What is it about a blustery day?

The wind, she was blowing right through my window this afternoon, rustling the curtains all playful-like and mischievous.  Papers were blowing from their places on the table, my dog was sniffing the air suspiciously...Autumn must surely be knocking!  Fingers crossed, anyway...the past several months have made for a real humdinger of a summer, and the season just keeps extending its stay like a shameless house guest.

Hoping to summon a temperature drop with Fall-friendly food, I recently prepared a batch of what I like to call Kitchen Sink Soup.  It's colorful, fresh, and beyond good for you.  Over the years I've sort of developed a basic recipe, but the great thing about it is that it can change according to whatever might be in the fridge or on the shelves at any given time.  Got some extra spears of asparagus lying around, or maybe one little lonely ear of corn lingering in that bottom drawer?  Don't know what to do with the 1/2 yellow pepper and 1/4 red onion left over from a salsa recipe you made a week ago?  Chop, and toss 'em in.  Scraps and odds-n-ends all welcome here.


1 large white onion
3 cloves garlic
1 carrot
1 celery stalk with leaves

-Chop all of above ingredients nice and small, and then sautee together with olive oil in a big soup pot until they get a little soft.

1 can low-sodium diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into smallish chunks
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried barley
1/2 cup dried lentils
7 or 8 cups vegetable broth, low-sodium if possible
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

-Add this second group of above ingredients and seasonings and bring to a boil! Let them bubble for a few minutes, then reduce heat and simmer until barley is cooked.

1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fresh kale, chopped

-Add these greens in last, since they tend to disintegrate when overcooked. Heat covered until soft, and then the soup is ready to serve with some bread. And perhaps a little fresh parsley sprig on top, if you're feeling fancy.



"Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,

Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,

Can you or I or anyone know

How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?"

Traditional British/American Folk Song



You know what I'm talking about.  I'm talkin' 'bout Lemonheads.  'Bout Peach Rings.  Redhots.  Now and Laters.  Dubble Bubble bubble gum.  And most importantly, these guys:

That's right, The Original Ferrara Pan Boston Baked Beans.  Some folks euphemistically refer to them as an "old-fashioned" candy or a "classic" candy, but the only thing that pops into my head when I see these is: "gas station" candy.  After all, prior to finding them at The Strand today, I had only purchased them or even seen them in gas stations.  Usually at the bottom of the rack, betwixt their "no frills" compatriots mentioned above, they live in small boxes and frequently go unnoticed.  Actually, I take that back--you see them every single time you guiltily peruse the cheap-o sweets aisle but you consistently pass them up, wondering who the hell actually buys those things anymore?

Well people, I'm here to admit: I do.  And I can't really tell you why.

  Perhaps it's the quaint red brick pattern on the box.  Perhaps it's because they're a sort of candy-wallflower...overlooked, under-appreciated, hidden in dusty corners.  I don't know.  I've just always liked them.

According to the box, they are candy coated peanuts whose ingredients include corn syrup and beeswax.  The food label states that you can chomp on 11 individual "beans" for a mere 70 calories, which isn't so bad.  But when I stop and think about what these things actually are, I have to say that I'm simultaneously fascinated and a little icked-out by their concept.  I mean, first of all, it's weird enough that beans=peanuts.  Secondly, baked beans are a real food, a side dish, traditionally enjoyed at barbecues and summer lunches out on the picnic table.  Did the inventor just REALLY EFFING NEED his baked beans on-the-go and available at convenience stores nationwide?  What's the logic there?

Boston Baked Beans are enigmatic, I guess. Conceptual confections. Next up: Candy Cole Slaw.



I figured I may as well begin this blog with dessert...and this Indian Rice Pudding that I made recently is one of my absolute favorites for a late summer day.  I found the recipe here:

Indian Rice Pudding

The belle of this concoction is one of my favorite spices, the warm and aromatic Cardamom.  Ahhh...one sniff of this freshly ground seasoning conjures images of some faraway land where the food is flavorful and simple, exotic yet comforting.  Cardamom can be found in an assortment of places, from ancient folk medicines to modern designer fragrances to the mass-produced Starbucks Chai Frappuccino...but in rice pudding I think it really finds its home, balancing the heaviness of the milk fat and the sweet tang of the golden raisins so harmoniously. 

Served chilled, this dessert is a lovely alternative to ice cream, gelato, or any other cold treat.  For this particular recipe, I also added a little cinnamon and nixed the pistachios.  The result is mildly sweet, creamy, and fatty to high heaven.  But the rice makes it healthy, right?



"Mom can we have pancakes or waffles or something like that for dinner tonight?" -Me, age 9.  Hopeful.

"Sure.  Make some." -Mom, tired dinner-maker. Pragmatist.

(A moment.  I'm thinking.)

"But I don't know how toooooOOO!!!" I wail.

"If you can read, you can cook," she replies.  The winner.

She got me every time.  How could I deny it?  She was so undoubtedly, unquestionably right.  Pure and simple.  FACT.  So what if I was nine years old?  Pff.  If I was already reading chapter books, then by golly I could read the label on a Bisquick box.  And so, my culinary career was born.

Learning to cook is a fundamental rite of passage...to live, one must eat; to eat, one must find and prepare food (or at least know how to order good takeout, I suppose).  Like daughters all around the world throughout history, I received my first cooking tip from my mom.  True, it was a mantra she drilled in my brain to save herself from having to sling pancakes every night, but it was also something she gave to me in the spirit of one of humanity's most time-honored traditions:  Mom-To-Daughter Food Knowledge.  Many a daughter out there touts a special recipe, like the sacred secrets behind her mother's prizewinning yogurt pound cake or beloved green bean casserole.  Or maybe a daughter inherited a physical relic, like the jello mold her mom received as a wedding gift from some wrinkly great-aunt back in the '70s.  HA!  Not this daughter.  The secret I received is so sinfully simple compared to the mysteries of some overwrought heirloom casserole:  just read the directions.  And then you can make anything you damn well please.

Turns out Mom was right...I've really taken that little tidbit of advice and built upon it.  I'm interested in what food means to me, to my family and friends, to Americans, and to the world.  I'm interested in recipes, in cooking, in sharing food with people I love.  Herbs, apple varieties, holiday feasts, meal etiquette, teatime, chopping techniques, you name it.  The sight of a well-stocked produce stand takes my breath away.  And I hope to record my experiments and experiences here, in this blog.

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