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Pumpkinseed's Profile

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Roche Bros. Downtown Crossing?

I've never been to that section during "prime time" (lunchtime), so I can't comment on the crowds. However, I did stop there this morning on the way to work to pick up salad from the salad bar for lunch and what I noticed was that not every compartment was labeled. When the item on display was simple and self-evident to identify (sliced mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, for example) it wasn't a problem, but there were some more complex salads that were unmarked.

I must say, though, that a staff member who was tidying up the salad bar (and it was neat & clean!) was able to identify the unmarked items properly.

This hardly counts as "chaos," but a bit of a lapse, for sure.

Roche Bros. Downtown Crossing?

I checked out the new Downtown Crossing Roche Bros. on opening day and dropped in again yesterday. I usually find multi-level supermarkets annoying, so I went in with a chip on my shoulder, but I must say I was very impressed by this store. It's intelligently and attractively laid out, well-staffed by knowledgeable and courteous folks, and carries a nice mix of fancy stuff and down-to-earth groceries. I work in the neighborhood and I can see myself stopping in regularly on my way home from work.

October 2014 COTM "The Book of Jewish Food" reporting thread for recipes in 'The Ashkenazi World', pages 58-202.

In the Ashkenazic section of the book, I have always liked the Yellow Split Pea Soup with Frankfurters. I've made it with plain old hot dogs and also with sausages. Either way, it's a satisfying winter soup. It looks reasonably attractive, too; the yellow color is augmented by carrots.

Kasha kasha

I was once served tabbouli made with kasha instead of bulgur wheat. It was wonderful. It had all the parsley/mint/lemon flavor of tabbouli with extra depth that came from the kasha.

Also, I know it's supposedly a one-way ticket to cardiac arrest, but a number of times I have made kasha with chicken schmaltz instead of oil. It really makes a difference, in a good way.

Dec 23, 2013
Pumpkinseed in Kosher

Sexist meat thermometer

My mother had a friend whose idea of preparing a meal was ordering a deli tray. The one thing she "cooked" was pineapple rings encased in Jello for dessert. Mostly using red Jello. She was very proud of this dessert.

Every single time she served it, she would ask my mother (who of course told her how creative and delicious this dessert was) if she would like the recipe. This is how I know my mother is a saint: She always, always said yes. And then she would listen politely while her friend recited every detail of creating this marvel.

What's the 'best' way to navigate guests food preferences when hosting?

When I invite people for dinner, I always ask, "Do you have any allergies, aversions or principles I should know about?" Then I do my best to accommodate. When people thank me for being considerate (and they do!) I say, "It's like writing a sonnet. The artistry comes from the limitations."

I didn't used to ask. Then one time I served chicken and potatoes cooked in with the chicken and a guest turned out to be vegetarian and all she could eat was salad and dessert. I felt terrible, especially since I am a perfectly competent vegetarian cook, and at the very least could have prepared a meal with a vegetarian option or two in addition to the chicken.

My guest said that she hadn't mentioned being vegetarian because she "didn't want to be any trouble." Since then, I do my best to find out in advance.

Occasionally, the combination of personal needs is a bit of a head-scratcher. Mostly it works out fine.


My understanding is that the hard & glossy coated peanut variety are "botnim Amerika'im," ("American peanuts"). The ones with the puffy layer are kabukim.

Kabukim may be kinder to your dental work, but I prefer the flavor and texture of botnim Amerika'im. And yes, they are harder to find.

Jun 12, 2013
Pumpkinseed in Kosher

any good kosher chinese in boston/brookline?

Thoughts on Cafe Eilat: The food is barely acceptable and the ambience is one step up from squalor.

May 02, 2013
Pumpkinseed in Kosher

Middle Eastern for dinner

I chanced on Babylon last summer during a visit to the National Park in Lowell. It was the best part of the day!

Your best tried and true CANNED beans recipes, please

If you are interested in Indian flavors, google "chana masaledar madhur jaffrey" and you will find a wonderful recipe that uses canned chick peas,

I have made it countless times (usually tripling or quadrupling the recipe) and everyone loves it, even non-adventurous eaters.

Jan 10, 2013
Pumpkinseed in Home Cooking

Food Jokes

The way I heard this joke, the setup is that the old Jewish guy (or Ollie, if you prefer) has not been feeling well and is sure he's dying. He doesn't eat; he doesn't drink; he's depressed and miserable. His wife gives him an enthusiastic pep talk: "Don't worry! You're fine! Don't talk this way! You'll live a good long life."

He cheers up and says, "You know, you're right. I'm even feeling a little better. You know what I'd like to have? A little bit of that cherry strudel that you have in the freezer."

She says, "You can't have any; I'm saving it for the shiva."

Dec 14, 2012
Pumpkinseed in Not About Food

Zip's Diner

Just stopped there yesterday returning to Boston after Thanksgiving weekend in NYC. The food was unexceptional, but I loved the authentic diner setting, the cheerful atmosphere and the friendly service. Also, it looks like the kind of place that could be crusted in grease, but it is spotlessly clean. All in all, a very endearing place. I also love the way it's a relic of the past smack in the midst of soulless strip malls and big box stores. I'd be happy to go back again.

Food Jokes

Here's the version I know, equally appealing to the grammar-school sensibility, and evidently meant to be sung to the same tune. I learned it from the kids at a camp where I was a counselor in the mid-70's:

McDonald's is my kind of place
They fry rattlesnakes.
The last time I was there
They fried my underwear.
I do not care!
It was my dirty pair.
McDonald's is my kind of place.

Nov 14, 2012
Pumpkinseed in Not About Food

Egg Slicer?

I got an egg slicer that looks just like the one in the Amazon link above at least five years ago. It was a gift and came from Williams Sonoma. It's like a tough little truck parked in the gadget drawer; it's all metal, weighs a ton and has been a joy to use. The link to the Amazon product includes complaints about broken wires, but I haven't had a speck of trouble.

May 10, 2012
Pumpkinseed in Cookware

Looking for a non-kugel, make-ahead potato side dish to serve with brisket

Do let me know how it comes out!

Apr 02, 2012
Pumpkinseed in Kosher

Looking for a non-kugel, make-ahead potato side dish to serve with brisket

The first time I made this, I was taken aback by the instructions, too. Such a high temperature for so long!!! Here's what happens: For the first hour or so, it's just potatoes floating in water/oil. During the final 1/2 hour or 20 minutes, the water evaporates and the potatoes get both softer and a little caramelized/crunchy. The individual potato cubes do not altogether lose their individual identities, but they "melt" into each other a bit. The stirring doesn't break up tihe potatoes; it just circulates them and keeps them from sticking to the pan. I hope this makes sense; I would like to assure you that the texture is one of the charms of this dish.

Apr 02, 2012
Pumpkinseed in Kosher

Glass measuring cup

I was puzzled reading this complaint about painted-on markings wearing off glass measuring cups, because I've owned mine for about 30 years and have never had this problem. Mine are Pyrex, are used regularly, have been washed both by hand and in the dishwasher, are a bit chipped along the top rim, but the numbers remain bright and legible. Come to think of it, my mother's Pyrex items - much older than mine - are nice and bright as well.

Mar 27, 2012
Pumpkinseed in Cookware

Looking for a non-kugel, make-ahead potato side dish to serve with brisket

I love a Greek potato recipe that appears in one of the later (non-Mollie Katzen) Moosewood cookbooks. It's made with lemon and garlic and has become a Seder table favorite in my family, even for the folks with non-adventurous tastes. If you Google "Moosewood Greek potatoes" the recipe will come up. If you double the recipe, it should be enough for 20.

Mar 27, 2012
Pumpkinseed in Kosher

~ What are ingredients that are best to buy (semi)-prepared rather than whole to save time and effort ~

On September 12, 2001, I decided to spend the day cooking. I was living in NYC, work was closed, and I figured cooking would be healing and calming. I made a detailed shopping list (because I knew that otherwise I would be too deranged by sadness and anxiety to shop in an organized way), and one of the things on my shopping list was fresh ginger. In some ways, being in the supermarket made me feel worse. No trucks were coming into the city to make deliveries, and the shelves were messy and full of empty spaces. One of the missing items was fresh ginger. As a substitute, for the first time in my life, I bought a jar of pre-minced ginger. It was actually a pretty good product, and I was pleased by what a decent substitute it was for fresh ginger. At the time, I thought, "Hey, I should buy this again." Every now and then I notice pre-minced ginger on the shelf, but to me, the jar radiates memories of grief. So I've never bought it since. Also, fresh ginger actually is better.

And I should mention that once I got home from the supermarket, cooking really was healing and calming.

Mar 09, 2012
Pumpkinseed in General Topics

Where to find whole nutmeg?

Penzey's (located in Arlington) sells whole nutmeg.

Even though I only use fresh whole nutmeg and grate my own as needed, my guess is that for this recipe freshly-grated vs. powdered-from-a-jar wouldn't make such a huge difference.

penzey's spices

I was told by a nice Penzey's saleslady is that the coupons do not expire! I think this means that you could walk into a Penzey's with a handful of coupons going back a few catalogs and they will all be accepted. I haven't done this yet (I haven't been to Penzey's for a while), but I intend to try.

Nov 11, 2011
Pumpkinseed in General Topics

where to buy/order Farro?

In general, I've found that barley is a pretty decent substitute for farro.

Oct 26, 2011
Pumpkinseed in General Topics

Whenever "X" Happens, I Always Eat "Y" - More Unique Examples

1. When I fly, I go for the tomato juice, which I rarely drink at any other time. I think it's about the honest vegeable taste of tomato being an antidote to the artificial airplane air.

2. On my way home from an ophthalmologist appointment, waiting for my pupils to recover from having been dilated, I like to have miso soup. This I can't explain. It just feels good.

Jun 28, 2011
Pumpkinseed in General Topics

Leftover tortilla chip pieces at bottom of bag

Long ago, someone gave me a recipe for a savory cheesecake whose bottom crust was composed of crushed tortilla chips - I believe blue ones, for color contrast. It was made in a springform pan and was quite tasty - I remember making it several times after I first ate it at a fancypants brunch in a beautiful back yard. Unfortunately, I lost that recipe ages ago, and now that I'm thinking about that cheesecake, I'm getting quite nostalgic about it.

Jan 28, 2011
Pumpkinseed in General Topics

Pizza wheels

As a general rule, I try to avoid single-purpose gadgets, but I'm very happy to own a pizza wheel. It really does work better than a knife for cutting pizza. It's also the ideal too to use when I make cheese straws.

Jan 24, 2011
Pumpkinseed in Cookware

Do you wear an apron when you cook?

I was interested to see your recent comment, because more than four years have gone by since I posted my original description of generations of apron-wearing (or not) in my family.

In the meantime, there have been some changes: My father passed away two years ago, but he was baking bread almost to the end. After his death, my mother basically stopped cooking altogether. She nukes this or that, she makes herself a little salad now and then, but anything that involves pots and pans has basically disappeared from her radar screen - so the likelihood of her adopting an apron-wearing lifestyle is pretty slim. Her kitchen is even tidier than it was before, as you can imagine. And I have inherited my father's bread-baking aprons, which I enjoy wearing when I cook and bake.

Dec 23, 2010
Pumpkinseed in Not About Food

Eating Potatoes Raw

This post reminded me of a line in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," where eating potatoes raw is about poverty - it's the low-rent alternative to eating an apple:

"Mama's rule was: don't buy candy or cake if you have a penny. Buy an apple. But what was an apple? Francie found that a raw potato tasted just as good and this she could have for free."

Dec 15, 2010
Pumpkinseed in General Topics

What shocked you the first time you ate it?

Seltzer. I was a kid, and I assumed it would be sweet, like Sprite. I drank a big mouthful and it tasted like nothing - only nasty.

I was horrified. Now I love it and happily drink it by the glassful.

Dec 13, 2010
Pumpkinseed in General Topics

Need to fine-tune my cholent for 12/16 (Meat question)

I've used Yuengling in the past - it's good!!

Dec 13, 2010
Pumpkinseed in Kosher

Need to fine-tune my cholent for 12/16 (Meat question)

Beer is terrific in cholent. Yes, your kitchen will smell like a saloon for a while after you dump in the beer. However, be patient: the beer integrates with the cholent and deepens the flavor - but the cholent itself will not taste or smell beery.

What I''ve learned over the years is that you should use a beer that has substance and body, not a pale light beer, which, I have discovered through sad experience, might as well be water. This year I am using Sam Adams Black Lager in my cholent and I like it a lot.

Dec 10, 2010
Pumpkinseed in Kosher