Take a Tomato Break

I was talking to my friend Pat a few days ago about tomatoes. “Everyone who’s been there,” she said, “talks about the tomatoes in Italy. They’re supposed to be so good.” Yup, they’re good all right. Here in the US we do pretty well a few months of the year. Over there, year around it seems, great tomatoes.

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‘Tis the Seasoning

For years now I’ve suffered from garlic salt shame. It’s the seasoning I use most often, thinking that it’s a shortcut, that an accomplished cook with stores of self-respect would employ solo salt and stand-alone garlic that he would strip, dice, and sprinkle on a side dish or main course instead of going the two-in-one route.

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Pass the Fennel

When I was a kid, my junk food of choice, purchased at Pat’s Food Center across the street from my house, or at the park store in the Missaukee County trailer park, was Twinkies or Mars Bar or Three Musketeers bar (Pat’s) or wax lips or wax coke bottle with that syrupy pseudo coca cola inside or colored-sugar-in-a-straw (county store). I had friends who bought Good and Plenty, black or red licorice. Not me. Ever.

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Yick

A Yahoo headline greets me this morning: “Study says cheese and red wine could boost brain health.” That’s good news.  Two things I like, and I’m all in favor of brain health.  The ten-year study, published in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease, involved 1787 people who participated in a Fluid Intelligence Test, “which provides a snapshot of a person’s ability to think quickly.”

Quickly? Typically I think: Quick, have another glass of wine. But red wine and cheese . . . together? Not in my mouth, thanks. I like red wine too much to risk sullying it with cheese; I like cheese too much to risk ruining it with red wine. 

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You Gotta Have Peas

No one is neutral on peas.

In England for a conference a few decades ago I was taken to dinner by a local guy who ordered something the English like to eat. It came with a side of mushy peas (mushy rhymes with bushy). To the eye the peas looked like they had been cooked 2-3 hours, then stored away to languish in  cans for 2-3 decades. They were the color of bile, more texture than taste. 

Aside from a few summers I was sent out to the garden to pick peas, and unpodded them and ate them on the spot, I do not have warm memories of peas.

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Baked Tomatoes

Boy, was I wrong.

Wrong about local tomatoes that are coming into the farmers’ markets right now, gorgeous, firm, red, both sweet and acidic beauties that I’m using to bake alla gratinata.  

Wrong because in the off season, I content myself with hydroponic vine-ripened tomatoes that do have a little flavor, that are firm enough to be transported who-knows-how-many hundreds or more likely thousands of miles to get the local Kroger, firm enough to withstand 120 minutes in the oven at 350 F and miraculously retain their shape and make a pretty good graté. But the local tomatoes are besting the vine-ripeneds this summer, blowing them right out of the oven.

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Gross Sauce (Get Rid Of Some Stuff)

The bug bites you every now and then.  Get rid of some stuff.  

We have a couple pantries in our house, one in the kitchen, another over by the garage. Stuff we use regularly we keep in the kitchen, naturally. Stuff that’s not on deck gets stored over by the garage.  Pepper corns, cans of chick peas, back-up jars of marmalade and jams, peanut butter and nutella, tomato paste, boxes of pasta.

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To Your Health

In a saucy Washington Post opinion piece on February 24, 2012, columnist Alexandra Petri made fun of Mitt Romney. Campaigning for the Republican nomination, he was visiting Michigan, a state he’s sort of from (his father was the State’s governor from 1963 to 1969). In a speech he expressed his affection for Michigan by noting that “all the trees are the right height.” Petri let him have it, noting that his comment “bears a resemblance to what on TV sitcoms is called chuffa — something that sounds sort of funny but isn’t an actual joke.” Romney’s attempts at humor she describes as “verbal clockwork oranges.”

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Alt Pizza

We’re having pizza for lunch at our daughter’s house. She says she’s going to do it on the grill.

Not what I expected.

My wife and I often buy a pizza dough at the Italian market when we go for goodies. We have one in the freezer right now. Thaw it, roll it, mark it with a P.  Then put it in the oven, heated to 500F. Our preference is a white-pizza-foccaccia, with olive oil and sea salt and rosemary. Good for sandwiches layered with aforementioned goodies.

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