When I went to college at Emory 3,000 years ago, there used to be a spot in Emory Village called Cedar Tree that sold “pitzas.” It was basically a piece of toasted pita bread topped with pizza-like toppings and the surprising thing was that it was really, really good. A dinner at Cedar Tree was always a treat and when I listen to the Indigo Girls–who, incidentally or maybe not so incidentally went to Emory–their song “Cedar Tree” always makes me think about how good a piece of toasted pita bread with pizza-like toppings can be. Yet, weirdly I’d never attempted it at home until I hit upon a technique that makes so much sense for transforming plain-old-pita bread into something that resembles a pizza crust.
Some food people are real sticklers for words and what they mean. For example: pizza. I consider the pizza at Pizzeria Mozza (developed by Nancy Silverton) to be some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, but there are detractors out there who call it focaccia because it’s so puffy. I’m pretty sure it’s pizza for a few reasons: 1. it’s round; 2. it’s cooked in a wood-burning oven; 3. the name of the restaurant is Pizzeria Mozza.
Still, even I had to raise an eyebrow at the pizza I just made from the cover of this month’s Bon Appetit. The dough is a clever riff on Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread. Though this one you knead, for 12 minutes, and then let it rest–and ferment–overnight in the fridge.
Sometimes I wake up with a specific craving that has no obvious root. For example, on Saturday morning I woke up with a craving for cornbread. Where did that come from? Was it the fact that I’d been watching the Sean Brock episodes of “Mind of a Chef” at the gym? Actually, that was probably it–strike that first sentence–because in the episode I just watched, he harvested his own corn, shocked the kernels in liquid nitrogen, and made the most incredible-looking corn grits I’d ever seen. I didn’t have grits in my cupboard on Saturday morning, but I did have cornmeal, which is where this idea came from. Then all I had to do was find the right recipe.
It’s time to admit that my love affair with chickpeas has gone too far. Not only did I post about making a big pot of chickpeas a week ago, and also a salad of roasted beets, carrots and chickpeas that week, I already have another chickpea dish to blog about coming up–one with tomatoes, basil and zucchini. I need to be stopped. But what’s this I see at my local fancy supermarket? A bag of chickpea flour? Chickpea FLOUR? Oh my, I think I need to buy this. I think I need to make something with this. CHICKPEA FLOUR. I’m sold.
Like a dying swan, I came to L.A. and watched as, feather-by-feather, all of my bagel-eating genes fell to the ground. I tried, I really did. I made bagel bombs, which were a nice alternative, but not the real thing. I stood and ate a bagel at Brooklyn Bagel and thought, “Oh man: this doesn’t feel right at all.” I basically gave up. And then, very gradually, a new idea began to hatch in my brain: what if I made my own everything bagels? How hard could that be? On Friday afternoon, I bought bread flour and malt powder and cream cheese and nova and red onions; on Saturday morning, I woke up all set to make Peter Reinhart’s famous recipe.
This weekend my brain burst open like a piñata when I discovered, after much hemming and hawing, how easy it is to make your own corn tortillas. At Christmas, Craig’s parents bought me a tortilla press (which I’d put on my list) and I very matter-of-factly shelved it away when I got home, telling myself that one day, some day, I’d dig it out and use it. Then, last week, I made a trip to Grand Central Market in downtown LA (more on that later this week) and bought a bag of Maseca. Turns out that’s all I needed–along with the tortilla press–to make the most incredible corn tortillas at home. Look how easy it is.
Once upon a time, my friend Patty told me that the best biscuits she’d ever had in her life were at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Kentucky. “They were huge,” I remember her saying, “and buttery and fluffy and AMAZING.”
When Patty told me this (back in 2009), I was working on a project that required me to research all different kinds of biscuit recipes. And so, after hearing this, I reached out to Lynn’s Paradise Cafe to see if they would share their biscuit recipe. I strongly suspected that they would say “no.” Instead, a very nice woman–also named Patty–sent along the recipe and said, “I hope that you enjoy them.”
Our friends Mark and Diana, who live up the street from us, have made a terrible mistake. The mistake is this: they fed us grilled pizza and now we’ll be demanding it on a regular basis.
How did I not know this? I mean, I knew this–I’ve watched Ina Garten throw a grilled pizza party on T.V.–but I didn’t know how good it was. Do you know? Here’s what happens: because of the high heat of the grill, the pizza gets charry and crisp on the bottom (like what happens in the high-temperature oven at a fancy pizza restaurant) and then you top it with whatever you want to top it with, you close the lid, and moments later you have totally excellent pizza. And if you shape your pizza dough into a large oval, you can feed a big group of people quite happily, as Mark and Diana did last night for us and our visiting friends Patty and Lauren.