Wednesday, December 2, 2015


AT FIRST GLANCE, my friend, you may not recognize this photo. It is of a snack bag (one of my favorites, actually, as I am a salt addict) opened the neatest way I could accomplish. True, I do not have the hands of a twenty-something weight lifter. Nonetheless, it took about a dozen pulls from various angles before it exploded. Thank the gods it was only partially full ("to protect the contents") or we'd have been eating them off the floor.
I sent the photo to the manufacturer of the snacks, pointing out that not only was the bag impossible to open neatly, but that they are neither re-closable nor recyclable. They have not deigned to reply.
But . . .really . . . what can they say?
"Our bags, while not perfect, are self-destructing so that you have to eat the contents in one go."
"They're the cheapest so we went with them."
"The bag looks good. That's all consumers care about."
"Suck it up, girlie. Nobody cares about recycling." 

Well, I care . . . and I have yet to find a snack bag that can be recycled. Why not? Given the rate of consumption of these caloric treats (which many of us consider major food groups, not occasional indulgences), land fills excavated in the 23rd century (assuming we haven't destroyed the planet completely, leaving behind a battered but happy sphere with no marauding homo insapiens on it) will have an 80% composition of snack bags. The rest will be beer bottles from the Neanderthals who think recycling is beneath them.
Am I a lone voice howling in the wilderness? Does providing a snack bag with zip top put the profits of Frito-Lay, New York Bagels, and other manufacturers of temptation in danger? (Fat chance on that.) Does nobody else care about snack bag detritus in our land fills?
Thank you for attending to my rant. Here's how to accelerate emptying the package so that you don't have to transfer remaining contents to another bag (thus compounding the land-fill problem):

8 oz. low-fat cream cheese, softened
3 - 4 oz well-marbled blue cheese, crumbled
one large shallot, minced
 2 - 3 tbsp half and half
black pepper to taste
1/3 C chopped walnuts or Kalamata olives (optional, but the olives are killer)

Mix everything until well-blended. Slowly add more half and half if it's still stiff.
Start scooping with your favorite chip.
This only gets better with age, I think, although am not sure because it never lasts long enough.
Good to stuff celery with if you've lost your taste for crisps. Speaking of celery, have you noticed what wretched packaging it has?

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Happy holidays! I saw this delicious wreath last week in South Africa, and thought it deserved far wider exposure. It's simple and stunning, quick to assemble and will draw admiring comments from even the most jaded guest. I'm making one for New Year's Eve and will post a photo ASAP.

For one wreath, you'll need (larger quantities are for a larger - 16" diameter - wreath):
1-2 cans of artichoke quarters; drain and marinate in a good home-made vinaigrette for a day or two

1 16 oz. packet of mixed field greens, rinsed and spun dry
1 8 to 16 oz. packet of grape or cherry tomatoes, preferable yellow and red
4 to 8 oz. smoked salmon 
1/2 pound pitted kalamata olives (or your favorite)
6 oz. small mozzarella pearls, cut in half (marinate overnight if you wish)

1/3 c capers, any size, drained
1/3 c lemon-based vinaigrette (optional, to lightly drizzle just before serving)

To assemble: use a large round serving board, a wine barrel top if you're lucky enough to have one, or just cover a round circle of plywood or heavy corrugated cardboard with foil.
The outer circle of the wreath is the well-drained artichoke hearts, placed points outward.
Inside this, carefully mound the greens in a thick belt so it resembles a real wreath, then place the cherry tomatoes in small groups of 2 to 3. Stand back and adjust for look.
Cut the salmon in 1/2" strips along the longest edge. One at a time, twine them through the "wreath", twisting to make it appear like ribbon. Double up, or even make a bow at one side.
Add the drained mozzarella pieces, again placing them to appear like ornaments. Ditto the olives.
Sprinkle the capers around at random.
You can cover with plastic wrap and keep cold for two or three hours. Carefully anoint with dressing at the last instant, if desired. A lovely centerpiece, at its side brown bread, toasts, or your favorite cracker. Then dig in! Or stand back and enjoy the compliments!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


A lazy weekend is one thing, but a totally lazy week does not get food on the table. Failing take-out, PREP is the key word here: preparedness. Mise en place, to the French: it means getting your stuff in place. To that end, there are things that you can keep in the fridge that'll make life so much easier: hard-cooked eggs, cooked veggies, cooked pasta and salsa, for a start. They can all be cooked in a 30 minute period, slipped into containers, and chilled (3 or 4 days) for that moment when a meal is needed but the will to slave isn't there. Then remove 30 minutes prior to serving, slathered with your home-made vinaigrette, and look like a goddess.
This can also be a nice Sunday late-afternoon activity with your responsible youngsters: the tasks are short but basic, so they're learning how to cook without realizing it. And the satisfaction of helping put food on the table not only makes them feel responsible, but when they're your age they'll tell their own kids about it. A no-lose situation!
Prep green beans, carrots, zucchini, and other family favorite vegetables. My kids liked Brussels sprouts (go figure). Parboil in batches (you can use the same water; do sprouts last). Lift from water with a slotted spoon, and plunge veg into ice water. Then put in zip bags and store in veggie drawer. Zucchini and onions can be sauteed briefly, then put in bags when cool. Boil and peel eggs. And you're ready for a summer salad!
One little hint to make things really zing: just before serving, halve a lemon, stick your fork in it and twist. The luscious juice springs forth onto your salad. Makes everything sit up and sing. Do this only with fresh lemons, it's worse than useless with that bottled stuff.
I keep pre-cooked ground pork and chicken in the freezer. When I'm doing my prep work, I just fry it (no seasonings except a sprinkle of salt, who knows what I'll do with it in two or three days).
When I was a kid, my father used to fry up bacon, then toss in a chopped onion until it was transparent and starting to brown, then add left-over cooked elbow noodles and stir-fry (not that the term was known at that point) until they began to crisp. Serve with ketchup. Not sure I could stand all those bacon fat calories (or the incredible amount of sugar in today's ketchup), but the memories are good. And crumbled bacon improves any dish but strawberry shortcake.
Prep green beans, eggs, chunked potatoes and mushrooms (optional, diagonally-sliced carrots). Put cans of albacore tuna in the fridge (one can each two adults). Splash lemon vinaigrette on potatoes and mushrooms; refrigerate separately. Rinse and spin red-leaf and escarole lettuce; will keep overnight in the cold drawer. Ditto red bell pepper and green onions.
Make a bed of lettuce on your largest platter or shallow serving dish. Quarter eggs and Roma tomatoes. Arrange the vegetables in groups atop. Drain tuna and put down middle of platter. Sprinkle with Feta cheese and Kalamata olives. I know, the fabled Nicoise olives are the real deal, but they are tiny, unpitted, and hardly worth the work. And the feta is my idea, use it if you want. I like feta. Serve more vinaigrette separately, but do the lemon trick at the table before the platter is passed.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Those of us who are sushi lovers are well-acquainted with wasabi, that pinch of pale green paste that sits to one side of the plate and, when smeared sparingly on the sushi, produces a taste reaction somewhere between mild heat and sinus-destroying explosions. Click to read more...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


One of my enduring favorite foods is calamari. Despite the furor over pig unmentionables as possible substitutes, I persevere: the perfect dish of calamari is out there, and I will find it. So far, at least to the best of my knowledge, I have not ingested pork you-know-what's, it's all been the real thing.
While in Southeast Asia this summer, I found calamari only in slices in sauce, and that doesn't count. I want unadorned, not smoshed over with sauce and vegetables and atop rice. No, when I say calamari, I mean fried rings and tentacles. Mixed. Frankly, a whole bowl of baby tentacles makes me feel like a mass murderer...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


We all have our favorite salad. And we can all probably remember some really baad salads. I'll give you an awful memory of mine: in Vernon, France, only steps from the sublime Monet garden, is a small hotel restaurant. I ordered a salad. It came with wilted lettuce, long-ago cut tomatoes and canned corn. What is it with the French and canned corn? They'll put the stuff on almost anything except foie gras, and I'm not even sure of that.
 On the other hand, France makes some of the most sublime salads going. Here's one of my favorites, as photographed in Nantes a little while ago. By the way, Nantes has a twenty foot high mechanical elephant that is absolutely magnificent (silly factoid of the year), some lovely gardens, so there are reasons besides food to visit. But who needs any other reason?
Many times, French salads come in little piles: grated carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, lettuce, those damned kernels of corn, onions, olives, whatever. This salad, however, is different. You need a generous 3/8" - 1/2" slice (why stint? you won't do this every day) of a good goat cheese for each serving, something about 3" or 4" in diameter. Failing that, in desperation...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I had this delicious salad for late breakfast in Hue, Vietnam. Obviously, I love salads. You could have it for lunch or dinner as well, of course. It's the perfect way to use up some leftover beef if you don't want to start from scratch. You could even, in a pinch, use thickly sliced roast beef from a deli. Turn the page for the easy recipe...