Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Pizza Stone

This is my first entry into the "Speciality Item" category. Speciality items could provide that extra je ne sais quoi to the cooking experience. It's the item that most people won't have and will set you slightly apart.... Admittedly, it'll probably only be used 5% of the time, but you can throw up that smug smile when you heat up a pizza stone, fire up a cast iron skillet, grab a sushi mat, or begin slicing with a high-end 8" chef's knife.

I don't know what it is but there's something special about digging into a homemade pizza. That first bite with its melted fresh mozzarella, carefully chosen toppings, and that loud crunch as you realize you've made a prefect, imperfectly-shaped, homemade pizza...with a crispy crust.

All courtesy of the pizza stone.

I love my pizza stone. I leave it in the oven all the time. 8th grade science or other naysayers may argue to take it out after each use but it stays put (plus I'm selectively lazy). My "logic" is that if a brick oven pizzeria cooks those bricks to 500 degrees each day for 8 hrs, my pizza stone can handle 350 for 30 minutes twice a month.

Pizza stones are pretty great. They give your pizza that crunch. They absorb moisture and provide a nice even heat. I put the oven to 250 and use the stone to toast adhoc bruschetta or quickly heat corn tortillas. On lazy bachelor nights, I'll throw frozen taquitos or tamales on the stone. I'm sure cookies would work too but then again, I don't bake. And naturally, its prefect for pizzas or calzones (which usually happens on your first attempt at making pizza).

For $30ish bucks you can't go wrong. Just remember, no soap. And like woks, after each use, just use a paper towel and water to clean it off. It'll stay "seasoned" and the absorbed food oils just add to the authenticity and taste.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Grow Something (and not mold)

Tip #2
Growing basil (and keeping it alive) = responsible. She will like this.

You don't have to go garden happy and buy out the Lowes garden section but pick up a plant or two next time you're at a hardware or grocery store. I'd recommend something easy like basil and/or rosemary. Grab cilantro if you're into Mexican cuisine. Freshly chopped basil, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes - perfect. Rosemary and pepper encrusted cast iron steak - even better. just remember to keep the damn thing alive.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Always make her your sous chef

That's right, forget about the movies where you see the whole dinner already prepared, candles freshly lit, and you're wearing a clean, lint-rolled v-neck sweater that was recently purchased from J-Crew. Maybe that should happen once or twice, but for me, cooking should be interactive and done together. Put some light snacks/hors d'oeuvres out and maybe do some prep work*, but try to cook with her. Include her. It shows that you two can work together somewhat successfully. It'll become more personal and less Japanese Steak House.

*Do the "gross" prep work before she arrives - trim the fat off chicken, de-vein shrimp, de-beard mussels, etc.