Fav Nashville Eats: Skyking Pizza (Kingston Springs)

Sky King pizza

Skyking pizza

It’s a well-known fact (probably just in my head) that I’m pizza-fussy. I will not eat any ole pizza. Maybe it’s my NY-Italian-American upbringing. Maybe my 30 years in NYC. Maybe my life in Roma and my many trips to Italy. Maybe my finicky tastebuds. Maybe all of this created a pizza-snob monster: me.

But when I bite into a good pizza I fall in love immediately. And a cozy spot in a small town, about a half-hour from Nashville, makes a pizza I love: Kingston Springs’ Skyking Pizza. They know how to ring that elusive  yummy pizza bell.

When I first heard they were opening a pizza place in Kingston Springs (and they were importing a heavy wood-burning oven) I was skeptical. Because I’m always skeptical about pizza. But the first time I walked into Skyking Pizza I was encouraged by the open and warm environment. The impressive huge pizza oven. The appetizing menu. And the super friendly wait staff.

At first bite I knew I hit the jackpot. The crust has a crunch AND a chew. The crust reminded me of Naples-style pizza. A beautiful chew, but the blackened spots licked by the fiery oven hit you with a crunch.

Sky King pizza crust

Skyking pizza crust

Skyking offers about a dozen different pizzas… from Margherita to Very Veggie to “Go Forth” (which loads on the meats) and more (my fav: white pizza with ricotta, garlic, artichoke hearts, spinach, basil, and mozzarella).

Sky King white pizza

Skyking white pizza

They have house-made sausage, meatball & salad side dishes. They serve beer and you can bring your own wine. They make it easy to have a good time. And to want to return as often as possible.

I’ve always been a fan of Roman-style pizza. In Rome (if you go to the right pizzeria) the crust is so thin it’s almost cracker crisp. In Rome, I almost always get pizza con funghi (mushrooms). This is me and my pizza at my fav Roman pizzeria “Dal Paino”…

me with mushroom pizza in Roma

me with mushroom pizza in Roma

But in recent years I’ve discovered the wonders of Naples-style pizza. Crust thicker at the edges and chewy. When done right. It’s great. Skyking delivers that taste and texture.

Skying Pizza Kingston Springs

Skying Pizza Kingston Springs

Wondering where they got that name? Skyking? Maybe it puts you in mind of the 50’s TV show. Do you know the show?

Sky King TV show

Sky King TV show

It’s about a pilot in Arizona who, in every episode, flies around and helps people or solves mysteries with his little 2-seater plane. I used to watch it and I used to love it. I was probably a fan because I always wanted to fly. As an adult I was after getting my pilot’s license. I took a few lessons out at Teterboro Airport in NJ, but then lack of time and enough money spirited me away. The flying bug was inspired by my father, who also wanted to get his pilot’s license. We used to go to JFK airport just to watch planes take off and land.

Sky King had a niece, too…Penny. She was also a flier. I don’t really remember her as much as Sky King himself, taking to the skies in his plane named Songbird.

Sky King TV show

Sky King TV show

I asked them at Skyking pizza. My now favorite pizzeria has no connection to the TV show. Just as well. I don’t think that massive pizza oven would fit into the plane.

Skyking's wood-burning pizza oven

Skyking’s wood-burning pizza oven

My Secret Package of Mini Chocolate Donuts

mini chocolate donuts

mini chocolate donuts

It’s probably been years since I slipped out of a convenience store with a package of mini chocolate donuts in my hands. After paying, of course. If you ever have to go IN to the gas station store when buying gas (or maybe a lottery ticket?) you always pass those black wire sturdy stands with displays of mini crumb cakes, cupcakes, powdered mini donuts, and chocolate-iced mini donuts.

I love those little chocolate donuts. But I tell myself I’m not allowed to eat them because they’re made of junky ingredients and I don’t need the extra empty calories and I better stick to eating good stuff. Instead.

mini chocolate donut

mini chocolate donut

But once in a while I fall off the wagon. Usually on long road trips when there’s a feeling of “anything goes” in the air. At each gas station stop I might buy a bag of potato chips or a package of strawberry twizzlers or the chocolate-iced mini donuts. Or–(and I’m not trying to shock you) a Slim Jim.

mini chocolate donuts - 4 left

mini chocolate donuts – 4 left

I remember when I lived in the Bronx I once caved and bought a package of the donuts at a local grocery store. (I was probably stressed about something to put me over the edge of donuts.) I ate them on the 5-block walk home. I kept the donut package in the plastic grocery bag and took one out at a time (like I was afraid a passing car would actually see what I was eating)… until I had eaten 3. I convinced myself that 3 minis equaled 1 regular-sized donut and then threw the rest of them away.

chocolate mini donuts - 2 left

chocolate mini donuts – 2 left

The other night I caved again (must be about 7-8 years since last cave…could even be that walk-in-the-Bronx cave). This time a whimsical “c’est la vie” got me. I ate the whole package. One at a time. And with a glass of milk.

mini chocolate donut with milk

mini chocolate donut with milk

And they were really good. (How can that be? They’re really good!)

chocolate mini donut

chocolate mini donut

We just had a snow storm here in Nashville. And I wouldn’t even make pancakes. That comforting breakfast when the snow is piled up over 6 inches and you can’t go out and you’re looking for cozy. No, I wouldn’t even make pancakes.

snow in Nashville

snow in Nashville

But last week I ate the donuts. One daring thrill at a time.

empty donuts

empty donuts

Recipe Gift: Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

This is such a great idea. Yes, the tuna-stuffed piquillo pepper is a great idea. But how I got the recipe is even better.

Okay, I’m coining this phrase (if there are any millions to be made for coining a phrase, please send to my PO Box): Recipe Gift.

Duane’s son, Jody, sent me a recipe gift for Christmas. A recipe plus the ingredients. For someone who loves to cook (me) this was the perfect gift. Jody had already tried the recipe and loved it. He thought that we would love it, too. What could be better?

Duane and Jody

Duane and Jody

The ingredients he sent were conveniently in a can and a jar. BUT they were from Spain. Spanish tuna and Spanish piquillo peppers. The can itself is a work of art…

bonito tuna from Spain

bonito tuna from Spain

And so are the peppers.

Spanish piquillo peppers

Spanish piquillo peppers

Do you know piquillo peppers? They are small red peppers, roasted to remove their skins so you work with smooth sultry pepper flesh. But they remain whole (without their tops/heads) so you can stuff them, like pita pockets.

The recipe Jody sent was a link from Serious Eats. (Recipe below with a few tweaks from me.) And I just took it from there. First I made the garlic-lemon aioli…

garlic-lemon aioli

garlic-lemon aioli

aioli, seasoned, in bowl (let it chill a bit)

aioli, seasoned, in bowl (let it chill a bit)

Then I took out the peppers and let them drain off the jar juices on a paper towel.

piquillo peppers draining

piquillo peppers draining

Then opened the beautiful tuna can (which I’m washing and then hanging on the kitchen wall) to reveal the beautiful tuna…

Spanish bonito tuna

Spanish bonito tuna

Cut up shallots, and parsley, juiced lemon, added capers, and some aioli, all to the bowl with drained tuna…

tuna mixture

tuna mixture

Mix it up…

tuna mixture

tuna mixture

Now the fun part: stuffing the peppers. Gently hold one pepper in your hand with the top part open (like your going to fill a pastry bag). Spoon tuna mixture in, pushing down gently, until it’s filled with as much as you can get in.

stuffed peppers

stuffed peppers

Lay each filled pepper on a slice of baguette. When all done, place on a serving platter and dollop each with aioli, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and minced parsley.

Spanish Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Spanish Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Then have yourself a merry ole time. Your tastebuds will pop like fireworks, and you won’t be able to stop saying Mmmmmm!

I start with one, then move on to all.

I start with one, then move on to all.

Of course, Jody loves to cook, too. And his birthday is in March. I’m now starting to dream about my recipe gift for him.

Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers (from Serious Eats)

1 (250-gram, about 8.5 ounces) can oil-packed Spanish Bonito tuna, drained

1 recipe aioli divided (see below)

1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon

1 tablespoon capers

3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (12- to 14-ounce) jar piquillo peppers, drained, about 8-10 total

8-10 baguette slices, cut thinly, toasted if desired

Combine tuna, 1/4 cup aioli, shallots, lemon juice, capers, 2 tablespoons minced parsley, and olive oil in a medium bowl and mix to incorporate. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper, adding more lemon juice, olive oil, or aioli if desired.

Stuff tuna mixture into piquillo peppers. Arrange baguette slices on a serving dish. Top each with a stuffed pepper. Top with a dollop of aioli. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.

For the Lemon-Garlic Aioli

1 large egg yolk

4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon juice (from 1/2 a lemon)

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place egg yolk, garlic, water, and lemon juice in the bowl of a  food processor. Pulse until combined and then drizzle in the oil little by little with machine running until an emulsified mayo forms. Season with salt and pepper. to taste.  Store any leftover in a jar. Refrigerate for up to a week or two.

 

 

Not Ur Grandma’s Beef Stew

beef stew

beef stew

Yes, I confess. I’m an Italian food junkie. But sometimes my American side kicks in. Pancakes, hot dogs, hamburgers, mashed potatoes, grilled cheese sandwich, BLT, (endless list). The other day I was hankering for beef stew. It’s fun to gather ingredients and just dive in (following simple braising methods) and put together a yummy stew. I served it over rice. Duane and I demolished it.

Because I created it on the spot (but with the usual characters cooking in the pan), and since Duane wrote this cool music to accompany the process, I call it: Not Ur Grandma’s Beef Stew.

This under 1-minute video tells all. :)

 

How to Make a Quick Simple Tomato Sauce

quick tomato sauce

quick tomato sauce

Maybe when I was 17, away at college, and wanting to feel like a cook…maybe…I bought a jar of Ragu. I know I can imagine what it tastes like, so I must have bought one once.

But never again. What’s the point? When you can outdo that taste so easily. When you can make your own tomato sauce in 15 minutes.

I had so much fun making this short video of how-to make your own simple quick (and delicious) tomato sauce.

I’ve probably bubbled this up thousands of times. Not only for pasta, but to slip in a few fillets of fish. Or spoon on an eggplant parmigiano. Or to top a pizza. It goes everywhere!

Simple Tomato Sauce

2-3 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, cunt into small dice

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

3-4 sprigs fresh herbs, i.e. basil, sage or oregano (optional)

salt & pepper to taste (pinch hot pepper, optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the diced onion. Cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the minced garlic. Cook for about a minute until fragrant (but not browned). Add the wine. Let it almost completely evaporate. Then add the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add  fresh herbs before serving.

Falafel…send your taste-buds to other lands

frying the falafel

frying the falafel

I first tasted falafel in my 20’s at a Greek restaurant in Huntington, LI. I immediately fell in love. With its condiment of a tahini-yogurt sauce, the dish can’t help but sweep you away to foreign lands. (Where I am always game to be swept.)

I’ve tried different recipes over the years for making them at home, but stopped searching when Mark Bittman published his recipe in the New York Times some years ago. His recipe uses dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight, and quite a bit of parsley…so that the inside of these morsels of goodness look green.

No worries. They are supposed to. And the taste is perfect every time.

Native to the Middle East, falafel is found across countries…Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, everywhere. Tucked into pita bread, or as a snack, or part of the antipasto table (mezze table), they know how to fit in perfectly. If you make a batch, and have any leftover, they are great as a bite right from the fridge.

And then there’s that taste-bud flight to another land. Falafel will always transport you. No passport needed.

falafel - ready to eat

falafel – ready to eat

Falafel w Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

1 ¾ cups dried chickpeas

2 garlic cloves

1 small onion, quartered

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

cayenne to taste

1 cup chopped parsley

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt & pepper to taste

canola oil for frying (about 2 cups)

Sauce:

½ pint plain yogurt (Greek is best)

2 tablespoons tahini

juice of ½ lemon

salt to taste

Place the chickpeas in a medium mixing bowl. Cover with water about 2-3 inches above surface of chickpeas. Let stand for 24 hours. Add more water if it absorbs sooner. Drain, but reserve any extra water. Chickpeas will still be a little hard.

Add chickpeas, garlic, onion, spices, parsley, baking soda, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until minced, not pureed. Scrape down the bowl. Add a little soaking water if needed to help it process, but limit the amount of water – less is better or they may not stick together while frying.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Oil should be at least 2 inches deep – more is better. Heat to 350 degrees or test with a little piece of mixture. If it sizzles immediately and bounces to the top the oil is ready.

Scrape out mixture into a mixing bowl. Form small balls with the mixture. Deep fry a few at a time. Cook until nicely browned, turning them carefully – less than 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sauce:

Mix together all the ingredients. Use as a condiment to the falafel.

Black & White Cake? Black & White Cookie?

mini black and white cakes

mini black and white cakes

I think it depends on where you are from. Growing up in NY we knew these as black & white cakes. They were usually a good 6 inches in diameter. One half iced with chocolate, the other with vanilla icing. I always loved the chocolate side, and ate the vanilla side first so I could end with the best.

Now we make them at home (and in class) and we make them small — about 2-3 inches in diameter. So you can eat them in about 3-4 bites and each bite can be a combo of chocolate and vanilla.

Yes, this is one of those treats where the eating of it is kinda part of the recipe!

Often, people who come to my class don’t know these cakes. Or they do and say:”I thought they were black & white cookies?” A couple of people knew them from Disney World (???) and then a couple knew them from watching Seinfeld.

icing the black and white cakes in class

icing the black and white cakes in class

But here’s the recipe and a SECRET: my mother figure out how to make them — she transformed her forever-cupcake batter into black & white cake batter with a tiny adjustment. I won’t point out where the adjustment lies (you may figure it out) because I’m not in the habit of giving away ALL secrets!

Mini Black & White Cakes

1 stick butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons milk

1 1/2 cups flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

Vanilla Icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

5-6 tablespoons very hot water, as needed

Chocolate icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

2-3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional)

5-6 tablespoons very hot water, as needed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time until each is incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and milk. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined (don’t over-mix).

Line a sheet pan or cookie sheet with parchment. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of batter for each cake. Line them up with at least 1/2 inch in between. Bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool, then gently peel from the parchment. Ice the flat side of the cake. Using a spatula, butter knife, or offset spatula, smooth half the cake with chocolate icing and the other half with vanilla. Let icing set before storing.

Make the vanilla icing: Smooth the butter in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix together with butter using a spoon. Drizzle a little hot water on the mixture and stir vigorously to make the icing into a not-too-thick, not-too-thin consistency. If too thin add more sugar. Too thick add more hot water.

Make the chocolate icing: Smooth the butter in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar, cocoa, and instant espresso and mix together with butter using a spoon. Drizzle a little hot water on the mixture and stir vigorously to make the icing into a not-too-thick, not-too-thin consistency. If too thin add more sugar. Too thick add more hot water.

this is my portion

this is my portion