Not Martha

food swap

This week I attended a brilliant food swap hosted by Jess, it was called Take It, Bake It and it was adapted from the Soup Swap. The guidelines for this swap were a little different, the idea starting with having a freezer full of food that would serve well as instant dinner party fare. So each participant brought six batches of something that would serve six people, as well as a hot (or ready to be cooked) batch so that everybody could have a taste of the offerings.

I don’t have a lot of experience cooking, let alone figuring out how to unfreeze and bake something so I played it safe and went to the “Freeze It” sections of my old Everyday Food magazines. I was considering making lots of bolognese sauce and including bags of my new favorite pasta, but the freezer-to-oven cooking instructions for this Spinach Pie won me over. Also, that recipe makes two pies that serve six each, so I would only be making three batches of the recipe which sounded easy. I needn’t have worried, despite a minor incident involving spinach juice spilling inside my fridge I had a lot of fun cooking. I listed to This American Life, To the Best of Our Knowledge and then old episodes of Smodcast and the evening passed quickly. The only thing that took a lot of time was chopping all the onions for the recipe as I had to keep stopping and pacing the hallway to get onion fumes out of my eyes (I regret not getting those onion goggles now).

A few things if you should want to make the Spinach Pie – I used disposable 10″ pie plates and they needed a little more phyllo to cover the tops than is called for in the recipe. The phyllo is the best part anyhow so use 12 ounces instead of 8. It’s easier to separate the phyllo before tossing it with the olive oil, otherwise you’ll never get it to unroll. They phyllo will deflate when tossed with the oil, there isn’t much to be done.

The gathering was lots of fun, and I came home with quite a haul:

That pile includes: Chicken Marbella made by Lulife (it’s like grown up chicken wings), strawberry-rhubarab-apple crisp with creme anglaise made by Jess, some luscious macaroni and cheese made by Sarah, an asparagus-leek soup made by Noah, potato phyllo samosas made by Justin and Laura, and chocolate cookie, strawberry ice cream sandwiches made by Alex and Clair. I’m thrilled to have a freezer bursting with excellent food.

I even came home with a few gifts!

The spice packets were a party favor and the incredible rhubarb marmalade was a prize for having the first dish to disappear from the selection table (thank you Everyday Food).

In her entry Jess give this recipe for Vinegared Beet Salad which she served at the gathering, and which was incredible. I wish I had thought to ask if I could purchase the leftovers!

· comments [21] · 05-3-2007 · categories:food ·

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Liz // May 3, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Have you ever considered getting one of the Vidalia Onion Choppers they advertise everywhere? After seeing it rated on the Today Show one morning as an “excellent buy”, I finally broke down and bought one – – and it is a lifesaver! Peel the onion, cut it in half, place it on the grid, shut the lid . . . and Presto! Chopped onions, with no tears!

    Just a thought . . .

  • 2 Lapis // May 3, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Have you ever tried burning a candle while chopping onions? My roommates and I have a terrible time but my mother suggested lighting a candle… works like a charm and no special equipment required.

  • 3 megan // May 3, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Lapis – I tried the candle, I tried chewing gum, I tried running water, I tried holding a piece of bread between my teeth. Nothing helped.

    Liz – I have a teeny kitchen (very little storage) so if I’m going to buy anything to chop onions for me I’ll go all out and get a Cuisinart.

  • 4 Kim // May 3, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Do you ever wear contacts? When I wear contacts I have no trouble with chopping onions. Without contacts I can’t bear it. Though … buying contacts to chop onions would be perhaps more complicated than just buying onion goggles. How about swim goggles??

    By the way – love the food swap idea and I plan to steal it. Love your blog too.

  • 5 megan // May 3, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Kim – I do have contacts but I had already touched onion by the time I thought to put them in. A friend used swim goggles to chop onions but found they fogged up too easily.

    I think I’m talking myself into buying a food processor here.

  • 6 Michelle // May 3, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I have the same problem when chopping onions – and nothing works. I just suffer thought it or pull out the food processor.

    What a great idea! A nice variation on dinner making parties where everyone gets together at a single house and assembles meals to take home for freezing.

  • 7 Debbie // May 3, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Did you add all the salt in the Spinach Pie recipe … 4 teaspoons total???

  • 8 McAuliflower // May 3, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    I refrigerate my onions before chopping. having them cold helps prevent the gas from dissipating.

    I just love the idea of a food exchange- like the soup parties.

    The concept would really fit for canners and preservers too.

  • 9 megan // May 3, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Debbie – Consider this: the recipe serves 12 people total (two pies, six servings per pie).

    McAuliflower – If I weren’t so afraid of poisoning people with canning I’d totally be down with a canning swap. I watched the Good Eats episode on canning very carefully and I don’t feel any more confident.

  • 10 Jennifer // May 3, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Great ideas in this post, as always…thanks for that!

  • 11 Vanessa // May 3, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Oooh ooh ooh! You MUST get the Vegetable Chop & Measure from Williams Sonoma. It comes with an attached measuring cup, so you don’t have to touch the onions!!! Just cut and drop into the pot:

  • 12 Vanessa // May 3, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    p.s. I have one, and I lurve it.

  • 13 Lucia // May 3, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    I am thinking about a canning/freezer jam swap for the summertime…

  • 14 Kristin // May 3, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Pre-chopped onions from the frozen vegetable section at the grocery store are not bad! I’ve been tear-free for months, and honestly, not all recipes require hand-cut fresh onions (especially if the alternative is using a food processor). Worth a try…

  • 15 A different Megan // May 4, 2007 at 5:08 am

    How do you chop your onions? You can do one in just a few seconds if you do it the right way.
    I do it like this:
    except I cut parallel to the board first. I find it’s easier.

  • 16 megan // May 4, 2007 at 8:08 am

    Megan – That’s how I do it as well, but I was chopping 12 onions at one go, so there wasn’t much more I could do to speed things along.

  • 17 jesse // May 4, 2007 at 10:45 am

    what a clever idea! and i liked how you ended up with appetizers, main dishes and desserts by the end.

  • 18 carriegood // May 4, 2007 at 10:59 am

    i am very sensitive to onions – even if i’m not the one chopping them, if i walk into the kitchen while they’re sitting there already chopped, my eyes burn and water. i’ve tried every remedy for onion tears and there is only one that works for me.

    cut the ends off and hold it under running cold water while peeling. it washes the acid away. for extra large onions, i cut it in half and rub the two pieces against each other under the tap for a few seconds.

  • 19 Kelly // May 6, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    Here’s my cheap and easy solution (and one that always works in my house), get your boyfriend or husband to chop the onions. :)

  • 20 Culinary Fool // May 16, 2007 at 6:33 am

    What a fun idea for a swap!

    As for onions in several cooking classes I’ve taken the chefs have mentioned that fresh air is the best way to avoid tearing up. So if you have a window nearby your chopping area keep it open or you might try running your kitchen fan or other fan to keep the air moving. Even just taking a break and getting outside for a minute or two can help.

  • 21 Marie // Jun 30, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I refrigerate my onions and they’re much more bearable to chop cold than at room temperature.

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