Monday, January 25, 2010

Pizza Memories

I grew up in East Meadow, New York, and I absolutely loved it. I was a short bike ride away from Eisenhower Park in one direction, the library in another, and the grocery store, Italian bakery, and fish market were right down the street.


The pizza place was also close by. I remember it well. We never called in an order. We would drive to Pizza Kings, place our order, and wait. I would look at the frescoes of idillyc Italian vistas and chubby waiters and cooks on the walls, or count the tiles that were everywhere.

But still we waited. The restaurant smelled like pizza, and you could feel the heat radiate from the ovens that lined one wall.

If us kids were lucky. There would be one regular cheese pizza, and one Sicilian pizza. A real Sicilian pizza is a divine experience. Thick, crusty, and square....the corner pieces were the most coveted.

I want one right dang now.

Transporting the pizza home was a two-person operation. One of the parents would drive, and one of us kids would hold the pizza perfectly level on our lap. This involved lifting the pizza ever so slightly on the end closest to our bodies, and the other end was on our knees, that would get progressively warmer and warmer as the journey towards home progressed.

It was worth the heat. Even if I happened to be wearing shorts.

The perfect slice of cheese pizza is foldable, and if it is the right temperature you should slightly burn the roof of your mouth. You know, so that a tiny part in the middle of the top of your palate, right behind your two front teeth, burns and blisters.

Gross I know, but again it is part of the perfect pizza experience.

If there was leftover pizza (usually unheard of) it turned into the perfect cold breakfast the next morning.

When chains started popping up in the late 80's (like Domino's) we thought it was just nuts. Commercials for pizza on TV? Delivery? It can't be good. And boy it wasn't. There is just no comparison to the neighborhood slice.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January cooking classes

I met some wonderful ladies this month!

The first class consisted of Kimberly, Vanessa, Jill and Amy. They were delightful, and really enjoyed the class.

The second class consisted of members of the Nashville chapter of the Little Black Dress Club. What a fun group! I am a member, but my schedule has never aligned with the fantastic events that they put together. I am sure that someday I will indeed go to their events! Angee, Marla, Ruth and Cat were just lovely people, and I look forward to seeing them again, and meeting more members of the club.

We made the same dishes for both classes. The menu was as follows:

White bean dip with vinegar spiked pita chips
Caprese skewers
Braised chicken with red potatoes and artichoke hearts
Sweet frittura with marscarpone and blueberries

Students not only saw the technique involved in making the dishes, but they went home with copies of the recipes, and they were all very excited about creating the dishes at home. Hooray!

I am pleased to say that February is filling up nicely. If you would like to take a class, please contact me! The menu for February will be:

Stuffed roasted red peppers with pesto
Involtini with polenta (savory beef bundles)
Green beans with almonds and lemon
Fresh orange granita

Looking forward to February!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Saturday bread

It did not snow last Thursday. Nashville got what I like to call "snow dust." Snow dust is enough to send the town into and absolute panic though, because once the snow dust melts, it quickly turns to ice, and it did. My side roads were very slippery, and rather scary.

We did receive a very pretty snow on Saturday, and it lasted the entire morning and afternoon.

It was necessary to make bread, at least in my mind.

I was not wearing makeup. Please don't be frightened! Here I am kneading the dough. Such a great workout for the arms!

Behold the finished product! I had some trouble actually making the braid, since I've never done a four strand braid before, but I can assure you that it was delicious! Since it is not my original recipe, it can be found at this link.

The bread was sliced for lunch that very day, and we enjoyed panini filled with genoa salami and fresh mozzarella. A delicious feast!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I hope it snows

They are calling for snow tomorrow...1-3 inches of snow, which is equal to blizzard conditions to Nashvillians. The temperature is not supposed to get above freezing, so if it does snow, I'm staying home. One does not drive on ice, it is called sliding, and there's nothing you can do but say a prayer and hope for the very best.

I'm just not fooling with Mother Nature, the Cold Miser or Snow Bird this time.
Oh sure, I've done the drive to work in the snow before, and found myself often the only employee that showed up, and then twiddled my thumbs until quittin' time.
Snow Bird is rather accurate y'all, oh and friendly.

If I am off I won't waste away on the couch, oh no not me, not when there are the ingredients in my kitchen to make bread.

Isn't it lovely? I haven't made it in a while, but I do have a dead simple recipe for bread, which I have previously posted on this site. Time to make this again. I think this would be wonderful as a grilled cheese sandwich, the Italian kind of course, with fresh mozzarella sandwiched between the slices, then tossed in a pan with some olive oil.

Can't you just smell how wonderful the house will be when this comes out of the oven? I imagine Heaven smells like baked bread.

So bring on the snow.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Cappelletti Quest Realized

There is not much that I miss about New York. I have a wonderful life here in my beloved Nashville. There are only two things that are missing here:

1. My extended family, and

2. Cappelletti

What is cappelletti you ask? They are the smallest tiny tiny version of the tortellini form. Cappelletti literally means tiny hats, and believe me ... they are tiny. They are usually stuff with a mixture of meats, ricotta and nutmeg. And it is extremely impossible to find them down here. I would settle for meat tortellini, their larger sibling, but the stores only carry cheese tortellini.


So I did what any crazy person would do....I made my own.

The pasta was easy. My ratio for pasta dough works like this:

100 grams flour + plus 1 egg = 1 serving of pasta

My ratio is in grams....I know. I blame this on the fact that I am left-handed, and wear a tiara when I vacuum.

I made my recipe for 7, because I like odd numbers....again blame the left-handed person that I am.

So on your big surface, board, marble-top counter, whatever, you pile up your flour, and make a big well in the center. Crack your eggs into the center, and start gently scrambling the eggs, incorporating a little bit of flour as you scramble. Once you have dough that you can handle, start kneading, and knead until you have a smooth ball of flour. This will take some time, and is a great way to get out aggression. Then, wrap the dough in cling film, and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Time to assemble the filling. The filling was very important to me, so being the crazy that I am I contacted a possible distant in Italy (isn't Facebook wonderful) whose family lives in Modena, not far from where my branch is from, and asked him to ask his mamma what she puts in her cappelletti. He e-mailed back her recipe in no time, and this is what I used:

400 grams turkey (I used dark meat)
1 pork chop
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 eggs
a pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper

I ground the cooked turkey and pork chop in my food processor, and combined this with the ricotta, eggs and spices. So so easy.

Your pasta should be ready to take out of the fridge. Run it through your pasta maker (the old fashioned hand-crank kind please) until you have thin, rectangular sheets. Cut the sheets into even squares.

Now let me get to the pain in the posterior part. Assembly. Remember how I said that cappelletti are tiny tiny? I wasn't kidding. You basically fill the 2" square of pasta with a pea-sized amount of filling, and then fold into the classic eleventy million times.

Once I had a baking dish (lined with wax paper) full of cappelletti, I put them in the freezer, and once the individual cappelletti were sufficiently chilled I put them in a big container, and put them back into the freezer.

And then I sat down to collect myself.

Cappelletti are traditionally served in a bowl of broth. I use chicken, but it can be any meat broth. Once you bring the broth to a boil you drop in your cappelletti, and once they are all floating on the broth surface your soup is done. This was delicious, but I can completely understand why this is only eaten around Christmas time. It is very time consuming, and you really need a holiday break to get this made!