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Slow Burn — Slow-cooker Country Captain Chicken

7 Feb

Keeping up with a blog on a regular basis is apparently kind of hard. It gets even harder when you buy a house, move into that new house, plan a wedding, and successfully carry out that wedding. Between not having a lot of time to cook, and even less time to write, blogging—especially food blogging—can easily fall by the wayside. And it has. I will strive to do better.

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More Pie! — Bananas Foster Cream Pie

12 Jul

A few weeks ago, I got an automated email. My domain registration for www.pieareround.com was about to renew itself. At that point, I was faced with a decision: should I let the registration expire or should I re-commit myself to this blogging project. After all, it had been quite a while since I last written anything for this blog. My heart just hadn’t been in writing for the blog lately; the joy had kind of gone out of it. Combined with the time it took to document and write each post, I seriously considered abandoning the whole thing. But a funny thing happened. Just as I was contemplating giving it all up, I had several people ask me, unprompted, what happened to the blog and whether I was working on anything new. Coincidental timing, but it at least inspired me to give it another go. Continue reading

Purple Peruvian Goo — Mazamorra Morada

22 Jun

A while ago, it was requested that I include more vegetarian recipes here on my blog.  My best intentions to the contrary, I have utterly failed to do so.  (I suppose it’s easy enough to make my Chicago-style pizza vegetarian; just leave off the sausage.)  That request has caused me to realize just how central meat is to my cooking—at least to the cooking that I’m excited enough to write about.  Regardless of the meal or course, meat seems to factor into my recipes fairly frequently.

There is one course though into which you’d really really have to try to incorporate meat.  That course is dessert.  So, that is what I will write about today: dessert.

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This is not just any dessert mind you, this is a Peruvian dessert.  At Tania’s urging, we’ve been doing a fair bit of Peruvian cooking.  And this time, we made a dish called mazamorra morada.  Mazamorra is…well, it’s a purple goo.  With fruit in it.  It’s a purple goo with fruit in it.  I can’t really think of how better to describe it.  It’s kind of like a pudding I guess, and kinda sorta like Jello—but not really.  (Incidentally, they really like Jello in Peru.  Maybe sometime I’ll get around to writing about torta helada, or Jello cake.)

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Real Deep Dish — Now THIS is Chicago-style Pizza

16 Jun

The influence that family has had on my cooking and eating preferences has been no big secret.  As I’ve already established here on the blog, family recipes make up a significant portion of my go-to cooking repertoire.

It should therefore come as no surprise to learn then that with parents who spent significant time in Chicago, either growing up or going to school, that I’ve been influenced by the cuisine of that fine city.  And while there could perhaps be some debate about what one specific food item is most closely identified with the city (Italian beef? Chicago-style hot dogs?), no one would disagree if your pick was Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

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It certainly is mine.  I still remember my first encounter with pizza in Chicago.  While visiting my aunt in the suburbs, we had gone downtown for the day.  My folks led us to the original Gino’s East on Superior Street.  I can’t remember how old I was at the time, but what I do remember waiting in line for what seemed like forever.  And then we were led into a darkened space, with walls, tables, chairs—everything—covered in writing.  The idea that they encouraged you to write on anything your eye could see seemed so subversive to my young mind.

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A Flavor of Cincinnati — Grip a Grip of Grippos

9 Jun

Those who know me know that when it comes to Ohio cities, I’m a committed Columbus partisan.  For the longest time I considered Ohio’s oldline cities—especially the “C” denominated ones—to be well past their prime.  Regionally biased much? Perhaps.  But unabashedly so at least.

I must admit however, after several years of being prevailed upon by transplants to Columbus from some of those more far flung regions, that perhaps, perhaps, our fine capital city could learn a thing or two from those others to the north and south of us.  Would I say that I was wrong? Of course not. Never.  But, I will say without hesitation that Cleveland’s West Side Market is by far the best public market in Ohio.  And, I will, if a little more begrudgingly, say nice things about Cincinnati as well.

For example: Grippo’s potato chips are kind of awesome.  In the, if you open a bag for a snack you may mysteriously find that you’re holding an empty bag and are now covered in crumbs with no memory of the intervening 45 minutes, kind of way.  And there may or may not be an accompanying hit to your self-esteem to boot.

So yeah.  If I was listing “good” things about Cincinnati, Grippo’s would definitely be on that list.

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A Peruvian Staple — Lomo Saltado (a.k.a. “Jumping Beef”)

10 May

I was torn as I sat down to finally write this blog post: Should I begin writing as if two months hadn’t past since my last post? Should I offer an apology and explanation for why it hasn’t been updated recently?  And if it was option #2, what exactly to say?  Honestly, I haven’t written mainly because I haven’t been inspired.  Before I started blogging, I never realized how much time actually goes into writing an (ideally) interesting and insightful post.  It’s enough effort that when you stop doing it, when you get out of the habit, it’s hard to start up again.  (Incidentally, the same thing happened with my gym membership.  It took the closure of the gym to finally force the choice between going again on a regular basis or actually admitting defeat and cancelling my membership.  And I can’t really claim credit for acting—it was entirely out of my control.)

But, unlike my efforts at self-improvement, I wasn’t going to give up on this blog so easily.  I especially wasn’t going to give up when there have been so many good things coming out of my kitchen over the past few months.  There’s enough built up content that deciding where to begin again has been difficult. I’ve finally settled on an international favorite of both mine and Tania’s: the Peruvian dish known as lomo saltado.

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Thin Chops, Thick Flavor — Pork Chops with Ancho Chile Rub and Raspberry Glaze

4 Mar

For whatever reason, probably related to meals I ate growing up, whenever I think of pork chops, I think of thick center cut ones.  Ones that are thick enough to actual exhibit differing levels of doneness and can actually be cooked to a nice “medium.”  It was rare, if ever, that I ate thinner cuts of pork.  For whatever reason, to me they always seemed to be associated with an overcooked and dried out chop.

So, when I came into a wondrous bounty of pork from local Davidson Farms, which included thinner cuts, I was left without any go-to recipes in which to use them.  I knew I’d have to work on discovering how best to prepare them.  And this being winter, I’d have to cook at least some of them without the benefit of my trusty grill.

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My first thought was that these chops would be perfect for frying.  Being thin, you wouldn’t need as much oil to fry them, and it’d be easy to do in my shallow cast iron skillet.  My second thought was: Tania eats way more healthfully than I do, so unless I wanted to fry up a mess of chops all for myself I’d have to 1) find at least some  other ways to prepare them and 2) find someone to eat fried pork chops with me at a later date.

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Baking Steel — Not From Krypton, But Still Super

17 Feb

By now, the secret of the Baking Steel is not much of a secret.  The word is out that this project, started on Kickstarter by Andris Lagsdin after reading a review Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine: The Art & Science of Cooking, is the “most impressive home pizza product [J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats] ever tested.”  Pizza lovers everywhere are trading in their stones for these well-made (and really heavy) sheets of steal.

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I got mine for Christmas (thanks Tania!) and it has been an incredibly useful tool as I’ve begun to explore the world of bread baking.  As I try and try again with my bread baking, I’m learning more about cooking than I have in years. And as good (or bad) as some of the breads I’ve made are, I hadn’t put the baking steel to its real intended purpose: making pizza.

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Classic Italian — Spaghetti and Meatballs

30 Jan

I was on a roll for a while, turning out regular blog posts to keep my nascent audience entertained.  And while I write this blog for the dual joys of cooking and writing, the ever growing number of hits showed that all my effort was not for nothing.  Then came the past few weeks and…silence.  It’s not that there’s nothing to write about; I’ve been busy.  It’s just that there hasn’t been time to write is all.  So, traveling in the way-back machine, let me tell you about an awesome dinner Tania and I had several Sundays past.

My ancestry is Swedish-German.  Somewhere along the way though, and I’m not sure where, a really good recipe for spaghetti and meatballs worked itself into my family’s repertoire.  (Is it just me, or is the word spaghetti hard to remember how to spell? It’s definitely one of those words that I misspell just about every time I write it.)  Lest you be confused, these are meatballs of the Italian—not Swedish—variety.

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Spaghetti and meatballs, at least as my family prepares them, is not a weekday sort of dish.  It’s one that requires several hours of simmering on the stove.  And while it can simmer largely untouched once you get started, you still have to stir the concoction every so often to prevent the bottom from burning. (Which inevitably still happens to me anyway.)

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Breakfast Rising — Apple Pancake or Puff Pancake or Dutch Baby

10 Jan

I know that everyone says “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”  And some people write entire books and blogs, just about breakfast. But I must confess: I’m not a regular breakfast eater.  I have nothing against the meal mind you.  It’s just that I’m really not that hungry until a few hours after I wake up, and by that time, I’m at work and it’s easier to wait for lunch time to roll around.  Someone once suggested that I just wake up earlier.  That suggestion  was a non-starter; as much as I love food, I love sleeping more.

In stark contrast to myself, Tania is a breakfast lover.  She eats breakfast pretty much every day, and it’s usually the same thing: oatmeal with bananas, cinnamon, Splenda, and vanilla.  Woe is it to the one who gets between her and her oatmeal; there are very few things that could tear her away from a bowl of hot oats.  If there is one thing that could do it however, it’s a dish that she calls “apple pancake.”

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I’ve written at length about my own family food traditions.  Apple pancake is one of Tania’s.  Most commonly referred to as a Dutch Baby, sometimes as a puff pancake, and occasionally as an oven pancake, the apple pancake is akin to a large popover.  If done properly, it will tower above the pan in which it is cooked.

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