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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Roasted Beet and Orange Salad

It only looks like this if you don't stir it at all.  With one or two stirs the whole thing is purple.  And if you toss with your hands, they are purple too.  This is simple once you have roasted the beets.  I like to do it when my spouse is slow roasting meat and the oven has to be on anyway.

 3 lb. beets
2 c. chopped pineapple
4 mandarin oranges

1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Roast beets and peel them.  Cut to the size that you want them to be.  Cut pineapple to the same size.  Cut the mandarin oranges in half once you have peeled them.  Toss with the dressing (which you make by combining all the ingredients and shaking), or keep separate and dress separately, then add together carefully in a bowl or everything will be beet colored.  Garnish with chiffoned fresh mint if desired.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fundamentals of Caring (2015)

This movie has Paul Rudd playing in my favorite Paul Rudd role.  And because Paul Rudd is in it, we have a sense of how the story is going to go, which could be a bad thing but in this case it is a good thing.  We meet a man who won’t sign his divorce papers but know that he will by the final scene. It’s a “lesson movie,” one in which we’re going to watch people start off in places of grief and bitterness and evolve towards happiness. Now, there’s something to be said for films that do this well. They teach us that we are all capable of more than we think we are, that even our darkest days will be followed by light.
I, for one, am a fan of these when the aim for the movie night is to not think too hard.  let the movie take you there.  This is great for that.
Rudd becomes the caregiver for a young man with muscular dystrophy named Trevor.  He is in a bad place in his life, and Trevor is sadly at the end of his life.  Together they help each other have a little bit more of a life, and the script is for the most part cleverly written and aptly delivered.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

This is a modern day telling of Pride and Prejudice.  The endeavor to change and update a classic that has endured for 200 years is undeniably brave.  It is like painting a target on your chest and daring people to shoot at you.  So I give the author great credit there.
The whole cast of characters has been updated to fit the roles in modern society of the well off and the ultra rich so that we can all understand the class differences.  The basic elements of Austen’s plot have been neatly rehabbed, too. Mr. Bennet, you’ll recall, had no sons to inherit his estate, which threatens his family with the eventual loss of their home. Sittenfeld’s Mr. Bennet faces crushing medical bills, which will just as surely leave his family homeless. Other translations to our modern times are equally as creative: Artificial insemination and sex reassignment surgery add complications inconceivable to a society once determined by primogeniture laws.
Sittenfeld’s cleverest but slightly irritating move is working a reality-TV dating show into her story. What might seem like a bit of pandering to pop taste is really a feat of  satire. After all, just as the Austen Project recasts Regency romance in the 21st century so “The Bachelor” recasts modern dating in terms of Regency courtship. In either direction, the mashup is just as awkward and hypnotically bizarre. I found it underwhelming on the one hand, and on the other I could not put it down.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Broccoli Slaw

Yes, I am now back up and running, cooking things that are green and trying new things on a somewhat regular basis.  I even forgot that I was getting chemo today.  That is a first.
This is a recipe that is greatly improved by very thinly slicing the stems of the broccoli.

2 heads of broccoli
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

Buttermilk Dressing
1/2 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
1/3 cup mayonnaise (this is more than is in the original, to thicken the dressing further)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (or, you could just use a little extra red onion to simplify it)

Trim broccoli and cut it into large chunks. From here, you can either feed it through your food processor’s slicing blade, use a mandoline to cut it into thin slices, or simply had chop it into smaller pieces. I used the stem and the flowerets, but if you have a broccoli stem aversion you can just use the tops. (P.S. My favorite way to prep the stems is to peel them — the tough skin is why most people think they don’t like broccoli stems; the broccoli underneath is juicy and crisp — then use the mandoline or a knife to cut them into thin slices.)

Toss the sliced broccoli with the almonds, cranberries and red onion in a large bowl. Meanwhile, whisk the dressing ingredients in a smaller one, with a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Pour the dressing over the broccoli (if you’ve skipped the stems, you might not want it all; I otherwise found this to be the perfect amount) and toss it well. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Learning to Drive (2015)

This movie has two actors in it that I very much like.  Ben Kingsley plays a Sikh man in New York who teaches driving by day and drives a cab at night.  Patricia Clarkson is a basically unhappy woman who knows so little about what she wants and how to make herself happy that it is astounding.  The movie opens with her getting into Kingsley's cab where he witnesses an ugly break up between her and her soon to be ex-husband.She decides that as a result of losing her relationship that she needs to learn how to drive.  Her husband did all the driving and if she is going to do something as simple as visit her daughter she is going to have to learn to drive.  That is the text of the story, but the subtext is that she needs to learn how to live her life, and Kingsley helps her with both of those tasks.  His soothing words of advise apply to both being a good driver of your car and being a good driver of your life, and they form a tight bond with each other over the course of the movie.  Kingsley learns to relax and help his new wife adjust to both him and her new country.  Clarkson learns to let go of her old house and her old life, and to move forward.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe

This book was apparently written years ago by the author as a semi-fictional account of the author’s childhood, and if that is the case, it describes a resilient if slightly dysfunctional family.  She and her sister set about trying to right their mother’s ship after their father leaves her for another man.  Worse yet, he moves them to a small English town with almost nothing going on.  On the up side, it gives the daughters a lot of time to think about the next step for their mother.  On the down side, they decide that she needs a man, and unfortunately, there are very few candidates in their new location.  The book then goes on to chronicle what happens next, which includes a few affairs, the overuse of pills and alcohol, and a manipulative married man who magnifies the financial troubles they all find themselves in after their father’s company goes belly up.  It is not the destination but the journey that is so entertaining.  This light hearted handling of weighty subjects is well worth reading.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Home Ec Road to Craft Recovery

Lots and lots of what I have been about these past nine months is about having cancer.  It has occupied a good deal of my physical energy and a surprising amount of my psychic energy as well.
But for once I would like to point out that while I have required above average amounts of medical assistance these past months, that I have just now really started to make progress on my creative recovery, and the local shop, Home Ec, has been a key ingredient in that success.
I just love this shop.  It has all the wonderful touches that I would never be able to swing in a home craft room even if I were to have one.  It has lots of wonderful handmade things that are tastefully arranged and impeccably put together.  The teachers that I have had (one for a napkin making class and another for an oilcloth tote bag making workshop) teach with a perfect blend of instruction and hand holding mixed with let yourself go and pick up the pieces later.  I had been stuck in not getting much done to what is true now, having completed projects and looking forward to what I might do next.  Please check them out if you need an injection of creativity into your craft life.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Burnt (2015)

Bradley Cooper does a remarkably good job of capturing the personality and pathology of an elite chef.  Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who crashed and burned on drugs, alcohol, self agrandizing and debt.  Prior to all that he was a 2 Michelin star chef in a Paris restaurant with many talented people who all currently hate him.  After his ignomious departure he does a period of self-imposed penance in New Orleans, shucking literally a million oysters.  Seriously, he keeps count on a daily basis, and at his millionth oyster he takes off his apron, leaves the restaurant and goes to London, where he somewhat obnoxiously foists himself on an old friend and supporter who agrees to let him cook there.  The thing that is at once painful to watch and strikes me as accurate is just how self absorbed he is.  When things go wrong he literally throws things and trashed food.  His verbal abuse of his staff is shocking.  And either Bradley Cooper is truly a through and through asshole or a great actor because these scenes are cringe worthy they seem so real.  The ending is a bit tied up in a bow but I did enjoy the movie.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Theatetus by Plato (369 BCE)

Socrates believes that knowledge is innate in man, but that man does not always allow knowledge to rule him.  Emotions play a role and they can at times overwhelm knowledge.  Socrates asserts that man knows the right thing to do, but does not always choose to act that way.  Socrates warns the reader that what is good and virtuous is complicated.  He rejects the notion that a certain amount of bad behavior can be outweighed by good behavior.  The virtuous behavior does not negate the bad behavior.
    Socrates states that all desire is for pleasure and nothing else.  Man seeks happiness, even though what brings him happiness is not always good.  This premise is necessary because without it there is not an explanation for why man does things that are not virtuous.   The desire to do something outweighs the negative impact the behavior will have on your relationship with your parents, which is a virtuous relationship.
Socrates premise that mans desire for a course of action is in direct proportion to the amount of pleasure he will receive.  This explains why man would seek pleasure in the short run, because it is an intense and overwhelming emotion that can interfere with man’s pursuit of what is virtuous, even of he has the knowledge of it.  For example, man has the knowledge that marital fidelity is virtuous and will bring both he and his spouse happiness.  Occasionally man is tempted to have sex with someone who is not his spouse.  He is driven by the desire for immediate pleasure, and may not consider the consequences for his long-term happiness in the pursuit of his immediate desire.  If he chooses to have an extramarital affair, the pain that he endures later outweighs the pleasure he enjoys in the moment.
Socrates argues that when man demonstrates a weakness of will, what is really happening is that he has not correctly assessed the damage that his pursuit of pleasure will have or that he has incorrectly assessed the amount of pain that he will endure based on his action.  Socrates believes that if man was able to accurately measure pleasure and pain, and the consequences of them he would always act in a knowledgeable way.  When man makes the wrong assessment, he errs.  This can appear to be a weakness of will, but it is actually a failure of knowledge.  I agree with Socrates in principle.  For example, a robber chooses to hold up a liquor store to steal money for his own pleasure.  He is aware of the fact that what he is doing is illegal and that he could go to jail if he is caught.  Often the thief makes an inaccurate assessment of his risk of being caught.  He is conscious of the bad possibilities that he faces with his action, but he makes the mistake of believing that he will not be caught.  His emotions overrule his knowledge, and lead to his weakness of will.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rhubarb Syrup

This is a flavored simple syrup, and many cocktails that call for simple syrup could have this substituted.  I posted several cocktails that use it, and I have to say it is quite a delicious addition to the cocktail cupboard.  Some recipes add lemon juice, but that can always be added later, so this one is just straight ahead simple syrup.  You can save the leftover rhubarb as a spread on bread.

  • 5 ounces rhubarb, washed and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rhubarb is falling apart and the color has bled into the syrup, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and, using a fine-mesh strainer, strain and discard the rhubarb solids. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a resealable container and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Creed (2015)

There was some disagreement in our household about this movie--I thought it was a fitting installment into the 'Rocky' oeuvre and my spouse was unimpressed.  For once (and while that might be an exaggeration, it isn't much of one), the critics are on my side.
This is a fitting end to the Rocky story (as played by Sylvester Stallone), and could be the beginning of the Adonis Creed story (ably portrayed by Michael Jordan).  For one thing, it mirrors the arc of the original 'Rocky'. There’s the confident boxer from humble origins, his mentor, and the woman who becomes his friend, then his significant other and then his rock of support. There is also the famous boxer who gives our hero the boxing match chance of a lifetime, while at the same time finding out that he is not quite done with boxing himself. Armed with these elements, “Creed” then tweaks them, playing on our expectations before occasionally surprising us. It may be easy to predict where the film takes us, but that doesn’t reduce the power and enormity of the emotional responses it gets from the audience. This is a crowd-pleaser that takes its time building its character-driven universe. There are as many quietly effective moments as there are stand-up-and-cheer moments, and they’re all handled with skill and dexterity on both sides of the camera.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Challenge of Fatherhood

Fatherhood is a complicated job, and one that has an ever changing job description as the offspring age. As a prime example example, here my spouse is pictured  obtaining enough of a highly valued beer, Alchemist's Heady Topper, to share with all of his children.  That is certainly not something he needed to think about when they were toddlers.  None of the challenges of parenting children into adulthood make fatherhood all that different from motherhood, I know, but somehow fathers seem to get less credit.  After all, once the child is born, parenting is a two person job, and over time, the nine months of incubation becomes a vanishingly small percentage of the overall effort.  So give the quality dads in your life a big round of applause.
My spouse has had quite a year this past year.  I was diagnosed with a cancer that was most certainly not good news.  So not only did he have to deal with his own personal feelings about that, he also had to deal with the children.  The problem is that when something frightening happens to a parent the kids tend to talk about it with the other parent.  Not surprisingly a number of very difficult conversations ensued, more than I am aware of, I am sure.  It is just a tremendously difficult task to prop up others when you yourself could do with a little propping up, and so this year in particular I am very thankful for who my children have as their father.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stir Fried Snap Peas

My summer has started off to be the summer of stir frying.  Last night my kitchen was uninhabitable because I made these peas, and I did not have the fan on until it was essentially too late.  The good news is that these are very good at room temperature.  They are also super simple and very tasty.

  • 2  tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1 1/2 pounds snow or sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon  sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tempura sauce
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1. Place vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet or wok and turn heat to high. When it begins to smoke, toss in peas and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they are glossy, bright green and begin to show a few brown spots, about 5 minutes.
  • 2. When peas are almost done, stir in ginger and garlic, and cook another minute or so. Toss with sesame seeds if using them.Turn off heat and remove peas to a serving bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Time to Move Forward

My oncologist had what I like to think of as "the Talk" with me at my last appointment.  He acknowledged that while I had had surgery the week before and was getting chemotherapy, that is was time for me to end my stance as an ill person and move on with my life.  On the one hand, I really didn't see myself as having put my life on hold.  It was more like I was doing the best I could at the moment I was dealing with.  Sometimes I was just too debilitated to not be the sick person.  But overall I thought that I had been handling it more or less okay.
The good thing about someone saying something out loud to you is that it gives you a chance to take a second look at it, and in my case, be more deliberate about doing things right.  I now try to think "Am I moving on or am I stuck?" and while my usual answer is that at I am at least doing it the usual way, in some cases I have been spurred on to do something different.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What Would Edmund Burke Do?

I admit that I have a very shallow knowledge of world history and I have less than dabbled in political science.  Amidst my very short forays into thinking about why things happen the way they do, I came across Edmund Burke.  He is most frequently quoted as saying that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  He is also the man who argued that while he supported the American Revolution, he thought the French Revolution was doomed to fail.  And he was right on both counts.  His letter on why revolutions fail is a quick read, but should have been used as a guide to our military actions in Iraq.  Now I understand the saying that those who do not study (and heed the lessons of) history are doomed to repeat it.

So, where do we stand post-Orlando?  We have a public health emergency related to gun deaths in our country.  If you own a gun you are 9 times more likely to kill yourself and 10 times more likely to die of a gunshot wound.  Guns are more dangerous to their owners and the families of their owners than to anyone else.  We have a Congress that is bought and paid for by the gun lobby.  We have assault rifles for sale legally.  It is overwhelming, the problem is so vast.
So, what to do?  I have been writing to my senator weekly about the lack of hearings for the Supreme Court nominee, so I can include this, but what would be most effective?  What is needed to move forward?  That is what I do not know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Importance of Repast

My parents have been married for 59 years as of today.  They have recently (well, within the past year) moved to Iowa City and I have seen more of them in that time than I have in the past twenty years combined.  There are a lot of nice things about having them near by, but one of them is that my kids have the chance to spend a lot more time with them than they ever have.  We have meals together on a regular basis, and while I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of a weekly family dinner when I was young, it now seems quite nice to me.  Does that make me officially old?  I think so.  I have become my great-grandmother.  I really need to start foraging for food and canning again, but otherwise I am already walking in her metaphorical footdteps.
Family meals give us a chance to catch up on what has been going on and anytime you put 8-12 people around a table it feels festive.  The other opportunity it affords it to put a nice meal on the table at least once a week.  That could be a blessing or a curse, but it is a very welcoming crowd that allows for missteps in the kitchen, so the bar is not high to please people, and if something is a complete flop, we move on.  No harm, no foul.  My eldest son and his wife will soon be moving away, and I will definitely miss them, and their additions to the Sunday night menu.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Kohlrabi and Carrot Slaw

We are in the heart of kohlrabi season and I wanted to shred some to use in a vegetable side dish.  This worked out beautifully.  I used the Cuisinart to shred the carrots and kohlrabi, which took no time at all.  I did the cabbage by hand, and the results were delicious, as well as quick from start to finish (a perfect summer side dish--no heat required).

3 kohlrabi, peeled, stems trimmed off, grated (~1-2 c.)
1/4 head  cabbage, shredded (2-3 c.)
3 carrots, peeled and grated (~2 c.)
4 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
3 Tbs. mayonnaise
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine the kohlrabi, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, and raisins (if using) in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, cider vinegar,  and salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the slaw, and mix until fully coated.Serve or store in the refrigerator.  I made it right before dinner and it was delicious, but it also stores well, and could go on a picnic as well.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

This novel is about a relationship over time, which is one of my favorite fictional subjects.  The couple meet in college and marry quite quickly.  At first glance it seems to be entirely of Lotto's doing, but as the book unfolds we find that Mathilde is not who she appeared to be at first, and that she may have had more than a little influence on the elopement than it first appeared.  She appealed to Lotto because of her innocence, but in reality she was living with a much older man as a sort of concubine, which he finds out much later.
They start out as young and in love, but also broke and cut off from Lotto's family and their money.  He is a struggling actor until Mathilde encourages him to write plays, and she is the one who gets the first one produced, and then he is off to success.  The rest of the book is the juxtaposition of Lotto's view of the relationship with Mathilde's, and the inevitable differences therein.  It is an interesting read, one that makes one reflect on one's own love life.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Carol (2015)

I found this movie to be everything that it should be.  It is based on a Patricia Highsmith book about an affair that she had with an older woman in the 1950s.  Carol (played by Cate Blanchett)is trying to divorce her husband, who knows about an affair that she had with another woman, but who believes that they should be together.  He is not above blackmailing her to get what he wants, which is her back.  If she refuses him, and she does repeatedly, he keeps upping the ante.  He will drag her name through the mud in court and she will never see her daughter.  Amidst that rigmarole, Carol starts her affair with Terese (played with hesitancy and restraint by Rooney Mara), and there is a collision that occurs which brings the movie to its peak.  The costumes and era of midcentury America is exquisite, and it was filmed to reflect the time.  It is very well done, but  slow paced and measured.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tartine Bakery, San Francisco

 Lordy, lordy, where to start?  This is the most amazing bakery ever, in that it has incredibly delicious fancy sweets, like the lemon cream tart pictured at the right (which was just as delicious as it looks, if not more so, and I am not exaggerating), wonderful baked breakfast goodies like what is pictured below, and savory sandwiches.  And excellent coffee as well.  I would go back each and every time I was in San Francisco if I were you, and in some ways it is almost better that I do not live there, because I am quite certain I would have to alternate between fasting and eating here.
The picture perfect appearance of everything they make is counterbalanced by just how magnificent each and every bite is to taste.  We had a midday flight out of town, and we stopped here, luggage in hand, on the way out of town.  Yes, food of this quality is something worth going out of your way for in our book.  We know, we have a problem.  The fact that there is always a line is well understood after looking at what the current guests are eating, and the whole experience, even the wait, was very enjoyable.

Friday, June 10, 2016

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

This is a luminous book that is exceptionally well written, and any speck of interest in hawks is completely unnecessary.  It is certainly not a book of fiction, but there is something about this memoir that feels more casual than non-fiction usually comes across and do not avoid it for that reason.  It is a pleasure to read it, and an interest in falconry in general and goshawk in particular is ancillary. 
This is a very interesting book on two levels.  The first is that it is about overcoming grief.  The author's father died and she met criteria for major depression in the months that followed his death.  She was almost completely disabled as a result and so her decision to train a very difficult bird to be at her beck and call was not one made in the sanest of moments for her.  She juxtaposes her love of falconry with her love of her father and how she used one to come to terms with the other.  The other interesting theme in this book is her theory about T.H. White using a goshawk as a way to either overcome his homosexuality or to come to terms with it.  In either case, his was a failed attempt and hers was not.  Very thoughtful and thought provoking read.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ricki and the Flash (2015)

There is a good amount of wisdom in this romantic comedy with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, both of whom I am very fond of as actors.  They play people who are their own age, more or less, and that has its own appeal as well.  The script is written by Diablo Cody, who did ground breaking work with Juno, and who is witty and acerbic and funny all wrapped up in a smart dialogue.  So a promising start.
Ricki (Streep) is an aging rock star want to be.  Pete (Kline) left her because of her itinerant lifestyle and lack of stable parenting for her children, and married a woman who brought the children to adulthood.  Unfortunately none of them are too fond of Ricki as a result.
Fast forward to the present.  Ricki is now in a band that is essentially the house band in a bar where they are now forced to play some Lady Gaga in addition to their 70's standards.  The band sounds amazing, and that is probably because there are some experienced rockers in it, including Ricky Springfield, who plays Streep's boyfriend.  Ricki is called to the home of her ex-husband because her daughter has tried to commit suicide, and he wants her to come and see her.  Pete is confused about what he hopes she will do, he just feels like she should be there, and the rest of the movie is about the attempts at healing old wounds in a broken family.  Really, it is good, and not a down beat movie that the plot summary might imply.  Try it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bahama Mama Cocktail

This is another in a series of recipes brought to us by my eldest son, who has been making a new cocktail each week.  this one is great--and while it can stand up to other umbrella drinks, it doesn't need the decoration.

Mix and serve with a cherry if so desired.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bar Tartine, San Francisco

 This restaurant has a conceptual theme that may or may not appeal.  I definitely liked it more than my spouse did.  It has an a la carte menu, but I highly recommend going with the prix fixed menu.  It has a wonderful and innovative use of local vegetables, fresh seafood, and lots of grains.  The bread comes from the Tartine Bakery and is the stuff that legends are made of, so naturally, that was a highlight.  The bottom line is that while everything was not a slam dunk winner, it was all very interesting and like nothing that I have had before.
The one down side I would say is that while I thought the food was inspirational, it was not food that I thought was particularly attainable at home, at least not while I am a bit off my cooking game.  So while I own the restaurant's cookbook, i did not return home energized to make it myself.  Maybe I should pick out some recipes and devote a weekend to making a meal from it.  I will get back to you on that.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Nowhere Boy (2009)

I really enjoyed this biopic about John Lennon.  Granted, liking the Beatles is pretty low hanging fruit.  While they might have been controversial to middle class parents when their teenage daughters became hysterically enraptured with them, they were innovative and influential in their own time, and they have withstood the test of time.  They came from humble beginnings, and while they were a combination of talent and being managed well, their music remains widely listened to and well loved.
The movie depicts Lennon as having a wild child mother who introduced him to the music of African Americans but who was not really able to be a parent to him, whereas Lennon's aunt was a buttoned down woman of post WWII England who provided structure, boundaries and reliability for him.  Between the two they molded him into the man who would shake up the world of popular rock music.  The tone is modest and sympathetic.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Jerk Chicken

My son, having been disappointed in a jerk chicken that he made with a rub, tried this one with a marinade--which is very spicy on the outside and modestly spicy on the inside.  And delicious all around.  the recipe is quite detailed and we followed it, down to the bay leaves.

  • 6 whole Scotch bonnet peppers (see note above)
  • 6 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1 (2-inch) knob fresh ginger, roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly picked thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons zest and 1/4 cup juice from about 4 limes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large whole chicken, back removed, split in half along breastbone (4 to 4 1/2 pounds, see note above)
  • 1/4 cup whole allspice berries
  • 3 dozen dried bay leaves (about 2 loosely packed cups)


  1. Combine peppers, scallions, ginger, garlic, thyme, allspice, nutmeg, brown sugar, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, olive oil, 2 teaspoons black pepper, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt in the work bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender. Blend until a rough purée is formed, about 1 minute.
  2. Place chickens in a large bowl or baking dish. Pour marinade over chickens and turn until thoroughly coated. Divide chicken and marinade between two gallon-sized zipper-lock bags, or place in a large baking dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place whole allspice berries and bay leaves in a gallon-sized zipper-lock bag and fill with water. Refrigerate chicken and bay leaves at least 10 hours and up to 1 day.
  3. When ready to cook, remove chicken from bags, allow excess marinade to drip off, and transfer to a large plate.  When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and pile the coals against one wall of a kettle grill. Alternatively, set the leftmost burners of a gas grill to medium-high heat. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.  Oil the grilling grate. Set bottom and lid vents to half open.
  4. Drain bay leaves and allspice berries in a fine mesh strainer. Spread 2/3rds of bay leaves evenly over the cooler side of the grill (it's ok if some allspice berries fall through) in a pattern just large enough to fit the chickens. Lay the chickens over the bay leaves skin side up with the legs pointed towards the hotter side of the grill. Place 1/3 of remaining bay leaves over hot side of grill and immediately cover, with the vent above the chicken. Cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Open lid and place half of remaining bay leaves and allspice berries on hot side of grill directly above the coals. Immediately cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Open lid, add 15 new coals to the pile of hot coals, then place remaining bay leaves and allspice berries on hot side of grill directly above the coals. Cover and continue to cook until the coolest part of the chicken breast registers 145°F on an instant read thermometer, about 20 minutes longer.
  6. Uncover grill and wait five minutes until coals are hot again (if using gas grill, increase heat to high). Carefully lift the chicken off the bay leaves and transfer it to the hot side of the grill skin side up. Using tongs, drop the bay leaves into the grill directly onto the coals or burners so that they smoke. Cook the chicken until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until skin is crisp and charred and coolest part of breast registers 150 to 155°F on an instant read thermometer, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Transfer to a large platter, allow to rest 5 minutes, and serve.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Cala, San Francisco

Cala is a Mexican restaurant in the tradition of regional Mexican cooking rather than Sonora style Mexican food that we are more used to.  I read about it in the San Francisco Chronicle and I have really loved places that we have dined in Oaxaca with this style of cuisine.  That and I could get a reservation there on relatively short notice even though there was a convention at the Moscone in town at the time.
This was an uneven meal for me.  I never know when that happens if it is because the restaurant is uneven or if I just ordered badly; in any case, it happened.  I loved the sopes and really considered getting another order of them, that is how good they were.  The clams al chipotle were amazing, but not quite filling enough.  But the ceviche was just raw halibut, with hardly a hint of lime flavor, and none of the pickling that I think of with ceviche.  Very disappointing.
On the up side, the atmosphere was nice, and the drinks menu was full of nice surprises. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Aloha (2015)

A love triangle movie.  It got terrible reviews and on so many levels.  There was the criticism that it doesn't cover any new ground.  That is a fair point, although I can't say that I watch movies in this genre to see something new and different.  Another slam is that while it is set in Hawaii, there are very few native Hawaiians populating the cast and none in the stars. Also true. We are meant to believe that blond haired, blue-eyed Emma Stone is in fact 1/4 Hawaiian.  While it is certainly possible in the genetic rodeo for that to have happened, it is not a credible casting. It is just a distractor.
If you can set those things aside, it is about a combat veteran who has gone over to the dark side in terms of working for the highest bidder.  He is in Hawaii to negotiate a land acquisition for his employer, who is working in collaboration with the US Army.  He has a military handler and quite by coincidence, his former love is married to the pilot who flies him in.  The rest of the movie is centered on his realization that he can love again.  I would have enjoyed some focus on the effect trauma in battle affected him, but you can't have everything.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Shrimp Scampi on Pasta

This is a wonderful and easy recipe.  I have enjoyed this dish out in restaurants, but I am very picky about my shrimp.  I do not like them to be too big, and I do not like them undercooked, so it turns out that I at least should make it at home.  At least once a month.  Maybe more.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine or broth
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ¾ pounds large or extra-large shrimp, shelled
  • cup chopped parsley
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
  • Cooked pasta 
  1. In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine or broth, salt, red pepper flakes and plenty of black pepper and bring to a simmer. Let wine reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink, 2 to 4 minutes depending upon their size. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice and serve over pasta or accompanied by crusty bread.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hong Kong Lounge II, San Francisco

 I love dim sum and this place has truly outstanding dim sum.  We arrived at its opening time of 10:30 am on a Monday morning, and by 11:00 there was a line out the door.  And it only took one bite of the very first dish to arrive to figure out why that was.  It is just spectacular across the board.  We were fortunate to be there with four people, so we could get quite an array of dishes and there were no disappointments (although some things were more unusual than anticipated--but that is all part of the fun.  If you stay entirely within your comfort zone you will never find out that there are so many more things that you love than you thought).  My favorite dish was the pork and shrimp shu mei, and if I had been thinking straight I should have gotten an order to go.  The clams in black bean sauce came in a close second, but only because I love little clams and could eat them all the time (thank goodness I am vaccinated against hepatitis).  The various steamed and fried dumplings are always a favorite, and I would have gone back every day of my visit if it hadn't been a three mile walk from my hotel room.