roasted strawberry-basil frozen yogurt

The girls are rather good at keeping tally over everything being even-Steven. Inevitably, the scales tip more in one’s favor on certain days, although I’m quite sure it will balance out to an equitable share over the longevity of our lives. Try explaining that to a six or eleven year old, though.

Most days, I’m pretty sure I’m messing everything up. I wasn’t always sure of what I was doing when we were a two-parent family. Now, on my own, left in charge of raising these girls into strong, confident, happy, loving young women—I think it’ll be okay, but sometimes I wonder. These last few weeks have left me sleep-deprived, anxious and short on patience as I watch moving boxes pile up, and ponder the change about to happen in less than three weeks. Continue reading »

the best therapy {chocolate chip cookies}

You know that whole don’t judge a book by it’s cover theory? Well, today the perception I projected gave me just the boost I needed, even if it didn’t match exactly how I’m feeling these days. I met M’s best friend for breakfast. DL’s friendship has been one of the good things that came out of this often awful situation. Is it okay to admit that anything good actually grew from my husband’s passing? There goes that grief guilt vortex, opening, threatening to suck me in again…

My point is, when I sat down at Balthazar, DL said I looked dazzling. Inside, I felt like a wreck, Disheveled, exhausted, and aches in places I forgot you could get aches, from the physical work of packing boxes, working on the garden upstate, and an overall lack of sleep. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.

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strawberry, tomato & basil salad

It was a rare moment to be in the city on a Saturday morning. We usually drive up to the country on Friday nights. Isabella had just come home from an overnight school trip Friday evening, so I decided we’d head up the next morning. My mind had settled on the idea of not rushing up, either, being well aware of the fact that in less than a month the country will be our home.

When I first bought the house many people asked if I was planning on moving up there. In truth, it was a back up plan, in the far reaches of my mind. A plan B of sorts for the future, if we needed a place to live. The peace and solitude that began to bloom here was honestly a surprise. I remember saying aloud as a teenager that I never wanted to live someplace where I couldn’t walk for a container of milk. I suppose if I’m up for a 15 mile round trip stroll, that’s still a possibility.

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twice as nice

Lately, time has been a hungry monster, digesting every second of my days before I’ve had a chance to comprehend the passing hours. There are a few posts in my drafts, studded with snippets of recipes, and random thoughts trying to find a thread. Truth is even my journal writing has been a rambling of words, spilling from my mind to the pages of my powder blue notebook.

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city girl, country kitchen {homemade violet syrup}

Spring has finally sprung upstate. It was a long, cold winter, and many of us thought it would never end. The wonderful thing about living in the Northeast is that we have seasons. The not so great part of that gift is that the contrasts between summer and winter are brutal. Spring and fall aren’t always a guarantee. Often, they feel like blips on the radar of Mother Nature, and yet there are people who still question the direct correlation of how we use our planet with climate change (a conversation for another day).

Everything around is coming to life. The raspberry bushes are snaking their way through the side garden. I’ve been told they’re like weeds, and indestructible. I hope that’s true since I have much to learn, and my thumb is far from green. There’s a single rose bush along the house, too. I can’t help but think of M when I see them. He took such loving care of the ones we had at our old apartment on Henry Street.

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eating our way through philly

I gasped at my first glance of the Philadelphia skyline. Dare I say it’s more beautiful than my native New York City one? The next 18 hours proved to be just as incredible a discovery. It seems unthinkable to me that it took this long to uncover its not-so-hidden treasures.

My first, and only other visit, to the city took place in January of 1998. Back then I was only passing through, arriving in town on a Peter Pan bus from Port Authority in NYC. I was on my way to see my father for the first time in five years. So much has happened in the 16 years since then.

I lost a father.

I lost a husband.

But I didn’t lose my resolve to live each day to its fullest, no matter how hard that sometimes seems. And so, the girls and I took a mini road trip. Frankly, 18 hours doesn’t do Philadelphia justice, but it did us Perillo Girls a world of good for reasons I wrote about here. Alas, it’s all we could spare this trip, but we shall be back. Hopefully, very soon. Here’s a few highlights of the calories we consumed along the way.

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when i’m gone…

It’s been a while.

Over the last month, I’ve found myself starting a post, deleting, starting again, and then just moving onto something else. I feel a bit jumbled inside, and haven’t really been sure how to say what’s on my mind. Some days I’m not even sure I know what’s going on in that cavernous space; it’s such a swirl of activity. Recipes are overflowing, but the words…well, those seem to be in short supply.

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peanut butter & chocolate cinnamon buns

My relationship with peanut butter and chocolate desserts needs no explanation for long-time readers. One day I’ll tell the story of how the little peanut butter pie that could came to be. Today, though, I want to share a new peanut butter and chocolate recipe with all of you. It’s only recently that I could even fathom that flavor combination again. Cooking has the power to heal, but some recipes, some flavors, well, they’re too reminiscent of moments that I’ll never experience again.

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crispy oven fries

The kids are snuggled in their beds, fast asleep. Much as I should be in bed, too, I’m wide-eyed after a cat nap. It’s become part of Virginia’s bedtime routine. After we read books, I usually curl up with her, to help her fall into a peaceful slumber. This wasn’t always our pattern; certainly not when Michael was alive. Then again, I was always firm about bedtime, knowing that a cuddle on the couch was my reward after a long day. The daytime was all about the girls. Nighttime was a standing date with my guy to catch up on our day, relax, and enjoy curling up in the corner of our L-shaped sofa together.

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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.