Monday, November 29, 2010

Mystery Solved

I have always thought it a bit odd that the gifts the Three Wise Men chose to bring baby Jesus were gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Ok. Gold, I get. Always a good gift, gold. Perhaps not immediately useful for a baby, but at least it could be socked away for his college education or used for paying off Roman centurions or something.

But frankincense and myrrh? These do not sound like baby gifts. These sound like two weird uncles. ("Honey, Frankincense and Myrrh are coming over for Christmas dinner. Let's be sure we hide the booze before they get here.")

Turns out frankincense is an aromatic edible tree resin. Myrrh, on the other hand, is tree gum resin that was the principal ingredient in embalming mummies in Ancient Egypt. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

Wise man gifts = gold, smelly maple syrup, and formaldehyde.
Good work, team.

Maybe next time Mary should consider registering at Babies R Us.

My skepticism of these "gifts" has existed for years. As someone who really loves shopping for gifts and loves even more to give a gift the recipient LOVES, I had decided maybe frankincense and myrrh are what happens when you let men, wise or otherwise, pick out baby gifts.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I went to Blue Bottle Coffee to pick up some beans for a friend. On their menu was this sweet little loaf of Gingerbread "with frankincense and myrrh". (Why they elected to forgo the gold leaf flakes on top is beyond me, but, hey, I'm not in charge of their baked goods.) Obviously, I could not pass up this chance to experience two out of three Wise Man Gifts at once. Also, I really, really love gingerbread. And I hadn't eaten breakfast.

Clearly, I hated it.

Now I know why they call them the Wise Men.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Autumn Harvest Party

Yes, I am way behind on posts. It's been a busy Fall.

Back in October (I know, I know) Meredith got her shipment of fabulous wines and cheeses from Williamson Wines. I had finally gotten the furniture in my apartment rearranged and sorted out (more on this later, I swear) and was ready to host a party after a 10-month rearrangement and home improvement hiatus.

In case I haven't mentioned it 1000 times already, I just absolutely love the produce available in the Bay Area. Here's a shot of the bounty that accompanied the cheeses.

I just love these colors.

For this party, I also made the cake referenced in this previous post. Per Molly Wizenberg's perfect instructions, I made the cake several days in advance of the party, freezed it, and then thawed it. It is so rich that I also ate a tiny sliver of it for dinner (alongside either a veggie or some fruit) for the rest of the week after the party. So, so, so good. There is a reason she calls it the "Winning Hearts and Minds Cake." Only read the recipe if you are not afraid of cholesterol. This cake is good for you only in spirit.

I think my preferred way to eat this cake is cold, straight from the fridge. Blake suggested (and I agree) that it is perfectly accompanied by a cold glass of milk. Yum.

Once I get started thinking about making things, it's hard for me to stop. In addition to a bunch of other things, I cooked up a Tomato Jam, which took advantage of some of the last heirloom tomatoes of the season. I put it in a cleaned out Bonne Maman apricot preserves jar - so cute.

The simplicity of this recipe belies how great it is.
It's awesome with cheese.

Of course, because I love love love savory ingredients in sweet applications, I also made the corresponding Rosemary Cookies in the jam's sister recipe. They were really delicious and I am considering reprising them in this year's Christmas cookie spread.

I also made mini pumpkin pies because I love any and all bite-sized foods. I would eat hors d'oeuvres exclusively if it were possible/reasonable. I have always loved small bites and no doubt always will.

These mini pies couldn't be easier. With everything else on my list, I elected to buy Pillsbury Pie Dough from the refrigerated section of the supermarket rather than make it from scratch. I will admit, I died a small death in doing this. There are definitely weirdo ingredients in the dough that make it so perfectly easy to roll out without sticking. I might be imagining it, but I felt like I could taste the chemicals just a smidge. So next time I will plan ahead and make my own dough. But if you can look past feeding your friends and loved ones "Partially Hydrogenated Lard with BHA and BHT Added to Protect Flavor" and "Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Propionate," this is a super easy and fast recipe. The filling is straight off the back of the Libby's can, no changes or substitutions.

I rolled out the dough so it was a bit thinner than normal (maybe 1/16"?) because these pies were going to be so small. I used a scotch glass to cut out the crusts (it was the perfect diameter to fit my mini muffin tins) but you could also use a biscuit cutter if you own one, which I do not.

Once they were filled and baked (18ish minutes later), my finishing touch was to add just a bit of finely chopped crystallized ginger on top, which really just makes these a teeny bit more special.

Happy Autumn and a belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I just burned my mouth on this:

It was worth it. This is my "made up" pizza recipe, heavily borrowed from Croma restaurant in Boston. I used to order their Pizza Fiorentina all the time and loved it.

Here's how to make it.  I like to call my version Pizza Signorina. You'll see why in a bit.

Kate's Pizza Signorina

A softball-sized ball of pre-made fresh pizza dough. Please, not that processed crap in a can. You can usually find the good fresh stuff in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods or near the deli/bakery section at other grocery stores. Sometimes you can find it in the freezer section, in which case you just need to plan ahead. Or go nuts and make your own from scratch.
High heat cooking spray (canola is good for this)
A small handful of cornmeal

A small can of tomato sauce (Not pizza sauce. Season this yourself!)
1 tablespoon dried oregano, basil, "Italian Seasoning" or any combination thereof
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon (or more) freshly ground pepper

3 or so ounces of raw baby spinach
Olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced very thinly
8 or so oil-cured black olives, halved and pitted (don't sub brine-cured olives like kalamata, they are too acidic and it tastes BAD)
2 whole eggs

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Prep your pan: Spray a large cookie sheet with the cooking spray and sprinkly the cornmeal over it. You just want a dusting of it.

Stretch the dough between your hands, without ripping it, until it roughly resembles the shape of your cookie sheet (just slightly smaller). It doesn't have to be perfect. Try to leave a little rim around the edge of the dough that's thicker than the middle. The middle should be fairly evenly thin.

Place it over the sheet and stretch it as needed. Let it be for a minute.

Prep your sauce: combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Spread about half the sauce on the dough, leaving about 3/4 inch around the edges of the dough. You should have only a thin coating of sauce, and you should be able to see the dough through the sauce. This is not a super saucy Domino's-style pizza. Reserve remaining sauce for another pizza (you can freeze it in a baggie if you want.)

Drizzle the baby spinach with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat/combine. Layer the spinach on top of the sauce, then the cheese, then the olives. Put it in the HOT oven for 10 minutes.

It will look something like this when the timer goes off:

Be careful taking it out of the oven as it may be a bit "juicy" at this point. Now, crack the two eggs on top of the pizza. (This is where it gets its name. It's like the Italian Croque Madame. You know, because it looks like boobs with the two yolks on top. Sort of.) Put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

At this point, it should look like this, or slightly neater if one of your yolks didn't bust like mine did.

Slide it off the sheet onto a cutting board, and (here's where I don't follow my own instructions) wait five minutes before cutting and eating. Hopefully you won't burn your mouth, but even if you do, it will be worth it. The eggs should be just barely runny and add this incredible creaminess to the pizza. I love it.

This pizza is especially great served with a little bit of red pepper flakes and some red wine. Mangia.