April 21st, 2013 § 1 Comment
People send me free stuff. Sometimes it's food items, like Health Warrior's Chia Bars, which make for a tasty, but healthful snacks, or Kate Farm's organic, soy, gluten and dairy-free protein drinks, Komplete meal replacement shakes. They're okay, and Darling Son liked them. But they're something I'd drink of necessity rather than choice. Of the flavors, the chocolate coffee one was best.
Most of what people send me is books. Mostly, they're cookbooks. I've got a half dozen from the last two publishing quarters sitting here. I've asked friends and family to choose a recipe from each and in the next couple posts, I'll show you how a good recipe from a book can be a jumping off point for your creativity in the kitchen.
First up is Slimming World's first foray from Britain to the USA with Fast and Filling Family Food, available on the weight-loss organization's website. It's a lovely little book with beautiful pictures. Darling Son chose Chicken Italiana. Start with a medium red onion and a couple cloves of garlic, finely minced, sauteed in cooking spray in a non-skit skillet. Add a chopped tomato and 6 oz. of sliced mushrooms (I use crimini usually, but make yourself happy). When softened, pour the mix over about a pound and a half of chicken breasts and a can or package of artichoke hearts that you've arranged in an oven-proof container. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and some red pepper flakes if you like a little heat. Cover and bake it in a 400 oven for 45 minutes. The recipe calls for serving it on a bed of lightly boiled cabbage. It's a freezer friendly recipe.
That was my starting point. From there, I substituted some tofu for Mr. Right Now, who was being vegan in penance for an overindulgent 50th birthday. I cooked his separately. I used a jar of fire roasted artichoke hearts because I love them. I added some capers, because I love them. And I added some olives, because it seemed to go. And because I haven't been able to eat garlic since I was pregnant with Darling Son more than 16 years ago, I used shallots in place of both onion and garlic. A great success all around, but one we forgot to photograph. Well, we remembered, but only after we decimated the results. Trust me, it was good. And it's a lesson about how some ingredients just beg for others. Capers and olives and tomatoes. Artichokes and mushrooms. And all by themselves, the mix of veggies would be amazing over some pasta. Add some white beans for protein. Spoon it all over a spud if you don't like pasta. Or polenta. Seriously, it's a ragout with a lot of potential and you need to have it in your repertoire.
A book that I read cover to cover was the Complete Arthritis Health, Diet Guide and Cookbook. Being a Rheumatoid Arthritis patient, I like to keep up on what doctors are saying to their patients about how diet and other non-prescription methods can help ease symptoms. The book is a good basic primer. I did find the section on anti-inflammatory supplements wanting. While what authors Kim Arrey, RD, and Michael Starr, MD, report is true and informative, they don't give any idea of how to mix and match these. Some supplements -- think turmeric, ginger, CoQ10, fish oil -- are contraindicated when taken with other supplements or medicines. If you're already addled by pain and fatigue, it would be hard to slog through the information and come up with a diet plan on your own. I'd want to take a dose of everything anti-inflammatory in the book, but the book implies that would be a bad idea.
That said, they have a great diet plan in the book, complete with meal suggestions based on gender and whether you eat animal products or are a vegan.
I chose a vegan recipe mostly because I had a bunch of almonds and a bunch of garbanzo beans and the appetizer I chose, Seasoned Chickpeas and Almonds, would use them both up and give me something healthy to munch on when I suffer from pre-dinner peckishness. It's a simple recipe: a couple cups of whole raw almonds, a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, two tablespoons of olive oil and three chopped cloves of garlic. It calls for a tablespoon of lime juice, a tablespoon of garam masala (an Indian spice mix available in most supermarket spice aisles or freshly mixed from a spice merchant) and a teaspoon of hot pepper flakes. Mix it all in a bowl and dump onto a baking sheet. Add some salt and fresh ground pepper and pop into a 400 degree oven.
After about 10-15 minutes, stir the mix around. Watch closely, because while the book calls for a half hour of total cook time, it's possible to burn your almonds if you leave them in that long. Mine were close to charring at about minute 22, but they were smallish almonds. Size does matter, I guess. If I was making this again, I'd lower the temp by about 25 degrees and stir every 10 minutes until the almonds are brown and you can smell that almond scent. You can store these in an airtight container for a couple weeks.
I changed up the spices, using coriander, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, black and red pepper and salt. You could really make the spice mix of your choice for this. Go back to this post and you can find some basic information on herbs and spices that might give you ideas on what to mix with what. A trip to Market Spice in Pike Place Market is another way to learn about some flavorful spice mixes.
The upshot: It was a tasty snack, but it makes a lot. Either have a party or plan on eating this for a good few days.
March 31st, 2013 § 2 Comments
When I posted last, four months ago (yikes!), I had every intention of continuing to post at least once a week, which I'd (almost) managed since last year's Blogathon. But you know, sh*t happens. I got sick, Darling Son got sick; my blog broke, then got fixed; there were ISP issues, then there weren't. But I'm back. You're welcome. I know you, my two dozen loyal readers missed me greatly. Where were you getting your RDA of snark if not from me?
To continue on the theme of things getting in the way of plans, let me tell you about Saturday. I arranged to meet my amazing dog training friend Ali for lunch. She wanted me to try this Vietnamese place in Bellevue that she adores, Square Lotus (which makes me wonder why square? Why not triangular or ovate? But I digress...). It was great. I had a noodle dish. Rice noodles, because I claim to be Sephardic through an aunt's second ex-husband. That makes rice okay during Passover.
Ali had to go make a pie for Easter. She tried to get me hit up a bakery for dessert, but I claimed Passover. We walked back toward our cars and passed by a little gift shop in the throes of liquidation. "I loved that place," Ali said. She pointed to her purse, a purchase she'd made there previously. We wandered in to see what was there. They had some nice framed art for cheap, and cards. I found a cute Chanukah card I'll forget to send out later this year. There were little charms that don't fit my Pandora knockoff. I bought and "L" and will promise myself to get a bigger jump ring so it fits. I'll forget and remember off and on for a while. I'll eventually put it in the fruit bowl on the counter where all the stuff I forget to file or put away goes. The night before my mom comes, I'll furiously clean it out, and swear again I'll get a new jump ring.
I picked up a cute magnet and walked back to pay for my purchases. There, clustered around an old fridge, were three women, scrubbing it down, wiping it out, polishing it up. It was a pretty little thing. Very mid-century modern. I commented on it and the response was an immediate, "Do you want it?" I couldn't believe they were giving it away. It had to be worth a couple hundred bucks at least. But they had no computers left in the shop and weren't adept enough with smart phones to have listed it on Craigslist. So I offered to do it for them.
I set Ali to work looking for something to guide me on pricing. The Ladies of the Store wanted to list it for $50. A working fridge as pretty as that? No way. ON Ebay, Ali found a listing for just the metal emblem at the top of the fridge. It cost $25.00. A red version of the fridge was listed at nearly $1300. After much amazement and dickering, we decided that Ali's husband would drive down from North Bend, put it in his truck and bring it to my house, where it would live pending listing on Craigslist and eBay. Ali and I will split what we get minus 10% for the original owners.
So there it is, in my garage, this beautiful 1950 or 1951 Frigidaire. I looked on some antique and collectible sites and found restored versions selling for over $4,000. I listed it with a reserve of $600 on eBay and for a lordly $950 on the local Craigslist. I don't think I'll get that amount, but I figure it's worth a week to see what pops. And sure enough, someone contacted me today. In broken English. This person had a Los Angeles area code. Further email suggested that this person wanted "the item", wasn't going to argue about the price, would send me a certified bank check and arrange pick up. When I responded warily, the emailer noted that he would be at work for three weeks and couldn't come in person with cash.
So I reported it to craigslist.org as a scam because you know, it's probably a scam.
You can't always rely on plans. You plan on writing tomorrow or the next day or next week, but things get in the way. You plan on dessert but find a sale instead. Or you want to toss a fridge that you think no one wants and instead a couple strangers start chatting with you and you bond over a joint desire to write a book some day. And so it comes to pass that you end up with that fridge in your garage, and are tasked with getting rid of it for some non-zero number that will cover the $5 you spent on the eBay ad and the $5 your friend spent on gas getting it to your place. Ideally, there will be some left over for a coffee or a meal or maybe even your tax bill (which you have because you actually made way more money than you anticipated in 2012, and the increase in workload may actually be a less truthful but better sounding reason you haven't blogged since December 1).
Yeah. Stuff happens.
December 6th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
So I did it. I finished National Novel Writing Month six days ago. They call that "winning" when you complete it. I wrote 50,130 words without going back and rereading, editing, cringing. When I signed up on a whim on November 1 (the first day of the annual event, which attracts millions of writers, would-be and established alike), my goal was to write the non-fiction book I’ve been “working on” for two years. I’d taken a book proposal class and written most of a proposal, met with agents and publishers, who told me memoirs are like fiction and you don’t do proposals, but write the actual book for submission. I had carefully considered what I’d say on the talk show circuit. Everything was done but the actual writing. Given that I’ve already shelled out for a memoir writing retreat next March, I figured I should have some words written to consider. And I’d had a whole lot of trouble starting.
My shrink did her Ph.D. thesis on procrastination and we’d talked a lot about why I had such a hard time starting. Part of it is about the difficulty of beginnings. Once I get going on a project, I’m good, but knowing where to start, particularly on big projects, can stop me cold. People kept telling me to just start writing. But I needed to know where to begin before I could. It was a round robin conversation I had with so many people. Don’t worry about where you begin, just start. “But where do I start?” It was like we were speaking different languages that sounded exactly alike. In a way we were. I’m one of those people who must know what’s next. In the car driving to someplace new, I start asking what the next move is as soon as I made the last turn. I’m a planner.
Writing has been my vocation and avocation as long as I’ve had either. I’ve never done anything else for money as an adult. And whether for fun or profit, my writing has largely come easily to me. I see in my head where I want to go with a story and I write it. But this? This was different. Barring a few days where I had a clue what I wanted to write about, it was hard. And I can see that moving forward will be even harder.
After I finish my next deadline run, I’ll read through those words and see if there’s anything worth keeping or something that jumps out at me as a place to start or a path to follow. And then I’ll start all over again. I was so naïve. Published writers, well known, respected, lauded writers have said how hard it all is and I thought I’d be different. I thought I’d just know what I wanted to write and it would fall out of my brain. There’d be some editing; an agent or publisher would want things changed. But I figured it would go for my book the way it has gone for every article I’ve written over 25 plus years. Ha! It’s going to be agony.
But here’s something I learned during NaNoWriMo: I want to do it anyway.
November 20th, 2012 § 1 Comment
I'm about to admit something that will probably take me down a notch in the eyes of the three dozen people who think I'm a bona fide foodie.
Here goes: I don't like truffles. Not the chocolate ones, I love those. I'm talking about the ones that pigs sniff out. I don't like truffle oil, either. I think it smells like poop. And as someone who lived downwind of both the mushroom factory growing up in Capitola, CA, and the cow barns at UC Davis, I know what poop smells like.
The problem is that when I go out for a meal somewhere nice, I inevitably see something I'd want to eat if only it wasn't polluted by truffles, truffle salt, or truffle oil. Yuck. This happened last weekend when Mr. Right Now and I went to Portland for the weekend and had a nice Saturday night dinner at Clyde Common. There were a couple of dishes that looked good but for addition of truffle something or other.
And even if I manage to convince my dining partner to avoid trufflized food, the table next to me may not oblige. So I can smell the truffle-osity wafting at me from the white truffle salt popcorn.
Being in Portland, the home of the original bacon maple donut from Voodoo Doughnuts, I will also admit that I think bacon has jumped the shark. I like bacon and eggs, and a good BLT is a treat. But bacon doesn't belong on or in everything, particularly not desserts. I'm sorry. Stop it already. Same thing with salting sweet things. I like caramel well enough by itself, and most of the salted caramel seems to have way more salt than necessary. I'm guessing Jack in the Box is developing a salted caramel shake. With bacon. That means the trend is done.
Lastly, I want to talk about salt and pepper. Every savory recipe calls for salt and pepper to taste. Unless it calls for soy sauce or tamari and pepper. And while I understand the theory that salt enhances flavor, I believe the requirement to put salt in every recipe is based on the over-salting of everything, particularly in America. Our taste buds are used to salt, ergo, we use more salt. But I like the naked flavors of food -- the taste of a green bean, the taste of butter and sugar melted together and turned to caramel. I don't think everything needs salt. And I don't think pepper is a necessary addition to every food, either. It has a warmth to it when the flavor infuses the dish. But too often you just get a chunk of pepper corn, a hit of spice that exists here in a dish, but not there.
I once made that suggestion on a radio show to Greg Atkinson, one of the big foodies of the Seattle area. I was on the other side of the airwaves, but I'm sure he had a gobsmacked look on his face. He essentially told me I had no idea what I was talking about. I felt a little cowed, but a few years on, I'm still sure that I'm right. Sometimes, a little salt and pepper are a good thing. But sometimes, you don't need one, or you don't need the other.
And you never need truffles. Except the chocolate kind.
November 11th, 2012 § 4 Comments
I've been a writer for my entire adult life. I've made my living doing nothing else. And as a journalist, I'm pretty confident in what I do. I know how to find sources, interview intelligently, craft a story designed specifically for the audience at hand. If I don't know something, I know where to look for the expertise I need.
But this whole writing a book thing is completely different. I've been toying with the idea of a memoir for a while. I've thought about what I want to write about and I've even worked on a proposal. But at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland last summer, I met with a bunch of agents, the majority of whom told me that memoirs are treated like novels these days. You no longer write a book proposal for a memoir. You write the whole thing and submit it, like you do with a piece of fiction.
Given that I had worked on a proposal you'd think it would be easy to just sit down and do the writing. But it wasn't. I was conflicted on where to start. And my whole writing life I had started from a specific place I determined was the beginning and written my way to the end. Very occasionally, the start wasn't the start and I'd rewrite it after I finished. But there was a form to the story in my head and it was easy to start.
This was different. My friend Hanks tried to bribe me into daily writing, offering me a dollar for every day I wrote 500 words, and charging me a dollar for every day I didn't. I could earn $7 a week, but my potential loss was just $5. That lasted about three days before health issues caught up with me. And I'm sure a bit of trepidation on where to start and where to go after I started.
Some of my writer friends on Freelance Success had been talking about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which occurs each November (so should it be NaNoWriNo, with November the last word?). The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. Ideally, they will be coherent words that hang together as a whole. Like, you know, a novel.
And so, on a whim on November 1 at 5 p.m. Pacific, I signed up. In the first 11 days of the month, I have skipped one day, and have more than 16,000 words written. I think that barring one or two days writing, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm barfing words onto the screen. There is nothing that hangs on anything else.
But writer friends who have written far more books than I can dream of (hello Lisa Rogak, and congratulations on making the Best Sellers list with Dogs of Courage!) tell me that I need to just keep going. No editing, no looking back, no starting over. Keep puking up words and sometime in the next three weeks, in the 50,000 words I hope to complete, will be the nugget of my book. And then I can start all over writing that.
Now, I have another couple thousand words to get out before the clock strikes midnight. It's a glamorous life being an aspiring author, isn't it?
October 29th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
On October 17, the Seattle Times ran the first of a string of full page political ads endorsing the Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.They were paid for by the business side of the paper, and there was a lot of assurance from that side and from the editorial leadership that the ad buy didn't impact the objectivity of the reporters. Indeed, most of the editorial staff didn't know about the purchase, which also included full page ads for a marriage equality referendum on the ballot. More than 100 reporters and photographers penned a letter of protest. Editors touted the fact that they were so independent of the corporate folks who support McKenna that they did a piece evaluating whether the McKenna ad was true or not. They found it half true, which is another way of saying half false.
I was livid and immediately wanted to drop my subscription. The customer service person I reached talked to tried to sell me on just doing a two week protest break from the paper. I've been struggling with the decision for the last week. First, it's the only paper in town (yet another reason to bewail the demise of the Seattle Post Intelligencer and our descent into a one-paper town), and I like actually holding dead trees in my hands in the morning with a cup of tea. I like the crosswords and the comics. I like some of the columnists. I think they could do better, use more local talent rather than purchasing wire copy for their food pages, business coverage, and to fill in the blank spaces in the main and local news sections. I know times are tough for papers, but there's a lot of hungry writers out there. Some of them are really good, and while I don't support the idea of writers working for exposure or for pennies per word, there's a happy medium where you can pay a reasonable amount of money and get good coverage. But that's an aside.
Frankly, given the hard times papers are having, maybe the corporate side should be selling ads rather than giving $150,000 of space away for political purposes.
That the Times supports marriage equality and is running full page ads for that confuses the issue. Marriage equality is, in my mind, a civil rights issue that I believe every thinking person should support. I don't mind those ads so much. But McKenna for Governor isn't a civil rights issue, or an equality issue. It's a choice. And frankly, a strange one, given the paper's support for marriage equality. Referendum 74 is in a tight race for approval right now, and McKenna doesn't support it. If it fails, I can't see him doing anything to move Washington State towards marriage equality. And the support the paper has given to reproductive rights also makes the McKenna support odd. If Romney is elected and begins to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, I can't see McKenna doing anything to ensure that women have equal access to primary care services like birth control.
My main gripe with the paper's executives for running the ads is that it blurs the lines between objective news reporting and being a shill for a particular ideology. I don't care what the editors and journalists say: when I, a journalist for nearly 30 years, see any report in the Times about McKenna, I question its veracity. My first thought is, "Well, they're for McKenna anyway, so of course they'd say that," or "I wonder what they aren't saying." I know there is a separation between business and editorial, but it's my first thought, regardless.
Imagine there is a CBS-purchased ad for Romney during the CBS News. No one is going to be able to help but think that the news people are supporting that candidate. It's the same thing here. You put an ad for your candidate in your paper, which is supposed to be objective. Frankly, if the Seattle Times wanted to show its support for McKenna and the power of newspaper advertising in election season, they could have bought an ad in another paper. The Blethen family could have made a donation to McKenna. They could have done a lot of things, but instead they did something that their own employees object to, which any journalist with a slice of sense would tell you is flat out wrong, and which other media outlets have decried as wrong. I'd bet my house that the Columbia Journalism Review will have a dart for this in one of its next issues.
I'll miss the paper. I might substitute the Sunday New York Times, but that won't help with my comics fixation. And Darling Son will be unhappy, but he's such a staunch Democrat that I think he'll be okay with it.
I'm curious what my other writer friends think about this. Would you drop your subscription?
October 24th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I have no designs on public office, and given my strange history, I'm sure some political consultant would say that's probably for the best. But if I was going to run for office, I would make the following promises:
1. I will never let the practice of my religion impinge on your freedom to practice yours. Just because my religion allows for divorce, I would never make you have one. Just because mine is pragmatic, if not happy, about a woman's right to choose what to do with her body, and believes that contraception is just fine, doesn't mean that I would make you have an abortion or use birth control.
2. I will never knowing lie to get a vote. I am a lefty-liberal, tree-hugging, feminist, Euro-socialist and I'm fine with that. I'd no sooner try to color my past to suit an audience than I would, well, run for office. And if I change my mind about an issue -- for instance, I'm of two minds about marijuana legalization -- I'll explain myself. If I used to be against it before I was for it, I will tell you about the process I took to get to my new place, and own it.
3. I will never claim credit for influence where I have none, or for events that had nothing to do with me. Presidents have nothing to do with the price of gas and little influence on private sector employment.
4. If any of my colleagues say or do something reprehensible, whether criminal or not, I will call him or her out and not blindly stand by for the sake of politics. People misspeak, and there are undoubtedly circumstances in which such mistakes of language can be forgiven. But that's dependent on many factors, such as the intent, the tone, and the character of the speaker. Some people deserve second chances. Some don't.
5. I won't promise to do things. I will promise to try to do things. Because what you can achieve politically is determined by how many allies you have and how many people are arrayed against you with the sole desire to thwart your idea, regardless of its merit. Further, I promise I will not blindly be against whatever someone else suggests just because it's not my idea. I'll evaluate the idea based on how my constituents feel, my own moral compass, and the potential costs and benefits of its implementation.
Life is too short to lie about who you are, what you think, and what you've done just to get a job. And if you do, you should be fired, just like you would be if you were found to have embellished your resume to get a corporate gig.
I'm not going to run for office. It's a nasty business currently run by and filled with people who will prevaricate, dissemble, double-speak, and every other synonym for lie just to get on an interest group's good side. Frankly, I think there should be a law that makes blatant lying during a political campaign illegal. If you can't prove it's objectively true, don't say it.
But I'm not going to run for office just to see that law passed.
If you were going to run for office, what would you promise?
October 4th, 2012 § 1 Comment
I think the first time I used the phrase "I'm with the band" -- apart from in junior high when I played flute in an actual band -- was in high school when I somehow became attached to a band called Flight. In case you can't tell from the photo below, it was the 1980s. They had come in after a gig to the restaurant where I worked. A couple of my friends ended up dating the lead singer and the keyboardist. We would all hang out at their Scooby clubhouse in the the drummer's mother's garage. We could get into their shows at over 21 venues because we were with the band. We felt so cool.
I haven't had occasion to use the phrase again since, although in the reboot of my life, I have friends who have -- shout out to the Mean Lady and her erstwhile almost all female Aerosmith tribute band Dream On and to the current preoccupation of the Nerd, the almost all ukulele band The Castaways. For the Nerd in particular, I know that saying "I'm with the band" causes intemperate glee. A gobsmacked look of unbelievable good fortune will cross her face when she mentions that she plays music. For money. And I'm pretty sure that the "for money" part is incidental to the "for an audience" and "with real musicians" part.
Tonight, I went to see Glen Hansard at the Moore Theater. A mile down the road, Madonna was playing a gig at the Key Arena. I'm pretty sure that Hansard could have filled the Key. But from his apparent joy being in a fairly intimate venue and his continuous interaction with the audience, I realized that big arenas must not be something that every musician dreams of playing. What may be obvious to many was surprising to me: I don't know an author who would turn down the chance to sell as many books as 50 Shades of Grey author EL James. We want the world to read our words. But I bet there are a ton of musicians who don't aim to play Wembly or Croke Park.
One of the only perks of being disabled -- aside from my handi-placard that lets me park just about anywhere for free -- is getting special seating at events. You never know what that means: a seat behind a pole or directly in front of the stage, tucked somewhere unobtrusive or put wherever suits your particular brand of disability best (close if you have vision problems, not upstairs if you don't walk well). In the case of the Moore, it's right next to the sound guy -- the best seat in the house sound wise. And the sound engineer? He'll chat with you after the show. He doesn't have minions to keep the riff raff like me away, poor guy.
I have long had questions about Glen Hansard's guitar that keep me up nights. The guitar in question has it's own Twitter feed (although it doesn't seem to be about the guitar at all or by anyone associated with it). There's a picture of it, though. Go look.
The sound guy said the guitar has been with him since 1989, when Hansard was just a busker on Grafton Street. I probably passed him on my way to or from work. Maybe I even tossed him some money. He never busked on Henry Street on the north side of the Liffey because apparently his mother knew all the fruit and veggie hawkers and would have alerted her to the fact that young Glen wasn't in school but was trying his hand at music. He told me the guitar is prone to losing pieces during concerts. One went flying off most recently when Hansard opened for Bob Dylan.
That poor instrument has more holes than VooDoo "The Magic is the Hole" Doughnuts at this point, and I itch with wonder about whether it is a prop, a security blanket, or if there is something about the sound it creates that makes it important to the music. So I scribbled (in the dark) a couple questions on a business card and begged the sound guy to give it to Hansard. I wonder if eventually, it will fall into too many pieces to be playable. I wonder if there is another guitar at home that the musician furiously strums -- or pays someone to play for him -- so that eventually, it will have the same wear pattern and thus a similar if not identical sound.
Our conversation didn't end with the guitar (which I know is shocking to those of you who know me). We talked about how the sound guy had an aneurysm a few years ago and spent months in the hospital in a coma, about how he was brain dead according to the doctors, but his kids didn't believe it. He kept patting his left breast, which the physicians said was nothing more than "a brain fart", but his kids said was him patting his pocket looking for his smokes (he has since quit smoking and drinking). He explained why I couldn't ever get a pint of Guinness in Glendalough that was as good as the one that Ariel Slattery would pour me at Slattery's pub in Rathmines. He spoke of loving every second of life being with the band. He spoke with disdain about politicians and politics and how the only way to do things right would be to have a benevolent dictator, preferably him. He happily took a card with the name of a great Jewish deli in Portland (Kenny and Zukes) because he talked of the blessing of a great Reuben sandwich and real chicken soup and blintzes. I hope he goes.
It's never been my fantasy to be "with the band". I love to sing, but I meet my audience adulation quota when I chant Torah or Haftorah at my synagogue a couple times a year. And if I did have some third life as a singer or someone in a band, I think I'd like the smaller venues like the Moore where you have a better sense of the journey you take the audience on during a show. But as a writer, I'll take the Wembly equivalent thank you.
September 10th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Before last Saturday, I had never taken a cooking class. I learned to cook from my mother, by reading a whole lot of cookbooks, and by actually cooking. It is a form of artistic expression to me, something that gives me intense pleasure. Thinking of an ingredient and how to use it in a tasty, novel, and hopefully healthful way, makes me happy.
But a friend of me asked me to join her in a class at Sur La Table, covering the food of Provence. I'm not a huge fan of fancy French food, but Provençal cooking is the rustic kind of real food I enjoy cooking and eating. I was a little tardy, thanks to a quick dash for an iced coffee on a hot night, where I got stuck behind two long orders, neither of whom tipped the barrista, may they rot in hell. But all I missed with Chef John Neumark's self introduction. Which in a way was nice, because knowing he was a chef at the highly regarded Campagne restaurant or my all-time favorite Serafina might have made me assume he was a great chef rather than discovering it by watching him cook.
The menu was good. But nothing, upon reading it, struck me as something I needed to learn how to make -- a roast chicken (got that down), braised fennel (don't like fennel), polenta and mushrooms (don't really care for polenta), and an apricot tart, but with figs and raspberries since apricot season is over. Yum, but I got tarts down, too. Still, I was game. I was interested in watching his knife skills -- something in which I need schooling -- and seeing how he made a complex meal come together from (mostly) scratch in two hours.
I will admit here to the masses something which those who know me probably know already: I always have a comment, something to observe or say, a joke to make. Choosing a spot to Chef's left, where I could make sure I was my usual teacher's pet self, I watched closely, but probably didn't shut my mouth much. I chopped some mushrooms and some tomatoes, I diced a shallot and pulled leaves of sprigs of thyme, sliced some figs. It was fun. A couple hours later, we got to taste the result. I wasn't expecting anything to be fabulous.
Then I tasted the Goat Cheese Polenta and Wild Mushrooms with Thyme. Holy moly! I wanted a pot of just the mushrooms, but they were so good with the polenta, too. And while I'm not a goat cheese fan, it worked very well in this dish and didn't overwhelm the mushrooms, sherry and thyme.
Here's the recipe, with a few asides on substitutes for vegans or vegetarians by me:
In a large pan (really large), saute two minced shallots in four tablespoons of either olive oil or a combination of butter and olive oil. Once they have softened, add two minced garlic cloves and saute for a minute. Then add in four ounces of each chanterelles, sliced crimini, and sliced shitake mushrooms. Let them cook for 7 or 8 minutes. Don't stir too much or they will not brown. And you want them to brown. Add in a half teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stem. An easy way to do this is to freeze the thyme for several minutes and then strip the leaves. The recipe calls for the addition of a half cup chicken stock, but we used a half cup of creme sherry. It may or may not flame (ours did), Let the result simmer for five minutes, and then season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the polenta, bring to a boil four cups of liquid (water, chicken or non-tomato heavy vegetable stock, milk or a creamy vegetarian milk substitute that doesn't have a strong flavor on its own; oat or rice milk -- unflavored, unsweetened -- would work well; the milk or milk substitute make a creamier version). Add half a tablespoon salt and stir or whisk in a cup of polenta -- for a creamy version, use a finer cornmeal. Most stores sell an instant polenta that works fine. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and stir for about eight minutes. Stir in two tablespoons of unsalted butter and four ounces of crumbled goat cheese. Other cheeses would work, too, but even if you don't like goat cheese, try it. Really. If you are vegan I can't think of a good substitute. If you know of one, let me know and I'll edit this to reflect it.
Serve the polenta with the mushrooms over it on a platter for family style service, or divide into four portions.
Note: If you want a solid polenta, you can use three cups of liquid, pour the finished product on an oiled jelly roll pan and refrigerate, and then you can grill it or fry it in some butter or oil, and serve the mushrooms on top. Franky, I wouldn't want to wait that long.
I wish I had taken a picture before we ate it, but it was gone too fast. Indeed, the only dish I got a picture of was the tart, which was the one dish I was sure I'd like and which wasn't the best dish at all.
I'll go to another class, and with an open mind, because the most valuable lesson I learned on Saturday evening was what my mom tried to teach me as a child and what I am trying to pass on to Darling Son: you don't know you won't like it until you taste it.
September 7th, 2012 § 2 Comments
I read about this house in the Seattle Times yesterday and decided I had to go see it for myself. So after Mr. Right Now and I delivered Darling Son to the Wasband, walked the dog around Green Lake, and had some dinner at Latona Pub, we found the place, got out and took some pictures.
And I'll I'm going to do is post them, because really, there's not a lot you can say about a house that has been covered in a house-cozy made from afghans bought from a handful and a half Goodwill stores in Seattle. Aside from I'd have got better pictures, but the house is surrounded by a chain link fence. And it was night.
You can see it yourself at 425 15th Avenue E, on Capitol Hill across from the QFC. Take better shots and send them to me so I can upload something that does this art justice, okay?