Camembert Jack Cheese Ball

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Throughout the nearly 12 months (!) I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve crafted a duo of tuna casseroles, a full chicken with a can of pineapple dumped on top, and a jello mold that wasn’t really a jello mold.

Yet the glorious creation you see before you (the very first recipe that appears in Nonnie’s cookbook, in fact) might be the most proudly retro thing I’ve made so far—a onetime party platter staple that’s largely gone the way of crinoline and bomb shelters. Unless you’re someone who gets her recipes directly from Kraft’s website, maybe, or the sort of person who will eat what’s essentially a cheese ball if and only if it has a fancy French name and does not come in the shape of a ball. Continue reading

Guacamole

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Can we talk about my favorite holiday — a foodie celebration that comes but once a year, a national occasion that makes my heart swell with unmistakably American pride?

Obviously, I don’t mean Thanksgiving. I’m talking about National Half-Price Avocado Day, a.k.a. the Monday after the Super Bowl. It’s not recognized on a nation-wide scale yet — the name, I admit, could use work — but there’s real potential there. Continue reading

Chopped Liver


As a kid, the cartoons that consumed a good, oh, two-thirds of my waking hours warped me into believing a lot of erroneous stuff. Vintage Looney Toons made me wary of dogcatchers, limburger cheese, anvils, and banana peels, all dangers I somehow have yet to encounter in real life. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles taught me to shun anchovies, leading to a tragic Caesar salad deficiency in my early years.

And then we have liver and onions, a combination that several cartoons used as shorthand for “something disgusting your parents will force you to eat.” I’m thinking specifically about an episode of Doug that revolves around the title character’s fear that he’ll be forced to eat the dreaded dish when he’s invited to dinner at Patti Mayonnaise’s house. You know, the stuff of your worst 11-year-old nightmares, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what liver was until my animated pal taught me to hate it. Having brought a pile of raw liver into my kitchen recently, I can’t imagine why he wasn’t a fan.

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Eggplant Caviar

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Alternate title: A Tale of Too Many Onions.

Look, I have nothing against onions. They’re a culinary workhorse. They have the power to make grown men weep. They figure prominently in the denouement of one of the best books ever written, Holes by Louis Sachar.

Even raw onions have their place — a sprinkling of scallions to top off your bowl of soba, a smattering of red onions folded into your quinoa. They’re sharp; they’re pungent; they’re good in small doses.

You know what isn’t a small dose? A whole onion, chopped. That’s what Nonnie’s recipe for eggplant caviar — a sort of Eastern European take on baba ghanoush — calls for. I looked over it a few times, just to make sure I was reading it right; once it became clear that I was, I tried investing in some cautious optimism. Continue reading