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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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Did you know that, according to the Southern Rockland Co. Center for Wheatberry Studies, 99.99% of all Americans are not getting their recommended daily allowance of wheatberries? And according to the Wheatberry Institute at the State University of New York at Pulldata Myasse, just one serving of wheatberries a day can lead to higher levels of energy, youthful high-spiritedness and increased sexytude? Not to mention their effect on bowel regularity. So, as part of my work for the National Association for the Advancement of Wheatberry Consumption, I am dedicating the following blog post to the delicious fruit of the wheat tree, the wheatberry.

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Broiled butterflied lemon-garlic chicken over peas and mushroom gnocchi

You know how sometimes when you’re dreaming, everything makes sense?  Like, you’re flying and it’s so easy?  Or you get this great idea for a novel that you know would be terrifically compelling?  And you’re sometimes even lucid enough to think, I have to remember this when I’m awake, because if I manage to translate this experience, it’s going to be AMAZING?

And then you wake up, and you try to describe it, and you’re like, “There was something about a boat… and yet, also, somehow it worked on land, and come to think of it, I think I was back in third grade and was somehow… uh, speaking in, like, shapes…?”

That’s roast chicken for me.  I’ve had some good roast chicken, but man, the way it exists in my head is transcendent.  Crispy skin, juicy meat, all bursting with herb and savory flavor and basted in luscious chicken fat… I have this vision in my head that epitomizes gloriously simple home cooking.  Someday I’ll get there.

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Rotini Carbonara

Sometimes a girl comes home a little drunk.

Sometimes a girl waits for her friend who’s running an hour late at a bar and spends that hour drinking dry Sapphire martinis with a twist, and then has half of a rather anemic tuna sashimi plate for dinner, and sometimes that’s just not gonna cut it.

Sometimes a girl needs to do a little drunk cookin’.

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The most beautiful green and yellow wax beans you've ever seen, admit it.

The most beautiful green and yellow wax beans you've ever seen, admit it.

I have become a total vegetable gardening dork. I’m obsessed. I order catalogs, I baby my plants every chance I get, I snarl at my children if they get too close. It’s sad. My husband actually said to me the other day that I’m not a dork until I start taking pictures.

See above.

Those are my first ever pole beans. They are, as is true of everything that you grow with your own hands and eat fresh off the vine, a revelation. Who knew green beans could be almost juicy? I’ve eaten some of them straight up, but I have enough now that I can play around with them and use them in recipes.

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sammich1

Step 1: Before you leave for work, tell your husband, “Man, I’d love meatball subs tonight.”

Step 2: Return home after work; express delight when a plate like the one above is put before you.

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I threw the Indian-themed dinner party in part because one of the guests I expected is a vegetarian and I wanted to have a robust main dish for him to enjoy (hence the vegetable curry).  But he didn’t even end up coming to the party – probably because he was at home reconsidering his inexplicable decision not to eat delicious, delicious meat.

Chicken tikka masala 1

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“Jai Ho” means “Victory to you.”  When a girl who’s whiter than a mayo and Wonder Bread sandwich manages to pull off a successful Indian dinner party, I consider that girl victorious indeed.

Indian plate

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salad2

I grew up in Michigan, but I lived in Texas for many years. While I was there, I learned to love Mexican food. In fact, when I was first visiting the college I ended up attending, a bunch of students took me to the most kick-ass taqueria on the planet and schooled the Midwesterner in the ways of chile con queso (I kept wondering where the chili figured into it) and horchata (still one of God’s great gifts to man in my eyes) and how not to order brains in your taco (don’t ask for sesos). I loved it, and I went back to that taqueria many, many, many times, and to its brethren all over the city in both restaurant and taco-stand form.

But secretly? I still harbored a quiet lust in my heart for Taco Bell.

I know. I know. I was living in a city with some of the greatest authentic Mexican food possible, and I still wanted Taco Bell. It’s like, I don’t know, willfully opting for a McDonald’s “apple pie” over the one your grandma makes with the apples fresh from her backyard. I know this, and yet sometimes? Sometimes, a Taco Bell value meal is the only thing in this cold world you want to grab onto and hold. I’m from Michigan, dammit, and part of me is still six years old and absolutely convinced that a packet of Taco Bell Mild Sauce is the spiciest, most exotic taste on the planet.

So when a bunch of relevant stuff went on sale at Giant, I decided I’d do my best to replicate a Taco Bell taco salad for my lunches at work this week.

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So you know what’s awesome after you’ve had the longest work week on record, and maybe possibly just the tiniest bit too much to drink on Friday night, to celebrate the end of the longest work week on record?

Quiche.

Hear me out. I know it’s got this reputation as effete Fronch foofoo, but seriously. It’s got everything your hangover needs – salt, grease, carbs, protein. Plus bacon. 

Start with a pie crust. Make your own, if you’re up to it. (There’s a gluten-free one here for those so inclined.) Press it into your pie plate, and preheat the oven to 400°.

What’s in your refrigerator? Veggies, cheese, proteins – all good in quiche. I coarsely chopped some bacon and fried it until it was right on the cusp between chewy and crispy, then sauteed some chopped zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes in the bacon fat until the zukes gave up their water and the veggies started to caramelize. Then I dumped the bacon, the veggies (drained of fat), and some crumbled feta into the pie crust.

Work in progress

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