The Promise of the Unexpected

May 6th, 2011 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

I once read an Q&A with Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) where the interviewer asked something to the effect of “What’s your secret? How do you know how to relate to kids so well?” This was a while ago – probably 2006ish – so I may not remember his answer word for word, but I remember the gist of it. He said he had just come from the grocery store where he was bored in line at the register so he started making gum packages talk to each other while a five-year-old standing in line in front of him looked on – utterly captivated. “Kids love it when they are in on something that doesn’t seem quite right,” Handler said in the interview. “They love the promise of the unexpected.”

I was thinking of this the other night when Andy and I decided to make Hawaiian Pizzas for the girls. Is Lemony Snicket’s theory the reason why they didn’t instantly turn up their nose at the idea of ham and pineapple on their beloved cheese pizza? Was it that ham and pineapple is an unexpected combination (and kinda wacky if you really think about it) whereas, say, mushroom and onion is just too straightforwardly gross for them to handle? Is Lemony Snicket’s theory why iCarly’s silly spaghetti tacos took the world by storm a few months ago? Is it why Abby, who won’t touch an avocado, seems so intrigued by those cooked grasshoppers that her friend Ellie ate in Mexico? Why she shoveled David Chang’s Rice Krispie-flecked brussels sprouts in her mouth like popcorn? I’m willing to believe it, especially if it means we might have luck taking the kids to Momofuku.

PS: By the way, how excited are we about Lemony Snicket’s next series, which, if you are to believe Google, is due out one of these days…

PPS: If you have a sec, head over to the always hilarious relationship blog Spousonomics today — I guest-posted about family dinner incentives.

Hawaiian Pizza

Preheat oven to 500°F. Using your fingers stretch and push out one ball of pizza dough (homemade or storebought) on an olive-oiled cookie sheet. Top with pizza sauce (homemade or storebought), 1 ball of fresh mozzarella (in thin slices), 4 slices Canadian bacon (minced finely as shown) and about 2 cups pineapple chunks. Brush the exposed crust with a little more olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbly and crust looks golden and crisp.

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A New Year’s Challenge. Sort of.

January 4th, 2011 · 16 Comments · Dinner, Vegetarian

Careful readers may have picked up in yesterday’s post that we have decided to cut back on meat for at least the first two weeks of January in our house. (I say “at least” because secretly I really want to do it for the whole month, but to the girls, that’s like saying to them that they won’t eat a burger for 100 years.) It wasn’t that this holiday season was so much more indulgent than any others — though there was that party with the giant pig’s leg that might as well still have had the hoof on it —  it’s just that limiting meat is sometimes the easiest way for me to feel healthy and inspired about cooking again. I know this sounds strange, but when I leave meat out of the equation, it forces me flex other culinary muscles a bit more. I have to work a little harder to make things taste good and usually I end up discovering some random ingredient like, say, tamarind paste that I can’t believe I’ve lived almost four decades without. (Also, invariably, I end up eating too much coconut and avocado.)

As always, there are exceptions to our rules. We will eat fish. And if we are served meat at someone’s house, we would never for one second breathe word of our challenge to a single soul present. Oh, and there’s the lunch packing. As we all know, this endeavor is brutal enough already without worrying about restrictions, so we’re green-lighting the turkey sandwiches. So far, so good. As mentioned yesterday, we launched the year with Bon App’s cover recipe (replacing the chicken with shrimp); then Night Two we went with this basic mushroom and onion pizza. I experimented a bit with the whole wheat flour in our trusty Jim Lahey crust, and we couldn’t believe how good it was. As usual, the girls drew a line down the center of the dough with a knife and chose to adorn their side with marinara and mozz. Which was just fine with us. (more…)

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Split-Personality Pizza

April 1st, 2010 · 4 Comments · Dinner, Picky Eating, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

I called Jenny on the way home from work tonight:

“I’m running for the 6:23 train, yeah, be home by seven, work was fine, need me to pick anything up? And oh, what do you feel like for dinner.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Let me look–hold on–Girls, turn DOWN the Michael Jackson!”

I could hear her open the freezer, rifle around. “We have some chicken.”

Nah, not feeling chicken. Sick of chicken.

“We could do pasta.” I had pasta for lunch.

“Wait,” she said, “There’s a Jim Lahey pizza crust in here!” Pizza sounded good. “Okay, what should we have on it?” she asked. For some reason, I wanted potatoes…and cheddar cheese and caramelized onions. She raised no objections. I told her I’d make it, if she would defrost the crust and slice up some potatoes.

Forty-five minutes later, I got home to a crust on a baking sheet, a bowl of sliced red potatoes (about 1/4 inch thick, skins still on), and a preheated oven. The kids were upstairs in the bath. The dog did not appear to need walking. I went to work.

We didn’t have much in the refrigerator, pizza-wise, so I grabbed some olive oil, salt, fresh thyme, chives, an onion, and Trader Joe’s Mexican blend of shredded cheese. I boiled the potatoes in salted water for about eight minutes to soften them up and sauteed a sliced onion while I got the rest of my ingredients ready. “Do you think the kids will eat this?”  I asked as I was assembling. “Probably not,” she said. The girls were now in the kitchen in their bathrobes. Hungry. “Why don’t you make them a regular cheese pizza?” We had no mozzarella, but we did have a few sticks of string cheese, which I diced up and sprinkled over some marinara. I did a half cheese, half potato, and put it in the oven for about fifteen minutes at 500°F. As usual, the pizza crust came out exactly the way it always does (perfect, and infinitely better than a storebought crust), and thirty minutes after walking in the door, dinner was ready.

The kids did try the potato version, by the way. (We sold it to them as french fry pizza.) It appears they will allow us to move it into our rotation.

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