Wednesday Sweets

A moderately slow day at work compounded by total boredom with the pithy sugar offerings around the office meant just one thing: let’s see what’s in the Walgreen’s candy aisle!

There’s always something new in the candy aisle. That’s what makes it so fun. Well, that and all the candy! I love checking out the newest incarnation of a snicker’s bar, or the latest take on Take 5. It’s new, it’s old, it’s all going to give me diabetes.

I found something both old and new. Behold the Necco Old-Fashioned Cream Drop. There was a lot appealing here. Necco is the oldest candy company in America, with its “only nostalgia could keep me alive” Necco wafer. The multi-colored throwback disc that supposedly boasts flavors from orange to clove to wintergreen, but really only tastes like stale. But wafers aside, I appreciate things old-timey, and this bag had Old-Fashioned actually written on the package (which makes me wonder, has the candy been called “Old-fashioned” since their inception? During what era were they the
result of some confectionary epiphany? I bet Marc Summers could tell me).

Right, so, Old-Fashioned Cream Drop. No clue as to what this was going to taste like. I assumed there might be some orange essence, as I’m inclined to judge a candy by its package, but nothing in the ingredients could confirm that. Just sugar on sugar. Noted.

They’re about the size of a small walnut. Here’s a pic with a miniature penguin, you know, for scale.

Taking the bisected view, it’s a little Haystack Rock-reminiscent, The contemplative frog agrees.

And how does it taste? I can’t really tell you. I took one bite, and though it seemed reminiscent of something, I was hesitant to investigate further because I was getting word from my pancreas that there wasn’t enough insulin in the greater San Francisco area to counteract another bite. Holy Sugar.

I’ve now left the bag for my co-workers to enjoy. I hope HR doesn’t come track me down for sending everyone off the rails.

(edit: after some reflective time, I remember what the damn things remind me of. Easter candy. Not peeps or jelly beans, but the other candy that was opaque and molded into soft shapes of bunnies and chicks and tulips. The assumedly cheap stuff that was there to fill up the basket. The stuff you wouldn’t actually eat unless you were a candy-deprived child who relished each morsel of sugar-centric holidays in the hopes that the candy could actually be there year-round. Um, thank god that wasn’t me?)


Guilt makes good food.

Oh, the joy. I picked up my first CSA box of the year last Wednesday night, and though I had a couple nights of pizza weakness, it felt really good to be cooking again. I had actually missed that tinge of guilt I felt every time I opened the fridge. “Damn it, I have to do something with that chard” or “Right, there’s cauliflower. Not going to make soup and not going to roast it. Something new.”

Over the weekend I attended Cook Here and Now, Marco Flavio’s brilliantly successful cooking group, where we gather to cook and eat together. He chooses a theme ingredient, plus some additional produce notes for seasonal inspiration. This month was legumes plus root veggies. It was another cold, rainy day in a series of cold, rainy days and multiple plates of stews, dals and the like seemed pretty perfect.

I signed up for a lentil appetizer, and though I had visions of fried chickpea cakes in my mind initially, I changed the plan when I came across a recipe for Umbrian Lentil Stew with Olive-Oil Fried Eggs in this month’s Food and Wine. I made it for dinner (win), but decided to omit the eggs and somehow adapt it into an appetizer. Stew as app, it was a challenge.

But innovation came with the root veggie mandate. I took my cue from the Alice Water’s recipe I’d tried a few months ago, where all it takes to make turnips tasty is a little salt, a little butter and a pan. I turned the ‘nips into squares, browned them, chilled them, and called ‘em Turnip Toast.

I had a lot of lentils left over. Come Monday dinner, there they were in the fridge, alongside the CSA remains I had yet to get to. Though the prospect of continuing a somewhat sedate weekend was really compelling, I did the right thing. I put in a load of laundry, and I got to prepping some chard. Simple sautéed chard with super-fresh shallots in a bowl with some lentil stew and topped with, well, an olive-oil fried egg.

It was a really good bowl of food. I didn’t fully expect it to be. But there was something about this confluence of earthy flavors that felt particularly comforting with the storm outside. The crisp edges of the fried egg, the buttery softness of the spilling yellow into the bowl, the meaty bite of the lentils (helped by a little prociutto), and some red chard rounding it all out with a toothy, green bite. Not bad for leftovers.


Sprouts done right

It's that time of year when CSA's are just coming back from hiatus, where spring produce hasn't yet hit, and when root vegetables aren't quite as comforting and exciting as they were about five months ago. And the novelty of all the different cauliflowers in the rainbow has long since worn off. Cruciferous is as cruciferous does.

While the produce waiting game continues, I tend to fall back on old favorites. There's my go-to kasha pilaf, the inevitable pasta with scallops and peas, and, of course, Brussel Sprouts with Bacon. It's a recipe I've perfected over the years, it's easy in prep and satisfying to eat. Hell, all I need is a pint of sprouts, two strips of bacon and a shallot or two and I've got dinner. It's comfort food of an entirely different stripe, in that I can make it without thinking and that it tastes the same as it always does. I like that it straddles the line between really good and really bad for you. Brussels Sprouts. Bacon. You can't go wrong.

1 pint brussels sprouts
2-3 slices thick cut bacon
3 shallots, chopped
1-2 T butter
1/3 C seasoned breadcrumbs.

1. In a large uncovered sauce pan, start to cook the bacon over medium heat.

2. While the bacon cooks, bring a medium pot of salted water to boil.
Prep the sprouts by cutting off bottom stem and remove outer leaves.
Cut each sprout in half lengthwise. Once the water is boiling, blanch
the sprouts for about 2-3 minutes, depending on size. They should
still look vibrantly green, but just a little softened. Drain the

3. When bacon is done, remove to a paper towel, leaving the rendered
fat behind. Cook the chopped shallots in bacon fat.

4. When the shallots are edging towards brown, add the blanched
sprouts and toss to coat. Dust with the breadcrumbs and, if desired,
use tongs to arrange the sprouts cut-side down. Makes for a good
crunchy texture.

5. Add butter and cook covered over medium heat 5-10 minutes,
occaisionally shaking the pan to stave off burning. In the meantime,
cut the reserved bacon into 1/4" strips.

6. When sprouts are cooked to your liking, mix the bacon in with the
sprouts. A little salt, a little pepper, and sprouts have never had it
so good.