When you have lemons, make lemonade. When you have beautiful, fresh-off-the-farm, golden yolked eggs with gorgeous, naturally hued, make…rice pudding. The eggs were a gift from my friend and cooking teacher Sue Sell, and they were so pretty that it was difficult to find the resolve to crack them open. (Check out the photo to see how the yolks contributed to the yellow color in the finished dessert...and yes, that is a feather.) But why rice pudding?
Mixing culinary metaphors isn’t really my thing, and I like my cooking straight-up authentic (and tasty). But, last night I applied a Mexican cooking tradition to my Italian pizza. No, I didn’t just add jalapeños.
Enchiladas can be sauced in many different ways—rancheras, molé, suizas, verdes, and more. A dish of enchiladas sauced with two different sauces is called enchiladas divorcadas, or divorced. I couldn’t decide what topping to make for our Friday night pizza, having tomatoes, broccoli, ricotta, and mozzarella at hand, and I didn’t want to do a mash-up. My solution was to make divorced pizza—a white broccoli on one side, and tomato and mozzarella on the other.
Here's another Italian specialty that I've learned to make in the last few years...perhaps proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks. It's meat and cheese pie, an Easter specialty loaded with cold cuts to celebrate the return to eating meat after a Lent-long fast. My version is based on the one from Patsy's Italian Family Cookbook. I spent many hours at Patsy's watching Chef Sal and his crew making their old-school dishes that have made the restaurant famous for over 70 years. My version is actually streamlined, as I used a four-cheese pizza mix and sliced cold cuts instead of the individually prepared ingredients. The dough is easy to make, thanks to instant yeast (you don't have to worry about the water temperature). The pie goes by many names--Pizza Gaina or Pizza Chena (both dialect variations of Pizza Piena, which is Italian for "filled pie") or Pizza Rustica. No matter what you call it, it is delicious. I am always surprised at how easily is comes together.
More than baked ham, more than roast lamb, my must-have Easter dinner tradition is coconut layer cake. Its annual appearance on our holiday table goes back to my childhood. My mom and our neighbor Ardi thought nothing of staying up all night designing 3-D cakes, and Easter always featured a funny bunny with white jelly bean teeth and shredded coconut fur. (Yes, the fur and frosting was often tinted with food coloring.) I'm all-grown up, and now I prefer my coconut cakes for their flavor rather than their cuteness factor. When working on TOMMY BAHAMA'S FLAVORS OF HAWAII, I recreated the piña colada cake that is a favorite at their restaurants. This is a truly fabulous cake, with a white chocolate mousse frosting, tender yellow cake, crushed pineapple, and a generous splash of rum. (If serving to kids, use non-alcoholic rum-flavored beverage syrup.) <Photo by Peden + Monk from FLAVORS OF ALOHA, available only at Tommy Bahama stores, restaurants, and www.tommybahama.com.>