Beyond Pizza

I learned to appreciate calzones and empanadas by baking pizzas at home. If you love deep toppings and excessive cheese, you’ll want these recipes. Learn to make Sourdough Calzones and Empanadas.I didn’t appreciate calzones until I started baking beautiful pizzas at home. Before my homemade pizzas achieved elegance, they tended toward soggy masses on soft, undercooked dough or slightly burned toppings over a cracker-crisp crust. Both variations resulted from the same problem: too many toppings at too low of a temperature.

I’ve learned not to compare pizzas baked in a home oven with fully loaded, wood-fire pizzas—and especially with those I ate in Naples. Kenji, lord of Serious Eats, puts it bluntly: “You’re never going to be able to produce a perfect Neapolitan-style pie in a home oven.” The crew at Bon Appétit is a bit less forceful yet just as adamant: “For those hefty pies to work, they need an ultra-sturdy crust and a really, really, really, really hot oven. Leave it to the pros and go simple.”

So as I teach all my workshop participants, whether grilling or baking your pizza, keep your temperature high and your toppings light. But if you’re a fan of deep toppings and excessive cheese, turn your pizza dough into calzones or empanadas.
Learn to make Sourdough Calzones and Sourdough Empanadas

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Holiday Spice

Sweets top the list of foods given at the holidays, so some of my favorite “small” homemade gifts are short on sugar yet big on taste. Learn to make Sweet Spice Mix and Sweet and Spicy Nuts.
I like giving homemade food gifts. They’re appreciated by everyone: the child with a sweet tooth, the apartment dweller without room to garden, the new mom too busy to can, the grandparent who simply doesn’t need more stuff. But food gifts are also perfect for people you want to thank with something thoughtful that won’t break your year-end budget: your hairdresser or favorite coworker, your child’s soccer coach or piano teacher, the neighbor who feeds your cat or helped jump your car. Chances are none of these people need more candles, bath soaps, fridge magnets, or Christmas ornaments. But they all need to eat.

The first food gifts that come to mind during the holidays are cookies, and it’s certainly easy to stretch a batch as you prepare treats for the family or an exchange. But if your giftee has dozens of clients or students, the sugar load can add up fast. Some of my favorite “small” gifts are short on sugar yet big on taste.
Learn to make Sweet Spice Mix and Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Spinach

Two traditions surround the American feast at the heart of Thanksgiving: an excessive amount of food and its subsequent leftovers. Some are easily consumed—who would turn down a slice of pie for breakfast? But others threaten to hang around in the fridge until even the dog turns up her nose.

Fortunately, many uses for holiday leftovers reach beyond microwaved reruns and turkey sandwiches. Leftover roasted vegetables are ideal for Roasted Squash Soup and cut your prep time to about 30 minutes. Extra pumpkin puree can be turned into quick bread. But some of my favorite post-holiday meals come from the most challenging leftovers: spinach and cranberries.
Learn to make Warm Spinach–Cranberry Salad and Potato–Mushroom–Spinach Curry

Winter Squash

“What do you eat at Thanksgiving?” I get this question a lot, not from people seeking my favorite recipes but from those wondering how a pescatarian can fill her plate from a holiday table featuring a giant bird. It always makes me laugh: Thanksgiving is the one holiday at which I’m guaranteed to eat well, thanks to the tradition of cooking far more food that the intended guests can consume.

No matter your food preferences, the Thanksgiving spread is sure to include things you will and will not eat. These days, turkey tops my move-on-down-the-line list, along with accompaniments baked in or built from the star of the show. But as a kid, my least favorite Thanksgiving dish was pumpkin pie. I was in college before I learned to appreciate any variety of winter squash, and I didn’t discover a true liking for pumpkin pie until I deviated from the too common canned filling to home-roasted, lightly spiked sugar pumpkin.
Learn to make Creamy Pumpkin–Rum Pie and Roasted Squash Soup