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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Compère Lapin, New Orleans, Louisiana

 The meal that we ate at this restaurant was the best that we had on our recent trip to New Orleans.  Nina Compton is the chef, and the menu is just spectacular.  I was fortunate to be at lunch with a group of six people, so we were able to try a number of things on the menu.
The first thing to say is that this is a place that definitely does pasta well. The pasta in a spinach 'fondue' was especially memorable, with perfectly cooked pasta in a very delicious and complexly flavored spinach sauce that literally made me want to lick the skillet out.  And I am not really that crazy about spinach, so that is saying something.  The lobster gazpacho soup was both beautiful and delicious.  Wouldn't ordinarily order gazpacho in a restaurant because it is so easy to make, but this was fantastic and different.
Of all the great food we ate, the most remarkable in some ways was the biscuits.  They came with two flavored butters, and were light and rich at the same time.  I definitely came away from the meal realizing that I really have to perfect a recipe for these, they are amazing.  The goat curry, which is a menu constant, and the most unusual dish on the menu was complex and the goat was melt in your mouth tender.  Excellent for someone who thinks they might not even like goat.  The Fire Chicken was moist and hot and complicated and crunchy.  Just a perfect meal all around.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grilled Sephardic Chicken

It is always good to have a marinated chicken in the summer.

2 lemons
2 large garlic cloves
3 small sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken pieces
Salt (optional) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin, preferably freshly ground
  1. Juice the lemons.
  2. Crush the garlic cloves.
  3. Break the fresh thyme sprigs into pieces.
  4. In a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the chicken, mix 1/4 cup lemon juice, garlic, thyme, oil, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and cayenne.
  5. Put the chicken in the dish and turn pieces over to coat all sides with marinade.
  6. Cover and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
    Turn the chicken in the marinade from time to time.
  7. Remove the chicken from the marinade, removing any pieces of thyme or garlic stuck to chicken.
    Discard marinade.
  8. Sprinkle chicken with salt, freshly ground pepper, and cumin on both sides.
  9. Prepare your barbecue for indirect heat.
  10. Heat charcoal barbecue until the coals are glowing; or heat gas barbecue to medium.
  11. Set chicken on rack about 4 to 6 inches above heat source.
  12. Grill breast pieces for 20 minutes per side, and leg and thigh pieces for 30 minutes per side, or until thickest part of meat near bone is no longer pink

Monday, August 29, 2016

Zootopia (2016)

This is every inch a Disney movie, and I mean that mostly in the best of ways.  Zootopia is a metropolis where predators and prey live in harmony.  Judy Hops, a perky rabbit, has wanted to be a police officer in Zootopia her entire life, and while she is literally the first bunny to ever graduate from the academy, she does it with flair and creativity and she is an excellent officer.  Not to mention a go getter.  She defies the stereotypes of women and rabbits and by the end of the movie she gets the recognition she deserves.  The meaning of the film, which is repeatedly hammered home, is to not pigeon hole people by their species.  Not all foxes are sly.  Don't judge someone by their background (or, it goes without saying, their color or their religion).  It is a movie about tolerance.
Yet it is replete with stereotypes.  The population of Judy's rabbit home town has a population that is constantly rolling up, and she is one of a sibship of 1,200.  The sloths are maddeningly slow moving and they all work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  The good news is that the plot is well devised, with a few surprises and and happy ending. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Quilting Once More

I have to say that it has been lots of fun taking classes at my local yarn/fabric store, Home Ec.  I have been taking about a class a month since April and I am so glad that I took the plunge because I have been pretty reliably making things again.  It is not that I had ever completely stopped, but this level of activity hasn't been seen in about 15 years.
I have been quilting since I was in high school (meaning over four decades), but I really hadn't done much recently.  I have signed up for two quilting classes this summer, and it has been really great to get back into piecing and quilting.  I was even able to find the walking foot for my sewing machine (which is a huge relief because it turns out my sewing machine is older than my eldest child, which means that they are no longer making it, or anything that goes with it).  I have been using exclusively fabric that I already own (even for the back of the quilt, which is a situation that will not be able to be sustained for much longer), and while I have yet to get rid of even one bin in my basement, it feels good to be working with fabric.  I am not sure why I feel this way, but I have always liked things that are made by hand, and now I am back to creating some of my own.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Roasted Winter Squash with Tahini

I have a love for Ottolenghi's vegetable dishes and this one, made by my eldest son, is excellent.  The tahini dressing could probably be used to dress quite a number of roasted vegetables (I have used it with zucchini and it is just as fabulous).
2 lb.  squash, cut into 1 x 2 inch pieces 
2 red onions, cut into 1inch wedges 
 3 Tbs. olive oil
  salt and black pepper
3½ tbsp. Tahini
1½ tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp water
1 small garlic clove, crushed 
 1/4 c. toasted nuts
1 tbsp. za'atar
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 425F. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary.

Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.

To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za'atar and parsley.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Underdogs (2015)

I watched this movie with my son, who is a huge videogame player, and not one to much venture into the world of actual sporting, so this was a perfect tale for him.  The main character is a bit of a nerd who is an exceptional foosball player.  His team is made up of the usual suspects of a soccer team--one who is the responsible captain, one who is obsessed with his looks, one who is a bit of a hippie and then some players who have raw power.  The big difference here is that they come to life and that is the reason that our hero does so well.  He is challenged by Ace, the village bully, who is vying not just for supremacy at the foosball table but for the love of a woman.  Ace loses at foosball, but comes back years later to get his revenge on the entire town for humiliating him.  The rest of the movie is about how their adult challenge turns out, and it is of note that the nerds and grandmothers play the professional team bravely and win the hearts of the crowd.  it is a mostly feel good story with a mostly good ending. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

This is a book that portrays African American experience within  the context of a story about family.  The book vacillates between the story of the parents, who emigrate northward from the south in the 1940's in search of a better life.  Detroit was one of the common destinations and that is where this story takes place.  The family is large, and while they have scattered some, there are still a number of siblings who are still there in the economic downturn of the twenty first century.  The house that there parents bought back when they could afford it is now worth less than they owe on it and they are conflicted about what to do about it.  They all have their own problems in addition to the ones that they share, and the story weaves all of these themes together in a wonderful way.  There is the power of family, the power of place, the effects of poverty, the culture of African Americans, the deterioration of a city, the sibling rivalries and loyalties.  It is all here, in its difficulties and its glories.  The good, the bad, and the ugly are written about beautifully and elegantly.  Excellent debut novel.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mississippi Roast

I know, I know, we are late to the table on this recipe.  One of my kids even made it before we did (although, in our defense, he has been cooking new recipes every week, and we have been less reliable about that).  This was published in the New York Times this year and became an instant success.  Now that we have made it, I see why.  It is flavorful, delicious, inexpensive (as meat goes), and you make it in a slow cooker, so you can pop it in in the morning and it is ready when you come home.  We served it with mashed potatoes, which was perfect, but the original recipe says roasted potatoes or noodles, which would also probably be good.

1 boneless chuck roast or top or bottom round roast, 3 to 4 pounds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil             
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 to 12 pepperoncini
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon buttermilk, optional
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish
    Place roast on a cutting board and rub the salt and pepper all over it. Sprinkle the flour all over the seasoned meat and massage it into the flesh.
    1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan set over high heat until it is shimmering and about to smoke. Place the roast in the pan and brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes a side, to create a crust. Remove roast from pan and place it in the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the butter and the pepperoncini to the meat. Put the lid on the slow cooker, and set the machine to low.
    2. As the roast heats, make a ranch dressing. Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar, dill and paprika in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Add the buttermilk if using, then whisk again. Remove the lid from the slow cooker and add the dressing. Replace the top and allow to continue cooking, undisturbed, for 6 to 8 hours, or until you can shred the meat easily using 2 forks. Mix the meat with the gravy surrounding it. Garnish with parsley, and serve.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

    Yes, I am writing a review of an animated movie that has it's third installment.  I am not going to apologize.  I love animation as a genre, and was able to hide under the guise of parenting to watch them.  I am not yet at the grand parenting stage, which leaves me with the admission that I just really like animated films.
    Kung Fu Panda's Po is one of the most lovable goofy characters  in animation.  So the movie has got that going for it right off the bat. The sunny can-do attitude that the believe-in-yourself scenario the character projects is a good message for both young and old alike. The combo of pandas and martial arts is unlikely but appealing; they’re not exactly made for each other, which in each of the movies is exactly the point.  All in all, they are sufficiently strong that the films don’t need to truck in overt jokiness.  They’re more about a genial, jovial, we’re-in-this-together attitude and while there isn't any new territory covered here, but it is a good clean message that is entertaining for the whole family.  But again, I love animation.

    Monday, August 22, 2016

    Handmade Style by Anna Graham

    I have really enjoyed making projects out of this book.  The author has a blog, Noodlehead, and there are videos that help walk you through some of the projects in the book or how to do a technique that is particularly challenging in the book.  For me, a person who has quilted a lot in the distant past, but not much recently and hadn't put a zipper in in over 30 years, everything seems somewhat challenging.  I was helped through making the zippered pouch with compartments pictured here in a class that I took at my favorite local shop, Home Ec.  I wouldn't have been able to do it without some pretty patient coaching, and mine came out better than I could ever have hoped for.  There is something really gratifying about making a project that looks impossible given your current skills and to be successfully walked through the process to completion.  It is true that you can buy almost everything that the book walks you through making, but the ability to make it with your own choices of fabric and to be able to look at it and know that it was made by hand is a wonderful feeling that literally money cannot buy.  My only hope is that if I choose to make another one of these that it will seem easier for me to accomplish!

    Sunday, August 21, 2016

    Zucchini Bread

    I can't believe that I got all the way to August before I made Zucchini Bread.  This is a good version of the recipe because it uses olive oil, and less of it than some recipes.  I use the Mediterranean Blend from Costco, which has a milder flavor than olive oil, and it is also a bit less expensive.

    1 ½-2 cups grated zucchini
  • cup brown sugar
  • cup olive oil              
  • cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder              
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)              
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch loaf pan.
    1. In a large bowl, use a rubber spatula to mix together the grated zucchini, sugar, olive oil, yogurt, eggs and vanilla extract.
    2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, lemon zest and spices in a separate bowl. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold in the walnuts if using.
    3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The bread will be done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
    4. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack completely before cutting and serving.

    Saturday, August 20, 2016

    Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

    Sally Fields is great as Doris.  It’s not that much of an exaggeration to say that her Doris—a 60-ish, never-wed office worker whose sheltered life spent on Staten Island with a  cat, a demanding invalid mother and decades of clutter she can't bear to part with is lovable in ways that the slapstick comedians of the silent film era were.  She says almost as much as they do in public situations and it is her lack of verbalization that allows those around her to project onto her the personality they prefer.  Despite her age, she is a blank canvas, liberated by the death of her mother, but sadly almost too old to really enjoy her freedom. She even dresses the part in what used to be Salvation Army toss-offs but have since been reclaimed in this age of shabby-chic as vintage wear. We laugh at her foibles, applaud her small victories, agonize over her questionable choices and share her growth pains.
    Doris develops a crush on her new coworker, who is about half her age, and he finds her as charming as we do.  He likes her, but not in that way.  Doris should become worried when her best friend points out that she is taking dating advice from a 13 year old.  In Doris' mind she is at the center of a romance novel, when the reality is that her 30-something coworkers are open to her regardless of her age.  She definitely causes some disruptions in the force that she never repairs, but we can't hold it against her too much because of just how much she is struggling to have a normal existence at the end of her life.  Really quite charming.

    Thursday, August 18, 2016

    Gazpacho Soup

    This is such a classic for the summer, and I finally have an abundance of all the ingredients from either my own garden or my CSA that it seemed like the right time to make this cold soup from Spain  And it has almost no calories per serving, which is an added plus.  This is an adaptation from the New York Times recipe.  Their web site has such a great way to organize and find the recipes they have that I use, that they are becoming my go to on line site these days.

    About 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 pepper.  I used an Italian pepper but any long green pepper with no heat would be good              
  • 1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • 1 cup mild onion (white or red), peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  •  2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, more to taste
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste, plus more for drizzling                                  
    1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion and garlic in a blender or, if using a hand blender, in a deep bowl. (If necessary, work in batches.) Blend at high speed until very smooth, at least 2 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
    2. With the motor running, add the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy.
    3. Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Discard the solids. Transfer to a large pitcher (preferably glass) and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.
    4. Before serving, adjust the seasonings with salt and vinegar. If soup is very thick, stir in a few tablespoons ice water. Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. A few drops of olive oil on top are a nice touch.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2016

    Hail, Caesar (2016)

    This is a tongue in cheek, slapstick as well as goofy movie from the Coen brothers.  Think 'Barton Fink' without all the spooky stuff and not the least bit dark.  It is set in what I would call 1950's Hollywood (but without any of the blacklisting, so maybe late 1940's even), and we follow Eddie Mannix (played with gruffness and charm by Josh Brolin) for a bit over a day as he struggles with a missing actor, a job offer that will set him up for life, and various creative decisions that are emblematic of a time in Hollywood when all filming was done on the back lot and took weeks rather than months to complete with actors who were under contract to the studios.  The Coen brothers go to great lengths to demonstrate that while the threat of Russia may have been very real, that those who belonged to the Communist party were really no threat at all, and they do so in such absurd way that the viewer could easily miss the references and still enjoy the movie.  It is like when Disney does a movie for children, but puts all sorts of references into it that are aimed at adults, so the movie is enjoyable for everyone.  This is the same sort of thing.  The details are voluminous but the movie is enjoyable if one misses each and every one of them.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2016

    Stir Fried Cabbage

    I love cabbage dishes, but I tend toward using it raw rather than cooked--this recipe is a departure from that norm.  It is fast and simple and surprisingly delicious.  The cabbage gets that silky quality that it gets from long time braising in just a few minutes.

    • 2 teaspoons  oil
    • 1 small onion, sliced
    • 1 red pepper, diced
    • 2-3 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
    • 1small  head cabbage, sliced thinly (can be Napa cabbage or regular cabbage)
    • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
    • red pepper flakes to taste

    In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the canola oil and heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cabbage and cook until just starting to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and rice vinegar and stir well and cook just until cabbage is wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle with the sesame oil and red pepper flakes if using them.

    Monday, August 15, 2016

    Shared Experiences

    What we share with our offspring is not always all that it is cracked up to be.  Today is my youngest son's birthday.  He is now 16 years out from his cancer diagnosis, and well on his way to college graduation.  That is certainly something to be grateful for.  This is his first birthday since I too have a diagnosis of cancer and while I know for a fact that it is easier to have cancer than to have a child with it, I also feel his vulnerability and sense of loss.
    When I was diagnosed he was devastated.  He knew exactly how hard it was going to be for me to get through chemotherapy (and he wasn't wrong about that, although at the time I thought it was going to be okay.  I did not sail as smoothly through those waters as he did).  He also knows exactly how much he needs me, and the thought of losing me made him almost inconsolable.  We have both made a lot of emotional progress since those early days, but on this day, his day, I just allow myself to be sad, to have a good cry about life and it's unpredictability, and then to think about all the good things we have, that we would not be here today to cry about if not for modern advances in medicine,. and to celebrate what we have.

    Sunday, August 14, 2016

    Suffragette (2015)

    This movie chronicles the rise of a violent approach to trying to achieve the vote in Britain in 1912.  The movie covers about a year in time, and doesn't finish the story, which happens in 1918 when women get the vote in parallel with what men have.  Maud Watts (ably played by Carrie Mulligan) is the prototype of the sort of woman who was a foot soldier in this battle.  She works in a laundry, where the work has long hours and is dangerous.  In addition, the owner unapologetically  sexually abuses the youngest of the staff and Maud was no exception in her younger days.  That was the fate of women and men were largely unprotective and non-proactive about how their wives and daughters were treated.
    So that is the backdrop against which women started to move away from peaceful leafleting and meeting with political figures to demonstrating in the street, going to jail, and being forcibly and brutally coerced to fall in line with the status quo.  This movement did not achieve their goals, but they did raise awareness.  The movie paints a broad brush, which is a weakness, but largely gives the philosophy of women who had no acknowledged value to society trying to affect change.

    Saturday, August 13, 2016

    The Art of Decluttering

    The art of decluttering is the stuff of books.  And dreams for most of us (although there appears to be a growing genre of books about the joys of having lots of stuff with nowhere to put it). 
    I recently spent a weekend at my mother-in-law's house helping her to get ready to put her house on the market and move to a smaller and hipper apartment.  Lucky for both she and I my husband and his three siblings joined me in this endeavor, and the subsequent stress made me think.  This really is not easy.
    Why is that?  One thing is that I think it can be hard to have perspective on what is worth saving and what is not.  I was talking to my parents about things that they have found since they have moved and are unpacking.  My mother's mother's birth certificate is one such item that had some surprises.  While my grandmother was legitimate (yes, this is noted on her birth certificate), she was the third birth to her mother, who had only one sibling to our knowledge.  She also was named Hortense, like her mother before her.  She went by Josephine (her middle name) and who can blame her--why would a woman who was already saddled with the name Hortense give it to her daughter?  And why her third and not her first?  And what happened to the first?  But ultimately, why even keep this?  Maybe it is just really hard to let go of one's personal history.

    Friday, August 12, 2016

    Garlic Swiss Chard

    I sometimes have trouble with the strong almost metallic taste that swiss shard can get when cooked, but I found this very simple recipe to be quite delicious and relatively mild in flavor (so long as you really like garlic).

    • 2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    •   6 garlic cloves, smashed
    • Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes
    • Salt
    1. Stack chard leaves on top of one another (you can make several piles) and slice them into 1/4-inch strips.
    2. Heat oil in a very large skillet (or use a soup pot). Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant. Stir in the chard, coating it in oil. Cover pan and let cook for about 2 minutes, until chard is wilted. Uncover, stir and cook for 2 minutes longer. Season with salt.

    Thursday, August 11, 2016

    45 years (2015)

    This is a movie that slowly unfolds in a way that you can see coming from a mile away, and yet you can't prevent what you know will happen from happening.  And why would that be fun to watch?  For me it was reassuring to see that no matter what time in life it is, humans remain pretty predictable.
    The scenario is this.  Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Charlotte Rampling) are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary and the preparations are well underway for a party when Geoff receives a letter that the body of a long lost love has been unearthed in the Swiss Alps.  The impact of this knowledge is what slowly unfolds throughout the rest of the movie.  Geoff has not talked much about the woman he planned to marry before he met Kate and she wasn't very curious about her.  But the fact is that long lost loves, especially those that are essentially unresolved, do not necessarily diminish in importance with time.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2016

    So You Want to Be a Lawyer?

    My eldest son sat for the bar exam and is hoping to begin his career as a primarily transactional attorney later this month.  While my spouse and I fail to understand the attraction, he seems utterly and completely contented with this career path.  For him it is a perfect fit.  And when I think about it more, I understand the allure.  First and foremost he is not someone who shies away from conflict.  While my spouse and his brothers would run for cover whenever my ire was raised, he would brave the storm and even go so far as to put himself in harm's way.  He would acknowledge that I seemed upset but then ask what I thought could be done to make things better.  How could he help?  What would it take to improve the situation?  This is a very constructive approach to dissipating anger, and to his credit, it is also coming from someone with the heart of a mediator.  That is the kind of person that you want to be your attorney, someone who will figure out what it is that is most important to you and help you to get to that point.
    I wish him all the luck and success that he richly deserves as he embarks on the next phase of his life, and may his next trip around the sun hold all that he hopes it will.

    Tuesday, August 9, 2016

    Zucchini Flan

    Tis the season to eat LOTS of summer squash, and so it is time to find recipes, both new and old.  Really squeeze the water out of the zucchini for this one.

    • 1 ½ pounds zucchini, thinly sliced
    • Salt and pepper
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 ½ cups milk or half-and-half
    • Pinch of grated nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
    • A few torn basil leaves
    • 2 tablespoons butter for greasing baking dish
    • 4 ounces grated cheese, such as Gruyère or Cheddar
    1. Heat oven to 375. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add zucchini and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and spread zucchini out to cool on a towel--get as much water out of the zucchini as you can. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
    2. Beat eggs and milk with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then add nutmeg, thyme and basil leaves.
    3. Butter a 2-quart low-sided baking dish, and arrange blanched zucchini over bottom. Scatter cheese over zucchini, then pour in custard.
    4. Bake for 30 minutes or until custard is still a bit jiggly, but an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before serving.

    Monday, August 8, 2016

    Youth (2015)

    I liked this movie very much but I am not sure I entirely get it.  It definitely examines art and the effect that aging has on an artist, but beyond that I am not sure what to think of it.  Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel play two 80 year old friends who are at a remote spa in Switzerland.  Michael Caine plays a world renowned composer who has a lot of baggage to sort through at the end of his life.  He has a daughter who has mixed feelings about him.  She is resentful that he played around on her mother, and that there is no fixing that problem.  Her childhood was framed by that, as well as by her father's fame, and she is trying to let go of her anger with him and to move forward.  Keitel plays a director who has one muse, and actress played by Jane Fonda.  She flies to the spa to tell Keitel that his latest work is terrible and that she will not act in a movie with him again, and the aftermath is disastrous.  And surreal.  But that is par for the course in this movie that confronts many aspects of being at the end of your life.  It is a gritty picture of what that entails.

    Sunday, August 7, 2016

    Noonday by Pat Barker

    The cover of this book heralds the authors' claim to fame, that she won the Booker Prize, and this book is very much what you would expect from an author who had won that prize.  She writes beautifully and it is all about the telling of the story rather than the story itself.  She has written extensively about love and loss as it relates to the British experience in Word War I and this book is no different except that it takes place in WWII.  It is linked to two other books that feature Paul and Elinor, completing the trilogy.  As you might expect, there is more to the story than the war, but rather it provides the back drop against which the action takes place, and some of the reality of war, the way it makes everyone feel that life is temporary and could end at any moment, play a role in the decisions that the characters make.  It is not necessary to read the other two books in order to enjoy this one, but having done so adds to the enjoyment of this one.

    Saturday, August 6, 2016

    Lime-Marinated Chicken and Tomatillo-Corn Salsa

    We had this at our most recent family dinner, which was a pot luck.  My eldest son made this along with a very good pineapple mojito.  The salsa would be good with a lot of things, and is made with ingredients that are available now.

    • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • Juice and peel of one lime
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
    •   1/2 onion sliced thickly
    • 5 tomatillos, (about 1/2 pound) papery skins removed, rinsed
    • 1 ear fresh sweet corn, husked
    • 1 medium  chile
    • 1/4 cup cilantro
    • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • Fresh lime wedge
    1.  One at a time, place each breast, smooth side down, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound to even 1/2-inch thickness (see tip below).
    2. In large resealable bag combine the 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, the garlic, salt, and pepper. Add chicken, press air out of bag, and seal. Turn to coat evenly. Marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 2 hours.
    3. Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat (about 400 degrees F). Prepare Tomato-Corn Salsa: Brush onion, tomatillos, corn, and chile with olive oil. Grill vegetables over direct medium heat, with lid closed as much as possible, until onions are lightly charred, tomatillos soften and begin to collapse, corn is tender, and chile is softened and lightly charred, turning as needed. (About 10 minutes for onion, and 12 to 15 minutes for tomatillos and chiles.) Place chile in bowl. Cover with plastic; let steam 10 minutes.
    4. Peel off skin from chile; discard. Remove stem and seeds. Place vegetables (except corn), cilantro, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in food processor or blender. Whirl until pureed; stir in corn. Add more brown sugar or salt to taste.
    5. Increase grill temperature to high (about 500 degrees F) or add additional coals and heat until high heat is reached. Remove chicken from bag, letting excess liquid drip back into bag; discard liquid. Grill chicken, smooth side down, over direct high heat, with lid closed as much as possible, until well marked, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn; grill just until cooked all the way through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a platter.
    6. In bowl whisk together sour cream, the 1 tablespoon olive oil, lime peel, remaining juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. To serve, spoon salsa over chicken. Pass lime sour cream, lime wedges, sliced jalapenos, and cilantro. Makes 6 servings.

    Friday, August 5, 2016

    Love's Kitchen (2011)

    This is very much a fluff romantic comedy, but it has two things going for it as far as I am concerned.  The first is that it is streaming on Amazon Prime, so you can download it onto your device to enjoy while you are traveling outside the confines of free Wifi (really, I love that you can watch movies on the plane, but you are constrained to the parameters of the flight itself--you can't start when you want, and if the plane lands, you don't get to catch the end of whatever it is you  might choose to watch) and are someone for whom the volume of viewing that you do makes purchasing the movie cost prohibitive.  The other is that it is set in a restaurant, so food is part of what is central.  This one is set in the British countryside, and tells the tale of a talented chef who is thrown seriously off his game by the sudden death of his wife, and is working his way back to being a sought after chef.  It is nothing earth shattering, but it is fun.

    Thursday, August 4, 2016

    And It Is Khan For the WIn

    The Republican presidential candidate would almost be funny if he weren't so frightening.  The whole white supremacy thing that Steve King said and then Rudy Gukiani repeated at the RNC shows that it is not just him, it has a place in the party.
    #nottheonion is no longer a funny hashtag but a short hand that truth is stranger than fiction.  The fact is that I can no longer tell what is news and what is satire. No joke. The line between the real and the absurd has blurred to the point that we have someone who is the candidate for a major party who repeatedly puts it out there that he is simply unable to do the job he seeks.
    He recently aptly and succinctly demonstrated his complete lack of understanding of the First Amendment by saying "Mr. Khan has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution." As a matter of fact he does.  And just so you know, your record of truth telling is sadly lacking, Mr. Candidate.  He calls Hilary Clinton, the most truthful candidate of the 2016 election season, a liar and a crook.  In reality the problem is with him.  He is not competent to be a U.S. government teacher, much less the president of the United States.  But then we knew that already.  It is just that he feels compelled to remind us day after day.  Please stop.  I am heartened that Republicans felt that way about Barry Goldwater in 1964.  Maybe we can come back from the brink of this insanity.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2016

    Zucchini Sticks

    This is a really delicious way to have zucchini that can be served as an appetizer.  You can make it gluten free by using a gluten free bread crumb and you can make it vegan by eliminating the Parmesan cheese and using a vegan mayo, an egg substitute, and using olive oil instead of butter in the dip, or make another sauce altogether.

    Sweet Onion Dip
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 medium sweet onion, about 1/2 pound, peeled and sliced
    • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
    • 1 cup mayonnaise
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Zucchini sticks

    • 3 medium zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 3"-long stick
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 cup coarse, dry bread crumbs
    • scant 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs
    • olive oil spray
    • 1/2 cup egg substitute; or 2 large eggs
    1. To make the dip: Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over moderate heat, and add the sliced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, then caramelize. This should take about 15 minutes. The lower the heat, the longer it takes, but the less likely you are to burn the onions.
    2. Once the onions are a medium brown, remove from the heat and add the vinegar.
    3. Place the onions and vinegar into a small food processor. Add the honey and mustard, and process or blend until smooth.
    4. Add the mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.
    5. To make the zucchini sticks: Place the zucchini sticks in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt. Let the zucchini drain for 1 hour or longer; rinse and pat dry.
    6. Combine the Panko, Parmesan, and pizza seasoning; set aside.
    7. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and spray the parchment with olive oil.
    8. Dredge sticks a few at a time in the egg, then roll in the crumb mixture. Place the sticks on the prepared baking sheet.
    9. Bake sticks for 12 minutes, turn over, and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2016

    My Last Day WIthout You (2015)

    This is a on the one hand another movie where a couple has a day to make an impression on each other strong enough to make them think that they might give it a go.  The twist in this one, which we know from the very beginning, is that he has come to New York for close an entire division for his German company, and she worked for that company.  The job was a stepping stone towards her independence and her goal of becoming a song writer and singer, and when she finds out that he is the cause of her losing that job and all that it stands for, she seeks revenge.  She is in general a tough nut to crack.  She is complicated, being both a God-loving daughter of a preacher and a cold hard citizen of being black and growing up in a swing neighborhood.  She is intense and passionate, and you can see why the German is attracted to her.  He does his best under trying circumstances, and it is a romantic comedy so you know how that turns out.  Streaming on Netflix.

    Monday, August 1, 2016

    Barkskins by Annie Proulx

    This is a sweeping epic novel that goes back to the founding of Canada and moves forward.  There are two major families that we follow throughout the book, one of them white settlers and one of them largely Native American.  The story is a sweeping saga that spans three centuries and that is both its beauty and its constriction.  On the one hand it is a brilliantly told story that encapsulates the history of the nation to our north.  The author is a storyteller of the finest kind, and this book is no exception.  The thing that I wish it had was more detail about each individual character.  The problem with a book that spans 300 years is that if you want a more in depth portrayal of any one character you are not going to get it.  I actually would have liked a longer book, weirdly enough.  But this one is well worth wading into.