In my ongoing quest to make my gastronomical preferences and critiques well-known…
“DomiNO’s: They put the “NO” in pizza.”
In my ongoing quest to make my gastronomical preferences and critiques well-known…
“DomiNO’s: They put the “NO” in pizza.”
Never Buy Chocolate From France
Last year, my cousin Wynona went to Europe. When she stopped in France, she spent a fortune buying candy and treats for friends and family. She hadn’t traveled much and wanted to get everyone something to commemorate her experiences outside of the U.S.
Surprisingly, she sent me some chocolate. She included a note to inform me that France was famous for its chocolatiers and confectioneries. (She doesn’t get out much, it seems.) She later sent me a t-shirt from Germany, one missing the right sleeve.
Whether she did so as a joke or not, I’m not sure, but one of the bags she sent me looked exactly like a bag of Hershey’s Kisses. Each candy was foil-wrapped and shaped vaguely like a pyramid, too. The writing was French, though. I hoped she hadn’t spent money on a common chocolate without realizing it. I put the bag in the pantry and forgot about it, as I was trying to avoid consumption of large amounts of treats and unhealthy foods.
A week or so later, I was craving something sweet. I pulled out my cousin Wynona’s bag of candy, opened it, and went to sit on the couch to watch a little TV.
I opened the first Kiss and threw it into my gaping mouth, letting it melt instead of chewing furiously on it.
After a few seconds, I felt something rub against my tongue, like a faint tickle. After another few seconds, it felt like a worm was brushing against the inside of my lip and on the tip of my tongue.
I leaned over the coffee table and spit it out without thinking. In the melted mass of chocolate was a wriggling bit of something which definitely looked like a worm.
“Gross!” I hollered.
Since my friend JoJo speaks fluent French, I grabbed the bag of candy and the melted piece expelled from my mouth and drove over to her house.
When I arrived, we exchanged pleasantries and then I told her about the candy and the ‘worm’ in the chocolate.
When I handed her the original bag that resembled a U.S. version of Hershey’s Kisses, JoJo burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny, JoJo? I think I ate a worm or something.” I’m not sure why, but her levity irritated me a little bit.
“X, read right here,” JoJo said, pointing to the bag.
“That’s a piece of tongue in the candy. After all, they are FRENCH Kisses.”
Over the last couple of months, I have eaten a lot fewer calories but have paradoxically tried so many new flavors. I’ve always been a spice and sauce person but it’s been amazing ingesting a metric ton of new flavors. Only in the presence of fresh french fries have I felt slightly cheated; otherwise, I think of all the people around me who aren’t trying all these crazy spices and flavors – and feel pity. Eating differently has opened my eyes to an entire buffet of weirdness.
My friend Jackie gave me a jar of tomato achaar, an Indian condiment made with a base of tomatoes. I paused for a moment of silence when I tried it, reflecting on the part of my life I lived without knowingly trying its deliciousness. This led me back to variations of tikka masala and curry and experimenting with my own versions of pico de gallo, which is quite possibly the closest approximation to the gods ever devised. There are a couple of local Mexican restaurants which probably want to ban me for picketing for more pico de gallo. They can keep the entrée or throw it out if they’ll just give me an entire bucket of pico.
Hidden Valley makes a sauce mix flavored as spinach & artichoke which is incredible on almost anything. Weirdly, I’ve never used it as directed. It could be a floor cleaner for all I know. McCormick expanded its selection by a factor of 10. There are so many versions of wasabi, horseradish, chipotle, garlic and lemon and lime spices that I’ve often started weeping with joy, which startles other Wal-Mart shoppers.
My wife Dawn either says, “Mmmmm” in admiration of the smells wafting through the house or “Gross,” as the concoctions I’m ingesting causes her eyes to water or her nose to collapse in on itself in horror.
At this point, I can only assume that some of the neighbors are convinced I’m perfecting a new recipe for meth, one punctuated by new flavors. Since I bought a new stove with a different oven in part to be able to cook more conveniently, it is possible that if the police are using thermal imaging to surveil me in my alleged drug lab, they too are convinced. During the hottest parts of summer, I’ve used the oven almost every day, even when the roof was about to spontaneously combust.
Until a large hole opens in my abdomen from the complex craziness of all these flavors, I’ll take it as a sign of optimism.
By the way, I’m still a terrible cook with a vulgar palate. But I’m smiling. I can see why people risked getting in boats attempting to find shorter trade routes to India.
The spice must flow, indeed.
In a weird twist, my favorite fruit and vegetable stand, operated by an older gentleman named Jim (who I’ve written about before), accepts credit cards and now has a Facebook page. (Link at bottom…) Anyone who hasn’t included him on their routes is missing out.
I stopped in today for just a watermelon and departed with tomatoes, a cantaloupe, watermelon, and cucumbers. Once home, I made a plate of cut tomatoes, with a dash of red wine vinegar, curry, Tajin, and a few sprinkles of mozzarella. I’d tell you how good it was, but I would have to slap you for knowing how much I enjoyed it. PS: I ate basil, garlic and onion tomatoes for breakfast, directly from the can. I sprinkled them with Tajin and lemon pepper. I noted that people around me experienced burning eyes and dripping noses but the symptoms seemed to dissipate a few hours later.
I’ve discovered that I love roasted chickpeas. Just to be obstinate, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of roasted items. I made roasted black beans over the weekend. Last week, I bought a new stove with the intention of using it until it catches fire. I do most of the cooking, but my wife Dawn is by far the better cook. Being ignorant of what is supposed to work is half the fun for me. Most of the things I prepare for myself probably fall under the category of “chemical weapons” as far as she’s concerned. I’ve started rating her reactions based on the duration of her eye rolls once she sees what nonsense I’ve been preparing.
To appease my bottomless potato chip and french fry hunger, I’ve been making sliced potatoes in the oven a lot lately. Over the weekend, I made a marinade of sesame sauce and curry. I almost needed CPR it was so delicious. It’s true that the cat almost vomited when he smelled it, but I doubt cats are accustomed to catching sesame-curry mice in their native fields.
I’ve always known how much more I prefer the spices and sauces to the actual entrée, but it’s getting a little ridiculous. At some point, you can expect to find me dipping strips of cardboard into 23 little separate dipping bowls.
I did grill over the weekend. I discovered that there is a word for ‘lazy vegetarian,’ too. The word is “Reducetarian.” Dawn and I are quite fascinated with white meat ground turkey breast. It’s great in everything. Yesterday, I substituted almost all the white ground turkey with roasted corn I prepared in the new oven and tomatoes for my half of the dish.
In case I forget, if you don’t know what “Tajin” is or the incredible taste it can add to both fruit and vegetables, I would recommend it to anyone interested in trying something new. You can get it in single-serving packets or larger bottles. Start with the “Clásico” variety.
The prancing cat has nothing to do with my commentary. But everyone likes prancing cats.
Robinson Farms (< Click for link.)
Expert Cooking Advice From X Teri, Noted Chef
As a noted expert in the field of cooking, I’ve figured out the whole “Roasted Cucumber Slices” thing.
I made some today with lemon juice and Tajín. Dawn at least tried them when I said, “They evoke the taste of fried green tomatoes.” She popped one in her mouth and immediately puckered up. She then reminded me she doesn’t like fried green tomatoes. I’m glad Fannie Flagg is still alive, otherwise, my wife’s reaction would have earned her a downgrade in reputation.
If you’re interested, I deviate wildly from most of the recommended websites in regards to roasted cucumber slices. Some sites recommend low temperatures such as 170 for longer times. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
First, heat the oven to at least 400. Spray a metal cooking sheet with your favorite cooking spray.
As much as I love parchment paper, you don’t need it for this unless your cucumbers are more desiccated than the mouth of a starving vampire.
(Real men will note that they should use axle grease for the cooking sheet. But on the other hand, real men don’t know how to cook roasted cucumber slices: it’s in the rule book under “No.”)
Before putting the seasoned cucumber slices on the pan, heat it in the oven for 3-4 minutes. You should also count to 180 in a foreign language while you wait. It won’t help you cook any better, but it will give you a pretentious air necessary to be regarded as a “good cook.” (And not the “Breaking Bad” kind of cook, either, no matter how pretty Blue Ice is in the summer sunlight.
I prefer using smaller cucumbers. Wash them but don’t peel them. Only people who think limited-edition collector’s plates peel their cucumbers. Just don’t do it. Slice the cucumbers into very thin slices. You shouldn’t need an electron microscope, so don’t fret about how thick they might be. Whatever you think “thinly sliced” means, do that.
So help me god, if anyone mentions using a mandoline to slice the cucumbers, I will come to your house and shave the hindquarters of your favorite pet. Mandolines are simply not permitted in American households. If you have one, please stop reading now, get your mandolin from the kitchen, then throw it out the back door wherever you live.
For additional points, chop as quickly as humanly possible. Try to do it like that android on the “Alien” movie did the knife trick around fingers. Professional chefs worry too much about safety in the kitchen. We’ve been eating for thousands of years and no one has gotten seriously injured yet. Note from the lawyers: that last statement is false, so unless you are Republican, ignore that last part.
In a bowl, (the slices – not you), splash the slices with lemon juice as if you are doing a Catholic mass on Saturday morning. Add whatever seasoning you wish: curry powder, lemon pepper, Tajín, cheese sprinkles. If you aren’t sure, try it on there. Cucumbers are cheaper than opinions at a NASCAR rally.
Place the cucumber slices on a single level on the warm cooking sheet. Do not make neat rows or patterns when you do this. It annoys normal people to see neatly arranged things we’re all going to eat anyway.
Put the pan in the oven. (Where else would you put it?)
Don’t do anything for 10 -14 minutes. At 10-14 minutes, keep a cautious eye on the slices. They will turn from almost crispy and tinged with brown to flaming to the ceiling if you blink too long. Personally, I love almost everything even if it is burned. But for you normal people out there, you need to be cautious. Except for the pyros: you guys can set the oven for 500 and leave it for 4 days if you want. (You only live once.)
One thing you need to understand about roasted cucumbers slices is that they simply don’t taste the same once heated and dried. If you take the time to make these and anyone in your family refuses to try them or appreciate the effort, borrow a gun if necessary and repeat your request that they at least try these delicious slices of heaven. Fire a warning shot if you don’t notice a dramatic increase in enthusiasm as your loved ones stuff their faces with these things.
As a bonus, if you make them as I indicate, they are very low in calories.
You’ll note that your life is suddenly awash with happiness and peace. It’s an inevitable change once you start following my cooking advice. 450 Ukrainian diplomats can’t be wrong.
PS: If you don’t trust me, you can Google recipes for these yourself. Be warned, though. There are a LOT of weirdos on the internet these days, some of whom are masquerading as good cooks.
This post will be of interest to those who cook or watch TV, and probably even those weirdos who cook while watching – and perhaps even Peeping Toms who watch those who do either or both. I think I’ve covered the potential fan base of this post adequately, except to remind you to stop cooking in the nude.
Comedian Aziz Ansari’s second season of “Master of None” is on Netflix. It’s one of the most genuinely comedic shows I’ve watched in a long time. It also connects on a deeper level, pinging a depth of emotion and shared experiences that’s difficult for most shows to approach. The nuances are clouded inside a veneer of comedy but I find this to be the case with most shows that I appreciate.
While watching the latest season, I laughed like a diseased jackal when I heard that they too had a recipe for “Newport Potatoes,” a recipe that my mom perfected through countless meals in my youth.
Here’s the recipe for Newport Potatoes: use the regular mashed potatoes recipe, except ensure that a careless and/or drinking chain smoker is in the room and involved in making the potatoes. They’re called “Newport Potatoes” due to the popular Newport cigarettes. My mom tended to make “Winston Potatoes,” though.
(Note: At one point, Newport cigarettes accounted for almost 1/2 of all African-American cigarette sales. I loathe including true facts in my posts, but this one was interesting enough to warrant a detour from my usual tomfoolery.)
So, as I often warn people, check your potatoes before eating, to ensure that it’s black pepper in the spuds instead of cigarette ash. (Not that cigarette ash tastes bad or causes gastric distress.)
Johnny Cascone’s Italian finally reeled us in Springdale yesterday. We skipped all the known eateries along I-49 and decided to try a new local option. It’s in the old Waffle Hut location. Even though it has been renovated, it is strange to have a place there worthy of attention. Waffle Hut used to get a lot of questionable business, but many dreams of good food died in that building, one plate of eggs and cigarette ash-covered hash browns at a time. Had Johnny Cascone’s not rescued it, the place could have served as a filming location for the Walking Dead without any modification. It takes an intrepid restaurateur to look at the Waffle Hut building and think, “That would be ideal for a place to serve food to other humans.” But they have wonderfully succeeded and I hope they do well in their chosen location.
Dawn tried the chicken parmigiana and I had the chicken carchovi, which is sautéed artichoke hearts in white wine sauce over charbroiled chicken breast and spaghetti. We had the spinach-artichoke dip as an appetizer. The artichokes and strips of pepper in the dip were delicious. I didn’t even care if my plate had chicken on it, as my sights were set on an inhuman portion of artichokes – and they delivered. Our French waiter Genaro made it interesting, as he speaks five languages, including Albanian. I couldn’t help but notice how much the other gentleman reminded me of Ray Romano – maybe I shouldn’t have used my outside voice to mention it.
Here’s a link to the menu: Johnny Cascone’s Menu
It’s not pricey when you compare the entire menu against the competition, especially the seafood portion. For the restaurant’s size, the menu is surprisingly varied.
PS: Order a dipping sauce (or two) from below the appetizer menu to enjoy the complementary rolls served before the meal. Not that most of you would think about it, but Cascone’s is an ideal place to eat vegetarian if you want. For an Italian place, they have a big selection of non-meat menu items.
As always, give it a try yourself, regardless of what you’ve heard or not heard. It’s nice to not drive far to enjoy great food here in Springdale.
I was challenged to write a review without resorting to my usual billion words or pithy catchphrases to express my opinion. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the most succinct review I’ve ever posted to social media. (Above)
When I posted this one on social media, I was reluctant, as I had recently went to Jose’s for a group birthday celebration. It’s tough being critical when the purpose of a get-together is to to enjoy the company of others. Telling someone “No, I don’t like that place” isn’t a great way to cement a relationship with people. Too bad. We need a code word or action, such as me pretending that I’m dying of diarrhea, to signal a complete lack of enthusiasm for a place while simultaneously saying “Yes” to getting together.