WND – Things I Fail to Understand

May 28, 2009

cucumber peel

I had something different that I was going to write this week, about Whole Foods and comment cards, and how they’re both similar and dissimilar to the napkin notes we used to leave for Dining Services in college.  But, it stubbornly refuses to come to a graceful conclusion, so instead I give you a random collection of grievances and observations, and other food related things I read on a regular basis.

Things I fail to understand –

– The entire concept of Tofu Wellington with shitake “bacon” (air quotes not actually mine, but well deserved nonetheless).

– People who scratch themselves in public.  I’m not talking about a discrete rub along your thigh, or leaning down to get at that mosquito bite on your ankle.  I’m talking hand down the front of your sweatpants for a solid five minute scratch in the middle of the grocery store.  I stood in the longer checkout line even though I was in a hurry just so that I wouldn’t have to touch anything that he might have touched after his luxurious personal grooming session in the baking goods aisle.

– How the two grocery stores in my town can be less than a mile apart and yet have such radically different clientele.  Nobody at the Stop-n-Shop would stick their hand down their pants to have a scratch (yes, I’m pretty sure it was scratching, not fondling), and yet somehow at the Food Master I was horrified but not actually terribly surprised.

– Why my grocery store only carries stockings in AAA size, and in dark tan.  Does nobody else want to buy stockings?  And not look like they have a particularly egregious fake tan?  No, I’m not Dolly Parton in “Steel Magnolias”.  I regularly leave the house without lycra on these thighs, just not in the middle of winter.  And apparently this year May 27th qualifies as winter in Massachusetts since it was 53 degrees, my heat came on, and I had to put blankets back on my bed.

– Why pita bread is always stocked in front of the deli counter instead of with all the other bread products.  Is it special somehow?  Being ostracized for having a pocket?  Is it too ethnic to coexist with the English muffins despite being made by the same company?  I somehow tend to think that anything that I used to take to school 20-mumblety years ago for lunch no longer qualifies as exotic.

– The feckless youth of Arlington who hang out in front of the Starbucks.  Well, actually I do understand them, when I was a feckless youth I hung out in the McDonalds in downtown Geneva, or the Pizza Hut if we were feeling classy.  I just like saying feckless youth.

Food related things I’m reading –

Cook’s Illustrated Skillet Cookbook – So far I’ve tried the pizza in a skillet (so easy, so tasty), and I want to try the coconut chicken & rice dish and at least one of the recipes where you cook the pasta in the sauce in the skillet.  I’m still debating whether I want to buy it, or just photocopy interesting looking sections.

Georgia on my Thighs – A trained chef is working her way through Paula Dean’s oeuvre with bemusement, respect and a sense of humor.  Although, I disagree with her about needing to add things to grits, I think they’re just perfect with a pat of butter and plenty of salt & pepper.

Dave Lebovitz – He’s one of the doyens of the American pastry world.  He worked at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters for 20 something years, and then started writing cook books.  In 2002 he up and moved to Paris and has a blog about food and living in France.  I’ll be honest, it’s a food blog but I’m not reading it for the recipes.  I’m reading it for the parts about living in France, because he’s got a great eye for the triumphs and trials of living in France and writes about it with affection and humor.  I recommend the Parisian Culture tag, under which my very favorite entry is “WTF – Welcome to France”

Cake Wrecks – because who can resist something that’s subtitled “When Professional Cakes Go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong”?

Chicken/Lamb Kebabs
Grilled Lemons
Watermelon Salad

Chicken/Lamb Kebabs
In deference to the half of Dinner that roundly rejects the notion that grilled lamb chops are the most perfect meal in the world I made both chicken and lamb kebabs.

I also borrowed a second stove top grill pan from friends so that all of the grilled things would be done and hot at the same time, and so that we could eat before 10 o’clock at night.

kebab composite

Apologies in advance for the highly unscientific proportions.  For each zip lock bag of marinade combine:

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4-1/3 cup Olive oil
1-2 springs Rosemary, leaves stripped from stem

To one bag add 2 lb chicken breast, cut into 1” cubes.

To the other bag add 2 lb lamb*, trimmed of fat and cut into 1” cubes.

Coat the meat with the marinade, and allow to rest overnight in the fridge.

* I asked the butcher at Whole Foods what the best cut of lamb for making kebabs was, and he suggested either shoulder or leg.  If you can get your lamb already deboned your life will be so much easier.

If you’re using wooden skewers soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before you start to assemble the kebabs.  If you’re using metal skewers, ignore that instruction.  Metal skewers are unlikely to catch fire on the grill, and if they do your meat is probably overdone.

s- chicken kebabs - cooking
What you put on your kebabs is a matter of taste.  However, I would suggest some combination of:

Tomatoes (cherry or grape)
Red Peppers
Zucchini/Yellow Squash (Summer Squash?  I never know what they’re called)
Onions (pearl are nice, but chunks will work too)

You can either make all meat and all vegetable skewers in deference to the fact that meat and vegetables cook at different rates, or you can throw caution to the wind and embrace the aesthetic appeal of alternating your meat and vegetables.

I put about 3 chunks of meat on each skewer, and alternate with vegetables.  I figure on about 2 skewers per person, and then I make a couple more just to be on the safe side.

kebab plate close up

Grilled Lemons

Recipe previously given:  Paean to Summer Vegetables

This is conceivably the easiest thing you will ever make.

1-2 cucumbers (depending on size)
1 clove garlic, minced fine
2-3 cups Greek yogurt*
1-2 Tbsp dill, minced
Olive oil

Peel and grate the cucumber(s).  Place them in a colander lined with paper towels (or cheese cloth if you have such a thing handy) and allow to drain for a couple of hours/over night.

grated cucumber

Mix together the grated & drained cucumber, minced garlic, dill, and Greek yogurt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil just before serving (mostly this is decorative, but can you really go wrong with more olive oil?)

* If you can’t find Greek yogurt you can make your own.  Line a strainer with several layers of paper towels (or cheese cloth) and place it over a bowl.  Scoop a 32oz container of plain yogurt (any kind except no fat) into the strainer and allow to drain overnight in the fridge.  The next day turn the drained yogurt into a bowl, peel the paper towels/cheese cloth away, and voila you have Greek yogurt**.

I came across a recipe for making my own pita bread the other day.  I gave about 90 seconds worth of thought to the idea of actually making pita bread for Dinner this week before discarding the idea as far more work than necessary.  Which isn’t to say I’d turn away a sample of homemade pita bread if someone felt compelled to try the recipe.

Smitten Kitchen – Pita Bread

pita bread

Watermelon Salad

Recipe previously given:  The Beauty of Chaos

watermelon salad



  1. I have trouble visualizing you as a feckless youth. But I am willing to be disabused of this lack of vision.

    • Well the feckless youth of Arlington aren’t really all that feckless either – although they do display a somewhat suspect taste in clothing. Mostly they just hang around in groups outside the Starbucks and make us feel terribly old as we walk by on our way to dinner.

  2. I’ve also often wondered about the pita-in-front-of-the-deli-counter thing. And I’ll add a further question: If it’s not going to be in the bread aisle, why isn’t it at least somewhere near the hummus? In my grocery store the hummus and the pita are on absolute opposite sides of the store. It’s incredibly annoying. Though this may not actually still be true, since the Shaw’s in Porter seems to get randomly rearranged every 6 months to a year or so, for no apparent reason. They seem to do it the minute I start to actually remember where things are located.

  3. […] Tzatziki Recipe previously given: Things I Fail to Understand […]

  4. […] Recipe previously given: Things I Fail to Understand […]

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