Every week, your challenge is to create an eye-opening dish within our capricious themes and parameters. Blog your submission on Open Salon under your real name by Monday 10 a.m. EST -- with photos and your story behind the dish -- and we'll republish the winners on Salon on Tuesday. (It takes only 30 seconds to start a blog.) And yes, mashed potato sculpture counts as a dish. Emphatically.
THIS WEEK'S WINNER!
Trish Rainbow! For an absolutely elemental macaroni and cheese, ungussied with sauces or garnishes, that still brought the family home every Friday growing up. "It was the smell of TGIF and no nuns until Sunday Mass; it was the way the steam on the kitchen windows hinted of melted cheese; it was the aroma of home in winter." (Recipe for Macaroni and Cheese, the original comfort food included.)
AND HOW ABOUT A HAND FOR OUR CATEGORY WINNERS?
In the Salty Old Grandma With Perfectly-Seasoned Pasta category:
Sueinaz, for a story about her endearingly tart-tongued grandmother and a recipe with, er, lifelong lessons like, "Keep stirring, because it will help your bosoms grow. Don't complain or you'll be flat-chested like your cousin." (Recipe for Pasta With Garlic Butter Shrimp and Spinach included.)
In the category of Toughness and Love:
John Guzlowski, for a stunning story of cooking for his mother in her later years, a time not to be romanticized, but to be remembered. (Method for Polish Navy Bean Soup included.)
In the Sauerkraut Appreciation Society-sponsored category:
Paul Hinrichs, for traumatizing his poor Depression-era mother by asking her how to make his own sauerkraut, and for showing us how to bake it with tasty, tasty pork products until it all comes out as golden brown, caramelized goodness. (Recipe for Pork With Caramelized Sauerkraut included.)
In the Spaghetti and Meatballs category:
Gratefuldan, for recalling the days before there was such a thing as pasta sauce in a jar from the supermarket, before Americans really knew Italian food, and the Thursday nights when his mother would serve the family's generations-old spaghetti and meatballs. The recipe has the mark of all good meatballs-and-sauce recipes: It asks you to cook them together for hours. (Recipe for Thursday Night Spaghetti and Meatballs included.)
In the Chicken and Dumplings category:
Lucy Mercer, for taking the torch -- and the apron strings -- from her mother and becoming the family expert in rich chicken stew stacked with pillowy dumplings with a secret ingredient: homemade baking powder. (Recipe for Chicken and Dumplings included.)
In the Turkish, French, American category:
Fusun Atalay, for a meal in honor of the cultures she and her mother traverse in their relationship. (Recipes for Chicken Bourguignon and the traditional Turkish Cake Revani included.)
In the category of Dumplings of Other Mothers:
SheilaTGTG55, for memories of the cooking of her mother and grandmother: "Being the youngest in the family, I was probably technically spoiled, but with reference to food, I was not. I was not around to experience all the tasty efforts of my mother and grandmother, only part of them, as they gave in to the modern age and packaged noodles, store-bought apple slices and other easily obtainable foods. I missed years of their cooking, being born last." Her story reaches farther than that -- to humbling stories of women furtively writing their recipes down for future generations during the Holocaust. (Recipes for Viennese Dumplings included.)
In the Caribbean Comfort Food category:
Linda Shiue takes us back to her in-laws from Trinidad to meet her husband's Auntie Doll, a mother figure who raised her husband like her own son, and came to pass to Linda the cooking lessons usually reserved for your own child's spouse, teaching her (and us) Caribbean cooking tips like the proper use of "browning" and "green seasoning." (Recipes for Baked Pastelles, a sort of island tamale pie, and the refreshing hibiscus tea Sorrel included.)
In the Profane Carrot Cake category:
Lisa Kuebler, for remembering Grandma with her carrot cake recipe, one that makes her husband say things he's not supposed to say in front of the kids. (Recipe for Holy S#!% Carrot Cake included.)
In the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin category:
Jenna Charlton, from a mom to her mom, it's love and plump breakfast treats all around. (Recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins included.)
In the Spring Rolls category:
Mamie Chen, who, despite growing up really just wanting Kraft Macaroni and Cheese like all the other kids, comes through with her mother's crispy spring rolls. And if dipping fried food in Worcestershire sauce sounds odd, it'll change your life. (Recipe for Shrimp and Pork Spring Rolls included.)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
AND NOW, FOR THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE
I love peas, so much so that I will curse and holler about them at the slightest prompting. And now, being the middle of the tragically short fresh pea season for most of the country, is about the best time to be making a fuss over them (not that I don't love frozen peas the rest of the year.)
I've been called a "Mushy Pea Missionary" for my love of cooking peas long enough to turn them tender and complexly sweet, but I beg to slightly differ -- if the peas are just-picked, I can't think of a better way to enjoy them than raw, right from the fist. But set them in a kitchen, and my thoughts turn to sautéing them for pasta, pureeing them for a soup or sauce, tossing with mint and olive oil for a salad, or, yes, stewing the bejeezus out of them until they taste like something else altogether.
So this week, since we're going pea-crazy here at Salon Food, the challenge is this: Share with us your best pea dishes! English, sugar snap, snow, fresh or frozen, they all count. (Canned, though ... you'll have to convince us of canned peas!)
Be sure to tag your posts: SKC spring peas
Scoring and winning
Scores will be very scientific, given for appealing photos, interesting stories behind your submissions, creativity, execution and springtime savoir-faire.