Author Archives: evealiceb

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it: popcorn and Worcestershire sauce

Until last week I had never made popcorn on the stove. Well at least not as an unsupervised adult. Do you all know how easy it is to make? Very. And cheap! And not bad for you! A winning combination if ever there was one.


But you know what makes it winninger? Worcestershire sauce. I’m sure Anna will poo poo this particular good + good combination but don’t listen to her, internet. It’s awesome. I used to make it all the time with microwave popcorn in my New York years (read: when I was broke) and am very pleased to have been reunited with a favorite snack.

Thank you, me, for that random popping corn purchase six months ago.

Pie vs Pie

Everyone’s favorite four days of basketball is nearly over. My bracket is in tatters, so I’m moving on to bigger and better tournaments. The tournament of books is under way over at The Morning News, fug madness is in the air, and now Jezebel has lined up 16 pies and 16 cakes to take part in this extremely important competition. The winner of the cake bracket will face the prince of pies to be crowned the best, er, cake or pie.

I’m sorry peanut butter pie went out so early, but am pleased to report pound cake looks to pull off a small upset if it can pull out a win against angel food cake.


Speaking of ruining soups…

It’s not just our recipe-following German blogger who is struggling with stray ingredients. I made a family staple on Sunday, Thai-ish curried coconut soup, and completely ruined it. As followers of my chaotic cooking well know, I’m a big fan of throwing random things in a pot and seeing what happens.

So what happens when you splash a bit of fish sauce into the pot? Nothing good.

If you don’t believe me and try it yourself, a squeeze of lemon mostly rolls back the damage. Next time I’ll follow Stef’s lead and only experiment with pickoutable ingredients. Is it just me, or does a squeeze of lemon cover a multitude of sins?


Baked eggs

I hit upon that treasure of a recipe yesterday – something that tasted like it should have taken much longer to make than it actually did. And it even had a vegetable!

There are any number of ways to vary this, and it’s endlessly scalable. If  I had larger ramekins I would have made had two eggs per cup, but alas. And you’ll have to take my word for it that this was actually quite attractive – my ugly brown ramekins, however, were less photogenic.

Baked eggs with broccoli and cheddar

Bread crumbs (good store bought is just fine)
Grated cheddar
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350°.

Slice broccoli florets (enough to line the bottom of each ramekin) lengthwise, and put in a small sauce pan of boiling water. Cook until just tender – 3 to 4 minutes – then drain well.

While the broccoli cooks, butter your ramekins.

Evenly distribute your cooked broccoli amongst your ramekins. try to leave a bit of space in the center of the cup for the yolk, but don’t worry to much about this.

Crack an egg (or two) into each ramekin. Season, and top with bread crumbs and then the grated cheese.

Cook on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes. The exact time will depend on your oven – I overcooked mine a wee bit, but it was still a quick and delicious weekend breakfast. If I were even remotely a morning person, it could actually be a weekday breakfast. But I’m not.


Genius or gross?

As an avid tomato hater, I struggle with pasta sauces. Sure, a nice light little sauce I can manage, but most recipes call for tomato in some form to add body. And I won’t have any of that.

So the other night, I was making pasta with sausage, but was really struggling to figure out a proper sauce. I was all set for suppertime disappointment when inspiration struck.

I cut up a couple of sausages, sliced a red onion and a little fennel and cooked them in a pan for 30-40 minutes. I added a little olive oil at one point, since the sausages didn’t seem to be rendering much fat.

When it was all good and cooked, I added a tablespoon or so of flour to the pan and made a roux. Then I poured in maybe a glass and a half of white wine, a ladle or two of pasta water and let the whole thing simmer away for a few minutes, before tossing with the cooked pasta.

Which means yes, I essentially made pasta with sausage gravy. It was excellent – the sauce had a lovely silkiness that I thoroughly impressed myself with. But I can’t quite decide if I should be proud of this concoction or a little grossed out with myself.

Either way, I saw it as a fitting tribute to my mom, whose decades-long terror of gravy was definitely contagious. But I did it!


God made dirt

And dirt don’t hurt. Further evidence that I have the taste buds of a five year old is my affection for food that tastes like dirt. Oh I suppose I’m supposed to call it ‘earthy’ but really, I just can’t can’t get enough of  mud.

Today’s case in point: lentils. I love lentils. Green lentils, brown lentils, red, brown and purple (well, I’m sure I would). Last week I finally tried out a pasta dish I’d bookmarked ages ago, which seemed a perfect fit for my dirt-loving ways. It was great, made good leftovers and I”ll definitely make it again. But not on a school night – it’s not speedy cuisine, especially if you start with bacon, as I did, in my clever adaptation. The original recipe is vegetarian, but where’s the fun in that?

Pasta with lentils and kale
adapted from epicurious

  • 1/2 cup French (small) green lentils
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 pound cavolo nero (black kale), or other variety
  • 3/4 pound dried short pasta

Simmer lentils in water (2 cups) with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart saucepan, uncovered, adding more water if necessary to keep lentils barely covered, until tender but not falling apart, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt.

While lentils simmer, cook the bacon until crisp in a heavy skille. Transfer to a plate, and put aside.

Add the olive oil and onions to the skillet and slowly caramelize them.

While onion cooks, cut out and discard stems and center ribs from kale. Cook kale in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling water, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer kale with tongs to a colander to drain, pressing lightly. Keep pot of water at a boil, covered.

Coarsely chop kale and add to onion along with lentils (including lentil-cooking liquid), then simmer, stirring, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Add pasta to kale-cooking liquid and boil, uncovered, until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup pasta-cooking liquid, then drain pasta in a colander. Add pasta to lentil mixture along with a little pasta-cooking liquid if necessary to keep pasta moist and cook over high heat, tossing, 1 minute. Stir in the cooked bacon, season with salt and pepper, and maybe a little parmesan if you feel like it.


Hot, cheap and saucy

Recent meals have been conjured up to combat a few sad truths: January malaise has set in, it’s freezing out and we have a LOT of root vegetables around. And did I mention it’s freezing?

Last Thursday I hit upon a winner, a perfection of a basic curry I’ve been trying to get right for a long time now. The trick was moving my sauce to North Africa by adding harissa. Who knows if I’ll get it right again, but with any luck the act of blogging it will help cement it in my brain.

I started by slicing an onion and slowly caramelizing it over a medium flame in a little olive oil. The trick is to let the onions sit undisturbed for minutes at a time, but without burning them. Take your time with this. It took me 30+ plus before mine were browned and totally limp.

To this I added a hunk of sliced ginger – I used shoestring thickness slices for no good reason – and two cloves of garlic, also sliced. Let these cook for 10 minutes or so, until the ginger is nice and soft. Turn down the heat if you’re worried about the garlic burning.

I then added a teaspoon/teaspoon and a half each of cumin, cinnamon, tumeric and corriander, a few grinds of black pepper (add a little water if there isn’t enough oil to absorb the spices), and a big spoonful of harissa paste. Harissa varies a lot from blend to blend, so the amount you use depends on how hot yours is, and how hot you like your food.

So now the flavors are developed all that’s missing is the liquid to actually make it a sauce. I added spoonfuls of plain yogurt and water until I was happy with the texture and flavor. To finish it off I stirred in a whole bunch of chopped cilantro and squeezed a lemon into the pot, and turned off the heat.

What did I do with my magical sauce? On day 1 I poured it over roasted carrots, potatoes, parsnips and cabbage (weird, I know, but weirdly good), and some couscous. Day 2 I added it to some good chicken stock I’d livened up with some fresh ginger and more harissa, and added my leftover couscous and veggies for the cheapest, most warming supper I think I’ve ever made.


Enquiring minds want to know!

By far the most exciting feature of our blog stats is seeing what search terms people use to find themselves here on cheezcloth. It’s an extra-special glimpse into the collective psyche.

But often I feel sad for all the questions people have searched for and our blog was not able to answer. I’m sorry sir, I don’t know why there was a cheesecloth on your ham. Did you put it there, perhaps? And as for the foodophile who searched ‘handisnack phallus’, I sure hope you found what you were looking for.

Today we had two (two!) searches for: “does cool whip have condom lubricant in”.

I’m guessing no, but any chemists out there want to do a little analysis and get back to us?


Watch it toast!

Is it weird that I want one of these? Only £160 from John Lewis!

See through toaster! (Photo from

The response has been phenomenal.”


THE stuffing

Four (?) Thanksgivings ago, I was assigned stuffing for the Morser potluck housewarming/Thanksgiving. I found two recipes for the occasion that looked promising, one with a cornbread base and one with a lot of sausage. I was leaning towards the corn bread one but sadly could find no cornbread, or corn bread mix, in this great land. And so, half by accident, I stumbled into the Greatest Stuffing Recipe in the World.

It was the darling of Thanksgiving 2005, and has made star turns at each subsequent Thanksgiving – Canadian or otherwise. I’m not allowed to bring any other to stuffing-mandatory meals. But why would I want to? It’s perfect.

Instead of reprinting the recipe, I’m just going to direct you to it. And give you the wisdom of my experience.

  • Good sausage is critical. This is the first year I’ve found Italian sausage, as the recipe calls for, but each time I’ve used a different, well-spiced sausage (or variety of sausages). I’d avoid ones that include leek or apple since the recipe already calls for a lot of both.
  • The epicurious reviewers are divided on the matter of poultry spice. I’ve used it and not used it, and can’t tell much difference. Today I used creole seasoning instead, we’ll see how that goes.
  • That’s right, I said today, Christmas eve. Make the stuffing a day ahead and let it hang out in the fridge unbaked. Add the eggs and liquid just before baking.
  • The recipe says to add the apples/leeks/celery etc to the sausage. I say no; add the sausage to the mix while it’s still over a medium-low flame. Same with the bread and the rest of the ingredients. Keep stirring until all the bread looks like it’s absorbed the stuffing goodness, then turn off the flame and let it cool before refrigerating.
  • I became convinced of that last tip the year I accidentally left the whole thing on the stove for an hour+ while I thought it was cooling. Oops. But the stuffing was amazing that year. A bit too mushy maybe, but great. Which is another thing: the recipe is very forgiving. I screw up at least one part every year and it’s always fantastic.
  • If you cook it outside the bird, make sure it’s well moistened before baking. I’ve never actually stuffed it into anything (other than my mouth), would love to try it one year when I’m in charge of stuffing and bird.

And that’s it. Go forth and enjoy.