Archive for April, 2009

Spring cleaning

Maybe you heard NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday, when guests nominated institutions and traditions that need to go, all in the spirit of spring cleaning. Things like military academies, cable’s tiered fee system and daylight savings were brought up. My personal favorite? Homework before ninth grade.

The whole discussion got me thinking (that’s the point, right?): What food/cooking items are either ridiculous or just plain obsolete? What would I argue for getting rid of?


Here’s my list. Leave a comment weighing in with your own.

  1. Curly parsley — Wouldn’t we be better off growing something which has a purpose greater than that of just posing prettily on a plate? Not that it even has cosmetic value. Its presence is more like a warning: “The food you are about to ingest is going to keep you up tonight.”

  2. Kid food — You’ve heard my didactic intolerance regarding this one before, but I’ll say it again. The whole notion that kids must eat food that’s the same color as crayons, and with about the same number of natural ingredients, is bizarre. And I would include the grand tradition in this country of school hot lunch.

  3. Herb choppers — Just pick up a chef’s knife already. I admit: before I became more or less handy with a knife, I was easily tempted by pretty, shiny gadgets. Turns out they’re not faster or more efficient. Nor do they properly allow you to unleash a day’s worth of frustration on a heap of cilantro.

  4. Marshmallows on sweet potatoes —  Some seemingly incongruous food pairings make sense, like chili and chocolate. And some are just gross.

  5. Shredded carrots in Jell-O — Same principle. Who’s behind this carrot degradation, anyway? There are far better things to do with carrots than float them in the trembling, transparent mass that is Jell-O. Wait, why don’t we just get rid of Jell-O? Who’s with me?

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Upon careful consideration

What’s a cook to do with the leftover cream from the husband’s recent birthday gelato?

I fancied a few possibilities: dribble fat drops into a soup; ceremonialize the close of maple sugaring season with some maple scones; serve up an extra-indulgent weekend French toast.

Or, what I usually do: Forget the extra cream is in the back of the refrigerator until it’s way beyond its expiration date, then dump it, great lumps and all, down the disposal (the motor already running to alleviate any attendant icky odors).


So you see, I tried. I thoughtfully weighed my options, made the effort to give other recipes their due. In the end, though, I recognized my half-hearted attempts for full-on denial. What I really wanted to make was more gelato.

Brian’s birthday had called for a banana gelato that has a distinctly caramel flavor. Our craving for caramel piqued, this burnt caramel gelato was a proper follow up. It’s like caramel for grownups, toffee-esque, with a slightly bitter finish.

Now, what to do with the leftover whole milk?

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My dinner in bullet points

Here’s what those recipe writers don’t tell you:

  • that even though you’ve worked a bean-soaking into your busy afternoon, those three batches of organic [read: dirty] kale will take a good twenty minutes to rinse clean and strip from their ribs;
  • that you’ll turn on the smaller oven in order to reheat the farmhouse loaf, only to find the loaf is too tall, requiring you to heat up the larger oven after all;
  • that the smashed red potatoes will require a sum of three pans — one for boiling, one for frying, and one bakesheet for holding the first batch warm in the smaller oven until the stuck-in-traffic husband arrives home (good thing you erroneously warmed the smaller oven in the first place).


They certainly don’t tell you that, by the time dinner’s finally ready (a good 45 minutes after your intended time), you will have dirtied the following:

  • 2 saucepans (1 medium, 1 large)
  • 1 stock pot
  • 1 extra-large frying pan (used twice: once for the kale, second for the potatoes)
  • 2 bakesheets (one for holding the kale while the potatoes cook; the other for holding the first batch of potatoes while the second batch cooks)
  • 1 small Cuisinart bowl & its blade (for pureeing the beans)
  • the underside of a ramekin (for smashing the potatoes)
  • 2 spatulas
  • one cutting board
  • one garlic press
  • one bread knife
  • one grater (for Romano with which to dust the potatoes)
  • and an assembly of little bowls


And the last thing they don’t tell you: That by the time the husband arrives and you get around to sitting down to dinner (you have roughly 15 minutes to eat, mind you, since you have to leave shortly for a class) he will grace you with the irony of your 2-hour kale and Christmas lima bruschetta served with smashed Romano-dusted potatoes.

He will call it beans on toast.

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