Monday, November 30, 2009

No bones about it

What is the deal with buffalo wings?

For some strange reason, frat boys and sports fans the world over seem to love sucking teensy-weensy bits of meat off unwieldy bones while tossing back great quantities of beer. I just don't get it.

It’s not the sauce, or the dressing, or even the beer I’m questioning. It’s going through all that trouble for such a tiny return with wings that have been cut in half to make them even smaller.

Besides, we’re not living in caves anymore. I think humankind has evolved beyond the point where we need to gnaw on bones. If you must gnaw on something, make it a pizza crust.

1 pizza crust
¼ to ½ c. wing sauce (as hot or mild as you like it) or…
3 to 7 T. melted butter
2 to 5 T. hot sauce (depends on how hot you like it, and how much butter you are using)
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 pound chicken fingers (Deli are best; frozen are fine.)
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
½ c. matchstick carrots, raw
½ c. diced celery
2-4 T. blue cheese or ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Toast in oven about 5 minutes.

Paint crust with wing sauce. (Making your own? Mix the butter, hot sauce and Worcestershire, and spread it on as thick as you like.) Cut your chicken fingers into bite-sized pieces and scatter on pizza. Cover with cheese. Top with carrots and celery. Bake about ten minutes, or until cheese is melted but veggies are still fairly crisp. Drizzle with dressing. Slice and serve.


One hot chick – Clarence, N.Y., takes its poultry seriously. Home to the National Buffalo Wing Festival, the town crowns a “Miss Buffalo Wing” every year. How do you decide who carries this honor? With three criteria: personal appearance, a chicken wing taste test, and off course, buffalo wing trivia.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mangia, parmagiana!

In honor of our upcoming traditional holiday, we have a somewhat traditional pizza.

And a clever way to get a kid to try something that might otherwise make him run screaming from the room.

You should remember from our meatball sojourn that I dislike actually "tricking" someone into eating something he doesn't like. Sorry, Jessica Seinfeld, but pureeing things and hiding them in cake batter doesn't teach a kid to like spinach. It teaches him you'll lie to him for your own purposes.

But parmagiana can make a kid receptive to a style, just enough for you to change up what that style might cover. The Parmagiana Principle, anyone?

Chicken, veal or eggplant, a crispy cutlet of something sautéed until golden, then sauced with rich marinara and smothered in melted cheese is a classic staple of any Italian restaurant. Just the name conjures up images of checkered tablecloths and Chianti-bottle candleholders.

Parmagiana is how my mom got me to eat both veal and eggplant for the first time. Both are favorites of mine today that I would never have experienced otherwise. She didn't trick me with a fried slice of eggplant and tell me it wasn't chicken after I swallowed the first bite. She told me up front it was something new, but it would taste kind of like the chicken parmagiana I loved, so I was willing to give it a try.

Admittedly, I don't have to do this for my son. At almost 2 years old, eggplant is just about his favorite thing on the planet. But I have gotten other kids (and a few adults) to expand their culinary viewpoints in a few easy steps via a good parmagiana. My picky niece and nephews actually volunteered to try it at Alfredo's in Epcot. (I was so proud.)

And since it’s already two thirds of a pizza, why not go the extra step and settle the whole succulent mélange on a crust? As a pizza, parmagiana goes from retro-restaurant chic to casual culinary fun.

Got a particularly picky picky eater? Don't use the fancy Italian word. Call it Chicken Nugget Pizza. What kid could possibly say no?

1 pre-baked pizza crust
1 pound breaded chicken fingers (Does your deli counter have chicken fingers, the good all-white-meat kind? That’s what you want. You can also use homemade or frozen breaded chicken cutlets cut into strips.)
1 c. spaghetti sauce (or see the Classico sauce recipe)
1 green pepper, sliced
1 c. shredded mozzarella
¼ c. parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

Cut chicken fingers crosswise into bite-size chunks and arrange over crust. Pour sauce over chicken. Place green pepper in microwave-safe bowl with about ¼ c. water. Cover and cook on high 1 minute. Drain. Scatter peppers over chicken. Combine cheeses and sprinkle over crust. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cheese should be melted and chicken heated through.


Veal – Substitute one pound of breaded veal cutlets for the chicken.

Eggplant – Slice one small eggplant crosswise into even slices. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Fry quickly in hot oil (part olive for flavor, part vegetable, peanut or canola for high temperature cooking). Substitute for chicken.

Extra Extra!!!!

Foreign Food Facts: In Italy, veal Parmagiana is called cotolette alla Bolognese. Loosely translated, that means Bologna slice. (Source:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Here piggy, piggy, piggy

In the South, barbecue is more than just a meal.

It borders on being a religion, with a Holy Trinity made up of ribs, brisket and pork butt. Pulled pork is served alone, or heaped high in sandwiches on soft white bread with cole slaw served alongside, or just piled on top.

This recipe doesn’t start with pork cooked low and slow for the better part of a day. Not necessarily. I mean, it could. In fact, my favorite pulled pork couldn't be easier. It involves a Crock-pot, a pork roast, a sliced onion, a chopped apple and some cider. And that's not hard. But it does require some planning. You need to know you want pizza about eight hours before you want pizza, and cravings tend to defy that kind of timing.

But if you like to barbecue, or you threw a pork roast in the Crock-pot with your favorite sauce and happen to have it lying around, feel free to use the homemade stuff. I cheat shamelessly.

Pulled Pork

1 pizza crust
1 20-ounce tub shredded pork in barbecue sauce OR 1 ½ c. shredded leftover pork roast and ¾ c. barbecue sauce
1 ½ c. shredded Colby jack cheese
1 red onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 green pepper, sliced into rings
½ c. pickle chips
Cole slaw

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

Spread barbecued pork over crust. Top with cheese, onions and peppers. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden. Scatter pickle chips over top. Serve with cole slaw on top or at side.


Barbecued Ham – Substitute 1 pound chipped ham, sliced in ribbons, and ¾ c. barbecue sauce for pork.

Barbecued Chicken – Substitute barbecued chicken in barbecue sauce, or 1 pound shredded chicken meat and ¾ c. barbecue sauce, for pork.


Geography Lesson – There is no real barbecue capital of the world. There are just too many contenders for the title. Texas, Georgia, the Carolinas and Memphis, TN, are all serious ‘cue centers, but if you had to crown a single city as champ, there is an argument to be made for Kansas City, the home of some of America’s greatest barbecue restaurants, several barbecue cook-offs, and the granddaddy of smoky showdowns, the American Royal.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


There just isn’t anything as decadent as eggs Benedict.

It’s the dish you get when you are being treated like a queen. It’s breakfast in bed, late-morning brunch on Mother’s Day. It is the epitome of a celebration breakfast for my husband. We don't go out for breakfast often, but I know that if we do, he's probably going to have the classic leaning-tower-of-Pisa stack of english muffin, ham, egg and sauce. It’s not something you ever make at home, which is a shame, because it’s delicious.

But I think what scares many people away from making it, and some from even ordering it, is the hollandaise sauce. What is hollandaise after all? It isn’t something most of us encounter on a daily basis. A sublime French creation of egg yolks and butter, it’s daunting because a slowed whisk or an aggressive burner can turn it into a puddle of grease or a bowl of scrambled eggs without half trying.

And I am a giant wuss. I fear having a culinary meltdown. Because of this, I avoid it in favor of something everyone loves, an easy, cheesy sauce that looks every bit as impressive without the work.

Cheese is also a great way to sell a kid on, well, anything. A picky eater will grimace at the idea of a fancy French dish and a hoity-toity sauce. But cheese? Everyone loves cheese! And every pizza needs cheese. It's a perfect compromise.

1 pizza crust
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
1 c. milk
2 oz. cream cheese
½ c. shredded cheddar cheese or 2 oz. Velveeta
Dash of cayenne
Salt and pepper
½ pound Canadian bacon
8 poached eggs or 6-8 hard-boiled eggs
Parsley or tarragon for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

In a small saucepot, melt butter. Stir in flour. Add milk, whisking until combined. Add cream cheese, stirring until melted. Add cheddar or Velveeta, stirring until melted. Season with cayenne, salt and pepper. Spread over pizza crust.

In a skillet, fry bacon just until beginning to brown. Arrange over cheese sauce.

Now, for the eggs. For the most attractive presentation, slice the pizza, top each slice with a poached egg and garnish with herbs. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do this one egg at a time, just use hard-boiled eggs. Slice and arrange over ham. Garnish the whole pie with herbs. This will be easiest if you arrange the egg slices in spokes, putting one spoke on each prospective slice.

Variation: Eggs Florentine – Omit Canadian bacon, replacing it with a layer of fresh baby spinach leaves.


Bacon, eh? – Don’t ask for Canadian bacon north of the border. In the provinces, what we call “Canadian” is simply known as back bacon. The most common kind of back up yonder is almost unknown in the U.S. Called “peameal,” it is cured in a sweet pickling brine before being rolled in cornmeal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Enchilada pizza for the Pioneer Woman in us all

Okay, I have to make a confession.

Don't tell my husband. But...I love the Pioneer Woman. I love her recipes, her witty banter, pictures that make me extremely jealous, and her deliciously tasty and addictive blog.

And today...I love her white chicken enchiladas. Note to husband: guess what's for dinner.

I love creamy Mexican food. My husband is not so much the fan. And yet, he would eat axle grease if I put it on pizza crust.

And really, what's not to love about this pizza. Cheese, chicken, some zinginess from the chiles. Yum.

So, Pioneer Woman, this one's for you.

Chicken Enchilada Pizza

1 pizza crust
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 small can mild green chiles, chopped
Salt and pepper
½ pound cooked chicken, cut in strips
1/2 c. corn, cooked
1-2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Optional – salsa, black olives, jalapenos, banana peppers, onions, etc.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

Mix cream cheese with chiles. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread on pizza crust.

Arrange chicken over cheese mixture. Top with corn. Scatter with shredded cheese.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling, but not too brown. Let pie stand at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with optional toppers.

Extra Extra!!

Big Bite – Las Cruces, N.M., is the home of the world’s biggest enchilada, and that’s no one-time title. Each October, the town reclaims its own record at its Whole Enchilada Fiesta.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Steak out

Cheesesteak is in my blood.

My mom is from North Philly. No trip to visit my grandparents was complete without a little ribeye and gooey cheese. What's not to love about juicy beef, chewy bread, creamy melted cheese and the flavorful bite of grilled peppers and onions? Seriously. It's a win-win-win-win.

Unless you are the cook.

If you make cheesesteaks at home, you end up suffering from pancake syndrome. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. Becoming a short-order cook in your own kitchen means that each plate is eaten one at a time, leaving the cook to eat the leftovers alone at the end at best, or hungry at worst as the last plate gets devoured before Mom realizes all the food is gone.

Oh, yes, you can make them in advance and keep them warm until they are all ready. But then you end up with the cheesesteaks from my school cafeteria. Steaks we stuffed with ruffled, oversalted potato chips and doused liberally with ketchup to make them edible. Trust me. That's not a real cheesesteak.

But if you take all the components and pile them high on a pizza crust, bake them to a cheesey finish and serve all at once, you've got a slice of brotherly love at its best.

Grandpa Nick's Cheesesteak Pizza

1 pizza crust
1 box sandwich steaks (the 7 steak size)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 large pepper, sliced
½ cup tomato sauce
1 T. steak sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
½ t. garlic powder
1 T. sugar
½ pound provolone, sliced
1 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella and cheddar blend is good)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Break frozen steaks into bite-size pieces. Sauté with
onion and pepper until vegetables are translucent and meat is fully cooked. Add
sauces and seasonings to taste. Finish with a pinch of sugar to counter the acidity
of the tomatoes. Cook uncovered until sauce reduces and thickens slightly, about
10-15 minutes.

Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Lay provolone slices evenly on surface. Spread meat mixture over cheese. (Think you’ve got too much? Refrigerate leftovers for a great, quick steak sandwich.) Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.


Chicken Cheesesteak – Replace sandwich steaks with 1 pound chicken breast, sliced thinly.

California Steak – Omit onions and peppers in meat mixture. Top pizza after cooking with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, and drizzle with mayonnaise.

Extra Extra!!!

Lunchtime Lingo – Do you like your steaks wit or witout? That’s not a typo…it’s how you order a sandwich at Pat’s King of Steaks, the original purveyor of Philadelphia’s famous sandwich. If you want your sandwich “wit,” you get it with onions. “Witout?” You’re eating a naked steak.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If Peter Piper had a peck of peppers...

I like to think he'd pair them with sausage. Because why wouldn't you?

Sausage and peppers is delicious. Just by itself, fried up together in a pan, it's divine. It already sounds like pizza. And it tastes like it, too.

Pepperoni may be the number one topping choice, on 36 percent of U.S. pies, but sausage and peppers both show up in the top five. This isn’t that kind of pizza, though. This pie is modeled after the classic sandwich of sweet or spicy links smothered in sautéed onions and red and green peppers.

And while this is a pizza that has been tried and savored and nommed again and again, you get this pizza today because of a special request on the Bump last night. There was a page...kind of like the Batsignal. A call for help from Susan. She had some peppers and sausage and sauce and tortelloni and wanted to do something a little different with them. I made some suggestions, but her ingredients reminded me of this pizza.

So here it is. Mangia!

Sausage and Peppers Pie

1 pizza crust
1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, bulk or removed from casing (For the real gourmets, use half sweet and half hot.)
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. petite diced tomatoes
¼ c. red wine (No wine? Leave it out.)
1 T. sugar
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped (or about half that dried parsley)
½ c. shredded mozzarella
½ c. grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

In large skillet, sauté sausage, peppers, onion and garlic until meat is cooked through and onion is translucent. Drain excess grease. Add tomatoes, wine, sugar and parsley and stir. Simmer 15-20 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Spread sauce over crust, but watch it. Depending on your tomatoes, this sauce might be a little juicy. You don't want that. If your sauce is too liquidy, use a slotted spoon to drain off some of the juice as you spread it on the pizza.

Sprinkle with cheeses. (There isn’t a lot of cheese here, because it should complement, not camouflage the flavor of the peppers and onions. You want more cheese? It’s your pizza…do whatever you want with it.)

Bake 15 minutes.

Extra Extra!!!

Tasty Tidbit – According to New York City hotspot “21,” legendary entertainer Frank Sinatra passed the time while waiting for his dinner in his own special way… by popping hot and spicy Italian cherry peppers.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Something's fishy...and cheesy!

I love tuna.

I love it in sandwiches. In macaroni and cheese. In pot pies. In dip. I think there is very little you can't do with a can of tuna.

Even pizza.

"Tonnato" is a classic Italian sauce, usually surved on veal, sometimes turkey. A tomato-y sauce filled with Italian, oil-packed tuna. (Nothing better than Italian, oil-packed tuna if you can find it.) And that would make a damn fine pizza. But that's not what I'm talking about.

When I think tuna and cheese, I think tuna melt. But I've seen more than one kid look at my lovely tuna goodness and default to "ewwwww!"

Now, it's not that my tuna is full of weird and inexplicable ingredients. My tuna is a simple thing. I don’t chop lots of veggies. I don’t carefully slice a dozen imported black olives. (Although my son would be in seventh heaven if I did, the little weirdo.)

If you want to throw in capers, or start with a sushi-grade loin of albacore, that’s between you and your God. For me, a tuna melt is the height of ease and comfort, the kind of thing made best
by a diner because it is so very simple. Like grilled cheese or a perfect pancake, there’s no sense in making something convoluted just because you can.

Turning a one-person tuna melt into a pizza that can serve four or more? That’s in perfect keeping with what makes a diner classic a dinner staple.

1 pre-baked pizza crust (I use pre-baked here so the crust gets crispier, just like with a classic tuna melt. But that doesn't mean you can't start with dough. It still tastes delicious with a doughy crust. If you do that, skip the oil, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, until the crust just starts to get golden brown.)
Olive oil
2 small cans (or 1 large can) tuna
¼ c. dill pickle relish (optional)
¼ c. Miracle Whip (or mayo, if, like my husband, you insist)
Salt and pepper
1 c. shredded colby jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 5-7 minutes, just until warmed through and beginning to turn golden. Remove and cool. Don’t turn that oven off yet.

Mix tuna with pickle relish, Miracle Whip and salt and pepper to taste. (Like your tuna runnier? Me too. You can add more Miracle Whip if you want, but trust me, too much makes a drippy pie.) Spread tuna salad over crust. Top with cheese, scattering evenly, but making sure as much of the tuna is covered as possible. If this requires more cheese, go for it.

Bake 5-10 minutes, just until cheese is melted but not browned.

Extra Extra!

Diner Table – When is a diner a diner, and when is it just another place to get breakfast? It’s a question akin to creationism versus the Big Bang Theory, and one just as likely to provoke vehement responses. While some people say that a diner is defined by the food it serves, others go with the strict Webster’s Dictionary version, “a restaurant in the shape of a railroad dining car.” (Source:

Monday, November 2, 2009


Thanks to Jenni for the heads up on this. (Hi, Jenni!

Thirty posts in 30 days, that's all it takes to participate. I think I can handle that!

I'm already doing a post every day for my other blog, The Exponential Penny Experiment ( And I post almost every day here, anyway. So why not make the commitment?

Today's recipe? A quickie, just like this post.

Got some leftover pizza crust? Fancy it up as a quick and easy appetizer. Cut in strips (works with dough or a pre-cooked crust). Brush with olive oil (or butter...I'm not your priest or your doctor. You don't have to confess to me.). Sprinkle with herbs and spices.

This is a great way to introduce a kid to the new flavors of spices they might not have encountered yet. Dill, fennel, basil, marjoram. Try them one at a time, or experiment with how they work together. Dill and some chopped garlic is a favorite of mine. Add a smattering of cheese (again, whatever kind you want to try), and bake at 400 for about 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hey there, pumpkin!

Do you have people who are squeamish about squash? Not up for a savory, salt-and-peppered spaghetti squash, or a steamy mashed butternut? Don't worry. There's always the fallback gourd, the perennial staple of autumn. It's probably sitting on your front porch this morning, sad and withered with the stump of a candle inside.

Pumpkin is perfect for pizza. After all, it may be indigenous to the New World, but it has definitely been embraced by Italian cooks. In fact, it probably ranks right behind tomatoes and corn as one of the Mediterranean nation’s favorite American imports.

Italians enjoy suash in gnocchi, as a sauce for pasta, as a filling in ravioli, layered in lasagna. (A quick tour of will yield plenty of pumpkin-rich recipes from Italian celeb chefs like Mario Batali, Giada DiLaurentiis and Rachael Ray.) Some baked or steamed squash chunks on a classic cheese pizza are actually a delicious addition. A smear of pureed pumpkin instead of tomato sauce, with a layer of mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil with a smattering of sage is also delicious.

But it's also traditionally delicious as dessert. Plus, it’s already familiar as one of our favorite pies. Why wait until Thanksgiving to dig into a slice of your favorite spicy squash? You can make a great pumpkin pizza any time of year.

1 pizza crust

1 c. canned pumpkin

1 c. mascarpone or cream cheese

½ c. brown sugar

1 egg

1 t. cinnamon

¼ t. nutmeg

¼ t. ginger

½ c. crushed gingersnaps

½ c. chopped pecans

1 T. butter, melted

Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pizza crust on baking sheet.

In a bowl, beat pumpkin with cream cheese and sugar until well-combined. Add egg and spices. Spread on pizza crust. DON'T overload your crust. If you have more filling than you need, you can bake it in muffin or custard cups alongside the pizza.

In another bowl, toss gingersnaps, nuts and butter. Sprinkle over pumpkin layer. Bake 20 minutes. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before slicing. Serve with whipped cream.

Extra Extra!!!

Fruity facts – Like tomatoes, pumpkins have suffered through years of species confusion. The orange globes are not vegetables, they are fruits. In fact, they are members of the family Cucurbitacae, the same viny clan that produces cucumbers, gourds, melons and a host of other squash. I mean, squashes. Or maybe squashi? (