Category Archives: Pairings

Kind of Bleu pairs a classic album with a cheese dish.

Pumpkin Seeds, Rosemary & Thyme

After a bout of unusually warm weather, it seems like fall is finally here. The days are increasingly short, the leaves are turning and the pumpkins are out in full force.

Pumpkins might be my favorite part of the season: jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pie and the ever-increasing pumpkin-flavored products (pumpkin beer is a particular favorite of mine). This year, I tried something new with my pumpkin. I roasted the seeds.

Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & ThymeMy girlfriend and I found tons of tasty-sounding recipes on the Internet. We decided to try two of them: one with cinnamon, sugar, chili powder and one with just olive oil and salt. While we were cooking, we dug through my vinyl for the perfect fall music. We listened to Fleet Foxes and Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon before stumbling onto Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme.

Parsley is the most underrated Simon & Garfunkel album. It far outweighs their debut, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., but lacks the famous singles found on Sounds of Silence, Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Sure, it has classics like “Scarborough Fair” and “Homeward Bound,” but it’s a bit of a slow-burner.

That’s part of what makes Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme a perfect fall album. Musically, it’s like autumn trees: almost bare-bones arrangements lifted beautifully by rich, colorful harmonies. It’s full of serene, pastoral songs like “Cloudy” and “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her.” Even “59th Street Bridge Song” isn’t quite as groovy as it claims. It’s more like a calm walk along New York City streets in the crisp fall air.

The album’s 29-minute span is brief. We started it late in the cooking process, so by the end of “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night,” our pumpkin seeds were about ready.

Roasted pumpkin seeds with cinnamon, sugar and chili powderThe cinnamon and sugar overpowered the chili powder in the first batch, which might have been for the best. Every now and then, we’d get a kick of chili and it really didn’t go with the rest of the flavors. Just olive oil and salt is definitely the way to go. The simple recipe and music were the perfect fall treat.

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Easy Cheese to Russia

Rocket to Russia - photo by Jon EbyStephen King is a pretty big Ramones fan. In the liner notes to We’re a Happy Family: A Tribute to the Ramones, King wrote about how during the age of disco and expensive cocaine, the Ramones sang about getting high on a budget.

Their first two albums had the quintessential songs for that description: “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and “Carbona Not Glue.” The incredibly punk imagery of being broke, paired with a snarling attitude, became a signature for the Ramones.

Their third album, Rocket to Russia, contains one of the most vivid images of gutter life: “We’re a Happy Family.” The album also features classic Ramones tunes like “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker.”

Easy CheeseThe Ramones wouldn’t have eaten fancy cheese. Even after their success, I couldn’t picture Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee or Tommy enjoying a nice havarti or smoked gouda. When the Ramones had cheese, it probably came from a can.

I bought a can of easy cheese to go with the Ramones record. It works well on crackers or pretzels, but to get the true sense of youth, I suggest eating it straight from the can.

Rocket was one of the group’s last to focus on teenage life. The whole album is an anthem to youths living in New York City, with mixed emotions about it. Songs like “Rockaway Beach” and their cover of “Surfin’ Bird” are bright and energetic, while others like “I Wanna Be Well” and “Teenage Lobotomy” are bleak and angry. The Ramones balance the emotions well. Rocket to Russia never sounds scattered and is never anything but punk.

Moonlight Lasagna

Frank Sinatra - Moonlight SinatraI finally bought my first Frank Sinatra record – Moonlight Sinatra. I never really got into Ol’ Blue Eyes, but this album really struck me. The concept of it is actually kind of corny – Frank sings a whole album worth of songs about the Moon. Maybe it’s Frank’s voice or Nelson Riddle’s lush, romantic arrangements, but it’s easy to get swept up in Moonlight. It’s the kind of album that makes me want to light a few candles and have a nice dinner, and that’s exactly what I did.

Well, sort of. Sometimes cooking stresses me out, and I’m afraid I wasn’t as cool as the Chairman of the Board. But everything worked out in the end.

Moonlight LasagnaI heard a rumor that Sinatra invented vodka sauce. I don’t think it’s true, but it makes sense – we all know Frank liked a good drink. So I decided to make lasagna with vodka sauce to have a nice dinner with Moonlight Sinatra.

A lot of people think vodka sauce is a gimmick, since vodka is tasteless, but some pretty credible sources like The New York Times say otherwise. There are alcohol-soluble flavors in tomatoes. Vodka releases these without adding other tastes.

I really enjoyed the vodka sauce, which I’d never had before. I suppose this was a pairing of firsts – my first taste of vodka sauce and Frank Sinatra. I wouldn’t hesitate to turn to them again.

Bill Cosby Jello Cheesecake

Silver Throat: Bill Cosby SingsOver Thanksgiving, I found one of my new favorite records. My brother and I had just finished going through all the records at the Geneva Antique Co-op, when I idly flipped through a bunch we’d already covered. I stumbled upon Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Silver Throat was Cosby’s first foray into singing, backed by the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. The R&B album features one original song, “Don’cha Know,” but it’s mostly cover songs. Side one features four Jimmy Reed covers, but the real gem is on side two – Cosby’s take on Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman.”

Bill Cosby isn’t a great singer, but that’s not the point. Silver Throat is full of great music and some tongue-in-cheek humor.

Listening to Silver Throat got me thinking about, you guessed it, Jello. I found a great recipe for a lemon Jello cheesecake. It was actually pretty easy to make – no baking required. I didn’t have a beater handy, so my cream cheese looked a bit uneven on top – but it didn’t affect the taste.

The mix of Jello and cream cheese makes for a bit of a weird texture at first, but the dessert was delicious. I think lemon was definitely the right flavor – it’s not too sweet. The graham cracker crust might have been my favorite part, though. It was an easy dessert that Cosby would endorse.

American Pie with Cheddar

Cheddar and apple pie is a tradition that seems to have gone out of style, but I can’t really figure out why. I grabbed a slice of pie left from Thanksgiving, cut a slice of sharp cheddar and threw it in the microwave.

Everyone in the room looked on in disgust, but apple and cheddar worked really well together. The cheese mostly stayed on top and worked as a nice added flavor. There weren’t really any surprises here, the flavors are both distinct and don’t dilute each other. It’s definitely worth a try for any cheese fan.

And what better album to go with apple pie and cheddar than Don McLean’s 1971 American Pie.  I’ll be honest, the name was the obvious connection for this record and dish, but I’ve made a few more:

Like the apple pie and cheddar, it’s easy to scoff at McLean. While the title track is usually considered one of the greatest of all time, it’s a bit over-played (we can thank Madonna for the latest horrible resurgence). But seriously, “American Pie” is an undeniable classic. Unfortunately, most people haven’t heard the rest of the album.

And American Pie has quite a few gems. “Vincent,” a tribute to van Gogh, is a beautiful acoustic number. McLean matches the majesty of the artists’ Starry Night. The album has a few other equally moving songs, like “The Grave” and “Empty Chairs,” and more upbeat ones like the love song “Winterwood.”

As I kept listening, American Pie is exactly like my dessert. The album’s later folk tracks add depth to the well known title track. Although I was initially put off, it ended up being a pleasant surprise.