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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hawaiian Shrimp Truck Shrimp

Ok, I admit that the reason that I made this is because I have been binge watching Hawaii 5-O over the past few months, but really, this is terrific.  Don't be put off by that!

  • 1 pound raw tail on shrimp
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced, divided
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 c. salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Add the shrimp to a gallon size ziplock bag or medium size bowl. Add the olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, flour, cayenne pepper and pepper. Toss well to combine, seal the bag or cover the bowl and place in the fridge for 30 minutes or up 24 hours.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot use a slotted spoon to scoop the shrimp out of the marinade and into the hot skillet, season with salt and pepper. Make sure to scoop up all the garlic as well. Saute the shrimp until pink, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp from the pan leaving the garlic in the skillet. Add the salted butter and 1 teaspoon pepper (or more or less to your taste) to the skillet. Cook the garlic in the butter until it begins to caramelize and turn golden brown. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, the juice of 1/2 a lemon and zest if using. Drizzle with the warm garlic butter over the shrimp and serve alongside rice, fresh pineapple slices and lemon wedges. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

L'Etoile, Madison, Wisconsin

This is an excellent restaurant right in the downtown neighborhood of Madison.  I highly recommend it for two reasons.  The first is that there are choices.  The fixed proce menu is outstanding, and you do not have to figure out what to eat.  The chef does that for you.  I like these because there is inevitably something amongst the seven courses that does not inherently appeal to me, so I try something (at least one thing) that I can then decide if when it is prepared by a talented person I actually do like.  And this chef is talented.  The meal was outstanding in every way.  The flavors were inspired and so were the textures and the presentation.  It was practically perfect.  And I still do not much care for fois gras, no matter how great the chef is.  My spouse is very happy about that because he ate both of ours.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Traumatic Aniversaries

Today is the one year anniversary of me finding out that I had ovarian cancer.  I was sitting on my front porch on a day that was more like the end of summer than the beginning of fall, reading a book and listening to the softball games going on across the street.I took a break from my book and looked at the email that had accumulated over the morning, and there it was, an email from the hospital notifying me that something had been added to my medical record.  I opened it up and read the report of my abdominal CT, which indicated that I had cancer of the ovaries.  So there I was, all alone, my husband in the air flying home and my parents in church, grappling with life changing news.
The good part is that while it was a terrible way to get terrible news, it in no way delayed my care.  I met my oncologist the next day and had surgery that week.  The bad part is that I am not even sure that there was a better way for it to have gone.  And the worst part is that no matter what, you really are pretty all alone in those moments, whether there are people there or not.  It felt devastating at the time, but I am pretty sure that is how it would have been period.
So here I am a year later.  I never got this before my son was diagnosed with cancer, but anniversaries of difficult events become, well, a reliving of the difficult event.  Some of it can be on your mind, like the fact that I am writing about this is the conscious part of it, but there is the unconscious part that is so much harder to grapple with.  How much of what I am feeling and have been feeling is related to the anniversary and how much is just that things are hard?  I really can't tell.  But I do get why people have these anniversary reactions. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sleeping With Other People (2016)

This is a somewhat quirky romantic comedy, in that these two leads are not like your usual cookie cutter film leads.  They are not sitting on the sidelines waiting for the other to realize that they love them.  Not at all.  This movie is about two promiscuous New Yorkers who are not exempt from meaningful relationships but they just can't resist the urges that destroy them.  He is a serial philanderer and she is addicted to a man who may well be a serial philanderer. 
Here is the thumbnail sketch.  Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) loose their virginity to each other in college but are really friends not lovers. They ironically reconnect at a sex addicts support group meeting and resume their friendship.  The script is good but not great, in that it deals with things honestly but somewhat awkwardly that are difficult material.  The actors do a good of with what they have, but that is the reason that this is a good but not a great film.  From here on out it goes pretty much the way you would expect.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor, Le Mars, Iowa

We were already in Le Mars for the steak house, but how could we travel to the home town of Blue Bunny ice cream and not stop at the ice cream parlor?  It is not possible, even when 3 out of 5 diners could not finish their steaks because they were too full. I am here to report that the ice cream is wonderful, and that the scoops are very generous.  I would recommend a break between the two most famous food venues in Le Mars if you are going to really enjoy them both to their full advantage.
The ice cream is not different from what you would get off the super market shelves.  They do have a wide range of flavors, some of which I was completely unaware of, but really it is just fun to be in an old fashioned ice cream parlor with some very eager youth who are eager to scoop ice cream for you and help you to enjoy one of the things that makes their town a destination location.  We had rented a car to make the trip more comfortable, but we were not the only car rental on the street.  If you are in the neighborhood, you should definitely stop in.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pickled Green Tomatoes

We harvested a few green tomatoes from our CSA's field and made pickled tomatoes, which are very good.  Sadly, they will not make it to the winter time at the rate that we are eating them.

·      1 cup white vinegar
·      1 1/4 cup distilled water
·      2 tablespoons kosher salt
·      1 pound firm green tomatoes
·      1/2 serrano, stem removed
·      6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
·      4 tablespoons dill seeds
·      1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1) Make sure you have a really clean bottle and lid. The lids must have good rubber seals. The best thing to do is buy canning jars and lids from Ball. They are in a lot of hardware and grocery stores. Sterilize them by submersing them in a boiling water bath.
2) Add the garlic, dill seeds, and peppercorns to the jar.
3) Thoroughly wash the tomatoes and slice them in halves or quarters. Cut out all bad spots and the stem ends. Cram them in the jar leaving about 1/2" - 3/4" of space at the top.
3) Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water, and salt in a sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil, and stir until all the salt is dissolved.
4) Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within 1/4" of the top. Wipe the jar top, put the lids on and tighten. Age for at least 1 week in the refrigerator.
Beware. The brine will taste very salty at first, but don't panic. The juices from the tomatoes will dilute the concentration of salt in a week or 2.

Friday, September 23, 2016

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

I have no idea where I read about this book, because it is not recently published, but I am so glad I found it, because it is the sort of epic novel that I love.  The book is about the Danish and their seagoing past.  It unfolds over nearly 100 years, from 1848 to 1945. The interwoven stories span chapters and play out in seaports all over the world, from Samoa to Newfoundland.  The men and boys who man the ships are from the town of Marstal and the women are their wives and mothers who are left behind.  It is inevitable that when your workplace is on the sea that a number will drown, and that is the back story for the fear that pervades the book.  The men know that they will likely drown and so do the women who love them.  The stories are wonderful, if a bit on the sad side at times, and the writing is fantastic.  While it is true that I have a fondness for epic novels, this one is excellent.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Archie's Waeside Steak House, Le Mars, Iowa

 We drove 30 minutes from Sious City to get to this well known steak house in Le Mars.  I won a James Beard Award in 2015 for being an American Classic restaurant, and if you mean a classic venue featuring meat, then it is an award that was richly deserved.  The meat is outstanding, and all five of us at the table had our meat cooked perfectly.  The side dishes are all potatoes, and the only vegetable is the salad that starts the meal off.  It is really all about the meat and my husband's Porterhouse is a good example of his "go big or go home" approach.  It is reasonably priced as well.
The decor is a whole other matter.  It is stuck in the 1960's.  The press board paneling is dark, and not really much lit up by the Christmas houses that plug in and light up.  Since we were there in September we have to assume they are always there.  It might sound festive, but it is not.  It is dated.  The other tip I would offer is to get there at opening time, or come late.  We arrived a half hour after it opened and had a 45 minute wait.  Within about 15 minutes we ceased to be disgruntled by the crowd and thankful that we got a seat in the bar, where they let us order off the very limited appetizer menu and sit comfortably and people watch while we waited.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tequila Marinated Steaks

We had this with a rib eye roast that we cut into steaks the way people like them--which is not the same way in my family.  This marinade is really good if you have a chance to do it ahead of time.  The original recipe called for Patron tequila, which is nuts.  A good inexpensive tequila is what is called for here.

4 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (3 tablespoons)
2 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped (¼ cup)
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (⅓ cup)
6 sprigs fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped (2 tbsp.)
1/2 cup tequila (inexpensive works well)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lime zest
For the Steak:
1 bone-in, dry-aged rib steak, 1.5 to 1.75 pounds and about 1.5 inches thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 1. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the steak to the marinade, turning it a couple of times to coat. Transfer the marinade and the steak to a large, heavy-duty zip-top bag and chill for 4 to 24 hours.
2. Light a charcoal grill and arrange the coals on one side so that there are 2 temperature zones for cooking. The lower temperature zone should be about 375°.
3. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear the steak over high heat for 2 minutes per side before transferring the steak to the cooler side of the grill. Close the oven door or cover the grill.
4. Continue cooking for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping the steak once, until the internal temperature reaches 140° for medium rare. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This is a book that has some elements of a mystery, but which is elegantly told.  It has echos of some real life events, which I will not disclose more about as it will give away some things that are best left to the story teller.  A private plane going from Martha's Vineyard to New York City foes down.  The passengers include some powerful men in the financial world, and there are reasons to think that there might have been something amiss that precipitated the crash.  One man, a painter who was largely unknown, is the only adult to survive, and against all odds he saves a four year old boy as well.  The book very nicely describes each of the passengers on the plane and what they were like before they boarded, and intersperses this information with what happens in the present.  It gradually becomes clear that the crash was not a random accident.  There are a number of threads that could be true and would be plausible to be true, which is the art of writing about people who seem real, that they are complicated by nature, and we all have someone who might wish us ill.  Not too deep but enjoyable.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Shahi Palace, Sioux City, Iowa

I ate at this south Sioux City restaurant on a recent trip there and I thought it was really delicious, from start to finish.  We always open with vegetable samosas.  There are a few things that are telling for me about a restaurant.  For Italian food it is how well they cook their pasta, for Thai it is the Pad Thai, and for Indian restaurants it is the vegetable samosas.  These easily passed the test, as did their pakora and their chickpea salad.  The Tikka Masala was great, as was the Korma, but the best dish for me was the Sag Paneer.  Perfect in balance of the bitterness of the greens and the creaminess of the cheese.  The naan and the batura were both very popular and everyone enjoyed their meal.  This will be a favorite, I can tell.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Meet Me For The Weekend

I have not been really good about being spontaneous for a long time.  I have friends who make every effort to go to everything they are invited to and while I love to live vicariously through them, I have always thought it sounded a little too exhausting for my taste.  Now that I am in the situation where I am able to travel, but I really do not know how long that will last, my spouse and I are in agreement that it is time to do things that we might not have another chance to do, and the first toe in these waters was a trip to New Orleans with good friends recently.
It could not have been more fun.  We had exceptional food, perfect wine, long interesting walks, and best of all, talking and catching up.  Life is complicated these days for all of us, so while all the news is not good, it is fantastic to share those thoughts and prayers and burdens with people who care about you.  We had the added fun of all being on vacation (which is why this is so much nicer than going for a visit where it is only time off for one side and not the other), and for me, having someone drive and pick out the things to do was a big plus.  So thankful that we took this plunge.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This book sounds very depressing.  Two sisters separated at birth in the Asante nation of Ghana.  This is an incredibly thought provoking book what features two sisters who are separated at birth.  Effia is married off to a white slave trader and her descendants both live with that legacy and remain in Ghana.  Esi is accused of wrongdoing and is sold into slavery.  This is where the multi-generational story begins and it spans 200 years over the course of seven generations.  It is like a book of interlocked short stories that tell the sorry of the family that stays in Africa and the one that goes into slavery and then comes out of it in America.  The book is a mere 300 pages but it goes more or less deeply into the issues that each faces, the short fallings and the potential benefits.  It is a bittersweet book, one that touches on sensitive issues without causing rancor, and for that it should be applauded.  It is beautiful in its writing and its storytelling, and it should be widely read.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cochon Butcher, New Orleans

Yes, yet another Donald Link place.  He and Jeff Besh are everywhere, but we had to stop here because while we had lots of great food on our brief trip to New Orleans, we did not have either a muffeletta nor a po-boy.  So we stopped here for take out and had them at home.  It was a very delicious sandwich, and I am pretty sure it would have been even better had we eaten it on site, but they also have a wonderful butcher counter, and so I brought home both country sausage and tasso, which were affordably priced and very easy to obtain.  So the New Orleans cooking experience can continue in the privacy of our own home.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

BBQ Shrimp New Orleans Style

One thing that we really get is Gulf shrimp and crab.  Not all the time, but once every few weeks when the weather is good we can buy it off the back of a truck in the Dairy Queen parking lot.  So while we had nothing like this when we were recently in New Orleans, we do love it.

3 pounds Gulf shrimp the size you like (I prefer smaller and my spouse prefers larger)
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
Cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 bay leaves
3 lemons, peeled and sectioned
2 cups water
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
cream (optional)

  • Peel the shrimp, leaving only their tails attached. Reserve the shells and set aside. Sprinkle the shrimp with 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning and fresh cracked black pepper. Use you hands to coat the shrimp with the seasonings. Refrigerate the shrimp while you make the sauce base.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic, sauté for 1 minute. Add the reserved shrimp shells, the remaining Creole seasoning, the bay leaves, lemons, water, Worcestershire, wine, salt, and black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then strain.  There should be about 1 1/2 cups. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook until thick, syrupy, and dark brown, for about 15 minutes. Makes about 4 to 5 tablespoons of BBQ base. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the seasoned shrimp and sauté them, occasionally shaking the skillet, for 2 minutes. Add some cream (if using) and all of the barbecue base. Simmer and stir for 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a warm platter with tongs and whisk the butter into the sauce. Remove from the heat. Mound the shrimp in the center of a platter. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and around the plate.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill

I had not heard of this author before, even though she has a previous book with critical acclaim.  What can I say, I am just not able to keep up with the volume of great writing out there.  I saw this on the New York Times Notable book list and really enjoyed it.  The book goes between the points of view of a Dominican immigrant named Silvia, her young daughter, Velvet and the people that Velvet meets on her Fresh Air summer in upstate New York.  Her host family are Ginger and Paul, and they live next door to a horse stable.  Ginger is disappointed that she is not a mother and her husband doesn't want to adopt, so she enters into the relationship with Velvet with an agenda that is not exactly perfect for Velvet but she does have emotional intelligence, which is sorely lacking in other areas of Velvet's life.  Velvet meets Pat, a horse woman who sees Velvet as a natural with horses but as someone who struggles with everything else.  Pat and Ginger try to nurture a part of Velvet that her family and her environment are trying to beat out of her, literally.  Very interesting read, a book I had trouble putting down.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Peche, New Orleans, Louisiana

This is a Donald Link restaurant that I had not been to prior to this trip, and I was not disappointed.  We stopped because my spouse desperately needed oysters, and I discovered some unexpectedly delicious marinated crab claws (see my blog post from yesterday to create a reasonable facsimile of this at home).  I really loved this place.  The decor is very beautifully done, with a lot of attention to detail.  The tableware is very nice pottery, and I could see coming here regularly on trips to New Orleans because you could order one thing then another in the afternoon when traffic is light.  I did see the whole fish being eaten at one table, so it is also possible to eat quite a lot too.  My spouse thought the oysters were perfect.  They were super cold and very delicious.  I found the crab to be so good I felt I have to make it, because we get crab claws often and usually just dip them in cocktail sauce, but this was another level for them.  Link does it right, no doubt about that.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Marinated Crab Claws

We had this when we were in New Orleans recently, and since crab claws is something that we can get on occasion, it is well worth finding a good recipe for them.  This one comes from Emeril, a guy who has spent some time cooking in the Gulf.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons minced celery
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 pound cooked blue crab claws, outer shells removed from claw meat

Mix it all together and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and deally overnight, then enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Unequal Playing Fields

Recently a white male coworker said in response to a friend complaining about his treatment by a police officer that he was above ground and to be mindful that is not a given for many an African Americans who have an encounter with law enforcement.  An African American athlete cannot fail to put hand over heart during the national anthem while white athletes do the same without comment.  It is not an equal playing field.  There are those who are critical on the one hand and ignorant on the other.  They deny racial bias when it is all too clearly there.  What do I make of the rise in public racism?  One thing is that the legacy of slavery throws a long shadow and that all steps forward come with the inevitable steps backwards.  The magnificence of electing black man to the Presidency, a man who is "centered, happy, and knows how to love a woman", to quote Frank Bruni, that amazing step forward has been countered by inevitable backsliding.  May it be silenced in November.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

This is a book that is part very Irish and part fan fiction.  I do love the way the Irish write.  There is something about the way they turn a phrase that is similar to each other and pleasing to me.  This author is new to me (I picked this out because it was on the New York Times Notable Books list), but he has the quality to his writing that reminds me of why it is just as important how you say things as it is to have a good story.  The story is largely meandering but pleasant.
In some ways the thing that is most intriguing to me about the idea of writing a book that is at least conceptually about the Beatles is how to do it.  Or a least how to do it without being irritating.  Like Sittenfield's recent rewriting of Pride and Prejudice, one who writes about the Beatles is just asking for criticism.  This pulls it off, in my opinion.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Petit Grocery, New Orleans, Louisiana

 This is yet another reason to hang out on Magazine Street on your next New Orleans trip.  the chef, Justin Devillier, who started at the restaurant as a line cook, just won the James Beard award--which may not be compelling for some, but I love to try restaurants where that is the case.  We had a good sized table, and were able to try a number of dishes as a result.  I loved the corn bread that comes in a cast iron skillet with a pat of butter on top, as well as the pain d-epi bread that came to the table.  They do non-carbohydrates well too!
The dish that you cannot skip no matter what else you eat here are the crab beignets.  I admit that it will be a stretch to do this with just two people because they are very filling and an order is five.  I never do this, but I would encourage thinking about giving some to the next table if you are just two, because these are great, and you will make a friend for sure.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Greek Cheese Dip

This is a really pretty and very easy appetizer that is better the next day so you can also make it ahead of time.  It is very pretty as well as being delicious, and could be made with other cheeses and spices mixed in if you are not crazy about feta or just want some variety.

  • French baguette sliced thinly

  • 1 pkg (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
  • 1 lb. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp Greek or Italian seasoning, or oregano
  • 8 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, minced, and patted dry
  • 3 tbsp.  shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped

    1. Toast the bread; cool completely.  Can be toasted with or without olive oil, depending on the richness desired.  You can also serve this with crackers if you want to do it the easiest way possible.
    2. Thaw spinach and get as much water out as possible by wrapping in paper towels and press until almost dry. Soften cream cheese either in microwave on or on the counter overnight. Stir in spinach and spices. Add feta cheese; add salt and pepper to taste; stir until well blended.
    3. Finely dice sun-dried tomatoes. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap. Spoon one-third of the cheese mixture evenly over bottom. Top with tomatoes, forming an even layer. Spread remaining cheese mixture over tomatoes.
    4. To serve, invert onto serving platter. Remove plastic wrap. Press pistachios onto top. Serve with toasted baguette slices.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2016

    Eye in the Sky (2016)

    This was not uniformly popular with my viewing compatriots.
      I agree with their assessment that it is far tenser than you would be led to believe from the plot summary.  It is essentially about one drone attack.  The mechanizations that are gone through both militarily and politically are probably representative of what can happen.  Helen Mirren (in a role that grossly under utilizes her many talents) is a British colonel that is tracking a radicalized Muslim woman who is a much wanted target.  She and her equally valued terrorist husband are in Nairobi and while observing them they discover that they are in the midst of planning a suicide bombing attack.  The neighborhood where they are is controlled by Somali militia, and it is not possible to extract them.  So they plan a drone attack, which they decide needs lots of levels of agreement before implementing (which is designed to make you irritated about politicians and their lack of perspective on absolutely everything except how it looks for them).  The movie also dispels any image one might have that drone attacks are too easily accomplished without being personally involved--and why combat veterans get PTSD. 

    Tuesday, September 6, 2016

    Bistro Daisy, New Orleans, Louisiana

     Bistro Daisy should be tried based on the quality of the food rather than on how good everything sounds on the menu.  It would just sell it short to do the later.  The appetizers were uniformly terrific.  The oysters poached in herbsaint were ethereal and the crab meat in horseradish aoili was light and delicious.  I had the drum, which was the fish special and it was the best fish of the trip.  A table mate had the bouillabaisse, which was equally terrific, andthe shrimp and grits were divine.
    This is a restaurant where it seems reasonable to address the setting as well as the food.  It is a shot gun house, with a gorgeous first floor with a high ceiling and a wonderful homey atmosphere.  It is the intimacy and the personalized attention that the staff affords the diners that makes it even more special.  This is a restaurant that pleases.

    Monday, September 5, 2016

    Tabbouleh with Almonds

    This is from the chef at Shaya and it is a really interesting version of tabbouleh, with sliced almonds and allspice.

    ½ cup bulgur wheat
    1 cup water
    2 teaspoons salt
    ½ cup red onion, diced small
    1 tablespoon mint, thinly sliced
    ½ lemon, juiced
    ½ cup pomegranate seeds
    3½ cups parsley, picked and chopped
    1½ cups sliced almonds, toasted
    1 cup Tabbouleh Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

    Tabbouleh Vinaigrette
    4 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 teaspoon preserved lemon, chopped small
    ⅛ teaspoon salt
    ¾ teaspoon baharat
    ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
    ⅓ cup olive oil
    1. Place bulgur in medium bowl.
    2. Bring water with ¼ teaspoon salt to boil in small sauce pot.
    3. Pour water over bulgur and cover with kitchen towel. Let sit for 10 minutes then drain off any excess liquid.
    4. Refrigerate bloomed bulgur until chilled.
    5. Mix bulgur with all other ingredients, toss in vinaigrette, and season with remaining salt.

    Sunday, September 4, 2016

    High Strung (2015)

    This is yet another romantic drama that is probably not going to be much sought out, but that will be enjoyed when it is viewed.  It is streaming now on Netflix, and anyone who likes the movies with dance will appreciate that aspect of this movie.
    Ruby is a dancer who loves classical dance but is a little bit too uptight for more contemporary numbers.  Johnnie is a hip hop violinist she meets while he is busking in a subway station.  They form an uneasy friendship, where they admire each others talents but fail to see why they would do what they do--she is studying in a highly structured environment and he is following his bliss and eschews all the rules.  They compromise somewhere in the middle and while it is all too neatly tied up in a package at the end without drilling down to deeply into what motivates both artists, it is a diversionary and pleasant film.

    Saturday, September 3, 2016

    Shaya, New Orleans, Louisiana

     This was a phenomenal Israeli restaurant to eat at, and if you are interested in great food and not just in regional food in New Orleans, this is a must try.  It is even better if you can go with a group of people because all the plates can be shared, and the restaurant encourages that.
    The highlights for me started out with the pita bread.  The restaurant has a wood fired oven at the back, and the balls of dough to make the pita are stacked up next to it rising.  When we got our starters and paired them with this wonderful bread, we knew that we were going to have a special meal.  The lutenitsa (a red pepper and eggplant spread that comes from Eastern Europe) was the stand out winner, along with the Shipka peppers stuffed with a chevre-like cheese.  The Moroccan carrots were also delicious.  The one thing that this place does that I have not seen a lot of is putting a topping on the hummus when it is served--that is something that I will do at home.  This is a terrific place, don't miss it.

    Friday, September 2, 2016

    Stuffed Red Peppers

    We decided to make stuffed peppers of various kinds because there are just so many of them this time of year.  This is an Ottolenghi recipe originally made with Romano peppers, but it can be made with sweet bell peppers as well.  This is a steamed dish rather than the more traditional baked dish, so if you seek something moister, this is a good approach.  If on the hand you like the more dried out version, then you can follow the filling recipe but cook it without the stock and open.

    8 large Romano peppers or 4 red peppers.

    600g tomatoes, skinned and chopped
    2 large cloves garlic finely chopped
    A generous sprig of fresh lemon thyme
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon sea salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup stock
    100g basmati rice
    500g minced lamb or beef or a combination of the two
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 1/2 tablespoons baharat
    1 tomato skinned, deseeded and finely chopped
    2 tablespoons dried mint
    1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
    2 teaspoons sea salt
    Generous grinding black pepper
    Peel and chop the tomatoes for the sauce. Set one tomato aside for the stuffing.
    Heat the olive oil and tomatoes in a heavy lidded pan that will fit the peppers in one layer, add the, garlic, lemon thyme and stock then season generously with sea salt and pepper.
    Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
    Boil the rice in salted water for 5 mins.
    Drain the rice, refresh under cold water and set aside to cool.
    Roast the baharat in a dry pan until the spices are toasty brown and fragrant.
    In a large bowl weigh and measure all the other ingredients, add the rice and baharat, then using clean hands knead the meat, herbs, spices, tomato, rice and seasonings until the mixture is very well mixed.
    Wash the peppers, then assess how each naturally sits and cut a slit from the stem end down, along the top edge.
    Using your fingers, carefully remove the core, seeds and soft membranes. Shake any loose seeds out of the inside.
    Gently fill the pepper cavities.
    Arrange the peppers in a single layer in the sauce, then spoon a tablespoon of sauce into each pepper.
    Return the sauce to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes, basting the peppers with sauce frequently.
    Remove the peppers to a serving plate and keep warm.
    Turn the heat to high under the sauce and reduce until thickened. Spoon the sauce over the peppers and serve with a simple salad.

    1 tsp black peppercorns
    1 tsp coriander seeds
    1 small cinnamon stick, roughly chopped
    ½ tsp whole cloves
    ½ tsp ground allspice
    2 tsp cumin seeds
    1 tsp cardamom pods
    ½ a whole nutmeg, grated 

    Thursday, September 1, 2016

    Dear Eleanor (2015)

    This is a very whimsical movie where everything turns out for the best, but it could have gone so much differently.  Ellie is 15 years old and life is challenging for her.  Her mother was supposed to introduce Eleanor Roosevelt at a local event but instead she was killed in a car accident.  Ellie’s father, ably played by Luke Wilson, is bereft and not functioning at all well, and his five children, most of whom are quite small, are flailing too.  Ellie’s best friend Maxine writes a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt telling her of her friends’ plight, and a boy that badly wants Max to love him writes an answer and signs it ‘Eleanor Roosevelt’.  It is a wonderful plot devise that moves the story forward in an unexpected direction but no one is made out to be the bad guy.  Ellie and Max take Ellie’s mother’s car and set off cross country to see Eleanor Roosevelt, without a map or much of a plan.  The girls get into a number of interesting situations along the way, and while none of this sounds enticing, the script is great and the acting is as well, and it is a fun and thought provoking movie.