Nutella cravings satisfied

I wanted some Nutella. I put it on the grocery list, went to store A and could not find it. Went to store B... still could not find it. So I forgot about it for a little while. (Yes, I only frequent 2 grocery stores. Is that a lot?)

Do you like Nutella? I think of it as the Canadian version of pain au chocolat. It is a hazelnut spread with cocoa and skim milk in it, often eaten on toast or in crêpes. Despite the hazelnuts, I find it extremely chocolatey. I suppose that many people, such as the Italian company that originated it, don't think of Nutella as "Canadian," but I was introduced to it during my educational sojourns in that country so it is all tied up with Canada for me.

A few weeks later, I was in store A again and I looked UP (something humans do not do often enough) and found... NUTELLA! It was one shelf above the peanut butter, and had probably been there all along. The first thing I did when I got home was ate 2 spoonfuls straight. That is when I learned that 2 spoonfuls of Nutella is enough to last a person for about a week.

A week passed. I decided to make crêpes. They were a yogurt-based recipe (healthy protein, etc.) and not popular with the rest of my family. But for me they hit the spot.

Crêpe getting overdone in my nonstick pan.

Finished crêpe with awkward smears of Nutella. In winter this does not spread well, so I had to just glob it on. But then it melted nicely, and I rolled it up.

Rolled up and ready. After 3 of these, I have put the Nutella away again for at least another week. It is RICH, man.

What are your favorite Nutella uses?

My Banh Mi challenge

Banh Mi, attempt #1

This year I've set myself several food challenges. One of them is to try making Banh Mi. This is a Vietnamese sandwich made on a baguette and often filled with pork, pâté, pickled vegetables, cilantro and spicy mayo--though the ingredients may vary. The one key constant is a good baguette.

I first learned about Banh Mi back in 2008 from Wandering Chopsticks, a favorite blog. WC wrote up a recipe for meatball Banh Mi (Banh Mi Xiu Mai) that looks and sounds just amazing. I filed it away in my mind as a novel food I'd like to try someday. Then, last year, there seemed to be a Banh Mi explosion. New York magazine and the NY Times both wrote up the sandwich in the same April week. After some digging I found the LA Times also wrote it up in November 2008, and interviewed White on Rice Couple as part of it. (White on Rice Couple is another blog I admire. They love Banh Mi so much that they have a special site dedicated to it called Battle of the Banh Mi.) What finally spurred me to get going on my own homemade Banh Mi was Sass and Veracity, yet another blogger, who made Banh Mi for the first time recently. The bon appetit recipe provided made it all look so easy, I had to DO IT. And so I did.

That's a lot of backstory... here are the results.

Use a really fresh baguette. Here I have slathered on the spicy mayo, plus cilantro (no pâté or jalapenos for us this time, though I do want to try both). Meatbealls are on deck.

Meatballs added.

Then the carrot-daikon pickles. I used Wandering Chopsticks' recipe for Do Chua instead of the bon appetit version, which is why the pieces are julienned and not grated.

Tasting notes: The sandwich was pretty good, but I kept feeling like the savor and spice of the pork, pickles and hot sauce was getting drowned out by the bready baguette that we used. I think we either need to stuff the sandwich more, or use a thinner baguette. We kept throwing on more pickles and more mayo to try to get more of a kick from the filling. On their own the meatballs are delicious--with strong hints of Sriracha. But they seemed at war with all that bread! (And I did pull out some of the fluffy inside part of the bread, as bon appetit suggested.) I would make these again, and definitely add jalapenos next time.

Lebanese feast

One of our favorite places to grab fabulous food in Brattleboro, Vermont is Sarkis Market. Located at 50 Elliot Street, Sarkis Market makes take-out or eat-in Lebanese food, mainly amazing wraps stuffed with falafel, kibbee (a ground lamb mixture), chicken, and many other specialties. Recently when I was making falafel at home I learned Sarkis will sell their tahini sauce and hot sauce in small to-go containers so you can get a more authentic taste... they even sell their falafel mixture if you want to fry your own.

Recently I got it into my head to recreate a Sarkis meal at home, from scratch.

The big orange pot is full of kousa, to its left is mujadra, left of that is hummus, and at the top is tahini sauce, chopped parsley, plus some Tabasco sauce for the heck of it.

I invented the recipes for my Lebanese feast after studying some similar ones online. Mujadra is a rice-lentil mixture that Sarkis Market often adds to a wrap (a bit like getting rice & beans to fill out a burrito). To make it, I boiled together green lentils and brown basmati rice (about 1/2 cup each) for about an hour. I threw in extra water now and then to avoid sticking and burning. Then I sautéed some chopped red onion and stirred in the rice and lentils, added a pinch of cumin and about 1/2 teaspoon of zaatar. Finished with about 2 T of chopped parsley and set aside (lukewarm is OK).

The kousa at Sarkis market is a squash mixture that makes a nice vegetarian addition in a wrap. The recipes I found online were all about stuffed kousa, being a yellow summer squash cut in half and filled with tomatoes. But Sarkis Market makes a chopped-up kousa, so I improvised. I heated half a can of crushed plum tomatoes with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and threw in 4 yellow summer squash that I'd cut into small cubes. I added a cinnamon stick and several dashes of allspice. I also added pours of olive oil several times during the cooking. (Next time I think I'd skip the cinnamon stick (maybe just a pinch of cinnamon instead), cut the squash into even smaller cubes, and possibly add sauteed onion at the beginning.)

After years of trial and error, I now love my hummus. I go by texture so don't have an exact recipe. I make it in the food processor and visualize mayonnaise while I work--that's the kind of emulsification I want. I added a can of chickpeas, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a generous spoonful of tahini. Also a big pinch of salt. I started the food processor and drizzled in olive oil until all was getting creamy, then let it run for a minute to really emulsify. Delicious--do not be shy with the olive oil.

The tahini sauce was a somewhat lame and runny invention--another spoonful of tahini whisked with the juice of 1/2 lemon and a bit of water. It added some bite to the meal, but I don't think it was essential. I should just buy the Sarkis stuff next time because I don't know what I'm doing.

I made the pitas from scratch based on this recipe. My dining companion seemed to think it was a little crazy and miraculous to make pita bread at home rather than simply buying a bag.

Rolled out pitas, ready to cook.

Cooking individually in a non-stick pan.

Cooked pitas in a towel.

My pitas did not turn out to be "pocket bread" in that they didn't form a pouch inside. But they were fine for wrapping around the other ingredients. I was happy to try my hand at pita-making, but I'm going to go back to buying them--pita bread is not that expensive, and the convenience seems worth it.

This was a pretty good dinner, though nowhere near the excellence of Sarkis Market. Still, I'm proud of myself. I also realized that I'd inadvertently made a meal that was entirely vegan!

Music--from of the moment to Xmas to 80s

Time for another catch-up of recent Beef Jerky Time playlists. With the holidays and end-of-year, end-of-decade roundups, this was an unusual month for my radio show, Beef Jerky Time (WVEW).

The 12*16*09 show was fairly normal, with good scatterings of recent stuff (loved the Jookabox!) plus a few older things for good measure.
  • Norway: Beach House
  • Space Woman: Venus Gang
  • You've Changed: Sia
  • Hanuman: Rodrigo & Gabriela
  • Janglin: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  • When They Fight, They Fight: The Generationals
  • Phantom Don't Go: Jookabox
  • Florida: Starf**ker
  • Dragon Chasers: Wax Tailor
  • Sleepyhead: Passion Head
  • I'd Have You Anytime: George Harrison
  • Romeo: Juliette Lewis
  • Tacobel Canon: Ratatat

The 12*23*09 was an all-Christmas hour, though I tried to play some unusual ones (James Brown has a GREAT song title, and the Pet Shop Boys touched me deeply).
  • Shepherds on the Hill: Ensemble Choral du Bout du Monde
  • Christmastime: Yo La Tengo
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing: Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • Blue Christmas: Bright Eyes
  • Christmas Waltz: Frank Sinatra
  • Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto: James Brown
  • I Wish it Was Christmas Tonight: SNL performance
  • I Wish It Was Christmas Today: Julian Casablancas
  • Get Behind Me, Santa: Sufjan Stevens
  • It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas: Pet Shop Boys
  • Twelve Days of Christmas: John Denver & the Muppets
  • Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow: Joe Williams
  • Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney: Ella Fitzgerald
  • Santa Claus is Back in Town: Elvis Presley
  • Glow Worm (Christmas arrangement): Mel Tormé
  • Nutty Jingle Bells: Al Hirt
  • Jingle Bells: George Melachrino & His Orchestra
  • Jingle Bells: Jimmy Smith

The eve before New Year's eve was my best of 2009 show, 12*30*09. I've written about all of these songs at length throughout December.
  • Happy Up Here: Royksopp
  • An Anniversary Away: Reverie Sound Revue
  • True Stories: Datarock
  • Day'n Nite (Crookers remix): Kid Cudi
  • Tonight's Today: Jack Peñate
  • From Africa to Málaga: jj
  • All the King's Men: Wild Beasts
  • S'vive: Bibio
  • Lisztomania: Phoenix
  • Prefiero el Asfalto: Niña Dioz
  • The Great Defector: Bell X1
  • Nadine (Memory Tapes version): Fool's Gold
  • Raindrops: Basement Jaxx
  • No Reasons: VEGA

I did an 80s nite show on 1*6*10, as a "new broom," going back to basics to clear the decks for a new year of shows and discoveries. Please stick with me into 2010!
  • Lucky Star: Madonna
  • Freedom: Wham
  • South Central Rain: R.E.M.
  • I Ran: Flock of Seagulls
  • Jenny/8675309: Tommy Tutone
  • Spirits in the Material World: The Police
  • Master & Servant: Depeche Mode
  • Close to Me: The Cure
  • What Is Love?: Howard Jones
  • (I Just) Died in Your Arms: The Cutting Crew
  • Shake It Up: The Cars
  • Saved By Zero: The Fixx
  • Radio Head: Talking Heads

Beef (or Turkey) Canneloni

I learned about canneloni from a package of egg roll wrappers. You may recall my recent foray into homemade egg rolls. Turns out I had wrappers left over. What to do? The package recommended treating the wrappers like pasta, making yummy Italian food with them. This makes sense--there's an old and revered connection between Chinese food and Italian pasta, right? So I gave it a shot. The result was so good that one household member suggested banning lasagna from now on, and only making canneloni. These do fill the same melty comfort-food niche as lasagna, yet are somehow more manageable and compact. Basically it's like lasagna ingredients rolled up into individual tubes rather than being in massive goopy layers. I made these twice, once with ground beef and once with ground turkey. Both kinds were great.


  • splash olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • basil
  • oregano
  • 2 sundried tomato halves, chopped
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup (or more) frozen/cooked spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 10 square egg roll wrappers
  • 1/2 jar favorite pasta sauced (I tried Marinara, then Sausage)
  • 1/2 pound grated mozzarella (or cheddar) cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.

2. Sauté the onion in olive oil, then add the garlic. When aromatic, add the beef or turkey and mix thoroughly. Brown the meat, then add the herbs and tomato halves. If you're using ground beef, drain off the grease. (I saved mine to add flavor to crockpot chili.)

3. In a 9x13 glass lasagna pan, put a little oil or sauce on the bottom, then start assembling canneloni as follows.

Take one wrapper and put a line of ricotta across the middle.

Add a spoonful of spinach and a dash of parmesan.

Next add about 1 T of the meat mixture. (I am a little obsessive so I like to divide my meat into equal parts beforehand so I know it'll come out exactly even.)
Also, moisten the far side of the wrapper with a fingerful of water.

Fold the wrapper away from you over the filling, then roll it up and seal the far edge, making a tube.

Line all the canneloni up in your pan.

Cover with sauce and cheese. You're ready to bake! Oh wait, cover it with foil before putting it in the oven.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until thoroughly bubbly. You can remove the foil and cook for another 5 minutes or so to brown the top or sides a bit.

Serve with a salad and dinner is complete! One note: I claim these are "compact," but they actually fall apart somewhat once cooked. By that I mean, don't get too attached to the individual nature of the canneloni. To serve, just guess about where the canneloni divides and spoon up a big steaming mass of it onto the plate. This is not supposed to be a "tidy" dish.