast into water and mix until fairly smooth.
4. Turn mixer on and slowly add in yeast-water to flour mixture. (If you don’t have a mixer, get right in there with your hands). If dough is a little too sticky, add in some more flour. Mix on medium speed with dough hook until it pulls away from the sides and looks smooth - about 5-7 minutes. (Or knead vigorously for a good bit).
5. Grease a bowl and place dough inside. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a fairly warm place for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size.
6. Meanwhile: Preheat the oven to 450º F. Heat up some of the garlic oil in a saute pan and saute the onions until caramelized. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside.
7. Once the dough is ready, punch it down and roll out on a floured surface. This recipe works for a half-sheet pan or 2 pizza pans.
8. Grease your pan of choice with the garlic oil and press the dough onto the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and brush some more garlic oil on the dough. Begin with the tomatoes then the caramelized onions. Sprinkle 3/4 of the cheese and throw on the turkey slices and spinach. Sprinkle on the olives and the remaining cheese and stick in the oven for about 10-15 minutes - or until the edges are a light brown and the crust is nice and crisp.

Slice up and enjoy. You won’t have any leftovers.

Monday, February 9, 2009

well, that was fast

Alright, friends. The search is over.
And the only person to thank here is my boyfriend -
who sent a 9:17pm text message on Thursday night stating: "got blue bell vanilla and got peanut butter brownies in the oven for the movie."
Is he quite a catch or what?? Warm brownies, Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla (!) , and The Boondock Saints.
Oh, I am a lucky gal.
And I do bet you're dying to know: "how was the ice cream??"
Oh my friends, it was good. Yes indeed it was good. This was not "wow this kind of sucks. so much for the hype".
This was "wow. this is really good ice cream."
Even the boyfriend said so! Who went out to publix and got the ice cream just for lil' ol' me.
And I wish I could pinpoint it. Remember that little tidbit about good vanilla ice cream and how it's so simple, yet so hard to come by?
Well, yeah. This is the good vanilla ice cream. It's that perfect, sweet spoonful of vanilla custard goodness. It's not sickeningly sweet. Nor is it so pumped up with that odd "artificial flavor" mouthfeel.
It's just so good.
And with a warm chocolate-peanut butter brownie, it's even better.
And hell, with Boondock Saints on the tv, it's heaven.
So my boyfriend approved of the Blue Bell. As for the movie: "eh, it was ok".
And you'd think he'd like a movie about guys and guns and a hilarious (and gay) Willem Dafoe.
But. That's ok. I still love him.
And I do believe I love Blue Bell, too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

the arrival of blue bell

I love ice cream.
I loooooove ice cream.
So when the papers reported that -finally- Blue Bell ice cream would be hitting South Florida stores, I thought: "what’s Blue Bell?".

Hailing from Texas, it’s only sold in 18 states and still manages to be the third best selling ice cream in the country. They pioneered the cookies and cream flavor. People have traveled hours to get their fix, people have ordered it online.
And I had never heard of this?
And I am missing out?
So when it hit stores yesterday, I figured I had to make a trip out to the grocery store. I firmly believe in "ice cream cures everything". (Sort of like a "everything is better with bacon". Cause, well, it is.)
I made my way to the freezer section and searched and searched and there was none left.
Goodness, you people work fast.
Looks like I’ll have to gather a search party for this one.
Of course, once I finish my half-gallon of Publix Premium Bear Tracks Brownie ice cream.
I couldn’t resist! I was among so much delicious, ice-creamy goodness, I had to get a fix.
Yes, I have a problem.
But the first step is admitting...
I’ll keep you posted on the Blue Bell Search because it is not over yet, my friends!

Monday, January 26, 2009

sunday lunch

I had the most wonderful lunch today.
And while my lunch almost always consists of a turkey and spinach sandwich (my favorite), this was just as simple but twice as good.
Realizing there were one too many potatoes and one too many dozen-eggs, I opted for a childhood favorite that I hadn’t had in ages - tortilla de papa.
Now, don’t let the name fool you cause it’s not what you think. And for years I wondered why we called it a tortilla, too. Turns out it’s a traditional Spanish tapas dish, sort of between a frittata and an omelette.
The idea is to slice the potatoes very thin. There’s no need to pull out your mandoline, though. A sharp knife will do the trick just fine. You also need a fair amount of oil. You want the potatoes to almost shallow fry and get really golden and crispy.
Cut into wedges and served up with a really simple salad - we got lettuces growing in the backyard that we picked and plated (my gardening endeavors excite me!) - tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, this makes for a delicious and delightful lunch any day of the week.

Tortilla de Papa
Open the door and let the sun shine in for this one. Or perhaps just take it outside.

2 large russet potatoes, peeled
8 large eggs
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1. Heat up a large skillet with a good amount of vegetable oil, around ½ cup, on high heat.
2. Thinly slice the potatoes and throw into the hot pan. Let brown.
3. Meanwhile, crack the eggs and whisk together with the parsley and a good pinch of salt.
4. Once the potatoes start to brown, salt them and dump in the egg mixture. Let cook for a couple of minutes until you see the sides start to cook.
5. Grab a large plate and place on top of the tortilla. Flip the pan over and slide the tortilla back into the pan so the other side can cook.
6. Let cook a couple of minutes more.
7. Cut into wedges and serve.

Monday, January 19, 2009


I just finished a book. A good book, a funny book, a book that - as all books tend to do to me - threw me into another world and made me feel good. And this feel-good feeling is lingering. Which I like. Which I really, really like. Because life should always be about feel-good...whether you get it or whether it takes you a year of Julia Child to get it.
Julie & Julia. Fabulous.
I remember when Julia Child passed away. Everybody had something wonderful to say and part of me really shrugged at it while the other part of me was a little jealous that I wasn’t particularly old enough to get it. Cause let’s face it - I’m not.
And so in this modern age of technology and me being in with the times (kinda sorta not really...), I looked up plenty on Youtube. And I think I’m starting to get it.
Yes, ok. A couple of videos on Youtube aren’t going to give me some goddamn epiphany on Julia Child and aren’t going to open up a big window and aren’t going to completely make me realize the wonder of the woman. Not yet, anyway. But it’s a start.
This woman had passion and love and knowledge. She was a klutz and she was funny and she was odd and unusual and that’s what made her human. And perhaps what made her so damn appealing. And people decided to embrace French food for once. As they fucking should.
Classical Cuisine. One of the best classes I have ever taken. I would walk out of there a pound heavier from all the butter consumed, but satisfied and happy and walking on clouds.
This is what French food does to me.
And it’s what French food did to her. And she fell into it and fell into teaching people about it and somewhere down the line one woman in 2002 decided to fall into it, too, discovering French food and the pure joy of Julia Child which changed her life around.
And so.
Yes, it was a good book. It was like a little bit of hope tucked away on a bookshelf.
(Or the clearance section of TJ Maxx where I was wandering around aimlessly and managed to find this book turned over for $2.)
And yes, I feel like Julia Child really is something.
And this makes me happy, while at the same time makes me crave something good and French and full of butter.
When I decided to head to culinary school, one of my mom’s friends gave me a ridiculous amount of cookbooks that she had lying around the house that she never used. Perhaps she was thrilled that she could give them to someone who would truly find some use in them. I can’t say I’ve really used them since. But in that bunch was a Julia Child & Company cookbook that I shrugged at and put aside. (I’ll confess part of me was hoping it would be the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking....just like I hoped for the pile to really contain something of history or real depth - like the hell-of-a-book Larousse Gastronomique that hung around the bookshelf all on its own and I stared at with eager eyes every single day of Food Production class in high school. There was none of it. Except for the cool cocktail food book which I will say I liked. But I really do digress...). The point is, perhaps there is some real desire to peer inside the book now. To say "ok, fine. I’ll read what you have to say about holiday entertaining or whatever the hell else". Because well, I kind of care.
And I envy Julie Powell who went mad and made the best decision of her life.
But still, really. I’m at feel-good. And that’s just wonderful.

"Julia Child wants know how to make good pastry, and also how to make those canned green beans taste all right. She wants you to remember that you are human, and as such are entitled to that most basic of human rights, the right to eat well and enjoy life."

"Julia taught me what it takes to find your way in the world. It’s not what I thought it was. I thought it was all about - I don’t know, confidence or will or luck. Those are all some good things to have, no question. But there’s something else, something that these things grow out of. It’s joy."
-Julie & Julia

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

anytime pasta

From the past entries you are now aware of the way the grocery store spoils me these days with those boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I keep them on hand all the time. Usually along with ground turkey as well.
So when it comes time to make a quick and simple, no-brainer kind of dinner, I pull out a box of pasta, pull out the poultry and get cookin’.
This is the everyday, anytime, whenever/whatever pasta dish that is so completely satisfying and nourishing, you couldn’t expect anything more.
The mix of the potatoes and the pasta together may come off as a bit odd. Carb-fest, anyone? But maybe you could just think of it as a leftover-Thanksgiving kind of meal.
And who doesn’t love turkey day leftovers?
Oh, yes. You know you do.
This really is just nice. A pasta dish should be nice and comforting. And spaghetti dishes specifically should be that perfect bite that I twirl around my fork and pop into my mouth, getting that juicy burst of buttery sauce. And not literally butter here, but that rich, creamy mouthfeel. I don’t know. It’s how I feel about pasta sauces and how I feel about this pasta dish.
Of course any pasta shape will do here, but I just love a good bowl of spaghetti every now and then.
How could you not?

Spaghetti with Chicken and Sweet Potatoes
we're pretty big pasta eaters around here so a 1/2 lb of spaghetti works pretty well for us two gals. but of course, four can easily be fed with this amount just the same.

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or ground poultry, if you prefer)
salt, pepper
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
pinch dried oregano

½ lb spaghetti

Parmesan, for sprinkling

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cube chicken breasts and drop into hot oil. Season with salt and pepper and brown. Remove from pot.
2. Add in onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and saute for about 2 minutes. Add in sweet potatoes and saute 2 more minutes.
3. Add in tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, oregano, and browned chicken. Bring heat down and let simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.
4. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water and drop in the pasta. Cook until al dente (oooh, fancy), around 7 - 8 minutes.
5. Drain and drop into the sauce. Mix all together and serve up with a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Friday, January 2, 2009

new year's eve: north meets south

Don’t even ask me how it happened cause I have no idea myself.
All I know is that one day my mom said "I want to make matambre and empanadas for New Year’s Eve"
and I said "ok".
I was (extremely, ridiculously, super-duper) lucky to get new year’s eve off this year. I didn’t know how I felt about the partying, but the food? That’s always a good time with me.
And while I do love my greasy, gooey cheeseburgers and my soda and my whatever-else-that’s-"American", a good Argentinian meal is a great thing. It’s the food I grew up on and the food I still love to eat. And hell, I always will.
So, matambre. The rolled up meat thing I couldn’t stand when I was younger. It had eggs and olives and all sorts of things poking out of it that I just did not approve of.
The empanadas on the other hand, well, my mom is practically famous for those.
But I figured, I have to give this a try.
We bought a nice piece of flank stank and butterflied it open. Some sprinkles of Parmesan cheese and parsley, some sprinkling of breadcrumbs. A couple of hard-boiled eggs, some olives, and a handful of grated carrots. Rolled up into a big fat log, thrown into a pot of water and boiled for a good 1 ½ hours.
You make it the day ahead and let it cool completely overnight. And then, you slice it. And you serve it up with the best side dish ever: ensalada russa. Which is, you know, potato salad with peas. Duh.
And it was good. Much better than I remember it being when I was around 7, of course. It was a good slice of meat with all sorts of fixin’s just thrown in. And - even better - it makes a pretty yummy sandwich slathered with some mayo. Mmm mmm.
I’m a total mayo freak, I can’t help it.
(And yes, that means I have standards. And yes, that means I choose Helmann’s.)

But what about the famous empanadas? Oh, those were a hit, too. They always are even if things have changed a bit. The original recipe is with ground beef. And she would always fry them. Always.
These days, she's a health-conscious lady (and who isn't?) who enjoys her whole grains and soy milk and bee pollen and raw honey. So you can say that beef and deep-frying aren't part of the agenda much anymore. Instead, chicken. Or turkey. And baking, not frying.
And they're still irresistable.
Filled with white and green onions ("they both give a little something"), hard-boiled eggs and olives (yes, again), and white pepper (it makes a distinctive difference..), they are just as good as I remember them being when I was 7. The empanadas just don't change.

It was a dinner I couldn’t wait to sit down to enjoy. And enjoy it I did.
So ending one year with a good meal and starting a new one with a good meal...that’s gotta be a good thing, right?
Happy 2009 to everyone.