More Paste, Please

Frida has been requesting dance music lately (and, as she doesn’t say much yet, to communicate this particular wish she raises her arms, pretends to snap her fingers, and wiggles her hips while singing ‘do-da’. Works every time.) The frequency of the music requests means that we’ve been digging pretty deep into the back of the CD drawer; we’ve started listening to some of Tobias’ more, uh, method jazz and to the second volume of Best of Cumbia. It was on the latter that the singer sings, ‘¡Baile hasta las nueve de la mañana!’ Which means ‘dance until nine in the morning!’ Oh, Mr. Cumbia Singer, you have gone too far. Baile hasta las cinco de la mañana? Sure! I’ll dance, have danced in fact, until five in the morning. Baile hasta las seis de la mañana? Well, OK, we’re going to be tired tomorrow but we’ll just go for breakfast after this last cumbia and call it a night. But hasta las nueve? Seriously? Why are we still dancing the cumbia at 7:45 in the morning? At 8:12? At 8:45? My feet hurt! I just noticed that your breath smells – you haven’t brushed your teeth since we started dancing yesterday evening. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and my makeup looks ridiculous now that it’s closer to noon than dawn. Next time, let’s call it a night while it’s still night, por favor.


Want to know a neat trick to make your food taste like restaurant food? Add a dash of cream to pretty much whatever you’re making (soups and egg dishes, obviously, but also salad dressing, tomato sauce, etc.) and don’t use black pepper. I was shocked at how different things tasted when I held off on the black pepper. Don’t get me wrong, it has its place, but I had been automatically adding several grinds of pepper to pretty much everything, and it’s refreshing to taste things on their own.

Another few things to try:

  • make plain old rice pudding, but add seven bay leaves to the mixture at the beginning of cooking. Fragrant, delicate, sweet, and interesting but not overpowering.
  • if you, like much of the nation, received a silicone muffin tray for Christmas 2011, use it to freeze individual portions of stock, baby food, etc. Once the contents are frozen, pop them out and store them in a freezer bag.
  • if you’re making a recipe using tomatoes and garlic that also calls for wine (red or white,) replace the wine with Pernod or another anise liquer. I did this recently in a moussaka, using a cup of anise liquer instread of red wine, and it was a surprsingly smooth, lush taste. I’ll do it again.
And a few things not to try:
  • expecting extra-moist zucchini muffins to keep at room temperature for five days.
  • steaming brocolli, letting it get nice and rotten in the back of the fridge, forgetting that it was steamed brocolli from 10 days ago rather than steamed brocolli from yesterday, and putting in the microwave for two minutes on high. Actually, if what you’re going for is a wave of slimy, putrid brocolli stench when you open the microwave door, by all means do try this.
Surprise of the month: smear anchovy paste on a piece of lamb before roasting it in the oven yields a delicious, savory crust. You’re skeptical, right? You’ll be skeptical through all the stages of this recipe (particularly the one about three minutes after the anchovy paste hits the hot air in the oven,) until you reach the stage where you sneak a piece of the brown crusty bits as you carve the lamb. It is exceptionally tasty. A recipe is here; let me know if you want me to mail you some tubes of anchovy paste – they last forever and are the secret ingredient in some dynamite dips and salad dressings, too.

So, that was April: I realized my cumbia limits without having to leave the house, and I learned that one tube of anchovy paste is not, as previously assumed, a lifetime supply.


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