standing order

The Fella often surprises me with a pint of ice cream. About as often, he picks one up at my specific request. (Somewhat less often, he picks one up even though I specifically asked him not to. Why would I ask him not to? Because I don’t always want it, but I will always eat it.)

Since the corner store rotates flavors randomly, there’s no point requesting a specific flavor. Still, The Fella knows what kind to get me: Chocolate with stuff in, or stuff with chocolate in.

Or pistachio.

We’ve had the “or pistachio!” conversation at least three times now, and here’s how that goes, more or less, every time:

Elsa: Or pistachio!
The Fella: [stops tying his shoes, looks up at me in disbelief] … really?
E: Yes.
TF:
E: It’s my favorite, but they almost never have it. If they ever have it, I get it. If they ever have it, get it. EVER.
TF: How did I not know this? It’s like I don’t even know you!*

*This last sentence only occurred in the first iteration of this conversation, which suggests to me that subconsciously he does recall it, or he would face the same vivid surprise and apparent horror each time.

This weekend, we had another round of the same conversation, at which time I altered the standing order. From now on, the standing order: chocolate with stuff in or stuff with chocolate in, or pistachio. Even if I have specifically requested “no ice cream,” if they have pistachio, get pistachio. “Pistachio rescinds all other orders.”

Can I eat this? April 2011, 2nd edition

Here’s the second April installment of backlogged Can I eat this? questions, and don’t forget the Can I eat this? archives!

grains and beans

- Can I Eat It: Part 7,934 in an ongoing series. In a fit of industriousness, I made Cannellini Minestrone this morning! I put part of it in a container for my lunch, and part of it in a container to store in the fridge. I realized once I got to work, however, that the container to store never made it to the fridge, and is still sitting on the counter in my apartment. The soup was made at 8am, and I won’t be getting home until 8pm. Can anything be done to salvage the soup into something edible, or at least usable?

- Should I eat this? Pumpkin seeds were soaking in salt water for several days. Still okay to roast and eat?

blender blunders

- How sick am I going to be if I accidentally drank part of a smoothie that included wood?

- My blender has a bit of black dust at the bottom after I use it, presumably from the black rubber connectors under the container and on top of the motor. It still works, but is this normal? Will the black stuff get sucked up into the food stuff I’m blending?

meat and poultry

- I got all fired out from watching “Food Inc” and bought a chicken from one of the local farms instead of the supermarket. I’m roasting it right now, and I’m notice blood is coming out the cavity. I believe I pulled all the giblets out (no plastic bag – that was a fun discovery), and I washed it, but I’ve never had a chicken produce so much blood before.

- Should I be concerned about frozen prepared foods that don’t seem all that frozen in the grocery store? I’m thinking specifically of frozen, already-cooked chicken nuggets, for example. Grocery stores often have them out in those open freezer tubs. Upon squeezing the package, the pieces are soft. When I find them in a closed freezer, the pieces are hard. Are the soft ones a real risk? Is it a bigger risk if they are raw?

- So normally I’m pretty brave about these things, and I understand that nothing goes bad at the stroke of midnight…. but I noticed today that my family-pack of ground beef which I bought on Monday has a ‘best-before of yesterday. It has browned a little from its original bright red dye colour, and that’s what squicks me out.

- Another “can I eat this” question. This time: pork sausage. I put it in the fridge to thaw either last night or the night before, I don’t remember. It had been frozen for about three months. If I use it tomorrow night for a stew (cooking it before putting it in the stew pot), should it be okay or do I need to cook it tonight?

- Should I eat this 10 day (approx) old cooked sausage, lentils, and kale dish? I made a delicious recipe about 10 days ago, consisting of pork sausage, red lentils, and kale (as well as chicken stock, garlic, onion, etc.). I had a bowl, put another bowl in the freezer, and subsequently forgot about the rest in the back of the fridge. I don’t want it to go to waste. Is the stuff in the fridge still safe to eat?

- I cooked up some yummy Pastitsio on Friday (ground beef, noodles, onions, spinach, eggs, evaporated milk and feta cheese). If it is sealed tight in the refrigerator, can it be served on Monday? Will it still be good? In the past I have found this dish doesn’t freeze all that well…………

CLAMS!

- [Should I eat this filter] I hate myself for even asking this question. I made a quick delicious pasta with vodka sauce and clams for dinner late last week… and then we left the leftovers on the stove overnight.

cheese

- So I’m making a lasagna (ideally for dinner tonight), and I just opened a brand new container of fat-free ricotta. The sell by date is March 27. There are some pink spots on the top of the cheese, and a drop of pink liquid on the inside of the plastic film on top.

street booze

- Someone recently moved, and tossed out some used bottles of alcohol (half-empty) among other non-garbage items they had put on the curb for trash pickup. My wife wants to use the left-overs for cooking. Is there anything to be concerned about?

water

- Drank a liter of unfiltered, chemically treated puddle water. What’s the best course of action to avoid gastrointestinal Armageddon?

- Is bathroom sink water any different than kitchen sink water? I have a sink in my room now, so I’ve been drinking out of that faucet.. but before, I’ve always felt a little skittish (maybe based on cultural norms).

- This morning while cleaning the crock pot, I noticed that the baking soda I was using was foaming up, as if i had added an acid like vinegar. So, I poured some baking soda in a clean bowl, to see if it was the water. It foamed! Is there a reason my tap water would be so acid? The only thing I found on the internet was a vague suggestion the chlorine can cause acidity in the water.

unidentified plants

- Are these Amanita muscaria mushrooms?

- Is all sage edible?

zzzzzzzzzap

- This is a should I eat it?* question of sorts. Exactly how is my Chinese take-out place attempting to kill me? Every time I order dumplings from the Chinese place up the street, I like to warm up the little plastic cup of sauce that comes with the order. I take the lid off, and stick the cup in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Invariably, about 10 seconds into it, there’s a zzzzzzzzap noise and occasionally a flash. I usually (stupidly?) let the microwave keep cooking until I hear a second zap, and then I take out the warmed sauce.

Can I sweet this?

- Can I Eat It Halloween Edition: We bought two giant bags of Willy Wonka assorted candy for Halloween (mostly so I could steal all the BottleCaps). We only went through one, the other is unopened. Can I save it until next year?

- Is it safe to eat this unrefrigerated strawberry jelly? Whole Foods 365 Strawberry Fruit Spread, left out for ~24 hours. The jar says refrigerate after opening. I refrigerated it at the 24-hour point. It’s been a week. Is it safe to eat it? Would you eat it?

- Honey: how can you maintain its fluidity? Has it gone bad when it becomes semi-solid or can it be used?

- Why do these supermarket berries feel like they’re fizzing? I just bought a small package of mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) from a small supermarket/convenience store (Rabba in Toronto). Some of the berries are cut and others are whole. All of them taste fine but they also give you a fizzing sensation on the tongue, as though they’d been put in soda water..

Can I breathe this?

- Can I get carbon monoxide poisoning from burned food? Today, I made oatmeal on an electric stove … only, I totally forgot about it. When I finally realized, the whole room (very small one-bedroom flat) was filled with smoke, and the oatmeal was thoroughly burned. Everything else is fine, but right now, I’m just worried that I might get carbon monoxide poisoning. Should I rush over to the emergency room right now, or can I wait till Monday to see a doctor?

Can I Greek this?

- Is this a food allergy? What might be causing it? And “can I eat this”? Years ago, my new-ish boyfriend’s parents took us out to dinner at a Greek seafood restaurant. When my food arrived, it wasn’t quite as described on the menu, but I ate it anyway because I didn’t want to make a fuss in front of boyfriend’s parents. I became nauseated, developed a massive headache, and had stomach cramps, all night. (The boyfriend sat with me, eventually falling asleep on the floor holding my hand. Awww.) [...] So, that boyfriend and I have now been married more than 10 years, so it’s been a long while. We went back to that restaurant for the first time.

Can I sleep this

- What does this “sleepy level” sticker on my candy mean?

Can I squeak this?

- So I think I ate part of a mouse. What should I do?

Can I eat this? April 2011

[update: there's a second April 2011 installment of Can I eat this? questions here, and don't forget the archives!]

It’s been a loooooong time since my last round-up of Can I eat this? questions from Ask Metafilter. Let’s dive in:

nuts and grains

- Is a green foam on steel cut oats normal?

- “Should I eat this?”-filter. Left a jar of peanut butter open on my counter and went out of town for 5 days. The house usually stays pretty cool. Safe to eat?

- Should my freshly opened bag of Hammons Black Walnuts taste like bleu cheese? I ate several, am I going to to suffer or die?

produce

- There’s a live moth living in a package of unopened, spinach. Should I cause a stink with the packing company?

- I bought a pumpkin a couple weeks before Halloween, and never did anything with it. Is it too late?

- Is my basil okay even if it’s now a different color?

- What kind of fruit or vegetable is this? And more important, can I eat it? [...] They’re growing on the fence itself. They’re orange with red fleshy seeds like pomegranates or something. So are these things edible? Is that what the skunks are eating? And, on a related note, can I eat them as well?

- SO what’s this OTHER thing growing on my backyard tree. And more important, will I soon be able to eat it?

- Will it be safe to eat vegetables that have been grown in soil containing decorative plant fertilizer capsule / pellets?

- I use a lot of Iceberg lettuce. And I usually don’t wash it if I’m making a sandwich. [...] Am I doing a stupid thing by eating it without washing it first?

- Is my cauliflower still edible? It spent 2 nights in the trunk of the car, and probably froze and thawed twice. The cauliflower is now a rubber, water-saturated mass that stinks to high heaven. But it stills like cauliflower, just stronger – so it doesn’t exactly smell nasty.

- I roasted some butternut squash about a week ago, but haven’t yet used it. It’s been in the refrigerator the whole time. Think it’s safe to eat? How long might it last before it goes bad?

- A friend gave me some freshly picked porcini (boletus) mushrooms. Some of the bigger ones which looked fine on the outside, were almost hollow and full of bugs inside.

- I tried to microwave some asparagus and it started sparking. What is going on?

- Can I eat the grapes (?) that are growing on my building?

cheese

- When putting away our Christmas Groceries my husband overlooked putting the cheese in the fridge. A container of Parmesan shavings and two hunks of soft goat cheese were left out all night. Should we toss or keep?

- Should raw milk raclette smell like this? I bought a wedge of raw milk raclette tonight at Whole Foods. I have never tried a cheese I haven’t liked, but the internet suggests raclette has a pleasant smell, and it’s sweet/nutty/etc, whereas mine definitely has a strong sweaty sock smell.

- Someone ordered me a nice selection of Spanish cheeses for my birthday. It was shipped on Monday, according to the packing slip. It reached my office during business hours on Tuesday, but I was out that day and yesterday. The box sat there until today, when I brought it home. I opened it just now, and found 4 vacuum-packed cheeses in a little styrofoam cooler with a cold-pak — but everything was at room temperature. The box was labeled PERISHABLE. The cheeses themselves are labeled KEEP REFRIGERATED.

eggs

- Duck(?) laid an egg on my balcony. What do I do now? [...] I don’t want to leave the egg out there without it being taken care of. I don’t know enough to tell if it’s fertilized, either – if it is, can I expect that the parent duck will come back to incubate it? Will the fact that I picked it up affect anything? Can I eat it?

- Can-I-Eat-This-Filter, Thanksgiving edition. Assembled an apple pie tonight, planned to bake it tomorrow morning, but accidentally put the egg white wash on the top crust tonight. If I keep it in the fridge all night and bake it tomorrow morning, it won’t kill anyone, right?

- Raw egg white shakes from my own chickens? Would I be safe or would I be playing Russion Roulette?

- What’s the 411 on home grown eggs? A guy at work has some chickens and is sharing the bounty. Don’t laugh, I was raised entirely on hamburger helper, microwaved chicken and green beans from a can. I am just venturing out into this strange world of ‘fresh’ food.

poultry

- Why shouldn’t I eat a goose from Central Park?

- I accidentally switched the oven off part way through roasting my chicken and left it off for 30-45 minutes. Can I put the oven back on again and end up with a safe-to-eat chicken?

- Food safety-filter. Was this cooked, frozen chicken breast mishandled, or am I giving in to my own hypersensitive food safety guidelines? [...] My family thinks that because the chicken was precooked, it didn’t matter that it was left out for several hours in the heat, then placed back in the fridge, then to be cooked again tomorrow. I say that bacteria doesn’t care if chicken is raw or cooked.

meat

- We have some raw bratwursts from a local co-op. They look good but the casing looks kind of papery; the best I can describe is like thin reddish-colored newspaper; it tears like paper, but it’s on the sausages tight. Do any bratwurst experts know what this might be? Does this have to be removed, and if so, at what stage?

- Food Safety Filter (sorry): Is this stew meat safe to eat? We just bought it today. Sell by date is October 6. Meat is deeply brown-red, with areas that are brown enough to look cooked already.

- Should I eat it? Seared beef cubes, put in crock pot, forgot to plug it in … Timeline: Yesterday afternoon: seared all sides of about 20 stew beef cuts and put in small crockpot with our usual flavorings (salt, pepper, oregano, cumin). Poured boiling hot water from frying pan into crockpot to cover. Forgot to plug in crockpot. This morning: 18 hours later (probably one or two hours less), remembered. Out of curiosity I plugged it in and went to work. This evening: It smells delicious.

- Newly pregnant, ate a small bite of prosciutto. I would like to finish it. Can I?

- Is it safe to eat meat that has thawed and been in room temperature for about 6 hours, and then refrigerated again?

- Being a former vegetarian, I’m unfamiliar with cooking beef. I wanted it thawed fast and don’t have a microwave, so I put it in a sink of HOT water. THen I started reading up online, and apparently hot water is a big no-no, can cause bacterial growth…

- [This one's not a can-I-eat-it but a can-you-name-it.] Mystery Meat. My aunt gave me this meat a month ago. I can’t remember what she said it was. I vaguely remember the word “breakfast.” What kind of meat is it and how should I prepare it?

SEAFOOD!

- Can I eat it, oyster edition: I left a jar of fresh yearling oysters at room temperature while I went snowboarding. I was gone for approximately 10 hours, and when I came home the temperature in the apartment was 66°F, but it was around 70°F when I left. The jar is labeled “Perishable” and “Refrigerate”, but the sell-by date is April 17th. I plan to season and cook them in some way tomorrow and use them as the filling for a French omelette. Will I die?

- [sushi at home] can i do it without poisoning myself?

- I defrosted farmer’s market catfish in the refrigerator 48 hours ago. It’s still sitting in the fridge now. You know what’s coming, don’t you? Is it safe to eat?

- Is it safe to [eat] my ceviche yet?

canned goods, condiments, seasonings

- Will I paralyze myself and everyone I know with these pickled beans?

- Should I add more liquid to my refrigerator pickles?

- Opening a can of tomato paste, the contents spewed out. Can I eat this? I actually tossed the first little can that did this, but the second did it, too. There was no bulging of the can ends. I can’t find a decipherable expiration date anywhere. I bought them recently.

- Paranoid filter: I ate one bite of a pumpkin butter that was given to me as a Christmas gift last December. Should I fear botulism?

- Is it OK to store my spices in a shipping container for 2 weeks?

spirits and wine

- Why is my homemade walnut vodka infusion FIZZING after its first night? Am I going to die?

- Wine Question: I’ve got a bottle of 2003 Radford Dale Gravity, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Is it still “good”?

- How long does champagne last? I received a corked/boxed/sealed bottle of 1996 Dom last January, and I’ve been saving it… I just don’t know how long it’s safe to keep.

- Is our bottle of Kahlua still good? We opened it four years ago (on St. Patrick’s Day, actually) and promptly forgot about it. It’s sat on a high shelf at a fairly constant temperature. It’s about 80 percent full. It still smells OK. Wasn’t going to taste it without input from the hive.

- There are some floating solids in my small bottle of Rhum. Is it still drinkable ? I received the complimentary bottle of Rhum in early 2010 from an Air France flight.

- I bought this bottle of rum at a flea market. It says Geseco bay rum on it. and at the bottom says the Goodman Chemical Co., Bush Terminal, Brooklyn NY. Is it worth anything? Is it safe to drink? Whats the history behind it?

- I have both unopened and opened bottles of liquor. Can you tell me if these are okay to serve or does this sort of thing expire? Should I toss them out?
– unopened bottle of vodka, several years old
– unopened bottle of red wine, a couple of years old
– opened bottles of whiskey and rum and gin and others. They were opened several years ago.

sweets

- [Can-I-eat-this-filter] I left a piece of chocolate in a plastic wrapping on a place where it got too hot. The chocolate in it melted completely, the plastic did not. However, another piece of plastic, lying beneath it, started to melt. The chocolate reached maybe 60-70 degrees celsius. Are there any harmful toxins which may have migrated into the chocolate at this temperature?

- Why did all my jam “fall” to the TOP of the jar? I got some store-bought jam, used it once, then put it in the fridge. The next time I went to use it (about 2 weeks later), all the jam was moved to the top of the jar, up against the lid, as though it had been stored upside down. At the bottom of the jar was an empty gap. What caused this?

- Three christmasses gone, my wife and I bought some fudge. I’ve just found it in the back of the cupboard — can I eat it? It’s basically just sugar, that never goes off, right?

- Wedding filter: An acquaintance and her husband recently sampled their anniversary cake (the one that spends the year after the wedding in the freezer). The groom got violently ill from the cake. Is there any mythology surrounding this tradition that will allow this possible omen to be interpreted correctly?

equipment

- Marital Discord filter: After a 30+ hour power outage I open the freezer and touch the ice cubes and discover the ice cubes are still completely frozen on top with no moisture. I declare all the items in the freezer safe to eat. Is this correct?

- Does broiling empty nonstick pans kill them?

- Are unglazed quarry tiles safe for use in an oven?

- Glass bottles that were in hot water with some dilute generic store brand WD-40, so they got some residue on them. I need to make them safe and clean for flavored vodkas for human consumption. Please help!

- A mouse may probably took a shit in my well-seasoned wok. How thoroughly must I clean it?

a new pet!

- There’s a fuzzy blob in my fridge! We named her Squishy Honey. What is she?

meta

- I would like to know if other people commonly feel that food they have bought needs to be thrown out because it is somehow contaminated, or whether I’m actually too hyper about this. Often — more than once a week — I throw out food because something seems to be wrong with it.

- Several of my housemates will throw things out the moment they reach the ‘sell by’ date and it’s sort of been a running joke that I’m the one who’ll drink juice a month past it’s expiration date if it doesn’t taste bad or scrape mold off the top of jelly and eat the rest (I only did it because it was really really delicious homemade jelly). Recently, my bio-chem studying housemate took it up a notch by telling me that I’d only do something like that because I don’t understand the molecular-whatever-whatever of mold on food/ all the sightless, odorless bacteria lurking in my expired food.

single-handed in the kitchen

My injured finger is healing up just fine, but the odd position and length of the cut (and the swelling and pain from the tetanus shot) means my right (non-dominant) hand was useless for a full week, and not much better the second week.

This long stretch of one-handedness fell inconveniently during a busy celebrating season, with two birthdays and several other parties to cook for. To my delight, I discovered that a little ingenuity and planning makes it easy to entertain one-handed; a trip to Trader Joe’s makes it even easier.

These are recipes — heck, not even recipes, just templates and ideas and products — that I plan to use again and again when time is tight or inspiration is lacking. Here’s just a few of the festive dishes I whipped up with one hand tied behind my back.

for The Fella’s birthday party, a twelve-hour open house:
– goat cheese with store-bought tapenade, served with grape tomatoes, roasted red peppers from the grocery store’s olive bar, and crackers.
– store-bought hummus topped with Trader Joe’s eggplant & garlic dip, served with pita bread, cucumbers, and olives.
– brie topped with a palmful of brown sugar and a sliver of butter, then baked until bubbly and served with baguette, water crackers, and cold grapes. Also good with dried cranberries.
Trader Joe’s spanakopita triangles, spread out on a baking sheet, not crammed into their tiny tray, brushed with olive oil or melted butter, sprinkled with coarse salt, and baked much longer than instructed, until deep golden brown and crispy. They weren’t as delectable as homemade spanakopita, and no reasonable person would expect them to be — but they were pretty darned good.
pulled pork. The Fella diced up the fixings for a taco bar, and I contributed a big mess o’ pulled pork, which required me to open 1) a butcher’s packet; 2) a bottle of BBQ sauce; 3) a tetra pack of cheap red wine. It is fannnnnntastic.
– marble cupcakes. (Yeeeah, this one was tricky to do one-handed, but it’s not a birthday without cake. I didn’t make the cake from scratch, just bought one packet of chocolate cake mix and one packet of yellow cake mix, whipped them up with cooled melted butter in place of the oil, and spooned them into the cupcake tins, then swirled with a skewer for delicate marbling.)
– ganache for frosting: just heavy cream brought to a boil and poured over good chocolate, then stirred until smooth. My professional-baker fancy-pants sister even gave me instructions for whipping it (much better instructions than Cooks Illustrated cookbook, by the way), but in the end I realized that dipping cupcake tops into the warm ganache would be faster and easier than any other method.

For a birthday dinner:
– baked brie again, because WHY ON EARTH NOT?
– more store-bought hummus spiked with lemon, topped with eggplant spread, and then sprinkled with the last of the tomatoes from the taco bar, seared with olive oil and chili powder, served with pita.
– my simplest, best black bean soup. (Instead of mincing an onion, I whacked one up roughly and processed the entire pot of soup, then added some reserved beans at the end.)
– oven-baked frittata with frozen spinach and caramelized onions, using up the last of the onions from The Fella’s taco bar.
– a perfectly simple salad: greens topped with cranberries and toasted almonds and tossed with good balsamic vingar, superb olive oil, cracked pepper, and Polish finishing salt.
– a half-baked loaf of bread (from TJ’s again), finished in our oven.
– buttery cake (on The Fella’s birthday, I baked the excess yellow-cake batter in tiny loaf pans and froze it), stabbed with a fork and soaked with orange syrup (simple syrup spiked with OJ and triple sec, reduced until thick), then glazed with the last of the ganache. I served three tiny slices on each plate, fanned out and drizzled with another spoonful of orange syrup… and I am converted: syrup-soaked cakes from now on!
– a final dessert garnish: chocolate-covered orange jelly sticks.

for assorted other events:
– goat cheese with good balsamic vinegar —the thick, expensive syrupy kind — and toasted slivered almonds, served with crackers or baguette. I made this twice, and not the same evening as I served the goat cheese with tapenade.. and by “made it,” I mean “tore open a packet of goat cheese, poured balsamic over it, and toasted some nuts.” It’s crazy-easy and crazy-good — so crazy-good that I made it twice in the last two weeks to take to some pretty ritzy doings.
– various permutations of hummus-with something: hummus with lemon and roasted red peppers and olives, hummus with tapenade, hummus with eggplant spread and tapenade, and so on.

and a few ideas I brainstormed up but never did try out:
– mushroom caps rolled in olive oil, filled with spoonfuls of frozen spinach souffle and baked.
– Whole Foods dumplings or gyoza warmed in sesame oil and scattered with scallions.
– vegetarian meatballs heated with chili sauce, red currant jelly, and white wine. (I’ve made these retro darlings with frozen actual-meat meatballs and people go INSANE for them.)

These last few ideas sounded so good it’s a shame we didn’t get to try ‘em. Oh, well, maybe the next time I inflict a horrible injury upon myself, we’ll get around to these.

Jehosephat, it’s Christmas! II

As Christmas comes hurtling toward us, I’m getting geared up for baking and cooking and baking and cooking. Also, some baking, and then some baking.

I bake sandwich breads and sweet almond bread and cinnamon rolls. I make caramel corn and Chex mix. I make dips and paté and savory jams to take to parties and family gatherings. I make butterscotch sauce with bourbon or brandy. I make brittle (peanut brittle, natch, but last year I also tested out chili-spiced pumpkin seed brittle and a garnet-colored Shiraz and almond brittle) and chocolate-covered almond toffee.

And then there are cookies.

Every year, I envision giving friends and families beautiful platters all kinds of cookies and sweets… and every year, I end up making one giant batch of biscotti and calling it good, and then I daydream about next year, when I’ll surely make chocolate sandwich cookies and jam thumbprints and frosted sugar cookies and shortbread and and and…

If you, like me, dream of a giant platter with a half-dozen kinds of cookies but always run out of time and patience, consider a cookie swap as a way to amass a cache of cookies without all the planning and the work and the cursing oh the cursing. (… or is that just me?) Continue reading

topsy turvy stuffed squash

Every year, our referral logs show that visitors arrive at macbebekin searching for vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving dishes. (And sometimes not-so-vegetarian-friendly Thanksgiving searches end up here, too.) Last year, I jotted down some tips and suggestions for a vegetarian-friendly holiday table, and in the same entry I outlined our proposed Thanksgiving menu, which centered around The Fella’s gorgeous roasted butternut squash galettes.

This year, I have one more vegetarian Thanksgiving entree to suggest, and boy howdy, it’s a doozy! Inspired by The Kitchn’s rendition of Dorie Greenspan’s stuffed squash, I whipped up a vegetarian version of my own. You’ll notice that the recipe at the link includes bacon, but don’t get hung up on that: the key here is the technique, not the ingredients.

I’ve never been a fan of baked stuffed squash, which too often comes out of the oven pallid and limp, slumping and drooling its thin juices onto the plate. But this simple, brilliant idea turns that bland, pale stuffed squash on its head — literally. The trick: hollow out the squash and fill it with cheesy, bready, aromatic stuffing…

And then flip it upside-down to bake.

Elsa's topsy turvy stuffed squash

It’s so simple and so obvious: get the stuffing in contact with the pan, let the oven’s heat and the roasting pan’s surface work their alchemy upon the ingredients. Here’s a photo of the squash halves, one still resting in the pan, the other flipped up to show off the crispy underside. As you can see, cooking them face-down results in tender roasted squash with a deeply browned, richly crisped crust over creamy soft stuffing.

The fabulous contrast in textures and flavors makes this a dish you’ll groan over. Our dinnertime last night was a chorus of “OOOOOH”s and “AAAAAAH”s and other, less polite expressions of delight. I urge you, urge you, to try this topsy-turvy stuffed squash soon. Continue reading

fauxreos

For me, a perfect dessert is a careful contradiction, a balance of textures and tastes, of sweet and salty and an undertone of something tart or bitter.

And sometimes you can hit that balance by happy accident. That’s what happened here. As a finishing touch for our recent Sandwich Party, I tried another blogger’s recipe for chocolate sandwich cookies. The flavors sounded promising, but something in it rang alarm bells for me.

And rightly so. My dough didn’t come together as promised — or at all — so I had to improvise. A little melted butter here, a little extra flour there, and a rest in the fridge did wonders. Thanks to instinct and accident, I ended up with a winner of a recipe, one that I know I’ll make again and again. (And then laziness, inattention, and a power outage delayed my posting. But you have it now, my sweeties, and I have the accidental recipe archived here for many future occasions, so let’s count our blessings.)

I love this cookie. I call them “fauxreos,” but they deliver so much more than an Oreo: more chocolate punch, with a rich, almost bitter undertone, more crispy crunch and creamy lushness. The crispy chocolate wafers are deeply, darkly chocolatey and faintly sweet, with a slightly salty edge that makes them the perfect foil to the rich sweet filling. The assembly process is a bit of a chore, but when you bite into the first cookie, you’ll know it’s worth every moment. Continue reading

ac & je’s sandwich buffet

As the fifth Sandwich Party drew to a close on Monday night, AC & JE invited some friends over for a Big Sandwich Buffet, and we were lucky enough to be part of it.

Such deliciousness! Spicy chicken tenders, sauvely sauteed portabello mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, two kinds of cheese, pesto, butter, mustard, mayo, and lovely tender-chewy ciabatta to pile everything atop. AND! A bright, fresh salad with apples, almonds, and red onion, and a big casserole of luscious mac & cheese, tangy and tender and surprisingly light. (JE, I’m taking notes; I think of mac & cheese as heavy and creamy, but you may have opened my eyes to another way.)

the Ploobwich

The Bitwrathploob has sampled sandwiches around the world, but that doesn’t mean he turns up his battered red replacement nose at humble homemade fare.

During this weekend’s Sandwich Party, Ploobie and I enjoyed this easy, cozy meal: a hot sandwich of cheddar and tomato on beer bread, served with a brimming bowl of simple black bean soup. Continue reading