On Fluffernutters.

I’m back from New Orleans, but before I get into the whats and wheres of that trip I need to share something with you: Keith is a genius.

As I type this, he’s playing a video game and singing “Build Me Up Buttercup” to himself, neither of which is the reason why he’s a genius.  The reason is this: he made me a sandwich.

Maybe that doesn’t appear to be much to you, but to a sandwich-lovin’ girl like myself, it’s everything — particularly when the sandwich in question is a Fluffernutter, something I had never eaten before.  To all of you who’ve read that last part in disbelief remember, my parents are foreigners who would most likely balk at the thought of Fluff, let alone abide by its presence in their house.  To all of you who have no idea what a Fluffernutter is, hold on a second and I’ll explain.

One of the books I brought with me on our trip was The Best Food Writing 2009, which reprinted a Gastronimica article by Katie Liesener entitled “Marshmallow Fluff.”  Aside from detailing the history of Fluff (originally developed in my old Somerville neighborhood), Liesener’s piece describes the powerful devotion Massachusetts residents have towards Fluff and the Fluffernutter.  As a New York transplant — and daughter of the aforementioned foreigners — I never have experienced this Fluff fervor personally, and as I turned the pages I found the ardor Liesener captures surprisingly intense.  This passage, for example, I read to Keith over the hum of the airplane’s engines last night:

Consider, for example, lifelong fluff [sic] eater Emmett Rauch… Except for a few days’ hospitalization with prostate cancer, Rauch has eaten a fluffernutter [sic] on white bread every morning for breakfast since the day he returned home from World War II.

“‘He was unsatisfied with army food,’ explains his daughter, Ellen Rauch.  ‘He was determined when he got back he would eat what he wanted.'”

After reading that, how could I not go out today on my normal food run and not pick up a jar of Fluff, not bring it home, not toss it to Keith and not say “make me a sandwich“?

Keith, born and bred Massachusetts man that he is, gallantly smeared peanut butter on one piece of bread and Fluff on the other; when he licked the knife clean — at my urging — he said, “This is my Ratatouille moment.”*  Then, he handed me the sandwich on a plate, cautioning, “You’re not going to like it.”

Friends, I don’t like to rub it in when someone is wrong and I am right; it’s déclassé.  That said, Keith was so wrong.

The Fluffernutter is amazing.  It reminded me for some reason of Nutella, which I also happened to coincidentally purchase today, in the sense that both the hazelnut spread and the peanut butter/Fluff combo are incredibly smooth, creamy and dreamy, and the marshmallowy vanillaness of the Fluff adds a deeper richness to the already-rich peanut butter.

To put it simply, it’s damn good.  And yes, I think I’ll have another, if Keith is willing to make it for me.

* Which is another reason why I love him so much.

Lazy Sunday.

This past Sunday, Darlington and I let our hair down and enjoyed a day of decadence.  No, we didn’t go on a whirlwind shopping spree or spend hours at the spa getting buffed, polished and bronzed — we stayed home, ate pasta, baked brownies and watched the first two discs of Gossip Girl, season one.  All in all, it was a fun day.

The two of us had spent a good portion of last week debating as to what we wanted to cook for lunch; I had suggested a pizza, but Darlington then brought up stuffed shells.  I had never eaten a stuffed shell, let alone made one, so it seemed like a great idea: educational and literally smothered with cheese!  It was even more exciting when I learned that the recipe was actually low-calorie too, considering what goes into the dish.  Two shells came out to about 180 calories each, and also contained eleven grams of protein and twenty-five grams of carbohydrates.  Not bad, right?  And the results were pretty damn tasty.

Since Darlington and I can both get admittedly fiend-y about sweets, we knew that we would be interrupting our mini-marathon for some dessert.  When Darlington proposed brownies, I knew that regular chocolate wouldn’t be enough.  For years now, my friend Ben and I have been dreamily discussing how delicious a Nutella-based brownie would be, so I quickly searched my files for the recipe I had been dying to try out.

I’ve got to say, the product we turned out was merely okay — it just wasn’t, well, Nutella-y enough.  (This may or may not be because I am a recovering Nutella addict, and not amount has satisfied me.)  The other night, determined to get it right, I baked another batch with an amplified amount of the hazelnut-chocolate spread and was significantly happier with the result.  For anyone not as preoccupied with Nutella as me, don’t think that Sunday’s brownies were bad.  They were incredibly moist with a nice texture; chewing it was entirely optional, as it all but melted in the mouth, making it a perfect complement to smarmy Chuck Bass and sour Blair Waldorf (two of my favorite characters, I might add, since Kristen Bell‘s voiceover narration as the eponymous and anonymous Gossip Girl doesn’t really count).

xoxo…

Mrs. Howland’s Tofu Stuffed Shells
Makes six portions.

1 package large shells
8 ounces skim ricotta cheese
4 ounces skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
16 ounces tofu, pressed and drained
½ egg substitute or 2 eggs
¼ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup breadcrumbs
32 ounces spaghetti sauce, or 2 16 ounce jars (though I would probably make my own, and use much less)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚ and bring four quarts salted water to a boil.  Add shells, taking care to add gradually so that water does not stop boiling.  Boil uncovered five to ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix cheeses, tofu, parsley, breadcrumbs and egg.  Add salt and pepper. Pour half of spaghetti sauce into a large shallow oven-proof baking dish; then, taking one shell at a time, stuff with approximately one tablespoon of tofu and cheese mixture.  Arrange stuffed shells in baking dish, seam up.  Spoon second half of sauce over the top of shells and sprinkle with additional cheese.  Cover and bake for thirty minutes.

Nutella Brownies, from Gourmet
Makes 16 brownies.

1 ¼ cups hazelnuts
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
3 ounces milk chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3  generous cup Nutella, plus two tablespoons (this is my amped-up amount; the original recipe calls for ¼ cup)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½  cup sugar
2 large eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and butter and flour a nine-inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour.
  2. Toast and skin hazelnuts. In a food processor pulse hazelnuts until coarsely ground (bits should be about 1/8 inch).
  3. Chop chocolates into small pieces and in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolates with butter and Nutella, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat.
  4. While chocolates are melting, into a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and a pinch salt. (I used coarse sea salt for an extra salty kick.) Whisk sugar into chocolate mixture until combined well. Add eggs, whisking until mixture is glossy and smooth. Stir in flour mixture and hazelnuts until just combined.
  5. Pour batter into baking pan and bake in middle of oven thirty-five to forty minutes, or until a tester comes out with moist crumbs adhering to it. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack and cut into sixteen squares. Brownies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, five days.