How to Pretend to be Tamar Adler (Part II)

cauliflower pastaAnd so the saga continued. And this time, I was determined to step it up a notch.

Attempt 3: A Cabbage with a College Education
What’s not to love about a vegetable that looks like a brain? So I decided to cook up some cauliflower, Tamar-style. She’s an advocate for boiling vegetables rather than steaming them (crisper is not always better), so I sawed up about half a head and dropped it in a pot of salty boiling water. And since I hadn’t done so well at thinking ahead up to this point, I also put the rest of the cauliflower (with some whole cloves of garlic) and some sweet potatoes in a 425 degree oven to roast.

When the boiling cauliflower was nice and tender, I ladled it out with a slotted spoon, and then used the same pot of water to cook some penne pasta. Then I mashed up the cauliflower with a generous handful of Parmesan cheese, some freshly ground pepper and the roasted garlic from the oven.  I added some of the starchy pasta water to turn to all into a sauce right before I drained the pasta. I don’t like to brag, but I think I got some extra points for tapping into Tamar’s fresh herb enthusiasm and topping it all with a bunch of fresh dill before serving.

The results were pretty good, simple but tasty. The components of the sauce did not combine quite as smoothly as I wanted them to, but no one can really complain about a big clump of melted cheese.
Tamar Score: 7

Attempt 4: It’s Not Over ‘Til the Skinny Yam Sings Continue reading

The Russian Imperial Stout: A Beer with Authority

Peter the Great, clearly in need of a beer

Peter the Great, clearly in need of a beer

I always thought I’d make a good Russian: I love cold weather, I can ice skate (kinda), and I can appreciate a bleak and tragic love story with the best of them. I even enjoy the balalaika! Why would I fail the Russian citizenship test? Vodka.

I mean, how do they do it? Granted, my experience with the stuff is pretty much limited to the plastic jugs available to you when you’re 19 and have to take what you can get. (That and the spicy shot of horseradish infused vodka I diligently drained in a midtown Manhattan bar where I was the only customer not affiliated with the Russian mob.) Fortunately for me, there is an alternative: the Russian Imperial Stout (RIS).

Much like IPAs, the Russian Imperial’s beginnings are tied up in Britain’s colonial aspirations. After visiting England in the early 1700s, Peter the Great got a taste for dark beer and requested some be sent to him back home. The obsequious English did so immediately, but the beer spoiled before reaching St. Petersburg. On their second attempt they upped the alcohol and hops (as with IPAs on their way to colonial India) and thus was born this, the most appropriate beer to drink on a cold night, ever.

The specs on Russian Imperials vary pretty widely, with one characteristic remaining unchanged: they are BIG. They always have a high abv, at least 8%. The one I’m drinking right now, from Founders Brewing, is 10.5% and looked like motor oil when I poured it. Every one I’ve tried has been opaque and near-black, but the hop character ranges from barely there to whoa there. Founders is toasty, a little fruity, and fairly dry — a state I aim to achieve during winter, myself. Continue reading

How to Pretend to be Tamar Adler (Part I)

tamar sandwichFrequent readers of the blog already know about my obsession with Tamar Adler and her book. An Everlasting Meal is not a cookbook exactly; it’s more a string of philosophies about how to treat food. Now take whatever you’re imagining and make it not pretentious or insufferable, and you’ll pretty much have it. Anyway, I was so in the thrall of this book that I decided to try to be Tamar for a few days (we’re on a first name basis, obviously), focusing mostly on her chapter on vegetables, “How to Stride Ahead.” Here are the results:

Attempt 1: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Vegetable Retrieval
Tamar is a big proponent of buying a ton of vegetables on one day of the week and cooking them all at once. That way, you’re already a step ahead for the rest of the week’s cooking. This sounded lovely and elegant, and since we had a big ol’ shipment of CSA vegetables coming one Saturday, I thought I had this locked down.

Our winter CSA is a little different than the regular season. Instead of picking it up every week, you get a gigantic box of stored vegetables and fruit once a month. It’s great, except that Jason and I have somehow messed it up every single time: we’re out of town or we’re busy, and we have to impose upon friends and neighbors and bribe them with vegetables to make it happen. This time, though, we were ready. We went to visit some friends and their new baby, not too far from our place, with plans to pick up the box on the way home. But then the baby was supernaturally cute, and we were running late. And then, even though we’ve both lived in NYC for too long, we managed to get lost on the walk to the subway. And then the next train was delayed. And then Jason ran up the stairs to get in a cab and rescue the vegetables, but since I wasn’t sure if he would be successful, I stayed on the train and sprinted a dozen blocks in snow boots to try to get them, too. But there he was, vegetables saved in the nick of time.

I was so exhausted after this debacle that I decided not to cook the vegetables that day, and instead got drunk and ate nachos at 11 p.m. Jason says we should get a high score for effort, but I know the truth.
Tamar Score: 2 out of a possible 10

Attempt 2: No Sandwich is a Bad Sandwich Continue reading

Too Sexy for My Lettuce: Aphrodisiac Puzzle

In Greek mythology, Aphrodite’s lover Adonis is killed in a lettuce field, and thus lettuce became a symbol of mourning and impotence. Poor lettuce; it’s the anti-aphrodisiac.

But you can do better than lettuce this Valentine’s Day! Name the aphrodisiac described by each piece of historical lore listed below. And since this is a tough one, you’ll find each of the answers in the photo collage below, though not all the photos will be used.


  1. The Kama Sutra suggested making this food into a drinkable paste to arouse desire, while the French advised that it be eaten three times the day before one’s wedding.
  2. Because of its shape and color, this food was a symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.
  3. Hippocrates recommended this food for sexual vigor, and couples were once advised to drink an alcohol made of it during the first month of their marriage.
  4. After being scorned by a woman, Zeus supposedly turned her into one of these, and because of its tough exterior, it is a natural symbol for playing hard to get.
  5. The Talmud suggests that married couples eat this food on Fridays in preparation for fulfilling their marital duties.
  6. The Aztec word for this food is same as their word for testicle, and it was believed to be such a strong aphrodisiac that virginal women were forbidden from being present while it was harvested.
  7. This food was once considered an aphrodisiac in Europe, but probably because it was still a rare import from the New World.
  8. This was believed to be Cleopatra’s favorite fruit, and in ancient Greece, its harvest also marked the time of a…erm, copulation ritual.
  9. Cassanova supposedly ate fifty of these for breakfast every morning, and Roman doctors prescribed them as a cure for impotence.
  10. Greek superstition holds that if a woman puts this food under her pillow, she’ll dream of her future husband, and giving it to someone in India is tantamount to making a pass.

Don’t scroll down or click Continue until you’re ready to see the Answers! Continue reading

What Was On Hand #391: Smoked Winter Dinner

IMG_1783I’m a huge fan of simplicity.  But it does not come easily to me.

And then sometimes circumstance forces my hand.

With no time to go grocery shopping and a bunch of root vegetables hanging about one night last week, I ended up simply chopping up the veggies; sprinkling them with olive oil, smoked salt, and black pepper; and roasting them.

That’s it.

And they were delicious I was kind of floored.

I don’t us smoked salt a lot, or hadn’t up until then, which makes me feel like a fool because although it’s not as great as, say, the album version of “Let It Be” is great, it’s pretty goddamn great all the same.  The carrots, beets, squash, and potatoes seem to gain a richness of their own flavor that, oddly, isn’t particularly smoky.  The end result, paired with some polenta (the only grain on hand) sprinkled with cheddar cheese, was surprisingly enough not only sufficiently filling but also sufficiently satisfying for dinner.  I Continue reading

How Not To Brew Beer: A Cautionary Tale

We had all the ingredients for what could be the perfect day of easy beer making:

All that AND the kitchen sink

All that AND the kitchen sink

  • Cold, snowy day (with the prospect of much more cold snowyness)
  • Kit from the Brooklyn Brew Shop for making Chocolate Maple Porter (hops, grains, and yeast)
  • Authentic Ohio maple syrup (not included in kit!)
  • Brewing-on-a-snowy-day soundtrack (Modest Mouse, The Moon and Antarctica; Black Keys, Turn Blue; Patsy Cline, Best of)
  • Brewing beers (Nitro Left Hand Milk Stout)
  • Fuzzy socks

It started out well: I laid out everything I would need, I looked up the instructions online, I actually read said instructions. But then, what was all this nonsense with heating the grain in water and straining and re-straining? (It’s mashing in and sparging, smarty pants!) I’ll just use a grain sock like usual, I thought, feeling rather smug at having found a shortcut. I consulted with Ben, just to be sure, and he said that was fine, making that swatting nah gesture that you often see old men making.

Having thus combined steps one and two, I spent the hour the grain was to be soaking anxiously taking the temperature of the mix every four minutes or so. I was occasionally within 10 degrees of where it should be, but mostly wildly off. I would adjust the stove accordingly and push the sock of grain around with my comically oversized spoon. I consulted with Ben, just to be sure, and he said that was fine, this was a pretty inconsequential step and then he did the frowny thumbs up. Continue reading

A Musical Buffet Puzzle


I’m not sure mine brings all the boys to the yard. Oh, well.

It’s true that beans are the musical fruit, but other foods make their way into songs all the time. Take as evidence the lyrics listed below. Can you name the song title and artist (or in one case, the name of the musical) for each song? If you can get nine out of ten (and the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie), consider yourself a winner.

  1. Sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freeze…
  2. Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, / Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.
  3. Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer / Well good god almighty, which way do I steer?
  4. Have some more yogurt, have some more Spam / It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh or canned.
  5. You are my candy girl / And you got me wanting you.
  6. I’m gonna give you / Apple and plum and apricot-a too, eh!
  7. Try the gray stuff. It’s delicious. / Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!
  8. A bottle of white, a bottle of red / Perhaps a bottle of rosé instead.
  9. In February it will be / My snowman’s anniversary / With cake for him and soup for me!
  10. I love you like a fat kid love cake.

Don’t scroll down or click “continue” until you’re ready to see the answers!  Continue reading

Pizza Party!: A Contest and Ode to Optimism

pizzapartyYesterday, my boss said, “I declare today a pizza day,” and my mood instantly improved.

Even people who have fairly neutral feelings about pizza as a food item have to admit that there’s a mystical quality to the phrase “pizza party.” Think of the power those words held over you and your classmates in elementary school. In third grade, my teacher Mrs. Medwid made an announcement one day that my mom (My mom! The secrets that woman could keep…) was going to bring in pizza, and we were going to watch Return to Snowy River on videocassette for the rest of the afternoon instead of doing stupid math homework.  It was maybe one of the best things that had ever happened to me. I don’t think it was even a reward for anything in particular; I think Mrs. Medwid was just awesome and thought we deserved a pizza. I still think of that day sometimes when the world feels harsh.

Look, everybody, winter is tough. The days are short, and the cold winds blow, and a lot of people are feeling down. So let’s bring a little levity to the blog in the form of pizza party anecdotes. Send your best pizza party story to by next Friday, January 30. I will post my favorites here, and the winner will receive a pizza-related prize specially devised by me. Now go eat a slice.

The Future is Here…and It Has a Built-In Koozie

Great Scott!

Great Scott!

It’s recently been brought to my attention that Marty McFly’s future of the Back to the Future trilogy is now. Doc Brown and the crew time traveled to 2015. This troubles me manifold.

  1. This means I am quite old.
  2. This means I am quite old and still do not have a DeLorean.
  3. This means I am quite old and still do not have a DeLorean, NOR are there any hoodlums on futuristic hoverboards to run over in this beast.

And fourthly, I still think a DeLorean is futuristic. I’m pretty much behind the times in all forms of pop culture (those Hanson boys are cute, though). Unless you consider craft beer culture, “pop,” which many do. This is also troubling, because craft beer isn’t actually a fad; its development has, in fact, altered the course of drinking for forever.

As shocking as it is to discover you’re living in The Future, there is evidence to prove it. As the fastest growing segment of the beer industry, craft beer is inspiring innovation in the brewing practice itself as well as in the recipes and the way we drink the final product.

Beers in Space!

Beers in Space! The Hop Gun

Brewing: Many of you already know I’m something of a Hop Head, so it will come as no surprise that one of my favorite craft beer inventions made it possible to hop the bananas out of an IPA. A few years ago Sierra Nevada invented a contraption they call the Hop Torpedo. They fill this torpedo-shaped device with whole-cone hops and pump fermenting beer through it, adding some serious hop smack without the bitterness.

Tröegs Brewing has a similar device called the HopCyclone and yet another hopping device called the Hop Gun (do you think dudes named these things?). This contraption is filled with hop pellets and then beer is pumped through its double-helix-shaped interior. The pellets dissolve and the beer is infused with starshine and rainbows and magically spirited into bottles at a sparkly pink palace near you. Continue reading

Smoky Potato Chowder

smoky potato chowderGuess who got a new Crockpot for Christmas? Ba-zam! Yes, I know that this makes me approximately a thousand years old, but I’m pretty excited. It’s like magic. You put a bunch of ingredients in it, and approximately eighty-four hours later, you have a delicious soup.

Seriously, though, I made some pretty awesome Crockpot delicacies this weekend, including this soup that I sort of made up as I went along. I used a variety of potatoes, to make it a bit more interesting. It also features smoked paprika, which is Jason’s favorite SOTM (Spice of the Moment). Truly, he will go through a jar of it in the blink of an eye, but I managed to spirit some away from him to give the soup a little heat and a delicious bacon-y flavor. Eat it on a cold night with a salad and some bread, and you’ll have enough energy to go head-to-head with the Abominable Snowman. Or to teach him how to use a Crockpot.

Smoky Potato Chowder Continue reading