Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amen, Sister

I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again. —  Joan Rivers

Saturday night is bean night!

wicked good beans!

In Maine, back in the Bronze Age when I grew up, it was traditional to have Boston baked beans on Saturday night, and by this I mean every Saturday night. Now, there were families that just heated up a can of B&M, dumped some coleslaw from Shaw’s into a bowl, steamed up the brown bread and called it a night. Not mine. For us, baked beans represent serious tradition. Grammie Sue baked her own, as do my parents, and so do I. In the past, I have even made my own brown bread, but I cannot in good conscience urge you to do so; just buy the can. Making brown bread is a pain in the bean shoot.

Why Saturday night?, I’ll bet you’re wondering. Well, I can only guess, but my hunch is that it has something to do with the Puritan mania for mortification of the flesh. Let me explain.

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Entertaining guests with food allergies and special diets

I have hosted shellfish sensitivities, gluten intolerance, vegetarianism, veganism, kosher rules and, yes, even a chicken allergy. No lie, all these and more have paraded through my front door and presented themselves at the table expecting a savory and delicious meal that will not send them into anaphylactic shock with the first bite. So I know a thing or two about feeding high risk dinner guests, and I’d be delighted to share my expertise with you.

Here’s what you do:

  • Order in pizza two hours before your guests arrive, then eat it. This is crucial. You’ll see why.
  • Go to the ATM and make sure you’ve got plenty of cash on hand.
  • Check the liquor cabinet and restock any bottle that is less than half full.
  • Chill the wine and champagne. You’ll want both.
  • Practice saying the following: “I hope you like scallops / pasta / veal / eggs / uncleanly butchered pork! Oh my goodness, did you tell me that? I totally forgot! More champagne / vodka / grain alcohol mixed with green Koolaid?”
  • Repeat that final question ten or fifteen more times. Don’t take no for an answer.
  • Order in Chinese food. That way any tongues that swell or get swallowed are not your fault.

As any good host knows, you need to match your guests drink for drink, so here’s the hottest of hot tips. On the odd occasion I’m a tad over-served, I dissolve two tablets of Airborne in a glass of warm water and drink it right before turning in. I often leave the “works” by my bed to ensure I remember this important step even if I’m a little “tired” at bedtime. Of course, this may not work for you, especially if you have many sensitivities and allergies yourself. I only speak from personal experience, however scant.

Cheap AND Easy: Go ahead and get screwed

I love screw top wine. There, I’ve said it and I’m standing by it. Loud and proud.

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no difference between the corked and the screwed, and I for one am ready to throw off the tyranny of broken corks, moldy stoppers and malfunctioning corkscrews. At last count I had thirteen different models in varying states of collapse squirreled around the house waiting to be pressed into emergency service when the current favorite snapped, disappeared or otherwise failed.

And then there is the horror of the cork slipping into the bottle in front of company. Makes no nevermind to me, of course, but my party guests have, on at least two occasions, taken issue with my pouring wine through paper towels to filter out the little cork crumbles after just such a malfunction. Waste not, want not! Needless to say, they have not been invited back, not that they’ve asked, but there you have it. Anyways, when it comes to wine and corks, the strain of the lurking unknown and the fear of failure have always conspired to seriously undercut my enjoyment, though let’s be honest, not enough to reduce my intake. That’s just crazy talk.

Here’s my favorite screw top white, by the way: Terranoble Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. I’ve sourced it locally for $6.99 a bottle and with a 15% case discount, it’s almost free!

Here’s what says about it:

This Sauvignon Blanc offers a pale yellow colour with greenish tones. It has attractive fruity aromas with a touch of peach notes. It’s a fresh wine, with a balanced natural acidity, medium structure and permanence in mouth. Ideal as an aperitif in summer time, with seafood and fish.

I don’t know what that permanence in mouth business is all about, and really with the exception of my original fixtures, a couple of crowns and some lovely veneers, I don’t think there’s anything I want permanently in my mouth, but to each his own. Here’s the swiller’s review: A perfect party wine, light, but not too sweet. Serve ice cold with whatever you’re eating, or if you’re just drinking.

Nigella: You knew it would come to this sooner or later

Love her or hate her, Miss Lawson is for many the original short-cut taking, taste-as-you-go then eat-with-abandon kitchen slattern, and for that alone I will always be a fan. I stumbled upon Nigella Bites in 2001 and loved the show’s clever editing, Nigella’s girlfriend-y chatter and her refreshingly relaxed approach to both cooking and eating.

Over the years, however, as the domestic goddess juggernaut picked up steam, I began to feel a creeping unease, and by the time we got to Nigella Express in 2007, the experience of watching her cook had begun to make me squirm, and not in a good way. With adjectives multiplying like randy bunnies and the chatter taking on a, how shall I say, slightly overheated feel, the experience became more than I could reasonably endure, at least without a partner.

Witness the foreplay for a chocolate raspberry pavlova recipe:

“You just cannot beat a pav in summer, and in particular this dark beauty. The crisp and chewy chocolate meringue base, rich in cocoa and beaded nuggets of chopped plain chocolate, provides a sombre, almost purple-brown layer beneath the fat whiteness of the cream and matt, glowering crimson raspberries on top: it is a killer combination.”

Ooh, sorry. I just slid off the glistening seat of my rigid ebony desk chair, the fat whiteness of my pale, billowing ass tumbling with a surprising, yet somehow satisfying, plop onto the plush, mellow lusciousness of the ruby and citron carpet below.

Oh God, it’s happening again and all I’ve been looking at are YouTube videos.

My recommendation: Like that of the Rolling Stones, Nigella’s early work in both print and video is by far the best. Her cookbooks are worth buying, since most include several very good recipes and some great tips, for instance, when she suggests roasting beets rather than boiling them or serving deep fat fried Mars bars to your girlfriends, and don’t even think of telling me this does not appeal. If it doesn’t, you’re either hanging with the wrong crowd or need to get to Walmart more often, or both.

From Nigella Bites: Gingery-hot duck salad (because I find duck fat repulsive, I peel it off, melt a little in the pan to cook the duck, then chuck it as soon as humanly possible – up to you) and Vietnamese chicken and mint salad are fabulous, as is the recipe for Italian sausages and lentils.

In Forever Summer I like the cold beet soup. The slow cooked lemon garlic chicken is a real winner, too. The method is foolproof for producing meat that slides off the bone, though I usually omit the lemon and brush on barbecue sauce before the final high heat cooking time. Sticky, sweet and salty? You bet. That’s just the way I roll, but you may prefer the original.

Nigella and I part ways on the issue of mixing red and green ingredients in salads — I’m all for it, and I cannot urge you strongly enough to avoid the carrot and peanut salad; I tried it during my early, true-believer phase and it’s as delicious as it sounds. And let’s not even get into the watermelon, olive and feta salad. Even at the height of my fanaticism, I never even considered that one, no matter how convincing her argument in favor. Ugh.

And what is pavolva anyway?

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