Oddities and Obsessions

Cucumber, Tomato and Chickpea Salad

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by Cathy Pollak

cumcumber-tomato-and-garbanzo-bean-saladThis salad makes a regular appearance at my house. It looks very summery but I serve it all year long, assuming I can get decent tomatoes.

It's almost not even a recipe because there is nothing to putting it together. Some light chopping, opening a can and pouring the seasoned rice vinegar over the top. But it's so delicious, so flavorful. In fact, this would be enough for me to call it a meal. However, I have a husband who claims it's not a meal without meat. So yeah.

I always have these ingredients in my house. I often run out of lettuce but these ingredients are around...always.

The seasoned rice vinegar is the key (not the regular). It's the perfect dressing and it's so low in calories compared to salad dressing. No oil is needed either. Give it 15 minutes to marinate and you are done. I won't tell you how good it is with crusty garlic bread.

Cucumber, Tomato and Chickpea Salad
Serves: Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 English cucumber (this is the one without the seeds), chopped
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)
2 Tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 cup chilled seasoned rice vinegar (more or less if needed)
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl gently toss together tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and chickpeas with seasoned rice vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes to marinate, stirring a couple of times. Season with pepper and serve.

 

Cathy has her own vineyard and winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  She is a food writer for Davis Life Magazine and blogs daily about wine, food and everyday living.  She lives with her husband and two sons.  You can visit her at noblepig.com.

The Fat Mint Cookie

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by Alison Wonderland Tucker

mintthumbI am not now nor have I ever been a Girl Scout...mostly for the simple reason that I grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan and it just wasn’t a thing that we did. It wasn’t ever a viable option. I also felt that there would be only one reason to join and that that reason would designate me a traitor. I would not have joined to perform tasks to learn life skills or help humanity, I would have joined to have access to the greatest cookie in the world: The Thin Mint.

About 6 months ago, my boyfriend and I were meeting some friends of his for dinner and drinks at a local restaurant. We were laughing and drinking and having a great night out when he leaned over and apologized for being a bit delayed (he’d been working in Long Island on a restaurant mural and missed an earlier train). He said, “But I brought something to make it up to you.” and opened his bag to reveal the trademark green box.

Without missing a beat- barely even taking a breath- I grabbed my coat, threw money on the table and announced our immediate departure. I did it unconsciously. I could think of nothing but tearing open the plastic sleeve, eating everything inside and basking in the chocolate mint haze that I’m always left in, post cookie feast. I’m a simple girl.

Mail-Order BBQ

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by Amy Ephron

porkbutt.jpgConfession: I love food that comes in the mail.

I, also love having something in the freezer just in case we decide on a whim to have eight people for dinner tomorrow night. Or tonight for that matter, but this only works if you decide this early enough in the day to defrost whatever it is you have in the freezer just in case you’re entertaining on a whim.

A few weeks ago, I was sent samples from Edwards & Sons Virginia Traditions BBQ. It was summer and I was really excited to get them, especially since the samples included an entire pork roast butt (completely suitable for a dinner party of eight or more).

I don’t write about things that are sent to me unless I love them. Those “crabcakes” from Baltimore come to mind, the ones that sort of resembled a baseball. We tried everything – we even put them in a tomato sauce and put them on top of spaghetti – no luck. A crabcake should not resemble a meatball!

Why I Love Cappuccino

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by Libby Segal

cappuccino.jpg"Everyone needs a tagline. And I guess yours is cappuccino?"

That's what my boss said to me as I pulled out my cappuccino shirt and laughed about my recent purchase.

"You really do love it, don't you?" She added.

Still laughing I told her that I had also created business cards with a cappuccino image on them.

"It really is your tagline."

And then another co-worker chimed in.

"Why do you love it so much?"

That answer is easy. But it requires a story: It starts with falling in love with coffee.

Olives and Almonds

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by Michael Tucker

sicilian-olives-300x225.jpg Have you eaten at the Tuckers recently?”

“You mean the olives and the almonds?”

“Every fucking time. That’s all you get until dinner.”

Well, it’s true. I don’t like to stuff people before I feed them. I want that feeding-the-pirhanas feeling when I bring the pasta out. Forks flashing. That kind of thing.

I have no interest in serving food to full people.

So, we put out a bowl of olives – usually the “festive mix” or whatever it’s called, from Fairway, or those big, fat Sicilian olives, a bit lighter green in color, meaty and briny.

A Visit to Avery Island

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by Matt Armendariz

tabasco-production-line-550xOh, Tabasco, how much do I love thee?

The narrow bottle, wedged next to the napkins and salt and pepper, has always been a part of my earliest food memories and proceeds almost anything else on the table. It is a sauced etched in my mind, its hot and tangy flavor surely a part of my DNA by now. I suspect it’s this way for millions of people, too. I’ve just never been able to get enough of the stuff.

I got to spend a few days in Avery Island, Louisiana, home to the McIlhenny Company that makes the Tabasco hot sauce. It’s been made here since its invention in 1868, its recipe unchanged for over 142 years. And if something is good, why change it? To make Tabasco sauce, you only need a few things: peppers, salt, vinegar and time. But Tabasco does indeed have a secret ingredient that makes it so extremely special: the people that have made the sauce for generations.

(and no, there are no people IN the sauce, please don’t get all Sweeny Hot Sauce Todd on me, please)

To visit Avery Island and the McIlhenny Company is like walking into a textbook on regional Louisiana history, followed by a textbook on American history. It’s a family-owned company that was founded by Edmund McIlhenny and is still run by the family today. In fact, many of the employees have been with the company for generations. And Avery Island itself is quite special. Located in Iberia Parish, Avery Island is located on top of a salt dome and has been involved in the salt trade even longer than the production of Tabasco. These two things go hand in hand, we’ll get to that in a few.

The Shroud of Tamago

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by Alison Grambs

ImageLast year, a few weeks before Christmas, a gnarly mole on my shoulder was deemed highly suspicious by my dermatologist. Although the biopsy results werent in yet, I prepared for the worst. Death. Just two months shy of my fortieth birthday a growth the size of a peanut was going to take me out – rob the world of all I had to offer it, and rob me of the third season of Jersey Shore. With death imminent I needed to get my affairs in order. There was a lot to do: sort out my will and testament; cancel my Netflix membership; and, most importantly, guarantee a good turnout at my funeral.

The funeral part was tricky – trouble was Id been a bit snippy all year. Annoyed some people. Burned some bridges. If I didn't make amends quickly there was a good chance I was getting buried with just the gravediggers in attendance. In need of a quick way to redeem myself with everyone I had pissed off, I decided to send out Christmas cards. I’d never done it before, but a joyful holiday greeting featuring a jolly Santa and his elves wrapping glittery presents seemed the perfect way to remind everyone of my wonderfulness. Cards, address book and pen in hand, I dipped in to a new sushi restaurant in the neighborhood to grab lunch and pen my final correspondence to loved ones.

The Fat Mint Cookie

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by Alison Wonderland Tucker

mintthumbI am not now nor have I ever been a Girl Scout...mostly for the simple reason that I grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan and it just wasn’t a thing that we did. It wasn’t ever a viable option. I also felt that there would be only one reason to join and that that reason would designate me a traitor. I would not have joined to perform tasks to learn life skills or help humanity, I would have joined to have access to the greatest cookie in the world: The Thin Mint.

About 6 months ago, my boyfriend and I were meeting some friends of his for dinner and drinks at a local restaurant. We were laughing and drinking and having a great night out when he leaned over and apologized for being a bit delayed (he’d been working in Long Island on a restaurant mural and missed an earlier train). He said, “But I brought something to make it up to you.” and opened his bag to reveal the trademark green box.

Without missing a beat- barely even taking a breath- I grabbed my coat, threw money on the table and announced our immediate departure. I did it unconsciously. I could think of nothing but tearing open the plastic sleeve, eating everything inside and basking in the chocolate mint haze that I’m always left in, post cookie feast. I’m a simple girl.

Jiminy Cricket in My Kitchen

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by Nancy Ellison

jiminycricket.jpgDoes Jiminy Cricket sit on your shoulder? He sits on mine – always has. The first time I saw Pinocchio; he jumped right off the screen and onto my shoulder and has been there ever since. If he were simply my conscience, I would consider that a good thing, but he is not my conscience; he is my worst critic!

“You think that photograph is good? Are you an idiot with absolutely no taste? Print that and the world will laugh at you.”

“You prefer A Place in the Sun to Citizen Kane? Are you friggin’ out of your gourd? Tell anyone that and the world will laugh at you.”

“You are wearing what? That? Put that on and the world with laugh at you!”

It never stops. It is most embarrassing, however, when I fix dinner for company. I will get a compliment and before I can smile and say, “Thank you” I blurt out, “I put too much salt in the sauce, I over-browned the meat before I stewed it …” TMI provided by Jiminy.

Tale of a Temporary Tooth

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by Louis Gropman

tooth.jpgOn the way back to the car after some lunchtime phở, we stepped into a bird store to say a quick what’s up to the caged canaries and parrots. In the middle of the store, I sneezed and my temporary front tooth flew onto the floor. I picked up the tooth, shrugged at the puzzled proprietors and parrots, and drove to my dentist to have it reattached.

The dentist said this might happen. Cautioned me not to eat anything sticky or chewy. I gazed longingly at caramel apples at Farmer’s Market last week, and had to eat my grilled cheese from Phil’s with a fork and knife. That’s the result of deciding to replace my cracked front tooth with a porcelain crown, and having this temporary plastic piece stand in while the crown’s manufactured. It’s no fun.

I’m used to eating anything I want. Cutlery is never a concern. And now, for three weeks, I’m relegated to eating only that which can be cut into small pieces. I feel like a toddler getting his pizza slice diced into manageable bites. Child’s play.

 

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