Monster sighting

Halloween was a night for ghosts, ghouls, and Sarah Palin, but some gentler creatures also ventured out into the night. Here’s one I thought would be perfect for the pages of YAD:

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You may be asking yourself “Could it be?” Yes, your favorite PR-spouting and mung bean-sprouting locavore blogger had a close encounter with…

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the FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER!!!

Happy (belated) Halloween!

Eating your way through history (or: Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!)

stuffed squashFor as long as I can remember, people have been taking bites out of the notion that Christopher Columbus was a hero. Maybe it was just my liberal New York upbringing, but I just cannot recall a lesson or discussion about the guy without a crack about how mistaken he was and what a terrible thing Americans did trying to say he discovered our country.

Even my grandmother got into it, and was fond of reciting the following poem about him:

In 1492, what did Columbus do?

He sat on the grass

And scratched his ass

In 1492

So yes, it’s not new to me to prod that gallant story with a sharp-tined fork. But still I will offer a little suggestion for how to celebrate this Columbus Day–a.k.a. Indigenous Peoples Day–in politically-correct foodie style. Continue reading

Oh bubbles for change

Sauerkraut
My Partner in Fermentation and I have embarked on yet another sauerkraut adventure. After trying it with too much salt, too little salt, not enough packing down of the shredded cabbage, and letting it ferment in a place that we now know was too warm, we may have gotten all the variables to line up in our favor.

It’s been three days, during which time Rosh Hashana came and went, and I just opened one of the two quart jars. It had been sitting in my bedroom, the one place in the apartment that’s consistently 70 to 72 degrees — the preferred temp for those lactobacilli that make it all happen. The cabbage looked well covered in liquid, thanks to the innovation of pounding it with the salt before packing it into jars. The opening of the metal cap was accompanied by a slight slurp and a few bubbles. Then more bubbles. Then more, percolating up to the surface so fast I speed walked it to the kitchen sink,  visions of shaken up seltzer bottles sputtering before me.

This was a good sign. Continue reading

Mango, White, and Blue

Sitting in a wooden cabin with rain falling outside, we didn’t feel much like making sparks on the Fourth. On top of that, the closest our little group got to discussing patriotism this past weekend was when we noted our lack of it on our trips abroad. One of us found it hard to argue when Dominicans questioned our invasion of whatever countries came in handy after September 11th, and another reminisced about Brazilians offering to come monitor our frequently botched elections.

Continue reading

Don’t judge a book… [updated]

Let me tell you now, so you don’t go wasting your time: the Columbia Heights Target cannot help with your Passover dining needs. They do not have matzah, nor do they bother to brief their employees about this holiday for which millions of Jews will be searching for special food.

I had a rather comical adventure earlier this week when I tried to inquire whether there was a Passover section at my local store in Northwest D.C. The first red-shirted employee I spotted in the food section did not look up when I said “Excuse me?” Continue reading

Stuff it

You have cute, serving-sized winter squash. What do you do? Stuff it.

You want to turn a mound of mashed tofu into something Thanksgiving-esque. What do you do? Stuff it.

A table full of baked squash, tofu un-turkey, mashed red skin potatoes, green beans with garlic butter and toasted walnuts, cranberry sauce, and homemade blueberry crepes sits in front of your face. What do you do?

Stuff it!

Between the spicy polenta-stuffed squash, the stuffing-stuffed tofu, and the stuffed bellies around the table, that was certainly the theme of my Thanksgiving.

It seemed only fitting to create a post stuffed full of photos. Here goes.

THE STUFFED TOFU

THE THANKSGIVING TABLE

The mashed potatoes, stuffing, mushroom gravy, and string beans seem to be stuffed into the back corner, but you get a good view of the polenta-stuffed squashies.

The squashies baring their tangy inner souls

You’ve probably had your fill of photos now.

Ready for a new recipe? How about this:

Picante polenta-stuffed squash
Makes 6-12 servings

Ingredients

3 medium to large winter squash (like butternut) or 6 small ones (like sweet dumpling or acorn)
1 cup cornmeal
4 cups water
Dash of salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeños (or hotter pepper like serranos, for more bite), finely diced
About 1 cup cheddar and jack cheese, shredded (optional)

What to do

Preheat oven to 375 F. Pierce the whole squashes with a fork several times. If you have a cleaver or you’re feeling macho, hack open each squash (preferably cutting it right down the middle into 2 identical pieces) and remove the seeds. Place whole squash right side up or squash halves cut side down on an oiled baking tray. Bake for 30-60 minutes or until a fork goes in with a little resistance.

While the squash is cooking, you can prepare the polenta. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onion for a few minutes, then add the garlic and jalapeño and sauté a few minutes more. Set the veggie aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the 4 cups water to a simmer and slowly add the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Add a dash of salt. Lower heat and continue at a leisurely simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the polenta is thick and smooth, remove from heat and stir in the veggies. Taste and add salt to taste.

Now go back to the squash. If you’re using acorn squash or another smallish, round squash and you’ve baked them whole, at this point you can cut off the tops. They will look like they’re about to become mini jack-o-lanterns. Set the tops aside and do not re-bake them. They’re just for show. If you’re using larger squash, cut them in half.

With whatever kind of squash you’re using, at this point you’ll need to remove the seeds. Also scoop out some of the insides until you have a generous amount of stuffing space.

Stuff each squash up to the top or a little more. Return to the oven to bake at 375 for another 30 minutes or until the squash is good and soft. If using cheese, sprinkle it on top of the squash at this point and bake or broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with the tops on or near the squashies, or cut squash into wedges. Try it with salsa!