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First of all, I should level with you: Proud Chicagoan though I may be, I think pizza crust is kind of a waste of space.  As far as I’m concerned, pizza is just a vehicle for an explosion of concentrated flavor in the form of toppings.  Why would you fill up on bread, I can never help but wonder, when you’re just going to crowd out the delightful, carefully assembled cast of meat/cheese/vegetables/fruit/sauce that makes a pizza, you know, a pizza?

With all that in mind, I was pretty thrilled when I got a pizza stone as a Christmas gift a few years ago and discovered Peter Reinhart’s Neo-Neapolitan Pizza Crust recipe shortly thereafter.  Neapolitan-style pizza is right up my alley: An extremely crunchy, cracker-thin crust that takes a backseat to a precise balance of toppings, all fresh, and all calculated to deliver maximum flavor from minimal real estate.  Even better?  The key to Neapolitan pizza is to get your oven rocket hot, so they finish cooking in around ten minutes.
Reinhart’s crust recipe is particularly appealing for a number of reasons: 1) It’s so ridiculously stupid-easy that even I, the worst baker on earth, have never managed to screw it up; 2) It turns out so tasty that even the crust enthusiasts among my acquaintance (and there are some) give it high marks; and 3) It freezes like a dream, which is most relevant today, as I recently unearthed a buried frozen crust and invited a friend over for dinner, which gave rise to the pie you’re looking at.

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It’s summer. It’s hot. What wouldn’t be better than an ice cold pitcher of tea? So what are your choices? You could boil up a batch and then have to wait until it cools, you could use that instant stuff or you could put a jar with a couple of tea bags out on the back porch and brew it in the sun. The only problem with the last option is that you are brewing a lot more than tea in that jar. So next time you want sun tea, but without the extra bacteria, throw the jar in the refrigerator and let it brew there. I used two bags of Harrod’s Blend 49 in a quart jar and left in the fridge for a few hours. Not only will it be pathogen free (well if you clean the jar first), it will be a lot smoother and less astringent than if you heated the water first. Sweeten with your poison of choice, if you like, and drink!

A surfeit of fruit

It’s that time of year, when the U-Pik signs go up along roadsides, advertising cheap berries for the effort of crouching in the fields over low strawberry bushes, sticking your hands into god knows what…. Sorry. Bad childhood experience.

Did you know? Most U-Pick places also have some already-picked flats for purchase. And the cost is not that much more. There are better ways to earn your Janie Dollaz. Like, say, making jam!

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If you have milk you do.

From Thirty Great Cheeses to Make at Home:

1/2 gal whole milk
1 c heavy cream
7 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 t salt

1. Squeeze the lemons. It took 3 small lemons to make 7 Tablespoons

2. Put all the ingredients into a pan over medium low heat.   Allow mixture to heat for 45 to 50 minutes until temperature reaches 165 to 170 degrees.  Stir the mixture once or twice to avoid sticking.  But don’t stir too much otherwise the ricotta curds will be too small.

3. Increase heat slightly for another 7 to 8 minutes or until it reaches 200 to 205 degrees on the edges and in the middle.

4. Remove ricotta from the heat and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.  Line a colander with a double thickness of damp cheesecloth.  Pour the curds into the colander.

5.  Allow the ricotta to drain for 20 minutes

Makes 16 ounces of yummy light slightly lemony ricotta.  Perfect for pasta, salads or even cheesecake.

Not very long ago, while cleaning out my refrigerator, I noticed that some damn fool had bought  a bag of carrots when clearly we already had enough carrots for our purposes. Coincidentally, I  also noticed that I had developed quite the taste for pickled carrot products, most notably that sweet carrot and diakon pickle that sometimes comes with grilled salmon I order from Republic on a Saturday at work, but also the spicy Giardiniera pickles that I had paid $9.00 for a tub of at my local farmers market during a moment of temporary insanity. In fact, I soon came to the realization that I was developing quite the expensive pickled carrot habit, and considering the embarrassment of carrots on display in my crisper, I was going to have to bite the bullet and learn how to pickle.

“TO THE INTERNET!”  I thought, as that is what I think whenever I need to obtain any knowledge on pretty much any subject (what did we do back in the olden days?) and Googled me up a handful of carrot pickling recipes. Rather than follow any of these recipes, like a sensible person might do, I decided instead to just get a general gist of various ways one might pickle a carrot and then just wing it. Read the rest of this entry »

French Art Deco Bar

French Art Deco Bar

One of my fellow dorks asked if I could do a post about stocking a bar. I’m no expert, but we’ve recently been actively re-stocking our bar after years of inactivity, so I do have something to say on the subject.

First let me tell you about my bar. I love my bar, truly I do. It was my first baby, before I had my two human babies. When we were first dating, my husband and I used to go to Miami Modernism and gape at all the gorgeous 20th century furnishings. During one of those visits, I spent inordinate amounts of time petting the Art Deco bars in one dealer’s booth. So sophisticated, so civilized, so EXPENSIVE! I had no money, so all I did was lust. A couple of years later, I saw an ad in our local weekly for an art deco sale on the beach. I dragged my husband down there immediately. I remember we were on our way out of town for a weekend of canoeing in the Everglades and it was totally out of our way.

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