Daddy Doesn’t Always Know Best

strawberry scones
So many childhood details have slipped my mind over the years. Clearly, I’m not an old bag or anything, but it’s obviously hard to keep all these details inside one tiny little noggin’. I do however, remember a lot – some things are more relevant than others. I remember my sister (she is 12 years older than I) dressing me up in all of her’s or mom’s outfits. I felt like a supermodel wearing “fancy” clothes despite them dragging the floor and in all honesty, making a little 7 year old look rather frumpy. I also remember the swing set out back, amidst all the dog poo, that was adjacent to the Weeping Willow tree. We’d swing on that thing till the sun went down and the fireflies flittered about, or until the meatloaf was ready.

One of my favorite memories is about breakfast. My parents were in no way shape or form gourmet chefs – our suppers (Southern for dinner) were fairly consistent from week to week (meatloaf, fried chicken, etc) and our breakfasts were no exception. But I remember them, not because of what type of food was served or what cooking technique was used, but because of the memories those breakfasts evoked: memories of sleepovers and of waking up at noon to a friend at my side and fresh-cooked bacon wafting into the room, despite the blanket placed under the door to muffle the smell of smoke that we just swore our parents never noticed.

fresh strawberries

My dad methodically cooked our first meal of the day every Saturday & Sunday morning. Like me, he loved to sleep in on the weekends, and so breakfast was served around 10-11. Perfect for me and my friends, waking up closer to noon. Occasionally some scrambled eggs would pop up on the menu, but most days all we craved was the samich: plain white bread (no, none of the whole-grain or wheat breads we all eat today), a piece or two of American cheese (yes, the packaged Kraft slices), a pan-fried egg w/ extra pepper, and bacon. I can’t explain it. Those sandwiches – there was something about them that was so simple, but so good and so perfect at the same time.

My dad fussed at me once when he visited because I bought the wrong bread; he looked at me and said, “what’s this?”. I won’t tell you what he said when he saw that I’d also purchased turkey bacon.

chopped strawberries

My dad is really swell. He doesn’t make me breakfast every morning like he used to, but now he calls me every week. Every Sunday at 4:50 PM, which is right before 6 for him and prior to his supper-fixin’, my phone rings without fail. I try to keep my phone out, but I must admit I don’t get to it, or hear it, every week. I should be better about it – I know in a weird way it’s the highlight of his week. And I should be better. I will. He called once when I was smack dab in the middle of making these here scones. And I’d missed his call the week before and knew I just had to pick up, despite my urge to let it ring and save my butter from becoming less-than-chilled.

He said the usual: “Hey Hev, whatcha doin’?”. “Hey pop. I’m makin’ scones”. “What? Sconies? What’s that?!”. “No – scoooooones. They’re like biscuits, but less flaky and a tad bit sweeter”. “Never heard of em’. They don’t sound too good to me”.

fresh strawberry scones

I didn’t tell you my dad is the king of the Picky Eating Kingdom. He is a thoroughbred Southern man who hates collards and everything else that’s green. He even hates our green wall in our living room. He eats fried eggs & potatoes, BBQ’d and fried chicken, and rare steak with A1 and Heinz 57. He does not experiment with food. At all.

So don’t listen to him when he sasses the ‘sconies’. Especially these sconies. I’ve made scones a couple of times before and they truly are divine. The recipe below is pretty standard and works every time to produce that perfectly just-flaky, just-sweet, just-crumby vibe. [But on the real – they are nothing compared to biscuits.] I’m sorry for sharing these when strawberry season is on the out – I’m sure you can substitute some other in-season berries and if you insist, frozen strawberries. Shoot, you may have frozen some from early Summer anyway. Me? I made a whole batch of these here scones, took out two, and (I swear) froze the rest. I’ve been thinking about them every since, and I’m taking them out this weekend for the in-laws’ visit. I can’t wait.

Strawberry Scones
Adapted from Adventures in Shaw; makes ~12

printable recipe

1 cup strawberries, hulled and small diced
3 cups AP flour (oops. I only had 1, so I used that, 1 cup bread flour, and 1 cup cake flour)
1 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, cubed and chilled
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, optional, for eggwash

Preheat to 400 F and line baking sheet w/ parchment paper.

Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl (include sugar, even though it’s a “wet” ingredient). Add butter and work into dry (with hands, pastry blender, two knives, or food processor) until mixture is crumbly, but butter is pea-sized or a bit smaller. Dry off strawberries and fold into mixture, gently. Add buttermilk and stir gently until a dense dough is formed.

Transfer to floured surface and knead (a tiny bit) until dough is uniformed. Roll out dough, with hands, until it’s about an inch thick. Cut dough however you want (I like to cut like pizza but leave it together somewhat; you can cut with cookie cutter too in traditional circles). If dough is warm and butter appears to have melted, put the dough in the fridge or freezer to cool the dough & butter before baking, otherwise the butter will sorta melt out. You want it cold!! Before baking, beat egg in small dish and brush top with egg wash. You can also use milk for a less shiny coat. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Battle Strawberry: Life is Delicious

Strawberry Shortcake

What comes to mind when you hear the word childhood? Thanks be to that wee ol’ hippocampus (or maybe photography), a number of distinct memories comes to my mind. A favorite: riding shotgun with my daddy to the beach, top down in the Triumph, blonde hair blowing carelessly in the salty wind. Let’s not forget organizing the treehouse-building club (which now, knowing a treehouse was never built, I realize this was my parents’ way of “keeping us busy and outta their hair”), or making a music video with my bro using our first family camcorder (in the dinosaur 80’s when they weighed 50 lbs) that was an adaptation of “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” with a pair of boots moving, step by endless step, across the green shaggy carpet of our living room.

Last night was the third installment of the Iron Chef pot-luck party, and the reigning IC, Terri, had chosen ‘strawberries’ as the theme ingredient. Having quite an affinity to the juicy red ‘berry’, I considered it an excellent choice. And while thinking of things to make, a number of other childhood memories came into mind. In addition to my Strawberry Shortcake sheet set, complete with Custard, I also remembered those damned strawberry fields my parents made us visit every summer, and countless times. You see, strawberry pickin’ was a family event – the five of us would head over to the Cottle Farms location on Airport Road for a sweat-inducing, dirt-in-all-crevices-producing, hour of loading up those wooden gallon-sized baskets with tasty juicy, fresh-off-the-vine strawberries. They made their way into our fridge, our freezer, and of course, our bellies. And boy were they good. My favorite version of strawberries is simple – macerated in sugar, eaten plain or perhaps on top of vanilla ice cream or on those cake things you buy in packs of 6, topped with strawberries & whipped cream. We always had sugar-soaked strawberries in our fridge – and if we didn’t, gramma did. And hers were great on gramma’s pound cake.

Battle Strawberry Competitors

While I toyed with the idea of bringing a bowl of macerated strawberries to the Battle (I would have classed it up a bit with some Meyer lemon juice), I knew it wouldn’t win back the title of Reigning Iron Chef. Knowing that creativity was part of the scoring, I went for something out of the box completely and then went for another, more basic dish.

baked brie with strawberry preserves

This time we had a more intimate gathering, with 7 competitors and 14 dishes in the running. Just as before, each dish was awesome, and we had a balanced selection of savories vs sweets. My favorite this time was Lindsay’s baked brie w/ homemade strawberry preserves. mmmmmmm….. And my favorite for the theme was Terri’s strawberry soup. I tell ya, for a group of girls who (some) claimed intimidation in cooking with a chef-in-training, you’d never know it by the look and taste of everyones’ creations. I feel lucky to get to hang out with such a lovely group of girls, and the fact that they are all great cooks is just the icing on the cake!

mini strawberry shortcakes

Without further adieu, I’m proud to say I was able to win back my title as the Reigning Iron Chef, but Terri said the numbers were close! Everyone continues to bring their A-game, so the competition is definitely fierce! I already can’t wait for the next get-together – although having now been on both sides, I must say I enjoy the anticipation of finding out the theme ingredient more than doing the choosing. and so, the Countdown begins! (More photos)

strawberry mascarpone tart

The Top Three:
1st Place: Heather’s Strawberry Pizza w/ Goat Cheese, Watercress, & Pistachios
2nd Place: Heather’s Strawberry-Mascarpone Tart w/ Balsamic-Thyme Glaze
3rd Place: Rachel’s Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

strawberry pizza

The Winning Recipe:

Strawberry Pizza w/ Goat Cheese, Watercress, & Pistachios
adapted from Cooking Light magazine – measurements are definitely estimated, and although the original recipe called for store-bought pizza crust, I made my own and will include those instructions as well.

printable recipe

One batch pizza dough (recipe below; can also used store-bought 12oz crust)
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup trimmed watercress
1/2 t EVOO
1 t lemon juice (I used Meyer, can use regular)
salt & pepper
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 T shelled, toasted pistachios, chopped

Basic pizza dough:
3/4 c warm water
1 envelope dry yeast
2 cups (or more) AP flour
1 t sugar
3/4 t salt
3 T olive oil

Basic pizza dough
Combine water & yeast; let sit for about 5 minutes.

By hand or w/ stand mixer (paddle attachment), combine flour, sugar, salt. Add yeast mixture and oil. Mix until sticky ball forms. Transfer to floured counter and knead until smooth (will probably add more flour as you go because the counter gets sticky and the dough is sticky; add by tablespoons). Total kneading time is 1-2 minutes. Put in large bowl that is oiled or sprayed and turn down over to cover with oil/spray. Cover w/ plastic and let rise in warm place (I preheat oven to lowest possible temp, like 100, and then open door to let heat out before putting in; best is about 80 degrees) for an hour, or until about doubled in size. Take dough out, back on floured surface and deflate dough. Roll out to desired shape.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Place crust on baking sheet or stone. Bake for ~8-12 minutes. Remove and sprinkle goat cheese on crust.

Mix strawberries through s&p in bowl and arrange over pizza. Top with nuts and shaved cheese. Top with additional fresh grated pepper if desired.

Notes: you can store dough after deflated in an airtight container to use later. You could even make extra and freeze it. Also, pizza dough is super glutenous and might be hard to work with at times. If so, let it sit and “rest” before rolling out.