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Butter Budget Busting

August 21, 2014

Where does all the butter go? It seems like I keep on buying the stuff. But I’m not a baker. Mostly I cook with extra virgin olive oil. Yes, I break out the butter on Friday night for Shabbat, and slather it all over my challah. I love a holiday that encourages personal decadence and living richly, especially when it comes once a week.

Maybe it’s the corn. Every week we get several ears from the CSA. I’ve been fire roasting them on the gas grill and putting out a half stick of butter on the table. I love these summer suppers.

Part of it has to be Young Master Fussy too. In my effort to try and fatten him up, I’ve created a scrambled egg lover. Really, he just loves my scrambled eggs. You’ll never guess the secret ingredient. These eggs are far too rich for my blood, but occasionally I’ll sneak a bite. Oh man, are they good. So, so buttery.

But it was when i was checking out of Trader Joe’s yesterday that I realized I might have a problem.

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Dill vs. Parsley

August 20, 2014

This seems to be the week for unreasonable rants. The response I’ve gotten thus far to my tirade that mint chocolate chip ice cream should be white and pumpkin flavored things shouldn’t appear until October is a resounding “Who cares?”

It’s true, a bunch of you did weigh in on the green vs. white mint chip debate. And I really appreciated hearing more voices on the subject.

The answer, of course, to the above question is, “I care.” I do. Perhaps I spend too much time thinking about food. Heck, who am I kidding. I absolutely spend too much time thinking about food. Take fresh herbs for example. There is no reason to pit them against each other and suggest that parsley is better than dill. Each has its strength and role in the kitchen.

But parsley is totally better than dill. And dill, actually, is kinda disgusting.

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Not Fall Yet

August 19, 2014

Last night I was up late watching live streaming reports from Ferguson. Again. This has to stop.

So today, you just get a tired rant. A short tired rant. But a tired rant nonetheless. Because it’s August dammit. Peaches are in season. I expect to get corn and tomatoes from the CSA at the pickup this afternoon. Sure, the weather may be getting cooler. If you look really closely, you can see a few leaves starting to lose their verdant hue.

Wednesday, it’s supposed to reach a high of 84 in Albany. That’s not fall. That’s still summer. Late summer, sure. But summer is summer.

I can understand why someone might want to get a jump on spring. Spring is the light at the end of the long tunnel of winter. Fall is lovely. It is. It’s actually my favorite of the seasons. But I would never try to short change summer for autumn.

Still, every year around this time, I’m surprised to see those who feel differently.

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The Mint Chip Divide

August 18, 2014

Homemade hard ice cream can be spotty, as we learned on tour a couple summers ago. Still, I’m a sucker for any ice cream parlor that puts in the work to make their product in house. The only problem is, that I know all too well, one has to try a wide cross section of flavors in order to suss out the winners from the losers.

You can check out the results from the Tour de Homemade Hard Ice Cream for more on that.

This past weekend, while in New Hampshire for a wedding, the hotel had a homemade hard ice cream stand on the property. In an effort to try a cross section of flavors, we ate there four times in three days. In fact, we were their last customers on Saturday night (begging them to sell us ice cream after closing). Then, on Sunday we were the first customers of the day, counting down the minutes to their one o’clock opening.

One part of our hunt for their best ice cream flavor was talking to other wedding guests about their experience with the local ice cream stand. Everyone had their favorite: Maple walnut, black raspberry, unbaked (cake batter ice cream with cookie dough chunks), chocolate, and mint chip were mentioned several times.

Of all those options, I was probably the most upset by the mint chip. And I was surprised to find such a strong backlash to my stance on this beloved flavor.

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Elizabeth Repeated

August 15, 2014

The car still has New Jersey plates. I still have my New Jersey drivers license. So, it probably isn’t that strange that I still feel at home in New Jersey. While I didn’t make it all the way down to Princeton, Young Master Fussy and I had some business to take care of just outside Newark.

Had it been Little Miss Fussy, we would have most certainly made a side trip to Pizza Town USA. But the boy isn’t so into pizza. He likes hot dogs. With ketchup. As it turns out, in New Jersey people are fine with ketchup on hot dogs. Saltpepperketchup is pretty much the official condiment of the state. How people can do that to something like pork roll, I’ll never understand.

But I digress.

Instead of trying out one of the countless places in New Jersey for hot dogs that we never had a chance to visit during our year in the Garden State, we selected an old favorite. In part because the weather is still nice, and it’s close to a fantastic summer-only dessert spot. Should you ever find yourself flying out of Newark airport, or even if you have a significant layover, don’t miss these two stops.

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Hot Chefs

August 14, 2014

Once upon a time there was a chef and a writer who met for coffee. The chef wanted to write about local food but didn’t quite have the time. The writer saw an opportunity to get closer to a group of chefs who shared the same desire to highlight locally raised food in a region where that kind of thing was still a pretty novel idea.

That was how I joined up with the Chefs Consortium. Periodically, chef Noah and I would meet for coffee. Naturally, we’d chat about whatever food issues were on our mind at the moment. And before heading our separate ways, he’d hand off a bunch of local foods he thought I’d find interesting.

My job was to take these foods home, photograph them, and write about the ones that I thought had the most merit. It was a fabulous gig and it exposed me to locally produced delicacies that were entirely off my radar. Maybe I would have found them eventually, but it would have taken eyears.

Then I moved to New Jersey.

While I’ve yet to fully reconnect with the group, I’ve stayed in touch. And at least on paper, I’m still a part of the gang. It’s a great group. And they are getting fired up.

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Cooking Dirty

August 13, 2014

Cooking is cleaning. I have no idea who said that, but it wasn’t me. Someone also told me once that cheesemaking is cleaning as well. The point is that making food is a messy enterprise, and it’s important to clean up after yourself. If you don’t, some might say you aren’t cooking at all. Instead, they would dismiss your efforts as simply having made a mess with food.

The best approach to this is cooking clean. The clean as you go technique may take a bit more time and care up front, but it saves you from that dreaded pile of dishes, utensils, cookware, measuring devices, and trash that can collect over the course of meal preparation.

Watching someone cook clean is really inspiring. The first time I ever witnessed such a thing was in college. Her name was Keiko, and at the time her cooking skills seemed mind blowing.

I’ve gotten much better at this over the years. There’s the old kitchen motto, if there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out. For me, that was last night. And it gives me a tremendous amount of sympathy for those who say that cooking meals at home is too time consuming. Even recipes that don’t require a lot of active time can still have a crushing amount of clean-up.

Really, I just took on far too big of a project for a weekday.

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