There are five pizza places on my rotation. Two are slice joints, while three serve pies. Three have hipster in the atmosphere, while two are geared to Park Slopers with families. One almost always has a wait. It makes sense to go out for charcoal-kissed or quintessential New York-style pizza pies when you have a neighborhood checklist of this caliber. And yet, more and more frequently, homemade pizza is appearing on our table.
Here are the reasons, some of them obvious. It’s fun to make your own crust. It’s fun to not make crust at all and grab a ready-made and perfectly charred Stonefire crust from the freezer (hello, very fast weeknight dinner). Planning, prepping, and matching toppings is an exercise in creativity. Grabbing sage from the upstairs garden makes you feel like a fully realized adult food lover. Actually, I think that those moment when you make a beloved tradition your own is one of those key adult moments, where you look at dinner and think, “this was all me.”
Here, I started out with two traditions: first, pizza baking, and second, eating seasonally (that is, feasting forever on squash with bacon and sage). This time of year, I often crave food counter to what’s traditional–not just mashed potatoes, but also a spicy bowl of ramen. That ends up working out. Though Thursday is a day of supreme traditions, and Friday is a day of leftover traditions, the days around Thanksgiving, including “Thanksgiving Eve,” are wide open for new approaches to seasonal cooking.
This pizza is one of them. It picks up on fall flavors and ingredients and turns them into a fresh take on my neighborhood favorite–pizza. In my book, this is a very good reason to stay in one of these nights before or after Thanksgiving, and cook up a pizza party that brings squash, bacon, and leeks to the table.
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Thanksgiving is the time of year to make a fuss, to overcomplicate, to bite off more than you’d normally dream of chewing. If you’re an avid cook, that’s welcome news. Time to put away the 30-minute weeknight recipes and the brilliant shortcuts to flavor, time to make pie from scratch and braid a million biscuits. I love that spirit. In fact, I channel Thanksgiving-style complexity on random weekends.
But BGSK is about cooking being accessible to all, even those without the time, space, or wherewithal to make 18 dishes for a feast. Plus, often the simple offerings are best: Turkey, rubbed with garlic and a spice or two and roasted until the skin is crisp. Mashed potatoes with butter and cream–and nothing else. Plain pumpkin pie with plain vanilla ice cream.
Whether you’re hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or contributing to one, here are my recommendations for simple additions to the table. They’re straightforward in technique and in flavor, but they’re no less delicious for not being as challenging as BC Calc…or turkey brining.
Stuffed dates may not be on your radar yet this holiday season, but they should be. Easy to make ahead and transport, these tasty morsels are sure to be a hit. In my take, I make cream cheese frosting into three different variations, filling up the fruits with each variation so there’s a stuffed date for every sweet tooth. A tray of these makes a perfect Thanksgiving offering for those looking for just a little sweet something to pop in their mouth after all of the savories.
First there is the basic of all stuffed dates, filled with a smooth, creamy cream cheese frosting that pairs so nicely with the luscious texture. Then we get a little more adventurous with an almond-latte filling that incorporates espresso powder for a coffee flavor. Finally, we make a tasty treat that’s dipped in chocolate and topped with a pistachio. All three are made with one recipe of filling that can make as many as 70 dates–that’s what you’ll buy in a 2-pound package. (Of course you could fill all of the dates with just one filling if you choose.)
A note about the dates: you’ll want to find Medjool dates if possible; they are usually in the produce section, as opposed to the dried fruit aisle. Pitting the dates is easy. Simply roll the date around on the cutting board to find where it sits flat (so it stays on your tray!), then slice down the middle on top and slip out the pit. And I won’t blame you if you happen to eat a plain date or two while making this dessert.
Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just stuff like cream cheese and dates.
I have so many ideas for this dish. I wonder if the combination will strike the same creative chord for you. First, here are its elements: 1) Cauliflower, steamed until sweet and tender. 2) Béchamel sauce, flavored with spicy buffalo sauce. 3) Cheddar cheese, melted.
When I think of Germany, I think of the bakeries: filled to the brim with rows of pastries and bread loaves all shining, fresh, and delicious.
I love food, but at the top of the list is anything baked. Butter, flour, sugar – simple ingredients mixed together, placed in the oven, and, a short time later, transformed into something divine. The satisfying perfection of carbs, sugar, and warmth.
Last week, I made fried rice again. The recipe we devour right now is from the Pok Pok cookbook, which I mentioned not very long ago, the last time I talked about this champion weeknight dinner here. The recipe itself creates, for Andy Ricker, the taste of the fried rice he ate in Thailand. I cook and eat this rice all the time, but on Friday, as I packed the leftovers for lunch, I was thinking about sometimes besides the impeccable authenticity, and besides umami-ness that fish sauce, soy sauce, and browned pork give this version of fried rice.
It seems that these days, there are two paths for the way the people who write about food think about food. One looks back, towards authenticity and heritage, towards the dish as grandma used to make it or as the street vendors fry it in the market of a foreign country. The other is futuristic. It asks, how can I make this better with science, or how might I re-engineer this lasagna, for example, to contain neither wheat nor dairy nor soy.
I have ventured down both paths. I confess to once researching how the migrations of apple-tree planters across the United States brought cheddar cheese to pie crust. I confess to baking a clafoutis made with coconut milk and rice flour.
In the end, what shapes my own thinking most is the way we cook now, where “now” responds to a constantly evolving set of circumstances–mine or yours or someone else’s. When Alex and I got married and started eating together, we came into our newly shared kitchen with different backgrounds, skills, tastes, and habits. A few years on, we have a shared, original cuisine that fuses what we like, what our schedules call for, what the weather is, and whether we’re feeling flush or thrifty with time, energy, or dollars. I still don’t have an official adjective for our way of eating, but I can tell you that the category currently on top is bowl meal. Who needs side dishes?
So this recipe belongs to its maker, to the brilliant way that Ricker and Pok Pok have translated authentic Thai cuisine so that we can make it in American kitchens. But we have tested the fried rice through its many, many use cases in our small kitchen. We make it as a lunch to eat all week. We make it to use up extra veggies or leftover steak. We make it to use up leftover rice–obviously. We make it on nights when only one of us is home. I make it when I’m working from home and need to magically bulk up 1/3 cup of rice into a sustaining meal. That’s why I’m writing about it again. I want to make sure you know there’s a dish that’s delicious but maybe not all that engineered once you make your tweaks, that doesn’t ask all that much of you, that you can make once a week or maybe even more.