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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Squash Gratin

The great thing about this technique is that it can be used with any cooked leftover vegetable dish.It doesn't have to be squash, although right now that is what we always seem to have, but it could be broccoli or peppers or mushrooms or any combination of those things--just make sure you have a couple cups of something and then use the cooked rice and the egg to bind it together.

  • 2-3 cubed summer squash, sauteed with onions and peppers
  • 2 large or extra-large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup cooked rice or risotto
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup Gruyère or cheddar cheese, grated 
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  1. Make the sautéed summer squash, season it well and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Oil a 2-quart baking dish with olive oil. In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, salt, pepper, and milk. Stir in the rice, thyme, the sautéed squash and the cheeses. Scrape into the baking dish.
  3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until nicely browned on the top and edges. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving, or allow to cool. The gratin is good hot, warm, or room temperature.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Decent Arrangement (2014)

This is a romantic comedy that is streaming on Netflix.  It is enjoyable in a very light way.  An American goes to visit his aunt in India with the intent of finding a wife.  The reasons that he is pursuing an arranged marriage are not well articulated, but his options are good, even though he is not a particularly successful American.  Somewhere in the midst of it all he meets someone that he has a certain chemistry with, and all bets are off.  The thing that I liked about the movie were the scenes of India, the immersion in a culture that fascinates me but I have not experienced.  Then there is the secondary fascination that I have with people who might successfully marry without either love or passion, nor friendship upon which to base a relationship.  I just don't get it, but then, I am not all that imaginative either.

Friday, July 29, 2016

When Chemotherapy Gets Complicated

When I finished acute treatment six months ago my oncologist talked to me about the road beyond, and that he wanted me to do 12 months of cytotoxic chemotherapy along with an oral agent.  He warned me that there would be a point at which I would not want to do that any more, but that a year is what he thought was ideal.  This month was my sixth treatment and I now understand what he meant.  And maybe I am lucky I got this far before it got challenging.
The first thing that happened was that I forgot that I was getting chemotherapy on that day.  What?  How could that be?  Well, I did, and as the result I missed a meeting that I had set up and wasted a lot of people's time.  I felt very badly about it, and beyond apologizing there really is nothing I can do to fix it other than make an effort to not let it happen again.  It was a stark reminder that life is cery complicated and that the juggle can be more than one can reasonably manage at times.
The other thing is that I have started having an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy.  I do not have the side effect (yet) that I was worried about, and this in no way will limit my therapy, but I am beginning to understand why people might want to stop therapy and get on with life.  The problem is that this is a bad disease and getting on with life now might translate to giving it up prematurely later, and so of course I am going to do everything my oncologist recommends that I do, but I have gotten  to the point where I could see how it could get old. But, as Dory the forgetful but optimistic fish often says, just keep swimming.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Shrimp and Eggplant

In my ongoing effort to make more shrimp recipes, this is today's addition.  I roasted the eggplant because I had the oven on roasting other vegetables, and then I wok cooked the shrimp, because the grill was not on and I am not so fond of roasted shrimp.
  • 2 ½ pounds eggplant, scrubbed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  •  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
  • 1 pound extra large shrimp, shelled
  •   3 garlic cloves minced (more even)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon nuoc mam or nam pla fish sauce, or to taste
  1. Preheat a grill to medium or the oven to 425 degrees. Toss eggplant with about 2-3 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place in a grill basket, or spread in an even layer on one or two rimmed baking sheets (leave plenty of room between pieces so they can brown). Grill or roast until eggplant softens and browns, about 10 to 20 minutes.
  2. While eggplant cooks, toss shrimp with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Thread shrimp onto skewers if grilling. If roasting, remove baking sheet from oven and add shrimp, stirring well. Return to oven to bake until shrimp is just opaque and eggplant is golden brown, an additional 10 to 12 minutes. Or grill shrimp alongside eggplant until shrimp is cooked and eggplant very soft and brown, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle or a heavy knife, pound or mince together the garlic and a pinch of salt until a paste forms (if using a knife, use flat side after garlic is minced). In a bowl or platter, toss shrimp, eggplant, garlic paste, mint and fish sauce together.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

This is a good story with three great actors--Robert Redford plays Bill Bryson, the writer from Des Moines.  Nick Nolte plays a friend of his from back in his young adulthood who still lives in Des Moines.  Emma Thompson plays Bryson's wife.  Bryson decides that he is going to hike the Appalachian Trail, bottom to top, Georgia to Mount Katadahn in Maine.  He has little experience, minimal conditioning to get it underway, and yet he is determined to do it.  His wife goes nuts and tells him that he absolutely cannot do this by himself, and he goes with the only person who agrees to do it with him.  They have a somewhat crochety relationship with each other, and meet some exaggerated personalities and difficult situations along the way.  They have a near encounter with bears, they regret refusing help at one point, only to be incredibly grateful later when they are saved from a place they could not get of on their own.  It is an adventure in every sense of the word, and the movie has some of the humor tinged with a bit of the pedantic that is the hallmark of Bryson's work.  Not to mention a great soundtrack of Lord Huron songs that I love.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Cooking Roots

 I recently made macaroni and cheese for a crowd, and while I am a well regarded cook, I hesitated to make an iconic food for relative strangers.  My husband reminded me that by making macaroni and cheese for multiple occasions in my children's youth I had become known for it.  It really is nothing particularly special, but it is a dependable meal of comfort food that does not fail to satisfy.  I have been making macaroni and cheese from Anna Thomas' cookbook 'The Vegetarian Epicure' for literally 40 years now.  I should have it down.

  I went to college in the late 1970s and I had very close to no ability to cook.  My mother made a dozen apple pies each fall, and I peeled and cut the apples for that endeavor.  So I had reasonable knife skills and the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the the back of the Nestles chocolate chip bag, and off I went to school.  To make matters worse, I didn't eat meat and I really did not like the food in the mass prepared food environs of college food services.
I joined a housing coop my sophomore year in college, and it was absolutely the best thing for me as a cook.  I learned to cook there.  I made bread often.  I made ethnic food from places I had never been, or in some cases, places I had not eaten the food even in restaurants.  It was not all good, but a lot of it was very good, and in the meantime, I learned.  And I took chances.  Thankfully my housemates at the time were very forgiving, and I still make things for a crowd that I have never made before.  Occasionally the food is terrible, so bad that I sweep it off the table and into the trash.  But most of the time it is good to great, and I have added yet another thing to my repertoire.  And while I have dozens and dozens of cookbooks, I still return to these two from my youth.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Zucchini and Pasta Salad

Yes, I am still making new things with summer squash!  It has been a bumper summer for them, and I even put one in my coleslaw last week,  Every salad can use another zucchini.  This one is a variation on a Ottolenghi recipe, where I took out edamame (which we do not have a lot of) and added another zucchini.  I also used various summer squash, not just zucchini.


  • black pepper
  • cup sunflower oil
  •   3medium zucchini,  sliced thin
  • 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups basil leaves, shredded coarsely
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • cup olive oil
  •  8 ounces pasta
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ tablespoons capers
  • 7 ounces buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a medium saucepan, heat sunflower oil over medium-high heat. Fry zucchini slices in batches (do not crowd them) for 3 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a colander to drain. Tip zucchini slices into a bowl, pour vinegar on top and stir, then set aside.
  2. In the hot water, blanch edamame for 3 minutes; drain, refresh under running cold water and set aside to dry. Keep boiling water in pot.
  3. In a food processor, combine half the basil, all of the parsley and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and process until smooth.
  4. In boiling water, cook pasta until al dente; drain. Return pasta to pot. Pour zucchini slices and their juices over pasta. Add basil sauce, lemon zest, capers and mozzarella. Stir together gently, then taste and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Before serving, stir in remaining basil.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Trumbo (2015)

This is a movie set in the time of blacklisting of communists in the motion picture industry.  The contention as I understand it was that movies were powerful tools that could be used for subversive purposes, and so it was up to Congress to interrogate, ban, and jail those who had ties to the Communist Party.  Trumbo was one such man, and he refused to comply with them, and he went to jail.  When he finally got out of jail he was unable to write under his own name, and so he wrote first under the name of someone who sold the script as his, which was Roman Holiday.  He then wrote under an assumed name, and won another Academy Award for The Brave One.  He was finally awarded the Academy Awards in his name years later.  The thing that I really like about this adaptation of his life story is that he comes off as a good guy, and his wife as a faithful supporter who kept their family together and never encouraged his to cave to the prevailing talk of the time.  Others did not come off quite so well, and it is an enjoyable way to revisit that time in history.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

An Igbo Sense of Community

 My youngest son is taking and art history class called Arts of Africa this summer, and I am watching the lectures with him and taking notes (he has an accommodation for this).  It has been an incredibly wonderful experience to learn about so many different African cultures and their art.  I never took any art history myself in college, so while I very much love museums and the art of other cultures, what I know about it is astonishingly small and petite.  The course is taught by a professor who has boundless enthusiasm for his subject, which definitely helps, but in truth, what he has to say is so fascinating that I think he owes a lot to his subject matter.
The Igbo are an interesting people, because they love in a meritocracy.  You are what you do.  You are no better than what you accomplish in life.  They have beautiful masks and carved figures but the most interesting cultural phenomenon is the mbari.
Each family sends a member to participate in the building of this offering to the gods.  There are three professionals involved--a priest, an artist, and a diviner.  They decide upon the make up of the mbari, and then the rest build it.  The idea is that the offering is the building of the mbari, not the final result.  At that point, the spiritual aspect is completed, and the shrine itself can go to rack and ruin.  Such an interesting concept!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Pomegranate Glazed Salmon

Another recipe from the Zahav Cookbook, and it was a delicious way to have it.  It is very nice to have a number of different ways to cook salmon, especially when it is running in the Pacific Northwest.

1 clove garlic minced
1 Tbs. orange zest
1 1/2 Tsp. kosher salt
1 skin on salmon fillet
1/4 c. pomegranate molasses
ground pepper

Brush the fillet with pomegranate molasses, then garlic, salt, orange zest, and pepper.
Broil until done.  I served this with a roasted cauliflower dish, and a collard green dish.  The bitterness of the collards married nicely with the sweetness of the salmon.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

East Side Sushi (2014)

A fantastic Mexican cook finds work in a traditional Japanese restaurant and not only does she create her own fusion version of sushi, she gains the respect of the restaurant owner, who is a traditionalist (meaning that he does not like her because she is a woman and because she is not Asian).  This movie is a gentle reminder that prejudice, where ever you find it, is never a good thing.  Juana is held back from her dream of being a chef by both her gender and her ethnic background.  At one point in the movie she says that Latinos have been working in the back at restaurants for decades making the people in the front look good and getting neither credit nor adequate compensation for their considerable skills.
So there is that.  It is done in a light and entertaining manner.  The other component that I liked about this is that it is about food.  My youngest son likened it to 'Ramen Girl', which I also liked, and also revolved around traditional Japanese cuisine being created by a non-native.  The movie did make me want to hone some cooking skills, an added bonus.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sewing My Way to Health

 When I was diagnosed with cancer this past fall one of the things that I wanted to do was to get back to making things.  The reasons are two fold.  I like to make things because it feels like a part of me.  When I give something I made to someone I am giving them something that reflects my own sensibilities.  I was just too sick while I was getting large amounts of chemotherapy to really do much, it turns out, but now that I am on a more manageable schedule, I have taken a couple of classes.

One was to make market bags out of oil cloth.  I bought some when I was in Oaxaca last year, and I hadn't really done anything with it.  I thought I might use them as tablecloths for outdoor eating, but hadn't done so.  I took a class at Home Ec in Iowa City, and discovered just how fun and easy it is to make these bags--and how good it feels to be back in front of a sewing machine!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Red Lentil and Kale Soup

I usually make lentil soup with French lentils but i have been out of them, and so resorted to red lentils instead and have really been falling in love with them.  The kale is a wonderful addition to the basic soup.

  • 1  cup  red lentils
  • 6 cups  broth
  • 3  roma tomatoes diced
  • 1/2 organic onion diced
  • 4 cups  kale (chopped)
  • 1  teaspoon Tzardust seasoning from Penzy's
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare veggies: dice onions and tomatoes and chop kale into small pieces.
Put all ingredients except the kale into a medium-sized pot, stir well and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer (low/medium) and cover and cook for 30 minutes (or until the lentils are soft), stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, add the chopped kale, stir well, adjust seasoning, and serve.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Brooklyn (2015)

The story is one about immigration and leaving your family and what is familiar behind you.  It is wrapped up in a love triangle, but that is in many ways a distraction.
The movie tells the story of Eilis Lacey, a young woman from a working family circa 1950. She’s bright, open and industrious, and there’s not much meaningful opportunity for her in her small Irish town. An Irish priest visiting from the United States sponsors Eilis for a job in the book’s title borough, and it is told beautifully.  The beginning meanders through  her uncomfortable Atlantic crossing, her loneliness and alienation in her new world, how she finds her own way and finds romance, and what happens after she’s called back to her old home—away from the place where she’s been working so hard to make good. The story is simple, and told in a quiet register.  It very eloquently describes why immigrants leave their home countries, how they build a multi-cultural life in America, and how the ties of home hug at you, almost seducing you back to a life that is less fulfilling and yet more comfortable and known.  Those who venture forth in the world are brave and strong and resourceful, and deserve our admiration--that is the message that underlies this gorgeously filmed movie.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Back from Bald

This is going to make me seen unintelligent, but here goes.  I never really thought about what happens after you are bald.  Really?  I could point out that I was worried about more life or death circumstances, and while that is very true, and I had a real brush with being desperately ill, that is not really what happened.
I just didn't really think it through, that if all my hair fell out that it would be a very long time indeed until it was long again.  Now that my hair is just barely beginning to grown back I have decided that it is time to cope with that.  Off with the hat, time to get used to being a little bit punk in my appearance.  After all, how short is too short?  It is going to be very short for a long time to come, and let's face it.  Summer is here and the time for wearing a cap all the time has passed from a comfort stand point.
I hate when I discover that I have not anticipated very obvious things that I am going to have to face, but there it is, it happened again.  Probably not the last time for that either.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bok Choi Apple Salad

This is a salad that uses fresh bok choy--so no heating up the kitchen, and it keeps its lovely crunch to boot.  The balsamic vinegar and raisins give the dressing a dark color, so the salad doesn't have the best curb appeal, but you could use golden raisins and white balsamic vinegar to make it more attactive--but the flavor is excellent!

    • 6 cups finely chopped bok choy
    • 1 large apple, shredded
    • 1 large carrot, shredded
    • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
    • 1/2 cup buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup cashews or 1/4 cup cashew butter
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 cup raisins
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1. Combine bok choy, apple, carrot, and chopped onion in a large bowl.
    2. Blend soy milk, cashews, vinegar, raisins, and mustard in a food processor or high-powered blender. Add desired amount to chopped vegetables.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Grandma (2016)

Lily Tomplin, a 76 year old lesbian, plays Elle, a 70 something lesbian who is a bit of a grouch but none-the-less willing to help someone in need.  The movie opens with her breaking up with a beautiful, much younger woman who is definitely not interested in ending the relationship.
Elle’s curly-headed,  granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up unexpectedly at her door. Sage is in a  predicament: pregnant, broke, and scheduled to have an abortion in about eight hours. Why Sage hasn’t gone to her own mom, from whom Elle is more-or-less estranged, why Elle herself only has about forty bucks available at the moment, why Elle and Sage set out in a perhaps-not-impeccably maintained vintage Dodge: all these are questions answered in ways that are best actually seen, rather than described.  The movie is wise and funny and bitter and very occasionally sweet.  It is also sparse and the acting matches the equally well written script to a tee.  This is good stuff that will make you think a bit.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Whites by Richard Price

I am not sure why an author would write under an acknowledged pseudonym, but such is the case here.  I am not familiar with the author (so if he is trying to protect his brand, he failed with me, because as far as I am concerned he doesn't have a brand), and read this because it was on the New York Times 2015 Notable Books list, something that I haven't spent much time going over up until recently.  It is part complicated social situations and part police procedural with an emphasis on the former, and since I like both genres, I very much enjoyed it.
The book uses the life of police officers in general and of one in particular to explore issues around job, family, and life in general.  Billy Graves feels that his family is being threatened by an old and unknown foe.  He has a wife, two boys, and his father, a retired cop, living with him and the way the story unfolds and wraps more people into it is well done and well written.  Much better than your usual murder mystery but maybe not appealing to those who don't have an interest in the world of cops and robbers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Zucchini Salad

This one is from French chef Jacques Pepin, and is in honor of my mother's birthday yesterday, because she found herself quite surprised that she liked this.  I find that it can take on the longer side for the zucchini to take on the more browned look, which I like.

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons corn or safflower oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash the zucchini, trim and discard the ends, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Arrange the rounds in one layer on a large cookie sheet and sprinkle them with the salt. Place in oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until they soften slightly.
  3. Transfer the rounds to a bowl and toss them lightly with the pepper, vinegar and oil. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Danish Girl (2015)

Eddie Redmayne has done two films about two historical figures in two years that are really quite remarkable.  They are both a bit painful as well, but he has a gentle touch with them.  In this one he portrays a transgendered woman, Lili Elbe, in the 1920's.  He is a painter of some renown who is married to another painter.  His wife, Gerda, was quite supportive of his desire to dress and act as a woman, but when he wanted to have sex reassignment surgery, she was much more hesitant, as much for Einar, the man who had been her husband as she was for the loss of him to Lile.  The part that the movie does not quite explain, but is hinted at, is that the operation at the time was aimed at making one a functional woman, including the implantation of an ovary, and finally a uterus transplant.  Which was just not going to end well.  The dissolution of the marital relationship is well portrayed and the experience of marrying a man and waking up one day with a woman who refuses to give that man back is well depicted.  And Redmayne does it all quite beautifully.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Outline by Rachel Cusk

This book was named as one of the five best fiction books of 2015.  It is a book that reads almost like a conversation.  The book is the definition of sparseness--it is succinct and it is sparsely written.   It is made up almost entirely of  eloquent and philosophical one-sided conversations that are so real that you can almost hear them in the room while you read them in your head. That is the gift of the writer, to be sure, to be able to transport the reader to that very state of realness.  If this novel were a film, it would be French. Someone, not always but usually a man, talks at length about himself while his companion, not always but usually a woman, listens attentively, only occasionally interjecting with a comment that is brief and perceptive. The talker takes that attention in his stride and makes use of its insights, though rarely reciprocates. Instead, he grows more voluble, while the listener quietly processes what is said.  And often what is said is so paradoxical and yet so believable as to make the listener fearful that something bad will happen, and the reader gets an insight into why the seemingly unintimidating can in fact be the surface under which violence seethes.  Unsettling but brilliant.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Creamy Zucchini Salad Dressing

Ok, this dressing feels like a miracle, because you put a whole zucchini in the Vitamix and out comes this delicious dressing that you would never guess had a vegetable base.  I know that almost every recipe that I am posting recently has a zucchini component to it, but tis the season.All I can say is that I am still happily eating zucchini and have yet to have zucchini pancakes, which are one of my favorites.
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2ccup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Put it all in the blender or food processor and blend until it is creamy.  It is good on a green salad, but I might also try it on other chopped raw vegetables.  Delicious!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lady in the Van (2015)

Maggie Smith is a homeless woman who single handedly brings down property values wherever she goes.  She believes that she killed a man on the road years before and she has been trying to escape both the guilt and her life in general since then.  She has taken up residence in her van, which is without proper toilet facilities, and she has literally been living on the street in her car.  The largely liberal residents of Camden are both appalled by her and moved to charity, in a small sense, and so she survives, ending up in the driveway of an author for upwards of 15 years prior to her death.  Maggie Smith pulls this role off well, with the imperiousness that the British are so well known for in the face of adversity. It is clear that she should have social services involved, but she has no intention of letting that happen, and so it does not.  The film does not gloss over the grittier aspects of homelessness, and while the content sounds grim, the movie is really a very dark comedy that is well done.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

This is a novel of epic scope, which you know immediately because the dust cover says that it contains an account of the tendrils that slavery has woven into our culture.  Even weighing in at 550 pages, it doesn't seem like enough space to sort that out.  That said, the novel is as satisfying as it is ambitious, the best book that I have read in a while.
The Forbes family is an ambitious Kentucky family who settled the land as the first white people there, and they relied on slaves to grow their tobacco and their fortunes.  Henry is unapologetic about that history.  He even goes so far as to dismiss it, focusing instead on the glory his family gained.  He rebels against his father and transforms their land into a race horse operation, and his ambition is so blind that he literally destroys his only daughter in the process.
Parallel to the Forbes is the story of an African American family with flaws and talents commensurate with the Forbes but with very different resources and therefore a very different trajectory.  Their stories intermingle so that their ultimate tragedy is a shared one.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Roasted Zucchini with Tahini Sauce

This is a stunningly pretty and very delicious zucchini side dish, adapted from Zahav, Michael Solomonov's cookbook.

4 zucchini, quartered and sliced the long way
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tsp. fresh herbs, including parsley
Pinch of salt

1 c. Tahini Sauce
2 anchovy fillets

1/4 c. fresh sheep milk cheese or feta
2 Tbs. Toasted chopped nuts

Preheat the broiler.
Toss sliced zucchini with oil, half the lemon juice, herbs and salt.  Broil until the zucchini is charred, 10-20 minutes.
Combine tahini sauce, remaining lemon juice, and anchovies and puree in food processor until smooth.  Spread on a platter, put the zucchini on top, then crumble the cheese and toasted nuts (I used peanuts, the original recipe called for hazel nuts, and I think it would be good with almonds or walnuts too).

Tahini Sauce (4 c)
1 head garlic
3/4 c. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups tahini
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Put unpeeled garlic into blender, add lemon juice and 1/2 tsp. salt, blend.  Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.  Discard solids and add the rest of the ingredients in blender, then add ice water (1-1 1/2 c iced water) until sauce is smooth, thick, and creamy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Before We Go (2015)

Amazingly I have watched two movies this week that remind me of "Before Sunset", and both of them are streaming on Netflix.  Two people meet by chance and spend the night wandering around the city, in this one it is New York City, and get to know each other.  The introduction in this film takes place in the train station.  Brooke has just had her purse stolen and missed her train, so she is stuck in the city with little in the way of resources--oh, and her phone broke as well.  Nick is in the train station playing trumpet and he takes her under his marginally improved over her wing.  She has nothing and he has only a little bit more, so they spend the evening trying to raise the cash to get her home.  Why the urgency?  She has left a vitriolic letter to her spouse about his affair, and on second thought she wants to recant, and she needs to beat him home, so that he won't read it.  Well, this is not compelling to me as a driver of the plot, but despite that I enjoyed the movie.  It is light but not painful, and a pleasant diversion.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Innocents and Others by Dana

This is an unusual book, which I read because it was on the New York Times Notable Books list for 2015.  The thing that is best about it, besides its quirky characters and interesting storytelling style, is that you can really imagine these people.  Sometimes I love a book, but I can't picture the reality of the characters--not so in this book.  The thing that is most challenging about reading the book is that the relationships between the major characters is a bit obscure, and can be hard to follow the meaning of the interactions described.  The real strength of the book is the friendship between two filmmakers.
The is best at describing the relationship of Meadow and Carrie, the serious documentarian and the Hollywood hit maker. Working in the tight space of this relatively slim novel, the author explores the remarkable species of sisterhood that survives jealousy and disappointment and even years of neglect. The tension between artistic purity and commercial popularity may tax their affection, but nothing can blot out their shared history, their abiding devotion, the great wonder that is a true friend.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Exerpts from The Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton's reputation has been resurrected, ironically by another immigrant son, Lin Manuel Miranda.  They share Caribbean roots and flashes of brilliance.  On this anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, I am reflecting on things that Hamilton said in The Federalist Papers about democracy that I really need to reflect about this election season.  I bristle at the notion of "originalisnm" as framed by Anton Scalia, a man who had a conclusion in search of the data to support it, but I do think those smart and daring men of the American Revolution saw a lot of tyranny both at home and abroad.  They learned a lot and we can still learn from them,

“It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country to decide, by their conduct and example, the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.”

“When occasions present themselves in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests to withstand the temporary delusion in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection. Instances might be cited in which a conduct of this kind has saved the people from very fatal consequences of their own mistakes, and has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to the men who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them at the peril of their displeasure.”

“On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Thai Cucumber Salad

Yet another cucumber salad, but in my book you can never have too many of them, especially this time of year.

  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp  sugar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 3 green onions
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts 
  • Cilantro to garnish
  1. In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and salt. Set the dressing aside to give it time to blend.
  2. Peel and slice the cucumber using your favorite method (see photos below for my technique). Place the sliced cucumbers in a large bowl.
  3. Chop the peanuts into smaller pieces, if desired. Slice the green onions.
  4. Add the dressing, peanuts, and green onions to the sliced cucumbers. Stir to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat. Give the salad a brief stir before serving to redistribute the dressing and flavors.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (2015)

The best reason to see this movie is that you love "Before Sunrise" and want to see something just like it.  Or you love Hong Kong, and want to watch two people roam its streets so that you can remind yourself of what you love about it.  Never having been to Hong Kong, it made me want to go--what is not to love about sketchy neighborhoods, lots of neon, and great dim sum?
The story is a random meeting between two people, a night together that reveals a special connection, and then the revelation that one of them is currently involved with someone else.  The end, until they have a chance meeting again a year later.  They are both involved with other people, but the conversation revolves around the things that they easily have with each other that they lack with their significant other.  The story is an old one, but the back drop of Hong Kong made it nice for me.  Tourism without leaving home.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A History of Art in Africa by Monica Visona

I do not have much in the way of experience with the study of art.  In fact, my only experience is that I have been reading the course material for two art history courses out loud to my auditory learner.  I also have not had a longitudinal interest in the art of Africa, but this book really changed that.  The breadth and depth of the art in Western Africa, which is largely wood carving and painting, but included bead work and textiles, is both fascinating and beautiful,  The color reproductions in the book are well done, and the text is understandable to a non-art history reader.  Through the reading, I gained a better understanding of the cultural context and meaning of art from Africa.