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Archive for September, 2009

Knitted snake scarf

Several months ago (actually, if I am honest, it must be at least a year ago) I found a pattern in a knitting store in St. Louis that I could not resist.  It was so long ago that I am not even sure that the store is still there.

The pattern was for a knitted snake scarf.  Incredibly cute, I thought, for my nephew J, who at the time must have been about five (now the truth comes out:  that was THREE years ago; please don’t tell anyone).

Anyway, it has taken me until now to finish the thing.  And it is cute.

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At least I think it is.

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The problem is that now my nephew is too old to be caught wearing a snake scarf,

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and to be honest, he was a little skittish about it even at five.

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So the question is:  who gets the snake scarf?

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Give me a good answer and it’s yours (or theirs).

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Stuffed pizza

When I was growing up in St. Louis I had a friend whose mother used to make the most wonderful, home-made pizza.  I remember looking forward to going to their house and helping to line big sheet pans with dough and topping them with fresh tomato sauce and cheese, eating the hot, chewy pizza and, best of all, getting to take some home for breakfast the next morning.

I started making my own pizza about twenty years ago when S and I were first cooking together.  At that time, I used a cookbook called simply Pizza by the prolific cookbook author and Build a Better Burger cooking contest judge James McNair.

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I experimented with many of the recipes in the book, and have gone on to add many more pizza cookbooks to my bookshelf, but S still claims that his favorite pizza of all time is McNair’s Stuffed Pizza, made with a cornmeal crust.

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S often complains that I don’t make this particular pizza often enough so this year for his birthday one of the presents I gave him was a “coupon” for a stuffed pizza.   He handed it over on Sunday and I got to work.

Stuffed pizza has three main components:  crust, filling, and topping.  The crust is a simple pizza dough made with the addition of cornmeal (I substitute cornmeal for about 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour in a traditional pizza dough recipe).

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The filling is made with spinach (I often use frozen but this week I had fresh organic spinach from the Farmer’s Market) sauteed with onions and garlic, and then mixed with grated mozarella cheese.

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The topping is made with sauteed tomatoes, garlic and basil.

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Assembly is easy:  I roll out about half of the dough and use it to line a springform baking pan.  I then pile the spinach and cheese filling mixture into the pan, roll out the rest of the dough and place it over the filling in the pan.  I trim the dough so that it just fits into the pan, and gently pinch the upper and lower crusts together to make a good seal.  After cutting a few slits in the top crust to let steam escape, I bake the pizza for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

Once the top crust has begun to turn a nice golden brown, I spread the tomato topping on it and sprinkle the whole thing liberally with grated parmesan cheese.  The pizza goes back into the oven for another 15 minutes to finish baking.  I recommend letting the finished pizza cool a bit before trying to slice it.

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Baking with Julia

I guess everyone has to do some kind of Julia Child homage sometime.  I haven’t seen the movie Julie and Julia yet but I have read Julie Powell’s book by the same name (I liked it) as well as My Life in France, the book Julia wrote with Alex Prud’homme about learning to cook and living in France (which I loved).

S and I own (and have watched) the complete collection (on DVD) of The French Chef; we also own copies of both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  With all of that, though, my most-used Julia Child cookbook has to be Baking with Julia, the volume that accompanied the PBS television series of the same name.

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My copy is tattered and a little floury, and opens readily to the two recipes I use most often: the  Challah recipe Julia baked with Lauren Groveman and the Buttermilk scone recipe she made with Marion Cunningham.  Both make regular appearances on our table.

Today, though, I needed crackers to go with the cheese we were planning to serve some friends.  After a little bit of research in other baking books (I have quite a collection of those, too) I turned (wondering why I hadn’t started there) to Baking with Julia and found this recipe for Savory Wheat Crackers

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contributed by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

I got to work and after a quick whirl in my food processor and only three ingredients (whole wheat flour, salt and water) produced a smooth, supple cracker dough.

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Thirty minutes later (the dough had to rest) I began rolling, cutting, sprinkling and baking the crackers.

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The crackers needed watching, but when done they were crisp, toasty and had just the right amount of salty seeds on the top.

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Thanks Julia, they were a big hit.  I’ll make these again.

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