On the Pleasures of the NYT’s Thanks-O-Matic


Come, Pip, and try the tarte tatin!

The New York Times launched a wacky technical innovation this past week. No, I am not talking about Google Cardboard, that strange little virtual reality contraption that caused Jason to comment, “This story is really sad. Also, my phone screen is really dirty.” I am talking about the Thanksgiving Meal Planner or, as I prefer to call it, the Thanks-O-Matic.

Here’s the way it works: you adjust little sliders at the side of the screen to set variables like number of people attending, how traditional you want the meal to be, how early you’re willing to start the prep work, etc., and then—boom!—the Times shuffles up sixteen recipes in four categories that will meet your needs. You can actually see the recipes flipping and changing as you drag the sliders right or left.

If this sounds a little cheesy, it’s because…it is. Also, I find it almost irresistibly hypnotizing. Of course I started out with a scenario that was somewhere close to accurate, but then I started meddling endlessly with the controls to see what recipes would come up. Just one notch to the right on the experience slider gets you individual Corn Puddings Stuffed with Greens instead of macaroni and cheese! I think I kept doing this until I saw pretty much every possible recipe on offer. I know what you’re thinking: if I was going to look at every recipe anyway, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at them in a list? Au contraire, mon ami! I think there’s something else at work here. Continue reading

Curried Brussels Sprouts and a Vinegar Sop

I surely ate Brussels Sprouts growing up, though I can’t seem to remember them.  They’ve merged in my mind with the steamed cabbage that accompanied corned beef and that I’d drown in red wine vinegar.

Your assumption might be that I turned the cabbage into a vinegar sop in order to liven up a limp, unseasoned vegetable, and you’d be right.  But I also came to view those limp leaves as an excuse to drink vinegar, something I will unabashedly admit I still do with some frequency.  I also clean our kitchen counters with vinegar, (though the white wine kind) and mix red wine vinegar and my buddy Reece’s honey as a tonic before bed.  Shannon’s grandmother’s best friend Naomi (pronounced, in rural Ohio, as “Nee-oh-ma”) drank it nightly without fail, and she made it into her early 90s without being prescribed a single medication.  It’s the wonder food!

I don’t eat much steamed cabbage any more, but I do rock the Brussels Sprouts, and sometimes with vinegar.  They’re a fantastic winter veggie that you should pick up at the market and prepare, possibly, in one of the following two ways.

Cooking and eating these very simple recipes will make you happy.

Brussels Sprouts with Curried Yogurt

Ingredients:   Plain, low-fat yogurt  /  Brussels Sprouts (the smaller ones are tastier)  /  One Onion  /  Garlic  /  Chili, either as pepper or power  /  Curry Powder  /  Salt

  1. Trim any woody ends off the Brussels and, if you’ve got those guys that are the size of those big, hollow gumballs, cut them in half.
  2. Steam them, either in some container built to be used with a pot on the stove or in a covered bowl in the microwave with a teaspoon of water poured in.  Remove them when they’re a bright, Easter-grass green.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the onion and sauté it in olive oil until it’s soft.
  4. Meanwhile2, mix half a cup of the yogurt with curry powder to taste. Continue reading

Single Ladies: There is a Recipe at the End of This Post

Single ladies eat

Click to see how much Beyonce loves Tanya's tahini tacos.

I’m a single lady. I live in a small New York apartment with a kitchen the size of a deluxe port-a-potty. I have to move furniture to use the oven. I don’t really cook so much as get in, prep something, and get out. Recently my diet’s been mostly raw, and that’s mostly due to laziness. Spend hours sweating over a roast of some kind, only to watch it decompose next to the dwindling six-pack in my fridge? Not so much. But chop fruit and vegetables? Sure, I’ll chop shit all day long. I even have one of those fancy knives with the air pockets, and a miniature cutting board that’s just the right size for my 8×10” counter. You wouldn’t think I make very good-tasting meals using this method, and you’re usually right. But sometimes I manage to surprise myself. The key to my success lies in employing the same approach I’ve used for online dating: keep expectations low and an alcoholic beverage on hand, and if things go sour, eat quickly.

I’ll often look in my fridge and wonder what can be done with what’s there. The aptly named myfridgefood.com is good for helping with that. But the other day I made something delicious on my own that I’d like to share with you if I haven’t already scared you off. It’s light and simple and can be put together in the amount of time it takes to call your mother and complain about your dating life. (How many chick lit clichés can I inject into a single post?) Continue reading

Independence Food: The Contest

Independence Food!The Fourth of July is approaching fast, and we know that our PitchKnives readers can do better than just a ho-hum Frankfurter on the grill. So send us your recipes for your favorite Independence Food and tell us why you think it’s patriotic. Is it red, white and blue? Is it a favorite dish of one of our forefathers? Does it remind you of amber waves of grain? Write to us at submissions@pitchknives.com and tell us all about it. And don’t forget the photos to document your genius!

We’ll feature some of our favorite submissions here next week, so prepare yourself for the tastiest Fourth of July yet.

The Tofu Conundrum

greek salad with baked lemon dill tofu

I understand the shudder that goes down some people’s spines whenever the word tofu is mentioned. Despite the fact that I, long a convert to the way of the bean curd, will eat tofu in any form under the sun, I have been known to eschew many foods on the basis of texture, so I can understand why some might quail at the thought of a watery or slimy white block. But if you are one of the many tofu-haters out there, fear not; there may yet be a preparation of tofu you can fall in love with.

Marinated and baked tofu is delicious, with a firm but juicy texture that is a perfect complement to crisp salad greens. What’s more, it’s easy to make. Here’s my recipe for Lemon Dill Baked Tofu, which I love to serve with a giant Greek salad. Continue reading