I Hope You Like Jammin’ Too

mystery man

The Unknown Food Writer.

Each time I write about food, I think of him.  He is responsible for what I do, as much as Petey and The Kid, any editor, supportive family member or friend, or adoring fan (and let me tell you, Gentle Reader, there are tens of them out there—well, maybe ten…including the ones I pay).

He had such an unintended influence on my life, and I don’t even know his name.Many years ago, before food blogs, the explosion of food writing, and even mass usage of the interwebs, I read a column in my local newspaper.  It was about onions.

But it was more than just a recipe, or a spread in a magazine.  It was a story.  A story that was a glimpse into the life of the writer.  He was an empty nester; his daughter was away at college.The story began with his daughter coming home on a break.  And she immediately dove into the refrigerator.  She pulled out a jar of this dark brown marmalade-like substance that was obviously homemade.  It intrigued, but was completely unknown.When she asked him, he informed her it was caramelized onion jam.  That it was incredibly easy but took hours to prepare.  That it might resemble run of the mill fried onions but it was so, so much more.

Then, in the column he offered the recipe.  I’ve made it many times over the years.  And, in the ensuing decades, I’ve tweaked the recipe according to my tastes and made it my own.

Amended Onion Jamonion jam

5 pounds yellow onions

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ teaspoon salt + more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper + more to taste

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1/3 cup dry Marsala winePeel the onions, cut them in half and slice into ¼ inch half-moons.  Put them all into large, heavy Dutch oven with tightly fitted lid.  Pour in oil.  Add salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir together to coat.  Place on stove and turn to 2-3 or medium-low.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.  You’re looking to get all the water out of the onions.  Uncover, give it a stir, and take a look.  If it’s not ready, recover and cook more, checking every 10 minutes or so.When the onions are wilted-looking, and swimming in an inch or two of liquid, uncover.

Continue to cook, stirring every 15-20 minutes.  Keep cooking until they are the color of an untoasted pecan, with flecks or caramel (2-3 hours).  At this stage the onions will be cooked down to two cups or less.Turn burner up to just over medium (6-ish).  Let the pan heat up, then pour in the Marsala.  Scrape up browned bits on the pan bottom and cook wine is gone and the jam is a nice deep caramel color.  Taste and re-season, if necessary.

Store onions in airtight container in fridge for 1 week or freeze for 2 months.The jam is really good on burgers and grilled cheese.  Use as a flavoring in mayo, humus, or salad dressing.  Replace regular onions in smothered pork chops or country-style steak.  Can you say, French Onion Soup?  And I love it on pizza, and a million other things.One word of caution: a little goes a very long way, don’t go overboard.  And this is coming from someone who loves onions.  It is possible to use too much—so start light, taste, and add more if needed.

Not only did the unknown food writer give me this wonderful, useful recipe, he gave me a whole new way to think about writing and a second act career.

So, thank you Mr. Jam Man.  Wherever you are!Thanks for your time.

This Porridge Is Too Cool

Taking candy from a baby. .. What show is this?I’ve never stolen candy from a baby (stealing my husband’s though, is a whole other conversation).  Those ASPCA commercials with the Lilith Fair soundtrack break my heart (I’m not crying, you’re crying).  I don’t try to foist my beliefs on others and attempt to not judge people for their convictions (except for those who put mustard and/or Miracle Whip in potato salad, then I will totally judge those evil doers).

So, as character flaws go, I guess this one’s pretty benign.  But it’s still a ding upon my soul.

…and me.

From time to time, I’ll discover and embrace something new seemingly before it’s picked up by anyone else.  Anything really; recipes, authors, music, even mascara brands.  Then the rest of the world recognizes its excellence at a slighter later date.

When this happens, I get a little smug.  It’s mainly in my own slightly swollen head, but Petey and The Kid might hear the tiniest smidge of boasting.And on the flip side, whenever the hoi polloi is fascinated with a new fad or style, I am both wary and disdainful.  I don’t do social media, but if it has so permeated the Facespace and Twaddle that it spills over to the rest of the interwebs, where I may then read about it, then it’s truly reached peak saturation.

When this happens, I’m loathe to consider trying the shiny new.  I really dislike coming late to the party.  So, showing up when the hors d’oeuvre trays are empty and the ashtrays are full just kills me. But the very worst?

When I like it (Good grief, just writing out that statement left a bad taste in my mouth).

But there’s this thing; overnight oats.  There’s something both alluring and elegant mixing up a bowl before bed and having a filling and delicious breakfast waiting on you.There are two types of preparation.  The original begins with oats and goes from there.  But there’s another kind, I call it overnight eats, because the oats are optional.

Overnight Oats

You’ll need a 12-ounce jar (for on-the-go) or a cereal bowl (for home consumption)Add ½ cup old-fashioned oats. 

Pour 1 cup liquid over them.

Some examples:

MilkAlmond milk

Coconut milk

Soy milkChocolate milk

Fruit juice

Then add some mix-ins:

Toasted nutsSeeds

Dried fruit

Fresh or frozen fruit

CoconutNut butter

Add Flavor:

First, a pinch of salt—always


Cocoa powder or chocolate chipsA tablespoon or 2 of brown butter

Vanilla extract


NutmegCitrus zest

Chinese five-spice

Garam Masala

Fresh mint or thymeApple Sauce

Mashed banana

Add some sweetness:

Brown or white sugarMaple syrup


Jam or jelly

Agave syrupMolasses

Dulce de leche

Once your jar is loaded to your taste, seal tightly and shake; if in a bowl, give it a good stir.  Place in the fridge for at least 8 hours, or up to 3 days.When ready to eat, uncover, stir, and add a little milk if it’s too stiff.

Overnight Eats

Instead of milk, use a 1 cup of yogurt of your choice.  Because it’s thicker, you don’t need the oats. You can also go savory.  Add cheese, sautéed veggies, bacon or sausage, and instead of milk, use stock.  Then top it with a poached egg; which you can also make the night before. Just give it a light poach.  Then, in the morning just float it in simmering water for a minute or less to heat and finish cooking.So, I have succumbed to a viral sensation.  But I swear on my cranky little heart that I have not, and never will pinstergram my breakfast.

Thanks for your time.

Crying at the party

A potato salad party.

Perfect resting place for mayo.


A pork chop party.


A buttermilk biscuit party.


I would be much happier to attend any of those parties instead of a pizza party.  What is it about pizza that automatically makes it into a party?  Even ice cream only rates ‘social’ status.  Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who doesn’t adore pizza.

Um…not so much.

I don’t hate it.  Every year or so I get a craving for classic, red-sauced, mozzarella cheesed, crispy-crusted pizza.  And if that’s all that’s available to eat, I wouldn’t go hungry.  But the thought of a big gooey slice doesn’t move me.  And I certainly don’t like it enough to eat bad pizza pie; which believe me, abounds.

I do really like a couple of specifically dressed pies, but Petey insists that they really aren’t pizza.

When the planets align and I’ve shown up on the right day, Whole Foods has a pizza that I love.  When it’s on the menu, I cannot leave the store without a slice.  In fact, I recently lucked out and it’s what I had for dinner tonight.

It’s carbonara.  Done right, spaghetti carbonara is a heavenly experience.  The traditional sauce is deceptively simple.  Four ingredients: pancetta, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and eggs.  It’s much easier to make badly than to do right, then you end up with scrambled eggs, or watery, flavorless despair.

Done right.


Done oh so very wrong.

Whole Foods’ pizza uses an Alfredo sauce base, so skips the hazards that the eggs represent.  It’s pure, cheesy comfort food.

When I worked on Saturdays for Bosco at his bookstore I would order something to be delivered.

About half of those Saturdays I would order from Amante Pizza.  What lured me in is their ginormous selection of toppings.  Nine cheeses and thirteen meats.  Seven sauces and only one is red, not counting salsa.  Too many fruits and veggies to count—they actually have pecans.  Pecans on a pizza.  Who knew?

That’s the great thing about pizza.  Everybody can have their own pizza, and everybody gets to choose their own toppings.  But at restaurants each extra topping start at around a dollar, so pizzas for a crowd can get expensive quick.

So what’s a family on a budget supposed to do?

Do it at home.  Yes, at home.  I know, making crust can be a pain, and take hours.

But, I did some research, and many, many places sell raw pizza dough to take home and tart up yourself.  Both white and wheat.  Everywhere from Harris Teeter to my old fave, Amante.

And in case you’re a pizza pie apostate like me, here is my very special Amante order to get your own ideas percolating.

Now this is pizza pie.

Heretical pizza


½ cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

4 sprigs rosemary

1 bunch basil, ripped, stems included

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat all ingredients in small saucepan until fragrant.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Strain.


1 cup mozzarella (fresh cheese in liquid, not bagged and pre-shredded)

1 cup broccoli florets, steamed tender-crisp

2 tablespoons oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, julienned

½ small red onion, sliced thinly

4 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 small zucchini, sliced

1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks

Put cookie sheet or pizza stone into oven and preheat to 450 for at least 20 minutes.  Sauté mushrooms and zucchini until softened in a bit of basil-rosemary oil.  Remove veg from skillet and place on paper towel to get rid of moisture, then add chicken to pan.  Cook until browned.

Stretch dough to make a 3/4 inch thick, 8-9 inch circle.  Brush with oil, then drop dollops of cheese all over it.  Scatter on rest of ingredients.  Season.

Place pizza onto stone or sheet.  Turn oven to low broiler, and cook for 12 minutes.  Then turn oven back to 450 and cook 2 minutes more.

Remove from oven and let rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing.  Serves one, but that’s the point.

So I guess I do like my own version of pizza.  But I still don’t think it deserves a party devoted to it.  Just off the top of my head, what if instead we started having bacon parties?

With bells on, I’ll be there.

I’ll RSVP that sucker right now.

Thanks for your time.