A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In which Michael bids adieu (temporarily)

Hello, those of you who are still bothering to check my blog for new posts.  I know that I haven't been providing much incentive lately to return here.  But I have a good excuse, I hope you'll agree.

I have decided to focus all my creative energies in the coming months on producing a cabaret show.   Like my blog, it's going to be a largely lone venture.  I'm writing the text, choosing the songs, and performing it all myself.  (Well, I AM trying to persuade a certain world-famous model to join me for at least one number.  But we all know how busy Cathy's schedule is.)  When I get a working draft of the show, I will bring in some other people, like a band, a director, a choreographer, and perhaps someone to sew me some costumes.  (I wonder who could do that?)

But, for now, it's just little old me hard at work (between students) writing, practicing, and organizing.  With all these tasks to accomplish, I'm not sure how I'm going to feed myself, much less blog about what I'm throwing together in the kitchen, so I hope you'll forgive me for taking a hiatus from Pleasing My Palate while I indulge another passion.

Thank you all for visiting my blog in the past months -- I hope you'll return once I'm blogging again.  And I hope that many of you will be able to come to my show!  (You might recognize some of the material in that show from this very blog.)

Sincerely,

Michael

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Untitled #1

We're off to Marlton, NJ, this morning (without Freddy & Willy, who will be breaking in a new dog-sitter) to attend a 70th-birthday party for my dad.

My dad, who has the best hair EVER.  Even Dmitri Hvorostovsky would covet those thick silver locks, which have been white since Dad's 30s,  if I remember correctly, and which have caused more than one temporarily excited stranger to think she'd just sighted Phil Donahue.

Random Michael factoid: I've always wanted to go prematurely grey, and now it's too late. 
I've chosen today's blog topic in honor of Dad's birthday.  Or, to be more accurate, I am risking breaking the 5th Commandment* by addressing Dad's exasperating perennial question: "What is this dish called?"

*Honor thy father and thy mother.  I hope my Dad is impressed that something stuck with me from all those years in parochial school and Sunday school and church and youth group and church camp and home devotions.  Actually, Dad, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I had to Google this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In which Michael comes out of hibernation

I seem to have reached that threshold — about 2 weeks — at which readers begin dropping hints that it's been perhaps too long since I last posted.  I am not proud to have to admit that I am enjoying being begged to return to the spotlight.  (Well, "asked" is perhaps a more accurate word, and the only spotlight I've been in recently was at my gym, where the lighting has been designed for maximum drama.  My fellow gym members are so jaded by the over-the-top environment that I'm sure nobody even bothered to glance in my direction as I performed yesterday's perfectly lit set of single-leg squats in front of the huge mirror, while Gaga belted out how she was born this way in the background.  She may have been born that way, but I have to work hard to achieve glorious glutes.)

Seriously, it warms my heart to discover that certain of you miss my posts enough to write in when I'm silent for a time.  But one of you (Mae) has outdone herself, not only expressing her concern over my busy schedule, but also leaving a detailed comment (scroll down to her April 27 comment) about quick-and-easy cooking that practically qualifies her as a guest blogger AND giving me, as a not-so-subtle kick in the pants, a suggestion for my next post.  So, out of gratitude for Mae's information and inspiration, I am going to take her suggestion and blog about quickies.

Not that kind of quickies.  Boy, you people always seem to have sex on the mind.  I am referring to quick MEALS that can be prepared in minutes when your schedule is as crazy as mine has been lately.

For you crackpots who are here only for the titillation factor, this picture should get your juices flowing.  The rest of us will focus on the juices bubbling in our crockpots.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In which Michael forges a relationship with Mariah Carey's husband

First I run into George the sexy pleather-clad dancer at the gym.  (Well, he was towel-clad when we "met.")  Then, yesterday, a world-famous fashion designer/fragrance purveyor who shall remain nameless was — Bang! — changing at the locker next to mine in the very same gym.  (How rude of you to wonder if I was tacky enough to snap surreptitious photos of this fit and tattooed but here-unnamed celebrity in his blue and white undies with my phone.  And, no, I'm not going to post them on my blog.)

Well, my encounters with the glitterati continued into today, when I had a long, meaningful 47-second conversation with Nick Cannon — radio and TV personality, actor, comedian, rapper, and husband of Mariah Carey.






Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back in the Kitchen with Michael: Capellini w/Salmon and Mushrooms (and a Salad!)

Has it really been 3 whole weeks since I've posted a cook-along recipe?  Boy, how time flies when one is attending Broadway openings with a renowned fashion model on one's arm, experimenting with French methods of home-scenting, and chasing towel-clad dancers around the locker room.  (Hi, George, if you're reading this — I'll be at the gym later this morning!)

[Note: do not read this caption unless you are George.]  Hi, George — remember me?  If this picture isn't ringing any bells, you could try imagining me in a towel.   (Oh dear, now I'm imagining you imagining me in a towel......)

Not to mention inaugurating a new teaching space, starting a program of working out under the guidance of a personal trainer, and walking the dogs for longer periods now that the weather is getting milder.  Whew!  It's actually a respite to enter the kitchen and spend some relaxing time cooking a meal.  The seed idea for today's project was the container of garlic scape pesto I'd discovered in the freezer yesterday.  What fun, to discover a few tablespoons of this heavenly stuff left over from almost a year ago — garlic scapes appear early on in the growing season, so we get them in one of our first CSA deliveries each year, in late May or early June, and I always make pesto out of them.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

In which Michael decides a Lampe Berger is for les oiseaux

Well, I just spent over $100 to discover that my old trusty, noisy diffuser may do the best job at scenting my teaching space after all.  The land that contributed to world culture such brilliant things as Champagne, Debussy, the Curies, and french kissing has, malheureusement, struck out bigtime with their fancy-schmancy room deodorizing system.

Lampe Berger, my derrière — it burns my buns to realize that it's just a glorified bunsen burner:



Friday, April 8, 2011

In which packages are eagerly anticipated

I want to start out by assuring Treadle27 that her chocolatey prize will soon be winging its way to her home.


That's all the varieties my prize-winner did not select as well as her chosen Maple Pecan all packed up in the envelope underneath, which Peter has kindly agreed to drop off at the post office later today.  Don't you just love the gorgeous papers that the Mast Brothers use to wrap their bars?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April Fool's Day Quiz Results — Blogger Revealed as Inadvertent Liar!

[Note: If you want to try the quiz for yourself, go back and read my April 1 post before continuing on to this one.]

Many savvy readers were correct in suspecting that the April Fool's Day posting date of my quiz (not to mention its title) indicated that something was queer about this one.  (And not just the author.)

As several commenters surmised, all 12 statements contained truth.  In two cases, however — one inadvertent — the truth was only partial.  Read on to find out which statements diverged from actuality, and to find out who won the chocolate.




Thursday, March 31, 2011

In which Michael greatly exceeds the recommended maximum time in the steamroom

The explanation for the before-and-after transformation illustrated below has got to go in the only-in-NYC file. (And probably in the only-in-Chelsea subdirectory.)

Me at 10:00 am on Wednesday
Me at noon on Wednesday

What happened to turn me from a happy (if a little 7-dwarves-ish) man into a shriveled prune?  Read on, dear friends.....the truth is beyond belief.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In which Michael indulges his vanity via a rapidly growing blogging convention

When I first encountered the acronym GPOY, I assumed it was a new gender/sex identity option I hadn't heard of before.  (There are a bewildering variety of ways to "identify": LGBT, FTM, MSBD, and myriads of other options the very thought of which would have tied your great-great-grandmother's bloomers in knots.  Unless you had a really cool great-great-grandma.)


Actually, as I came to discover, GPOY stands for the relatively innocuous "Gratuitous Pic of You," which it has become common for bloggers to post on Wednesdays.  (I think GPOM would make more sense, but who can dictate the direction that linguistic winds will blow?)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In which Michael swoons and creates lovely aromas

OMG, readers, you'll never believe who commented on my post from yesterday:

Jeffrey, my other obsession of the hour
For those of you who do not recognize this studly being, he's the OTHER hunky dancer in pleather shorts from last Saturday's concert!  I still have no idea how he found my blog, but I am hoping that more leather- and pleather-wearing hunks, dancing or not, stumble my way.

(Mom, if you're reading my blog today, please know that I am totally inventing this infatuation with partially nude muscle boys for the sake of entertaining my readers.  Rest assured that my priorities are still pleasing you and finding inventive ways to use up leftover beans.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

In which Michael tries to butch it up with a big pot of okra

I wonder if it's possible for a male couple to become too gay?

I mean, all stereotypes aside, our lives are mostly similar to that of any other family — well, maybe any other slightly kooky family of outside-the-box-thinking, artistic mavericks with demented Chihuahuas.  But our proximity to the nucleus of gay American culture — Chelsea 10011 — brings us into frequent and intense contact with all sorts of queer influences.  (I'm using that Q-word in its co-opted, political sense.  You aren't allowed to use it in this way unless you're queer too.  Oh, and please stop using "gay" to mean "stupid," as in "That's so gay."  There I am, on my soapbox again!)

Following on the (high) heels of last weekend's fabulousness — attending the opening and after-party of Priscilla, 50% of us in a dress — Peter and I were given tickets for this past Saturday night's "Big Gay Sing 3D" concert of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus.  (One of my voice students is in the chorus and had an extra pair of tix.)


This choral extravaganza — actually more of a variety show — made Priscilla look like an NFL football game by comparison.  The evening was chock-full of everything gay men (well, ones like me anyway) hold dear: hunky tenors, drag queens in beaded gowns, showtunes, emceeing by a huge out Broadway star, a diva songstress with pipes of gold, hunky men in pleather shorts, hunky baritones, hundreds of costumes and wigs, hunky men in Prince Charming outfits, campy humor, bawdy humor, hunky basses, Donna Summer songs, sequins, sequins, sequins, and hunky men in the audience.

(Oh, and hunky men wearing MPB apparel and the Debbie shirt, respectively.  I gayed up Debbie's gorgeous creation with my tightest skinny Levi's and a pair of motorcycle boots.  If only she'd made me a gingham codpiece to match.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

In which Michael resigns himself to forever cursing the darkness

I like my living/teaching environments (they're highly overlapping) to smell good.  To me, it is important that every one of my 5 senses — and those of my visitors/students — gets triggered with pleasant stimuli.  (Or at least 4 out of 5.  Ironically for a food blogger, taste is the sense that I invoke the least in my professional work.)  I have gone to great lengths to choose restful colors for the paints and fabrics in my teaching room, to provide soothing white noise that masks harsh sounds from outside, to touch my clients with respect and gentleness, and to make the room agreeably, but not overpoweringly fragrant.

This last step, to bring about a pleasing olfactory environment,  has not been easy to bring about.  In short, most of the scenting products out there stink.






Thursday, March 24, 2011

In which Michael restructures the food pyramid

A blogger (who will remain nameless to protect my identity), famished from his afternoon workout today, did the inadvisable and went grocery shopping in this ravenous state.

And I — er, the blogger — didn't even remember to sing to himself that old hymn of abstemiousness from the AFN public service spot: "Don't shop when you're hungry — no, no, no!"  And now I'm singing the blues.

I mean, the blogger is singing — oh, never mind.  I screwed up.  I'll own my error.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back in My Own Little Corner

Now I know how Cinderella must have felt the day after the ball, when, with memories of her glittering gown and her handsome prince and her night out among the VIPs still fresh in her mind, she found herself back at the hearth, scrubbing her fingers to the bone.

Not that my pretty wonderful life feels like hearth-scrubbing, but I am suffering from a sort of withdrawal from the heady, glamorous, rather unreal-seeming activities of last night.  On most Sunday evenings, I find myself lying on the couch in my sweats, reading a mystery novel while my chihuahuas groom themselves underneath the tatty old afghan they share with me.

So how on earth did I find myself yesterday evening, well past my usual bedtime, dancing to classic disco hits alongside Broadway stars and drinking glass after glass of champagne with a gorgeous dame on my arm?  And was that enormous pink sparkly high-heeled Manolo pump merely a figment of a temporarily delusional state?

Michael decidedly outside his element.  (But looking pretty happy about it....)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In which Michael seizes the day and the saffron

In yesterday's post I described an uncomfortably close brush with Death that inspired me to make a covenant with myself — and with Life.  My chosen metaphor for my resulting new attitude towards life is not saving the saffron.  I chose to interpret this quite literally on the inaugural day of my covenant, and created a saffron-rich chicken stew that I will show you how to make...

...that is, if you, too, are ready to use up your saffron.

Go ahead; DO IT.  What better way to acknowledge that today is special?

Don't I look like I'm saying, "Go ahead; DO IT!" in this picture?  In my boomingest voice?

Before we get to the stew recipe, though, I have to make a confession.  I fear I have been interpreting carpe diem as license to spend every crappy dime.  In my eagerness to display lust for life, I recklessly engaged on a brief binge of monetary spending:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kitcheree & Picture-me Updates

Thursday night we learned of another benefit of kitcheree — it stretches take-out Indian farther!  To make a very filling dinner, I ordered just one vegetarian dish and an onion kulcha (bread) from our favorite South Indian restaurant, and served them with reheated kitcheree and some spicy pickle.  A very satisfying way to round off a busy teaching day.  There's still enough kitcheree in the fridge for another meal over the weekend, I think.  Perhaps I'll serve it along with a tomatoey chicken stew that's simmering in my brain, if not yet on my stovetop.  I'm thinking tons of onions and garlic — and saffron and sausage — I seem to be in a Cajun state of mind.  Come back in a day or so to find out what became of my Amish chicken legs....

Earlier on Thursday, our mailman had delivered a care package from Debbie, who reads Peter's and my blogs regularly.  This box contained treats for the dogs — note to self: an entire chicken-leg treat in one sitting engenders copious poop in a tiny chihuahua — some wonderful natural grooming products, and — ta da! — the gorgeous shirt that Debbie has been working on for me as part of Peter's mens shirt sew-along:


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reconnected, and it feels so good

Welcome back, readers!  I am thrilled to report that Verizon has finally resolved our landline/internet issues, and we are back in connection with the virtual world.  The restoration of our service surprised us by occurring a full day before the date Verizon had predicted, and has thus caught me unprepared for blogging.   It's not just that I have not been taking pictures of my meal preparations; I haven't really been preparing all that many meals.

How sad is that, when it doesn't seem worth the effort to cook when I can't blog about the food?  We actually have been eating reasonably well, what with all the leftovers I had stored in the freezer.  Including a batch of the oniony kidney beans I promised never to write about again.  But, given the dearth of new foods to describe, wouldn't you be happy to hear about how I served the last portion of these beans in a casserole cooked in my convection oven?  I mean, as opposed to not hearing about anything at all?


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Temporary Silence Explained

Hi, Readers.

I've missed blogging over the past week.  Our neighborhood is currently experiencing a widespread Verizon outage — phone and internet service — so my only connection to the web has been my iPhone.

It's a little unwieldy to type more than a few words on my phone, so I'm not going to resume blogging until the outage has ended.  The phone company promised (ha!) that our service will be restored no later than March 17th.



So much for having a landline to fall back on in case of a cell connectivity problem.....

Please continue to enjoy Peter's blog in the meantime; he's been going across the street to blog from the wi-fi hotspot at the Brooklyn Coffee and Bagels.....another reason to love that place!

Hope to be back in touch soon!

Michael

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wisdom to live by

The only thing more disgusting during breakfast than biting down unexpectedly on a rancid nut is biting down unexpectedly on a rancid cacao nib.

Take my word for it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thai-ish Fish Dish

All right — back to the kitchen!  I've enjoyed my weekend of musings about random topics, but it's time once more to cook.  And those flounder filets I impulse-bought from WF (and mis-identified as snapper in yesterday's post) weren't going to stay fresh forever, so I assessed what I had on hand — pretty much everything, thanks to my obsessive-compulsive grocery shopping — and made a Thai-inspired fish stew out of them.

Speaking of food going bad — and what more pleasant way to start out our week together? — I'd always wondered if Kimchi, which is basically rotten cabbage, could ever get too old to eat.  Well, while scanning the bottom shelf of my fridge, looking for the half a lemon I'd stuck in there somewhere, I found not only the lemon, but the answer to my longstanding question.  Yes, Kimchi can rot beyond the point of edibility.  Far beyond.  I unearthed a tupperware containing the remnants of a commercial batch of Kimchi I'd bought at a Korean grocery about — um, this is kind of embarrassing — 4 years ago.

Anyway, the Kimchi was covered in white fuzzy mold — I first mis-diagnosed it as ice crystals — and smelled like Death's favorite cologne.  If Death were a demented old garlic-eating woman sitting next to you at the opera house in Hades, opening little cellophane-wrapped cabbage candies all throughout a performance of L'Elisir della Morte.



I'm not sure that, even after scalding and scouring with soapy water, that tupperware will ever be useable again.  Maybe babushka-woman can store her cologne in there.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Getting some color

As you can see in this picture that I took on my way to the gym, today is very grey here in Manhattan:


I decided that if Mother Nature was not going to provide us New Yorkers a glorious springtime palette, I would take it upon myself to dabble in color.  So what follows today is just a bit of silliness....a polychromatic pictorial panoply of brightly colored images.  I hope it makes you smile, whatever the weather in your neck of the woods.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

And now: a public service announcement

I just got back from Whole Foods. . .where my shopping was Wholly Foolish. What went wrong?


I know enough to eat something hearty before going to the grocery store, because my internal hunter-gatherer becomes indiscriminate when he's hungry. If I have an appetite, every densely caloric treat in the store looks like a good idea, and soon, my cart is overflowing with marginally necessary items like breads, cakes, cheeses, beers, and snack foods.
Where did I learn this wisdom? Believe it or not, on TV. I still recall vividly a public service announcement from the Armed Forces Network (AFN) that was broadcast frequently in the 1980s on the U.S. military bases throughout Europe, where I was stationed. Its catchy rap-style tag line went, "Don't shop when you're hungry — no, no, no!"   I couldn't find this gem on Youtube, but I was able to find a clip containing other spots from that era, just so you'll know I'm not making this up.



Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cook-Along with Me: Pasta w/radishes and their greens — and FENNEL!

Here's how I recently made a tasty vegetarian supper, a little out-of-the-ordinary on account of the cooking of a veggie normally served raw and the unexpected fusion of Eastern and Western flavors.


Well, perhaps my fusion project did not turn out THAT out-of-the-ordinary in comparison to Boy George.  I miss his gentle kookiness and his appealing fusion of genders and musical styles.  Back in the 80s, when I was still confused about my sexuality, Boy George opened my mind to a whole new way of presenting oneself unapologetically.  Even though by his standards, my own self-presentation was on the tame side, I took from him a valuable lesson about not having to mold myself into what was expected of me by others.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spicing up your life the Bengali way

Talk about good timing!

No, no — shut up, everyone! — I did not mean to literally talk about it.  "Talk about" as used here is not so much an imperative as an idiomatic expression indicating the writer or speaker's desire to. . .oh, never mind.  I'll just wait until I have your attention again.

OK.  That's better.  The good timing I was referring to was the coincidence between Monday's arrival of Debbie's fennel-containing package and my intention (stated on Monday's blog) to write up a recipe involving a fennel-containing Bengali spice mixture known as panchphoran:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

We interrupt this food blog...

...to bring you hot news from the world of sewing!

Yesterday's mail included a package from Florida from my reader Debbie.  "My reader" is perhaps not so accurate here.  The package has much more to do with Debbie's being a Male Pattern Boldness reader...and even more, a participant in Peter's mens shirt sew-along.

By some bizarre stroke of good fortune, it turns out that I am Debbie's sewing muse.  (Which is especially hard to understand when you see how hunky certain men in her life, like her son and his friend, are.  Check out her blog if you like pictures of handsome guys in Marine uniforms and/or renaissance doublets.  Now there's a sentence that's probably never been uttered before.)  As strange as it may seem, without the inspiration of creating clothing for me, her living Ken doll, Debbie could never have propelled herself to these heights of sartorial splendor:

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lots of eating, little cooking

Sorry, folks, but I don't have much to report in the way of weekend cooking.   Perhaps you'll be able to make do with a little review of my ginger grater, which I ended up not using last week in my gadget analysis:


Do you have one of these little tools?  They use little ceramic nubs rather than metal blades to turn the fresh ginger root into pulp, which works because of the relatively soft texture of the root.  You don't even have to peel the ginger root first, although I usually do unless it's organic.  The downsides are 1) the fibers of the root tend to tangle up into a mess which has to be periodically cut off to expose a fresh surface, and 2) the palm-sized tool is a bit too small.  It tends to capsize while grating and doesn't hold much grated ginger before needing to be cleaned off.  If I ever have occasion to replace this one, I'll get a larger model.  By the way, this grater works really well for garlic cloves too, although your fingers will become permeated with the smell.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Q-U-*-L-I-*-Y    *-F    L-*-F-E

Sometimes, all it takes is the spin of a wheel to improve your quality of life:


That's not what I meant!  I'm talking about a SALAD spinner:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Anybody got a Dolly to cart away this crap?

If you're new to my blog today — well, first off, I'm happy to have you here! — please be advised that I'm in the middle of an all-week exploration of the reasons I've kept some of my kitchen equipment and carted away some other things.  You might want to scroll down and read all the posts starting on Monday, February 21.  Well, you could skip the brief one about me turning into a woodland creature, as it doesn't address the main theme of the week.  But it would be a shame to miss some adorable pictures of Willy and, well, me.  [embarrassed blush]

We've already talked about items that we love because they do one thing and do it well:

One-hit Wonder Woman

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Find out what bowls me over in my kitchen

Today I'm continuing to describe my rationale for keeping certain tools in my kitchen and discarding others. By the way, the tests I'm describing are not a conscious mental process I undergo.  When I assign a spot on my countertop to appliance A and relegate appliance B to the big box to-be-put-downstairs-for-someone-else-to-take, I'm really just operating out of intuition, but I came up with these tests after the fact to explain — to you and to myself — why I made the choices I made.

THE FREQUENCY-OF-USE TEST

Some items in my kitchen I find myself pulling out day after day after day.  These are the "go-to" tools whenever anything needs to happen, the tools I consider my sidekicks.  First on the list?  My trusty cutting board and knives:



What a strange pair!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When I woke up today, I found I'd been transformed...

...into some sort of woodland creature right out of The Hobbit:


Oh, actually, that's Willy.  He almost always looks like a (slightly deranged) woodland creature.  But some kind of overnight spell seems to have been cast on me:

Best bed-head ever

If anyone calls, I'll be outside frolicking naked amongst the toadstools with my friends Badger and Woodchuck. . . .

Analyzing Appliances: Stupendous or Stupid?

Have you ever noticed how many highly specialized kitchen tools are up for grabs at pretty much any garage sale, yard sale, or flea market you attend?

Every summer, as I look around the annual flea market held in our co-op, it sickens me to take in the huge numbers of junky, stupid, ultimately useless appliances — every one made in China, it seems — that probably never made it out of their packages more than once.  I have seen hundreds of crappy items that were probably originally either gifts or impulse purchases: microwave chicken rotisseries, corncob cookers and holders, slushee makers, cartoon-character-shaped waffle irons, bread-making machines, bullet-shaped smoothie makers, toasters that singe cute patterns into your bread, fondue pots, and electric everything, from pepper mills to cheese graters to corkscrews.














Monday, February 21, 2011

One man's trash. . .is sometimes another man's trash

I am not too proud to admit that our entire apartment is furnished with cast-aways.


Oops!  I meant cast-OFFs.

In fact, it gives me a lot of pleasure to rescue still-usable items from an eternity in the landfill.  It allows me to feel that I am doing my part for the planet, to own things I might not otherwise be able to afford, and to enjoy that exquisite thrill that comes from getting something for nothing.

You need to develop an eye for finding just the right garbage, however, and I have studied under the master — my partner, Peter.  Peter was born with a highly discerning eye (I think it's the left one) — and a huge dollop of good luck.  He has found countless treasures in the trashpiles of our neighborhood: a navy blue cashmere sweater and a pair of men's dress shoes, both by Ralph Lauren, in like-new condition, and IN MY SIZE; three enormous bolts of black knit fabrics, including one of pure silk; a working Brother sewing machine; Italian designer lamps retailing for hundreds of dollars. . .I could go on and on.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Bulletin: Local Man Thaws Leftover Beans

How's that for an attention-grabbing headline, folks?  I hadn't planned, actually, on mentioning the beans again, but on Friday, I used some of the ones I'd frozen to make something so delicious, and so EASY, that I felt compelled to share.

In British detective fiction I've read, certain characters — particularly when the authors are wishing to convey destitution or a slipping to a pathetic level of existence — often resort to quick meals of what the English call beans on toast.  In our country, there is not really a tradition of bean sandwiches at all, but I can imagine that noses would be upturned at the very mention of the idea.  (I believe my littlest sister was astonished when her elementary school classmates did not share her enthusiasm for the hot-dog-and-baked-bean sandwiches she begged my mom to pack her for lunch.  Perhaps she will chime in with the complete story in the comments.)

How did this noble combination of foods acquire such an ignominious reputation?  Well, probably because most people are thinking of this sort of abomination:

Note: Not endorsed by blog host!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lambburger Helper

Here's how I combined some available ingredients to punch up a simple dinner of lamb burgers.  It turned into a delightfully bizarre (con-) fusion cuisine in which I used Indian ingredients to simulate a flavor created by the British to simulate authentic Indian cuisine and used in modern German cookery.  Got that straight?

Let's tease apart this tangle of cross-culturalism.  My inspiration was a quintessential German snack food known as Currywurst, which involves bite-sized nuggets of Bratwurst served in a sauce made of ketchup flavored with curry.  This delectable treat — it's really one of the most delicious, if not all that healthy, foods I've ever eaten — is most often eaten at outdoor venues off of a rectangular paper plate using a wooden "fork" that looks a little like a deformed popsicle stick.  As if the cholesterol count weren't already off the charts, Currywurst is often accompanied by a paper cone of french fries with mayo.  And a liter mug of beer.  (Oh, why did I ever leave Germany?)

Currywurst und Pommes mit Mayo

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kale and Mushroom Soup with Pasta Elbows

Dear Readers, I gave you a little pinto-bean-free reprieve for the weekend (and holiday, for those of you who acknowledge such occasions) — can you therefore bear to hear about just one more bean w/ham hock reincarnation?  This one is good, I promise, and the most unlike the original dish so far.  And the best part is that it used up all the remaining beans, so you won't be having to hear any more about that enduring dish after this.

Please don't resent me for trotting out bean recipe after bean recipe.  After all, Picasso had his blue period.  Isn't it only fair for me to be allowed to go through a bean period?  (I am not meaning to imply that I am the Picasso of leftovers, but if you'd like to indulge that association, I will not thwart you.)
Maybe these people would cheer up if they ate some beans with ham hock.
What follows is a step-by-step guide to how I converted this

Yuck!
into this

Yum!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Let's make every day a holiday

Happy second Monday in February, everyone!  Around here, we don't pay much attention to Valentimes Day or any other market-driven "holiday" with irony quotes, but I grab any excuse to share some love on ANY day of the year.  Or some chocolate.

I actually consider it appalling to think that lovers would reserve their most special treatment of each other for a single day of the year.  Why not be all lovey-dovey whenever the inspiration hits — and hope that it hits often?  Does anyone really think that some little fairy with a bow and arrow is out there only on February 14th, authorizing romantic gestures with his magic love weapon?  Get real.  Grab your honey EVERY day, plant your juiciest kiss on those lips, and do something to make his/her day a little sweeter.
And wait to buy your roses when they haven't been marked up 75% to take advantage of the retail delirium that ensues whenever "they" proclaim a holiday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stuffed lambchop: the mother of all comfort foods?

What foods take you back to the happiness and comfort of childhood?

Stuffed Lambchops
There are foods I only have to think of — no actual eating is required — to get a warm sense of that more carefree stage of life when Mom or Grandma or some other loving adult would cook me something nourishing and delicious.  Even though I haven't tasted these foods in decades, I still have fond memories of Pennsylvania Dutch hog maw (pig's stomach stuffed with sausage and vegetables — it's much more appealing than it sounds), Czech poppyseed pastries, and endless batches of my mother's waffles, the first one served with mandatory chicken a la king and then the real reward of as many more as I wanted with molasses, karo, maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, jelly, and all kinds of other sweet toppings.  (Not all at the same time!  Though I have been known for creating rather baroque combinations of ingredients.  For many years during my adolescence I craved a rather over-the-top sandwich of my own invention, made with PB, spun honey, marshmallow fluff, and sliced banana on white bread.  Oh dear, I am craving that again right now.)

All this culinary reminiscing is just a slyly deceptive lead-in to the video of my dog Freddy I've posted below, which has nothing at all to do with food.  But I think you'll find it fascinating.

Stuffed Lambchop

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Let there be light! And breakfast!

I went to the opera again last night to see Donizetti's Don Pasquale, and this time, sat in my regular subscription seat, which is the very first seat in the very first box in the Dress Circle.  As you can see in the video clip below, I am perched right over the orchestra, which suits me fine, as I love to watch the instrumentalists while they play.

Another advantage of this seat is that I get a great view of one of the spectacular Swarovski crystal chandeliers as it rises up past my seat on its way to the ceiling when it is time for the show to start.  That's what I captured in the little video clip; I hope it brings you joy to see one of the little things that bring me joy.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Stock, stock, and taking stock

1. Stock

I promise — this is going to be the very last mention of those eternal beans!  (For this week, anyhow.)  But there is one last project I am using them for, which will be one of my weekend activities.  I am going to make a soup out of the remaining bones with the few beans still clinging to them + the contents of my frozen stockpile.  Warning: the following picture may cause revulsion in the sensitive:


I assure you, pictures of the soup that I will convert this mess into will inspire drooling, not retching....tune in next week for the proof.

2. Stock

It's freakin' cold out there.  My oh-so-helpful weather app smugly informs me that the current temp is 22 degrees, but that it feels like 11.  Eleven!  I am miserable when the temperature dips below my age + my shoe size.  All this week, it's stayed WELL below that shrouded-in-mystery figure, so I had to do something to bring a little springtime cheer into the house.  I treated myself to a surprisingly inexpensive purchase of flowers from the florist department at WF.  We're currently greeting guests and cheering ourselves with this jolly spray of - - - stock:


I love that the delicate yellow color of the flowers so closely matches the color of our walls, although this picture doesn't really show the wall color accurately.  And something about how the flowers are proportionally too big for their bottle gives me a little frisson of happiness when I look at them.  I really can't explain this; it's a gentle sort of visual joke to me, I guess.

3. Taking stock.

Only one reader so far has raved about my burgeoning facial hair.  This situation must improve, so I am bringing an end to the subtlety.  (What, you didn't notice any subtlety on this blog?  It must be a problem with your browser.)

Here, in a naked bid for adulation (although, if it's warranted, I'm prepared to accept negative comments too — being rejected is less painful than being ignored, after all) is a picture of how my beard looks at its current state of growth (about 2 weeks of not shaving):


With the gelled-down hair and the glasses, I was going for the tortured intellectual look here.  Please let me know what you think of my hirsuteness.  If you need inspiration, please choose from the following comprehensive list of possible reactions:

  • you so sexy 
  • hotter than hell, mr. hanko
  • gasp you leave me breathless with desire
  • where did you get that pic of george clooney
  • put down that spatula you need to become a professional model

Or you can come up with your own phrases to express your exceeding admiration for my facial hair.  Just remember, I am a very sensitive person.

Have a great weekend.  Cook something that makes you feel sexy.  Or just don't shave.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beans for lunch again? Yay!

With a little ingenuity, even strongly assertive leftovers like pinto beans cooked with smoked ham hock can be coaxed into revealing different aspects of their personalities.  For three days in a row, we've been revisiting said beans, and have been delighted to experience them each time as though for the first time.  It hasn't seemed like eating leftovers at all — and so far, we haven't tired of the beans.

I hope you haven't tired of hearing about them.  Let me know if my blog is starting to feel like the summer rerun season on TV.

In actuality, this kind of intellectual problem — how can I reconcile the convenience of leftovers with the excitement of presenting a wide variety of flavors? — is what really stimulates me in the kitchen.  Yes, I'm that nerdy.  But, luckily, geekiness in the brain seems so far to have resulted in quite a lot of yumminess in the belly.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cold-weather heater-upper: Brrrr - itos

¡Olé!  I managed to create a dish using my leftover pinto beans that transformed them into something completely new and unrecognizable.  ¡Cool!

Actually, warm.  For dinner last night, at 7:30 following my last voice student of the day, we had pinto bean & ham burritos that were quick, easy, and delicious — and warming.  During a break earlier in the day, I started dinner preparations by grinding homegrown whole wheat into flour, then forming it into tortillas, which I cooked on a heated cast-iron griddle, singing traditional Mexican canzones de tortilla all the while.   Or maybe I just opened a package from Whole Foods — I really can't remember the details after such a busy day.