Sunday, November 9, 2014

Nicky's Pizzeria

You guys know how I am about pizza.  The world's perfect food:  all food groups are, or can be represented. It's good hot and fresh or right out of the fridge the next day. My pizza forays range from the pepperoni/sausage/black olive that I was raised on to bacon/blue cheese to veggie-palooza.  There is no end to what you can do to a pizza.  But one thing is clear:  it MUST have a good crust. Without this element, you're just wasting your time.  

A few months ago, Nicky's Pizzeria in Five Points caught my eye.  I've been so curious about it because I hadn't heard one word about the place.  None of my other food-obsessed friends had mentioned it, hadn't heard any ads, nothing.  And, it's tucked away in a corner spot right across from the post office on Greene Street, so it's easy to not notice it.  This summer I was working with a lovely couple who were buying their first house together.  He is in the restaurant biz, so I asked if they had tried out Nicky's.  Yes, they had.  They both said they really liked it and specifically mentioned the crust. Hmmm....

Recently, my husband and I had the occasion to check out Nicky's. As we walked across Greene, the first thing we noticed was 2 tables of City of Columbia police officers eating out on the patio. We all know that cops can be very loyal clientele for a restaurant, or even a bar, for that matter.  Next, we stepped inside to order and I noticed the smell.  The inside of this place smelled just like an old school pizza place that I remember from my childhood.  Yummy baked pizza smells, warm air from the ovens, herbs and pepperoni!  

We ordered a pitcher of Hopsecutioner, one of Neil's favorite IPAs.  Is it just me, or have pitchers of beer shrunk dramatically from my college days? ;-)

These pitchers have gotten awfully stubby
We decided to share the "Pesto Italian" which is a pie topped with pesto (duh), spinach, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and mozz.  The topping combo was divine, but OMG, the crust!  It is a fabulous crust.  It's thin, but not like a too-thin cracker crust and not too thick.  Sometimes I find even a "regular" crust can hit that thickness mark where it loses the crispy, crustiness and just become chewy and tough.  Not the case here pizza lovers.  Awesome crust.

The Pesto Italian
A work of art

We will definitely be back for more. I really want to try their stromboli too.  The menu also offers more than a 1/2 dozen salads, specialty pizzas like the Pesto Italian, or you can design your own or just order by the slice.  I saw lots of college kids coming in to pick up subs to go, so we'll have to try those out as well.  Additionally, I'm impressed that they DO NOT charge for delivery and they offer coupons for delivery and take-out customers.  So far, so good Nicky's!

Nicky's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 7, 2014

Easy as Pie

I've always been intrigued by this phrase, "easy as pie."  Frankly, I think pie is pretty damn hard.  Pie crust is my nemesis. I've followed countless pie crust recipes, tips from friends, video tutorials, you name it.  Pie crust kicks my butt. But, I keep trying, convinced that one day I'll be able to master this very simple concoction.

A couple years ago, my mother-in-law gave the Wunderkind this cookbook: 

It is really cute and it even came with kid-sized utensils.  Recently, Vivi pulled it off the shelf and  marched into the kitchen, announcing that she wanted to make apple pies. PIES! Instantly, pie crust failure flashbacks flooded my brain.  The fear was setting in.  As my heart rate increased, I took a couple deep breaths and thought "Hey, relax.  It's a cookbook for kids. Maybe this will finally teach me to conquer the crust?"  I shook it off, deciding not to transfer my pie crust cross-to-bear onto my child and said a simple "sure, babe."

Eager Pie Baker
 I let her run the show.  She measured out her ingredients, followed the directions carefully and used me as her sous-chef. And, the kid made pie crust.  A flaky, buttery, perfect pie crust.  

Lookin' good!

Finished product, complete with pastry "V"
Not only was it fantastic for her to have such a great result, but just watching her watch the oven, checking the timer, and getting excited about her baking adventure was the best thing ever.  Once they were ready, we let them cool (slightly) before diving in to taste.  Success!  My sweet baby created 4 personal size apple pies and they were awesome.  She was so incredibly proud of herself and I could practially see the confidence radiating from her.  We had to drive one over to my parents' house so she could share the lovin' from the oven!

If you haven't had the chance yet to teach a child to cook, find an opportunity.  Yes, it can be immensely frustrating because they don't always listen well, they are messy and sometimes they lose interest, but if you keep trying, the next thing you know they are baking pies. And making pie crust better than you!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Repurposed Food

You can spend hours, yes hours, on Pinterest checking out "repurposed" ideas.  Using old doorknobs to hang your keys on, turning an old suitcase into a desk, making headboards out of old doors.  The list goes on and on.  But, you never see anyone talking about repurposing food.  And I get it.  The term generally applies to objects, most of the time found objects that can be given new life.  But, since I think about cooking and food pretty much all the time, I find myself thinking about "repurposing" food.

You see, I hate leftovers.  Always have.  The only food, in my opinion, that is worth eating as a leftover is Chinese food, pizza or my Aunt Jennie's sweet potatoes.  Everything else just sits in the fridge hoping that my husband will come along and gobble it up before it finally gets thrown out.  You're probably asking yourself "Why bother putting the leftovers in the fridge if you know you won't eat them?"  Well, it's really really hard for me to just throw away something, anything, that I know is good and useful.  Consequently, when I was single, I'd amass a pretty good collection of unwanted leftovers that would stare back at me until it was finally time for them to take up residence in the trash can.  But then I found Neil.  He loves leftovers! He's a "chronological" eater too.  He keeps track of what went in the fridge when and he finished them off accordingly.  It's a great system really.

However, over the last couple of years, I find myself trying to be more responsible when it comes to the leftovers.  I still can't bring myself to want a plate of heated up old stuff, but aha! I realized that I can turn them into something else and then everybody wins! Repurpose it into something completely new.  

This brings us to tonight's dinner.  Pork & veggie spring rolls and beef with broccoli over jasmine rice.  A few days ago, I made caramel apple pork chops.  The chops were huge, so we ended up with a lot leftover.  I just scraped off the apples and sweet sauce then finely minced the meat.  This morning I created the spring roll filling using shredded cabbage, julienned carrots, bean sprouts and sliced bamboo shoots, mixed with the minced pork.  Viola!  

Stir-frying cabbage, carrot, bamboo shoots & bean sprouts
Assembly: got these awesome spring rolls skins at the Chef'Store!
Ready to be fried

Yesterday was my husband's birthday, so we had steaks.  Again, I had more than we needed, so I took the leftover steak, sliced it thinly and will use it in a beef with broccoli recipe from my trusty Chinese cookbook.  I am so excited about dinner I can hardly stand it!  And better yet, there are no leftovers sitting in the fridge giving me the stink-eye every time I open the door!  Repurposing again.

All ready for the wok
I love the sight of bright green broccoli


Added in some bamboo shoots as well

Beef with broccoli & pork/veggie spring roll
I don't pretend to be the first or only person to do this with leftovers. I'm just happy that I've become pretty darn good at it.  I find my creativity kicking into gear any time we have leftover food and I'm likin' it.  And when you stop to think about how inexpensively you can end up feeding yourself and your family, the numbers are almost staggering.  Now that I'm a committed and addicted coupon-a-holic, this means so much more.  If you are an anti-leftover person like me, think about how you can do something with the food instead of enduring the guilt that those leftovers can inflict when they stare back at you all weepy-eyed in that harsh fridge light.  :-)


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