And She Ate the Pepper, Raw

I used to work in the basement of a converted townhouse for a political polling firm. My co-worker and friend Ruth used to visit me around 11 am; that’s when she took a snack break. She’d bring a knife, a plate and one green bell pepper.

She’d cut a slice. Eat it raw. One whole green pepper.

That was years ago, right when I started playing around in the kitchen. I never cooked with bell peppers because I would just think of Ruth and that raw, raw pepper. I thought of peppers as a snack. Soon I realized peppers turn into wonderful things once cooked, once broiled, once roasted, once whizzed around in a blender and turned into a sauce.

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Harsh and Sweet: Double Garlic Cheesy Bread

Sometimes I forget the power of simple ingredients. I get wrapped up in hybrid varieties of greens or purple cauliflower or six blends of curry and don’t concentrate on highlighting one single flavor. Enter garlic.

In all my years of manipulating food, I’ve never roasted garlic. I like that raw, biting garlic flavor instead of the mellow, sweet roasted nature. But while roasting tomatoes for soup, I threw a head of garlic into the oven.

Bennett likes how garlic softens after a long time in high heat and bonus points – it’s easily spreadable.

I cut off just a nip of the top, exposing the garlic while leaving the cloves in its house. I already tore off the papery outer skin. Before wrapping the entire head in aluminum, I slathered oil on the garlic’s cut side. It sat in a 400° oven for about 35-40 minutes.

After resting for a few minutes, I squeezed 5 cloves into a bowl and mashed them with goat cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. Once everything all creamed together, I stirred in chopped parsley.

Now this tasted fine on its own. But because I need more of that harsh garlicness, I used the bits I cut off and rubbed them on toasted rosemary bread, which is a pretty cool technique because the garlic just melts into the bread.

I then quickly spread the goat cheese mixture on the bread and served with tomato soup.

Four Things to Freeze Before Vacation

I just got back from Chicago for a quick birthday vacation. Besides packing plenty of warm clothing and deciding on restaurants: iNG, The Bristol, The Publican, C-House, XOCO and Bari I also prepared my kitchen for a few days’ absence. But one more Chicago plug — Twisted Spoke, plenty of interesting, local and international beer, plus…inescapable ’70s porn. Enjoy a mustache with your Goose Island.

Anyway, here are some ideas on how to quickly prep your kitchen for a more welcome return.

Four Things to Freeze Before Vacation

1. Freeze Bread

There’s usually some sort of bread around my house looking for a quick toasting and buttering, or a nan looking for a dip in lentils. Either way, I rarely ever finish a package before its time is up. Before you see mold – and before you go away – toss the bread into the freezer. If you don’t have time for anything else on this list, this is the least you can do to save your food for future use.

2. Freeze Fruit

In this time before spring’s strawberries and summer’s, well, everything else, I’ve been leaning on the banana (especially in my double almond oatmeal).  I used to throw the whole banana in the freezer, peel and all. But soon the skin would blacken and turn slimy, and make the whole thing a mess. Now I peel the banana, slice it and throw it in a freezer bag. So far the banana hasn’t turned too dark. I added the frozen banana right into a new batch of cooking oatmeal, letting the banana warm up and soften into the oats. A frozen banana is also fab blended straight from the freezer with some Greek yogurt and topped with raw oats.

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Feed Us Back: Comments of the Week

– You ESers has a field day with our favorite new unitasker, the bananza. debbie koenig:

I love that it’s a “hand-held” banana slicer. Obvs so much more convenient than those bulky room-sized ones.

Britannia, however, is not making fun:

I kinda want one, don’t judge.

– And kitchen geek stands up for parsley as a garnish:

Used to be right there with you on the parsley garnish; but I’ve mellowed a bit. I’m anti curly-parsley and bad parsley but I think fresh flat leaf has its place. Garnish breaks down just like ingredients in the recipe, complementing or contrasting. Your current recipe and Rocco’s example go with the complementing camp. I often use parsley and/or cilantro in dishes that have neither to provide a fresh herb contrast to whatever dish I’m serving. Think about osso bucco and tell me gremolata is out of place as a garnish cutting the richness of the dish.

Finally, flickr user arenamontanas deserves a huge round of applause for somehow providing the perfect photo for this post.

Thanks for simmering with us — see ya next week!

A Half Stick of Butter Makes the Pasta Go Down


DC has been pummeled with snow this season and it’s not stopping. In fact, we’re supposed to get hit this Friday and again on Tuesday. Like the good weather tracker that he is, 80 went to the store days before casual weather watchers panic for milk and bread and eggs.

Unlike me, he came home with hardly any fresh produce (although to his credit, they didn’t  have my requests: brussels sprouts and winter squash and he’s not known to go off script). When I got home from the DC Food Blogger Happy Hour (DC is so dorky!) he showed off his new items, especially his Ken’s Lite Caesar dressing. But I scanned for our pending dinner, particularly noting the four sticks of butter.

And even though I dined on noodles for lunch with Tim, I couldn’t resist the ease of a quick pasta dish for dinner.

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