Food You Don’t Know What to Do With: An Introduction, An Invitation & A Gift!

For the first time in a long time, I don’t have an unfinished project staring me down. I got a little anxious about that recently, but then reminded myself that it’s okay to take a breather and wait for something to arrive organically. Depending on what’s going on around me, I can either subscribe to the “A Writer Writes” maxim, that prods me to write every day, inspiration be damned! until something comes of it. Or, I live by the “It’s All Writing Anyway” theory, that says that no matter what I’m doing–writing, not writing, reading, cooking, sleeping, playing with my kids, teaching, gardening, sulking–it’s all good fertilizer that will eventually become words on the page.

This and that. This and then that. And so, forward I go until one day, voila! A new project announces itself to me.

Today is that day, and I am going to need your help!

I am planning a new, weekly column here called Food You Don’t Know What To Do With, in which you, my readers, suggest foods that perplex you, stump you, terrify you, intrigue but evade you, and I write about them, offering some background, history, photos, tangential-but-hopefully-engaging musings and, most importantly, some actual suggestions on how to approach them in the kitchen! 

(I’m loath to create criteria around your suggestions–I really want this to be functional for you as well as fun and exploratory for me–but I will say that some foods may be limited depending on local availability.)

Now I just made myself laugh with the “my readers” thing above, because as far as I can tell, there are about five of you out there.  Hello! Am I wrong? I hope I’m wrong. Please prove me wrong by commenting on this post, sharing it with your food-and-writing-minded friends, and, most importantly, by participating in this project!

If you’re in, then leave me a comment here (along with your email address) with the Food YOU Don’t Know What to Do With and I will choose one randomly by Friday, August 31st at midnight to become my first entry. That winner will also receive a copy of my first chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline, signed by me and shipped to you! I will announce the winner on Saturday, September 1st and make my first post next week.

But! Even if your food is not chosen for the first entry, I will still write about it! I will write about whatever you people want.

Make a list. Hand it to me. Let’s cook and write and eat!



34 thoughts on “Food You Don’t Know What to Do With: An Introduction, An Invitation & A Gift!

  1. Jessica Brenn says:

    As a college student with little to no experience in cooking, there is no way I’m passing this beautiful project by. I have a lot of problems with vegetables, but specifically I’m interested in zucchini. It seems to have potential, but I’m stumped as how to cook it.

  2. dianne says:

    how about eggplant ? as a vegetarian I eat huge amount of this food. I am weary of anything with tomatoes. I can never do the Asian thing right and it usually has too much oil.

    any ideas ?

  3. From the Hatchery says:

    I am curious about lentils. I once looked up how they grew but their mystery was not entirely solved. Also: Scotch. How did someone decide to let malt barley sit around in an oak barrel for (too long) a time, and who decided it tasted good? Bonus round: find a recipe with Scotch and lentils! (Well, maybe not …)

    A book that might interest you: An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. I read about a cooking class in which Adler instructed her students to bring stuff they didn’t know what to do with: faded greens, a congealed jar of old capers, the rinds of cheeses, etc. From these leftovers came surprisingly tasty dishes! The book reveals how …

    • ryderziebarth says:

      Am I supposed to reply? I LOVE leeks! Potato leek soup. leeks in beef stew, braised leeks as a side dish, chopped leeks in salad….ok. I’ll be quiet now.

      • Ingrid says:

        If you are not averse to microwave cooking, Google Barbara Kafka’s Microwave Gourmet recipe for braised leeks. They will melt in your mouth.

  4. ryderziebarth says:

    Beans. Most Beans. They are so nah-nah. Starchy old things, a bit like eating your napkin.I can do hummus, I can do a bean salad with cukes and red pepper, scallions and rice, but otherwise, I am uninspired. A couple of forkfuls and, Meh.And it can’t be too fattening–no cheese slathered baked concoction ( I know I am making it difficult, but I am not a fan of Mexicany food) AND-not too much of them, because as we all know, they are good for your heart, however…..well, you know the rest. Good luck!

  5. Charlie says:

    Hi Sheila! This is a fantastic idea.

    In addition to seconding the suggestion of ”Leeks” made above, I’d like to ask about Beets. I’ve read about things to do with them before, but the few times I’ve given it an honest shot, I’ve found them really hard to deal with.

    How do you deal with/avoid the massive red mess they make? What’s the best way to remove the skin? How do I tell when they are cooked enough–and should they be taking *so* long to cook?

  6. Leanne Zuech says:

    ANY vegetable! Hate them mushy…roasted is about the only way I enjoy them but it takes me so much time to chop them up that I’m never very interested in doing it. Kid friendly veggie ideas!

  7. Brielle says:


    I was walking by them yesterday getting some kale, which I love, but I was got thinking turnips- what?

    My mom never ever prepared those for me. Are they even nutritious?


  8. Ingrid says:

    I bought a huge pack of single serving pre-cooked organic brown rice at Costco. Other than using it as a base for those aseptically packaged Thai and Indian sauces, what should I do with them?

  9. Sharon McGill says:

    Okay, I’ll throw in a bid for kale. For some reason, our CSA has had a lot of it this summer, and I’m sick of kale+starch recipes. Kale and potatoes (Colcannon); kale and rice (stir-fry, like with tofu); and kale and pasta. Snooooze. . .If you can dig up something more exciting, I’d love to hear it!

    • Ingrid says:

      My best friend makes a delicious kale salad to take to lunch every day. She chops the kale finely and throws in lemon juice, olive oil, feta, cherry tomatoes, and salt. It’s quite delicious! (I make a kale shake every morning with a different type of fruit. My favorite is with dark grapes. This is really only optimal if a) you have a Blendtec or Vitamix; and b) you don’t mind drinking dark green things.)

      • Sharon McGill says:

        Oh wow, that sounds good! I don’t believe I’ve ever had it raw. My hubbie throws it in smoothies, but I’m not that daring (I think he does kale+cinnamon, which sounds awful to me, but he loves it). The grapes could be interesting. And we have a glorious Bamix for such purposes. I love my Bamix!

  10. Elisabeth Gruner says:

    Ooh, I keep wanting to respond–roast the beets until you can stick a knife into them easily, for example. And I second kale salad. Also kale chips, which you can google. Eggplant is best roasted, I think. But I have no idea what to do with kimchi, or whether I would even want to… So that’s my contribution. What a fun project!

  11. Lisa says:

    Turnips, parsnips, celery root, jicama, radishes. In other words, all those hard bland things that are probably good for me but I can’t figure out!

  12. Jen Rand says:

    I love this! I want to give you a billion great veggie recipes now! I’m also going to put in my vote for the food that most frequently confounds me so much that I just give up and move on to the next meat counter: fish.

    I love savory, saucy foods and don’t actually like the taste of fish, but I feel like I should be eating it AND serving it to my little people so they can come to love something I don’t….help!

  13. vernakale says:

    I have a bag of millet I bought from the Mennonite grocery store. I was going to use it to make crackers, but I never get around to making anything that requires me to use a rolling pin. What else can I do with it? Difficulty: a three-year-old should be willing to eat it too.

  14. Alex says:

    Root vegetables, especially rutabaga and turnips. SO confusing. They are available at the grocery store, therefore someone must eat them. But is there even a way to make them tasty? Or are there that many masochists in the world?

  15. Susan Rubinsky says:

    Star Fruit. You can cut them up into stars and eat them as finger food but can’t you do something more? Pineapple has so many opportunities – grilled, baked with ham, cake — but not starfruit.

    • Matthew Rockmore says:

      I have to say, after eating them directly from the tree in Belize, I can barely choke down starfruit from the grocery store. They really don’t travel well and they don’t achieve anything like the same texture or flavor. They may possibly be my favorite fruit, but I don’t even like them baked onto fruit tarts here.

  16. Becky Barnard says:

    I’ll second (third?) quinoa! I feel like I should be eating it in all of its superfoodness, but my Midwestern meat-and-potatoes genes are afraid of it for some reason. Besides, The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.” (Thanks, Google!) So you’d be a trendsetter.

    Love the idea for this blog!

  17. Sarah Lovrak says:

    So Fennel always throws me off. I don’t know how to prep it or cook it correctly…or maybe I really just don’t like it!

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