Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Service of Changing Pace of Your Dinner Menus

Thursday, April 4th, 2024

Sometimes I cheat and order takeout.

I have a pretty standard weekly dinner menu which usually includes some kind of chicken, [canned] tuna in romaine lettuce and Campari tomatoes, pasta with tomato sauce and sometimes salmon. My tiny air fryer makes yummy potato strips. If I can find Amy’s frozen margherita pizza I split it in two and punctuate the usual fare with this treat. And once or twice a winter I might make a simple version of boeuf Bourguignon.

I recently tried a recipe I picked up from The New York Times’ “Cooking” section: Peanut noodles. I already had all the ingredients: creamy peanut butter, grated parmesan, soy sauce, unsalted butter and noodles. It was delish, so simple, prepared in the time to cook the noodles and not the same-old-same-old.

One friend just brought me a basil plant and another a magnificent tomato. I added mozzarella and had the nucleus of a delicious dinner that wasn’t my usual.

I remember when, decades ago, I stopped reading Gourmet Magazine because a recipe called for me to stir a strawberry mixture outdoors over three sunny days. Who has the time and who can predict that the weather will cooperate and does everyone have an outdoor space to do this? Turned me off. But I digress.

My husband was a talented cook. I miss his creativity and the beautifully plated dishes he’d present.

To change pace, I’ll cheat and order takeout.

Have you discovered easy-to-make recipes that change the routine of your dinner menus or do you find comfort in making and serving the same things week after week?

Winter stew

Service of Irritating Add-On Charges

Monday, February 7th, 2022

I don’t mind some add-ons such as the five cent deposit on cans and bottles or the cost of a grocery bag if I leave behind one of my many totes–which rarely happens.

Well publicized airline surcharges must annoy many. Pick a price and cover things like booking–whether on the phone, in person or online; accept carry on luggage; serve peanuts, pretzels and a soft drink to everyone; lend a pillow or blanket and let people choose the seat they want. Stop adding charges for the small stuff. It’s petty. The approach makes me think the company would buy subpar fuel or skip aircraft maintenance steps to save a few more dollars.

I am bombarded with surcharges by my New York Times digital subscription. I think “gotcha” when I click on an article about a recipe and read about its background and click to see the ingredients list and instructions only to read I must first subscribe to the cooking section. It costs $5 every four weeks or $40/year. There are some free recipes but not for the one I’ve been bamboozled into reading. Then there’s the extra cost to see the “Wirecutter” recommendations.  I understand you must also pay for many of the games like the crossword puzzle. Just charge me a few dollars more on my digital subscription and stop hitting me left and right because I feel taken and will look elsewhere for the information kept from me. The paper featured mulligatawny soup over the weekend. I had an amazing bowl in Addis Ababa and never as good since. I’ll check out other recipes on the web.

The add-on is more subtle in this example. Two adults and two children went to the movies last Saturday afternoon in a Chicago suburb. The tickets cost $34. Two small popcorn, two small boxes of candy, one small drink and two cheese sticks cost $52. My goodness.

Are there add-on charges that irritate you and any you think are valid and are glad to pay?

Service of Channeling Proust: Memories of Mom’s Cooking

Monday, August 16th, 2021

Marcel Proust wrote about how eating a madeleine triggered childhood memories in “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu,” (“In Search of Lost Time”). We all have our madeleine equivalents.

HW shared a loving memory of her Mom’s Sunday family chicken dinners. The poultry started in the oven, on the road to developing a characteristic golden hue, but then she’d add water, cover and cook it some more for a very long time. As a result the bird’s complexion turned gray. She did this so as not to poison the family with under-cooked chicken–her concern. Today HW’s cousins reminisce about those renowned dinners and her mom’s legendary gray chicken.

My mom could transform a disappointing, tasteless store-bought pound or other cake into a scrumptious trifle-like concoction or whip up floating island or enliven leftovers so they’d be toothsome. But I always think of her when I see “French toast” on a menu or on the rare occasion I make it for myself.

She would be surprised I chose her French toast for this post as in addition to the above her lamb chops and chocolate brownies and birthday cakes were also to die. I’m sure she thought that by the time I rescued and devoured it the French toast was within an inch of the garbage.

French toast was a Sunday morning staple in our home. Like many a teen, I lingered in bed long after I was asked to wake up and eat breakfast. To keep it warm mom left my portion on an extremely low flame. By the time I’d get to it, the toast was cooked through, not a smidgen of egg taste remained and it was cracker-hard–on the cusp of burnt. As a result, that’s the only way I’ll eat French toast! I cannot order it in a restaurant.

By the way, French toast in France is called le pain du pauvre–bread of the poor–or pain perdu, lost bread. Fresh bread was a crucial element in French homes. A cook gave day old bread another life by dipping it in egg and milk before cooking it.

When I was a kid my dad didn’t cook. Later he made a serious oil and vinegar salad dressing and cucumber salad.

What childhood foods do you remember?



Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Service of What’s Next in Whitewashing the Past?

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Words matter–they have literally supported me most of my career as a magazine editor, columnist, freelance writer and in decades of public relations projects from proposal through implementation.

A recent kerfuffle over a hamantaschen recipe in Bon Appetit shed light on the Archive Repair Project launched last summer at Epicurious, in response to the Black Lives Matter initiative. The latter is an online resource for home cooks. Publisher Condé Nast owns both. The project is about revising words and ingredients and impacts all titles in the publisher’s family that runs recipes which also includes Gourmet, Self and House & Garden.

 Takeout.com reporter Aimee Levitt recently explained that a food writer found fault with a six year old article in Bon Appetit that shared tips on how to make the triangular pastries [photo above] served during Purim, a Jewish holiday that begins tonight at sundown. I agree that the title is nasty: “How to make Hamantaschen actually good,” as it implies that the treat tastes bad.

The article under scrutiny was written by a gentile who didn’t explain, as Levitt did, that for dietary reasons religious Jews would not use butter in their cookies–an ingredient that makes bakery goods taste rich. The irritated food writer objected to the implication that “Jews don’t know how to bake” and about the article’s copy and recipes that they were written “Especially by someone who does not come from that tradition.”

According to Levitt, “The edited version of the story includes an apology for the original’s ‘insensitive language’ and ‘flippant tone and stereotypical characterizations of Jewish culture.’ It also excises all references to Bar Mitzvah partygoing and the description of Queen Esther, heroine of the Purim story, as ‘a nice Jewish lady.'”

The Twittosphere was split, according to Levitt, some OK with the magazine’s apology and others “argued that this points to a larger issue in food writing about who has the ‘authority’ to write a recipe, especially from a culture that they’re not very familiar with.”

New York Times opinion columnist Bret Stephens reported that the Bon Appetit editor wrote: “The original version of this article included language that was insensitive toward Jewish food traditions and does not align with our brand’s standards. As part of our Archive Repair Project, we have edited the headline, dek, and content to better convey the history of Purim and the goals of this particular recipe. We apologize for the previous version’s flippant tone and stereotypical characterizations of Jewish culture.”

Stephens asked “If a major media company like Condé Nast can choose to erase and rewrite its food archives for the sake of current Woke sensibilities, why stop there?” [Woke means alert to injustice in society, especially racism.]

Back to the genesis of the Archive Repair Project. Leanne Italie’s December, 2020 Associated Press story, “Epicurious Attempts To Right Cultural Wrongs One Recipe At A Time,”  appeared on the Huffington Post. David Tamarkin, digital director for Epicurious told Italie: “Being such an old site, we’re full of a lot of ideas about American cooking that really go through a white lens. We know that American cooking is Mexican American cooking and Indian American cooking and Nigerian American cooking, that that’s the kind of cooking that’s really happening in this country every day.”

Tamarkin found “painful” the word “exotic” and it has been excised throughout the site as have “authentic” and “ethnic.” Italie reported: “Some repairs are more complicated than removing a single word, such as an entire story about the “ethnic” aisle at the grocery store.” She quoted Tamarkin: “We have purported to make a recipe `better’ by making it faster, or swapping in ingredients that were assumed to be more familiar to American palates, or easier to find.”

As I read about the Archive Repair Project I thought of a takeout place on Lexington Avenue in the 20s in Manhattan that made exquisite Mexican food. It was owned and the food cooked by a staff of Chinese chefs who had worked in Mexican restaurants. I bet none had spent ten minutes in Mexico and wonder how much Spanish they spoke. I thought of my WASP husband who made pasta that tasted better than what is served by many Italian restaurants. What about my mother, a great cook, who found shortcuts galore? Was her food any less tasty for the time-saving substitutes she used?

For those who think a person must come from a tradition to be allowed to improve one of its recipes I say balderdash.

What if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals–PETA–asks publishers of recipes for meat substitutes throughout and the American Heart Association rallies for alternatives to butter and cream? Are we not going overboard worrying about words like “ethnic,” “authentic” and “exotic” written without malice through the years and that frankly don’t bother me now?

 

Service of Fast Food Tips for Dinner

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

I admire Facebook postings of images of elaborate dishes and desserts for one or two lovingly assembled and photographed by friends but I am not tempted to imitate any of them. I look for something quick and easy. [While I’m sure all are delicious, some don’t translate well on camera and look alarmingly unappetizing, reminding me of the old saw “only a face a mother could love.”]

As the weather cools off I might make a boeuf bourguignon or a quiche Lorraine with the idea of freezing leftovers for future meals but I’m not in a rush. I use every pot in the apartment for the former, [I cook each vegetable separately], and make the crust for the quiche. Counter space for rolling out the dough is in short supply in my kitchen and I’m off-put by also having to dig out my food processor.

If it’s suddenly 7:30 pm I am grateful if I have an Amy’s Pizza in the freezer. I break it in two, put the other half back in the freezer, toss a simple salad while it heats in a toaster-oven and voila!

Speaking of salad, it takes minutes to make a spectacular and filling chef one.  I buy real baked ham from a local vendor–it’s sliced off a majestic bone by hand and doesn’t resemble the slimy packaged or compressed variety. To slices of ham I add what’s in the house such as Swiss cheese, tomato, mozzarella, all sliced, and top it off with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. Cold chicken works too. A few frozen peas or corn kernels heated in a bit of water until just hot is a toothsome and pretty addition.

A beautiful, wonderful country bread for one that costs $5-$8–much that I love it–doesn’t make sense. Trader Joe’s sells ciabatta rolls that I immediately put in small baggies and freeze. I warm a roll in the toaster oven at 350° for seven minutes. The crust is crisp and wonderful and the warm inside welcomes a little olive oil and slices of cheese and tomato.

I also like fettuccine Alfredo or vegetable fried rice from Trader Joe’s, a hot meal in minutes. I add pepper and a few peas to the former and if I have cold chicken, a few small pieces to the latter.

This is apple season. I like Honey Crisp best but try a new variety each week at the farmer’s market. I just bought firecracker apples. I slice the fruit thin–like potato chips.

Do you have quick meal ideas or do you or your mate make elaborate dinners for you and your family? When thinking of food can you erase from your mind all the hungry in this country and the world?

 

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