An Odd Couple: Those Who Measure Herring

An Odd Couple: Those Who Measure Herring

There are even various discrete units included [in Encyclopedia of Scientific Units, Weights, and Measure: Their SI Equivalences and Origins], such as the perfect ream, which is 516 sheets of paper, and the warp, which is four herrings; it is used by British fishermen and old men at kiddush.

– from The Half Life of Facts by Samuel Arbesman

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Rosh Hashana: Sweet Hostess Gifts

Rosh Hashana: Sweet Hostess Gifts

My friend and I invited each other for meals over Rosh Hashana. They were bringing their family, and I insisted that they not bring anything more when they came for dinner – no food, no wine, just themselves. In return, they insisted I, too, not bring anything as a hostess gift when I came over for a meal.

As though I would listen, and show up empty-handed. Ha! I went to the store and bought a quart of apple cider. Something seasonal, a treat, and a sweet start to a – hopefully – sweet year. I showed up, gave them the apple cider. They were pleased, I was pleased, it was delicious.

The next day, the family came over – and brought a pomegranate.

A new fruit? Seasonal? A symbol that our good deeds should be plentiful?

Game, set, match: pomegranate for the win.

Next year, if you’d like to invite me over for Rosh Hashana, feel free to tell me not to bring anything. Just know, I’ll be showing up with a pomegranate. Good planning for a good year!

Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

Pumpkin Cookies: The Taste of Someone Else’s Home

My parents don’t cook with pumpkin.

My mom only makes one cookie recipe.

That recipe is for chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t know the recipe because she memorized it, and never remembers to write it down.

I haven’t made my mom’s cookies since I lived within shouting distance of her.

So, I make other cookies. Lots of cookies. Lots of different kinds of cookies. Recently, I made these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and a guest could not stop telling me how they were a taste of home. While his mother doesn’t bake much now, she used to make them as a treat for her kids when they were young.

So, while I can’t have a taste of home without going there, I’m glad to try someone else’s home instead. Though really, I’d rather have my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.

Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipe Revolt & Neiman Marcus Cookies

Recipes are meant as inspiration. You don’t like almond extract? Skip it. It calls for margarine? Halve it. You ran out of rosemary? Use oregano. At least, that’s how I interpret recipes. Except, sometimes, I want to make sure that the cookies I’m making are guaranteed to turn someone’s day around. At those desperate times, I need to make sure that the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies – because those are the one thing that we can all agree make the world a better place – turn out the way that the general public thinks they should. So, I follow the actual recipe. And each time I follow a recipe, I am shocked by how well it turns out. It turns out that I’m not the only one. I recently learned that there’s a small but strident group that don’t follow recipes except for the rare occasion – rare occasions on which they’re inordinately pleased by the recipe-following results. However, while I simply can’t be bothered to follow a recipe, other people are taking a stand by refusing to be dictated to by a list of ingredients and instructions. So this recipe goes out to those who believe:

I have enough people telling me what to do. I’ll put as much baking soda in these as I want to, thank you very much.

Hear their rallying cry, and fear their wanton disregarding for your baking soda beliefs. But don’t worry about how the cookies will turn out; these ones are nearly error-proof.

 

Neiman Marcus Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted margarine
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 3/4 cups flour
8 oz chocolate chips

Cream the margarine and sugars to a consistency of wet sand, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine all other dry ingredients, then add slowly to the creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Shape/drop cookies on to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake at 375 F for 7-10 minutes.

Peasch Preparation: Clearing the Cabinets

Peasch Preparation: Clearing the Cabinets

Pesach was nearly upon us, which meant food shopping would have been excessive. So, I took what I had and made a meal of it. And perhaps next year, I’ll be able to eat it on Peasach too!

Arzo con frijoles, with Peanut Sauce

1 can black beans, rinsed

1/2 c rice

1 c water

1 can diced tomato

2 tbsp cooking peanut butter

8 oz spinach

hot sauce, as desired

1/2 cup shelled peanuts, for garnish

Put all ingredient in an uncovered pot, bring to a boil. Cover, lower flame to a simmer, cook for 30-40 minutes. Eat in between pesach cleaning and shopping – or for sephardim, any time.

Pilaf: Cooks Best if You Remember the Rice

Pilaf: Cooks Best if You Remember the Rice

I went through a phase where I tried to replicate a recipe without re-reading it. Sometimes that works out great. Other times, such as when I made this pilaf and forgot the rice – but not the amount of water you’d need to make it cook through – it did not work out at all.

Live, learn, and then remember that without the rice, a rice-and-lentil pilaf is just a bunch of lentils swimming in spice.

Rice and Lentil Pilaf from “The Vegetarian Gourmet’s Easy International Recipes”

dallop oil for sauteeing
1/2 c onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp silvered almonds
2 3/4 c water
3/4 c brown rice, uncooked
1/2 c lentils, uncooked
1/4 cup craisins
2 tsp soy milk
1 tsp curry
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

sautee onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Add in all ingredients, bring to a boil. Cover pot, and simmer for 40 minutes. Do not uncover. If time allows, let sit for 5 minutes after removing from flame, fluff rice, and serve.

Ratatouille: Not Picture-Perfect

Ratatouille: Not Picture-Perfect

A movie rat taught me how to make ratatouille – but by then it was already too late. My mom interprets, rather than follows, recipes. So when she made ratatouille, it followed the traditional dish in the sense that there are vegetables and an oven. But let’s just say that no Frenchman – or rat – worth their salt would recognize the dish as one of their own. After watching the movie, I looked up an actual recipe. I read it about halfway through; then decided it was more time-consuming than tasty, no matter how it turned out. So, I stick with my mom’s recipe, adapting it as the season and my pantry dictates – not unlike the French.

It’s a dish that receives both rave reviews. Though when I refer to it as ratatouille, the response is inevitably the same: it looks nothing like what the Disney rat made. True enough, but would you want to eat something that looked like a rat prepared it?

 

My Impression of Ratatouille

2-3 zucchini, cut in spears

1 onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1-2 colored peppers, cut in spears

1-3 carrots, sliced

Options:

1 can diced tomato, 1 can tomato sauce, spices as desired; or

1/2 jar pasta or marinara sauce

 

Method 1:

Oil the pan, dump vegetables on it, and sprinkle with salt a pepper. Drizzle a small amount of oil, or just use spray oil to coat. Toss vegetables and arrange so that they cover the pan evenly. Roast at 375 for about 45 minutes – maybe closer to an hour. Stir every 10-20 minutes. After they’re roasted, put everything in a pot and added a can of diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce and spiced as desired – in my case that means basil, parsley, and anything else that looks green appropriate.

Method 2:

Alternatively, you can sautee everything in a pot and, when cooked, add the tomato-based products.

Method 3:

Follow the direction in Method 1, pouring jarred pasta or marinara sauce to the pan of veggies – about 1 cup. Continue as directed above. Easy, breezy, beautiful – and delicious.

The Original Crowdsourcing

The Original Crowdsourcing

I need a Kitchen Mailbox contingent. Kitchen Mailbox is a brilliant invention of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; it’s a coterie of cooks with memories longer than time itself. Kitchen Mailbox is the place to go if you want to know how a bakery, defunct for nearly 50 years, used to get its chocolate chip cookies to the perfect gooiness. If you can’t figure out what happened to that recipe for Strawberry Shortcake you clipped from the Pillsbury Best cookbook of 1983 – the recipe that was the source of countless birthday cakes for your son who is now a groom and wants that exact cake for the wedding – you write a letter to Kitchen Mailbox.

I’m not sure who is the source of the Kitchen Mailbox knowledge, but there is always a response. In other words, Pittsburgh had a Reddit for all things culinary, decades before anyone knew they needed one. While we’re on the topic, can anyone find me a recipe for cabbage strudel?