FRIDAY FEAST with Rachel Bailey

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Now, Feasters, lay down that checked tablecloth, plonk that bottle of chianti on top, shuffle the iPod to That’s Amore and channel your inner Sophia Lauren, because this week on Friday Feast we’re talking everyone’s favourite Neapolitan snack food, PIZZA.

And who better to discuss such a worthy topic than USA Today bestselling author and Romance Writers of Australia President Rachel Bailey. Hanging with the movers and shakers. Yep, that’s us.

Besides walking the corridors of power in RWA central, Rachel writes deliciously intense, fast-paced modern romances for Harlequin Desire. Now, if you’ve never read a Desire, then I suggest you duck down to your nearest store and grab yourself one (preferably a title by one of our many, very talented  Australian authors) because they are fabulous reads. Powerful, passionate and provocative. The sort you can’t stop gobbling down. A bit like pizza, really.

A prime example of what Desires are all about is Rachel’s newest release, What Happens in Charleston…  Take a look.

 

What Happens in Charleston…

Money has always given Matthew Kincaid whatever he wanted. Yet now his son needs something even his millions can’t buy. The widower’s sole recourse is the surrogate who gave birth to his child – for she is also the boy’s true biological mother.

Susannah Parrish needs no prodding to offer her assistance – a child’s life is at stake. But to their mutual surprise, the minute she’s back in Charleston and residing in Matthew’s home, passion consumes them. Is this a relationship doomed by deception? Or is it the one chance at a love they both secretly crave?

 

I’d buy this book from the title alone but that blurb? Ooh, la la!

Now here’s Rachel.

 

Two People, A Paddle and a Pizza Stone

Hubby and I went for a great lunch at a friend’s place a couple of months ago where we had pizzas that our friend made on his new pizza stone. We were hooked. It all looked so easy and the result was scrumptious. We couldn’t wait to buy our own stone and make great pizzas ourselves.

I should say at this point that I’m very fond of food. This will surprise no one who knows me. Or, I guess, anyone who’s read one of my books because I usually mention food somewhere (though sometimes I’m more subtle than others).

For example, in What Happens in Charleston…, Susannah is staying with Matthew and his little boy while the boy has some medical treatment and she takes on the job of cooking the meals. And every night, she ends the meal with a rich, decadent, sinful dessert. Coffee and hazelnut cheesecake. Crème brulee. Triple chocolate mousse.

Let me tell you, coming up with the actual desserts Susannah made was no chore – it was one of my favourite parts of writing the book. Hubby and I love eating dessert and love discovering and making new ones. In fact, we love cooking and experimenting with new methods and ingredients for savoury food as well.

So buying a pizza stone and making our own pizzas should be a cinch, right? Hmmm…

The first time we used it, hubby made a gorgeous roast pumpkin and caramelized onion pizza with a herbed tomato sauce over the home-made base. Only problem was, it was completely baked *onto* the stone. We had to pull it away, bit by bit, meaning the toppings fell off as we did. Once it was free (and we’d left half the thickness of the base on the stone), we reassembled the toppings and served. The base (what was left of it) wasn’t cooked through, but other than that, it was delicious.

Afterwards, I did something only the truly desperate do – I read the instructions. Oh, you’re supposed to put the stone in a *cold* oven? Well, that would probably make a difference. We had made sure the oven was up to temperature before putting the stone in. Right, we’ll know better for the next pizza.

The second time we used it, we were careful to assemble the pizza on the stone *before* we turned the oven on. This pizza was olive, fetta, semi-dried tomato and char-grilled capsicum. I couldn’t wait! We were ready to pop it in the oven when I had an idea so brilliant, so fiendishly simple, that it will impress you. I decided to read the instructions to the *end* (instead of stopping after the bit about a cold oven like last time).

Turned out we had a slight problem. Yes, the stone goes into a cold oven and warms more evenly as the oven heats up, but the stone goes in that cold oven *without* the pizza. Oh.

It made total sense – a hot pizza stone would sear the bottom of the base enough that it wouldn’t stick. Brilliant! Problem was, our pizza was already on the stone and not keen on coming off again. It took four hands and several kitchen implements but we eventually got the base off, onto the floured paddle that had come with the stone (we’d wondered what that was for!), cleaned the stone and put it in a cold oven.

The resultant pizza was again delicious, if slightly misshapen after all the extra handling.

This weekend we’re planning on making our third pizza on our new pizza stone. We intend to 1) heat the pizza stone in a cold oven until it’s hot, 2) make the pizza on the paddle (that has a layer of flour to stop it sticking) before slipping it onto the stone, and 3) have different toppings to the first two.

So I’ll make you a deal: I’ll share our easy peasy pizza recipe if you give me some suggestions for vegetarian-friendly toppings for our third attempt. I’ll give away a copy of What Happens in Charleston… to one commenter.

 

Easy Peasy Pizza Base:

1¾ cup self raising flour

½ cup grated cheese

¼ cup oil

½ cup hot water

Mix together and press into the base / plate / pizza paddle.

Then I spread with a tomato-y base (fried onion and garlic, with tinned tomato added when onion is cooked, and herbs to taste). Or with pesto, depending on my mood. Then top with all manner of yummy toppings and bake for 35 minutes.

 

Ahh, pizza, such a joy. Although perhaps not so much when it sticks to the stone. Thanks, Rachel, for your hugely entertaining post. Glad that stone is coming good for you. We love our ours at Chez Hein. We had two until I dropped one on the tiles and shot stone shards all over the kitchen and into my foot. There was a stage when we used to sprinkle the surface with polenta before slapping on the pizza, but now we just turn the oven up to flat out and the stone gets so hot the dough seals straight away. Not as good as a proper pizza oven but it beats a takeaway any day.

 

So, Feasters, you heard Madame Prez, share your favourite vegetarian pizza topping and you could win a copy of her fabulous new Desire release, What Happens in Charleston…

Entries close midnight AEST, Tuesday 27th March 2012. Open internationally.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Rachel and her wonderful books, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

 

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our lucky winner, Imelda. A copy of What Happens In Charleston… will be winging its way to you soon. Thanks to all who visited and commented. We had some absolutely delicious-sounding suggestions for pizza toppings.  Enough to keep Rachel (and the rest of us) going for quite a while.

31 thoughts on “FRIDAY FEAST with Rachel Bailey

  1. AvatarImelda Evans

    ROFL, Rachel! There are some things it’s really worth reading the instructions for! Thanks for the laugh.

    As for vege pizzas, try tomato paste and herbs (dry are fine; mixed Italian) topped with baby spinach, thinly-sliced pumpkin and crumbled fetta. Good on a thin base.

    Or you could have red onion, capsicum, mushroom and olives, with mozzarella (same base as above). That’s a standard around here.

    You know what else is surprisingly good? thinly-sliced desiree potatoes, with or without fresh tomato and red onion, with a drizzle of olive oil and some basil. Put the cheese underneath if you are doing this one, or do it without for very low-fat and tasy option. If you are using fresh herbs and a very hot oven it is sometimes better to save at least some of them for putting on when it comes out.

    And if you want something to watch while eating them, culturally edifying and fun and romantic, come over to my blog to find it…

    Still giggling, Imelda

    1. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Hi Imelda – thanks for the tips. We sometimes make a potato pizza like one we had in a restaurant (though, we haven’t tried it on the pizza stone yet!)

      For ours, we parboil cubes of potatoes first, then put them on over a pesto sauce spread on the base, and sprinkle lots of rosemary in among the heaped potatoes. No cheese. Then just before serving, add sour cream. Decadent. But now we’ll have to try your potato pizza as well – great idea!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Some delicious sounding toppings there, Imelda. The pumpkin and fetta idea is a definite winner. Great taste mix.

        And thank you for David Tennant! I think my already rabid crush just got much, much worse!

  2. Avatarjoankilby

    Lol, Rachel, reading the recipe to the very end is something I learned the hard way, too. Still trying to get my husband to do it but he’s Mr. Impatient.

    Love your cover and title! The book sounds great.

    My take on veggie pizza is simple but tasty. A selection of fresh mushrooms including wild ones if possible but button or Swiss will do, sliced thinly. Fresh tarragon (delicious with mushrooms!) over a base of talleggio (sp) cheese with a bit extra cheese sprinkled on top.

    1. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Mushrooms and taragon, you say, Joan? Hubby is a huge mushroom fan – I’ll tell him about this combination.

      I normally read the recipe through and hubby is Mr Impatient as well – we have mirror households! Maybe his impatience is rubbing off on me?

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Joan, that mushroom pizza sounds gorgeous!

        I STILL sometimes fail to read recipes right through. Probably the reason why the man of the house gets so tense whenever I announce we’re having something experimental for dinner. Poor man. He does suffer for my art so.

  3. AvatarKeziah Hill

    Hmm… all this sounds fantastic. I’m a meat girl for pizzas although I do like the pumpkin and caramelized onion ones. In fact I’m off to partake of one now!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Ooh, was it nice, Keziah?

        I bet that combination tastes beautiful. I should try it at home one day but we tend to put very little on our pizzas. Usually just a good tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella and a few slices of pepperoni. Very boring. Tasty though…

  4. AvatarHelene Young

    Lol, Rachel, my hubbie has despaired of me ever reading the instructions first so we too had a bit of a disaster with our new pizza stone. He’s now read the leaflet it’s producing fabulous pizzas:)

    I love roast capsicum and grilled eggplant on a pizza. Thinly slice the eggplant, brush with olive oil and grill on a bbq until almost cooked. Spread the eggplant, thinly sliced roast capsicum, and caramelised onions over the pizza (already topped with a smear of tomato base sauce) crumble feta over the top and pop in the oven.

    I have to say I’m a big fan of roast pumpkin and sweet potato on pizza too!

    And love the title of your latest book!

    1. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Helene, I’m very much encouraged by your progression from disaster to fabulous pizzas with your stone – thank you for sharing!

      I *love* eggplant (when cooked nicely – it can be horrible if done badly), and this sounds heavenly. I’ll definitely be trying it. And you put sweet potato on pizzas? They’re one of my favourite veggies, but I can’t remember ever putting them on a pizza – I’ll rectify that oversight asap. 🙂

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Oh, lovely smoky eggplant. Such a gorgeous flavour. Great topping idea, Helene, but then I expect nothing less from our famous bouncing sprout chef!

  5. AvatarJuanita Kees

    I’m with Imelda on the Pumpkin, Feta and spinach one – it’s divine!

    I haven’t got a veggie one to share but here’s a delicious mix for a dessert pizza. Smooth hazelnut spread across the base, add some thinly sliced bananas and drizzle with honey. Tip: Fold it over like a calzone so that the melted chocolate and honey doesn’t drip. Finger-licking good 😉

    Love the sound of What Happens in Charleston, Rachel. It sounds like a great read, especially the desserts.

    1. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Juanita, I love the sound of your dessert pizza! I’ve seen a few recipes for dessert pizzas in the past, but never tried one – I think this one will be the pizza that introduces me to a whole new world. Thanks. 🙂

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Juanita, that is one seriously indulgent concoction!

        What Happens in Charleston… sounds fab, doesn’t it? And I just love the title. Creates great mind pictures.

        Thanks for dropping by!

  6. AvatarNas Dean

    Thanks for the lovely recipe. I always make pizza at home. And have now tried and tested method for good pizza.

    Though no one would eat vegetarian at my home, I have to use shrimps or chicken.

    What Happens in Charleston is one great read!

    1. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Nas, how great that you have a tried and tested method for good pizza – any recipe that gets to that stage in a household is like gold. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words about What Happens in Charleston – I loved your review of it!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Sounds like my household, Nas. The carnivore complains something terrible when he’s served vegetarian. I hear mutterings of losing strength and other such poppycock. You’d think I was poisoning the poor darling, although, to be fair, he’s much more tolerant than he was.

  7. AvatarBarb

    Now, woudn’t I LOVE to eat pizza in front of that fire on your cover, Rachel! We’re great pizza fans in our house and it’s become our Friday night ritual. The pizza stones are great.

    Only this weekend someone suggested we do the pizza stone thing in the hodded barbecue. Apparently that gives the crust all sorts of new crispy wonderfulness!

    1. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Barb, it seems that everyone in the world is ahead of me and capable of using a pizza stone without disaster! 🙂

      Love the idea of it being a Friday night ritual and the hooded BBQ sounds like a fabulous idea. Oh, the possibilities!

      1. AvatarCathryn Hein

        I’ve heard that too, Barb. Trouble is, we don’t have a hooded BBQ to try (yeah, I know, seriously behind the times).

        My dream is to one day have a proper outdoor stone oven to bake bread, pizza and other lovelies in. In the meantime, the pizza stone will have to do!

        Thanks for dropping by.

  8. AvatarMalvina

    That stone sounds amazing, Rachel! I’m a big fan of the old Hawaiian pizza, with the ham and pineapple. But vegetarian…. hmm… I once had an ‘Aussie’ pizza with egg and bacon…. wait, nix the bacon… But come to think of it, egg, tomato, cheese and mushroom is so yummy in an omelette… and maybe some chopped spring onion – why not on a pizza? If it works, let me know!

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      I doubt you’re alone in being a Hawaiian pizza lover, Malvina. There’s just something about that combination… Maybe it brings the kid out in us?

      Personally, I still reckon you can’t beat a traditional Margareta. Simple, but with a beautiful sauce, good quality mozzarella and fragrant basil, you can’t go wrong. And it’s vegetarian!

    2. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Malvina, there’s something good about the simple Hawaiian combination, isn’t there? Sanitarium does a great product called Not Bacon that works well – I fry it up a little then use with pineapple over a good tomato sauce. Not sure how I feel about egg on pizza though… maybe you should try it first and let me know. 😉

  9. Avatarromancebookhaven

    Hi Rachel and Cathryn!

    Have to look for this pizza stone now and try your recipe.

    Congrats on the release of What Happens In Charleston!

    1. AvatarRachel Bailey

      Romancebookhaven, definitely give the pizza stone a go – but make sure you read the instructions before you use it! 😉

      Thanks for the congrats!!

  10. AvatarCathryn Hein

    Congratulations to Imelda, who is our lucky Friday Feast winner. A copy of Rachel’s What Happens In Charleston… will be in your mailbox soon.

    Thanks so much to everyone who dropped by the blog and for all your comments. What clever pizza people you are!

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