Having to, unplanned, get a new refrigerator is a weirdly refreshing experience. Like getting a first apartment with your first real fridge. An empty canvas.
I have a habit of periodically rearranging how I use the shelves and drawers for no reason anyway. As my usage habits change, I rearrange accordingly for max efficiency. That’s what I tell myself anyway. In reality, it is probably the result of manic boredom.
Either way, I’m still stocking back up and it’s reined my cooking in. Back to a more simplistic style. As my weekly produce arrives, I use it up on the spot.
And so we have…some simply stuffed portobello mushroom caps.
Baked in the oven at high temp (450 F or so) for about 20 minutes. Then stuffed and put back in the oven until it looked ready (5-7 minutes more).
The stuffing is a mix of flash-sautéed minced garlic, cilantro, green onion, grated parmesan, fresh basil and bread crumbs.
The Assemblage. The garlic was late and missed the class picture.
Mixing up the stuffing. I sautéed the garlic first to mellow it out. Drizzled in a little olive oil just to bind it up. I also layered a few thin tomato slices in the mushroom caps before piling on the stuffing. Because I can.
Looking good out of the oven. Crisped up lightly on top.
I thew down some really ripe tomatoes and topped them with the remaining green onion, salt and pepper, and the bits of stuffing that were beautifully crisped and nearly stuck to the bottom of the baking dish.
The Olympics have come and gone.
There were some interesting stories. The Swedish women’s soccer team was fun to watch. Ryan Lochte is still a moron.
For all the hand-wringing about what would happen in Rio, it ended up being a fairly typical version of the Olympics.
Table tennis is fun to watch. The US men’s basketball team sleepwalked themselves to a gold medal. Fencing is weird. The equestrian course was brutal.
In the spirit of the thing, I decided to do some Brazilian-style cooking on Saturday night.
I can state with conviction that a Brazilian fish stew is a tasty and relatively easy dish to make. There was a bunch of chopping and it took some time (primarily marinating), but the complexity is in the flavors, not the cooking technique.
I used this recipe as a starting point, altering spices to my liking and using catfish (it was available and it is sturdy enough to withstand the cooking in tact) and scallops (added last minute so as not to overcook).
I drank an Argentinian wine while cooking. Don’t tell Brazil.
My never-ending quest to use all the zucchini in the world continued with some zucchini fritters.
Really easy to make and pretty tasty.
Very few ingredients. I used this recipe, but added roasted garlic.
Yeah, um, cherry pie.
I went off this recipe, more or less. Added some blueberries and didn’t use all that sweetener.
Pretty easy to make. I only used the sweetener for the cherry-blueberry chia jam. If I do it again, I wouldn’t even bother with that. Left the crust and topping without the added sweeteners.
I really liked the crust. I used sticky coconut shavings to help it bind and give it whatever sweetness it needed beyond the listed ingredients. Would probably make an OK cookie with a little adjustment.
I’m hoping the general lack of sugar will mean I can still fit into my hair band pants. Sweet cherry pie, yeah.
Next in the never-ending installments of “what do I do with all this squash,” comes Butternut Squash Ice Cream.
Don’t give up on me. You can make ice cream out of anything. Of all the things people have made ice cream with, butternut squash isn’t even high on the WTF list.
It’s a sweet squash anyway. Besides, once you add a boatload of sugar and cream, everything tastes fine.
I used this basic recipe from JamesBeard.org, so you know it’s legit.
Paired it with some butterscotch sauce, pistachios and chopped dates. Worth waiting two days.
This winter has not been the snowpocalypse that last year was. Frankly, I prefer all that snow if this winter is my only other option.
Sleet and mud is just not as exciting. Not to mention the extra half hour it takes to clean the dog after we get inside. She glories in mud pits and her paws hoard dirt like a dragon sitting on a pile of gold dust.
That famous rodent claims there will be an early spring. We barely had any winter. I wake up praying for cold these days. It makes the swamp in the park easier to deal with.
Rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties!
What better time to savor some chili. I used up all my space-hogging squash for a squash and black bean chili. Three types of squash (butternut, delicata, acorn), one groundhog sized yellow onion, red bell pepper, black beans, tomato, garlic, bay leaf and spices. I went with smoked paprika, cinnamon, ground coriander, and ground up dried chile de árbol.
Chili is catch as catch can. That’s the joy and wonder of it. Stuff a pot full of good things and let it simmer for a while. Add some toppings and serve. I topped with some greek yogurt, chive and toasted wheat tortilla strips.
Really good stuff. Spicy with a hint of sweet. Even better the next day, as happens with this kind of kitchen magick.
Are you eating Chinese food for Christmas?
It’s a thing. Don’t knock it.
I’m not blaming this tradition on Jewish people, but non-Christians gotta eat out too. Even on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Maybe those Chinese restauranteurs just saw the opportunity and grabbed it by the brass wok ring. If no other joint was going to be open, you might as well fill that void.
Don’t worry, kids, Jewish Christmas at the Chinese food palace isn’t going to ruin your Santa moments.
Everyone is digging into it these days anyway. GrubHub notes that Chinese food is 152% more popular on Christmas Day than the rest of the year.
In fact, three of the top five days of the year to order Chinese food are Christmas, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, followed by “smoking holiday” (4/20) and Labor Day.
By far the most popular item for Chinese food orders is General Tso’s Chicken. According to GrubHub — which features roughly 30,000 restaurants on its site across more than 800 cities in the U.S. — it’s actually the 4th most popular dish on the site, all year-round.
I don’t even eat that guy’s chicken, but even I know it’s not authentic. That doesn’t really bother me. It spawned a pretty good documentary about American love for Chinese food, called The Search for General Tso.
Adaptation happens. It is not destroying the fabric of anything. So, let’s keep the Tso in Christmas. It’s crazy nonsense, but it’s food evolution – the best kind of crazy nonsense.
The real question is why I have so many chopsticks and why are there so many manufacturers?
I don’t need all these disposable chopsticks, I have my own stainless steel set. I haven’t the heart to toss them. Maybe I’ll make a tiny house with them one day. Something the trees would be proud of.
In 1878, Japan produced the world’s first disposable chopsticks. Today in China, around 20 million trees are sacrificed to make disposable chopsticks, which is leading people throughout Asian chopstick countries to reconsider their use.
Those sticks come in different shapes and sizes. They tell you the story of the chopstick and give you usage tips. They wish you good fortune. The various wrappers are a kind of cross cultural pop art.
As food became bite-sized, knives became more or less obsolete. Their decline—and chopsticks’ ascent—also came courtesy of Confucius. As a vegetarian, he believed that sharp utensils at the dinner table would remind eaters of the slaughterhouse. He also thought that knives’ sharp points evoked violence and warfare, killing the happy, contended mood that should reign during meals. Thanks in part to his teachings, chopstick use quickly became widespread throughout Asia.
Different cultures adopted different chopstick styles. Perhaps in a nod to Confucius, Chinese chopsticks featured a blunt rather than pointed end. In Japan, chopsticks were 8 inches long for men and 7 inches long for women.
The Riddle of Steel tells us flesh is stronger than steel, but my stainless chopsticks still rule the day. They’re probably even bigger than 8 inches. I didn’t measure. En garde.