A pie recipe made in desperation, a slap-dash dessert pulled from the cull of garden, fridge, and pantry. The remnants of a bag of cornmeal, strawberries about to turn, and basil straight from the garden: Together, they combine for no-fork-needed individual desserts that can be cut in quarters and served up pizza-style as a sweet appetizer, too. Serve them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and a few torn basil leaves for garnish.
Thanks to everyone listening in from WAMC today! It's always great to be on-air taking questions and talking food with Ray.
This is my basic pie dough recipe, one that has been tested over, and over, and over again and used in recipes for stories and cooking classes. Dozens (hundreds?) of people have used this recipe and reported positive feedback, and I'm certain you'll have luck, too!
Have a question? Leave a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Happy baking!
Facebook reminded me this morning that one year ago today, our cat died. I wrote about it then, and I reflect upon it now. Here's the story, stolen from my Medium page.
What's your opinion on pets? Worth it, or not?
It’s almost always worth it.
Last night, Wrinkly-Crinkly, the cat who decided to live with us, died. He was old, but don’t ask me exactly how old, because I don’t know.
What I know is this: When he decided to go live with my ex-husband, he was already a very adult cat, likely 7 years old or more. He was a wild beast who found an open door one day and climbed up to the tallest nook of a bookshelf and decided to camp there. Attempts to remove him were futile; books and pictures and tchotchke were pushed upon those who tried to extradite him back to the outdoors, and then the claws would come out. He would contort himself into a twisted, furled mess… a wrinkly, crinkly ball of a cat. And there he found his name.
He was never my cat. Year later when my then-husband left me, he left the cat, too. And I’ve never warmed to cats, even in the rare moment among WC’s usual cat-insanity of bouncing of the walls when he would curl up in my lap.
I’ve never liked cats.
He — my ex — left plenty. A life, a family, a cat or two and the dogs he bought me as a present, neither of which I wanted. But I’m a bleeding heart, even for the worst cat, and I dutifully cared for them as best I could, as much as my detester nature for felines would allow me.
And then, despite all of that, the cat has the nerve to die! My oldest child, now 7, has become particularly attached to WC, and he equally smitten with her. He never complained when she would carry him around like a ragdoll, as long as it was her doing it, and no one else.
WC complained about a lot, most of the time, only making me despise him more. His last two weeks of life, though, he never complained, as though to make amends.
The end was near, we knew that. And it came quickly. In his last few days I made sure extra fluffy towels were available for him in his favorite sunning spot on the porch, and a few extra pets were granted each time I walked past, even if I cringed while I did it. Was it worth it, the tens years I’ve spent caring for this cat?
I mean, is it ever worth it when it comes to pets? They are designed to break our hearts, inevitably demanding we upend out lives for them only to die on us one day. That cat was one of the last remaining threads of what my life was once, a marriage that unraveled as soon as it was woven. The death of WC is the fraying of the few final threads. Watching him deteriorate was a reminder of how easily things come and go, and doubting if the effort is ever really worth it.
Except that one time, when I was crying on the couch through my heartbreak, and WC came and snuggled up to me, pressing his head against my chest in a brief detente of our feelings towards one another. A rare tender moment and recognition of the effort I put into being a cat-mom when my other identities were falling away from me.
That’s probably not how WC saw it, but that’s the story I’ll tell myself.
Later today I’ll tell my children the news, watch them cry, show them the spot behind the barn where I turned soil to bury him, shrouded in the same towel he died upon. And I’ll cry with them. Pets are designed to break your heart, but they are almost always worth it.
Even if you don’t like cats. Even if they were never really yours.
I have a story in today's Albany Times Union on "3 Ingredient Fix" dinners that can be made in a jiff using some leftovers and basic pantry staples. Read the story here. And here's my recipe for Eggs in Purgatory in the meantime, a staple in this house any time of day. My friend Daniel first introduced me to it at More Perecca's and it was love at first bite.
Eggs in Purgatory
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (or seasoned to your liking)
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (or to taste)
- Kosher salt
- 4 eggs
- Crusty bread
- Grated Romano cheese (or your cheese of choice, optional)
- Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish (optional)
Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the tomatoes, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat. Once the sauce is warmed and just starting to bubble, make 4 wells in the sauce and crack an egg into each. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt over each egg. Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until eggs have reached their desired consistency (completely firm, or still a little runny. Your choice.)
Remove the skillet from the heat and plate two eggs per serving. Top with cheese and parsley, if desired, and toasted thick slices of crusty bread.
A few years back, I got to interview the legendary, charismatic, and winsome Jim Rua, owner and chef of Cafe Capriccio. We spoke of things that he cooks in the off-hours and he let me ransack his refrigerator and drink wine at 9:30 in the morning. Of all the delights within his kitchen, the most critical, he said, was music.
"A kitchen must have music!" he emphatically stated.
I couldn't agree more. Listening to an old record while making dinner or choosing a favorite playlist while working in the late-night hours is essential to my daily life.
So here's a playlist for your February, the month of Peak Winter. Before the twitches for spring arrive and a time for ultimate hygge. Before March kicks you in the teeth, after January's post-holiday blues and our allusions towards bettering ourselves have subsided. Songs for slow, lazy nights, songs for heartbreak and moving on (oh, February, why do you do us like that?), songs with just enough back beat to keep us propelled forward as the days get longer. Listen below or follow this link to Spotify. What songs would you add?
Over the month of January, I scouted and interviewed five outstanding women who took it upon themselves to create changes in their long-afflicted respective communities. Some issues revolved around religion, others around food, but it was my interview with Kymlee Dorsey, a transgender rights advocate that deeply resonated with me. Kym and I have different methods (me, as a writer; her, as a community advocate) but our work is the same: Getting down to the basic elements of humanity, allowing us to be judged by the "content of our character," as MLK would say, and not by our creed, color, religion, or any other qualifier.
As I transcribed my recording from our conversation, the following words shook me. I had to replay several times and let the meaning of her words resonate deep within. How timely her words were, how timely they have always been.
The paradigm of associating context and meaning to history often results in revisionism. It's easy to say that the Anglo-Christian men who wrote America's earliest documents were narrow in their meaning, excluding people of color (after all, many Founding Fathers were also slave owners), non-Christians, women, and people in the LGBTQ community.
Or maybe the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were left just vague enough to provide for a flexible governance that allows for All People to be included under the American umbrella.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. -- Declaration of Independence.
We are the governed. The consent is ours to give. And now the light shines on us. What we do with our time in the spotlight is as critical to the course of history and future generations as those words, written by white men, all those years ago.
My story on these influential women will appear next month in Women at Work magazine.
To start, there's candied bacon, a crispy sweet and salty delight with a little bit of peppery kick; bacon chocolate chip cookies that incorporates bacon fat and drippings with sweet cream butter into cookies that are studded with rich, melty morsels of dark chocolate and crunchy chunks of bacon; bacon cassoulet, an all-bacon French version of pork and beans that is slow-cooked in a Dutch oven; bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers that blend cheese and hot peppers into a snacktime classic; and bacon carbonara, a favorite pasta dish that marries spaghetti, Parmesan cheese, bacon, and eggs into a luscious, hearty meal.
Let's make all of this together in my bacon lovers class that starts with bacon and ends with bacon, finding new ways to incorporate out favorite breakfast meat into everything from appetizers to dessert. Class is Wednesday, February 8 from 6pm-8:30pm. Sign up here, see you there!
Thanks to everyone who listened in on yesterday's WAMC show on Super Bowl food. Kevin Mullen of Rare Form Brewing Company and Joe Donahue, revered radio journalist and Roundtable moderator, joined me and Ray Graf to eat, drink, and talk food and football. (I at least know a little about one of those things.)
All of the recipes from yesterday's show are available at wamc.org, but two are below. Enjoy! What are your go-to recipes for game day?
KOREAN CHICKEN WINGS
- 5 pounds chicken wings
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
- Scallions, sliced thin
- Fresh cilantro, chopped
- Sesame seeds
- Lime wedges
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil or parchment. Place half of the chicken wings on each baking sheet, then drizzle with half the canola oil on each baking sheet. Toss the wings in the oil to coat. Generously season the wings with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Toss again to coat. Bake to cook the wings thoroughly, about 30 minutes. Remove the wings from the oven and increase the heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer the wings to a clean bowl and discard any juices that are on the pans. (But keep the foil or parchment.)
Meanwhile, combine the ketchup, vinegars, soy sauce, honey, and gochujang in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce has reduced to 1 cup in volume.
Add the sauce to the bowl with the wings, and toss everything to combine. Arrange the wings back on the baking pans and bake until slightly charred, about 10-15 minutes. Rotate the pans in the oven if needed.
Place the wings on a serving platter and top with scallions, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Serve with lime wedges.
BROCCOLI AND SPINACH STROMBOLI
- Basic pizza dough, cut into two balls (recipe follows)
- Olive Oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 package frozen spinach leaves or 1 pound fresh baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
- Kosher salt
- Fresh black pepper
- All-purpose flour, for rolling dough
- 3/4 pound sliced Provolone cheese
- 1 cup shredded Romano cheese
- 2 cups steamed broccoli florets
Bring pizza dough up to room temperature, if cold or refrigerated. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Cook until the spinach is wilted and most of the water has evaporated off, about 7-10 minutes. Set aside.
Roll the dough balls each into a 10x16-inch rectangle -- not too thin -- using flour to lightly dust the rolling pin and counter to avoid sticking. Be sure the shorter side of the rectangle is facing you. On each rectangle, lay half of the Provolone cheese, Romano cheese, broccoli florets, and spinach mixture on the two-thirds of the dough closest to you, leaving a small border around the sides. Season with salt and pepper. Roll the stromboli rectangles into thirds, with the “blank” third as the bottom of the fold. Be sure to repeat for both rectangles.
Place the stromboli on a parchment-lined baking sheet or baking stone with the seam facing down. Cut 4 small slits in the top of the stromboli to allow steam to escape. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and grease is starting to bubble from the steam slits. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes before serving.
BASIC PIZZA DOUGH
Makes Two Pounds
- 2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water (not hot!!) into a large bowl, then sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Whisk sugar, oil, and salt into the yeast mixture. Add flour and stir until a sticky dough forms. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and brush the top with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in size, about one hour. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead one or two times before using.
This recipe can be frozen, tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in a freezer-safe zip-top bag.
In today's Albany Times Union, you will find my story on the new Albany Craft Beverage Trail, which includes Nine Pin Cider, Albany Distilling Company, Druthers, C.H. Evans Brewing/Albany Pump Station, and Altamont Winery.
It's official: You can now take a drinking tour of Albany.
The city's warehouse district, that stretch of Broadway between Albany and Menands, is today better known as the bar list of the Capital Region. Here, a thirsty imbiber can find anything from a classic Brown Ale, to a crisp glass of cider, to a warming glass of whiskey to ward off harsh winters.
Four establishments on Broadway have come together to form the Albany Craft Beverage Trail. Nine Pin Cider, Albany Distilling Co., C.H. Evans Brewing Co, (at the Albany Pump Station) and Druthers Brewing Company are hoping that the official launch of this new nonprofit will further revitalize a derelict neighborhood through business growth and increased tourism to the area.