Thursday, December 29, 2011

Of Truffleheads, Escarole and Crazy Mugs

When you work in retail, the holiday season is a busy time. Our bookshop gets flooded with gift-giving inquiries about various out-of-print titles, last-minute shoppers and daily trips to the post office to mail gift packages. Our eldest daughter was busy with her part-time jobs too, so all we wanted to do was collapse into a heap on Christmas Eve night, enjoy a lovely supper (cooked by the younger daughter elf as her present to us all) and then veg out with books, movies and Scrabble.

Watching my girls open their presents after we finally got THEM awakened (what a reversal from when they were tots!) and then cooking up some special treats has always been my special pleasure on Christmas Day, but since last year, I must admit I am finding another highlight to be the Crazy Mug contest that Dan and I engage in. This Second Annual Crazy Mug contest featured the two ugliest/craziest/weirdest mugs that we could find during the course of a year's bookhunting. We scoured the wilds of upstate New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and environs all throughout 2011 and I thought for sure that my entry on the left, "This Spud's For You!", a strange souvenir of Idaho with vaguely R. Crumb-esque grinning potato people, would claim the prize.

But alas, my better half once again took the top honors with his cutesy, pipe-chomping fisherman tankard, judged by all present to garner the coveted Crazy Mug Contest. Last year's winner, "Smashed Again", however, still remains the Craziest Mug of all time, and has a place of honor in my kitchen holding my collection of measuring spoons. I will perhaps extend my mug hunting throughout 2012 to more regions so as to try to capture the Crazy Mug crown next Christmas morning.

Enough tomfoolery. Let's talk about some great food here at The Crispy Cook.

I am honored to note that I am the featured poster on this week with my observations about a terrific recipe for Escarole with Garlic and Hot Pepper. Trufflehead is an Iphone and Ipad app that was started by Deborah Chud, a medical doctor and excellent cook, who is on a mission to get us all to cook healthier, delicious meals. You can download a free e-book with five Trufflehead recipes to explore yourself at the site. It was with pleasure that I test drove her escarole recipe (and another for a wonderful citrus-infused Sesame Slaw), because we love escarole in our house. 

Escarole is a wonderful, slightly bitter green, that most people may be familiar with eating raw in salads, but which becomes meltingly tender when cooked. Italians have many recipes for braised and sauteed escarole and it is a traditional ingredient in Greens and Beans and Italian Wedding Soup. We love escarole so much that it is a regular part of our home garden. It's easy to grow, but it is the one vegetable that invites slugs into our usually very dry, sandy soil, garden environment. Escarole grows thickly at the base, so between the slug issue and the many grains of sand that hide in its crevasses, this vegetable requires thorough rinsing and several soaks before it's ready for the cooking pot.

If I had a greenhouse windowsill I would grow some escarole alongside some basil, parsley and chives for my winter meals, but instead, I buy escarole at the supermarket (overpriced and of much sadder quality than my home supplies!) to give us a little green tonic in the winter.

**Don't forget that there are still a few days left in my Red Pack Tomatoes giveaway (a cool tin filled with tomatoes and kitchen gadgets) so feel free to enter that by leaving a comment back on this previous post by Jan. 2nd at midnight.

Enjoy the rest of the year!


Foodycat said...

Those mugs are hilarious!

Eliotseats said...

What a hilarious tradition! May have to borrow that one for the side of the family that can't get past buying gifts. I am going to suggest it! Congrats on the guest spot. Am checking it out now! Have a wonderful and fruitful 2012!