October 2011

Here I am on another day off from work, with nothing to do but cook. It’s feeling more autumnal here by the day, but I can’t really let go of the fresh flavors of summer. The other day, I wanted to make a quick salad to go along with dinner, but I had no greens. I asked my better half if she was going to stop by the market on the way home, and if she’d be bothered to get some salad makings. I didn’t hear back for a little while, and dinner was fast approaching. I’d made a bread pudding earlier in the day, and I used the rest of the bread to do mini raclette/baguette toasted cheese sandwiches under the broiler.

Still, that’s a lot of bread.

We’re in a new place, and I still haven’t figured out why, even with a smaller fridge, I’m not able to fill it with stuff that I can grab and use to make stuff on the fly. We’ve got a couple of stores close to us, including my home store, so it’s not really a big thing. Being impatient as I am, I hopped on my bike and rode down the street to pick up some arugula from the produce market. I haven’t had arugula in six weeks.

What’s arugula? It’s a veg-e-table.

I hadn’t been to this produce market yet, and when I got in, I was surprised by how much they had to offer. I scoured the greens. Turnip, collard, kale, escarole, bibb, romaine, but no arugula. It’s a sure sign of a first world problem when you get grumpy over the lack of spring mix and microgreens in your local grocer’s produce case. They did, however, have dandelion greens- a little bitter, but for the salad I was making, I thought it would be refreshing. I picked out a bunch, along with a lemon for a fresh dressing, and biked back home.

Dandelion Greens on a sunny afternoon

By the time I got home, I checked my phone, and the lady had said she picked up some herb salad mix, so the dandelions were relocated, temporarily, to the back of the fridge.

On my days off, I get bored. I’ll go exploring, but for the most part, I’ll stay indoors, watch the television, plop around on the internet. Now that it’s about 3 p.m., I’m getting antsy. This is how it usually goes. I think it’s time to make some food.


Dandelion Green Pasta Filling:

1 bunch Dandelion greens, triple washed, trimmed of stems

1/2 yellow onion, small dice

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

1 T. salted butter

salt, pepper, oil


Pulled out the dandelion greens from the fridge and tasted them just now. They are unbelievably bitter. For the greens to lose their bitterness, I may have to cook them down considerably.


Pan on the stove. Low heat to sweat the onion and garlic. And… into the pan they go. Little salt, little pepper. So far so good. It smells pretty nice in here. After ten minutes they seem to have become tender and fragrant.


Spin the greens to get rid of the moisture. I thought of maybe soaking them in milk? Nah. I don’t think that’d be the most productive use of milk.


Okay. In the pan with the greens, all chopped up like they are. Let em cook. They’re looking vibrant.


Ten more minutes in, and they’ve lost some of that green, but the cooking has taken a lot of bitterness out of them as well. I don’t have any cheese, but I don’t want to mask the comfortable level of bitterness that I still have going for the green mix. If I were to choose a cheese to go inside, it’d be a pecorino. The nutty sheep’s milk and texture would go along nicely. I think I’ll get a small wedge of it tomorrow, and serve it up on top, maybe in curls.


Okay. I’m going to need some pasta dough here. Trusty Mario Batali Pasta Recipe, take me away.


I have a new cutting board. It’s all wood, of heavy stock, and it sits atop my prep rack, good for cutting stuff and kneading things. I know it’s anti-utilitarian of me, but I don’t really want to get it too dirty just yet. I fabricated the pasta dough using the well method (only way to go) inside a mixing bowl, and then turned out the sloppy mess onto the board for kneading. After about five minutes, I covered it in plastic wrap and now I’m letting it sit for another 30 minutes before taking it for a ride on the pasta bike.

Two eggs and some flour

(For more information about how to make your own fresh pasta, consult this blog entry.)


Okay. Pasta dough has rested, now on to the bike!


Just got done cranking the pasta dough and filling them up. Filled pasta is a lot of work if you don’t have practice. Out of a half batch of dough, I had enough filling for 22 tortellini, approximately 4 servings by Euro Standards, maybe 2 by American standards. Perhaps tomorrow night, I’ll make them for diner, with a light butter sauce with basil and crushed pecans.

A bunch of tortellini


A final thought: An afternoon project is something very fulfilling, especially if it’s something that I can eat and share later on. I’m glad I had the opportunity to share the process with…the…internet. I’m even happier that I get to share something that I’ve made with my lady for dinner.


Don’t forget to like Mulligan Stew on Facebook.

So, I’ve been away, but I’m BACK! (I think).

I moved shop, and now I sit and type from a different location. I realize that I’ve left the last part of my bad fish saga out- the response from what now everyone can guess is Trader Joe’s. Here, in its entirety, is their letter:


Thank you for providing this valuable feedback. We would like to extend
our apologies for the disappointing experience you had with the Trader
Joe’s Mahi Mahi Pieces. We have notified our Quality Assurance Manager
and the appropriate buyer regarding your experience, and we will
continue to monitor this product for future trends. We believe that
quality is essential to good value, and that’s what we are all about!

We also wanted to make sure you are aware of our “Product Guarantee.” If
you are dissatisfied with any product purchased in our stores, you can
take it, the empty package or receipt back to any of our neighborhood
stores for an exchange or full refund. We stand behind our motto, “We
tried it! We liked it! If you don’t, bring it back for a full refund, no
questions asked.”

At Trader Joe’s, we are always striving to improve, and your comments
give us the opportunity to do just that.

Thank you,

Nicki K.
Trader Joe’s
Customer Relations


Now, that didn’t really address my concerns. How would they feel if they were forced to eat that? I guess all they can do is say that they’re sorry, and remind people of their store policy, which is exactly what they did. Going just as far as needed serves to get me to shut up. I hope they feel the icy sting of lost business as they take their money drop to the bank.

From my point of view, it’s simple: If someone takes the time to articulate their problem with your store, service, or business model, and it is a glaring error on your part, assure them that you are going to fix it, do something about it, and make sure they know. I asked someone in the store what the best avenue would be, and they said that their customer service department online would be the best equipped to handle my particular issue. Why? I have no idea. I would circumvent the store level, take my complaint up the ladder, and the problem would fall right back down to the computer screen of the guy sitting behind the desk to whom I was just talking. Too much trouble.

Here’s what I’ve learned to do: Pacify the customer. Satisfy them. Make sure that they feel their concern is being validated and heard, and then do something about it. I often see customers come into my store with issues about their food: a pear was overripe, my steak was tough, my cereal didn’t taste the same as it usually does.

Now, where’s the next step? If you stand behind the mission of your company, apologize. You don’t have to agree with them, but apologize. Next, find the offending product. If you have the means, offer them a replacement. Giving up $3 worth of product isn’t going to hurt your business in the long run, if your model is sound. If it is, you need to do some adjusting of said model. What’s worse to you? “Losing” $3, or losing the customer’s business from that point on out?

I’m not in it for the free product. I’m in it for the principle. If someone shows concern for me as a customer, whether it is a locally owned business, restaurant or bar, or at a National grocery store chain, they have my business. It’s what sets them apart. From my side of the counter, it’s simple. Treat people how you as a customer would want to be treated, even if they’re slightly offputting. To a certain point, give them the benefit of the doubt, and believe that they want to purchase your wares and be informed and charmed by your great customer service. It means money in your pocket. If you can’t handle said customer, and there’s someone else better equipped to do so, let them assist you.

Walk with them to help them find a new pear, together. If you’re an expert on pears, show them what you look for. If you’re a butcher, help them find a great new steak. If you agree with them that the Peanut Butter Cashew Honey Nut Chimpanzee Crunch isn’t your favorite, help them find something else that you like. It will be appreciated. If you show the effort and personal investment in helping someone out, they will fill your pockets. Hopefully not with Peanut Butter Cashew Honey Nut Chimpanzee Crunch. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.