• Follow Up: Brussels Sprouts Pizza

    I’m here to tell you today that last night I made a pizza that was so good it concerned me.

    How did I do it, I fretted. Was it the $1.99 dough from Safeway that nailed it? The  just-a-tad-more-expensive-than-I-usually-buy mozzarella? The 450-degree oven temp that’s 50 degrees higher than my usual pizza baking routine? I Just a fluke from the good Culinary Gods?

    Not quite sure what can account for it, but I’ll be praisin’ those Gods for a long time coming because the Brussels Sprouts Pizza is SO. DAMN. GOOD.

    Behold, before baking:

    And after:

    My hubs, bless his heart, came directly off an eight-hour drive from Charlotte and lived off of burritos and fish-n-chips and bad conference lunches for the past several days. Upon his first taste of the pizza, he said to me “This is the best food I’ve had all week.” Score one for the good wife!

    The crust was perfectly doughy-yet-crisp, the cheese was a nice melty-dairy-is-the-best-thing-ever texture, and the thinly-sliced sprouts were roasted just right (I like them almost charred).

    My sole tweak to the recipe: Toasted walnuts. I took inspiration from what might be one of the most epic veggie pizzas of all time, The Shear Delight from Asheville Pizza and Brewing Co. (Holla if you hear me, Ansaris of Asheville!) Walnuts are one of the toppings on this pie, along with pesto, Gorgonzola and portobello mushrooms. To die for!

    So there. Forget the mushrooms, the olives, the anchovies, the buffalo chicken (not so sure that’s really a solid pizza topping but I’ve been there and done that, so whatever), or whatever else you top your pizzas with regularly. Just try the sprouts.

    I know, sprouts are those nasty things your mom always wanted you to try and they’re known for being a British staple, which bless them, puts them in an unfortunate “don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” category along with Spotted Dick and Figgy Pudding.

    Have you not had roasted Brussels sprouts yet? If not, get thee to the oven and halve some sprouts with some olive oil, kosher salt and a little oregano or spice of your choosing, and roast those fine things up.

    Or trust me and make this pizza. And thank you again, Culinary Gods. I have to praise you like I should.


  • 3 years ago
  • We’ve Got It Made (Sort of): Pavlova

    I’m renewing our segment “We’ve Got It Made,” in which we highlight our joint ventures in the kitchen. HTT is in the house, baby.

    After sitting on the recipes from the awesome Mrs. Wheelbarrow class on Easter Desserts for nearly a month, I up and went to the grocery store this a.m. to ensure I had all the ingredients to make a pretty pretty pavlova.
    Since I won’t be here for Easter, I thought it would be nice to make it anyway.

    Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s take on the dessert (the link has measurements in metric - thus here’s a handy converter - sorry, it’s 10:15 on a school night, kids so I’m not typing out the recipe).

    It all starts out with the baking sheets - circles drawn on parchment paper to ensure a nice shape for the mini pavlovas.

    Then, the real fun is juggling the egg yolks to get all the whites. My over-eager juggling resulted in a few strands of yolk joining the whites — which can totally corrupt the whole situation. I fished them out, but it may have been major blunder Numero Uno.

    Then, I took to the bowl of egg whites with my hand mixer — unlike the fabulous Mrs. W., I have no equally fabulous Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I have a $30 Michael Graves hand mixer from Target (thank you, wedding registry and fine person/persons who gifted it) and thus nearly throttled my hands and arms to their demise with all the mixing. After 7-8 minutes, adding the sugar incrementally, and no “stiff, shiny peaks” forming,  I switched from the whisk attachment to the beaters and had a little more success getting the snow white foamy mix to get a little more substantial and less runny.

    After 10 minutes with the hand mixer, I was over it and Scott was dubious of my capabilities to produce said shiny firm peaks of meringue. I folded in the cornstarch, vanilla and white wine vinegar, stirred it up, and dolloped the mix onto my circles (pencil lead side down, of course).

    Not feeling entirely super about my pavlovas, in comparison to the super-firm ones we made in the class last month, I popped them in the oven at 350 degrees F and went about my business. Scott did the dishes. He rocks like that.

    Thirty minutes later,  I turned the oven off and kept the Pavlovas in the over for another half hour. I showered and read some of Tina Fey’s Bossypants  (it’s a total chucklefest — check it out!) and then before you know it, that 30 minutes is up and Scott is practically drooling (and admitting he ate the tiny dollop of meringue that colored outside of the lines while I was in the shower — sneaky sneaky.)

    Scott supervised me while I whipped the heavy cream, which means he yelled a little when I over-zealously battered the bowl of cream and smeared a little (ok, a LOT) on the kitchen table. And counters. And cabinets. But, whatever.

    Topping the pavlovas with the cream and some strawberries soaked in a little sugar and triple sec, we settled down to eat our Sunday evening project. It was a little less chewy and dense than the one from Mrs. W’s class, but Scott didn’t know that, so he lapped it all up — he literally licked the plate. (Sorry, hun, but that’s blogging for you - we get to overshare way too much on the Internets.)

    I think my fatal error may have been the errant yolks getting in the mix, but ah well. When your husband licks the plate, I think you’re forgiven.

    And that’s how we’ve got it made — Good night!

  • 3 years ago
  • Sugar Comas and Google Machines

    Blogging sucks. Blogging is the best thing ever. I hate blogging. I live to blog.

    Welcome to my mind, in which I debate why I haven’t posted more often here lately. Blame my ever-increasing disinterest in cooking — I had the “mehs” this winter, but damn if it isn’t sunny outside and spring is almost here and well, I miss writing and having good tasty things to write about.

    So… I’m presently reeling from a dyno-MITE class with Mrs. Wheelbarrow: Easter Desserts rocked my world, and the worlds of friends A & S, who were so smart to join me today to learn how to rock a coconut cake, tishpishti, and a pavlova. 

    Let the record show I’m heading out in 20 min. on the greenway to burn off what I’m about to describe:

    A hell of a lot of butter, sugar, and other amazing things:

    - The coconut cake (2 layers) with a pineapple filling and a Swiss meringue butter cream frosting.

    - The Sephardic Passover tishpishti (say it, it’s FUN: tish-pish-tee), a flour-less delight of walnuts, eggs, almond meal, sugar (and more sugar), orange zest, and other things baked up, over which a rosewater syrup is then poured and left to soak in. SO good upon first bite, I uttered, “Mercy,” which our lovely instructor, Cathy, seemed to appreciate.

    - Pavlova, my favorite of the three. A meringue baked and topped with freshly whipped cream and strawberries macerated in sugar and triple sec. Light and chewy, quick to dissolve upon hitting your tongue, while the crunchy bits hang out and make you happy that there’s a conduit for whipped dairy products and luscious fruit. 

    I’m definitely making a Pavlova very soon - I’ll be in Italy for Easter, but who says you need a special occasion for dessert??

     Also presently on my mind: I hit up the grocery store on my way home and bought four bags of odds and ends. Call it stream-of-consciousness shopping. I wondered what I could make for dinner tonight and Google, bless it, came to my rescue.

    Did you know you can put in a search for a dish and it will customize recipes based on what you have in your kitchen? The left sidebar lets you check and uncheck ingredients to determine the best recipe for your needs. Observe my search for beef stroganoff - yes, I have no creme fraiche. Thanks for asking, Google! That is kick-ass.

    So next time you’re making tishpishti or mac and cheese, whatever you choose, Google it up. Muchas Gracias, Interwebs.

    And….I’m spent. Got a case of the sugahs, and the greenway & Mr. Sun are calling my name. Off I go - enjoy what’s left of the daylight!


  • 3 years ago
  • Friday Shout Out: Cold Oven Pound Cake

    This one’s for my Grandmother Carrie, who died last Friday at age 93.

    My grandmother wasn’t flashy or overly free with her affections, but she was a woman of strong faith and well, she baked one hell of a pound cake.

    It’s not just any ol’ pound cake - it’s a Cold Oven cake, made by putting the cake pan in a non-preheated oven to bake.

    I’m in the process of tracking her recipe down from one of my cousins, so for now, here’s a similar one that you might find enjoyable. It makes for one of the most moist cakes I know of and results in a nice crust on top, too. She didn’t add flavorings like almond or chocolate, but I am sure you could if you wanted that little something extra. I find that would be like gilding the lily, however.

    Sometimes a simple pound cake can do so much - it brought our family a lot of joy and pleasure to rave over during holidays and special occasions, and now, it’s a legacy - a token of a woman who’s left us, but is still in our hearts and minds.

    Love those you treasure today, and enjoy something tasty this weekend!


  • 3 years ago
  • Is It Hot In Here…

    Or is it just my warm Rosemary Walnut Loaves?

    Yep, I’ve tried my hand at baking bread, and it looks like I successfully completed my mission!

    Exhibit A: Before the oven

    Exhibit B: After the oven

    A recipe from Cooking Light, it’s something one really should take the time to read the entire way through before one proceeds. I scanned the ingredients list and began at 2pm today, while had I read the recipe, I would have known I’d stand in my kitchen four hours later, slicing the bread.

    A couple of things: Bread takes time, effort, and patience. I know this now. The latter is always my downfall, so this was practice for me. BIG practice.

    There’s the rising of the yeast. Then adding the flour and the rest of the ingredients and letting it rise more. Then kneading - despite the stickiness of the dough, you have to knead it for 10 minutes - that’s forever in Erin Time, but just right in Bread Time.

    I punched it, I poked it, I wrangled with it, and scattered the stubborn sticky lump with flour in 1/4 cup increments just as the good folks at CL told me to, though I was worried at one point that I had more dough stuck to my hands than on my work surface. Once you’ve sufficiently pummeled the dough, you have to let it rise more. Then divide it, put in on your pan, and let it rise even MORE.

    Man, there’s a lot of rising involved. Did you catch that part?

    But, it appears to be worth it. I now have two tasty rounds of bread cooling in my kitchen. One, for HTT. The other, I may take to work, as we’ve had a doozy of a time lately over a certain public fiasco. Yeah, it’s been a little much lately, and bread is a comforting carb, yes?

    It’s been a great weekend here for us - we saw two movies at the Brazilian Film Festival at the Landmark E Street Theatre in DC - one of which involved, yes of course, food - Estômago, or A Gastronomic Story.

    Let’s just say the humor is definitely dark!


  • 3 years ago
  • Good Food In Big Yankee Cities: Part Two

    As promised, Philadelphia.

    Two words: Cheese steaks. That’s how our co-foodies on the trip prefaced our Philly trip. It was our ultimate goal, the Holy Grail of Good Eats, if you will. Drive an hour and a half for a sandwich? Oh hell, why not?

    Turns out, there’s MUCH more to the City of Brotherly Love than just tasty beef smothered in cheese. Let me just spell it out for you below.

    First, yes, the cheese steaks.

    Scott’s dad, a fan of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, found a place, Cosmi’s, in South Philly on 8th that he thought we should try. It seemed like a great idea, as we’d heard the big boys of Pat’s and Geno’s on dueling corners at Ninth Street and Passyunk Avenue are overrated. Those joints are strictly for tourists.

    Just by looking at the Cosmi’s exterior, it seemed like a solid choice. No fancy lights, signs, or huge crowds extending out the door - just two long tables with chairs for “dine-out” seating. We entered and the friendly man took our orders for four sandwiches. I chose the Verde with broccoli rabe, Scott’s sis Molly had the Trio (mushrooms, peppers and onions), and I can’t recall what Scott or his dad ordered.

    In less than 10 minutes, we received our hot and HUGE sandwiches, and they were gone in about the same length of time. SO SO good. Tender beef steak and melt-y provolone cheese, no processed orange Cheez Whiz to be had. We were off to a tremendous start!

    The Italian Market on South 9th disappointed, as it’s not so much Italian anymore as it is primarily Hispanic and Asian. One storefront, Di Bruno Bros., was on my list to visit, as a friend introduced me to their “crack cheese” Gorgonzola spread. However the line was INSANE and my claustrophobia prevented me from getting in the foodie fray.

    Putting a pause on the food (for now - it’s always on our minds, of course), on we went for a historical tour, hitting the highlights - Constitutional Hall, a peep at the Liberty Bell (line was waaaaaaay longer than our patience would allow), and the city planner in our midst wanted to see the majestic City Hall.

    No tour of Philly would be complete without the obligatory Rocky stance on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nevermind the artwork…we just wanted to mock the Rocky.

    All that posing and posturing made us a little peckish, so off we went to park the car and hunt down a recommendation from a savvy friend - Branzino on South 17th near Rittenhouse Square.

    I took an excellent unplanned tour of the Square, as nearly all restaurants in Philly are BYOB and though our savvy friend told us this, we promptly ignored the fact. Molly and I hightailed it about five blocks and through the Square to find a well-hidden wine store and brought back two BIG bottles of Chardonnay and Shiraz. With Scott serving as DD, the wine freely flowed (to put it mildly) and we set about ordering a flurry of food.

    Salads…marinated Artichoke hearts with red pepper and olive oil…bread, oh the bread…followed by entrees of spicy-sauced Squid Ink Tagliatelle with shrimp, scallops and roasted peppers (mine), Squash ravioli in a sage butter sauce (Scott’s), and my memory fails me on what Rob and Molly ordered.

    I loved mine - plenty of seafood when normally that’s where restaurants will skimp, and just the right amount of spicy heat. Scott’s was fair, but small portioned, which is a slight to Scott’s appetite, as those who know him can attest.

    Do you think we were stuffed by then? Perhaps. Now, I left one part out of the day that you should know about. Just a block or so down from our cheese steak joint, the Termini Bros. bakery called to us. Any place that’s been around since 1921 must be doing something right, yes?

    Attendants in white gloves are there to take you down the huge counter that runs in the middle of the store, handpicking your items as you request them and putting them into boxes or plastic containers. You are NOT to touch the biscotti, cookies, and whatnots, capisce?

    I found about four types of biscotti I had to have - cranberry and pistachio, a chocolate espresso, hazelnut and cherry, and one other. Rob loaded up on sfogliatelle (clamshell filo-esque pastry filled with custard) and two kinds of cannolli - one with ricotta and chocolate chips and another with vanilla cream.

    So back to post-dinner, as we left to head home, bellies stretched and heads woozy from wine. Molly and I passed out in the back seat, only to revive an hour or so later to make a curious discovery — Scott and his dad pulled over into a rest stop somewhere in the state of Delaware and proceed to dig into the box of Termini Bros. cannoli, and stand around, sipping on coffee. I spill out of the car, join them to grab a cannoli, take a few bites, and then shove it under Molly’s nose for her to take a taste or two.

    One of the most random and yet awesome moments I’ve had with his family - noshing on tasty pastry in a parking lot late at night.

    That pretty much sums up the trip - we came, we saw, we consumed. I can’t wait to go back!


  • 4 years ago
  • Tea and Cake, or Death

    "Uh, death please? No, cake, cake."

    If you haven’t seen Eddie Izzard’s Dressed to Kill, well, I’m kinda envious, because I’d like to go back to when I saw it for the first time. British male transvestite comedian = good times, I promise you.

    Sooooo…tea and cake. It’s about to happen here at our house because I have this baking in the oven at the moment. I have to use up my apples, though I know they last a while in cold storage, my Virgo OCD tendencies say food needs to be eaten when fresh.

    I wanted to make this apple loaf cake from Tennessee Locavore as it looked so healthy - applesauce, whole wheat pastry flour, less sugar, etc. - but I didn’t have any nuts or cranberries and after my canning extravaganza last night, I was not about to make my applesauce from scratch. Thus the easy way out with the cooks.com recipe.

    Maybe for a lazy day when my pantry’s fully stocked? I’m now officially out of canola oil and flour!
  • 4 years ago