Curious Cook: A dispatch from the kitchen


This week I’m mixing things up a bit, Gentle Reader.

Instead of talking about dish, giving you a pic and recipe, I’m going sideways.

I’d like to share with you some edible discoveries and culinary revelations. Some are new, some are old seasonal favorites. Food that surprised me and my taste buds.

When the words “Pizza party” are uttered, most people — kids and adults alike — get very happy.

I’m vaguely disappointed. I would literally rather eat Brussels sprouts than traditional pizza. Red pizza sauce and pepperoni repel me. I make my own pizza with no sauce and my own choice of toppings, but that takes time, one thing of which that these days I have very little.

Then I went to Wegman’s.

Inside these food amusement parks is the equivalent of a food court. They have a deli, sushi bar, poke place, burger joint, salad and soup place, bakery, fish restaurant, Italian joint, old school diner food, and a pizza place.

They have a gazillion different toppings to make your own and some pre-made combinations. And quite of a few of those pizzas do not have pepperoni or red sauce.

So, around here, Wednesday is pizza night; Petey gets his pedestrian pizza, and I get a pizza made with a truffle cream sauce, mushrooms, and plenty of fresh cheese.

(Pro tip: For the freshest pie, get your pizzas barely baked, take them home, and finish them in your own oven — 425° on the bare rack until golden and bubbly.)

The other night I stopped by the store after work to grab some salad greens. I picked up something called “Bright Farms Sunny Crunch.”

When I got it home, I was completely bummed to see it was iceberg lettuce — you remember iceberg, the lettuce from school cafeteria salads and Big Macs? Not a lettuce that belongs in any salad that I want to eat.

But it was a hybrid of iceberg and green leaf, and awesome. It was crispy and crunchy tasty and had enough body and flavor to stand up to the other flavors in my salad like dried pineapple, funky farmer’s cheese and raw red onion.

Now it’s the first lettuce I look for in the store when I need greens.

Trader Joe’s is always good for their outlandish new products. They even have a corner in each store that contains seven or eight new products that change monthly. If the item is a hit, you’ll continue to find it on the shelves. If it’s a dud …

This month they have one product for Petey and one for me.

My spouse is a lover of sticky buns and cinnamon rolls. Cinnabon is his Mecca. I guess Joe heard because they have come out with a cinnamon roll spread. Fall spices, honey and butter. And it makes a toasted bagel taste like a freshly baked, warm, and spicy treat.

I love brown butter on savory food like cauliflower, pasta, and meat. I use it in sweet baked goods like chocolate chip cookies, frosting, and candy. That mad scientist Joe now sells it in jars. In jars. Already browned. In jars.

Oh Joe, I love you.

Speaking of brown butter, Whole Foods make brown butter chocolate cookies that are insanely delicious. But like most things at Whole Foods, expensive. So they are an infrequent treat.

Each Saturday, the dealership buys lunch for the employees. Pizza (woohoo), Chinese, chicken, you get the idea.

Occasionally, there will be sandwiches. The old place had sandwiches that were basically a bread stick with limp lettuce and one slice of limp, sad meat. Nobody was enthused.

Well, last week the sandwiches came from the deli at Harris Teeter (who knew?).

They were downright terrific. Really good, fresh sub rolls, lots of meat, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. They were not cheap, sliver sandwiches. They were the kind of sandwich that I will buy, on purpose.

But the real revelation was the dessert. It was chocolate chunk cookies. And they were better than Whole Foods.’ The cookies were as tasty, but they baked it so that it was a little darker around the edges, giving it a chewy mouth feel, and caramel-like flavor. And they’re probably way cheaper.

And lastly, when it’s fall, this girl’s taste buds go to pumpkin and spice. But not in my coffee. I might drink a bathtub of java, but not one drop is flavored like a Jack-o-lantern.

My pumpkins of choice are those delicious little drops of childhood memories sold by Brach’s. And don’t tell me they are just candy corn, because they are not, and I will go to my grave declaring it. Another sweet pumpkin-shaped treat is from Reese’s. They are better than the fluted everyday peanut butter cups because they are the ideal ratio of peanut butter to chocolate and the resulting texture is far superior.

My favorite new pumpkin spice item, discovered last year, is a humble Thomas’ English muffin. It has pumpkin and fall spices in it and makes the whole house smell wonderful when it toasts. While it tastes terrific with butter, it makes the world’s most delicious peanut butter and apple jelly sandwich.

Try some of these great products, but even better, go our and discover some of your own.

Thanks for your time.


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