The recipe project: 2

For our family Thanksgiving dinner, I was asked to bring my spicy cranberry chutney. I’m not sure whether this is because it’s about the only holiday dish I know how to make, or because it’s the only one that my friends trust me with. At any rate, I follow this recipe from an old number of Gourmet (November 1987), which rests on the top of a short stack of similar magazines in my kitchen. It’s on the same page as a recipe for tasty cranberries in chocolate sauce that I haven’t made since my Susan days. The chutney doesn’t take too much time to make, especially if you are like me and you skimp on the chopping. I like big chunks of fruit in my chutney. Below, my paraphrase of the recipe:

Cranberry Chutney
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped as fine as you care to
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced (1/4 inch or so)
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger (to be found probably somewhere in the produce section at your supermarket), chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

Grate the lemon rind to make about 1 teaspoon. Squeeze the lemon to make about 1/4 cup of juice.

In a saucepan combine the apricots, the brown sugar, the raisins, and 1 cup water. Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring, and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Add the cranberries, the apple, and the lemon rind, simmer the mixture until most but not all of the cranberries have popped, about 15 or 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, the ginger, and the red pepper flakes.

Serve at room temperature or chilled. Makes about 3 cups.

This last time out, I was unsure of the state of my spice rack, so I was inclined to add more pepper. But Leta took a quick taste test and assured me that half a teaspoon of pepper is good.

Conscientious inconsistency

In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, for the Times Magazine annual food issue, Jonathan Safran Foer explains his bumpy practice of vegetarianism. Although most of his qualms run along the lines of not wishing to hurt animals, he also mentions the reason I try to avoid eating terrestrial vertebrates:

According to reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. and others, factory farming has made animal agriculture the No. 1 contributor to global warming (it is significantly more destructive than transportation alone), and one of the Top 2 or 3 causes of all of the most serious environmental problems, both global and local: air and water pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity… Eating factory-farmed animals—which is to say virtually every piece of meat sold in supermarkets and prepared in restaurants—is almost certainly the single worst thing that humans do to the environment.

Time to go shopping

Mike Veseth, the Wine Economist, reports on the state of wine retailed in box containers—good value, low environmental impact:

The top box wine, going by the rating numbers, is a white: Wine Cube California Chardonnay, which sells in Target Stores for $17 per 3 liter box, which is $4.25 per standard bottle equivalent. It earned a very respectable 88 points [from Wine Spectator].

* * *
How can decent wine be this cheap? One answer, of course, is that you can choose to make the wine itself less expensive by economizing in the cellar in many ways (less oak or none at all for red wines, for example). But to a considerable degree the box itself is responsible for the savings.

The bag in box container costs less than $1, according to the Wine Spectator article, which automatically saves $4 to $8 compared with a similar quantity of wine in standard glass bottles and the box they come in.

(Via The Morning News.)

The recipe project: 1

So Leta was all about making recipes from her cookbook library, and I was looking for incentives to find more vegetarian options, so in a moment of weakness I said that I would join the project, too. At first my intention was just to work through The Vegetarian Epicure—sort of a low-rent Julie/Julia Project. But there are a lot of wheat-based recipes in that book, and I would like to share some of this cooking with Leta. And, while I have a lot of free time for food preparation now, I hope to be more fully occupied outside of the home soon. So I will skip around the shelf.

But I did start with this squash concoction. Maybe because I had already bought the acorn squash and was looking for something interesting to do with it.

Oriental Citrus Squash
  • 3 small acorn squashes
  • butter
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 Tbs. candied ginger, cut into very small pieces
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • pinch of nutmeg

Cut the squashes in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, brush them with butter, place them cut-side down on a greased pan, and bake about 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Fill the cavities with a mixture of the marmalade, the minced ginger, lemon juice, and nutmeg, and bake 15 minutes more. Serve very hot.

6 servings.

This came out fairly well, considering how much I tinkered with the proportions. First off, I had one large squash, not three small ones, as I was just cooking for myself. And my approach to the lemon juice was a little excessive. I bought one lemon expressly for the recipe, and I didn’t foresee any other uses for the juice, so I used all the juice of the lemon. And since I was going heavy on the juice, I sort of guessed on the amount of marmalade. That’s a lot of jelly to be stuffing these squashes with. The resulting mixture came out as sort of a citrus soup. Tasty enough, not very gingery: some of my condiments are a little stale.

Trick learned: cutting the squash lengthwise. This is a good idea, even if it’s harder to do (I need to sharpen my all-purpose knife.) All this time, I’ve been cutting acorn squash around its middle, which means that the two filled halves won’t sit up straight in the baking pan.

Some lists: 4

I don’t remember what I was reading that started this scribbled list of foods I find unpleasant. Maybe it was my 100 things list. Anyway, it’s time to write it up.

Foods that I once thought were disgusting but now enjoy:

  • Peanut M&M’s: It took a while to convince me that all three tastes and textures weren’t repulsive, that they actually could go together.
  • Cream cheese (as on a bagel) and cheesecake: Blame my Midwestern upbringing for this one.

Foods that I really don’t like but will eat if there’s no alternative:

  • Melon: I eat a lot of this in fruit salad, and otherwise never.
  • Most salad dressings: Though I do like a nice vinaigrette.
  • Hummus.
  • Eggplant.
  • Brie, hot or cold.
  • That squidgy asparagus-and-artichoke dip: In other words, most of those mushy white gluppy things you get served as appetizers.

Foods that I eat mostly on a dare:

  • Organ meats.
  • Raw shellfish.
  • Sushi: Though my cousin introduced me to vegetable sushi the last time that I was in California, and that was yummy.

Foods that are imported from Yuckistan, don’t try to feed me these, if you and I are stranded with nothing to eat but this you’re going to be fat and happy:

  • Flavored Doritos, otherwise known as Doritos with crap on ’em: Doritos are perfectly nice corn chips. They should taste like corn and salt. Not something called “cool ranch.” What is that?
  • Blue cheese salad dressing: Hey! This stuff is spoiled.
  • Tomato soup: I like gazpacho. But hot pureed tomatoes take me back to a nastier time from my childhood, a time when I would be stuck each afternoon with a couple of bratty kids from the neighborhood until my mother got off work.
  • And the #1, super-icky food: Cottage cheese.

As you might suspect, there is a story to go with the cottage cheese.

For a time, when I started grammar school, I would go to day care at the end of the day until Mom got home. Or I would be there for the duration on one of those oh-so-inconvenient teacher work days when the rest of the world was on a normal schedule. Anyway, I don’t remember how it happened, maybe I missed my taxi, but I had a lunch on a tray at the day care center, and I was eating by myself. And at the corner of the tray, where a treat ought to be, was a scoop of something white. Could it be ice cream? Oh boy! Well, I ate the rest of my lunch like a good kid (don’t get my mother started on what a good child I was) and then I took a spoonful of the inviting white mound, the mound that was a little too perfectly white and round.

I don’t recall where that sour mouthful ended up. I was a good kid, so I probably swallowed it.

Gluten’s 15 minutes

Avoiding gluten in the diet is becoming fashionable, reports Kate Murphy.

“A lot of alternative practitioners like chiropractors have picked up on it and are waving around magic silver balls, crystals and such, telling people they have gluten intolerance,” said Dr. Don W. Powell, a gastroenterologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Sloane Miller, a 35-year-old freelance editor in New York, went on a gluten-free diet six months ago on the advice of her acupuncturist, even though a blood test and a biopsy indicated that she did not have celiac disease. Long plagued with gastrointestinal distress and believing that she might have an undetectable sensitivity to gluten, Ms. Miller said giving it up was “worth a try.”

Unfortunately, the inevitable backlash against this fad is likely to make life more inconvenient for those who legitimately suffer from CD.