Thursday, March 2, 2017

McIntosh Apples

McIntosh is by far the best variety of apple that is widely available. The flavor is tart, almost as sour as a Granny Smith (which would be, perhaps, a less ironic choice for a Scottish moniker), but unlike a Granny Smith the flesh is the tenderest of any variety, and the skin is the thinnest. McIntoshes are juicy: when you bite into one the skin tenses and gives way with a satisfying pop of flavor. They are round but somewhat oblate, with only a shallow impression at the calyx end.
The color is patchy, freckled light-green and red, a natural appearance that brings to mind songbirds or traditional Raku pottery. As the poet-monk Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

 They are in every way the opposite of that most pernicious and ubiquitous breed of apple, the Delicious; whose uniform color, hard or woody texture, thick skin, and flavorlessness are the antithesis of every quality that makes an apple good to eat. In their sourness, irregular coloration, small size, and susceptibility to bruising, McIntoshes are closer to the wild apple than the artificiality of many other breeds.
The very delicacy of the McIntosh makes them difficult to store. The process of bringing them home from the store in a bag is often enough to bruise them. For that reason, you rarely can find good McIntosh in stores out of season (late September). In its peculiar way, this very rarity enhances their appeal; like eggnog, it is a seasonal treat one looks forward to and then longs for, and is all the sweeter for it.
However, the reason I am writing this is that I frequently find that what is marketed as McIntosh is no true Scotsman, as it were. Frequently they tend toward more yellow coloring, a sweeter flavor and a firm texture more reminiscent of a Jonathan or Gala.
I recognize that categories are defined by their members, and not a single ideal (as Plato would have it) of which the members are imperfect copies. Surely the people selling these apples are more expert in the lineage and cultivation of apples than I am, and can say with more authority to which variety their apples belong. On the other hand, there must be strong financial pressures to sell as the authentic McIntosh hardier forgeries. So which is it, dear reader? Am I mistaken in taking a preferred subvariety as defining the variety as a whole, or have I fallen victim to some dark conspiracy of greed and deceit among apple growers? Is the industry, I must ask, rotten to the core?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rachel's preferred hummus

I'm posting this because Rachel's copy of the recipe is getting so filthy that I can hardly read it.

2 19 ounce cans of chickpeas drained and rinsed
1/2 cup tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
Three cloves garlic
Juice from 2 to 3 lemons
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and garlic in food processor, then process until smooth. Next add lemon juice, then add water until desired consistency is reached. Then add remaining ingredients. Process again until smooth, scraping sides occasionally. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Instant Apple Pie

I like pie a la mode. Here's my instant recipe:

Cut up an apple
put a couple spoonfuls of sugar on it
and some cinnamon.
Microwave it for one minute
top with a scoop of ice cream
and Golden Grahams for the crust.

No, it's not a real pie. But is a pie really what you wanted? What you really wanted was to spend time reading about Aztec philosophy, while eating baked apples and ice cream and Golden Grahams.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pineapple upside-down cake

Pineapple upside-down cake was invented in the U.S. sometime in the 1920s, I think. Basically it was just skillet cake that used the new invention of canned sliced pineapple for a pretty, easy pattern. I kind of associate it with the whole 1950s fascination with Hawaii (not that it is authentic Hawaiian anything, but then, 1950s cooking wasn't really about authenticity anyway. Picture women's home magazines, ward dinners, etc...) Mom used to cook it, and I'm pretty sure La Fawn and Helen did, too, so you can call it an old family recipe.
It's pretty easy to make. Get a glass or aluminum pan, and cover the bottom with a mixture of melted butter and brown sugar. Maybe half a cup? It should be about a quarter inch thick on the bottom of the pan. Lay canned pineapple slices in a symmetric arrangement over the brown sugar. If you have maraschino cherries you can put those in the middle of each ring.
Then make up a yellow cake mix from a box (the kind where you add eggs, oil, and water. Betty Crocker or something like that.) But instead of using water, use the liquid from the pineapple can. Pour the batter over the pineapples and sugar. Then bake it how it says on the cake box. I'm guessing 350 degrees for 25 minutes? I guess it depends whether you made a short fat cake or used the biggest glass pan you have and made it really flat.
It tastes best when you eat it hot, maybe with a little vanilla ice cream or a glass of milk.
The key to the flavor is that the brown sugar becomes caramel in the cooking process, and the flavors of the pineapple, sugar, and butter all kind of soak into the cake.
If you cut half of it off and put it inverted on the other half, you can have pineapple inside-out cake. But this is messy and is really done just so you can say that silly phrase.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cajun rice and sausage

I made rice and sausage the other day with kielbasa instead of ground sausage. I chopped up a bell pepper with the celery. I added some thyme and cayenne pepper (maybe 1/4 tsp) and a bay leaf to make it more cajun-y. We liked it a lot.

Friday, May 20, 2016

summer tomato soup with shrimp, zucchini, and corn

I found this in a magazine last summer and I loved it. I've decided poblanos are my favorite pepper. They're not too hot, but because of them and the onions/garlic you only need to add salt and pepper for seasoning.

Here's a link to the original recipe.


  1. 2tablespoons olive oil
  2. 2poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  3. 1large onion, chopped
  4. 3cloves garlic, sliced
  5. Kosher salt and black pepper
  6. 2small zucchini, chopped
  7. 128-ounce can diced tomatoes
  8. 1pound raw medium peeled and deveined shrimp
  9. 2cups fresh (from 4 ears) or frozen corn kernels, thawed


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
    Add the poblanos, onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper.
    Cook, stirring, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
    Add the zucchini and tomatoes (and their juices).
    Cook, stirring, until the zucchini is crisp-tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
    Add the shrimp, corn, and 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer.
    Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are white throughout
    and the corn is tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
    Sprinkle with black pepper and serve.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dill Mushroom Rice

I took all the about-to-go-bad ingredients from our fridge this week and put them in a pot with a few other ingredients. Lo and behold, it turned out tasting pretty great! (This is according to Rachel, not just me, so yes you can trust that assessment.)

One bunch of fresh dill, chopped fine
One bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped rough
One medium brown onion, halved, then sliced the other direction to make a bunch of c-shaped onion pieces
6-8 oz of fresh button mushrooms, sliced

1 medium tomato, smashed
Two cups of white rice
1T butter
2 t vegetable oil
1 bouillon cube, vegetable or chicken (I actually used some leftover packets of flavoring from two kinds of ramen noodles, but I think the boullion cube would approximate it pretty well)
In a separate sauce pan, melt the tablespoon of butter on medium heat
Add the dill, cilantro, and bouillon, then sautee the onions and mushrooms for three minutes.
Add the cooked rice and vegetable oil, and mix well.

-Cook the rice
-In a separate sauce pan, melt the tablespoon of butter on medium heat
-Add the dill, cilantro, tomato, and bouillon to the butter, then sautee the onions and mushrooms in it for three minutes.
-Add the cooked rice and vegetable oil to the sauce pan, and mix well.