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Variations On A Theme

Lately, my tastes have been pretty simple and straightforward: give me bread and cheese, and all day long, if you please! I’m still on a quesadilla kick, eating them nearly every day for lunch, and let’s not forget the epic sandwich the size of my forearm or a meal from the best grilled cheese shop in town.

kickshaw2.jpg Fried egg on brioche bread, toasted cheddar crisp

And while you’re at it, why not make savory french toast, shape a baguette into a cheese-boat, and cover it all in marinara?

Yesterday, sandwich-hungry, I met my mom for lunch at Caffe Buon Gusto, a small spot right outside of the Franklin St. Subway station. It took over an old TriBeCa haunt, a Malaysian restaurant called Franklin Street Station, that we used to go to all the time.

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They had a soup/panini special, so I ordered the lentil soup and vegetable panini with grilled vegetables and roasted pepper goat cheese. I’m used to paninis being hot and pressed, and this was neither. There was also a laughable amount of cheese, which turned out to be plain and not pepper-flavored. Still, both hit the spot, and I cleaned my plate.

franklin caffe buon gusto2.jpg

And for a sweet ending, our server brought us a thick wedge of tiramisu- on the house!- as we finished up. Tiramisu was never my “thing” until about four years ago, when I worked in an Italian restaurant. Some nights, sensing we needed a pick-me-up, the bartender would slice a little piece for the servers to share while we worked. It’s a rich dessert, so a little goes a long way!

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My daily cheese quota hadn’t quite been met, so the grain bowl (quinoa, kale, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, toasted almonds) I had for dinner was topped with a generous portion of freshly grated Parmesan.
grain bowl2.jpg

Someone tried to get in on my dinner action… no such luck for Charley!

charley2.jpg

Really, though, my heart and soul have been yearning for pizza nonstop. I’ll take it all: the Earth Mother slice at Two Boots, a souped up vegetarian slice on sweet whole wheat Sicilian crust (below); the “old fashioned” pie from Harry’s, ordered at 2 AM at the close of Sofia’s house party last Friday; the 5-minute Egg Parmesan, Brussels Sprouts, Autumn and New York Sunday Breakfast pizzas I make on my own at home.   
two boots earth mother2.jpg

When Leslie came over to cook this past Tuesday night, I informed her we were making- surprise!- pizza. She pointed out that pizza now makes up the majority of her diet, and I countered that it’s a perfect meal that covers all of the basic food groups. Not that either of us needed any further convincing.

Armed with the latest issue of Bon Appétit, we were determined to “make pizza like a pro,” heating my pizza stone to 500˚ a full hour before we were ready to put our pies in the oven. (I will admit, however, to cheating and buying pre-made whole wheat pizza dough from Whole Foods. Someone made it, though!)

bon appetit pizza2.jpg

We made two pies: Butternut Squash with smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, and porcini mushrooms; and Brussels Sprouts with pecorino and a chipotle chili. Both were fabulously chewy and flavorful- why do I always forget about smoked mozzarella?- and further enhanced by the cabernet accompaniment and chocolate cake chaser. I’ve made that cake about 10 times now, and my dining companions are always pleasantly surprised by the rich, fudgy results!

homemade pizza2.jpg

So now, as dinner approaches, I’m faced with a dilemma: pizza or grilled cheese? Cheesy grain bowl or quesadilla? Life is hard, friends.

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