Grocery shopping has certainly changed…

Gone are those leisurely treks to the store, meandering up and down the aisles without a care in the world… Nowadays, it’s closer to a Mad Max movie – trying to get in and out as quickly as possible, grabbing whatever is available. I was able to do a great shopping trip at Trader Joe’s in Wayne – #632 for those in the know. Damn, I just love that store. But even with a list I forgot things I wanted – I really did just want to get it over with even though the crew had taken every precaution feasible to keep it a safe trip.

Shopping changes, ingredient availability changes, and our cooking style changes. I’m actually starting to pay attention to what’s in the cupboard, knowing I’m not going to be heading to the store for at least another couple of weeks to replenish anything – longer if I can swing it. Where once upon a time I’d think nothing of opening up something to add to a dish, I’m looking at that item and thinking this meal can do without it – I can use it for something else, later. I still live in a world of excess and privilege – I’m just trying to pay a bit more attention to it.

Paying attention… what a concept…

Paying attention and having the ability to keep from getting into a culinary rut. This is where those of us who have worked in the service industry – restaurants and grocery stores and the like – are the lucky ones. We know how to make do with what we have.

I’m especially lucky because I’ve worked in mom and pop restaurants and bakeries, as well as 4 and 5 star hotels. I was a cook and a baker on an aircraft carrier. I’ve cooked with foie gras and truffles, and with dried soup mix and rice. And, if truth be told, I’m more of a dried soup mix and rice kinda guy… Yeah… I like wild, crazy, and unique foods, but simple foods with lots of flavor are where it’s at.

Kinda like the chicken meatballs I made Thursday.

A simple chicken breast with two green onions, one stalk of celery, a clove of garlic, one egg, pinch of thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper tossed into the food processor made 16 meatballs. A splash of white wine, a bit of chicken broth, and a tablespoon of flour made the gravy.

White rice and frozen spinach finished the plate.

Simplicity and a ton of flavor.

Last night was Piadinas – an Italian flatbread. A few years ago I went on a flatbread kick, making flatbreads from all over the world. They’re remarkably similar in their simple ingredients, but the piadina is made with baking powder – not yeast. From start to table in under 30 minutes.


Last night, I topped them with ground pork simmered in a bit of leftover pasta sauce and a bit of fennel and onion braised in white wine. Totally a clean out the ‘fridge-type meal. Lots of flavor, simple ingredients. Made with things in the house. I didn’t snap a picture of the meal, but you get the idea. Top it like a pizza – or a tortilla – or naan – or pita – or… whatever.


adapted from Milk Street

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup lard, room temperature


In a food processor, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Process 5 seconds. Add the lard and process until combined, about 10 seconds. With the processor running, add the yogurt and then the water. Process until the dough forms a smooth ball, about 1 minute.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each into a ball, then cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.

Roll each dough ball into a 10-inch round. Poke the surfaces all over with a fork.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until a drop of water sizzles immediately, 4 to 6 minutes. One at a time, place a dough round in the skillet and cook until the bottom is charred in spots, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip and cook for 30 seconds.

Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

You can eat simply and eat well at the same time.

Have some fun.