Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I know your gastro sights on set on Christmas by now. Indeed, Thanksgiving is so last month.

But here's the thing: I have one serving left of Thanksgiving soup in my freezer. It is a coveted entree, and it's been sitting pretty in the front row of my frozen real estate.

Thanksgiving soup isn't new. A lot of people add chunks of leftover turkey to broth, maybe with some veg. People relish that kind of repurposing. Some more ambitious types might even make that broth from the bird bones, for added richness. As they should. Waste not, want not, right?

I challenge you to examine the cornucopia in the accompanying picture. What do you detect? The poetic onion peel almost looks like foliage. The red apple peel resembles peppy sprigs of cranberry.

It looks pretty, but basically, it's garbage juice.

I don't say this to repulse you, but merely to point out how people are forever throwing away perfectly flavorful and useful scraps. I'm talking carrot peel, apple peel, cabbage stubs, onion paper, poultry bones.

If you toss these scraps into a dutch oven with some bay leaves and peppercorns, fill it with water, bring it to a boil and let it reduce to half, then add more water, then reduce to half, then add more water, then maybe splash in some leftover white wine, drain and discard the scraps (they've now reached their trashy potential)...you'll eventually get a stock that tastes like Thanksgiving.

Round out the soup with some tender veggies and leftover turkey, and every spoonful will prolong those Thanksgiving memories. It will be the best rubbish water you've ever tasted.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


"The pantry items to have on a deserted island."
These are the items that make almost all food tasty.
Salt. It’s all about control. And we gluttons are the ones with the reins. For pasta water, you’ve got to have a heavy hand. Literally, I want you to greedily dig your hand in that sea salt like it’s the proverbial jar of jelly beans, and pour a good palmful in the dutch-oven ocean.

Speaking of, picture the foamy, bubbly, salty ocean for a moment. That’s what will happen in a colander when you rinse out the mountainous sodium in a can of vegetables. I’m telling you, rinse the beans. Rinse the out-of-control salt away. Bye-bye bubbles, and be back in control of the salt level of your food. (A tip from a friend, Dawn Jackson-Blatner, RD, LDN, author ofThe Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life,” McGraw-Hill, 2010, http://www.http//dawnjacksonblatner.com/).

Salt is also the backbone of a lot of desserts. I made a golden oatmeal apple crisp for a dinner party once, and someone kept gobbling up the treat, bite after bite, until he asked, “What is that subtle tart flavor?” Salt, mon ami. "But it's..." Dessert. Yes, I know.
Pepper. Controversial perhaps, cracked pepper does pack much more flavor than regularly-ground pepper. A good grinder is worth the investment, but make sure it doesn’t drop chunky grounds on your plate. A defective grinder slipped one of those marbled, peppery kernels on my food once, and I swallowed the fire. It lived inside me for days. Still, the smell of cracked pepper gives me a shiver down my spine. But I’ve overcome the fear and recognized pepper’s savory potential.
Lemon. So sweet for something so sour. It brightens soups and bolsters salads. It’s the “oooh” in aioli. Not only that, what about the aesthetic value? My mother says there should be a pop of yellow color in every kitchen. A bowl of lemon sunshine does the decorative trick. And those bags of lemons at the market are so obliging to this objective.
Olive oil. It’s the ultimate flavorful fat that pleases all food palates. The vegan dream to gloss up soy products or the caramelizing helper of grass-fed steaks. By itself. On a plate. With a little (see aforementioned ingredients). I don’t care whether it’s virginal or extra virginal. I’ve read all the arguments about the pressing and the purification. But when the regular stuff is a little cheaper, I just pretend I don’t know about its dirty past.
So bring it on, Swiss Family Robinson, Gilligan’s Island. As long as I have my ingredient foursome (and the professor stoking a handy fire), take me to that deserted island. I’ll tumble into slumber soundly under the stars, belly and heart full, warm. 
Oh, dear God…what about garlic? It’s the fragrant bouquet I treat myself to every time I grocery shop. Gasp! I hope it grows indigenously on that island.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This is the American day of gluttony, so I'd be remiss not to post...something.

I could pontificate on the three Thanksgiving dinners I ate today, somehow in the midst of a regular reporting work day.

I could write about how I ate a small, polite plate of food alongside casserole-shoveling firefighters whom I shadowed for the morning.

I could go on and on about the two smoked turkey sandwiches I savored for lunch, compliments of my Texan boss who shared a family tradition with us: Greenberg Smoked Turkey, Inc., from Tyler, Texas, www.gobblegobble.com. Perhaps he shared the smoky bounty with us so as to keep us from revolting for having to work on Thanksgiving--not that we would because, like the firefighters, it's what we news people signed up for.

I could also elaborate on the healthy (*healthy-sized) plate I consumed at a coworker's apartment after work, a lovely feast with all the Thanksgiving side dish standbys.

But I want to write about a woman I met today at a Meals on Wheels program.

I arrived on scene at a local rehab and homeless shelter for women and children. There, volunteers had a veritable, Henry Ford assembly line going on.

But tucked away in the back of the facility's steamy industrial kitchen, a woman toiled quietly. A fellow volunteer called upon her to talk to me, "the news lady."

She scampered over to me as though she weighed nothing at all, even though she was, in fact, a large woman with gold teeth and smooth ebony skin.

Timidly, she told me just how pretty she thought I was. I could only think about the shine and sweat accumulating on my nose.

I proceeded, no nonsense, to ask her quick questions to elicit a sound byte for this soft Thanksgiving Day story.

"Why is serving your community today important to you?" I asked, obtusely.

She explained that a year ago, she had been a resident at the facility. Now it was her turn to give back as "kitchen manager" of the house.

To be honest, it's the kind of story I expected, or at least hoped, to find, the "personalization" to my piece.

What I didn't expect to find is a woman who looked so accomplished in a hair net. So proud to have a position and a purpose. Not a trace of shame in her face.

Unlike me and ever other insecure, over-achieving journalist, there was no hint in her demeanor that she hadn't done enough, achieved enough, competed enough, won enough...for her, directing a food prep team was just enough. Probably more than enough.

I asked her how she was feeling.

"I tell you what, the joy in my heart is just awesome," she said. "I'm just speechless. Speechless."

Speechless is what she made me.

Contentment spread across her face as she surveyed her happy staff, volunteers who had once helped pull her out of whatever mire life circumstances had thrown her in.

So today wasn't about the food, great as it was, or family and friends, great as they are. It's not about the full bellies, or even the hundreds of thousands of people who got hot holiday meals who wouldn't have normally eaten.

It wasn't about more stores hopping on the pre-Black Friday bandwagon, further commercializing the holiday for eager American consumers.

Today was about the reward of human progress, one woman's progress. It was about her delicious delight to see how far she'd come.

I am a glutton for that kind of simple, speechless joy. I can't say for sure if I've ever tasted it before. Today might have been my first whiff.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Shame on me. You'd have a picture of this delightful little quick cake, but I ate it before I could post it.

And yes, I prepared this dessert during a commercial break, then intercepted it from the oven during a second commercial break. By third break...cocoa comatose.

I'll put a single serving recipe below. But here's the gist: Melt the chocolate and the butter with a whisk in a saucepan on medium-ish until smooth. Remove from heat. Get a fresh bowl and take the rest of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Now combine the two mixtures. Pour in a small, but deep oven-safe dish. Doesn't have to be "bakeware." Just check out the bottom of your everyday-whatever-bowls. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until firm on the outside, slightly jiggly in the center.

Here are the proportions for one lucky girl or guy:

(Truth be told, this is really enough for two if you added a little ice cream. Recommended.)

1 egg
2 oz. chocolate (chips, chunks, whatever)
3 TB butter
2 TB sugar
1 tsp. flour
dash vanilla extract
half pinch nutmeg
half pinch cinnamon
healthy pinch of sea salt

Curl up with a spoon and your crappiest, most embarrassing, guilty-pleasureful television.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I am a glutton. When I’m not lusting after food, I’m eating it. But we all know the downfall of gluttony: The stomachache, the grease-ball feel after devouring too much fast food, junk food or fatty food.

Most of us don’t cave to that kind of food because we like it. We eat it because we’re hungry or because it’s there, because we are either too busy, too tired or too lazy to prepare a meal for ourselves. And so we become gluttons for punishment, a sinful cycle to our bodies that lands us in food purgatory…or even hell.

There’s a better way, and that’s what these writings are all about. I suggest we become gluttons for reward. Let’s savor food in our speedy world with simple, fresh and sumptuous meals that feed our desire for nourishment—without making us regret the deadly sin later.

And to all my little congregants of good food: Everyone is welcome.

If you eat meat, come and expect no judgment, but keep an open mind if I throw a little soysage your way. If you don’t do meat or anything animal-based, come to my table--but please, no proselytizing.  If you are a fish-eating vegetarian, your pescatarian palate will pop. If you choose to eat ethically-acquired animal products, eat with me. Eat with us.

So to gluttons everywhere…Let’s join hands and say a word of thanks to an ever-blooming world that keeps us nourished, season after season.