Monday, January 30, 2012

Family Fun, Italian Style

Bob and Pat Brodsky were celebrating their 53rd wedding annivesary (!) and they invited us to join them for dinner at Scardino's, 4803 Torrance Boulevaard, Torrance 310-542-2222. It's an old favorite that, for one reason or another, they haven't visited lately.

It's situated in a strip mall and it's been there in one form or another for the past 25 years. Originally, it was a take-out place, but six years ago, the previous tenant left and they were able to buy the space that is now their dining room.

It's a smallish room, longer than it is wide, with framed posters marching down the long wall. Wooden tables and chairs, immaculate white table linen, and almost every table had a group of people - not just couples dotted around the room. Pat pointed to a big table in the back and said it was the family table. It was in use that night and people were roaring with laughter and yelling at one another in great glee all over the restaurant. It struck me momentarily as kind of a rowdy Thanksgiving dinner with all of the relatives.

They were doing a good business when we got there, but because Bob had made a reservation, we were seated immediately. The three of them decided to share a bottle of chianti and when the waiter uncorked it at the table, I asked, "Does it have to breathe or do we just wrestle it to death in the glass?" which made him laugh and say, "Yes, let it breathe."

Finally decisions had been made. Pat ordered the eggplant parmesan; Richie chicken cacciatore, Bob the "half and half" of meat ravioli and spaghetti marinara. I asked the waiter if their small Caesar salad came garnished with anchovies and his face fell, then brightened -- "No, but I can add some" in a hopeful voice. I made a horrific face and mimed crossing myself and this amused him so much that he burst out laughing, bent over our table. When we all got calm, the food began to arrive. My cappelini with meat sauce was outstanding. The chef, who arrived six years ago, has absolutely mastered meat sauce.

All of it was very good and the portions were enormous. So much so that Bob was the only one of us not to ask for a doggy bag.

A bottle of chianti, a glass of pinot grigio, and four entrees came to $100 plus $20 tip. We will definitely go back and feel we're now rich -- TWO excellent Italian places from which to choose. (Charlie's, formerly Cialucci's, is the other.) Our Italian family is growing.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gearing Up For Palm Springs

It's a mini-family reunion! Richie's brother Charlie and his wife Rosalind flew in yesterday morning from their home on Long Island. Meanwhile, my sister, Jane, and my bro-in-law Jim had driven from Galena, IL and were due in Palm Springs yesterday. Next week, Charlie, Rosalind and we are driving down to Palm Springs.

Since all of us like to eat, I compiled a list of places that we know plus a couple of new places that we don't.

Known -
Trio, 760-864-8746
707 N. Palm Canyon, PS They make a crawfish pot pie that is enormous and very good.

Sherman's Deli
401 E. Tahquitz Canyon, PS Home of the corned beef sandwich on hash browns, not bread.

Tommy Bahama's Caribbean Cafe 760-836-0188
73-595 El Paseo, Palm Desert Real island ambience and plenty of rum drinks

Rock Garden Cafe 760-327-8849
777 S. Palm Canyon,, PS Golfers breakfasting in the mornings; punk rock scene at night.

Tyler's for Sliders! 760-325-2990
149 S. Indian Canyon, PS

Tootie's BBQ 760-202-6963
703 Perez Road, Cathedral City Hey, it's bbq! And it's good!

Don and Sweet Sue's Cafe 760-770-2760
68-955 Ramon Road, Cathedral City Very much a local's place and quite cozy.

Melvyn's 760-325-2323
Ingleside Inn, 200 W. Ramon, PS Go back in time with table-side salad prep, a lot of steak choices and even more sauces.

New -
Copley's 760-327-9555
621 N. Palm Canyon, PS Dinner only and a Caesar salad with crab fritters intrigues me.

Le Vallauris 760-325-5059
385 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, PS Wildly, roaringly expensive but the food is said to be very good. $85 for the caviar.

Lavendar Bistro 760-564-5353
78-073 Calle Barcelona, La Quinta Very good word of mouth on this one.

Spenser's 760-327-3446
700 W. Baristo Road, PS The chef grows his own herbs and vegetables and is very much into garden-to-table cooking

Blue Coyote 760-327-1196
445 N. Palm Canyon, PS Said to have good margaritas - pitcher, $30; single drink, $9 but the food got booed pretty good. Drinks only is what I'll recommend.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Three People/Three Books

"George Harrison, Living in the Material World" by Olivia Harrison Abrams Publishing 398 pages $40

This is basically a scrapbook of old photos, a paragraph or two of lauditory memories of Harrison by family, friends and bandmates and photos of his handwritten lyrics; guitar chords on scraps of paper. If you're a Beatle fan, you'll probably enjoy it. I'm still puzzling over this: "Each person has to find for himself a way for inner realization. I still believe that's the only reason we're on this planet. It's like going to school again: each soul is potentially divine and the goal is to manifest that divinity. Everything else is secondary." George Harrison

"Real Girl Next Door" by Denise Richards Gallery Books 277 pages $26

Richards presents herself as a well-raised, independent girly girl. Interestingly she never said a word about ex-husband Charlie Sheen's alleged drug problems. Must have been a pretty strong injunction, lol.

Almost all of the acknowledgements contain the phrase "you were always there for me." Well, we know what that means - she's a taker. Run!

"Transition, The Story of How I Became a Man" by Chaz Bono with Billie Fitzpatrick Dutton 245 pages $25.95

Chastity Bono (until he legally changed it) was born female, in every aspect including plumbing. He writes that he remembers being at an all lesbian barbecue and felt two steps removed from the group. He wrote that he is not a femme lesbian, not a jock lesbian, not even a stone butch "despite my mannish shoes and clothing." It turns out that, in his mind if nowhere else, he is a man trapped in a woman's body.

While rare, this is common enough to have a DSM IV label of "gender identity disorder." In theory, I can understand this disorder, but in reality, I really don't understand it. To be programmed as one sex from birth and treated accordingly only to discover you are the opposite sex? Frankly, it seems unlikely to me. But what do I know? The world is full of unlikely things!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Road to Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions... and Don't You Forget It!

One of the dinners that we like here at home is a big slice of ham and a baked sweet potato. Richie, during an unnanounced raid on the supermarket, brought home the ham slice. Forgetting to get a sweet potato.

At that same moment, Bon Appetit arrived and I came across a recipe that sounded good. All I needed was the sweet potato.

2 large white sweet potatoes - I bought a "regular" one as I have never seen a white sweet potato in my entire life. But I did see a white beet once, at Melvyn's, Palm Springs
1/2 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
2 T honey
1 T distilled white vinegar
2 teas. corn oil
2 T sweet butter

Pre-heat the oven to 450. Put an oven-proof pan in to heat up. Poke holes in the potatoes and either nuke'em in the microwave or bake them. While that's going on, whisk the mirin, honey, vinegar together in a bowl big enough to hold the peeled, sliced sweet potatoes. Cut them in 1 - 1 1/2 rounds and toss the rounds in the sauce.

Carefully take the very hot pan out of the oven, and lay out the sweet potato rounds. Put in the leftover sauce. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the sauce has carmalized and flip them over and cook another 5 to 7 minutes.

Put the roasted potatoes in a serving dish, add 2 T water to the now-empty pan and scrape up the burned bits. Add the butter and swirl it and pour this sauce over the sweet potatoes.

"How was it?" you ask? Damned if I know -- I misread "sweet Japanese rice wine" and thought the recipe called for regular Chinese rice wine VINEGARD.

So we had baked sweet potatoes after all ...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Well, Ah Do Declare!

Bon Appetit arrived yesterday, crowing that "The South" is now America's new food capital. This is certainly a debatable subject to anyone who lives elsewhere. They included recipes for deviled eggs that incorporate such toppings as: sliced pimento or bacon and scallion or trout caviar or pickled okra or simply dusted with paprika.

That is not a deviled egg in my book. A deviled egg is yolk and mayonnaise and pepped up with a generous amount of Colman's mustard.

However: this did catch my eye. A "shrimp cocktail" made with cauliflower instead of shrimp. Here's how you do it:


1 cup dry shrimp boil seasoning (Old Bay or Zatarian)
pinch of kosher salt
2 yellow onions, quartered
6 garlic cloves
3 lemons, halved
2 1 lb. heads of cauliflower, cored and trimmed into 2 in. florets
Cocktail sauce of your choice

Combine the crab boil, onions, garlic and salt in 6 qts. of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Then fish out the onions, garlic and lemon quarters with a slotted spoon and add the cauliflower. Turn off the heat, put a lid on your pot and let it sit until the cauliflower is tender.
Drain well, spread it out on a cookie sheet and let it cool to room temperature. Serve with cocktail sauce on the side.

This would be great for people who have seafood allergies. And kind, too -- it would let them know what something that might kill them really tastes like!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Can I Get a Witness?!

A man who has no moral compass in his private life is unlikely to have one in his public life.

Right, Newt?

FYI, I am a registered Republican.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sleepy Sunday

The skies are grey and overcast; we were warned of possible showers all day long. Richie has informed me that at 12 noon, he will be settled in his Superbowl Sunday Big Daddy recliner and unavailable for even minor chores. He is going to watch football. Period, end of story.

If you are not a football fan, and you live out here, I recommend a Web site that covers a fascinating situation here in Redondo Beach. We have an enormous electricity producing plant, mostly called "the AED," which is almost in the Pacific Ocean which has, for the past four years, been a bone of contention between the residents in that area and all the rest of us. What might that be? you wonder aloud. The rest of us would welcome a desalinazation facility. The tree huggers and NIMBYs in that district want it torn down for more housing (and more traffic) and "perhaps a pretty little park."

The irony of the pro salts (so to speak) is that AES is sitting on what was once a very productive sea salt mine back in 1880! It's a very interesting read, complete with Indian artifacts, early settlers and their tales -- one woman owned the salt mine twice. She got lucky in choice of husbands, shall we say. It's a great day for research!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Curse of a Functional Childhood

I'm beginning to regret the normalcy of my parents and the tranquil lives that we led when I was a kid. Yes, Daddy had a hair-trigger temper, but after perhaps 40 seconds of rant, that was it. Opinion offered, case closed. "What're you still mad about?" he could ask in true bewilderment. My Mother would simply go into silence-and-sigh mode for up to as long as three days. Thus my great awakening. If only my parents had been a little or a lot crazy, I would be making money today writing about them. Cases in point:

"Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness" by Alexandra Fuller The Penguin Press 235 pages $25.95

Fuller was born in England, but at age three, her parents, Nicola and Tim Fuller, bought a farm in southern Africa, the first of the homes they would rent or buy in Kenya, then Rhodesia and finally Zambia. Fuller lived through the mau mau uprising and the fight for Rhodesian independence. She was in her mid-20s when she left Africa.

Her mother Nicola was of proud Scottish descent and thoroughly schooled in Isle of Skye traditions - loyalty to blood, a passion for land and a strong belief in the healing power of animals. Nicola's best friend as a child was a baby chimpanzee improbably named "Stephen Foster." In fact, most of her pets were named for dictators (she admired dictators for being sure, not wishy-washy) - Che Guevara, Josip Broz Tito and Papa Doc among them.

"Disaster Preparedness, A Memoir" by Heather Havrilesky Riverhead Books 239 pages $25.95

Growing up in Durham, NC, in the '70s proved to be a harrowing experience for Havrilesky. It was the time of threat from Russian nuclear bombs, scary movies, planes being hijacked and the somewhat vicious practical jokes her parents, two sisters and a brother reveled in.

Her mother was quite pragmatic so thus not very comforting. When a pet or a person died and Havrilesky would ask her mother where they went? What happened to them? her mother would say, "Some people think that there's a heaven ... but I've always thought that was wishful thinking, honestly."

Ill-prepared at home for disaster (the second floor fire escape ladder, lay in its box in an upstairs hall, untested for years) Havrilesky who had noted that the people in disaster movies who followed the rules -use this exit, go calmly - were the first ones to get it, she set out on a lifetime of preparing for disasters.

Too bad they didn't have Community Emergency Response Team training in the '70s. She would have been all set!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Note to Mrs. Newt Gingrich the Third

Dear Callista:

Perhaps you might want to reconsider this marriage to Newt. Did no one tell you that his first wife came down with uterine cancer? Or that his second developed Multiple Sclerosis?

Coincidence? Or is there something toxic in Newt's constitution? Ask yourself that and act accordingly!

A Well-meaning Friend

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Never Put All of Your Eggs in One (FIOS) Basket

I've read that when you own a boat and you're out on it, if one thing goes wrong, you can bet that two more will, too. It's the law of diminishing returns, literally because getting back to land is going to be a bitch.

Yesterday morning, the USS Murphy, a doughty little dinghy was gently bobbing on the Sea of Life As We Know It. And then, Richie discovered water on the garage floor. It wasn't a flood, nothing as dramatic as that. He called the plumber, who said he'd be at the house by 1 p.m.

Relieved at the hour, we took off to run some errands. Back home, the phone rang at 1:15 p.m. The plumber had been delayed, he'd have to see us later in the day. Later became 3, then 4 p.m. He finally showed up at 5 p.m. At 5;30 he was still working away and Richie poked his head in the front door to holler, "All the water is turned off!"

At 5:45, he came back in and I asked him to turn on "All in the Family" which comes on at 6 p.m. And that's when we discovered the TV was on the blink. We both thought it would sort itself out eventually and he went back to get into the plumber's way.

I'd already discovered that Internet Explorer wasn't working on the notebook, but I shrugged and decided tomorrow morning was plenty of time to check the mail.

Richie came back in, looked at the still non-functioning TV and turned it off. He said the plumber was almost done so I called for a pizza to be delivered. Barely five minutes after the plumber had departed, the pizza arrived.

Since the DVD player on the TV worked just fine, we watched Clint Eastwood's "In The Line of Fire." (Note to Clint: sweetheart, you're 'way too old to play a romantic lead. Quit embarrassing yourself and give it up, okay?)

This morning? The TV still wasn't working and neither were the Notebook or the downstairs PC. Richie picked up the landline to call our FiOs provider and IT wasn't working! Undaunted, he grabbed the cell phone, stroke masterfully to the TV and called the number on the screen.

He was directed down to the fuse box, where he discovered one of the circuits had flipped. It seems that the plumber blew it somehow; he forgot to re-set it in the drama of shutting off the leak with the plumber. Once the fuse was fixed, everything worked again.

And what started all of this in the first place? A pinpoint leak in the copper pipe of the USS Murphy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Miz Deen Will Have Hers With Cream, Please

Arguably, Paula Deen's rich recipes may have caught up with her. The 64 year old chef who never met a vegetable she didn't want to put either butter or bacon on (or a casserole that didn't have cream or evaporated milk,) announced today that she was diagnosed three years ago with type 2 diabetes. She held off telling others at that time, she says, because at that point she didn't know anything about diabetes and wanted to educate herself before trying to help others with the disease.

Part of her announcement included the fact that she had finalized a deal with a pharmaceutical company (located in Denmark) as spokes person for their diabetes drug.

THE LADY'S CHEESY MAC as served at The Lady & Sons, her restaurant in Savannah
2 cups or 8 oz. macaroni
2 cups shredded Cheddar, plus extra for topping
1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup whole milk or evaporated milk
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 13 x 9 in. baking dish with butter, oil or cooking spray.
Cook the macaroni, drain it and put it in a big bowl. Add the Cheddar and butter bits. Stir until the pasta is coated.
Take a medium bowl and whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream. Add this to the big bowl of pasta, mix and then shovel it all into the baking dish. Bake until golden - 35 to 40 minutes. Take the dish out, garnish with the extra Cheddar and stick it back in the oven until the cheese melts.

Monday, January 16, 2012

And She Had a 9 Ft. Waistline!

"703 - How I Lost More Than a Quarter Ton and Gained a Life" by Nancy Makin New American Library 289 pages $15

I've always been curious as to how the super fat ("morbidly obese" for any scientists in the room) can manage to sustain life. Their hearts must be pumping like mad; their lungs overwhelmed and, quite possibly, they would have roaring diabetes. Their knee and ankle joints must be barely hanging in there. I have pestered our friend "Raffish" (an MD about this for years, but all he's ever said is, "They don't live long." "How did they get this far?" I demand. He shrugs.

Thus, I believed this book would set me straight. Makin started life with a mother (dictatorial lunatic who was always right) and an ineffective, withdrawn father and six sisters. At 15 she dated a guy and wound up pregnant at 16. The parents "did the right thing" and forced them to marry. Makin loved keeping house for her baby and husband, but couldn't get rid of the weight she gained carrying the baby. Things went from bad to worse.

Eventually, she was so big that she refused to go out in society. She hated the incredulous stares of strangers and their meant-to-be-overheard acid comments. Eventually, she was unable to walk more than 10 or 12 ft and could only sit on a sofa (all of it) or a hassock (and she hung down over it) and finally her double-wide wheelchair.

At her largest, she weighed 703 pounds. Her waistline was nine feet around.

What saved her? One of her sisters gave her a computer and though it took her awhile to become interested enough to turn it on, when she did a huge new world opened for her. She was able to e-mail with strangers across the US and in foreign countries. She could just be someone else in the crowd because no one could see her. Having found acceptance and nurturing, she more or less forgot to eat.

In total, she lost 530 pounds and has kept it off for the past seven years. She is now an upbeat, traveling lecturer.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

More Bible Lessons

Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible, that is.

She calls it "Cheesy Asparagus" - I'd call it something else because "cheesy" is a Southern insult. As in "Did you see that cheesy dress she wuz wearin'? Bless her heart, she jes' don't know any bettah, Ah guess."

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
1 T olive oil
Pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, toss, pepper them and then sprinkle a lot of Parmesan cheese over them. Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes until the asparagus is soft and the cheese has crusted up.

Cut an acorn squash in half, get rid of the seeds and threads. You'll need:
1 8 1/2 oz. can of crushed pineapple
2 T butter
2 T light-brown sugar
pinch of pepper

Combine these ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer until syrupy. Put the acorn halves cut side up, fill with pineapple mixture and bake until the squash is tender.

Take six slices of bacon, lay them flat on a cookie sheet (probably a good idea to use foil on the tray) and coat the bacon with maple syrup. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the bacon is done. Let the bacon cool and chop it into crunch. Use as a garnish on a baked sweet potato, on top of a German potato salad... you'll think of things.

3 T cream cheese, room temperature
3 T finely chopped pecans
pinch of black pepper
12 Medjool dates
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds.

Mix the pepper and pecans into the cream cheese, stuff that into the dates, wrap with a slice of bacon, and bake at 400 for eight minutes. Then, using tongs, not your fingers, flip them over for another 4 to 7 minutes.

I think I'd use the maple syrup-crumbled bacon dusted onto the cream cheese in the date and forget about wrapping bacon around the dates... but that's just me; I'm not much of a Bible student.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Shy Chef?

My French friend "Madame" tells me that in France one's saint's day is more important than one's birthday. As the originator of "If my birthday doesn't last a full seven days, it didn't happen" I find this disappointing information. Incredibly there was a Saint Nina and her day is January 13th. Yesterday was also Friday the 13th, a day that, historically, has been a lucky one for me.

In view of these momentuous events, Richie said, "I'll take you out to dinner." As it happened, just the other day we had driven past a restaurant that had always looked interesting, but I'd never looked it up. For once, I remembered and googled it. The menu looked good - lots of Korean-Asian dishes as well as American classics such as the steak with port wine sauce, mashed potatoes and sugar snap beans that Richie would come to order.

Bamboo roll-up shades shielded the long windows overlooking the free parking lot. Diners, at wooden tables, seated on wooden chairs, can look into the glass-enclosed kitchen and watch the chefs. I counted four in whites and black, brimless baseball hats. The decor is a soft yellow with dark wood accents. When the room fills up, it's noisy, but happy noise.

The server brought an oval dish with slices of baguette, and a big pat of sweet butter and two smaller oval plates. The man at the next table had ordered the bento box and I saw one for the first time. It was a high-sided tray at least 12 in. by 16 in. with a small bowl of soup and three other small plates -- Korean ribs, seared ahi and something else with a spicy black bean sauce. The bento items change nightly.

We ordered crisp wontons with sweet-sour sauce to come with our drinks ($8.95 for eight.) I noted white and black sesame seeds and flecks of red chili in the sauce. They were crisp as advertised.

My crab cakes, two fat tubes, like croquettes, arrived next to a pile of field greens and a small bowl of wasabi aioli. ($10.50) Despite being creamy, the sauce had a curiously arid taste to it. Dry somehow. And it could have been kicked up a notch or two toward the hot side. Happily I'd saved the sweet-sour sauce.

Next up, the coconut shrimp which were good, but again unexceptional. The mandarin orange sauce had been dribbled around a pile of field greens . ($10.95)

Richie offered me a bite of steak and its texture could only be described as "soft." Nice flavor, but the port wine sauce didn't bring anything to the dance at all. Two towers of mashed potato anchored the steak with the sugar snap beans fanning across the top of the plate. ($22.95)

The food was fresh, properly cooked, and presented with efficient courtesy, but ... there was something just not quite there, elusive... I wish the chef had been bolder, stronger with his seasonings. Take a look at She posts lots of food photos and restaurant news. But a photo doesn't display tastes so caveat emporer.

Wine, a glass apiece $7.50 each; $15
Food and wine $74.35 , plus 20% tip.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kitchen Tips From a Pro

Chef Paula Deen's newest book "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" contains not just recipes, but how-to tips, many of which I found interesting.

Going to serve crabmeat? Spread it out thinly on a cookie sheet and put into a 200 degree oven for three minutes -- any bits of shell still in the meat will turn red which makes it much easier to pick them out.

This is not such a great idea -- she cooks bacon in a deep-fat fryer!

She recommends that you not cut out biscuits with a glass juice glass. She says that the blunt edge of the glass will compress your biscuit sides and keep them from rising. A clean tin can will work fine.

If you don't happen to have a deviled egg dish, just cut a tiny slice off of the back side of the egg and put them on the plate.

Pepper jelly - you don't know how hot or, usually, how NOT hot it will be. If you get a dud, just mix in some hot sauce such as Tabasco and mix it into the jar.

When she serves taco chips with a dip, she warms the chips on a cookie sheet at 350 just long enough to warm them up.

She recommends this as a party treat.

1 cup Dr. Pepper
2 T butter
1 cup pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil.
Bring the butter and Dr. Pepper to the boil on the stove top. Simmer until the liquid reduces by half, stir in the pecans and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer the pecans and sauce to the cookie sheet, spreading them out and bake for about 10 minutes. Don't forget to flip them every now and then. You're dealing with a lot of sugar...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Go Away! Don't Bother Me!

I just wrote the first 690 words of my next book. And my mind (what there is of it) is still back in the telling of a tale.

And, in other news, there isn't any. I do have a restaurant I want to try -- Gina Lee's Bistro in Riviera Village -- we still have interesting friends (who have apparently all crawled into cosy holes for the winter) and both of us and the animals are fine.

Sometimes it's good to have no news...better luck tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Play With Your Food!

An experienced cook or a novice cook can both play around with a recipe. The experienced person knows a wide variety of tastes and how each of them can play off of the other. The novice just thinks, "Hey! I bet a salad of spinach, sliced strawberries and a bacon-flavored dressing would be cool!"

And "comfort" food is what you like, not what the traditional American foods might be. Look what's happened to poor old macaroni and cheese? I've eaten: four cheese - eh - and mac and cheese with lobster and truffle oil!

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

6 large garlic cloves
2 T peeled, chopped ginger
1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro - I think this is 'way too much; would use 1/2 cup
1 T peanut oil - what's wrong with olive oil? Penut oil is for frying.
1 T sesame oil
1 T hot chili oil - put a 1 T of hot pepper chilis in 1 T olive oil
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter - would omit
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 T sugar
3 T rice vinegar

Put the garlic and cilantro together in a mini-cuisine and chop, Add the other ingredients and set aside. It will keep for a month, covered and refrigerated.

1 lb. fine somen noodles
2 T sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro - again would halve; cilantro is a strong taste
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped, roasted peanuts for garnish. Would omit; peanut is a strong flavor, too.

Cook the noodles, drain them and toss well with all of the above. When you serve the cold noodles, put out the sauce for folks!

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Well-Oiled Innards

Yesterday afternoon, after the South Bay New Orleans Jazz Club monthly event, we walked over to Chez Melange -- their new tapas bar has been getting very good reviews and we wanted to try it. Sadly the chef was not receiving, so we shrugged and took a booth in Bouzy, the gastro-pub.

It was too early for a real dinner, but a snack seemed in order. And then I saw "Warmed Epi baguette with plugra and smoked salt" $1.90. "Plugra" I breathed. I'd read about it in the foodie magazines and here it was!

Plugras is French shorthand for "plus gras" or "more fat." It's primarily used in baking such as croissants and other delicate pastries. It is 82% butterfat (normal is 80%) and has less salt and less moisture.

I ordered the housemade chicken pate with cornichons and a grainy mustard ($8.90)

The baguette and plugra arrived quickly and the baguette was deliciously warm and crusty. Carefully I cut a bit of the very pale yellow plugra from the slab on the plate and spread it on. It had a very sweet taste -- for butter -- and I think that Peruvian pink sea salt (which has a sharp little sting at the end of the taste) would have been better than the smoked sea salt. I mean, I get it about sweet and smoke, but it isn't all that "like awesome, dude!"

Richie, Bob and Pat all liked it, but I loved it. I cheerfully used it all up. Today my stomach is fine, but I feel...guilty. 82% butterfat is not that big a difference from 80%,'re "butter" off without it!

If you can't find plugra, Kerrigold, the Irish butter, is also very good.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Hampshire Crackpots

I'm referring to those gentle folk who paid their $1,000 fee and got their name on the ballot for next Teusday's primary there. Parade magazine which many of us find stuck in our Sunday newspapers, cited a few. Despite having spent the last 10 minutes Googling to find some kind of a list of names and positions, I came up empty.

The statistics are: 14 Democrats and and 30 Republicans will be competing. Vermin Supreme, a male, is campaigning to give free ponies to all Americans. Another, named "Supreme," is pushing mandatory toothbrushing, zombie preparedness (Dude - we already are - Congress ring any bells with you?) and federal funding of time travel research for the purpose of going back and killing Hitler with his bare hands.

All of this surprises me because if I ever thought of New Hampshire in the first place (no insult intended Hampshirians) I would picture a group of men, seated around a pot-bellied stove in back of the General Store, chewing tobacco and whittling and grunting, "Aye-uh" a lot.

Given the cast, there must be something in the water there -- or needed in the water there. Prozac comes to mind...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Catering to the Stars

Nick Grippo was an actor who couldn't get arrested (his own words) who segued smoothly into a career as a caterer. It wasn't something he set out to do, but it was something that came easily and naturally. He liked to cook. He and his fellow wanna-be actors were hungry. Cook and share!

He wrote "Hollywood Dish, Recipes, Tips & Tales of a Hollywood Caterer" with Jane Russo in 1998. Elizabeth Taylor wrote the foreward and Grippo wrote the anecdotes about cooking for such as Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Lauren Bacall and more.

Patrick Swazye and wife Lisa hired him to do tea for 2,500 after they bought an Arabian stallion. Grippo writes that it was customary in Santa Fe to celebrate the horse's arrival in this way. Grippo writes that even the horse had some tea, but doesn't say whether he made the horse a carrot cake or not.

When I read his recipe for "Louisiana Baked Shrimp," it struck me as remarkably similar to the ingredients for Pascal's Manale BBQ Shrimp which never goes anywhere near a bbq and which they've been dishing out in their New Orleans restaurant since 1913. You be the judge...

3/4 lb. large shrimp peeled and cleaned
3 T sweet butter
1 teas. chili powder
1 teas. freshly-ground pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 teas. minced garlic
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T red wine
pinch of salt
crusty bread to sop up the sauce

Preheat the oven to 400. Put the shrimp side by side in a dish just large enough for them.
Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan, heat to boiling and pour over the shrimp. Bake uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes and serve. Remembering bbq shrimp at Pascal's, I'd say double the butter, chili and cayenne amounts....

Grippo died of kidney failure, age 64, in 2003. I add this in case you wanted to contact him.

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 6th - Epiphany @ the World

January 6th was always the day my mother dismantled Christmas. Away went the ornaments into their boxes, the tinsel carefully unknotted and laid to rest and the now-naked tree went to the curb. She said it was Epiphany. I never explored "Epiphany" but I've held to the "out with Christmas on January 6th" all through adulthood.

Our small living tree will merely go out on the balcony to be lovingly tended until next Christmas and hopefully the one after that. Richie loves to decorate for Christmas with unexpected items popping up in odd places. The twirling Santa music box on the coffee table is normal. The small red mail box, decorated with painted sprigs of holly and mistletoe next to the wall heater is not. Since he put everything up, he gets to put everything away, giving me time to research "Epiphany." (, source)

The three wisemen visited baby Jesus on January 6th, thus (somehow) proving that He was Lord. I leave the discussion to much more religiously intelligent than I.

Epiphany is celebrated in Germany and France where the people dine on "King Cakes," a sort of extra-fancy coffee cake. In New Orleans, they start baking them up to eat until Lent.

In Ireland, it's traditionally a day off for Irish women, who have presumably slaved all during the holiday season. They go shopping, have high tea, those sort of hijinks.

In Puerto Rico, kids fill boxes with fresh grass for the Magi's camels. Come morning, the grass is gone and there are presents for the kids. Kind of like the American tooth fairy I imagine.

But here, all it means is adios, Christmas!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

And the Gym Gets Weirder

I mentioned that our gym had closed down completely for two days so that they could bring us enhanced and "state-of-the-art" new equipment. That was the monkey bars.

This morning, I found that they have added what looks like two 25-ft. long vacuum hoses (the size tube you see when the filling station tanks are being topped up.) There they were, lying lifeless on the floor. One end was anchored to the floor by a base; the other end was free.

Then they began to twitch and finally jumped about like someone was cracking a whip. Up and down - smack onto the floor - they went. Several people took turns doing this bizarre exercise.

When I'd finished my workout and was leaving the gym, I approached a trainer and asked, "What's this piece of equipment called?" and he smiled and said, "Oh it's just ropes." I cast a skeptical eye at the padded ropes flopping up and down and said, "You could make your bed five or six times instead..." and the trainer guffawed.

It's exactly the same gestures we use to float a clean sheet out onto the bed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Richie Does "Sides"

When Richie was learning to cook complicated entrees, he got so involved that he forgot that we might need sides to go with his gourmet dish. As time passed and his skills grew, he finally remembered them. Here are a couple of his favorites.

1/2 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
1 T finely-chopped parsley
2 teas. red wine vinegar
1 teas. Dijon mustard
3 T olive oil
Pepper to taste
12 thin red onons rings

Cook the beans, mix the sauce with a whisk, lay the onion rings across the top of the beans and douse with sauce. The mustard gives the dish a certain piquancy.

2 firm zucchinis, about 3/4ths of a pound
3 T olive oil
Pepper to taste
2 large cloves garlic; leave the skin on as you're going to discard it when the dish is done
16 cherry tomatoes

Cut the zucchini into match sticks and saute it in the olive oil. Add the garlic and pepper and stir until the zucchini begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and keep stirring gently so as not to break their skins. Discaard the garlic and serve.

5 or 6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/8 in discs
3 T butter
Pinch of sugar
2 T water

Put everything in a heavy saucepan and cook over a high flame for about 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Credit: Pierre Franey, author of Cuisine Rapide

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Is SO Over!

The Lake Superior State University puts out an annual list of words that are being banned for further use. I looked through it and here are my banned words/phrases from that list:

Baby Bump
Occupy (anything)
The New Normal
Pet Parent, as in referring to one's animals

And, from my personal collection -- "Actually" when used as an agreeing phrase. A says, "There are 400 billion rabbits in New Zealand" and B. says, "Actually, there are 500 billion in Australia."

All of the emoticons - :) I am well able to read moods and emotions via the printed word. Feeling you have to (literally) draw me a picture is ... offensive.

"LOL" Laugh Out Loud is still okay with me because that shows that you're teasing the other person. H/T (hat tip) is also okay as a shorthand version of "Thank you for this."

But you can take such as ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) or LMAO (laughing my ass off) and store them where the sun don't shine!