Wordless Wednesday: Above and Beyond

Millennium Oyster Mushrooms

Roasted King Trumpet Mushroom Trofie Pasta

Charred Sweet Pepper & Mushroom Pizza

Amarosa Potato & Fig Pizza

Apple Pie Pizza

Above Ground Bar & Kitchen
2170 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Midnight Cravings

There’s no accounting for midnight cravings. In the dark of night, after all reasonable people have long since retired to their beds, strange things can happen in an unguarded kitchen. It’s a crime of opportunity, based as much on cravings as availability; the resulting creations are a whole different sort of guilty pleasure. Guided by a vague desire for something savory, restricted to the contents of a poorly managed pantry, there’s no telling what Frankenstein foods could be wrought from the scraps.

Originally devised by those same conditions in a faraway land, the medianoche literally translates to “midnight,” and is so named for its popularity in Havana’s night clubs, served sometime around the witching hour. Similar to a Cuban sandwich, it traditionally layers various forms of pork, mustard, Swiss cheese, sweet pickles on bread; all staples you could easily dig out of a mostly bare kitchen on a whim.

Granted, I’m not exactly out late partying when this nighttime hunger gnaws away at my stomach. Quietly shuffling around in my pajamas, I’d much rather pile all those goodies into a bowl than try to manage a handheld stack. Uncoordinated in my finest hours, my ability to eat neatly declines precipitously with every passing hour. Sandwich fillings would stay between the bread for approximately 2.5 seconds before ejecting unceremoniously onto the floor at that rate.

That’s why the concept of a bread salad is so ingenious. It’s the full sandwich experience that you can eat with a fork, no muss, no fuss, and no judgement. Perhaps the contents are still a bit unconventional, but this is one crazy concoction I wouldn’t hesitate to share in the light of day.

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Taking a Dump for Dinner

The mere concept is ripe for ridicule. Built upon a shaky foundation of canned goods and prepared foods, dump-and-bake meals are the semi-homemade answer to the daily dilemma of someone who doesn’t want to, doesn’t like to, or doesn’t know how to cook. All you need is a can opener and a cooking device; I do understand the appeal. Quick, easy, pantry-friendly, and so much more SEO gold, convenience seems to win the war over good taste in this instance.

Of course, don’t get me started on the name. “Dumping” is simply never a positive verb. Evoking images of landfills, garbage, dropping or throwing away, I can’t get past the term. Mentally condensed, I read it out as “Trash Casserole” nine times out of ten, without thinking about it. Of course, don’t get me started on the connotations of “taking a dump.”

Snark aside, there’s a time and a place for everything. It’s a shame the idea is maligned by basic nomenclature, but you can’t blame a child for a name given at birth. Considering the dire state of my refrigerator, it’s time I get my head of out the gutter- Or toilet, as it may be.

Relying more on unprocessed dry goods than traditional alchemic creations of modern prepared foods, my take on classic stroganoff is an effortless one-pan approach to nearly instant gratification. Soy curls, some of the greatest unsung heroes of meatless proteins, take the place of more bovine inclusions. Re-hydrating right in the cooking liquid, alongside dry pasta, there’s no fussy soaking, draining, sauteing, or separate special treatment necessary.

You don’t even need to break out the knives if you plan your pantry well. Purchase pre-sliced mushrooms, jars of minced garlic ready to go, and even frozen diced onion to keep in the true spirit of dumping doctrine. Heck, go ahead and use canned>mushrooms if need be. There’s no shame in making the most of what you’ve got, and this luscious cream sauce is so rich, it can easily conceal a multitude of sins.

Soaking in all the umami seasonings built into the broth, tender noodles provide actual substance, rather than filler for this rendition. Use whole grain options for a bit of extra fiber, or gluten-free if you’re intolerant. Remain flexible, keep an open mind, and start preheating your oven.

Comfort food shouldn’t just provide solace on the plate. If I may be so bold, I’d like to propose that it should be soothing to create, too.

I get it: Dump dinners sound like culinary defeat, the last attempt at sustenance devised by a starving cook at the end of their rope. It doesn’t have to be that way. Emboldened by fresher fare, let’s all take back the notion and take a dump for dinner, together!

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