happy endings in the kitchen episode 15: Pizza!

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Pleasure me not

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was Badpickupline.

Yes, Badpickupline.  Now I’ve heard some pick up lines in my time but this one really takes the prize.  It was a regular kind of Friday night and a group of friends and I had ended up at our favourite local Italian eatery, ravenous post university.  Our boisterous, hungry behaviour seemed to catch the attention of one of the baristas.  A particularly cute barista.  And when I approached to order a second round of drinks he made sure he was there to take my order and flirt with an abundance of charm and sweetness.  He indicated that he had seen me many times previously and had hoped to get to know me better.  Dinner arrived but our eyes often met across the room whilst I was stuffing my face with pizza and laughing operatically over second glasses of wine, and by the time dessert arrived I had been invited on an after dinner digestiv.  Now while it was bordering on inappropriate first date conditions I decided that 9:30 pm was just acceptable and what harm could one more alcoholic beverage really do?

And so, it was a cosy glass of getting to know you wine.  He was of Italian background, born in Australia, came from a large family, loved his soccer and his mamma, worked as a tradesman when he wasn’t playing the charming barista, enjoyed festivals and any music that made him want to dance, and embraced any opportunity for travel and adventure.  Note: He also said ‘fully sick’ and ‘ohmagod’ at regular intervals.  We shared a particular love of Italy and spoke at length about our travels there.  Some of Badpickupline’s family still resided in Naples and he coyly hinted at taking me there for a holiday.  His eyes sparkled like the waters of Porto Vecchio as he talked of his nonna, endless days of sun and sea, giant plates of home cooked pasta, and family together under one happy roof.  The memories played out lovingly over his fine face and I was swept away to the Italian coast.  It was all very lovely, relaxing, and a little bit romantic.

So when it came to midnight and the clock struck twelve I regretfully murmured that it was probably my time to go.  Looking a little forlorn he offered to drive me home to save on the taxi fare but I declined, thanking him for the offer.  He then attempted to coerce me into another drink with all the charm and persuasive tone he could muster.  Even though I was wildly tempted, I resisted.  And as I reached forward to pick up my purse he took my face and kissed me, softly at first but then with such an intense passion it put my head into a disorienting whirl of joy.  I was still spinning when I realised he had spoken just after our kiss and I giddily asked him to repeat himself.  I noticed something new was lurking behind his eyes, as though he was an animal approaching it’s prey, and as he repeated himself it looked as though he was about to pounce.  “If you give me a head job, I could pleasure you” he said……..I beg your pardon??  I was speechless, mystified, clueless.  I silently wept as I saw the tide wash over the promise of my romantic Naples holiday.

I was confused.  In what world had that line ever worked for him?  And how could it immediately go from a passionate kiss to a sexual business proposal?  And why in that proposal was I having to do the job first?  Ladies pleasured first.  Please.  But I’m certainly not taking any favours from such a sweet-talking, prey hunting, slang dependent, romance dispelling mamma’s boy.  Time to pleasure myself…..in the kitchen…in a completely non-sexual way.

A taste of pizza

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Napoletana dough with topping of choice

Ingredients:
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
230 mls water
olive oil for work surface

Directions:

Add all the dry ingredients and mix to distribute, with a spoon or electric mixer with paddle attachment.  Add water and stir through until all the flour is absorbed, for 1 to 2 minutes.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes and then mix for another minute.  Add a little more water or flour as needed.  It should feel soft and tacky to the touch.

Rub your work surface with a little olive oil.  Scrape out the dough mix on to the surface.  Imagine the dough as a square shape.  Take one corner and stretch it out and away from the centre of the square and then fold it back into the centre.  Repeat with each corner, so it becomes a ball.  Take the bowl and place it upside down over the dough and leave it for 5 minutes.  Repeat this process of stretch and folding and resting three times.  Each time the dough should become firmer and less sticky.  After the fourth stretch and fold return the dough to a bowl and cover until it doubles in size, for approximately 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees centigrade.  Once ready take a third of the dough and turn out on to lightly floured surface.  Stretch the dough out carefully using the backs of your hands and turning in a circular motion, manipulating the edges of the dough outward with your thumbs.  Let it rest a minute or so once it starts to feel tough to stretch.  Continue until the dough is approximately 25 cm in diameter.

Take your pizza base and carefully lay it on a pizza stone or an overturned baking tray.  Cover it with the ingredients you so desire and place in the oven and cook until golden brown at the edges, for approximately 15 minutes.  Delizioso!

Topping suggestions: As a base for my first pizza I used a tomato sauce.  I whipped it up in a saucepan using a little olive oil, half a clove of garlic, a tin of tomatoes, 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar, a sprinkle of dried oregano and basil, and salt and pepper.  I smeared the sauce (not too generously) across the pizza base.  For the topping I used a combination of bacon, tomato, mozzarella, kalamata olives, onion, and roast capsicum.

For the second pizza I smeared cream cheese across the base (goats cheese would be yum too).  For the topping I mixed a little olive oil, a crushed garlic clove, and chopped mushrooms in a hot pan.  I then added some spinach until it wilted and seasoned to taste.
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Um, this is the kind of flavourful favour I enjoy!

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happy endings in the kitchen episode 13: Cinnamon scrolls with bacon and maple syrup icing

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Secret Mission Fail

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was SecretAgent.

Yes, SecretAgent.  I had been traveling around the world and had recently arrived in Toronto, Canada to visit and stay with a close girlfriend, her husband, and two small children.  They were situated outside the city in a beautiful log cabin nestled by trees of every glorious colour, and surrounded by bulbs bursting forth with happy flowers.  We spent a relaxing few days or so catching up, talking life, drinking hot chocolate, and being entertained and exhausted by small children.  But on the last day of my stay we weren’t to stay in by the fire.  My girlfriend’s husband was an army officer and I had been invited to join them in Toronto for the annual army ball.  It was a big, posh event with fancy food, flowing champagne and visiting English royalty.  Dressed to the nines in borrowed black velvet that clung to every part of my terrain I was feeling excited for the night ahead.  And I had a pre-arranged date.  He was the best friend of my friend’s husband, personable and charming, attractively sharp and debonaire, looking like a newly initiated member of the rat pack in his his freshly pressed Italian suit, he worked as an undercover agent and had just returned from a mission in Afghanistan, his disguise beard shaven off only that day, and his liveliness and vigour for life was infectious to everyone around him.  Note: He was also married, and had left his wife and newborn baby at home for the evening.

And so, it was nothing.  The night started with all of us sharing a glass of champagne, engaged in great conversation and eating any of the hors’d’oeuvre that wandered past temptingly on a plate.  But as we sat down at our designated table and found ourselves next to each other SecretAgent unveiled his secret agent.  He was full of wild stories, devilish humour, and the energy he was giving out was anything but that of a taken man.  He paid keen attention to my wine glass, making sure to refill it if it started looking thirsty, always keeping his focus entirely on my person. And as we started on dessert his focus only intensified.  “Where did you come from?”, “you are breath-taking”, “where do you travel to next? Maybe I could meet you there?”.  Thinking that SecretAgent was being a little forward and perhaps forgetting the existence of wifey I had a quick word of concern with my friend.  She expressed surprise at SecretAgent’s bold manner but was convinced that his intentions were friendly, and promised to keep an eye out for any frisky naughtiness in the meantime.

By this stage I was feeling very tipsy and slightly euphoric, so I decided to relax and keep having fun.  But at some stage not too long after I went from feeling tipsy to drunkety drunk drunk.  Perhaps I hadn’t been paying attention to how often my glass had been refilled.  And from then on the details of my memory become a little sketchy.  Although I do recall SecretAgent running his hand down my back whilst whispering “I can’t wait to take this dress off you…”.  Frisky naughtiness indeed.  But from there my memory fails me completely.  It’s a black hole.

However, thankfully my friend had been keeping an eye out as promised as she happily informed me of the missing details the next day.  Apparently her husband had come to the rescue and man-handled SecretAgent and I away to the safety of the shared hotel room that we were all intended to sleep in.  I was put to bed and SecretAgent was banished to sleep on the other side of the room.  But when the lights were out I proceeded to remove my top and attempt to climb “like a tiger” on all fours across the obstacle of each bed, including one containing two small children.  My mission was to get to SecretAgent.  Word was that I put on ‘quite the show’.  Perhaps there had been something other than wine fuelling my obscene antics?  Never before had I behaved in such an uncontrolled lascivious fashion after a glass of wine or five.  And I can’t help but speculate that SecretAgent may have had a ‘briefcase’ of antidotes that could assist on such occasions.  But by the next morning the only thing in my head was a will to survive the most incredibly painful hangover I had ever experienced.  That and the feeling of relief to have avoided being poked by such a danger seeking, drink spiking(?), marriage faking, ingenuine, non-valiant, similarly short but not so attractive try-hard version of Tom Cruise.  Time to put this one to bed, with a clear head.  I’m getting me some maple syrup and bacon and turning up the oven.  This one has to be tasty, for sure.  And this time I’m going to remember every moment of it.

Further note: I was lucky enough to have had a friend looking out for me on this particular occasion but drink spiking is no laughing matter and certainly can’t be forgiven with a plate of fatty goodness accompanied by a story shaming.  If this happens or has happened to you the best course of action is to seek medical advice and emotional support, and report any suspicious goings-on to the police.  I have no proof if I was a victim to such foul play but am so grateful that I didn’t fall victim and become his foul prey.

A taste of Canada

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Cinnamon scrolls with Bacon and Maple Syrup Icing

Ingredients:

7 g package dry or instant yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup white sugar
76 grams butter
2 eggs
4 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
76 grams butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
5-10 pieces middle bacon, thickly sliced
Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
50 grams butter
3 tbsp maple syrup

Directions:
Combine your dry yeast with the warm milk and leave for 5 minutes.  If using instant yeast you can just add it to the flour.
Beat 76 grams of butter with the white sugar.  Add eggs and whisk.  Add in flour, yeast and milk and combine.  Knead the dough until it’s a good consistency, so it’s not too tacky to the touch and it binds smoothly.  Place in bowl, cover, and leave to rise until dough has doubled in size, for an hour to an hour and a half.  Make sure the room is at a suitable temperature for this to occur, around 27 degrees if possible.
In the meantime cut up the bacon into strips as you like.  You can either pre-cook to make sure they are crispy or leave to cook inside the scrolls when they go into the oven.
In a separate bowl combine the other 76 g of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  When risen adequately roll out your dough on to a floured surface until it’s approximately 20 inches by 16 inches.  Once rolled spread the cinnamon butter evenly across the surface.  Now scatter the uncooked or pre-crisped bacon over the dough.  Carefully roll the dough until it is a log.  Cut into 2 inch pieces with a hot knife and place side by side on a well greased baking tray.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until risen and golden.
Prepare icing mixture by combining icing sugar, butter and maple syrup.  Add maple syrup to taste or if you prefer your icing a little runnier.  Spread across the top of each sweet, cinnamony, bacon loaded treat.

Um, think I may have cardiac issues if I keep eating these but right now I have no conscience.  This is a taste memory worth keeping.

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Happy endings in the kitchen episode 3: Spanakopita

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My name is not Dolores Jones

You know how some guys really get you down? How some dates and relationships can leave you feeling naked, afraid, and oh so confused? You know how some guys are just those guys? Those guys? 

Well then there was Beach Dick.

Yes, Beach Dick.  An online connection, I first saw him in his European speedos, honey coloured skin glowing, a grinning Greek god, stretched across the unspoilt sand of some exotic paradise, the waves seductively lapping at his groin.  Another profile picture captured the moment as he stepped off a yacht in a freshly pressed suit.  Wanker alert!  However, upon reading…and reading…and reading his rather wordy self description I took the risk to chat.  He insisted on taking me out to dinner and in spite of my reservations Cupid set up the first date.  He was 40 years young, was a bit of a babe, well traveled, seemingly educated, had lived overseas, enjoyed the arts and the finer things, loved good coffee, fancied himself a builder and part-time sketch artist, and lived on his own in one of the more hip suburbs of Melbourne.  Note: He also used the word ‘meretricious’ within the first five minutes of our date, corrected my pronunciation of an ancient Egyptian word within the first ten minutes, laughed a lot(!) at his own jokes (which weren’t even bordering on smile worthy), revealed that he had closed his online profile and expected that I would do the same, talked over the top of most of what I attempted to contribute, and looked at me rather resentfully when he mentioned for the second time that he would get the bill and it was his pleasure.

And so, it was hate.  I said no to the offer of a coffee catch up and thought the worst was behind me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.  After a period of time away from the internet dating scene I decided to reactivate my account to see if things had improved in the world of endless choice.  Within a day I had an inbox from Beach Dick.  And it wasn’t a friendly hello.  It was a character assassination.  According to him I was a fraudulent, physically and emotionally unavailable, jaded harpie that was just looking for a free meal and an ego boost…After responding with a question as to where cocks like him were manufactured I blocked Beach Dick, hoping to never hear from him again.  But unfortunately only days later I received a message on my phone from an unknown number.  “Hello, I saw your profile and would like to spend some time with you.”  I promptly rang unknown number to enquire as to how he had contrived my personal details, only to discover that an online profile had been created under the username of Dolores Jones, advertising the services of Escort/Masseuse and detailing my real name, photo and mobile number.

I could feel the vomit rising and knew immediately that Beach Dick was responsible.  But I decided that I wasn’t going to waste any more energy on a wordy, self-important, psychopathic, loud-talking, misogynistic, bitter and twisted excuse for a man.  Retribution would be by food.  Victory in creation.  And so it is to the κουζίνα I escort myself to massage nothing more than a spinach leaf or two.

Further note: If someone degrades you, bullies you, attempts to threaten your dignity, or harasses you in any way  it isn’t of course as easily solved by cooking up a delicious meal.  In this case the best action is to report the offender to the police.  You don’t want this person to keep repeating such inexplicable behaviour or give them any reason to think it’s ok

A taste of Greece

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Spanakopita

Ingredients:

Filling:

2 lb. fresh spinach, washed, dried, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped                                                                                                                                                              10 spring onions, white and light-green parts only, finely chopped
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

15 to 20 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1 tbsp milk

 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade.

Mix it: Heat a 10-inch pan over medium heat.  Cook the spinach in batches until it is wilted and bright green in colour, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the spinach to a colander and squeeze out the excess moisture.  Now heat the oil in the pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until transparent.  Add the spring onions and cook until soft.  Stir that spinach in and then leave the mix to cool.  Once cooled stir in the remaining ingredients and season with salt to taste.

Assemble it: Lightly coat a baking dish with olive oil.  Place your first sheet of filo in the dish and lightly oil it with the pastry brush.  Layer the filo to cover the bottom of the dish and continue to lightly baste each sheet top with olive oil.  Continue to layer, using up to 8 sheets of filo, with a concentration towards the centre of the dish.  Top with the filling, spreading evenly over the filo base.

Finish it off: Now place remaining filo sheets over the filling, continuing to brush the top of each sheet lightly with olive oil.  Enclose that treasure of a filling in by lightly folding the edges of the filo pastry down the sides of the dish with the oiled basting brush.

Score the top of the pastry with a sharp knife into the size of the pieces you desire without cutting through to the filling.  Brush the scored edges with milk and it’s ready to bake.  Cook in pre-heated oven until the top is golden.  Cut out as scored and serve with fresh salad.

Eat that cheesy green goodness.  Bad taste gone.

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