Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New Beginnings: Resolutions for 2013

For the past two years, I’ve managed to actually keep my New Year’s resolutions, and it felt really good. So this year, I submit for your approval my food- and drink-related resolutions for 2013:

Cook at home more often
I do love take out. But it’s a money sucker and not the healthiest thing in the world (20-pound burrito, I’m looking at you.)
Finally throw that Mad Men dinner party I’ve been talking about for nine months
I've gestated this idea for as long as I gestated my child. Now it's time to give birth to the thing. Plus, my friend, Rosie, gave me a Mad Men cookbook and vintage cocktail recipes for Christmas. I can take a hint.
Spend the summer seriously canning every piece of fresh produce in sight
Last year, I didn’t become the canning maniac that I really know I can be. This summer, I want to people to walk into my kitchen and immediately start thinking about Victory Gardens and War Bonds while humming “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Make some cheese
For my birthday and Christmas, loved ones gifted me with a cheese-making book, two cheese-making kits, a night at a cheese-making class, and a gift certificate to a cheese shop. Again, I get the hints. The universe is asking—nay, begging—me to make some damn cheese, already.
Drink less
Sorry, that’s a typo. It should actually read “drink less-crappy wine.”
Happy New Year, folks! Bottoms up!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Last minute Christmas gift to the rescue: Peppermint Bark

Dear Alex,
Crap! It’s Christmas Eve morning, our family party is in a few hours, and I don’t have a gift for my Great Aunt Stella! Please don’t suggest that I buy her a gift card. I did that last year and she looked really confused by it. Help!
Screwed in Schenectady
Dear Screwed,
First of all, I would never suggest a gift card. Who do you think I am? Secondly, your panic is totally unwarranted: I am the Fairy Godmother of last-minute food gifts. Take a deep breath. Do you have $10? A way to get to the grocery store? A microwave? Then fear not. I present to you the world’s simplest, loveliest solution: Peppermint bark, which, provided Aunt Stella’s teeth are in relatively good working order, will come swiftly to your rescue.  
Peppermint bark is pretty, yummy, and very easy and inexpensive to make. I break it into rough pieces, stack the pieces in clear plastic candy bags, and tie the bags with festive ribbon. It’s a nice gift for bosses, neighbors, teachers, and elderly aunties. Your salvation awaits below:
White Chocolate Peppermint Bark
  • Two bags of white chocolate morsels (of course, you can substitute other kinds of chocolate)
  • About 50 mini candy canes
  • Optional: Clear plastic candy bags and ribbon for packing (available at Wal-Mart, Target, craft stores and the like)
  1. Put the candy canes in a food processor and pulse until they’re busted into smithereens; pull out a couple of handfuls of the biggest pieces and set them aside. Leave the rest in the food processor bowl. Note: If you don’t have a food processor, or simply need an outlet for some pent-up rage, you can always put the candy canes in a big plastic zip-top bag and smash the hell out of them with something heavy like a rolling pin (or a lead pipe, depending on your lifestyle).
  2. Put the white chocolate morsels in a glass bowl and microwave for a minute and a half; stir. Then microwave for 20-second bursts, stirring in between each burst until they’re totally melted.
  3. Mix the peppermint chunks from the food processor into the melted chocolate.
  4. Pour the mixture onto a foil or waxed paper-lined cookie sheet (or you could even just use a sheet of foil on the table if you’re without a cookie sheet).
  5. Use a rubber spatula to spread it out evenly (it should be about ¼ inch thick).
  6. Sprinkle the larger chunks of candy cane pieces over the top.
  7. Wait until it’s completely hardened (about 30-60 minutes; speed things up by popping the cookie sheet in the fridge) and break the white chocolate into chunks. Pieces that are ragged and uneven add to the charm, otherwise it wouldn’t be called bark; it would be called Boring Squares of Chocolate.
  8. Stack the pieces in clear plastic candy bags and tie them with a ribbon. Or, pile them on a plate and use clear plastic wrap and a ribbon to wrap them up all purdy.
Makes enough to fill about three candy bags with a little left over for you to have at home.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Pecci Questionnaire

Whenever I pick up an issue of Vanity Fair, I always immediately flip to the back page to read the Proust Questionnaire, in which a celebrity or some other person of note answers 20 questions that might illuminate something about their character. Dolly Parton said if she could die and come back as one person or thing it would be a "big, fat hog so I could eat whatever I want." And Tina Fey said she considers "natural childbirth" the most overrated virtue.
It's fun, but I identify more with food. And so I present to you the Pecci Questionnaire, a food-related version of Proust’s parlor game. Play it during your holiday potluck:
 The Pecci Questionnaire
1.      What food gives you perfect happiness?
2.      What dish or ingredient do you most fear?
3.      Which famous chef do you most identify with?
4.      Whose cooking do you most admire?
5.      What eating habit do you most deplore in yourself?
6.      What eating habit do you most deplore in others?
7.      What food is your greatest extravagance?
8.      On what occasions are you dishonest about someone's cooking?
9.      If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
10.  What meal made you happiest and where did you eat it?
11.  What food will you never eat again?
12.  If you could change one thing about how you eat what would it be?
13.  What do you consider to be your finest culinary achievement?
14.  What food/meal is most overrated?
15.  What is your most treasured kitchen appliance/tool/utensil?
16.  What do you regard as a food punishment?
17.  How does food make you feel?
18.  What food do you most dislike?
19.  What would your last meal be?
20.  What is your cooking or eating motto?