And so it was that I found myself at an AirBnb in Santa Barbara with persimmon trees. The trees were so beautiful — I’m mad at myself for not taking a picture of them (sorry!) — it felt like a crime to actually pull persimmons off of them. But pull persimmons off of them, I did, and when I got home with them, they were so very squishy, they almost seemed rotten. But I knew better.
As a person who’s devoted most of my life to food, I have certain beliefs that I fervently hold on to. One: never grill chicken breasts for a dinner party. That’s depressing. Two: When baking with chocolate, it’s important to eat a quarter cup of the chocolate in its raw state. Quality control. And three: there’s absolutely no reason to make pizza at home. Order in, it’ll be better.
Pause on that last one. Recently, I felt inspired to try my hand at homemade pizza again after many unimpressive efforts from the past, earning comments like this one:
Nicholas Bergus had a point. I never quite got the dough thin enough, giving up on stretching it while it still looked rather puffy. The resulting pizza was, as Nicholas Bergus says, “more like focaccia than pizza.” When the internet trolls are right, you know you’re doing something wrong.
I’d Like To Propose A Toast For Dinner (Creamed Mushroom Toast with Little Gem Salad + Baba Ganoush Toast with Scarlett Runner Beans)
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we had toast for dinner. Now when I say “toast for dinner,” you may be imagining a stale piece of bread, smeared with a little butter and jam. That wouldn’t be a very filling dinner, now, would it?
No, the toasts that I made for dinner were hearty affairs; so filling, in fact, we almost couldn’t finish them. Consider them close cousins of bruschetta; they’re the kinds of toasts that you see sometimes at trendy restaurants, like ABC Kitchen in New York which serves a famous butternut squash toast. The premise is simple: a very thick slice of bread, toasted until very dark around the edges, and then topped with something rich and decadent.
My dad has a joke he makes whenever someone his age has a birthday: “Don’t buy any green bananas.”
I buy green bananas every week, but I’m only 41. The thing about buying green bananas is that eventually they become yellow bananas, perfect for snacking or slicing on to your yogurt and granola. And then those yellow bananas become speckled bananas, perfect for making banana bread.
Hello from quarantine, my long-lost blog readers. I know I’ve neglected you for a while — I’ve shifted all of my energies to Instagram and my podcast — but something has happened during this strange time that calls for me to dust off the ol’ food blog and tell you about it. And that something is that I’ve become one of those sourdough people.
I know, I know: there’s a lot of uproar about making sourdough right now. For starters (haha: sourdough humor), you need a LOT of flour to make it. Not just to make a loaf, but to feed the starter that’ll give your loaf rise. I bought some red fife whole wheat flour on Anson Mills website a few weeks ago that’s been sustaining me, along with their bread flour; but when that ran out, I went to Central Milling and bought three fifty pound bags of flour. At the time, I didn’t really visualize in my head what that looked like (it seemed like a good deal); now I have three enormous bags of flour in my kitchen that I can barely lift, let alone open. (If that sounds selfish to hoard all of this flour, don’t worry, I’m giving lots of it away; and baking loaves of sourdough for friends which I put in my trunk, so I can stay six feet away upon delivery.)
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.