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Just Cook Something: Quick & Simple Pastas

April 24, 2014

The Tour de FroYo is quickly approaching. It’s time to move beyond your comfort zone and try something new. Maybe some folks think they don’t have what it takes to evaluate our local yogurt shops? Hogwash. If you prefer one brand of ice cream in the supermarket over all others, you’re totally qualified. If you can taste that there is a difference between Coke and Pepsi, you can do this. And it will be fun.

Seriously, check out the details here and then let me know how many people you are bringing so that Maeve can have enough scoresheets on hand. The more the merrier.

You know what else some people think they can’t do? Cook. Or maybe they can cook but it just takes too much time, requires too many ingredients, and makes a giant mess. So they’ll throw something frozen in the microwave or call for some kind of take out or delivery.

Really, I should clock myself the next few times I make these dishes, just so I know exactly how many minutes they take. But here are two healthy, wholesome and delicious meals that require little more than knowing how to boil water (and one super-delicious meal that is simply terrible for you).

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Passover Ends

April 23, 2014

A normal person would have just gone out for pizza. Without a doubt, that’s the best way to celebrate a week without leavened bread. Maybe even just a bowl full of cereal. Seriously, as dull as cereal can become when you eat it every day, try skipping it for a week. After a break, you’ll remember why you started to eat it in the first place.

But I make no claims to being a normal person. I’m very very lucky to be able to follow my bliss and see where it takes me. Yesterday, it involved six hours of cooking, only a couple of which were dedicated to the break fast dinner.

In the past I’ve mentioned my aversion to food waste. Well, I had recently picked up a few meaty treats from Whole Foods thinking that I would cook them for dinner on Monday night, the last night when kosher for Passover rules would be in effect. Mind you, these are different than the regular kosher rules which we never ever follow. I need to clarify this because both of the meat treats were pork. Pork sausage and pork belly, to be precise.

Well, I forgot that Monday was the whiskey tasting at the Institute for Advanced Study. Hopefully we’ll talk more about that later this week. But the tasting event posed a scheduling conflict that meant this meaty meal would have to be postponed until Tuesday.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you what I made.

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When Limes Attack

April 22, 2014

Years ago I was talking with Mr. C down in Miami Beach about the price of asparagus. He was a chef down there at a fancy restaurants, and he had to pay through the nose to get asparagus off season. But it was a popular menu item with his customers, and he couldn’t take it off the menu.

Here’s the thing that a lot of restaurant goers haven’t quite internalized. The prices restaurants have to pay for their ingredients fluctuates. Sometimes wildly. But by and large, the prices on menus remain the same week in and week out. Chefs and restaurant owners will say that they simply eat the cost of these overruns. But those who are successful in the long run charge enough of a premium to stay afloat.

Let me say this another way. When customers demand salads in winter, it often raises the price restaurants have to charge for all their menu items.

My position has always been that it’s madness for a restaurant to lock itself into a pantry of ingredients for 52 weeks a year. Even changing up a menu quarterly means a kitchen is committed to buying the same grocery list for thirteen weeks in a row, regardless of market conditions. Menus should change weekly, if not daily. But that’s an entirely separate post.

Because it’s one thing if the price of asparagus goes through the roof. But it’s another thing entirely when we’re approaching Cinco de Mayo and limes cost more than meat.

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Tour de FroYo

April 21, 2014

Today is a big day. According to WordPress, what you are looking at right now is the fifteen hundredth post on the FUSSYlittleBLOG. Who ever thought there could be that much Fussy?

There will be time to look back and reminisce when the blog turns five years old next month. But today we’ve got some serious business, because there is another big day coming up soon. This Sunday, April 27 is the Tour de FroYo.

It feels good to write about one of the FUSSYlittleTOURS on this milestone post. Back in the fall of 2010 the FLB lept off the screen and into the real world as I gathered with a small handful of intrepid eaters to sample some of the region’s most beloved cider donuts. While we were searching for the very best one, at the end of the day we discovered something else. After tasting five of the same thing back to back to back to back to back, it gave everyone a much broader understanding of the subtle differences found in what many consider to be an nondifferentiable food.

If you haven’t had a chance to go on one of the earlier excursions, don’t let another one pass you by. Every spring, after the thaw, we try to sample some frozen treat. It started with the Tour de Soft Serve, followed by the Tour de Homemade Hard Ice Cream, and last year we went on the Tour de Gelato.

Without any further ado, I’m proud to finally reveal the Tour de FroYo.

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Gam Exam: Ham & Lamb

April 18, 2014

Good Friday. We are only three days into Passover and yesterday Shop Rite was already out of the good whole wheat matzo. There’s no way we’re going to make it through the week with our current stash. Well, we have plenty of the regular Yehuda matzo, but eating too much of that will keep you from being regular.

Anyhow, that’s a personal problem.

While I was at the market today I was seriously considering picking up a bit of Prosciutto di Parma. I really wish I could find a local source for the La Quercia, but I’ll take what I can get. Now to some, it may seem strange for someone to obsess about matzo in one breath and speak in loving tones of pork in the next.

I get the disconnect. So allow me a moment to clear it up. Keeping kosher for Passover is a symbolic ritual to commemorate a holiday. Observing the kosher dietary laws has nothing to do with the holiday whatsoever, since the Israelites only received God’s laws while they were wandering in the desert. Hope that clears it up.

That said, I’ve never quite had the chutzpah to serve a ham on Passover. It’s tempting though. Lamb makes sense because it’s spring. And the leg is a good cut for feeding a crowd. How this transformed to a pig’s leg that has been cured and smoked is a mystery to me.

But regardless of which joint of meat you plan to eat, I’ve got some thoughts.

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Chop Chop Chop

April 17, 2014

There’s some old business to settle before we get started today.

First, happy sixth birthday to All Over Albany. Last night they had a birthday party, and I really missed getting to help them celebrate their continued positive impact on the Capital Region in person. Greg and Mary serve an amazing community of readers that are really helping to breathe some new life into a very old part of the state.

Second, I want to make sure you have marked your calendars for Sunday, April 27 for the Tour de FroYo. Details are coming soon. But these things are always fun and the more the merrier.

Can griping about Passover be considered new news? No? Okay, then I’ll try to keep it positive with a reflection on two things. Because at the annual festive meal I realized something. There is one morsel consumed almost every year that is filled with more taste memory than any other. And one of its critical components can never really be made from a recipe.

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Bad Wraps

April 16, 2014

“I eat my lunch with my hands /
From food trucks not hotdog stands /
But greasy diners and dives and cockroach traps /
All have one thing in common [insert beatbox] bad wraps /
Word.”

- The Profussor

Sorry. I couldn’t resist starting of today’s post with a bad rap. Groan all you like. But I thought it was good to try and lighten the mood a bit, because today I’m really going to let my fussy flag fly.

Somehow in all of these years of writing the FLB, I’ve never taken on the subject of wraps. Let’s not mince words. I’ve never had one that I liked. They are an insult to sandwiches everywhere. And their growing ubiquity has me greatly concerned for America’s culinary future. In my heart of hearts I know they weren’t put on this planet to punish me. But sometimes it feels that way. Why? WHY!

Okay. Deep breaths. Let’s break this down.

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