Dough | Parsley, Sage and Sweet

Homemade Chevre, Cheeseballs and Cheese filled Turkish Flatbread for Cheesepalooza, plus Part 17

September 30, 2012 at 7:04 am | Posted in Appetizers, Breads, Middle Eastern, Twelve Loaves, Vegetarian, Yeastspotting | 43 Comments
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So..I’m making cheese, goat cheese – chevre to be exact.  Valerie from A Canadian Foodie has challenged a bunch of us to start making cheese from scratch with her Cheesepalooza challenge.  I was extremely excited when she announced this challenge because I’ve always wanted to dabble a little in artisan cheese making.

No, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will not be performing, but they will be making an appearance in my cheese!

I’ve made cheese from scratch before..Ricotta and Macarpone.  I’ve also made Paneer, but I didn’t blog it, so I do have some cheese making’ experience under my too tiht belt. However, all three were made with cow’s milk.  This time I’m working with goat’s milk and as mentioned above,  making chevre.  I love, love, love chevre, but the first recipe provided, from the book Artisan Cheese Making At Home by Mary Karlin , contains something called  C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter.  Although I’m 99.9% sure it’s perfectly fine and won’t result in a tree growing out of my ear 20 years down the road, I just didn’t like the sound of it.

C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter.  Mesophilic disease comes to mind.  Can’t they call it something like..Me So Making Yummy Cheese from Scratch Stuff?

I emailed Valerie about this and she linked me to a recipe for chevre on her blog that uses buttermilk in lieu of the bacteria/organism laden Mesophilic Disease, umm..Mesophilic stuff.

I prefer to keep my food as natural and chemical-free as possible, even in my artery-clogging desserts, SO, as long as I know exactly what’s going into the food I’m making and it doesn’t have numbers attached to’s all cool.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is how I cook and bake.  I eat my fair share of foods that contain ingredients with numbers attached to them.  Golden Oreo, anyone?  Yep, I take care of other people but occasionally shove Golden Oreos down my gullet at warp speed, not to mention Rice Krispie Treats, Cool Ranch Doritos, well, you get the gist. .

Look, I love ALL cheese, so I’m sure my body is saturated with C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter, but since I have a choice in this chevre matter..I’m choosing not to use it.

Now, rennet is a different story because I read the Little House on the Prairie series and in Little House in the Big Woods, Ma used rennet to make cheese…and they used the rennet directly from the animal’s stomach lining back then…

Ma added the previous night’s skimmed milk to the cooled milk from the morning milking and put it on the stove to heat.  A bit of rennet inside a cloth is soaked in warm water.  Once the milk is warm, she squeezes all of the water out of the rennet in the cloth. She adds the rennet water to the milk and stirs it well.  The milk mixture is left in a warm place by the stove until it thickens to a quivering mass.  

The mass was cut with a long knife into cubes.  The cubes were allowed to sit until the curb separated from the whey.  The curds and whey were placed in a cloth and allowed to drain.  When all of the whey was drained, the curds were placed in a pan and salted.  The curds were then placed in the cheese hoop to be pressed.

Once all the whey had been pressed out, Ma trimmed the cheese, put a tight cloth around it, and buttered it.  Each day, she wiped the cheese with a wet cloth and rubbed it with butter until the cheese was ripe and had a hard rind on it. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Well..that’s how you make cheese to this day, albeit with a lot more convenience, electricity and modern appliances.

So I made the cheese using goat’s milk, buttermilk (which actually contains the Mesophilic stuff, a little fact alerted to me by a reader, but I just felt better using buttermilk – it’s a mind issue) and a rennet tablet crushed with some water.  It turned out fantastic.  I wanted to blow this whole post off and eat it all with a spoon.

But I didn’t.  Thankfully.

It was so fresh that it had some subtle sweet tones to it along with a slightly salty tang.  The texture was extremely creamy, as it should be.  I think everyone should make their own chevre because it’s too damn easy not to.  The rennet and buttermilk gel the goat’s milk after sitting for 12 hours or until it’s similar to the texture of yogurt.

Have you ever made yogurt cheese?  Well, essentially, once the goat’s milk has formed into a jelly like mass, you do the same thing you’d do when making yogurt cheese – wrap up the milk jelly (I cut mine into pieces) in cheesecloth, tie it up tight, and let the whey drain over a strainer into a bowl overnight.

The next morning I had creamy, dreamy chevre!  I got about 16 ounces of cheese, so, after eating a few spoonfuls (uhh….4 ounces), I added crushed red-hot chili pepper flakes, herbs, garlic and lemon zest to the rest of it..rolling them into cheeseballs (I love cheeseballs as one word because it tickles the kid inside of me) and packing them into ball jars with a light olive oil.  I used the other half of my spicy chevre as a filling for a Turkish bread called Pide.  Pide – Pizza – know..flatbread, in any language.

The only difference is, you fold the dough on each side partially over the filling in the middle, so you kind of have an oval slipper with some of the filling showing, which you can see in my bad photos.

If you have a moment, head on over to Valerie’s blog to see the chevre round-up, HERE. You’ll be amazed and inspired and hopefully it will inspire you enough make some yourself and/or take part in some of the Cheesepalooza challenges!

Homemade Chevre Recipe Without C20G Powdered Mesophilic Starter

Spicy Garlic Herb Chevre Filled Turkish Flatbread (Pide)
Yields two flatbreads
Inspired by Fine Dining Lovers

Spicy Garlic Herb Chevre
12- ounces fresh chevre
2 garlic cloves, minced, then mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small lemon, zested
2 tablespoons red hot pepper chili flakes (you can add more or less depending on your heat tolerance)
1 cup of chopped herbs of your choice.  I used parsley, chives and basil
freshly ground black pepper

Flatbread Dough
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon neutral oil,, such as vegetable
4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
3 1/4 to 1/2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1.  In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients thoroughly.  Set aside, covered at room temperature, to let the flavors blend while you make the dough.  If you just want to make the goat cheese balls in olive oil, refrigerate the goat cheese mixture until firm, about an hour, then roll into balls, about 1 to 2 inches in diameter and pack into jars with olive oil. Tap sealed jars on counter to remove any air bubbles.  I used 8 ounce ball jars.  The cheese balls in olive oil will keep for a month in the refrigerator.

1.  Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/4 cup lukewarm water until foamy, then mix with the flour, salt, oil , yogurt, and remaining 1/2 cup water.  Knead to a smooth dough, adding more flour or water, if needed.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour or until doubled.

2. Gently punch down dough by folding it over itself. On a floured board, divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Cover with a tea towel and let rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F – Remove the top rack.  You will be using the rack on the middle shelf.

3. While working with one piece of dough, keep other covered.  Roll the piece nto an oval..about 14 inches by 10 inches. Place dough on a parchment lines baking sheet. Alternatively, you can use a pizza peel and baking stone, which will give you a slightly crisper bread, but either way is fine. Spread half the goat cheese mixture (6 ounces) down the center, leaving about 2 to 3 inches on each side.  Fold each side of the dough toward the middle, sealing and tapering the ends so you have a slipper looking flatbread with some of the filling showing down the center (see photos above).

4. Bake flatbread about 20 – 30 minutes, until golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and slightly brown (I drizzled a little olive oil over the top before baking which made it brown a little more than it should have). Quickly remove bread from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before slicing. Repeat all the above with second ball of dough and remaining 6 ounces of cheese.

I’m submitting this Turkish Pide with Goat Cheese to this month’s  #TwelveLoaves theme – cheese, hosted by Lora of Cake Duchessand to Yeastspotting hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.

Now to Bad Boy First Love Part 17.  I thought this part would be the end, but it isn’t. Will it ever end?  I don’t know at this point.

If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, Part 14A is HERE,  Part 14B is HERE , Part 15 is HERE, and Part 16 is HERE.

He continued to hug me, whispering in my ear something I’d dreamed of hearing from him for so long, especially during my starry-eyed teenage moments.

“Lisa, I want to spend my life with you, I want to marry you.”

Talk about bad timing.  It kind of made me sick.

“You didn’t answer my questions!” I sobbed to him

His answer was quick and to the point.  “No, No, No and absolutely NOT!”

I believed he didn’t love her, but I wasn’t sure about the three ‘No’s’ before it. Regardless, I still had to think about him with another girl.

I continued asking questions.  Is she pretty?  Where did you take her out?  Did you kis….I stopped short.  I knew what the answer would be.  I had no doubt in my mind that he kissed her and I didn’t want to hear it.

You see, kissing, to women, is the most intimate thing you can do with someone.  Some of us would rather find out our guy boinked the chick in a drunken stupor, rather than just kissed her – as crazy as it sounds.  Kissing is emotional.  That is all.

Of course he told me she was nowhere near as beautiful as me.  Whatever. They all say that, don’t they?  He was grasping at invisible straws all over the place.

He said he took her to the movies.  Oh, great, he probably held her hand, rubbing her index finger with his thumb or kept his hand on her knee or thigh throughout the movie like he always did with me.  Suddenly, I didn’t want to know anymore.  I put my hand up, which I could barely see through my tears, to signal him to stop.

The Mazda RX7 had morphed into a confessional booth and I wanted out of it – PRONTO.  I opened the car door and started to walk, breathing in the warm, night air – feeling it dry my tears.  Numbness was setting in.  He came after me and took my hand in his.  We walked in silence for a long while.  Now I really wanted to get back to school.  I needed to escape this pain desperately.

He finally spoke.  “You were never there when I called and when you did call me back, you seemed so happy there without me.  I was convinced you were seeing someone else – it hurt pretty bad.”

He waited.  I knew what he wanted, maybe to somehow absolve what he’d done.  I wasn’t going to give it to him and not because I was hiding it, but because I didn’t want him to feel the same pain he had just inflicted on me.  This was why we made the promise of not telling each other unless we actually fell in love with someone else, which of course would be the end of us.

SO, no hockey guy confessions from me.  “I was just having a good time with my new friends, enjoying Boston and studying my ass off well into morning – I barely slept.” I responded coldly.

He took me in his arms, rubbing my back to melt the ice and rigidity in my limbs.  Once he buried his face in my neck, and I felt tears again, it worked.  I relaxed and gave it all back.  I knew he loved me, maybe now more than ever.

I stared at the Empire State Building over his shoulder – the top was lit up in blue that night.  I wondered what it stood for?  I was mesmerized, so much so that I almost had a coronary when he turned me around and hoisted me up on the ledge of the stone wall that separated the street from the long, steep hill down to the Hudson River.  I thought I was going over for a split-second.

Yeah..just kill me so you never have to see the pain in my eyes and feel the guilt.

He stood between my legs so we were face to face – his arms around my waist.

“Babe…I don’t want anyone but you. I won’t date anyone else ever again if you don’t want me to.  Just because you’re away at school doesn’t mean we have to see other people.” he said softly.

I froze. As crazy in love with him as I was..I couldn’t make that promise because once back in Boston, it was a whole new world he was not a part of, a new world where the ‘other’ Lisa would soon emerge, the one who was growing up – the one who had the ability to put him ‘away’ to dull the pain.  There was only one response I could come up with, one that drives men crazy nuts..


He seemed to accept that answer for the time being. I could tell he thought the ‘whatever’ was because I was still upset from his confession, and he didn’t want to push it.

The nick in our shiny apple was now a small hole..clearly visible to the eye,  He hugged me to him, burying his face in the crook of my neck again.  As I felt his tears run down my collarbone, my love for him exploded.  I kissed his head, inhaling the sweet, familiar scent of his hair..little darts of pain shooting through my heart at the thought of another girl smelling that.

He lifted his head and stared into my eyes.  Oh, wow..that stare with those intense blue eyes always slayed me.  I was always held hostage by those eyes.  I tried to return his gaze without toppling backwards over the wall.  It never went away..the feeling was as intense as the first time he stared into my eyes the night we met.  Then, the thought of him staring into another girl’s eyes like that made my stomach churn my dinner into bile.

SO, that’s how it was, every little look, every little touch, every little nuance that used to belong only to us, had now been shared with someone else,  and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  There wasn’t a thing he could do without my thinking ‘ I wonder if he did that with her?’

Spicy, Garlic, Herb Goat Cheese Turkish Flatbread (Pide)

It was all too overwhelming.  Leaving him was going to be harder now, but the distraction and separation was desperately needed.

Two days later, after one of the hardest goodbyes of my life with him, I drove back to school with my mother.  The first half of the drive, I had to keep wiping away tears.  By the second half the excitement started to build. I couldn’t wait to see my friends..I couldn’t wait to see our super modern dorm/apartment that we applied for winter of freshman year since there was a waiting list.

I was rooming with one of my friends from freshman year and two strangers in the other bedroom.  The other friend, the first girl I met who became my best friend freshman year, was supposed to room with us, but her Mother didn’t get the deposit in on time.  It was okay, though, since lots of other friends got in and she’d be practically living with any of us whenever she wanted.

By the time we hit the border of CT/MA..I was excited to see hockey guy. What was wrong with me?

We pulled up around 10 pm.  A few friends were outside waiting.  My excitement grew as I looked up at my new digs.  We were on the 9th floor with a sparkling view of downtown Boston and the Prudential Center, glittering with lights, smack dab in the middle of our expansive living room window.

After getting all of my stuff up to our apartment, bidding adieu to Mommy dearest, who refused to stay the night, even though I offered her my bed, I ran, well, practically sprinted, from apartment to apartment with my roommate saying hi to other friends - marveling at each other’s newly svelte bods..the freshman 15 dead and buried – big, fat eating disorders sprouting from the earth around its tombstone.

Spicy, Garlic, Herb Goat Cheese Turkish Flatbread (Pide)

I was giddy.  The sadness from Dreamboat’s confession and our teary goodbye was fading.  This was just what the doctor ordered.

Everyone was chattering about a huge ‘welcome back’  bash the next night at a well-known guy’s huge off-campus apartment.  I wondered if hockey guy would be there.  We were all going.

After first day class sign-up…socializing etc, it was party time.  I took extra special care in choosing an outfit without looking like I took extra special care in choosing an outfit.  Black jeans and a snug white, sweatery top to show off me minus 15 and more.

Homemade Goat Cheese (Chevre).  Just 4 Ingredients and a few minutes cooking time!

The party was in full swing when we got there..this huge apartment packed to the gills…loaded with familiar and some not so familiar faces, but I was looking for one face in particular.  I scanned the large living room, and then I saw him, in a corner with some of the hockey players.  Damn, he looked good.

I made my way toward him slowly, weaving through a narrow maze of bodies, but talking to people along the way so it wouldn’t seem obvious.  He finally saw me.  We exchanged glances, nibbling and lollipopping around who was going to approach who first, like two animals sniffing each other out from afar during mating season.

After about 20 minutes of this..I turned and started to walk away from the game.  What was I doing anyway?  I loved Dreamboat…there was no need to start this up again.  I ran into a girl from my freshman sociology class and she pulled me over to talk to her. After some light chat..I made my way to the bar in the living room to get a diet coke. He intercepted me, poking me in the stomach.

“Hey, you trying to avoid me?” he said with a grin

I laughed…nervous laughter.

“You look great” he said softly.  “I thought a lot about you this summer..are you married yet?” he teased with a twinkle in his eye., grabbing my left hand to check my ring finger.

My legs turned to jello and I blushed.  Woah..what the hell?

We talked for a bit, then decided to go for a walk once the cops came due to the noise.  We took a leisurely walk around the campus.  It was a beautiful night..warm but the scent of Fall was already starting to perfume the air.  We talked about our summer, we talked about his upcoming season..we talked about some new movies. The point is, we talked, about everything and anything – and I needed that.

When we got close to my dorm/apartment, he stopped and leaned down to kiss me.  I backed away.  I wasn’t that sleazy…I loved Dreamboat and I wasn’t going to just kiss hockey guy, especially so soon, to get back at him for telling me about his little rendezvous.  I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, but Dreamboat did.

When I came home for Thanksgiving night after a movie, as we sat in his car kissing, he stopped and pulled out a small, velvet black box., tickling my cheek with it playfully.

Part 18, coming soon.

Marinated Fresh Garlic-Herb Cheese Balls

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SRC-Three Cheese Broccoli Rabe, Prosciutto and Roasted Red Pepper Stromboli plus Part 16

September 3, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Posted in BBD, Breads, Dinner, Lunch, Pork, SRC, Twelve Loaves, Vegetables, Yeastspotting | 72 Comments
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One of my favorite sandwiches in the world is prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers or in Jersey Italian – prah-joot, mootz-ar-ell and peppuhs.  When I was perusing through my assigned blog, Paulchen’s Blog?!, for this month’s Secret Recipe Club..I struckstromboli, and the first thing I thought of was how perfect one of my favorite sandwiches in the world would be wrapped up and baked as a stromboli.  I kept wavering back and forth between the stromboli and these butterscotch brownies...because next to being a peanut butter freak..I’m a pretty heavy butterscotch user too.

In the end, I couldn’t stop thinking how melty and gooey would work well for this sandwich combination in a stromboli – so that was it, decision made.  BUT, as I thought it over, I wanted more cheese, another cheese, like provolone and definitely something green and garlicky to cut into all that rich, gooey cheese.  Oh, and why not top it with yet another cheese ?  Asiago, perhaps?  OK, now we’ve got three cheeses, roasted red peppers and prosciutto.  What about the green stuff?

Yes, I’m taking you through my actual thought process at the time.

I pondered it for a bit and then it came to me..broccoli rabe aka rapini!  The slightly bitter and earthy undertones would be ideal and cut the richness of the cheese..especially sauteed in a little garlic and oil.  I added some hot chili flakes to give it a kick..but that’s optional, since some don’t like food that makes their tongue burn and nose sweat.

Now..I don’t want you to confuse broccoli rabe with broccoli, because they are nothing alike. Broccoli is related to the cabbage family.  Broccoli rabe is related to the turnip family, and it’s a leafy green with buds that resemble tiny heads of broccoli..hence the name broccoli rabe. BUT, plain old garlicky broccoli also works well and is fantastic in this stromboli.  So if you’d rather not charter unfamiliar green territory, substitute broccoli for the broccoli rabe.

If you get a chance, pop on over to Paulchen’s Blog?! and check out all of her delicious goodies!  To see what my fellow Group A SRC members chose from their assigned blogs, click on the blue frog below to see the gallery of links.

I’m also submitting this stromboli to this month’s  #TwelveLoaves theme – cheese, hosted by Lora of Cake Duchessand Yeastspotting hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast.  I’m also going to submit this to Shelley’s BBD #53 -Swirly breads.

One more thing.  I couldn’t get a melty, drippy, gooey cheesy photo because it was way too hot to handle (the encapsulated heat burned my fingers when I tried)  and I was by myself when I made and photographed it.  BUT, you should have seen all the cheesy goo dripping with each slice when I first cut it open gently, on the cutting board (It was so hot, it hurt!).  It was almost seductive, especially when it started to drip/stretch to the floor!  Man, If I could have gotten a photo of that…..

Three Cheese Prosciutto, Roasted Red Pepper, Broccoli Rabe Stromboli 
Dough from Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno via Paulchen’s Blog


1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

* 1 bunch of broccoli rabe washed and woody stems removed (If you don’t like broccoli rabe, use broccoli instead, blanching it first))
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
hot chili flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 or 3 large red bell peppers, roasted seeded, peeled -  each one sliced flat, into 3 or 4 pieces, blotted dry
12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
8 oz thinly sliced provolone cheese
Olive oil
Asiago or any Italian hard grating cheese

* If you don’t like broccoli rabe, use broccolini or just broccoli.

1.  Make the dough.  Sprinkle yeast into 1 cup of tepid water in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in center and pour in dissolved yeast and the oil. Mix in flour from sides of well. Stir in reserved water, as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough.

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, silky, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with clean kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4.  While dough is resting..roast your peppers and prepare the broccoli rabe.  Cut the cleaned and trimmed bunch of broccoli rabe in half, then boil in two inches of salted water for about 3 to 4 minutes.  Strain and drop into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Strain again and blot dry.  Heat the tablespoon of olive in a saute pan.  Add the minced garlic and saute until soft but not browned.  Add broccoli rabe a little at a time until wilted.  Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, salt and pepper to taste and add your desired amount of hot chili flakes, if using.  Remove the rabe from the pan to a plate to cool.

5. Punch down the risen dough and place it on a floured board.  Cover and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes, to relax the gluten.

6. Roll the rested dough into a 14″ x 8″ rectangle. Cover with clean towel and let rest another 10 minutes.

7. Spread the mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, and broccoli rabe evenly over dough, layer by layer in the order listed.

8. Roll up the dough, starting at one of the shorter sides, but without rolling too tightly.  Seal well.

9. Place on oiled baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Use a skewer or knife to pierce several holes through the dough all the way down to the baking sheet. Brush loaf with olive oil, them top with peels of asiago cheese (or any hard Italian grating cheese you prefer).

10.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about an hour until golden brown.  Let rest a few minutes before slicing.

Now to Part 16 of Bad Boy First Love. If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, Part 14A is HERE,  Part 14B is HERE and Part 15 is HERE.

Nothing says I spent the night with my boyfriend more than walking through the door at 7:30 am, disheveled, when your parent’s know your flight landed on time the night before.  Even though I was now considered an adult – the way they looked at me as they sat at the breakfast table with their coffee and the paper, still made me cringe like a 10-year old getting caught with one hand in the cookie jar before dinner.

I managed to spit out some BS before darting up to my room.

“We stopped at Dreamboat’s house so I could say hi to his family.  I fell asleep on the couch.”

I heard their disbelieving “Uh Huh’s” as I made my way up the stairs.  Welcome home!

We were inseparable for the 4 days I had before I had to leave again, but it would only be one month until winter break, so I decided to break off the undefined ‘thing’ I had with hockey guy when I got back to school.   I’d have a little over two weeks with Dreamboat in 4 weeks..and my love for him was stronger than ever..I didn’t want anyone else – ever again.

Easier said than done.  As I looked into hockey guy’s sweet face and warm brown eyes the night I got back, after he welcomed me with a bear hug and kiss..I felt kind of sad.  I liked him, but I didn’t want to lead him on, but I was so sure I going to marry Dreamboat and I told him that.  He looked a tad pissed, but also slightly amused.

“You’ve only been here three months, Lisa…and you’re a kid.  Making a life decision like that now, with years of college to go, is a little premature, don’t ya think?”

It was then I realized I was slowly splitting into two people.  When home with Dreamboat, I was a starry-eyed teenager.  At college, I had already cracked the teenage eggshell and was chipping away at adulthood – one eye and a foot peeking through the jagged edges.  With hockey guy there were no intense butterflies, no walking on air, but there was a more mature kind of excitement – the kind of excitement where you get lost in a conversation and then turn a little gooey.

BUT..I stood my ground.  Within two weeks, I sort of regretted it.  I was back to ‘college Lisa’, where I had the uncanny ability to put Dreamboat on hold because he did not exist in my college world.  I couldn’t even imagine him visiting because he didn’t fit into this other part of my life.  I  likened it to a lone palm tree thriving on Commonwealth Avenue in January.

I couldn’t completely understand these feelings, but somehow they made sense somewhere in my naïve and somewhat cockeyed view of life at the time.

The pull between me and hockey guy wasn’t going away anytime soon, and there were a few moments and stolen kisses when we ran into each other at various places, but I tried hard to keep those to a minimum.

I spent the rest of my freshman year studying, partying, hanging with my new friends, and packing on another 7 lbs – finally surrendering to new clothes that would fit since I busted most of my zippers.

“Survival of the Fittest”  What do you call the jeans in your closet without broken zippers, Alex?

It was the first time in my life clothes shopping was not fun.

When I arrived home for summer vacation, I was determined to whittle off the weight and spend as much time with Dreamboat as possible.  He was no longer going to work on the pier because the job in North Jersey paid well, plus, at 21, he felt he had outgrown it. Naturally, I was happy about that.

I got a part-time job at a makeup boutique on the second floor of an upscale mall and I was floored when I was hired.  A young woman, not much older than me, who  was apparently given the authority to hire people, asked if I knew how to do makeup and if I had ‘done’ makeup before.  Sure!!  On myself and my friends! But, a simple ‘Yes’ nabbed me the job.

I was alone all the time..closing the boutique since I worked from 4 to 9 pm.  It was the best job ever, especially since I had the whole day before work to spend at my friend’s pool.  Barely anyone ever came up to the second floor because it was even more pricey than the first floor, so I talked on the phone to friends, lived on diet fudge soda, and avoided the escalator at all costs, taking the stairs constantly in my quest to drop that freshman weight.  My own little mall gym.

The whole time I worked there, only two people asked for makeovers.  Since I had no experience doing it professionally, I ended up doing their makeup like I did my own. Thank god it was only two women because anyone who came in was going to look like me if they wanted a makeover.  One of them asked for eyeshadow, which I didn’t wear. Umm..ok.

I grabbed some pink, blue, brown and green eyeshadow – glopping large amounts of all four on each lid, then blended them all together with a brush, emulating what I’d seen real makeup artists do.  There – eyeshadow.  She really liked it.  I think she looked like a clown.  I refused to let her leave until I fixed it.

Those were the exciting nights.

After closing up..I’d  push open the wide glass doors to the upper deck parking lot and there he was most nights..waiting in his car.  We did a lot of fun things that summer, including a Springsteen concert..well sort of.a Springsteen concert

By that time, I’d dropped some of the weight, so I went shopping on a break and chose a pretty, pale pink, cotton sleeveless dress.  Not the norm for a rock concert, but I was feeling great and was in the mood to dress up a little.  Dreamboat told me I looked amazing …I blushed.   The blush again.  He could still make me blush and remained the only person who could do so.

Well, well, well.. much to my dismay, it turned out that Dreamboat and his friends didn’t have tickets to the concert.  They planned to buy from scalpers.  Springsteen playing in NJ? To many NJ natives, it’s almost a religious experience.  Your chances of buying a ticket, even a seat way up in the heavens, for less than the price of a small island, were about as great as wrestling an alligator and winning with nary a scratch.

So..we hung out in the parking lot, listening to the music blasting from the arena.

Another night in a damn parking lot.

The girl I was a year before would have been fine with that simply because I was with him.  The girl blossoming into adulthood, not so much.

I saw a door on the side of the arena open.  I started walking toward it with a strange boost of confidence, not knowing where it led to, but knowing I had to walk through it.  Dreamboat tried to stop me, but I ignored him, walking faster.  He started following me, repeatedly asking where I was going, but I kept walking without a response, only reaching back to grab his hand and pull him along with me.

To this day I can’t explain the feeling, but it was like I was being led by something not of this earth.

I walked right through the door, past security, past a lot of VIP suits.  Nobody inside that door said a word as I kept walking, the music now deafening.  Dreamboat was uttering all kinds of shit, like “You’re crazy, baby!”, but his eyes proved otherwise when we walked through a large, dark entrance with neon lights and screaming people. right into one of the aisles of the floor seats.  Soon we were in the 4th row, standing in front of exactly two empty seats and Bruce.

Dreamboat couldn’t stop hugging and kissing me, beaming, yelling in my ear that he could not believe I did that and how he was shocked that no one stopped us.  At that moment, the roles were reversed – he was the starry-eyed kid and I was the confident adult.  We got to enjoy the last hour of the show, eradicating the disappointment I felt when we first arrived and he told me neither he nor his friends had tickets.

I could have tried walking through that door 20 more times after that and I probably would have been stopped, but there was something magical and symbolic about that particular night  The door was more than a pathway to Bruce Springsteen, it was a pathway to independence, leading for once, not following, and doing something I normally wouldn’t even think of doing.

When we got back to the parking lot, his friends were frantic, but not frantic enough to drop the amusing barbs..

“Where did youse two go?  We thought Bruce kidnapped you!”

I loved listening to Dreamboat tell them what I did, his eye sparkling.  He was proud of me.  I couldn’t help thinking – wow, he’s proud of me, but what I did was sorta criminal, wasn’t it?  I stole an hour of Bruce Springsteen.  Then again, the security guards didn’t do their job, right?

That was the excuse I used to dilute any feelings of wrongdoing…not that I really cared.

Although I was still completely enamored with Dreamboat, I started to notice something that bugged me just a bit.  I wanted conversation, conversation outside of lovey-dovey talk and trivial stuff, like..

“Sal bought me lunch today..nice guy.  I had a hero with the works, it was awesome.”

So, I’d start stretching out the conversation just to have a conversation.

“Was there mortadella on it?  Ham?  Salami? What kind of cheese?  Oil and vinegar or garlic aioli?”  TELL ME ABOUT EVERY COLD CUT ON THAT DAMN SANDWICH!.  Okay, I never requested the latter, but it’s what I was thinking.

After too many moments where I would start chattering excitedly about something I saw on the news, a book I was reading, or something relating to a class I took in college, being cut short with a response from him along the lines of..

“Really?  Wow, that’s great, baby.”

“Sounds pretty cool”

“Oh, that’s too bad”

..I realized as much as I loved him, he just wasn’t a deep conversationalist.  He wasn’t dumb by any stretch and in fact was extremely street smart, much more than many people I knew and know to this day, but the stuff I wanted to talk about just didn’t interest him.

To me, ur relationship had always been a  deep red, flawless, shiny apple, but now there was slight nick in it., almost invisible to the naked eye, but it was there if you looked closely. When he’d brush my hair back, caress my cheek and start kissing me, that nick would disappear…for the time being.

No relationship is perfect and without nicks, they’d seem almost artificial, so I let it go and just accepted the fact that I’d never be discussing the congressional hearings on White Water or composers/books I loved, with him, like I could with most of my friends at school and….hockey guy.

Hockey guy.  Hmmm.  I wondered how his summer was going?

My luxurious job ended unceremoniously one Monday in early August, and this is where I digress a little.

I came to work and the place was already gutted.  Since there were just three of us who worked separate shifts by ourselves and barely knew each other…the word that they were closing shop hadn’t been passed on to me.  “What the….”, I thought as I surveyed the almost empty store.  The owner’s daughter – dressed to the nine’s with too much makeup, her light brown hair perfectly coiffed, and her husband a kind of nondescript looking guy, were there packing up the merchandise.  She had a colossal amount of chutzpah and a major attitude.

“Oh, you must be one of three who works for us.  Do me a favor and go down to the Chinese place in the food court and get us two orders of chicken lo mein..NO MSG, and two large cokes.” She said, waving a 10 dollar bill at me in a talon like grip. intro?  No please?  Did she even know my name?  Well, I guess I was still her employee so I did what she asked, hating myself for kowtowing to her obnoxious demand.

They sat at what was once was the makeup just a section of the formerly U-shaped block of glass and steel, and ate while she continued to bark demands at me.

“Go in back and bring out the boxes I left by the bathroom.” She demanded, while shiving long, skinny worms of lo mein between her fuschia painted lips. “Oh,  and sweep the floor while you’re back there.”

Yes, your highness…rude bitch, rather

Her husband didn’t say a word.  He seemed a little afraid of her.   I figured he was castrated on their wedding day.

When I finished, I came back up front.  She waved me over “Hey, I have your commission”  HEY?? I couldn’t ignore that one.

“MY name is LISA” I said, trying not to raise my voice, or growl.

“OK,’s your commission.” She muttered dismissively.

She stuck the tip of a perfectly mauve lacquered nail on the edge of a five dollar bill, as if it was something repulsive, not worthy of touching her skin, and slid it toward me.  It was wet.  The bitch had spilled her soda on it.

Five bucks commission?  Well, if they didn’t overcharge for their crap makeup, maybe some would have actually bought some of it, I thought as I took the bill and turned to leave.  She didn’t deserve a thank you.  She called me back with a condescending edge to her voice, as if to say “Hey, we’re not finished with you yet..we’re going to milk every drop of you as our employee, dry!”

“Help us carry some of this stuff out to the U-Haul we rented” she said, as she smoothed her overly sprayed hair with one hand to make sure there was not a strand out-of-place.  I grabbed two bags and a box, walked to the U-Haul and threw them in.  I was fuming.  I heard her screechy voice as I walked to my car..

“If you want to use me as a reference for another job, call me!”

I didn’t have her number, she didn’t offer it, and I didn’t care.

That night Dreamboat was treated to a huge serving of rage and potty mouth as I told him the story, still angry and completely disgusted with myself for not telling her where to shove her wet 5 dollar bill.  He stroked my hair as I rambled on, his head against the seat facing me, taking in all of my ire with a cute smile.  He always enjoyed my feisty side.  Suddenly his smile faded a bit and his eyes softened.  I asked him what was wrong.

“My girl is all grown up.” he said softly.

I didn’t get it.  I looked at him quizzically.

“I talk different, you say what’s on your mind a lot..I guess college changed you a little.”

“Is that a bad thing?” I asked timidly

“Not at all, sweetheart..everyone has to grow up sometime.”

He pulled me to him and started kissing me to signal the end of that conversation.  As usual, I was putty in his arms and my horrid day evaporated into thin air.

Now that I was no longer part of the work force and he had a week vacation coming up, he asked if I wanted to go down the shore.  Of course I did, especially now that I’d lost the freshman 15 and then some.  I was feeling pretty good and he knew it, since I allowed him to touch my stomach again.

We had his parent’s shore house to ourselves because his younger brother was staying with his girlfriend house a few blocks away since her parents were gone for a few weeks, and P also had a job back home and could only come down on weekends.  His parents were visiting relatives in Maryland. wasn’t perfect timing, he chose this particular week to take off because he knew the house would be empty.

Staying alone together at the house was thrilling at first, but within a few days it sort of felt like we were a little old married couple.  We did a lot of ‘couple’ things with his friend Andy and his girlfriend, now his fiancé.

“I could get used to this” He said one evening as we snuggled in front of the TV after they left.

It was weird being able to spend all day and night with him down the shore.  I’d never spent prime time hours walking the boardwalk or lazing on the beach for hours during the day with him.  I found myself watching groups of girls a few years or less younger than me doing what I used to do with my friends – chattering away on a big beach blanket, or hurrying down the boardwalk at night, again chattering away, heading somewhere and extremely excited to get there.

I missed my friends being there with me.  I wanted it to be like it used to be – as recently as one year earlier.   I wanted that excitement of going to meet him or him coming to get me after work.  I wanted to feel young again.  I look back and laugh now – I was just about 19, but that week..I felt old.

We went to our special beach one night, instinctively reaching for each other’s hand as we walked toward and along the shoreline in the moonlight.  We talked about the night we reconnected and my almost face plant that ripped up my knee.  He pulled me into the water, knee deep, recreating that first passionate kiss after being apart a year.  My whole body melted as it did on that very special night, but this time tears started running down my face mid kiss.  I was going back to school in two weeks, and I was going to miss him terribly, but there was a very unfamiliar feeling pulsing against the heartbreak.

I was kind of excited to get back to school.

“It’s going to harder letting you go this time, baby” He whispered in between kisses, wiping my tears

“I know” I whispered back..and left it at that.

How could I love him so deeply but want to leave him? Even though this new feeling was small change compared to the sad range of emotions of leaving him bothered me.

His brother, P, came down the following Friday.  Saturday morning a car pulled up in front of Dreamboat’s shore house…beeping.  I ran to the couch to peer out the window.

“Geeez,you’re like the freakin’ dogs, running to the window when someone’s outside.”  I heard Dreamboat say as I kept my eye on the car..the car with a girl behind the wheel.  There was an eerie silence behind me, so I looked back at them.

Dreamboat remained calm, but was looking at P – not taking his eyes off of him for even a second..a glare that screamed ‘do!’.  P didn’t say a word – they had brain waves going on, like me and my best friend had in all the years we were close.  P jumped up and ran outside, almost in a panic.  I watched him lean down to the window and say something to the girl, then watch her drive away, making sure she was gone before making his way back into the house.

“Who was that?” I asked Dreamboat while still watching P walk toward the house.

“Just a friend of P’s” he answered nonchalantly

“Oh..ok” I answered, not believing him completely.  I saw ‘the look’ he gave P. I knew him too well.  The truth is..I didn’t want to know, just like he wouldn’t want to know about hockey guy.

Ignorance was bliss in this case, and ‘knowing’ would make me sick to my stomach.

One night back in North Jersey, two days before I was leaving for school, we sat in his car silently, gazing at the Manhattan skyline.  His eyes were glistening a little in the darkness.  I reached over and rubbed my fingers around the side of one and felt wetness, most definitely tears.  I hugged him, trying to love away those tears..but he pulled back a little.

Three Cheese Broccoli Rabe, Prosciutto and Roasted Red Pepper Stromboli

“There’s something I need to tell you” he said “I wasn’t honest with you about something.”.  His voice sounded weird, almost quivery, and it was the first time I’d ever heard him like that..and the first time he didn’t try to mask his tears.

NO NO NO, I thought..I don’t want to know!!  I knew what he was going to say and I desperately wanted to plug my ears with cement.

“Don’t” I said, shooting warning daggers at him with my eyes although my voice belied that anger via choking up.

It was like he didn’t hear me..”That girl..the one that came by the shore house that day…”

NO!  I tried to say it..but it wasn’t coming out.  I guess I was going to have to hear was too late.

“…when we worked on Tom’s house (his boss’s house down the shore) in early November..I took her out a few times..I knew her from the neighborhood, she lives there year round.”

I heard myself shouting..but everything was spilling out uncontrollably….”WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME??  I DON’T WANT TO KNOW..WE PROMISED EACH OTHER WE WOULDN’T TELL!!!”

The tears were now running down his face.  He hugged me and pressed his cheek against mine – a half-assed or desperate plea for forgiveness, neither of which I could ascertain. His tears began soaking my cheek, rolling to my jawline. Hmmm..a change of pace for once.  I guess I owed him a soak or ten.

“Baby..I hated lying to you when you asked. If you hadn’t asked, I never would have said anything.”

Now I was crying.  I hated that he had given me this cross to bear.  I had to think of him with another woman, and now I had to know more – I wanted details.

“Did you sleep with her? Did you see her more before I came home for the summer? Are you going to see her again? And then the most important question of  all;


Part 17 – the final part..coming soon.

Three Cheese Broccoli, Prosciutto and Roasted Red Pepper Stromboli

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Char Siu Bao (BBQ Pork Buns) with Meaning – and ‘The Tale of a Painting’.

December 15, 2011 at 12:48 am | Posted in Appetizers, Asian, Breads, Daring Cooks, Dinner, Lunch, Pork, Yeastspotting | 37 Comments
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I’m in love with pork buns especially the baked kind.  I’ve been known to go out of my way just to stop at Asian bakeries to pick up varieties of their soft lovely buns..and there’s always at least two pork buns in the bag when I leave.  There’s one in my town now, and I have to steer clear or else I’ll be buying bags of buns several times a week.

Well..whaddya know…

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles ! Sara chose awesome Cha Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Cha Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!

Hmmm..Cha Sui?  I suppose that’s just another term for it?  I always thought it was Char Siu, and Char Siu pork and I go way back – well. way back two years ago.  I was actually going to recycle that photo of my Char Siu pork into this post, but once I made it again, I decided to  get at least one shot to show I actually did make it again.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Ever pick the pieces of it out of your fried rice to eat individually?

I do.

So, I’ve made Char Siu pork before, and Char Siu Bao before – steamed and baked – with great success.  I knew this was a challenge I couldn’t miss, not only because I’ve had great success with it, but because pork buns have gone up $1.25 since I last walked out of the local Asian bakery mentioned above.

On a whim, I decided to do something a little different with them this time.  I gussied them up a bit with some Chinese characters for Love, Strength, Peace and Harmony.  I mixed matcha powder with a little egg yolk, painted on the characters, let them dry, then egg washed and baked after rising.  After one bun, I nixed LOVE.

The Chinese character for LOVE has too many lines and details for such a small area.  It looked like scribble scrabble, so I let it fly solo.  The LOVE is in the buns, baby.

As I painted each character on top of the buns…a memory was tip-toeing  - with high-heels –  through my brain.

A few years ago, I decided to completely redo the breakfast nook at my parent’s house.  Every time I was over there, I could hear the strains of 80′s synthesizers when we sat in that room.  It was far past out-of-date – it was Boy George in long braided, mu mu drag, Go Go’s chic, George Michael doing the jitterbug in day-glo, fingerless gloves, out-of-date.

I pulled up every tile of the black and white checkerboard floor, stripped as much of the bright blue paint off the walls (I know, sounds tacky, doesn’t it?  But it wasn’t tacky in the 80′s), then sanded off the rest,  – sealing cracks and holes with compounds and puttys,  (add more sanding) and finally rolling and brushing on two coats of an Arabian sand color I thought was perfect.

I took down two doors, sanding off the burnished, worn stain, then sanding again, staining and a shellac - finishing them off with shiny, bright new doorknobs.  It was tough work for one girl , umm..person..and I still have no idea how I managed it, but within a month, it was completed.  I bought a pot rack, hung their pots and pans between the nook and the kitchen, then stood back and admired what I’d done.  Trading Spaces? Pffft.  Eat your heart out.

Hmmm…it needed art, a few paintings.  Maybe one by me to sort of ‘sign’ my work on the room, if you know what I mean.

I found a bunch of old acrylic paints and brushes in their basement (Yes, I used to draw and paint a bit – well, a lot), but no canvas, and it was too late to go out and get one.  I walked around the house looking for something – anything..I needed to paint at that moment.  I needed to put my final seal on the room before reveal day.

Out of the corner of my eye, there it sat, one of those vertical, ‘three in a row’ mallard prints that nobody, outside of He-Man hunter living in a log cabin, puts up on display (or so I thought).  I pried open the wires holding everything together since I planned on using the back of this canvas for my painting.  I was confused as to why there were so many layers to get to the canvas, and why was this cheap print numbered and signed?  Is someone proud of painted mallards on a canvas set in ugly dark green cardboard frames?

Baked BBQ Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)

I finally got to the back of the canvas, pulled it out, and started painting a kaleidoscope of colors to fit in, but ‘pop’ in the room.  I had already decided I was going to paint the black chinese characters for Love, Health and Happiness on top of these colors, because they’re so beautiful.  After hiding it to dry for several hours, I came back and painstakingly painted on each character – using some computer print-outs as a reference.  It turned out beautiful, and once it was fully dry, I put it back into the frame, minus the dark green cardboard cut-outs.

I hung it in the perfect place and beamed at my resourcefulness.  Turning a cheap, factory made mallard painting into something beautiful!  I couldn’t wait for them to see!

They loved it – I was thrilled.   They also loved my painting.  After several compliments, my father asked..

“Where did you get the frame for it?  I was given a numbered, signed painting by (insert name of famous mallard artist who’s name escapes me at this moment – Update: I know who it is now but absolutely refuse to name him in fear he will see this post via Google and read how I completely annihilated his work thinking it was cheap, worthless and ugly) a few weeks ago as a gift for the holidays, in a frame very similar to’s very expensive.”



I felt faint.

He saw my eyes, his face changed.

“You didn’t take that painting out of the frame, did you?  If you did, show me where everything is so we can put it all back together, we’ll get another nice frame for your painting, ok?”

Now I’m going to throw up.

He saw my face turn a light shade of green.  He knew.

I’m not going to get into details outside of some yelling and “Do you have any idea how much that painting is worth now and will be worth in several years??” “Do you have any idea how rare it is?  Only 5 exist!” type of stuff.

To this day, my painting sits in a box in my parent’s basement, never hung again.  He didn’t need to be reminded of it during his morning coffee, for the rest of his life.  I totally agree.

OK..back to the pork buns!  This was a good recipe, the dough was wonderful to work with.  However, I made a few small changes.  When I saw the recipe for the pork filling, I didn’t think there would be enough sauce to really moisten the pork, so I doubled it.  Turns out I was right, as some mentioned the pork filling being dry after it was baked and/or steamed.

Second change..I wanted a lot of filling per bun, like the ones I get at my local bakery, so I made 9 buns instead of 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon amount here..just what I call a ‘heap’ aka whatever I can fit onto the dough round and seal without leaking or tearing.

Third change – I let the buns rise for an hour before baking.  This recipe eliminated a rise, for a thinner shell of bread.  I like a little bready fluff around my pork filling.  I also baked them at 350 F for 15 minutes, instead of 200 F for 15 minutes.

Finally, I sprinkled the top of the buns without the characters with a little bit of Maldon flake sea salt.

If you get a chance, please have a look at my fellow Daring Cook’s ‘sexy buns’, by clicking HEREFor the recipes for Char Siu Pork, and baked or steamed Char Siu Bao, Click HERE.

I’m submitting my Char Siu Bao to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread baking showcase hosted by the incredibly talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

I’m also submitting these to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.

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