Oddities and Obsessions

Pine Mouth Anyone?

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by Jeanne Kelley

brussels.jpgThe Brussels sprouts pictured are awesome. 

I recently made these Brussels sprouts, and at sometime, either before of after making these amazing sprouts (I’m really not kidding, people who don’t like Brussels sprouts like this dish) I chomped on a medium-sized handful of pine nuts.  It was only about an eighth of a cup of these sweet, resinous kernels--not a big handful. But, something strange occurred in my mouth the next day. First, my morning oatmeal tasted so BITTER. Was there something wrong with the oatmeal? Was there some sort of cream on my face that I was inadvertently licking (?!!?).

Later on that  same day, I ate a few Marcona almonds, and I couldn’t believe how horrible they tasted--and they’re so expensive. At dinner, food tasted fine while I initially chewed it, but after swallowing, the aftertaste was strangely metallic. My condition (that lasted only 2 days) subsided, and I forgot about it. UNTIL, I worked at the BON APPETIT magazine offices last friday, and learned that three people there had all recently suffered from the same bizarre ailment!

My Big Fat Greek Spread

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by Sue Doeden

big_fat_greek_spread.jpg I've discovered there's no place in the middle when it comes to olives. People love olives or they adamantly, for sure, no doubt about it, can not stand them. I've never heard anyone say, "Olives? Oh, I can take them or leave them."

I'm one who loves them. As long as they are not from a can. Don't call me an olive snob, though.

I grew up on black olives from a can. My dad and I could eat a can together at one sitting. We never had to share. My mom and my brother were from the "can not stand them" camp. Now, though, I prefer them from a jar or from a bin in the deli case at the grocery store. Any color olives, with pits or without, stuffed with almonds or garlic or feta or jalapenos – I'm there.

I Don't Like the Rules

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by Cathy Pollak

potatoes-group.jpgLet me just say it right here, with the internet as my witness, "I have a serious addiction to potatoes." There, my secret is out.

It's sad, but I am unable to consume a reasonable amount of potatoes when they are placed in close proximity.

Whether they are mashed, made into gratin, scalloped, french fried, baked, latkes, chips and even tater tots, (I could go on and on), I have a propensity to over-indulge in this tuberous root vegetable.

Even when called a tuberous root vegetable, it still doesn't turn me off. I think I'm a potato ho.

I rank potatoes right up there with butter and mayonnaise.  Spuds and I go way back.

What I don't appreciate is the "unspoken potato rule". Yes, there is one.

The rule is, "we always wait for the main course meal to enjoy this perfect food".


Coffee Fix

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by Lisa Dinsmore

coffee-poster.jpgMy husband and I managed to miss the whole coffee craze. Up until a few years ago I had never had a full cup – try to restrain your horror – and he would have one only when desperate for caffeine. If it was past 10 in the morning he'd move right past a morning cup and reach for a Mountain Dew instead. All that changed one fateful trip to New England where we were introduced to Dunkin' Donuts. Sure, we knew they made good donuts, but apparently their pastry treats were not the reason for the lines cascading out the door. It was for their coffee, which we didn't hold high hopes for.

For all you DD fanatics, we weren't stupid, we just live in Southern California and we aren't privileged enough to have a single store in our region. Back then if we wanted to "Run on Dunkin" we had to drive 7 hours to Arizona. Coming from a region dominated by Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Seattle's Best, we had pretty low expectations of a "donut shop" coffee. Wow, were we wrong. From the first burning sip – coffee is hot – to the last  we just couldn't believe how delicious it was. Or understand how they kept it hot for sooooo long. We had found our java heroin and there was no going back.


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by Joshua Heller

flavor1.jpgI first heard of flavortripping last summer. I read an article in the New York Times about a substance that altered tastes of reality. People were going to underground parties for the experience. At these parties they would consume Synsepalum dulcificum, the Miracle Fruit. Once eaten, the fruit tells your taste buds to taste things differently. It makes everything sweeter sweeter.

Over the last year, I was passively trying to find a flavortripping party. I expected that my band of foodie friends would have a hook-up. Alas, nothing panned out. So I decided to take my tongue into my own hands, and I sought out the mister responsible for these berries.

11 keystrokes into a search engine, yielded quick results: Miracle Fruit Man. He supplied the participants at the party covered by the New York Times. His plan was simple. If you send him 40 dollars (plus $28 s/h) he’d two-day express you 20 frozen berries.

I just wanted one.

Flavortripping: Part 2

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by Danielle Sobol

miracle-berry-fruit.jpgLast summer, New York City rooftops teemed with people sucking on lemons and downing shots of vinegar. For about a month, in its characteristic tendency towards cult like obsession, everyone was talking about the magic berries that made all things acidic and sour taste sweet, and about the ‘flavortripping’ parties where people experimented with them. I, however, was in East Africa all summer on a strict diet of rice and beans sans utensils, and I missed the craze.

Somehow, it seems like Angelinos never got the Magic Berry memo. I was thrilled to find that upon my West Coast relocation I was in the company of people who had not yet ‘flavortripped’. When I learned that a friend of mine had twenty berries chilling in his freezer just WAITING for a throng of curious flavortrippers, I begged to be included. Last Sunday it finally happened. With a tub of olives from the Whole Foods olive bar, I walked into a room of energized people and bowls of lemons, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, carrots, bok choy, cheeses, jalapeños, radish, and asparagus.  The liquids selection was even more obscure, with red and white wines, tequilas, vinegars, hot sauces, and beer.

The Care and Feeding of a Shellfishaholic

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by David Latt

steamedclams.jpgHi, I'm Dave and I'm a shellfishaholic. My wife wants me to stop writing about shellfish because they aren't everyone's cup of tea. But I can't resist the temptation. When we were in Boston recently, the one restaurant I had to visit was the Union Oyster House. While Michael and Michelle rested at the hotel, I snuck away and happily indulged in a dozen oysters and a bowl of clam chowder.

Today at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, Carlsbad Aquafarm had fresh oysters, clams, mussels, and live abalone. I wanted to buy everything. I showed some restraint. I only bought the oysters and clams.

A nice thing about shellfish is they keep in the refrigerator for several days as long as you follow a couple of suggestions. Oysters need to be stacked in a bowl with the rounded part of the shell down, so the oyster sits in its own liquid. Clams will drown if they're submerged in water. Save a plastic basket that comes with strawberries. Cut it in half, put it on the bottom of a bowl and the clams on top. That will keep the clams above any water they spit out while they're waiting in the refrigerator.

Butter Pines

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by Alison Wonderland Tucker

butter-1.jpgA few years ago I started a poll on Facebook. I wanted to know what possessions make people feel wealthy that aren’t expensive or fancy. Like toilet paper. When I have ample rolls of toilet paper I feel strangely satisfied. And pens. When I have a lot of pens I feel very, very rich in a weird way. I just love to not have to go searching high and low for them. I like bundles of them in the office and kitchen and living room and a few in the bedroom even. I know it’s weird. I know.

The thing that always makes me feel rich in the kitchen is butter. When I have copious amounts of butter I feel that anything is possible.

A month ago Shannon and I took a short road trip down to North Carolina. He has two grand-aunts in Southern Pines that he hadn’t seen in years and felt like reconnecting with. I was a little reluctant because I would be addressing two of my biggest fears – elderly relatives of boyfriends and my belief that all relationships end on long road trips. I’m happy to report neither of my fears came to fruition. In actuality, Shannon’s grand-aunts are about as adorable a pair as I’ve ever met; little and feisty with high pitched, low toned drawls that made me chuckle every time they said anything.

Pear Madness

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by Matt Armendariz

pear-dirty-dozen-lg.jpgI’m going to let you in on a little secret:  I go overboard.

Being born with an impassioned gene isn’t really all that bad, though. It allows me to focus on things so acutely and really dive into subjects that might otherwise not have interested me. It allowed me to learn how to rollerskate in the 70s, leaving all the other kids biting my dust (or maybe it was my purple satin shorts, which for a 7-year old boy is probably the fast track to neighborhood ridicule, but so what, I ask?) It’s kept me interested in my job for this long, helped me wrangle and eat my own snails, and allowed me to learn how to play a handful of musical instruments.

It’s also the reason I have found myself up to my eyeballs in pears.

Now, a pear isn’t something you always have around like an onion or a lemon. They’re a truly seasonal fruit and best enjoyed when mother nature tells us they’re ready. And because of this I don’t really think of pears throughout the year. It’s not like I find myself grilling in the middle of July and then suddenly scream out “OH MY GOD THIS RIB SOOOOOOOO NEEDS A PEAR RIGHT NOW!”  If anything I’ll scream out because my cocktail is empty. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog.  But my point is this: when I taste that first early fall pear I know I’m on a collision course with that powerful strange facet of my personality.

Cardamom is Captivating

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by Susan Russo

cardamoncake.jpgFew spices can excite your taste buds as powerfully as cardamom. Have you ever noticed how someone will take a bite of a cardamom-laced dessert, declare instant love, yet not be able to identify the spice?

That's because cardamom is enigmatic. Think about it: Is it spicy or sweet? Citric or floral? Does it taste like lemon? Cinnamon? Anise? Christmas? Yes. Cardamom embodies all of these flavors in one glorious spice, which is why baking with cardamom is so popular.

As this Banana Apple Cardamom Cake bakes, it will permeate your home with the sweet and spicy aromas of cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and coconut. With mashed ripe bananas, butter, and coconut milk, this is an especially moist cake that is punctuated with bits of chewy raisins, crisp apples, and crunchy nuts.


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