The Frazzled Chef Gets a Helper


Frazzled Chef

Not long ago, I acquired an apprentice to help me around the kitchen: my cousin. He’s about three feet tall, a whopping four years old, and just about the cutest little kid you’ve ever seen. Our first joint endeavor in the cucina (kitchen)? The quintessential Italian dish and worldwide favourite:

Pizza

Now, growing up with an Italian Nonna and a Mamma who loves Italian food, I started to learn the craft of pizza-making at an early age. Over the years, I made pizza with my Mom and Nonna for family dinners, with friends when we had sleepovers at my place and as a late night snack for my housemates and I during our university days. I couldn’t believe it when people would tell me that they didn’t know how to make pizza. Wasn’t it a skill we all learned as children??!!? It was something so simple for me, so natural. (That is, as natural as any cooking activity can be for me…)

Anyways, pizza-making was a skill that my aunt wanted to instill in little Christopher. (I don’t know that he’s ever even made a peanut butter sandwich, but really, why bother starting small?) So, she gave me a call and we set up an evening when the Frazzled Chef would introduce her eager little blue-eyed apprentice to the art of pizza making.

I bet you’re all busting to know how it went, right? Did I spill cheese on the floor? Did I drop the dough? Did the apprentice and the chef end up in a sauce-flinging contest? Did one of us end up in Time-Out?

I can assure you, readers, that the whole ordeal went in the usual Frazzled Chef style. The dough didn’t rise properly, the onions made me turn into a blubbery, red-eyed disaster, and we made a pretty good mess of the kitchen while my aunt grimly surveyed the scene. My apprentice, I’m happy to report, attacked his tasks with furious gusto (which, naturally, he learned from yours truly).

Pizza Dough

Spreading the dough.

Spreading the sauce

Spreading the sauce

Adding the cheese.

Adding the cheese.

We greased the pan with a bit of butter (“I get to use my fing-ers?”), spread the dough, used a spoon to cover it in sauce (“Can’t I use my fingers for this toooo?) and made funky designs with all of our pizza toppings. Somehow, to the music of a little voice saying ever so loudly, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it! I’ll do it!”, and eagerly asking “Can I try? Can I try?” Chris and I managed to concoct two perfectly passable pizzas complete with cheese, olives, pepperoni, mushrooms and yes, some onions.

The oven was hot, the pizzas were ready and Chris, proud of his accomplishments as a little pizzaiolo (pizza maker), was busy admiring our work.

“Stand back now, Christopher. I’m going to put these pizzas in the oven, ok?” I said slowly, motioning for him to move away from where I was about to open the oven door. Quarters were a bit tight in the kitchen, and obviously I didn’t want him to get hurt. (One of my childhood pizza-making experiences with Nonna resulted in me burning my wrists on a hot oven rack. Nonna’s solution? Give me a drink of water and slather some butter on the wounds. Needless to say, she’s no longer practicing medicine).

“Ok!” He chirped, bobbing up and down with excitement and watching me with big eyes.

I opened the oven and was bending down to put the first pizza in, when I felt my posterior brush against something behind me, and that something begin to head towards the floor. It landed with a crash and I quickly shoved the pizza in the oven, closed the door, and stood up praying to the kitchen gods that it hadn’t been anything valuable.

Before I could even turn around to see what I had done, Christopher was shouting it from the rooftops.

“YOUR BIG BUM KNOCKED MY DRAWINGS OFF THE FRIDGE!” His tone was accusatory as he pointed at the pile of papers now strewn all over the floor in front of the oven.

And as if one transgression wasn’t enough, he was sure to add, “AND MY MAGNETS TOO!”

The kitchen gods came through, and nothing ended up being ripped or broken. I helped Chris put his artwork back on the fridge in the same chaotic disarray it had been hanging before and he seemed to forgive me, although he was sure to warn me to “be careful of your bum!”, when, 25 minutes later I once again bent down to retrieve the pizzas from the oven.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

“So, Chris, do you think you and I could make pizzas again some night? You could help me out?” I asked.

“Yeeeeeahhhh! It was coo-oool!” Chris responded between mouthfuls.

Another Frazzled Chef success!

UPDATE – The next time my little helper was around, I asked him if he was going to come into the kitchen and help me with the pizza for dinner? He responded so angelically in his little voice, “But why, Sarah? Don’t you know how to do it yourself?”

Kids!

 

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Tantalizing Tapas


¡Hola readers!

In my last post oh-so-many weeks ago, I included a rough outline of the places I’d be visiting in Spain and Italy on my summer holiday.  Now I’m back, and my travels most certainly did not disappoint! The Frazzled Chef is also an enthusiastic eater, so I have a funny feeling that much of my reporting on Spain will have to do with what I ate and drank. And there’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Obviously you saw the title of this post. So what the heck are tapas, you ask, and why do I think they’re so tantalizing? Tapas are small portions of food that, when many of them are ordered, make a great lunch, dinner or snack. Apparently the word “tapas” comes from the Spanish verb “tapar“, which means “to cover“. (The language-lover in me guessed that little linguistic tidbit before anyone ever confirmed it for me. Turns out, I was right!) Back in the day, pubs and taverns used to serve their goblets of wine with slices of cured meat on top to keep pesky insects from swimming around in your drink. Thus, the custom of serving these small portions of food with drinks was born. The idea is slightly akin to the Italian Aperitivo, but the two should be in no way confused.

Spain’s capital was where I had my first brush with tapas, and taking a 14-euro Sandeman’s New Europe Tapas Experience tour in Madrid was certainly the way to go. Our guide Erik was young, knowledgeable and engaging. He lead us to some very unique tapas bars, and made many welcome suggestions as to what to eat and drink at each place. My big culinary adventure of the evening? I indulged in a plate of – wait for it!- pig’s ears. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, yours truly chowed down on a plate the cartilagious (my amalgamation of cartilage + delicious) Spanish delicacy and has lived to tell about it.

Pig’s Ears and Tomato Sauce – Orejas

And you know, the things were actually kinda good! Below is proof for all you sceptics that I actually did eat them:

Indulging in some pig’s ear tapas in Madrid.

Of course, drinks go hand in hand with tapas, because as we learned before, if it weren’t for drinks that needed protecting, the tapas tradition might not exist.

At the first tapas bar we visited, Erik suggested we all grab glasses of Tinto de Verano Limon. Translation? A refreshing concoction of  red wine and lemon soda goodness. The stuff goes down dangerously easily and quickly became our (my friend Jordan’s and my) go-to Spanish summer drink. At approximately 9-10 euros per litre at the places we ate, it’s also pretty affordable in the grand scheme of things.

Tinto de Verano

What are some other tapas I tried in Spain? Jamon Iberico (Iberian ham), Cod Croquettes (fried cod balls), Razor Clams, Patatas Bravas (roasted/fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce), Chorizo (sausage) with oil, and Spanish Omelette (omelette with potatoes), to name a few. I would definitely recommend experimenting with tapas and taking a tapas tour to anyone who is planning to visit Spain. But diners beware! A problem that we often had with eating tapas was judging how many we would actually need to fill our travel-weary stomachs. We’d guess 3 or 4 and budget accordingly, while the reality was that we actually needed up ordering 5 or 6!

As a side note, Jamon Iberico, it seems, is Spain’s national meat. Forget chicken or beef, Jamon is what you’re going to get. The stuff is everywhere, and it’s delicious:

A little ham, anyone?

Don’t forget to check back soon for more posts on my travels to Spain!