Happy Father’s Day Pizza Mattina

pizza mattina

pizza mattina

Some say my parents were the original recyclers. Nothing ever went to waste and when it came to food it meant preparing leftover spaghetti into a tasty frittata and vegetables into savory soups and stews. Much to my mother’s dismay my dad recycled day old Italian bread into bread crumbs sailing bits of hard bread all over the kitchen as the crusts pinged off the old box grater. He made a mean panzanella with that same old bread back in the day before this bread salad was ever cool and trendy.

Of all his delicious dishes, it is the memory of his homemade pizza that has me salivating. When the breadboard (handmade by his father) came out I knew we were all in for a treat. My dad, dusted with flour, gave the task of mashing the leftover baked potato to me. The “recycled” potato was the secret to making his yeasty dough bake up crisp and delicious on the outside and tender on the inside. I am among the few who know the secret of the potato. All were welcome to the table for pizza, but if you could not make it my dad would deliver.

My dad in Sicily

My dad in Sicily

My dad died at the ripe old age of 86. He was tired and ready to go. He had worked hard, lived the American dream and was proud of the business and family he had built. As an insulin dependant diabetic he pretty much defied the odds of living such a long and healthy life, but all along the way I felt like he was preparing me for the day he would eventually go. As I watched him push his insulin needle, yet, another time, through his clothing into his body I would scream in horror…..he would calmly respond, “What? You want me to live forever?” He was a character to say the least.

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my dad with young Will & Cait

I miss my dad, but I resolved my grief within a day of his death. My dad’s passing, unlike my son, was the natural order of things. My dad was done and ready to go. He went peacefully into the night and I was prepared for it. Just a completely different experience.

Happy Father’s Day to my biggest cheerleader. You continue to inspire me to “zig instead of zag”. Inspired by you and your name I remember how proud you were when a version of  this recipe won an award from King Arthur Flour.

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Sweet Pizza Mattina

2 cups King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat flour

1 cup King Arthur Flour Unbleached Flour

1 russett potato, roasted, peeled, grated

1- tablespoon sugar

1- teaspoon salt

1 (2 ¼ tsp.) packet instant dry yeast (quick-rise)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ¼ – cups lukewarm water

2 tablespoons butter

1 baking apple, peeled, cored, chopped

1/3- cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/3- cup orange marmalade

½ cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine flours, potato , sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a stand mixer. Mix and knead about 5 minutes or until a soft, smooth dough ball forms. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 ½ hours or place in refrigerator and let rise overnight. Just before the dough rising time is up heat oven to 425F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cranberries and orange marmalade; cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and apples are just tender.   Gently punch down dough. On a lightly buttered baking sheet, press down into a 9-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Use your fingers to gently dimple the dough all over. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice into wedges. Serves 8.

 

 

Good Grief & French Toast Take Time

Overnight French Toast

Overnight French Toast

It should have come as no surprise that the first new episode of Downton Abbey would be about GRIEF. By the end of last season, Tom Branson lost a wife, Mary lost a husband and Mrs. Crawley lost a much loved son in a tragic accident. (Sigh! I can still see that handsome Mathew pinned under that car. That final episode haunts me.) We even saw a bit of angry suffering in the character of Carson as we learned of his love and loss. The episode enforced many of the things I have felt and have discussed on this blog like  finding strength to celebrate life, the need for forgiveness and the need for distraction.

good times around the fire pit

good times around the fire pit

However, I beg to differ with one final notion as portrayed through the grief-stricken Mary. With the exception of her father, the other characters believe 6 months should be plenty of time for her to resolve her grief and get back into the swing of things. What is so magical about 6 months? Good grief takes time–however long it takes. I am going on 3 years and I am still in the resolution phase. If, however, after 6 months, you still are not eating, sleeping or enjoying any kind of social interaction then it is time to see your health care provider as those are signs of a deeper, more complicated grief and depression.

Good French toast, believe it or not, also takes time. Especially if you like it a little crispy on the outside and melt in your mouth soft and creamy on the inside. It takes some simple planning. First of all, your bread should be just a bit stale–1 day old is good with most artisan breads that don’t use preservatives. The bread also needs to get a good 8 hours (overnight) in a yummy milk bath to soak up all the creamy goodness. Topped with butter and real maple syrup it is worth the time.

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Simple Overnight French Toast

4 (1-inch thick) slices French baguette*

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

butter

Arrange bread in a single layer in a baking dish. In bowl, whisk remaining ingredients until well mixed; pour evenly over bread. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or as long as overnight. Melt some butter over medium heat on a non-stick griddle. Place soaked bread slices on hot griddle. Cook, turning once, until deep golden brown on both sides. Serve with your favorite toppings.

*Use the center portion of the bread and save the ends for another use. Trimming the crusts is optional.