WND – The Day After St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

March 19, 2009


Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”  As with many things Oscar Wilde, this is both witty and true.  In my next life I aspire to being a professional aphorist.

Nothing will teach you to do, or not do, something quite as effectively as doing it and realizing half way through exactly how bad an idea it was.  That being said, there are a lot of stupid things I’ve done in the kitchen that I’d have been willing to take on faith as bad ideas rather than having to experience them for myself.  Out of idle curiosity I polled Dinner to find out what things they wish someone had told them not to do before they found out the hard way.  For a group of people with (collectively) an alarming amount of education, we did all seem to be a little short on common sense.  Mind you, this does add further proof to my theory that there is an inverse relationship between the quantity of higher education you have achieved and the amount of common sense you demonstrate.

– Don’t rub your eyes if you’ve just been chopping chilies.  The active compound that makes chilies spicy is capsaicin, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Capsaicin isn’t water soluble, so drinking water (or beer) or washing your hands won’t help diminish the burning sensation you get from a good spicy dish.  If you’re eating spicy food you’re better off drinking milk (or a tasty mango lassi) than water.  In theory soap will neutralize capsaicin, in practice I find that I can cook with chilies, eat dinner, wash the dishes and still taste the chili on my fingers four hours later.  You could try rinsing your hands in milk on the theory that if it relieves burning in your mouth it might help your hands too, but I’ve never actually tried this.  Usually I just suffer, sometimes silently, sometimes less so, it depends on how many paper cuts I had that day.

– You shouldn’t try to substitute skim milk for cream, not even when you’re young and foolish.

– Everyone has a tale to tell of mixer mishaps.  Make sure the beaters are in the batter before you turn on the mixer.  Don’t add all your powdered sugar at once and then turn on the mixer.  When you make Red Velvet Cake and it comes time to add the red food coloring, mix it in by hand rather than using the mixer.

– Food stains will wash off your hands a lot faster than they’ll wash off your counters or your clothes.


– Oven mitts are more useful when they don’t have holes.

– Folded kitchen towels are perfectly acceptable substitutes for official oven mitts, but only if they’re dry.  If they’re wet the water will conduct the heat from the pan and they’ll cease to be useful substitutes for oven gloves.

– Oven mitts are surprisingly flammable.

– Don’t fry the telephone cord.  Not that anyone I know (*cough* my mother *cough*) has ever done this.

– When you pour pureed soup from your blender into a bowl/pot, hold the blade in place or it will fall into your soup and spatter the soup all over you, the counter and the floor in the process.

– When you take a cast iron pan out of a 400 degree oven where it’s been for the last 20 minutes, the handle will be hot.  The handle will still be hot 10 minutes later when you turn around and need to move it.  I did realize this in time to not actually do it, but it was a near thing.

– Take the cardboard inserts out of a new oven before you try to cook anything.  I’d like to say that I’d never do this, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a brand new oven so I’m not sure I would have realized they came with cardboard inserts and it’s entirely possible I’d have turned it on to preheat without a second thought.  Also, what on earth are the cardboard inserts for?

– Don’t place a frozen pizza directly on the oven rack no matter what the directions say.  Apparently you can set the kitchen in your dorm on fire that way.  Not that Jes has any personal experience with this of course, or met any of her close friends this way.

Asparagus Soup
Spinach Pie
Roasted Beet Salad
Cheese/Cold Cuts

Asparagus Soup
I don’t do a lot of vegan cooking, mostly because I don’t know a lot of vegans.  However, this week one Dinner guest doesn’t eat non-kosher meat, and one Dinner guest is allergic to dairy and eggs (and a couple of other things that aren’t relevant to this particular Dinner).  There are a lot of vegetarian things that I make, and there are a lot of non-dairy things that I make.  There isn’t, however, a lot of overlap between those two categories.  I finally settled on a dinner that neither one of them could eat all of, but both of them could eat enough of that their plates would be full.

As a felicitous by-product, it is also a dinner which is charmingly Springy, which matches the perfectly stunning day we had yesterday.  I went out at lunch and almost didn’t go back to work.

Recipe previously given:    The Perils of Scurvy
* I left the cream out so that the soup was entirely dairy-free, and substituted vegetable stock for chicken stock.


Spinach Pie
(serves 6-8 )

Zest of 1 lemon
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup parmesan
6 Tbsp cream or milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with the lemon zest.

Beat the eggs lightly.  Squeeze the spinach to remove as much excess water as you can and then add to the eggs.  Add all the other ingredients, and stir to combine.

Pour the filling into the pie crust, and bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes until the filling is set.  Allow to cool slightly before slicing.  Can be served warm, or cold.


Roasted Beet Salad
(serves 6-8 )
I’m a sucker for cute vegetables.  I went up to Wilson Farms this weekend to get my weekly allotment of fruits and vegetables, and even though I don’t really love them I was irresistibly drawn to the tiny golden baby beets on display.  Continuing my sporadic pursuit of a greater appreciation for beets, and because my roommate really likes them, I bought a couple of bunches and roasted the beets and sautéed the greens for our dinner on Tuesday.  The beets still tasted like beets, but they were tiny and jewel-like on the plate, and a nice contrast with the slight spicy kick of the beet greens.

On Wednesday I was doing some last minute futzing on epicurious for another non-dairy, non-meat dish to serve at Dinner and was seduced by the thought of jewel toned beets tossed with crisp fennel and juicy oranges.  I couldn’t find any baby beets Downtown (10 more weeks until the farmer’s market opens again), so I made do with regular grown up beets.  Possibly it wasn’t quite as cute as it would have been with baby beets, but the salad was still vibrant and colorful and tasty.


3 bunches mixed beets – baby beets if you can find them, regular beets if not
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3+ oranges (1 zested)
1 pear
1-2 tsp honey (depending on taste)
3-4 Tbsp Olive oil
(Rice Wine Vinegar/White Wine Vinegar – optional)
Mint, roughly chopped

If you can find baby beets, trim the greens and then toss the beets with a little bit of olive oil and roast in a tightly covered pan for 15-20 minutes.  If you have larger beets you can either roast them the same way, but for 45-60 minutes.  Or, if you’re pressed for time, you can peel them, dice them, toss them with some olive oil, salt & pepper and roast them in a tightly covered pan for 20-30 minutes.

While the beets are roasting, thinly slice the fennel, section the oranges, and slice the pear.


Whisk together honey, orange zest, 2-3 Tbsp of orange juice and the olive oil to make a light dressing.  Add more orange juice or vinegar depending on taste.

Toss all together with the chopped mint.


One comment

  1. […] Recipe previously given: The Day After St. Patrick’s Day Dinner […]

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