Wednesday, March 21, 2012

          I ran into a couple at the Taster’s Corner at Trader Joe’s the other day and the husband came over to me as I was sampling the corned beef Cha Cha was passing out.  He said “I think we know you.”  They looked familiar to me, but you all know how difficult it is place someone out of context.  When asked, he replied they live in Middletown Township.

          That was enough for me, he belongs to the Middletown Township Business and Professional Association and when I gave him my name he gave me a big smile and said “You’re the one who does all that writing1”

          I had to tell him that I haven’t written for the papers since the late 90’s and he seemed surprised. That encounter got me to thinking I haven’t been doing much writing lately and I think I miss it.  It was the late night meetings,  the deadlines and the below minimum wages that got to me all those years ago, but things have changed.

          Now I can blog.  No deadlines, and no money, but I can write when I want and about what ever is my “itch” of the day.  Seems like a no brainier.

          Just to ease back into the harness I think I’ll take a clue from “The Chew” and my old recipe columns and talk about snacks.  They had the Globe Trotters as guests and served up deep fat fried cheese/sauerkraut balls and  other hi-cal tidbits that I know will never make an appearance at my house, March Madness or not.

          The first one I would serve is from my mother and goes back to the Great Depression when little Red Bliss potatoes were a penny a pound. This first appeared in one of my food columns “back in the day” and it seems that every restaurant around has served a variation on the theme in the past 20 years.  I would love to hear if you local bistros are serving them and when they first appeared on the menu.

          The concept is simple.  You want the potato pieces to be about one inch across so you can take the more expense “small” red potatoes or cut the larger ones into “bite” size pieces that still have skin on them.  I pick my potatoes carefully with that measurement in mind.  I am sure are those who think I am being very picky and I am.  You can do the same.

          Once home the taters get a scrub – I use a plastic pot scrubber to rub just hard enough to take off any muddy spots and eye sprouts - and pat them dry.  Next put them in a bowl and drizzle a little oil and mix them around to coat.

          Not too bad so far.  Now comes the fun part – sprinkle on some of your favorite herbs, dried or fresh, more or less, spicy or not – to taste.  Put on a baking sheet and pop them in a hot oven.  They are done when they are toast brown on the cut side – if uncut they should look like they have been in the hot tub too long. At 400 degrees about 15-20 minutes.  Put them in a bowl or on a platter and provide toothpicks. These are good piping hot – careful – or at room temperature.
My mother-in-law passed this one on to me and I use it all the time.  It is the cheapest finger food going, low cal, low salt and always a hit.

          Start with a baton of French bread, wheat if you can find it, sour dough wheat even better.  Now take the baton to the veggie section and find a regular yellow onion that looks like one slice of half the onion would just about cover a slice of the bread when cut straight across.  If you are not sure better get two onions, especially if you don’t have a little mandolin to slice them on.  If you have a jar of mayo at home you have everything you need.

          These little treasures can be prepared several hours ahead of time and it helps if you have an extra cookie sheet to dedicate to the chore. One baton and one onion should make two sheets full
          Slice the read straight across and as thin as you can and still get a full slice.  Spread each oval with a very Very thin coating of mayo (or a substitute of your choice – as long as it is just a little).  Now you will find out why the onion size was so critical.

          Peel the onion and cut in half top to bottom – put the cut side down and slice as thin as possible.  The end slice will match the tapered ends of the bread, the middle slices just about cover the whole of the middle pieces.  Don’t worry you can “piece” the onion together – what you wan is a single layer of onion on each bread round.

          Just before putting them under the broiler sprinkle lightly with a pinch or two of salt.  They only take about 3 – 4 minutes under the heat so stand by.  They are finished when the edge of the bread is toasted and the onions are turning traslucent.  Use a spatula to slip them onto a serving tray and serve immediately.  This is the time to put the second tray under the broiler. 

          These are probably good at room temperature too but I have rarely gotten them out of the kitchen.  The smell of the onions and the toasty bread draws the knowledgeable to the source like magic.

I hope you will try one or both of these and let me know how your family and friends liked them.  If you have something simple, cheap and lo-cal that is a hit with your crowd send it along – we will share the original ones on FB.

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