Thursday, July 29, 2010

Richard Wilbur II

Clearly, I am not the only one borderline obsessed with True Blood. Its near-pornographic violence and sex make me feel like I need to wash my soul out with soap after each episode. And yet: I am transfixed. The show is an addiction I have no intention of forsaking.

Given that we are amid prime True Blood season, I thought I’d give you a poem about vampires. There really aren’t enough of them, I think. This one pulls of a neat trick – by focusing on the crux of longing for vampirism, it avoids excessive corniness and makes light of its gothic trappings. I think it’s a very fine poem.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Almond Joy Cookies

There’s a local ice cream parlor that serves the best Almond Joy ice cream I’ve ever had. Since my husband got me an ice-cream maker for my birthday, I’ve been promising myself I would replicate it at home.

And yet: it hasn’t happened. The stores at which I shop have been curiously lacking in sweetened flake coconut in recent weeks, and for ice cream, I just don’t think unsweetened coconut will cut it. I’ve been trying to find some of the sugar-doused stuff for ages, but the shelves are bereft. Increasingly, so am I. Sweetened flake coconut is among my favorite things.

Other kinds of coconut, however, I can find in abundance. Unsweetened coconut flakes and pieces – these healthier alternatives confront me wherever I go. Heck, I even picked up a fresh coconut the other week. I didn’t really care for it. It wasn’t sweet enough to suit my preferences. Does this mean that said preferences have been hopelessly warped by the food marketers and manufacturers of America? I fear it does, but in this instance, I have no desire to fight their nefarious influence.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cheesecake-Filled Cupcakes

These were supposed to be Black Bottom Cupcakes, but something funny happened in the heat of my oven. Essentially all of the cream cheese filling I had carefully dolloped in the midst of my cupcakes was overpowered and encased by rising cupcake dough. The cupcakes depicted are actually a minority, the resolute few whose cheesecake filling refused to be wholly submerged in a tide of rising dough. I thought they’d photograph better than the others, which look exactly like regular chocolate cupcakes with sunken tops. This sunken-ness is typical of all black-bottom cupcakes and is a design feature rather than a flaw.

That these resulted in a cheesecake filling, rather than topping, was a bit of a pleasant surprise. These cupcakes, for example, lend themselves to frosting far more readily than do their traditional black-bottomed counterparts. The cheesecake in the middle is like the malt filling in the whopper, the caramel sandwiched between cookie and chocolate in the Twix. It’s the delightful hidden surprise. Really, I think them far nicer because one doesn’t realize (unless one happened to bake them) that a plain, slightly sunken chocolate shell conceals vast reservoirs of cheesecake. Or proto-cheesecake. Cheesecake-like substance.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Olive Oil Yoghurt Cake with Wild Blueberries and Lemon

Don’t be fooled by the lengthy title. This is a simple dessert that can be ready for the oven about 20 minutes flat. I’ve actually done it in ten, but I don’t want to inspire false confidence for those of you who don’t spend such a great portion of your waking hours in a kitchen.

This is a light, tender-crumbed cake that makes a perfect weeknight dessert. It’s so bright-tasting that I do think of it as quintessentially summery, but since I always use frozen blueberries (though fresh would be divine), there’s nothing to stop you from whipping this up in the dead of winter – which is when lemons are at their best, after all.

I love using olive oil because its fruity flavor makes such a nice contrast with the citrus and berries. However, canola or another neutral oil would certainly be fine. If you’re worried about too much tartness, you could swap orange zest and juice for the lemon. My mom always used to make blueberry muffins with orange juice, so that would make this like a blueberry muffin cake to me. And I can think of far worse things.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pizza Crust

So I may not be from the northeast, but one thing that I think they get absolutely right up here is thin-crust pizza. I also love deep-dish Chicago-style pizza. It’s what I think of as Midwestern pizza that really gets to me (though it’s pretty common in Florida and is what you’ll find as the default from any of the national chains): medium-crust pizza. For me, a pizza is all about its toppings, and if most of what you can taste in any bite is a pillowy mound of crust, then I’m not feeling it.

Chicago-style pizza strikes me as more of a casserole than a pizza pie, and I think of it as its own food group altogether.

It’s possible to get excellent, superlative pizza where I live – it’s one of the things my city is noted for – but that kind of pizza is pretty unhealthy and not an item to indulge in on a day-to-day basis. Making pizza at home gives me more control over the ingredients and allows me to indulge my most fanciful topping whims.

This crust recipe is the product of trial and error. I used this Smitten Kitchen recipe as a starting point, but even this gave me a thicker crust than I wanted. Note that this is not inherent to the recipe itself – one can always roll crust out as thinly as one wants – but I’m using an inverted 12” cast-iron skillet as a pizza stone, so 12” is the diameter limit unless I want cheese and toppings dripping all over my oven floor. Which might have happened the first time I attempted homemade pizza. A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, etc. etc., right?