Italian

mashed potato pie


Compensation was provided by Safeway, Vons, Randalls and Tom Thumb stores via Mode Media.

Growing up in an Italian-American family, Thanksgiving traditions were always a mash up of old and new—baked ziti served before the turkey is normal in every household, right? Eventually the baked ziti was weaned from our holiday table. In its place came a rich, cheese laden mashed potato pie that was a meal in itself. It was a hefty helping of buttery, whipped potatoes, seasoned with milk, mozzarella cheese, locatelli cheese, and prosciutto, all baked in a huge rectangular tray.

As I grew older, and began hosting my own Thanksgiving, many of those food traditions changed. Mikey began making a homemade stuffing, and I swapped in fresh cranberry sauce for the canned one that graced so many of our meals. One year I really went renegade and made an incredible spoonbread pudding in lieu of the potatoes. I don’t suggest ever doing something that radical unless you’re ready for a revolt. Most of my family tried it, and some even liked it (Mikey and I loved it, thank you very much) but my uncle was a stubborn one who refused to take a taste. He insisted he didn’t like it, even though he’d never tried spoonbread in his life. My family is not very open to change when it comes to their food. As I think back to that Thanksgiving ten years ago, I realize I was the one in the wrong. I should’ve approached the menu much the way I do cooking for my daughters. Change works best when it’s paired with something familiar.

Mashed Potato Pie | In Jennie's Kitchen

When Mode Media, my ad network, asked me to partner with them for a Thanksgiving post, I knew just what classic recipe I would put a unique twist on. The beloved mashed potato pie was on the chopping block. How could I reinvent it to satisfy both my needs for something new and their tastes?

For starters, I kept the mashed potato base simple with just a couple of pats of butter. I decided it was best to allocate the calories to the cheese and eggs I’d be adding to make this soufflé-like pie. I also swapped out the mozzarella my family usually used, and added a combination of grated Gruyere cheese and fresh ricotta. The pie puffs up slightly towards the end of cooking, and takes on a lovely golden hue. A little rest before serving ensures neat slices to serve alongside the turkey and other fixin’s.

Mashed Potato Pie | www.injennieskitchen.com

Visit your nearest Safeway, Vons, Randalls, or Tom Thumb store this holiday season to make your holiday shopping easy and affordable. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Safeway, Vons, Randalls and Tom Thumb stores.

Mashed Potato Pie

Serves 8

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter

3/4 cup (140 grams) ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

4 ounces (56 grams) Gruyere cheese, grated

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Add the potatoes to a 4-quart pot. Fill with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9-inch pie plate.

3. Drain the potatoes, and return them back to the pot. Add the butter. Cover with a lid for 2 minutes, allowing the butter to melt. Using a hand held mixer on medium-low speed, beat the potatoes just until they’re smooth (be careful not to overbeat, or they’ll become gummy).

4. Stir in the ricotta cheese, eggs, and half of the Gruyere cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mashed potato mixture into the prepared pie plate. Evenly sprinkle the remaining Gruyere cheese on top.

5. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is slightly puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven, and let rest 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

{Make Ahead} The pie may be made through step 4 the night before. Cover with foil or plastic, and store in the fridge. Remove one hour before ready to bake, to let it come to room temperature.

ricotta & mascarpone cannoli

When I got back to New York last week, I had a few hours to get things done in Brooklyn. My trips to the city these days usually don’t take me beyond midtown. The kids stayed with my mom while I was away, and one of my best friends watched Miche, so before collecting the kiddos and the pup, I made sure to hit up Caputo’s. If I had to name one thing I miss most about Brooklyn, it would be mozzarella. I know, I know. It should be my mom, or my dear friends who have seen me through it all.

Alas, a warm, milky, ball of fresh mozzarella, is what I long for most. Honestly, the thought makes me ache, and small sighs stumble from my lips. I challenge anyone to find a better mozzarella in all of New York City (I’ve tasted many). Continue reading »

pizza, revisited

Just when I thought there was nothing more to write about pizza, it seems the story continues. Too often, food writers talk about cooking in definitives. The problem with that is life isn’t one-size-fits-all. Pizza is a perfect example. My approach has evolved significantly in the 20+ years that I’ve been making it. My first foray into making pizza from scratch was baking it in a round, metal pan. Then I branched out to a pizza stone, but would shape the dough on parchment paper and slide it into the oven off the metal sheet, removing the parchment after the crust had “set”. Embracing a pizza peel took a bit longer. Confidence trumps skills in this department. It takes  a quick flick of the wrist for it to slide effortlessly from the peel to the stone.

I took my time, and did it on my terms, never judging or comparing myself to how other people were doing it. This is pretty much how I’ve handled most situations in my life. The only rules I play by are the ones with which I feel comfortable. So, when it comes to cooking, don’t forget you’re the boss in your own kitchen.

To me, it makes more sense to first become comfortable with cooking from scratch, and find a good workflow or routine, before trying to up the ante. Once you have that confidence, you can stretch your wings a little more. My new approach to pizza is a good example. There’s nothing revolutionary about it. In all truth, the difference is subtle, yet sublime.

The idea to mix up my pizza routine came to me during my daily pita making sessions last week. I’ve yet to share that recipe. The base for the pita starts by making a sponge. This little extra step adds a lightness to the crust. I also tweaked my cooking method, which ensures a crisp crust, while maintaining a soft, chewy texture.

So, what is a sponge? When you set out to make the dough, you begin by mixing the yeast, sugar, water and some of the flour. It all gets stirred together in a bowl, then sits until it puffs up (think of how a dry sponge expands when it comes in contact with water). This extra step only adds 15 to 20 minutes of time, and not even active time at that. Once the sponge is ready, I proceed with my dough recipe as usual.

The other adjustment I’ve made is with the placement of the stone in the oven. Rather than bake my pizza on the center rack, I remove all but the bottom rack. The stone gets hotter this way, and manages to crisp the crust evenly from the edge to the center.

One thing I should mention, though, and hopefully this will encourage more of you to finally see the light in the volume vs. weight debate for measuring ingredients. My recipe below is written in metric measurements primarily. This is how I cook normally at home, when I’m not in recipe development mode. It is so freeing to not fret with cups and spoons. If you don’t believe me in this, then listen to veteran baker Alice Medrich.

Oh, and one more thing I’ve been meaning to share. Guess what this month signals? Homemade with Love turns one! I’ve had the great privilege to be a part of your homes since its release. Seeing photos of my recipes come to life in your kitchens this past year has been a joy. I’d love to know how Homemade with Love has changed your relationship to cooking.

Has it made it less intimidating for you? Has it sparked an interest in cooking with your kids? Are there recipes that have become an absolute must-make in your family? I want to invite you all to share photos of what you’ve cooked from the book on Pinterest and Instagram for a chance to win a few fun giveaways. I’ve got some goodies I’ve brought back from my trips to Paris (Fleur de sel, Belgian chocolates), a few of my favorite cooking tools (chef’s tweezers, the best paring knife ever), and a Sur La Table gift card. The giveaway winners will be chosen at random beginning March 24th, so you have time to think about what you’d like to cook. Just be sure to tag me in your photos (@jenniferperillo) and include #injennieskitchen too, so I can find them easily.

Hope you all enjoy this new foray into pizza making. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone cooks up, too.

For more ideas and recipes on homemade pizza, take a look at what my fellow Comfort Food Feast friends are sharing this week on the FN Dish Blog.
The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Pizza Crust and Homemade Pizza Sauce

Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Easy Turkey Taco Pizza

Devour: Top 5 Pizzas Without Sauce

Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

Weelicious: Pizza Balls

Dishin & Dishes: Iron Skillet Chicken Pesto Pizza

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato, Red Pepper and Corn

Red or Green: Pizza with Green Chile, Chicken and Cheese (Gluten-Free)

Virtually Homemade: Individual Cheese Quesadilla Pizzas

Domesticate Me: Grilled Pita Pizza with Prosciutto, Chanterelles, Arugula and a Fried Egg

Food for 7 Stages of Life: No Yeast Pizza Dough
The Blue Apron Blog: Our Favorite Pizza Toppings

The Sensitive Epicure: Mini Deep Dish Polenta Pizzas (Gluten-Free)

FN Dish: Homemade Pizza Comfort by the Slice

Jennie's Pizza Dough

6 grams active dry yeast

5 grams granulated natural cane sugar

360 grams Antimo Caputo “00” Pizzeria Flour, or bread flour, plus more for shaping

1 cup (237 ml) warm water

6 grams fine sea salt

1 tablespoon (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Add the yeast, sugar, and 70 grams of flour to a deep bowl. Pour in the water, and whisk well to combine. Set the bowl, uncovered, in a warm spot until the water absorbs the flour and the mixture puffs up, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add 220 grams of flour to the bowl, along with the salt and oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the flour is mixed in completely. The dough will be rather wet and sticky. Sprinkle a little bit of the remaining flour onto a board or countertop. Scrape the dough onto the board. Sprinkle a little bit more flour on top. Gently knead the dough until it’s smooth, and no longer sticky, adding more flour, a bit at a time, as needed (you may not need all of the remaining flour).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm spot until it has doubled in volume (about 1 1/2 hours).  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently press it down to deflate. Divide the dough in half. Place each half in its own lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until doubled in volume again. This second rise happens much faster, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust the rack in your oven to its lowest position. Place the pizza stone on top, and turn the oven on to 500F (260C). Make sure to do this step as you start the second rise, so the oven has enough time to get nice and hot.

Take one ball of dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured wooden or metal peel. Press or stretch the dough out into a 12-inch (22 cm) circle , whatever method you prefer (I start by pressing from the center, then switch to stretching).

Top with your desired ingredients (marinara sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, vegetables). Slide the pizza onto the stone, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly, if using, and the crust is very lightly golden. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.

a hearty winter soup

This soup doesn’t look like much in the bowl, but I promise you eyebrows will raise once you taste it. It first caught my attention while reading Orangette a few weeks ago. Laid up with a sinus infection, that manifested into strep throat, left me with time to catch up on blog reading. The timing wasn’t ideal, just one week before Christmas, but one must make the best of a bad situation, right?

So, after I dropped the girls off at school one morning, I popped into the market and picked up a head of Savoy cabbage, and got to work slicing it paper thin when I got back home. The recipe is from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking. I must confess that I didn’t own one of her cookbooks until just a few weeks ago. After cooking up this very humble cabbage dish, the fire was fueled, and two days later the book arrived at my house. I instantly became smitten with it, but also realized the reason I had yet to add one of her books to my collection. Partly, I prefer to collect vintage, hard-to-find, cookbooks. There’s only so much book real estate one can allocate in a NYC apartment.

Hazan was a cook to whom we owe much in terms of preserving old Italian recipes, and methods. Her tone, though, is rather contrary to my approach. My feeling when sharing recipes is to encourage people to get into the kitchen, and I believe that was her goal, too. Still, you have to read the introduction to Essentials of Italian Cooking with confidence in your skills. For instance, when she discusses basil in the Fundamentals section (pages 7 to 52), she says “Do not ever use dried or powdered basil. Many people freeze or preserve basil. I’d rather use it fresh and, if it isn’t available, wait until it is in season”.

It is a well-intentioned point of view, and I agree fresh basil offers the most true flavor. The reality is that most people do not use a whole bunch of basil before it goes bad. Preserving is a very thrifty way to manage your budget, and still enjoy a basil-flecked marinara sauce year-round. I appreciate her conviction, but cooking isn’t one size fits all, and I prefer to write in a way that welcomes the reader to try recipes with less rigidity.

Alas, I’ve gone off topic, in a way, so let us make our way back to the soup. As the smothered cabbage, the base for the recipe, wilted away on the stove top, I began to get excited. The smell was intoxicating. I stayed true to her recipe, for the most part, with one very liberal change. The soup, as Molly describes it, is supposed to be a loose kind of risotto, meaning on the thicker-bodied side. The intent to heal my cold left me wanting a soup with more broth to slurp, so I doubled the amount of stock. It was still incredibly thick, so don’t let this sway you. I’m including the original measurements, so you can decide which version you want to go with. I also used Pecorino-Locatelli cheese to add a sharper edge to my soup. Hazan’s original recipe calls for Parmigiano-Reggiano, which has a nuttier, aged flavor (a favorite of mine, too).

The last time I made this soup, just a few days ago, in fact, I had run out of chicken stock in the freezer. Sadly, I came home to find my last jar had cracked (yes, it almost made me cry). I was also out of my homemade vegetable bouillon—it’s bare bones around here, I tell you, so I swapped in plain old cold water. I’ll be honest, it is a more substantial tasting soup, if you have chicken stock on hand. In a pinch, though, the water worked just fine, and a little extra Pecorino sprinkled on top gave it the necessary oomph. A couple of slices of this apple-sage vegan sausage on top made it extra hearty. Don’t worry about serving it alone, though, it is sure to leave a last impression.

Last night I fell asleep with Hazan’s book by my side, a number of pages now dog-eared. Her spell has been cast on me, and the respect to which she pays to food, coaxing flavors from simple ingredients, makes me wish I wasn’t so late in picking up her cookbook. The saying goes “better late than never”, though, and I hope to have a few more decades of cooking left. I plan to hand her book down to my girls one day, splattered with memories of the many meals to come.

Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup

Music Pairing: I’m Living in a Great Big Way by Louis Prima

slightly adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Serves 6

Hazan notes in her recipe that you can use regular green, red or Savoy cabbage. I’ve only made it with Savoy, but am eager to try it with red cabbage next. I imagine it will be a nice contrast of color with the rice.

One batch of smothered cabbage (recipe here)

6 cups (1.5 L) chicken or vegetable stock (the original recipe only uses 3 cups/750 ml)

2/3 cup (140 grams) arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano rice

2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter

1/2 cup (56 grams) freshly grated Pecorino-Locatelli cheese, plus more for garnishing

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add the cabbage and stock to a deep 6-quart pot. Bring to a boil. Add the rice, and cook until it is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter and cheese. Season with pepper, and taste, adjusting for salt, and more pepper, as needed. The soup will last, stored in a covered container in the fridge, for up to one week.

parmesan brodo

“The whole truth is that you can love your life, and still yearn for what is missing.”

This quote is from an article Katie Devine wrote recently about being 35 and single. What struck me about her piece was the honesty in her words, something we are often too afraid to be with ourselves. I didn’t expect to walk away from it feeling validated. Our lives are on different paths, but the truth she shared summed up so much of what I’ve been feeling lately.

I am incredibly thankful for my health (let’s hope I didn’t just jinx it!). My daughters, though they drive me crazy often, and I will never love being a single parent, are two gifts I feel so thankful to have in my life. I’m in love again, and loved again, by a person who understands me almost better than I do myself. Continue reading »

Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce, with a twist

I’m back to my bad sleeping habits, which only means good things for all of you. The good news is my running streak is still going strong. I feel so alive, and so healthy. I’m drinking more water, and actually eating less. The latter being very unintentional; I’m simply not as hungry as I was before. In truth, the hunger was more grazing from boredom. I know, the idea of me being bored sounds ludicrous, considering I’d need to clone myself in order to accomplish everything on my To Do list. Boredom can come in many forms, though, and for me I hit a wall emotionally, physically and mentally.

Paris was a game changer, for so many reasons. I started to feel more clear about the uncertainty of the long term. Unlocking this door has allowed me to focus on the here and now better. Not worrying about the far ahead future is helping me to appreciate the often overlooked moments that nourish my emotional appetite for happiness and peace. Continue reading »

sauteed artichokes with garlic, shallots & sweet vermouth

I’ve learned so much about myself during these last 18 months. Yes, it’s been that long—it surprised me a lot today too. My new reality has been like driving a stick, except my previous experience was on an automatic. Now, changing gears is a big part of life, in a way so different from before. The last few years of my life with Mikey were a bit like cruise control, that often happens when you’re juggling family, work and a personal life. It’s easy to fall into habits, especially the ones you love. For me, one of those habits happened to my addiction to farmers’ markets. Not a bad vice to have, if you must have one at all.

I’d wake every Saturday morning to the hum of my alarm, and pop out of bed ready to grab the best of whatever was in season before the throngs of sleepyheads descended for the second wave of market madness. I’d rouse Mikey for a sleepy kiss goodbye before leaving, and tiptoe out the front door, making sure not to wake the kids so he could sleep in a bit more while I went off to play with produce. By 9:00am I’d be back, bounty in tow, and we’d plot the day ahead, as I unpacked the groceries.

Weekends are more of a challenge now being a single parent. The girls are not always on-board with my Saturday shopping agenda. In the beginning, I used to bribe them, offering things my former self would’ve deemed very unacceptable as breakfast food—in my defense, the lollipops were organic and dye-free. Some were even pomegranate flavored, so they were technically a dose of antioxidants, right? Whatever…

Continue reading »

crispy baked eggplant

I’ve learned a lot about myself this summer. Some lessons were really just reminders of the “me” that fell into a deep slumber last August 7th, and about embracing my own fearlessness. I’ve never been afraid to take chances, yet when faced with the responsibility of raising my girls all alone, being the sole decision maker—well, that is simultaneously overwhelming and terrifying.

One of the early conversations Mikey and I had when we met was about parenting. We talked about the immense responsibility that comes with rearing little human beings that will contribute positively to the world as a whole. How to best love them and let them know they’re the center of your world, but not the world. Back then he said a test should be required to have children, and I still agree with that sentiment. One glance at a newspaper headline is all you need to understand what he meant.

I thought about this the other night as I watched Away We Go. The next morning I awoke, and the movie still fresh on my mind, comforted and reminded me that the sadness of our past needn’t be a hindrance—we are the sum of our experiences. The painful parts have the ability to inspire us to dig deep within ourselves.

Continue reading »

fairytales for grown ups

My head feels like Dorothy’s house as it’s swirling into the eye of the tornado. This is what New York City does to me. It divides my heart from my mind. This is something I was beginning to realize even before Michael died. In six days it has slowly undone the careful stitches Paris wove into place. For a few weeks my fractured life felt whole again. Going to a new city, embracing a new culture and way of life, gave special meaning to learning a new kind of normal.

Continue reading »

lemon olive oil cake {day 313}

I’m staring at the screen not knowing what I want to write, yet here I am letting the words free fall from my mind to the page. Something happended on day 313, actually it’s been slowly unfolding and today it came full circle.

I don’t look for signs, yet they seem to find me when I least expect them. Last Thursday morning, I went downstairs to the kitchen and watched the sunrise over the buildings in the backyard. It feels like I’ve found my groove again, at least in my morning routines. Before Mikey passed away I’d rise before the sun and go for a run, do some meditation and get a jump on my workday. He’d often joke that I got more accomplished before he woke than he could get done in a whole day.

I loved the feeling of cool air stroking my face as I ran with Arcade Fire carrying my feet faster with every step. For that ever so brief run, usually two miles, the freeing feeling of running and not being tied to any label—mother, wife, writer, was akin to wiping the slate clean each day. An energizing rebirth of my mind and body.

Continue reading »