For Whom the Slaw Coles

If you’re like me, you like the idea of coleslaw more than coleslaw itself, more often than not. That’s because nearly every incarnation of coleslaw I’ve tasted has run the gamut from boring and bland to gloppy and over-sweet. It’s sad, because coleslaw is such  a great, simple dish,  and great way to get fresh raw veggies onto your plate.

So, I’m board with coleslaw. What I’m not on-board with is a thin, vinegary sauce or a thick, sickly sweet one. So, where do I go from here? I go to my go-to sauce, which is neither too thick or thin, too sharp to nor too sweet. I think I’ve perfected the art of slaw, and I invite you try to my super-simple formula.

The following makes enough sauce for 1/2 head of  shredded cabbage and a handful of stir-ins of your choice, or 1 bag of coleslaw mix.

Beth’s Foolproof Coleslaw Sauce

  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup good quality, full-fat mayo
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. celery seed (and poppy seeds, optional)
  • 1-2 tbsp. white wine or cider vinegar
  • a generous pinch of sugar
  • a generous pinch of salt and pepper

Whisk the following together in a bowl, and pour over your slaw ingredients. Enjoy.

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Smile.

I'm trying to get Evan a job as Cheerios' new spokesman

I’m trying to get Evan a job as Cheerios’ new spokesman

I’ve talked before about how much I hate wasting food, and I briefly mentioned how much I looooove roasting things as a way to preserve food that’s starting to wilt or look “iffy.” Well, let me mention it again: I LOVE roasting things.

I had some apples that were going mealy and some garlic that was about to sprout. Solution? Roast them on same sheet pan, until the garlic is golden mush and the apples were, well, kinda the same. I put the whole shebang in storage containers, and a few days later, I made this!:

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Roasted Apple Roasted Garlic Gravy

[From my Facebook page] Anyway what I did was fry up some bacon, drain and chop it up. I browned the chops in the rendered fat, then set them aside. Then I added this huge head of escarole (which I would prolly not use again…it was a little bitter…I’d prolly use spinach or kale). I let it wilt, then removed it and set it aside. I added more oil to the pan, & I sauteed some onions, the roasted apples and garlic. Then I made a gravy—added a little flour to the pan, then stirred in some chicken broth and white wine. I popped the chops back into the mix, along with their juices and some fresh sage and thyme, and let them cook through.

To serve, I made a mound of mashed potatoes (I’d made because I had several Yukon Golds that were about to go bad) on a plate, topped with the wilted greens, then the chops with apple onion gravy, then the chopped bacon.

Important roasting update for smartass commenters

Seriously. Roast things.

Curried Beef and Butternut Squash Stew and Asteroids. No, Not Together.

What’s going on in the webosphere? Well, people are being assholes. That’s no surprise. And people are being almost endearingly naive, which is just kind of weird and pathetic. And people are cooking delicious food…which should make the first two things seem less obnoxious, if this post works the way I hope it will.

You have to wonder about  a man who would dedicate this much time and effort to being a petty asshole. Apparently, some people get really really really upset if you happen to notice that there is a lack of diversity on a conference panel. I assume these people are similarly nonplussed by the idea of panel containing no white men.

I have discussed Jonathan Haidt here before. Well, not discussed, really-lambasted. I don’t think he’s a horrible person, just a little misguided, a little blinded by his own privilege and, well, just plain wrong about a lot of stuff. That being said, this website doesn’t make me angry; it makes me sad. I think the idea of conservatives (which, if we’re honest, usually translates to “wingnut” nowadays) and liberals getting together to discuss the issues of the day is certainly interesting. But we’re really at the point that we don’t even agree on what the issues are. Put it this way– Haidt says some of the issues of the day are:

Liberal Asteroids
Conservative Asteroids

I mean, I’ll be honest, the “conservative” asteroids don’t impress me much; they’re certainly not “asteroids” for me. And as to the liberals asteroids, I think it’s safe to say that most conservatives a.) don’t believe in climate change and b.) don’t give a shit about inequality. So where does that leave us? Well, I’d say it leaves us with Asteroid Clubs that are really, really tiny.

Are you ready for stew yet? Here’s one from my own beautiful mind: Curried Beef and Butternut Squash Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1- 1 1/2 lb. stew beef
  • 2 mediums onions, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 large butternut squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 2-3 tablespoons mango chutney (Adjust according to your tastes; if you like a tad more more sweetness, add more. If you prefer less sweetness in a savory dish, add less.)
  • 1-3 tablespoons Indian curry powder (Adjust according to your tastes; if your blend is particularly pungent or spicy, add less. If it very mild–like mine–add more.)
  • 1/2  14 oz. can fire- roasted (or plain) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, rough-chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • flour
  • olive or veggie oil

Directions:

  1. Heat 1-2 tbsp. oil in dutch oven or stock pot. While the oil gets to a med-high temperature, toss beef cubes with a generous amount of flour, salt and pepper.
  2. Brown coated beef in hot oil. (The amount of flour will make for some pretty dark fond; don’t be scared, just get your other ingredients ready to add to the pot.)
  3. When the beef gets a nice and brown on a side or two, remove it from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add some more oil along with the onion, curry powder and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper to the pot and stir, trying get up as much of the beef and flour fond off the bottom of the pot. Add a few tbsps of water, if necessary. Saute onions until they begin to soften and become translucent. Add garlic and cook until fragrant–about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the beef back to the pot.If you would like to add the potatoes and squash to the stew now–as I did–you can. They will get quite tender and even melt into the stew a bit. I think this improves the texture of the stew, making it rich and creamy. But if you prefer your veggies to have more tooth, add them when there is about a half hour left of cooking time.
  6. Add the broth, tomatoes and chutney. Cover and cook stew over LOW heat for 1 1/2 -2 hours, until the beef gets tender. I like to leave the lid off the stew or leave it askew to let some of the water evaporate and concentrate flavors.
  7. When stew is done cooking, stir in cilantro.

Now, don’t you feel better?

How Not to Waste Food

Food waste is something I think a lot about. I make two big shopping trips a month, and I call myself a “suburban shopper,” because my shopping habits are not like I imagine an urban shopper’s to be. In other words, I won’t be popping into the store every couple of days to pick up perishables. So keeping my food fresh and using it in a timely matter is really important to me. Not just because wasting food is a waste of money, but also because it feels like the worst kind of decadence, knowing there really *are* starving children in the world. Wasting food feels profoundly disrespectful to me.

So here are some things I do to avoid wasting food:

  • I usually wash all my produce when I bring it home, which makes cooking with it that much simpler.
  • I store my more delicate fresh herbs in herb-keepers. They really do work.
  • ALL proteins that are not being used in the next few hours go in the freezer.
  • I keep my pantry fairly well-stocked with *my* staples, so it’s easy to create a dish on the fly
  • I keep tabs on what’s “turning” in my produce drawer. Delicate herbs, veggies and fruits tend to get used first–hearty veggies can wait. If something is starting to look “iffy,” it gets used.
  • Make roasting your friend. Tomatoes look lousy? Roast them. (It makes them sweet and improves lousy texture.) Potatoes getting soft? Cut out the eyes and roast them. Mushrooms starting to get brown? I roast them or put them in a sauce. Bread getting stale? It gets turned into breadcrumbs or croutons.

Here’s probably the most important weapon in my arsenal: Google. Seriously. Stumped about how to use up an item in your fridge? Google it. Google “fennel recipes.” Google “uses for ground turkey.” Google whatever the hell you want, and you’ll have thousands of recipes at your fingertips. There really is no excuse not to use up all the perishables in your pantry and fridge. Plus, trying new recipes is fun.

And now a quick note about simplicity. I tend to eschew recipes that have 500 ingredients in them, mostly because I’m lazy, but also because I’m an experienced enough cook to know that you don’t need to empty your pantry to make something delicious. So, I rate for these tacos, which I made they other night. Wow–yummy and healthy.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. minced chipotles in adobo
5 oz. packaged classic coleslaw mix (about 2-1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 6- to 7-inch corn tortillas
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
10 oz. deveined, easy-peel medium shrimp (41 to 50 per lb.), peeled
Kosher salt
Lime wedges, for serving

This One’s for the Ladies

A few days ago I did not get around to answering a couple of comments. I’ll answer them now!

In a previous food-related entry where I discussed cooking for people with different food needs/wants, bbkf said this:

I know if i made a light soup or salad for supper, hubbkf would be aghast and rummaging in the cupboards about a half an hour after eating because he tends to not eat during the day and is ravenous by evening…also, he’s one of those a-holish people who can eat all the junk food they want and not gain weight…so, if i do make something on the lighter side, i make sure there’s bread and other things to fill it out…

the thing i find most difficult about cooking for hubbkf is gauging his satisfaction: i mostly get ‘it was alright’…’pretty good’ is high praise with ‘i didn’t care for that’ as being the worst…although one time i made a meatloaf that was so bad that he quietly fed his piece to the dog…who wouldn’t eat it either…

This sounds so eerily similar to my situation, I’m frankly a little freaked out. The whole thing. Especially the part about gauging satisfaction. I get “It’s delicious.” for everything. Now, I know that not everything I make is delicious so that, of course, has no meaning for me. Lately hubby’s been getting “better” about this. It’s pretty easy to coax a “I wasn’t crazy about it.” from him. Soooooooooooooo Yay(?) for me?

oh, hai! i am feeling especially blabby today! here’s a couple of recipes/sites i have had much hubbkf related success with: pork tacos and a racheal ray soup recipe of all things…not a fan at all of racheal’s teevee stuff, but i get her mag and i must say any recipe i have tried from them has never failed…go figure…

I’ve had every outcome you can imagine trying Rachel Ray recipes. Can’t remember a time I actually completed a recipe in 30 minutes, so I have to call bullshit on that, but I think she’s actually pretty great at writing recipes for home cooks that are healthy (they’re well-balanced and don’t use a lot of–if any–processed ingredients), yummy, have a hint of sophistication and are eminently doable. And actually I find that the more of her recipes I try, the more the success rate goes up. I know she’s not considered, like, a hoity-toity foodie-type, but I genuinely think she’s onto something with her formula…so I’m sticking with her.

Rachel’s must-try soup? Her Sausage and Peppers Stoup. It’s almost indescribably delicious.

wiley asks:

Do you make Lord Chubbington’s (he’s growing out of that name, hey?) baby food?

I do not. LC is very sensitive to textures. He hates “in-between” textures. So a food either needs to be toothsome or crispy or completely smoothly blended. It’s very hard for me process my food to the consistency he likes, and when I’ve tried he has disliked it intensely. He also does not seem to like things like fresh fruit and veggie slices. He is, however, learning to like things like little ham cubes, and he he ate some of my turkey chili on pasta and turkey bolognese, so he *is* branching out.

I am always open to suggestions re: toddler food.

notimpressed

A Table Divided Cannot Stand (Recipe Review)

As a notorious omnivore, I like everything from hearty meat and potatoes meals to light salads. I’m also of the opinion that any time you can cram another fruit or vegetable in a dish, you’ve done yourself a good service. My husband is not a huge fan of light salads, light, brothy soups, or what he would refer to as “veggie-intensive” meals. I am. So I thought this pasta-veggie soup, which starts by rendering fat from a bit of Pancetta, would be a great compromise of a dish. The soup calls for a head of escarole, to be chopped and then wilted in the hot broth.

Here’s where the funny/gross part comes in, depending on how much one enjoys “veggie-intensive” meals…I bought a head of escarole, and it was literally the biggest head of escarole I have ever seen. It really wasn’t a head of escarole, it was more like magnificent afro of escarole. Erykah Badu would look at it and say “Damn. I need that escarole.” Seriously, it was ridiculously big (and gorgeous).

Like this, but more magnificent. A LION'S MANE of escarole!

Like this, but more magnificent. A LION’S MANE of escarole!

So I made soup according to directions, adding the escarole at the last minute and letting it wilt a bit before serving. Normally a big bunch of greens would take no time to wilt. But I brought the soup to the table with the escarole still looking a tiny bit perky. Aside from that, there was a just a HUGE amount of it. Now, the idea of sitting down to a big bowl of greens floating in a flavorful tomato-chicken broth with pasta and cheese sounds terrific to me…but it’s the kind of thing that resonates less with hubby. So that meal did not go over well.

That being said, I think the recipe is an absolute winner. I’d give the broth a chance to simmer a bit more than the recipe calls for and I’d season it generously. I’d also make sure to let the escarole swim in the hot tub a bit before serving, but those tweaks aside, it’s a really healthy, satisfying dinner. And, like all things of this nature, it benefits from an overnighter in the fridge. The flavors really get a chance to develop and–wow–what a lovely lunch…even if the pasta does lose its toothsomeness.

So, I was wondering: Any ideas on how to cope with a “divided table?” How do you balance the needs of one person with another? Ideas? Stories? Recipes?

Meeses In Place

Post-Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

What was on the menu:

  • Lamb Chops marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, dill, garlic, etc.
  • My usual Raita/Tzatziki monster-mashup. If there’s much of a difference between these two sauces/salads, I can’t figure out, thus I often make my own yogurt/mint/cucumber-based Raitziki thingie.
  • Mint & Pea Couscous
  • Curried Pumpkin Soup

How everything turned out:

  • The lamb was unbelievably good, seasoned beautifully and cooked perfectly. (Honestly, I find it’s hard to mess up lamb chops. You almost have to work at it.)
  • The Raitziki was terrific. I put Feta cheese in it.
  • The couscous was tasty, but under-seasoned. Definitely needed some more salt. And perhaps some Feta cheese crumbles, just to amp it up a little.
  • The pumpkin soup I just sort of made up as I went along. It was quite good, but was, again, under-seasoned. And it needed a bit of something to add excitement, perhaps a chile pickle (just a little!) or some lemon juice, or a bit of chutney or something.

I Would Douth Anything for Thanksgiving but I Won’t Douthat. Except that I will.

This column came out a couple of days ago, so that makes it–in blogosphere terms–about as relevant as the Lewinsky scandal; but I had to comment anyway. And trust me when I tell you that Ross Douthat’s little tantrum is even more amusing than cute, chunky chicks getting caught blowing the Prez.
See, Ross is willing to concede that the hive of scum and villainy that makes up the Democratic coalition won the election. Won it fair and square, even. It’s just we should not gloat about it because while we are super-awesome at winning elections, we are also super-awesome at tearing apart the very fabric that holds together this patchwork quilt of Norman Rockwellesque exceptionalism. Think of it this way: the red states–even though they have higher divorce and teen pregnancy rates–are the squares with the Thomas Kinkade cottages on them. The blue states are pretty much nothing but pictures of homosex.  And we are the stinky, jerky thread that’s starting to break, possibly because the Thomas Kinkade squares weigh more than the other squares and also have higher incidences of diabetes. I don’t know. This analogy is not perfect.  Nor did I provide citations, but–guess what–neither did little Rossie. It’s just that all the stuff I said is true and provable. And so is the fact that Ross Douthat is a dumb poopyhead.

My son: not a poopyhead. Bit of a poopybottom.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYBODY!

I Gave My Dad the Gift of a Knuckle Sandwich

The Knuckle Sandwich knife set is by Guy Fieri. I bought my dad one in the series because, like me, he enjoys wielding a big, sharp knife. (In the kitchen, mostly.) I also enjoy the sheer flashiness of the Knuckle Sandwich design. They’re knives that make a statement.

Why I am bringing this up now? Well, it seems there’s a review of the new Guy Fieri restaurant in Times Square, and it is, um, not effusive. Which makes me kinda sad, because Guy Fieri has always struck me as a perfectly nice guy with a genuine appreciation for the homestyle and artisanal-style cooking he samples on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” I have a soft spot for people who have a coked-up-puppy-style appreciation for their passions, and Guy has always seemed over-the-moon happy about the fact that he gets to sample so much mom and pop cooking from around the country. I relate to that; I’d love to do the same.

I read the hit piece with a bit of hesitation, because Guy Fieri is a popular celebrity chef/dude-bro kinda guy and I was afraid that this would cloud the reviewer’s judgement. But I was relieved that Mr. Wells condemned the food and the service and didn’t make any “cult of personality” accusations about Guy or his fans. It was not a cheap shot at people who might like the man. (Not because I am a huge fan myself. I’ve actually never tasted his food or tried his recipes, mostly because they all contain about 1,000 ingredients, which is a big pet peeve of mine. I don’t think you need to stick your pantry in a dish to make it taste good.) I appreciated the straightforward review because hatin’ on folks from The Food Network can sometimes morph into a kind of snobbery I don’t have much of an appreciation for. But this was a fair critique.

Snobbery’s a funny thing, because I think some forms of it can be good. Snobbery can be a stand-in for discernment; snobbery can be in instructive. But I find the best way to be instructive using snobbery is to be a good snob: like what you like firmly and pleasantly, and say why you like things in a way that avoids hyperbole and trashing others’ likes. That’s not to say you can’t dislike something unabashedly. I just feel certain there’s a way to trash a restaurant or a movie or an artist without trashing its fans.
Which in a very, very convoluted, roundabout way brings me to this discussion, which seems to have evolved into a conversation about hipsters and the concepts of hipness and coolness. Why does this particular discussion never fail to fascinate and generate such impassioned responses?