Sfinciuni (Palermo's Stuffed Pizza)

I really enjoyed making this sfinciuni, a stuffed pizza, which according to Marcella Hazan, is “to Palermo what pizza is to Naples and to the rest of the world.”

Gone are the days when I would get an itch to bake something and then bake it that very day. So it had been a long time since I’d made pizza dough from scratch and even longer since I’d sautéed ground chuck with onions and then let it simmer in white wine until the house smelled part-Grandma and part-special occasion. The air had the slightest feel of autumn in it and to basically repeat myself: it felt really good to make something so basic but not quite.
The sficuini was my particular offering to our latest cookbook club gathering—the cookbook being Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Another cookbook club member brought homemade pasta and bolognese to go along with it. Another brought olive oil cake. Someone brought meatballs. Another, poached shrimp. In short: all the food came in shades of beige or brown and it was all delicious.
Sfinciuni (Palermo's Stuffed Pizza) slightly adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 cups flour
tiny pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon for the dough plus more for the bowl and assembly
2 tablespoons whole milk
cornmeal (for assembling)
2 tablespoons bread crumbs (for assembling)

Dissolve the yeast completely in a large bowl by stirring it into 1/4 cup lukewarm water. When dissolved, in 10 minutes or less, add 1 cup flour and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Then, as you continue to stir, add 1/4 cup lukewarm water, a small pinch of sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 2 tablespoons milk. When all the ingredients have been smoothly amalgamated, add 1/4 cup lukewarm water and the remaining 1 cup flour, and mix thoroughly once again, until the dough feels soft, but compact, and no longer sticks to the hands. (You may need to sprinkle a bit more flour on top if yours is sticky.)

Take the dough out of the bowl, and slap it down very hard against the work counter several times, until it is stretched out into a long and narrow shape. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Pat the kneaded dough into a round shape.

Film the inside of a clean bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil, put in the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and put the bowl in a protected, warm corner. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in volume, about 3 hours. While the dough is rising you can prepare the conza (filling). [FYI: After my dough was risen, I put it in the refrigerator for the night. In the morning I took it out, let it come to room temp and then rolled it out.]

Conza di San Vito (Meat and Cheese Filling)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onion very thin
1/2 pound ground beef
black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup cooked unsmoked ham, chopped rather coarse
1/2 cup fontina cheese, diced 
1/4 cup fresh ricotta

Put the olive oil and onion in a sauce pan and turn on the heat to medium high. Stir occasionally, and cook until the onion becomes colored a deep dark gold. Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork and cook, stirring frequently, until it loses its red color. 

Add the wine, turn the heat down a little and continue cooking until all liquid has simmered away. Transfer the content of the pan to a bowl, and set aside to cool.

When cool, add the ham, fontina, and ricotta and toss until evenly combined.

To assemble (FYI: I heavily adapted this part of the recipe since I don't have a baking stone or peel.)

30 minutes before you are ready to bake, put a baking sheet in the oven and pre-heat it to 400F.

Divide the dough in half and place one half of it onto a nicely floured work surface. Set the other half aside for now. Either using a rolling pin or your hands, stretch the dough into a roughly 10-inch-in-diameter oval/circle. 

Place a piece of clean parchment down. Sprinkle the paper with cornmeal and then quickly transfer your dough layer right on top of it. 

Distribute 1 tablespoon of bread crumbs over the dough and 1 teaspoon olive oil, stopping about 1/2 inch short of the edge. Spread the meat and cheese conza over it, again stopping short of the edge, and top the filling with 1 tablespoon bread crumbs and 2 teaspoons olive oil.

Unwrap the remaining dough, put it on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it or stretch it into a disk that will roughly match your bottom layer. Place it over the stuffing and crimp the edges of the two circles securely together. 

Brush the top of the dough with water. Then, with oven mitts, grab your hot baking sheet out of the even. Grab the corner of the parchment paper holding your uncooked stuffed pizza and quickly slide it onto the hot baking sheet and then pop the whole thing into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes. (Mine looked quite pale on top but was completely cooked.) After removing it from the oven, let it settle for 30 minutes. Cut into pie-shaped wedges and serve. 
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Videos: Lamb Burgers and Homemade Roti (and MORE!)

I've been meaning to post some of the recent episodes we've done for Mom.me. So here they are! I'm not sure we captured my genuine excitement over the roti we made to accompany the lamb burgers. They are truly easy and super rewarding to make. I highly recommend doing it. Also, I'm pretty sure traditional roti uses whole wheat flour, soooo you might want to try it that way?

I don't know where we'd be as a family without kimchi fried rice. We make it almost once a week. Teddy's version is basically just rice, eggs, a bit of shoyu drizzled over with maybe some avocado or cucumber mixed in. In other words: a rice bowl. So, yeah, he's pretty on trend.

(For recipes, go here and click through.)

We're in Pittsburgh for the week visiting family, which is helping me transition out of The Olympics and back to normal life. It's not easy though. If you want to talk to me about your favorite moments, I'd be happy to hear them. (If only I had some kind of call-in number--an Olympics-withdrawal hotline per se?)

OK, that's all for now. Talk to you guys soon! xoxo
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Tapioca with Coconut Jam and Caramelized Rum Bananas + Crushed New Potatoes with Capers, Mint, and Roasted Garlic

Matt and I were recently invited to join a cookbook club. We said, "yes!" The chosen cookbook was Nopi. Yay! we thought. We love Ottolenghi! And then we had to make a couple of complicated dishes, and were like: WTF did we get ourselves into. / I can't believe we used to do this kind of thing all the time.

That being said, both dishes were incredibly delicious. I mean, I doubt I'll ever make the tapioca dessert again, but I'm glad for the experience? 
The coconut jam was the real star, and to be honest, I might make that component again. But only if I substituted the palm sugar with regular sugar and if Matt were around to shred all of that fresh coconut. We used a box grater for this, but I wonder if you could get a similar result using a food processor?
The potatoes were a bit fussy as well, but it was enjoyably so, e.g. roasting garlic cloves in olive oil and boiling potatoes with a ton of fresh herbs that made the house smell minty and lovely.  Bonus: I mashed this up and fed it to Isaac. (Isaac also happily ate a good deal of the coconut tapioca pudding.)
In non-food news, Matt and I've been getting into a bunch of interesting debates around the house. Some are about gymnastics(!), some political, some about our debate styles. I bring this up because in this highly-charged political atmosphere, I feel so lucky to have someone I can debate with and even disagree with and yet not feel ill-will toward (mostly). It reminds me to leave some space open to the possibility that I may be (gasp!) wrong. This, in turn, reminds me of some lines from one of my favorite ee cummings poems: "for even if it's sunday may i be wrong / for whenever men are right they are not young."

Put another way, in the words of the poet-philosopher, David Whyte: "Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into / the conversation." And speaking of, thank you to those of you who read my last post. I especially loved reading your thoughts and comments. 
(I actually borrowed my copy of Nopi from the library and already returned it. So, I don't have the tapioca recipe on hand. I, do, still have the potato one though, which I adapted. Here ya go!)

Crushed New Potatoes with Capers, Mint, and Roasted Garlic adapted from Nopi

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 oz. teaspoons fresh thyme
2 1/4 pounds new potatoes, unpeeled
3/4 oz. mint, whole stalks and leaves, plus a few tablespoons mint leaves, finely chopped
2 oz. capers, rinsed and left whole
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
about 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons peppercorns, crushed (The recipe calls for pink peppercorns, which I totally would have used if I'd had them.)
coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the garlic cloves in a small ovenproof frying pan or in a small baking pan with the olive oil and half of the thyme. Place in the oven and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, basting the garlic once or twice during cooking. Remove from the oven and, once cool, strain the oil into a large frying pan. The garlic cloves need to be set aside, but the thyme can be discarded.

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan along with the whole mint stalks and the remaining thyme. Add a tablespoon of salt, cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes. Drain, discard the mint and thyme, and cut the potatoes in half.

Place the pan with the garlic oil over high heat. Once hot, add the potatoes and fry for 8 to 9 minutes, stirring from time to time, until they start to break apart and are golden brown all over. Add the capers, roasted garlic cloves, and butter. Cook for a further minute before adding the lemon zest and juice, parsley, shredded mint, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the peppercorns. Stir everything gently together, cook for a final minute and serve.
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Women's Artistic Motherhood

Screenshot from my motherhood/gymnastics parody video
In a recent article with a catchy title that poses the question "Is Watching Gymnastics Worse than Being an NFL Fan?" the author, Meghan O’Rourke, an ex-gymnast and longtime fan, writes about her conflicting feelings toward the sport. She’s both “enthralled by the spectacle of adolescent girls defying gravity” and yet can’t help but be reminded of its “history of sexual and emotional abuse” as well as its “amplification of adolescent body-image problems.”

Later, she goes on: “This year’s U.S. Championships were replete with many of the stranger trappings of the sport, the startling incongruities between the gymnast’s strength and her performance of girlishness — her spangled leotard, her beribboned hairdo, her makeup…”

As I read the article—an ex-gymnast and longtime fan myself—I related to much of what O’Rourke was saying. As I’ve written before, I’ve bristled at the sight of U.S. gymnasts in bright lipstick and heavy eye makeup. One of my favorite gymnasts, Aly Raisman, the reigning Olympic floor champion and the owner of body-builder-esque trapezius muscles, often posts about her pre-meet makeup choices on Instagram. At the same time, I can’t blame her. Raisman is 22. At 22, I straightened my hair and wore lots of black eyeliner. And yet when I try to imagine the U.S. women’s soccer team running down the field with lips in the shade of Nars’ Dragon Girl and colorful ribbons tying back their hair, it seems so silly.

But with gymnastics, it’s not silly—at least not straightforwardly so. After all, the full title of the sport is Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. That is, the women are being judged on their athleticism, on their ability to perform incredibly difficult skills, as well as on artistry—a word that, unlike Raisman’s muscles, eludes a clear definition. The most unambiguous one I could find was within the International Gymnastics Federation’s 2013-2016 “Code of Points,” which is the official and behemoth-sized rulebook for judging gymnastics skills.

Although numerous mentions of the word artistry or “artistic performance” exist, it isn’t until "Section 12—Balance Beam" that we get the following explanation: “An artistic performance is one in which the gymnast demonstrates her ability to transform her [routine] from a well-structured composition into a performance. In so doing the gymnast must demonstrate creativity, confidence of performance, personal style and perfect technique.” And then in a separate, one-sentence paragraph with a couple of bolded words (and one strangely capitalized H), we get:

            This is not “what” the gymnast performs, but “How” she performs.

In other words, gymnastics is a sport where you have to do it all. Style points literally count. You must perform jaw-droppingly difficult skills and look good doing it. I don’t think the same can be said for most other sports. (I’m specifically thinking of those triathletes that collapse across the finish line in a style that might best be described as “dying an extremely painful death.”)


The more I read O’Rourke’s piece, the more I began to relate less as a gym fan and more as a woman and mother. Just like my young gymnastics heroes, I too have felt the pressure to do it all.

Specifically: I want my body to work; for my belly to stretch to carry my children; to stretch—to put it gently—even more in order to birth them; and for my breasts to fill (read: stretch) with milk and therefore grow larger than they ever had been in my pre-child life. And yet I also want my body to “bounce back” to my pre-child level of thinness, to my pre-child muscularity. (Bounce is actually a horrible word for it, since, in order to work out—to run and jump—like I once did, I now have to wear two sports bras.) And then I want to adorn this imaginary post-child-yet-pre-child-level-of-thinness body with loose, shapeless dresses, wear no makeup, and appear effortlessly beautiful.

Like I did with my first son, I want to be at home with Isaac for at least his first year. I want to breastfeed him for at least that long as well. I want to know what he’s eating, to purée his food, change his diapers, and cover his face with kisses. Simultaneously, I also want to have time to take care of myself, my body, and my brain. I want to read, to work on my next book, to journal, to go to yoga; I want to have this long, sexy hair even though I can’t wear it down for more than two seconds without Isaac or Teddy painfully yanking on it.

I want to have a beautiful, clutter-free, clean house, and yet I also want to enjoy my home, to not feel, as psychotherapist Francis Weller puts it, “flattened under the weight of domestication, which, smothers the heat and howl of our wild selves.” Speaking of wild, I want my boys to run free. I want to run free. (Currently, my two-year-old is much more familiar with the vacuum and collecting “fuzzies” (dust balls) than the beach and collecting rocks/shells.)

I want to strive, strive, strive, push, push, push. And yet, I also want to suddenly come to a screeching halt in order to get those eight hours of sleep everyone is always reporting are so important to your health (read: not looking haggard).


Gymnastics has evolved in many ways over the generations. In the past, Bela Karolyi along with his wife, Martha, personally coached the majority of America’s top gymnasts. It was a notoriously strict, unsmiling atmosphere; O’Rourke speaks to this: “[The Karolyis], some former gymnasts have alleged, searched their bags for food and micromanaged what they ate in order to get them “in shape”; others felt they pushed them to train through damaging injuries.”

These days, Bela has long since retired. His wife Martha is not a personal coach; she’s the team coordinator—overseeing our nation’s best gymnasts at the once-monthly national training camps. This allows for the gymnasts to spend the majority of their training time at home with their own coaches. One of these top coaches is Kim Zmeskal, a former star pupil of the Karolyis, who in a recent interview, compared her coaching style to that of the Karolyis. “The environment, I think, is lighter than what it was for me growing up,” she says before relaying a story of how she and her fellow gymnasts—women she spent hours upon hours with almost daily—were not supposed to talk to one another while chalking up.

And perhaps time has softened Martha as well. According to O’Rourke: “Allegedly, [Martha] even ordered pizza for the national team once.” (Similarly, in a rare and radical act of self-kindness, one month after Isaac was born, I purchased myself a new pair of jeans that actually fit me!)

And yet, even with these improvements, O’Rourke reports to still finding herself “worried for tiny 19-year-old Madison Kocian” who seemed to her particularly fragile.

Likewise, even with the progress women have made over these same generations (I may hate pumping milk, but, hey, at least my health insurance covered the cost of my breast pump!), I’ve found myself worried not only for myself and the pressure I feel to do it all, but for young pregnant women everywhere.

In the words of acclaimed chef and owner of Tartine Bakery, Liz Prueitt: “Women in their early twenties don’t see it coming. It’s going to hit them… They think they’re hot shit in the workplace, and they’re going to suddenly discover that when they have a baby, everything comes to a screeching halt. The thing that these young women are going to find out is that it just keeps rolling along to the same conversation: How do women have it all? And it’s going to be in every magazine forever and it’s the wrong question.”


Referencing the sport’s inherent femininity and its simultaneous physical demand on the body, O’Rourke writes: “In being both those things at once, it speaks to all that remains unresolved in our ideas about the female body and its power.”

And while I agree that our ideas about the female body and its power are, indeed, unresolved, perhaps the gymnasts themselves have it figured out. Aly Raisman is performing world-class gymnastics; she looks good doing it; and (bonus points?) seems to have a really strong sense of self. As for me, as confused as I am—as torn between appreciating my body and criticizing it, between feeling endlessly grateful for motherhood and feeling trapped by it, between wanting to appear effortlessly pretty and wanting to literally put no time or effort into that aim—I remain hopeful for the future.

I don’t have any daughters, per se, but I’m hopeful for them to become mothers or to choose not to in a better, more evolved world; one with all sorts of women in all different sizes, ages, and colors, to look up to; a world with the option to be able to take time off from work to care for their babies as well as the option to be able to return to work the instant they want to. I wish for them partners who are able to help. I wish for them more affordable and better childcare. And of course, I also wish for them a future where all gymnastics competitions are given prime-time, NFL-style broadcast treatment.
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Video: Bon Appétempt + Gymnastics + Motherhood

I didn't set out to "Bon Appétempt" this Under Armour commercial. (And please make no mistake, I'm not getting paid by Under Armour!) This whole thing started as a video documentary on the physical struggle that is grocery shopping with an infant (and sometimes a toddler) in tow. But given my history with music-video-esque Bon Appétempt's (see here and here), one thing quickly led to another...

Next one on my list? Beyonce's 'Formation.' Anyone got like 100k for me to make that happen? Thanks in advance!
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