Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fire Fire Burning Bright

The trouble with 107 degree temperatures backed up by billowing smokestacks coming from a 35,000 acre neighboring bonfire is it puts a real damper on the appetite. The kids walk by and wonder out loud if the rabbits are going to be okay, the husband walks by and wonders where we keep the insurance policy, and I wander towards the freezer to ensure there's plenty of ice to chill my current beverage of choice.

There's enough smoke and cinders in the air to keep the doors and windows sealed shut and dispel any thoughts of grilling or barbecuing.

The radio blares menace, the computer displays streaming video and the DC 10 threatens to return with 12,000 gallons of fire retardant.

What's on the menu today? Ice cubes.
Plenty of them.

Friday, August 28, 2009


What if you went on strike, and nobody noticed?
Helas, I cooked nothing these past few days.

My children ate:
frozen burritos
ramen noodles
and finished up the banana popsicles hiding in the crusty recesses of the freezer.

My husband picked up animal style hamburgers, catering to his food nuttiness, and eliminating all prep and clean up.

Lesson learned: I'm not sure. I will accept guidance from my readers. In the meantime, I have a craving for a pesto pasta salad. If they're nice to me, maybe I'll share it with them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cooking: the Dark Side

The problem with braising, basting,baking, roasting, grilling, simmering, sizzling, searing, peeling, pureeing, is, in the end, you are alone in the kitchen with the dishes.

Oh, yes, I've made deals and chore charts, wheedled and cajoled, bribed and threatened, jumped up and down until my natural golden tan turned purple, and it works, for just that day. Memories, in this family, are short it seems.

Including mine, because once the tantrum has passed, there I am, plotting and scheming and devising another meal.

Like writing and smoking, it's an addiction.
Unless, unless--
maybe it's time to go cold turkey. How long can a family survive on microwaved popcorn and quesadillas?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

"Dexter" became a hit it was actually a novel (or two). I read the first
one, and was appalled. When the ads for this series came out, I was horrified! When Netflix ran it on "Watch it now" I was irrevocably hooked.

I was swept away by the music, the writing, the characters, strong women and non traditional casting. (Plus the Latin flare of Miami doesn't hurt, from my perspective). And now, Season 3's out on DVD.

What, besides buckets of popcorn, do you devour while watching this? Humbly, I recommend you dine before the marathon of Jimmy Smits and murder-infused episodes. Since we still can't fly direct to Havana, why not make it Cuban?

Tentative menu:
Cuba libres or mojitos, but perhaps a licuado would be more authentic
fricase de pollo
white rice.

Pick up something at Porto's.

What? You got a problem with serial killers?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Endless possibilities

Quick! Before summer moves on its merry way--For all you pizza and/or lovers of all things Italian (oops, my biases are showing) here are a couple of promotions to hop over to before they vanish--

Thursdays, 5-9pm
$5 oven-fired pizza and $5 Peroni beer on the patio. They say: "It’s the best place to gather after work or before a night on the town!"

Now, hold your horses but that Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali's hip trendy spot that does a rushin' business from 5:30pm to close, you know, the one where you can squeeze in beside a celebrity whose name you forget or really never did know because you're not that actor's target demographic, yeah, that's right, Osteria Mozza is offering this:

Every Monday through Thursday a special three-course menu exclusively at our "Amaro Bar." Choose one item from Nancy's Mozzarella Bar (or share the Mozzarella Tasting for two), one Pasta, a Dessert and a glass of either Bastianich Friulano or La Mozza Morellino di Scansano for $35 (plus tax and service). No reservations are necessary; the seats at the bar are available on a first come first served basis so walk on in.

Also, Ruth's Chris in Pasadena is offering complimentary wine tasting on Mondays from 5-7 to the end of August. Unaware of this I dashed in there last Monday, just like a tourist, looking for change for a dollar and, after feeding the meter was rewarded with sips from three different wines. They also mentioned the possibility of complimentary snacks. I left a bit happier than I had entered.

Despite the recession, job dramas, the endless back to school supply list of books, clothes, what, what do you mean you need pencils and paper too? all I can say, in a word, is andiamo.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Secret Vices

Now that I've read
Catching Fire I better understand the author's premise. Cooking food releases nutrients, makes food taste better, and is a societal building block. However, I have a few words of advice to him if he wants to make bazillions of dollars. Buried in the middle of the book is the fact that people who commit themselves to eating only raw foods often lose weight. Market it as a dieting book.

So, want to lose pounds quickly? Just cut out the cooked food.

As we wait for hell to freeze over, let's amuse ourselves with an ice cream cone. Current secret vice: strawberry cheesecake. (Ah, I remember it from my childhood. And now my daughter has discovered it, too). In a sweet passage from Neil Gaiman's and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens the children can't possibly believe there's an ice cream store in America that sells 31 flavors. It's too fabulous to be true.

What's your current food or drink vice? Anything you're willing to share here?

Monday, August 17, 2009

To Have and Have Not

You've booked your cottage/cabin/rental complete with sitting room and mini-kitchen. The NY Times recently did a post on absolute vacation packing kitchen utensil necessities, where the comments ranged from mine (corkscrew, then nothing else matters) to Pyrex measuring cups, assorted spices, muffin pans and an induction cooker. Really, people? Okay, I may be restless but I'm not nuts! And if facilities are truly limited, hey, that's why God in her wisdom created Chowhound and Zagat's, among lesser entities.

I know a couple of you have headed out of town, any thoughts?

Friday, August 14, 2009


The weekends,
even in the summer, can be filled with calm-shattering tasks: window washing, laundry, groceries, etc, etc.

But it's the very middle of August, and this weekend I plan on heading out for some music at the park, passing on the Michael Jackson tribute, but showing up for the guitar fusion. On Sunday I aim to pack up the family in the afternoon and head to Bolsa Chica State Beach, and stay for the sunset. I must do this before the state budget closes or sells off our public treasures.

What to pack, what to pack, what to pack?

Right now I'm feeling rather retro. My favorite beach menu is what I grew up on: tuna salad on white rolls, carrots, Doritos and soda. All salty and crunchy to compliment the sand and sea air. How about you?
What works best at the beach?

Oh, if you really really need a tuna salad recipe, here's one:

Per can of tuna add and mix in the following:

1/3 cup diced celery
1 tblsp minced onion
a squeeze of lemon juice
a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
one diced hard boiled egg
mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste.

Want to pretend this is part of a tapas menu? Serve a dollop on a potato chip. How fun (read silly, slightly pretentious, but still delicious) is that?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hard boiled

If you've clocked the books listed to the right under Currently Reading you may have noticed a trend towards the dark and mordant: Ken Bruen, Elmore Leonard, Lee Child, all terrific writers. I must confess I've been on a Ken Bruen jag, having discovered him just a few months ago and am now thoroughly addicted to his protagonist Jack Taylor.

But besides smoking cigarettes till dawn accompanied by a number of fifths of Jameson, what menu suits a hard-boiled detective series best?

Here are a couple of thoughts:

Anything with bits of meat and tomato sauce, like pizza or pasta. Drink Coke or Diet Coke because this will be a page-turner you want to stay awake for.

Edgy and entertaining like John D MacDonald's Travis McGee?
Plymouth gin martinis with a traditional steak and baked potato, although you may pass out long before the final curtain.

Worth savoring?
Accompany with tapas, or small plates, stretching the meal out for as long as possible. Pass on the sherry, not masculine enough, crack open a San Miguel.

Couldn't be bothered to pair your meal?
Then of course that unbeatable standby: milk and Oreos.

Any recommendations of your own?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Frugal Mondays

Flung the last of your summer pennies at itunes, school books for your kids, or oysters on the bay? Has Time magazine got an article for you, here.
Six posh chefs bring you gourmet dinners you can make for under $10, from fennel pork loin to spicy spaghetti with pancetta.
Browsing the recipes and photos, I was unable to concentrate on the ingredients however. I was struck more by the head shots of the chefs. How much had their stylists cost?

Um, is a $10 dinner menu a surprise for anyone out there? On the other hand, maybe that's why my kids are fed up with rice and beans. In order to expand my repertoire I would love to know any of your tips or delectable and frugal meals--

Friday, August 7, 2009

Inferiority Complex

We spent four brief days in Northern California, Tomales Bay and environs to be precise.
Four oyster slurping wine swilling cheese devouring days.

The temperature's cooler, the air is clearer, the sky bluer, everything along the coast is deep green. And everything tastes delicious, from the local grilled oysters topped with spinach and parmesan cheese to the local organic butter we spread on the organic whole wheat toast.

We drove and hiked Point Reyes National Park, watched and listened to the seals, admired the tule elk, deer, and passed cows frolicking under the sunshine like a damn California dairy commercial. We are reducing our cows' methane emissions read one dairy sign.

Sigh. I've got signs of a steeping, incipient inferiority complex. And in typical inferiority-driven behavior, I started lashing out.
"Ha!" I said to myself, "look at all the women with their hand made sweaters, clunky hand bags and fresh soulful faces."
Yeah, that showed them all right.

Things to definitely do:

Stop at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes station. Can't figure out which of their hand-crafted cheeses to buy? Neither could we. Happily they have a prepacked sampler bag, which included Mt. Tam, a triple creme; Point Reyes Blue; Matos St. George and a delicious crottin, (goat cheese). Mt. Tam was our favorite.

Order up grilled and raw oysters at The Marshall Store (cash only). You sit outside, stare at the sail boats, swig the bubbly or white wine you brought and wonder why you should ever go back home.

Taste wines around Sonoma County.

Jump up and down on the San Andreas Fault.

To shake this wholesome cult of granola out of our heads we drove to Healdsburg, to unfortunately be disappointed by yet another picturesque town, this one surrounded by dozens of local wineries. On the town square people had begun to camp out for the concert that afternoon. La Crema, on the corner, served its complimentary wine samples. A bit hungry, we picked up more food at the local deli, this time some wonderful Spanish chorizo sliced mouthwateringly thin. "Where's this come from?" I asked, surly at the thought of another local wonder.

"La Espanola in southern California," the server replied.
Thank God.
We're not such a backwater after all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Little Bites, Big Brains

Did you catch this fascinating interview in Salon last week? Cooking has not only freed the nutrients in the food, but also the brain for other pursuits: hunting, culture, and more cooking.
Did you know that in all recorded societies women have done the cooking? Does that mean the men washed up?

This interview does answer my own question, why am I such a restless person? I should have just had more kids to cook for. Check it out, I do think it's very interesting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Picnicking Out

If it's Monday then I'm in Tomales Bay in search of the best barbecued oysters. (All right, no cracks about it being August). Russ Parsons had an article in the LA Times a couple of years back and I haven't forgotten how it piqued my appetite. But what about the drive up? What to pack in the cooler while we stop at Point Reyes? Mark Bittman, to the rescue, of course, with his
101 riffs on the picnic basket. You can find it here. I want to try them ALL!

If I don't respond to comments in a timely manner, these next few days, please don't take it personally. I'm not sure if where we're staying has any wireless. Or, if being stuffed with oysters and wine, that I'll be able to focus my eyes on a computer screen.