’Tis the season for neighborhood treat exchanges, family get-togethers, and New Year’s celebrations. And so comes the yearly appetizer conundrum. Appetizer spreads have become a competition as we all try to out-hor-d’oeuvre one another. Each year, we try to bring something a little more sophisticated and spectacular to the party. But whatever happened to the classics? Why re-invent the wheel? That’s why, this holiday season, I’m going old-school. I am making cheese balls. (Please, hold your gasps of horror!)
It would not be a Lamoureux Christmas without a cheese ball. Even though some may see the cheese ball as the quintessential cheesy (if you will), retro (but not in a good way) appetizer, I look forward to the annual cheese ball gracing our table at Christmas. So it perplexes me why everyone snickers at cheese balls when they hold such a fond place in my heart.
I once heard that more avocados are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year. This is wrong: Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t touch the 14 million pounds of avocado consumed on Cinco de Mayo. Still, about 8 million pounds of avocado have reportedly been mashed into guacamole in honor of the big game in recent years—about 5% of total sales, nothing to scoff at so long after the crop’s seasonal peak.
Most of the avocados we buy to make a summer dip in the dead of winter are Hass avocados, grown in coastal California or, since 2007, in Mexico. (The avocado tree originated in Mexico and Central America, but those zones were closed off to U.S. importers until recently due to an apparently unfounded fear of fruit flies.) Avocados are technically in-season almost year round. The fruits don’t ripen while on the tree, so they don’t have the limited harvest window that other temperate-zone tree fruits have, and avocado fruits can mature all year in the hot, humid climates they prefer. But mature fruits are more sparse in midwinter than they are in the summer months, which is usually reflected in the grocery store price. MORE
I am the daughter of a devoted sports fan. My father follows most major flavors of professional athleticism (he is lukewarm about hockey). He is devoted to college sports, regularly attends triple A games, and even stays up-to-date with football scores from the high school my sister and I attended.
And so, though I don’t care a whit what happens in the world of football, basketball, or baseball, I pay a tiny bit of attention for my dad. I make a point of reading to just enough each fall to be able to talk about the World Series with him. I listen to his thoughts about the Oregon State Beavers and the University of Oregon Ducks. And come Super Bowl time, I provide the game day snacks. MORE
When I was first out of college, I spent exactly $.85 on breakfast each morning. On my way to work, I’d stop at the food truck parked outside the front door of the building and order a small coffee with cream and a soft pretzel. I’d hand over a short stack of quarters and dimes and get a brown paper sack with my order tucked neatly inside.
By the time I got to my desk, the pretzel would be slightly warm from the coffee and ready to shed large grains of salt all over my keyboard. I loved the ritual of starting my day that way.
Pretzels, whether hard or soft, have long been a staple in my life. When I was young, skinny pretzel sticks were the first solid food my sister and I would be allowed to have after a bought of stomach flu. Throughout high school, I bought those terrible, long-frozen-and-defrosted Super Pretzels from the cafeteria as an afterschool snack. And during college, my roommates and I would devour large bags of crunchy mini-twists during our study sessions, thinking them a healthier snack than the potato chips we truly craved. MORE
Let me be explicit about the conflict that informs my “Conflicted Kitchen” column here: I love food – making it and thinking about it and reading about it and eating it – but I hate gaining weight.
They say the average person gains 3 to 7 seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. One holiday season, I managed to put on 17 pounds in 21 days. This feat is easier than you might think. That year, there were cookie binges so intense that I ate every available Christmas cookie my mother had baked for the family and went on to pillage the neatly ribboned gift bags of treats she made for other people. MORE
So many of my foundational food lessons came from family members. My grandma Bunny taught me about meringues, while my other grandmother showed me how to shove slivers of garlic into roast beef to enhance the flavor. My mom is responsible for my everyday food knowledge (along with my basic canning skills) and my dad shared everything he knew about fried eggs, pancakes, waffles and the art of the chocolate chip cookie.
I wish I could tell you that I learned to make béchamel and cheese sauces from an aunt or a kindly neighbor, but sadly, the truth is that all the credit for that particular skillset goes to Rachael Ray, circa 2002. MORE
Sure, the whole mixology thing is super, and craft bartending has ushered in a renaissance of drinking over the past decade. But some days I feel like we’ve entered a baroque period of cocktail making. Though I write about cocktails for a living, even I weary of housemade bitters and tinctures, eight-ingredient drinks, the often-nonsensical “layering” of overproof rums, precious techniques like the “hard shake,” menus where 43 percent of the offerings contain mezcal, and a 17-minute wait for my second cocktail.
Sometimes, I just want something simpler. Also: I am often impatient. Further: I am usually lazy.
Given these facts, I am never more satisfied than when I can find what I call a “One Plus One” cocktail. These would be drinks that require the mixological technique of opening a bottle of spirit and then a bottle of something bubbly, and then pouring both into highball glass filed with ice cubes. A gin and tonic would be a “One Plus One” cocktail. So would the lazy man’s best friend, the rum and Coke.
Now, a semantics argument occasionally arises over this type of beverage. Some insist that a soda plus spirit is technically considered a “mixed drink” rather than a cocktail. My advice is to avoid people who split such hairs. But if you cannot, please remind them most One Plus One cocktails also involve a garnish, a dash of bitters, or a salted rim. This means most contain three ingredients–four if you count the ice–and therefore, they can safely call them “cocktails.”
Here, I have included a half-dozen of my favorite E-Z drinks. Serve them as refreshments while the summer heat remains with us. They all prove that just because you a lazy bartender, you can still be a gracious host.