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Sunday, 6 July 2008

CooksRus: Pizza cookies (Τα παιδιά μαγειρεύουν πίτσα)

The children often see their mother cooking, and just recently, my daughter has taken an avid interest in watching me in the kitchen. It does feel a little strange, especially when she makes remarks at the table like "I saw you put oregano in the biftekia", or "You DID add parsley to the fasolada". I have to make sure she doesn't watch me grating zucchini into the chocolate cake; that will render one of the most popular uses of zucchini obsolete. It's nice when they eat healthy food without always asking too many questions about it.

Her brother is a little harder to entice into the kitchen. He is already aware that he doesn't need to participate in the cooking process. Once when I asked him to stir some chopped steak in a pan to make home-made souvlaki, he asked me if that's all he had to do. "Yes," I replied, "just stir it around to heat it up." "OK," he replied making a move to the television room, "Christine, you do it, and when it's ready, call me." He's turning into a fine specimen of Cretan male: did you know that Jesus was one, too? He left home at 33, he thought his mother was a virgin, and when she looked at him, she thought he was god. My husband and I had a good laugh over that one (I mean our son's reaction).

One of the biggest dilemmas of the family chef is what to cook on a daily basis. The comment she (as the cook usually is in this case) dreads most is: "Not this again!" I do hear this from my kids more frequently than I prefer (and probably most mothers do), but never from my husband. My Greek gourmet loves eating the same seasonal meals on a regular basis. The children have learnt to accept tastes that are not fully agreeable to their palate for the sake of their father, and that's why I'm always cooking 'safe food' - food that everyone knows the taste of very well, food that will still be edible, despite some common blunder on the part of the cook, rendering the meal imperfect.

One of those safe foods that's become a firm favorite in my house for all seasons is Laurie's ladenia crust. I always use it when making one-pan individually-tailored pizza, and recently used it to make vlita pita. It freezes wonderfully and you can use it as a frozen pizza base, like the ones they sell at the supermarket, only this one is the real thing with no artificial additives. Just freeze the bases one on top of another, making sure they won't stick to each other (I use thick aluminium foil which can be re-used if cleaned appropriately).

I've made a few rounds of this pie just lately, and I'm always in the dilemma of running out of pastry or running out of filling. I hate chucking out leftovers and I do not believe in unwanted food. But I do need inspiration to cook leftovers that possibly no one wants to eat and I personally don't want to throw out. So when I made Laurie's ladenia crust for my vlita pita, I had to figure out a way to use up the leftover dough. I wonder what other people do with their leftover crust when they find their inspiration and make ladenia; I suppose they think it's just another pizza, not vlita pita, because amaranth would be too difficult for some to source.

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That's how CooksRus was born: "Hey kids, come into the kitchen! It's play-dough time!" I let them roll out the dough for fun. When they asked me for the Christmas cookie cutters, I thought they were enjoying themselves. But when they told me to cook their creations, I realised they were serious.

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Here's what they invented: pizza cookies. I thought of tempting them into adding toppings like cheese and ham, but stopped myself just in time. They wanted to make 'safe' food, which means everything in its simplest, barest form: they treated the cookies as biscuits - great for breakfast with a glass of milk.

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