Monday, September 24, 2007

it should be a slice of heaven

let's talk about pizza. it generally falls under the category of "even if it's bad, it's still good." i beg to differ..... there is a great divide between good, proper pizza, done well and really really crap pizza. i believe life is too short to even entertain the sad pies.

have you seen mystic pizza? well, if you have you'll understand why i was so looking forward to trying their famous 'mystic pie'. the sauce was a secret only known by Leona, the momma/boss character that owned the restaurant in the movie. now, i do realize this was a movie, but the hype for this julia roberts movie in the 80's was so big, i figured the restaurant must have something to offer so many years afterward! restaurants don't survive on movie hype alone.
when my brother and now sister-in-law were getting married over 5 years ago they decided to plan the event in her hometown in connecticut. when the date neared my mom and i had two things we wanted to do while we were there - eat lobster & eat mystic pizza. we knew this would be a challenge due how busy we were going to be all weekend with manicures and up-do's but we were determined.

the night we arrived we stopped in mystic for the pizza on the way in. we ordered the 'mystic pie' - i had pretty high hopes. when it arrived i could barely let the cheese cool before i took a bite. i wish we had skipped on my silly desire to taste Leona's famed sauce and just spent the evening looking for lobster. -in the end it was not exactly the slice of heaven i was expecting. to add insult to injury, i had a tummy ache afterward that hung on like a mon chi chi from the underworld.

when it comes to food, i can hold a pretty mean grudge and i must tell you that ever since that day, i have had very low expectations of pizza parlors. i mean this was supposed to be the ultimate! and on top of the bad pies, they were out of medium t-shirts so i had to buy one 2 sizes to big. what a snowball!

now, to make this small tragedy come to a point and for me to stop being such a 'debby downer' i would like to tell you about salvation pizza. my husband i have been eyeballin' the place since it came into the neighborhood, its next door to our favorite sandwich shop . however, it's hours were a mystery to us when it first opened and it just always slipped our minds when we were deciding where to go.

then a few weeks ago, we had torn our kitchen apart to do some minor renovations and had to find something close by, open late and wasn't the one of the many stodgy college joints in our area. suddenly, my husband remembered salvation pizza. alas, our time had come.

we walked in and were instantly in love. this revived bungalow with dark and hip interior and exterior decked with globe lights and picnic tables was a feast for my eyes and soul. right up my alley! oh, please let the pies be good! please!

i was not disappointed. it was so simple, they only have pizza and drinks on the menu. nothing fussy, nothing overdone. so refreshing!

we ordered a pitcher of live oak 'liberation ale' and two pies. we each decided which topping was our all-time favorite and added it to one of the pies. one was a clam with lemon and the other was an artichoke heart, mushroom, broccoli, etc. veggie pie. both were dreamy.

if only i had walked into that mystic parlor and been met with such splendor! imagine!

i recently made pizza from heidi swanson's recipe blog 101 Cookbooks. her pizza dough named "the best pizza dough ever" stands up to its name. next time you think about ordering in - i hope you have some of this dough on hand to create your own tasty pies.

after i followed her dough recipe and let it rest overnight, i was ready to build my own. take note, i think i have the "best topping ever". you don't even need sauce, in fact you won't want it. it's so simple....

1 large red onion
sea salt
tiny pinch of turbinado sugar
high quality extra virgin olive oil or butter
splash of port beer (or any dark beer)

-thinly slice onion, put in hot skillet with either oil or butter, sprinkle the onion with a couple of pinches of sea salt. sauté until your onion starts to develop some color, sprinkle one just the tiniest bit of the sugar and lower the heat. just sit back and let it caramelize. you can stir it around a bit it makes you nervous to not constantly tend to what you're cooking. and when it starts to caramelize, deglaze the pan with a splash of beer. after the alcohol has cooked off it will get nice and dark. and voilá! that's it!

i will usually then add mushrooms, fresh romas, artichokes, basil, fresh mozzarella - whatever i have on hand or looks good at the time. then i just pop it in the oven and grind a little fresh pepper over the top and wait anxiously while it blasts to perfection. i dare you to wait until the cheese cools!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

oatmeal bread

nothing is better than freshly baked bread. well, there may be a few things, but when those other things are not at your disposal, please take my advice and follow the recipe below. you will thank me. swear.
when i was growing up my mom used to bake the yummiest fresh oatmeal bread. we could hardly wait until it cooled to eat it. we would watch it brown in the oven and then do our best to control our urge to slice it up with fresh butter and a smear of honey. nothing is more comforting and scrumptious than mom's oatmeal bread.
i recently visited my sister in seattle and one of her requests was that i shared my mom's recipe with her. now her children will grow up with the sweet scent of this bread baking the oven.
it does not only make a lovely toast at breakfast, it is also dreamy sliced up as the vehicle for a memorable grilled cheese.
the recipe is so uncomplicated and will be a staple in your home as soon as your taste your first bite!

Oatmeal bread

2 cups boiling water
1 cup uncooked rolled oats
½ cup molasses or honey
1 T butter
2 tsp salt
1 pkg dry yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
5 cups whole wheat flour

Pour boiling water over rolled oats. Add honey, butter, salt and mix, let stand for one hour. Soften yeast in lukewarm water (proof w/ ½ tsp. sugar). Add to oats. Gradually add flour 1 cup at a time, mix with wooden spoon. (Not metal). Cover dough and let rise in warm spot for 45 minutes to an hour. Put on flour surface, knead for 2 minutes. Divide into 2 pieces and place in medium sized greased loaf pans. Cover, let rise about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Rub the top with butter and/or honey. Eat.

-to make a grilled cheese that will warm your soul, slice up some port salut cheese (or any other favorite soft or semi-soft cheese, such as sharp cheddar or roquefort) and shaved apple and a few pieces of fresh thyme and grill between some thick, buttered slices of oatmeal bread. mmmmm........ you'll thank me. it's heaven.

a teaspoon of honey

everyday, i wake up and put the tea kettle on and fumble around until i have managed to make first cup of coffee. same thing everyday. coffee and unsweetened soy milk, occasionally espresso and soy milk. until a few weeks back when i met a charming young fellow at the farmer's market from buena tierra farm in fredonia, texas, selling the most fragrant honey i'd ever tasted. wildflower honey. from that day forward honey has accompanied my coffee. its sweet and smooth and i don't know how i ever went a day with out it. every time i go to do a grocery shop, i try to be a good world citizen and pick some organic, free-trade variety of coffee. it's usually some south american bold, dark roast. at the top of my list so far is a really nice mexican chiapas. i am yet to settle on one favorite, so my huge, gleaming white coffee canister is still empty, waiting to be home the house blend when i finally make up my mind. maybe soon. it's hard to commit with so many choices.anyways, the honey bees....honey is miracle to me. i don't know how those bees do it and am i ever grateful! those little bees busily working away to make the sweetest most delictable treat on earth, reminding me how precious life is. in a way, i guess it reminds me of how we are all on this earth to make the world a sweeter place.bees have always been a symbol to me. they remind me of my grandmother, my mom and there is a familiarity and worldly charm about them.when my grandma passed away, my mom and i went out and bought an antique pin that had a beautiful little bee on it. i wanted my grandma to wear it when she was buried, i thought she would like it. i also picked out a tiara, we both agreed she should should go out in style. when i went to the funeral home to tell the directors that i wanted my grandma to wear the mentioned items, they actually asked me if i "wanted them back?" - "heck, no!" i said "why would i want them back?" then they just looked at me like i was crazy as i walked out the door. no one knew that we buried my grandma with the pin and tiara, it was a comfort to my mom and i that we had done something special for her - and a little funny too. ya!ya!so, here's my first post from the bee hive. i hope to post my favorite recipes and links to great products and occasionally a memory or two.