Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cognitive Overload

This is a lovely day.  See how blue the sky is in this view from my backyard:

So lovely that I did not mind leaving the house at 6:30 this morning to head to the Juvenile Justice Center in Orlando.  I did not mind that I had weekend duty.  I did not mind the drive.  I opened the windows and enjoyed the clear air.  I had a very pleasant child protective investigator who had contacted me yesterday and emailed her petition, so we were signed, sealed, delivered and ready to go.  There was a rather nice judge on the bench.  I have no idea who he is.  I looked for him over at the NINJA (Ninth Judicial Circuit) site, but did not see anyone there who looked like him.  Actually, I initially thought he must be the IT guy, checking on the electronics or something behind the bench.  No one called him by name, but no one jumped up and accused him of impersonating a judge, so I'm guessing the order he signed is legal.

I haven't received a call yet for any Sunday shelters, but I have both cellphone ringers on, so if the inevitable happens, I'll be able to hear it.  I normally keep the ringers off because I am in-and-out of court, and when I'm not ... well, I hate the phone and will not willingly use it if I can use email instead.  Right now my office BlackBerry is set for a rather aggressive version of "Fur Elise" (there should be an umlaut over the "u" but I have no idea how to make it happen) while my personal iPhone is set to belt out "Who Are You" by The Who.  I agree, CSI hasn't been the same since William Petersen left.

On the way back, I did something absolutely radical.  I could never do it if my husband or son were around ... I planned my trip back so I would pass the Walmart on Sand Lake Road, then pulled into their parking lot and DID MY SATURDAY FOOD SHOPPING THERE!  I can't remember the last time I did that.  I'm not sure I ever have done that before.  Walking into Walmart usually causes cognitive overload.  The store closest to my office, where I run in on occasional lunch hours to pick up odds and ends, is avoided by the rest of my family.  Too crowded for them, and English is not the primary language.  I speak a sort of fractured Spanish that lets me get by, but my husband and son do not.  Also too touristy for them, as it is on the main road from the Florida Turnpike to Disneyworld.

It was still pretty early in the morning, so the crowds weren't bad, the lines were light, and the shelves were crazy good stocked.  So many choices.  Cans, bottles, boxes in a dazzling display of form and color.  For one brief moment the synapses in my brain flaired from cognitive overload.  Cowabunga, dudes!  I got it under control and began a stately stroll through all of the aisles, the produce section, the seafood counter and freezer, the city block of meats and poultry.  It was grand.  I picked up stuff I needed at better prices than I can get elsewhere, and I also found stuff I haven't seen anywhere else.

Here's the weekend's cooking:  Kielbasa Lentil Soup, Mussels in Wine Sauce, Green Velvet Cupcakes and Hamantaschen.  The soup's on now, and the rest is planned for tomorrow. 

There was one more item that I got at Walmart's that I wouldn't have been able to find at Publix.

Yup, that's a stroller for Teena.  I have been wanting to get one for years, since my beloved Tuffy got too old to keep up with me on our walks.  We've already tested it in the house, and she likes being "driven" around.  I can still walk the boys, Woody and Indy, on separate leashes while pushing my baby girl in the stroller.

Soup's done. The recipe can be found on our companion blog, part of the March 19, 2011 entry.  Please enjoy!

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

I'm Capricorn, I Worry

"Capricorns worry like no other sign. You can literally make yourself sick. Any illness you suffer is probably stress-induced, a result of holding too much inside or being too hard on yourself. Caps are prone to obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and addictions, like Capricorn Kate Moss."

Kate Moss?  What about Richard Nixon?  Mel Gibson, Joseph Stalin, J.D. Salinger?  Hermann Goering?  Mao Tse Tung?  You got addictions?  We've got Elvis Presley.  You want to talk obsessive-compulsive?  How about J. Edgar Hoover?  Howard Hughes?

The nice thing about being a depressed, obsessive-compulsive worrier is that when it turns out that the situation you are worried about is not nearly as dire as anticipated, that sigh of relief is worth all the money in the world.  Until next time, anyway.  Because we Cappies always have something to worry about.  If we don't have something, we find it.  Search it out.  Dig for it.  Imagine it.

So it turns out the auto da fe' was unnecessary, and all my worry with it's accompanying gastric disturbances and eye-piercing headaches, was for naught.  Great!  Let's move on then ...

The Spiral Galaxy sock is coming along nicely, nicely:

. . . and the Kink scarf is almost done.  I've discovered the Donovan Creed crime series, written by John Locke - I'm not making this up, that is his name, or at least his nom de plume.  I've zipped through his first three books, and then veered off into a completely new genre for me - vampire detectives. And I'm thinking about food.  There are still lovely leftovers, including a styrofoam container filled with curried goat.  I did not prepare the curried goat, nor have I tasted it.  My husband has a number of clients from foreign countries, and some of them are unfailingly gracious.  As a result, we are often the lucky recipients of Russian chocolates and wines, hand hooked rugs, and homemade curried goat.  I really would like to try the goat - after all, I got brave enough to try alligator this past year, and then there was the incident with the frog's legs - but my husband has advised me, through the tears streaming down his face, that the curry was hot.  Very hot.  Incendiary.  Which did it for me.  No goat, sadly enough.  At least not the curried goat prepared with loving hands by someone's dear old Bangladeshi mom.  Just for once I wish I had an asbestos palate. 

I still have some of the goat available to photograph.  The smell wafting out from the box is intoxicating.  You can see the rich curry color from the sauce.  Bangladeshi Mom also provided a container of cooked basmati rice, and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.  I know my family has been enjoying it, bones and all.

The incident with the frog's legs took place at the Cock 'n Bull Restaurant in Lahaska, Pennsylvania.  We were with our friends Vicki and Dan, and their daughter Mandy.  My son Cory was a toddler, and Mandy must have been all of 7 or 8 at the time.  We wanted to introduce our friends to the buffet there because we'd had so many wonderful meals over the years, off the menu, at the King Henry Feast, and the weekend buffet.  The food was incredible.  And I thought those were the sweetest, most tender chicken wings I'd ever eaten.  You know where this is going, right?

Incidentally, if anybody has a recipe for the Cock 'n Bull apple dumpling with that incomparable vanilla sauce, please share it with me.  I've been dreaming about them for over 30 years.


Since I brought up Vicki and Dan, I should tell you that Vicki has been one of my best - maybe "the" best - cooking buddy I've had throughout my life.  I met Vicki when we were assigned to be suitemates in DuBois Hall at SUNY New Paltz.  That was 1971, and we've been friends ever since.  We've also been sharing recipes since that time, and have learned a lot from each other.  We both got married at about the same time - Rob and I in 1974 (and 1978), and Vicki and Dan in 1975.  Back then, our favorite form of entertainment was to visit each other's homes and share a meal.  I still think of this as Vicki's signature recipe.  It is so simple, and so good and it never goes out of style.


 Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Inspiration of Another Sort

All of these showed up on my most recent Facebook page.  Hope really does spring eternal and laughter is the best medicine.

I love today tomorrow will be even better!

Why is it so easy to forget all the good things that people do ... but when its hurtful and deceiving you can never forget or let go ?

So... who's in jail this morning? Come on, 'fess up!

Today was lots of fun! This week has been awesome! The liberty kids were really cool, and we did pretty well at mpas =D

Donate to the Red Cross and LivingSocial will match your donation 100%! If you have been thinking about donating to the Red Cross' Japan Relief, this is a great way to double your donation.

It was such a fun birthday and I am so excited to get all these messages! Thank you everyone! I'm such a baby about birthdays! :-)

I forgot how to throw a boomerang, but then it came back to me......

Today I wore green and kissed an Irishman. Did you?

YAY!! Can't wait for this weekend!

I didn't get pinched today! :D

At the Baseball game with my son. He is pitching. Hope he has a good game..

Oh yum. You can "Like" corned beef & cabbage on Facebook.

i.m felling a bit better than yesterday Love all your comments Girls & Boys xoxoxoxoooxoxoxox

I know lately we have been hearing on the news or radio how bad things are getting over in Japan and the few brave souls who are putting themselves in harms way to try to help from it getting any worse. Please keep everybody over there, including our soldiers and families who are stationed over there, in your prayers. My friend is over there with her husband, and they are constantly on my mind and in my prayers.

Our hopes and expectations. Black holes and revelations. - Muse

Okay, I didn't find this one on Facebook, but it still inspires:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

I wish you all a pleasant day - I'm off to dance at the auto da fe'!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Auto da fe' Friday

An auto-da-fé (also auto da fé and auto de fe) was the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Spanish Inquisition or the Portuguese Inquisition had decided their punishment after the trial. Both 'auto de fe' in medieval Spanish and 'auto da fé' in Portuguese mean "act of faith".

In the popular imagination, an auto-da-fé has come to refer to burning at the stake for heresy.

Auto-de-fe, what's an auto-de-fe?
It's what you oughten't to do, but you do anyway!

I haven't been able to find any information regarding the proper meal before attending an auto da fe', and since this is essentially a food blog, that would have been interesting to say the least.  Perhaps a little soup would be nice.  Light on the stomach, nothing to make one gag or retch ...

The Week from Hell is coming to an end, and tomorrow (Friday) is the Main Event.  Oh yes.  I really am attending an auto da fe' - my own auto da fe' - and I'm looking forward to it with the same enthusiasm I experienced before my 1982 surgery, and most especially those few minutes before they gave me the happy pills.  My mood has shifted from furious to depressed with all variations in between.  Today, for some reason, I got goofy and started thinking of my impending excoriation as an auto da fe', as staged by the incomparable Mel Brooks.  Now, instead of depressed I feel positively silly.  I hope I don't laugh.

Let me just say something here.  I love what I do.  I have done it, successfully, for almost 19 years.  I am proud of the work I do and of the people I work with, all of the people in my office.  And I am going to keep repeating that to myself tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
And lea'e us nought but grief an' pain
For promised joy!
  - Robert Burns

It's looking like this weekend rather than this evening for baking green velvet cupcakes.  I know I made plans, but as Robert Burns observed, spit happens.  Although he expressed it in a much finer fashion than I did or ever could.  The Week from Hell is playing out even worse than anticipated, with no relief in sight.  It will just have to be a late St. Patrick's Day celebration, which I may try to artfully combine with a slightly late Purim celebration focusing on hamantaschen.  Think of it as my tip of the hat to religious pluralism.  Ecumenical baked goods.

Speaking of hats ...  here in the US, we call the quintessential Purim pastry "hamantaschen" which is Yiddish for "Haman's pockets".  Haman was, in case you don't remember or never knew, the bad guy in the Book of Esther.  It is believed that Haman, who ordered the genocide of all the Jews in the great Persian Empire of that time, wore triangular hats.  In Hebrew, the pastry is called "Oznei Haman" which means Haman's ears.

In Italy, they are also called Haman's ears - Orecchiette di Amman.  I'm sorry I didn't get to try them when we were there in 2004.  The economy being what it is, I don't know if we'll ever get the chance to go back.  I had hoped to someday return to Bologna and Venice, and also get to see Florence and Rome, but ... the best laid plans and all that jazz.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Car 54, Where Are You?

Today was one long blur of hearings.  Pretrials, which are done in a jury room rather than the courtroom, went on for an interminable period of time.  I thought I would lose my mind.  For all I know, I'm still sitting there.  Of course, I'm lucky I was sitting in one of the chairs.  There are only six chairs around the table, although there is ample room for more.  One is for the judge, one is for the clerk who is handling the schedule and all of the orders. Then there were 5 attorneys from DCF Legal, 2 lawyers from the Guardian ad Litem Program, 2 more from Regional Conflict Counsel's office, at least 5 contract defense attorneys, and the judicial assistant.  You do the math. 

Not that there aren't other chairs in other rooms right down the hall.  But our deputies, who are really nice guys and gals (I love the hats; I wish they wore them in court) got flogged by "someone" for allowing us to bring additional chairs into our jury room 2 weeks ago, even though they were all returned, nice and neat.  We know that "someone" is not the judge.  We don't know who "someone" is, but we have our suspicions.  "Someone" seems to think it is appropriate for a dozen attorneys to have to sit on the floor while dressed for court in suits or skirts, or in the alternative, stand for two hours, holding a legal pad, a calendar, a stack of files and an iPhone.  "Someone" seems to think that he or she is higher up the food chain than the judge, who supports the moving of chairs.

I see now," said Winnie the Pooh."I have been Foolish and Deluded," said he, "and I am a Bear of No Brain at All." - A.A. Milne

If I'm not careful, this will turn into a rant about micromanagement by Petty People of No Brain at All.  Micromanagement is not limited to that "someone" in court administration who enjoys flexing his or her mini-muscles.  As we all know, or have personally experienced, micromanagement rears it's ugly head in all sorts of work places and situations.  I could tell you stories ... but I won't.  Not yet.  Just a reminder that no adult likes to be treated like a naughty child. 

I had to return to court after lunch.  Well, it wasn't really lunch.  It was ... let me show you a picture:

I nibbled, I worked.  As I said, not really lunch.

Like President Clinton, I am punctuality-challenged.  I have really been trying to overcome my tendency to arrive late, but the fact that I don't do mornings has made it difficult to achieve.  It has been my New Year's Resolution every year since 1966, and I think I have finally made some progress.  For example, today I left the office a few minutes early, and all went well until I tried to make the penultimate turn from John Young Parkway onto Emmett Street.  Two lights later, I'm still waiting.  The traffic heading north looked like it was backed up to Cuba.  And cars coming off Emmett and trying to turn onto John Young were getting stuck in the intersection.

Gridlock in Kissimmee? Has the world gone mad?  Was I going to be late despite my primo parking spot and my early departure?  Was I having flashbacks to New York?  Would the palm trees along John Young Parkway disappear from my field of vision to be replaced by scrub oak along the Long Island Expressway?  Car 54, where are you?

There's a hold up in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights.
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights.
There's a scout troop short a child,
Khruschev's due at Idlewild
Car 54, where are you?

Yes, I am showing my age.  Which is exactly how I got a seat around the pretrial table.  The supervising attorney for the GAL program and I decided that first dibs on the chairs went to those of us over fifty.  Rank may have it's privileges, but age works pretty well.  Anyway, I made it to court with 2 minutes to spare and an annoying earworm.  Car 54, where are you?

First sign of spring is the Cadbury egg (not the crocus, despite what my second grade teacher told me) and for St. Patrick's Day we have the green Hostess Sno-Balls

St. Patrick's Day is this Thursday, and I feel the need to bake cupcakes. Vivid green cupcakes. Bright, emerald, I'm-looking-over-a-four-leaf-clover green cupcakes.  With cream cheese frosting.  I stopped to pick up the ingredients and I'll bake tomorrow evening, God willing and the crick don't rise. 

St. Patrick's Day
Green velvet cupcakes.  Tomorrow.  Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We have rules for that sort of thing ...

The Miami Heat are set to play the San Antonio Spurs at 8:00 on ESPN.  Bones is on TNT at 7:00, and NCIS is also on at 7:00.  So is Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.  Monday hasn't been a good night over at Food Network since Emeril Live went off the air.  Oh, but wait!  Emeril Live is on Cooking Channel at 7:00, followed by four episodes of Ciao America with Mario Batali.  I know where I'm going tonight.  And the Orlando Magic are playing the Lakers at 10:30 ...

It is Monday night, the end of a day I do not care to repeat.  Busy, crazy, boisterous.  The good news is that 20% of the week from hell is now officially over.  The bad news is that it gets worse from here, and there is still 80% to go.  Tomorrow is too awful to even talk about.

Anyway, I'm always exhausted on Monday, probably from the anticipation of returning to work after a too-short weekend.  Sometimes I crash on the couch, but today I made plans.  I set out some rules that I intend to follow to make my Monday night respite truly relaxing, and might I say, even memorable.

The Rules:
No staying in the office any later than 5:30.
Drive straight home.  No shopping, not even 7-Eleven.
No cooking. (I sliced a meatloaf.  Oops.)
No cleaning. (This one was easy.)
No sitting around in work clothes (It's okay to take off your bra before midnight.)
Watch TV, preferably reruns.  (Less need to think.)
Eat junk food, joyously.
Knit until the cows come home.
Oh yeah, no blogging.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deviation is Treason

I hate daylight savings time.  I am one of those people who gets jet lag just driving from one time zone to another. The furthest I've actually driven is into the Central Time Zone.  Come to think of it, some of my favorite places are in the Central Time Zone - Little Rock, New Orleans, Panama City Beach - and I always gain an hour of sleep when I get there.  Of course, I deeply resent having to give back the hour on the trip home.  Daylight savings time is even worse, because I haven't driven anywhere at all and I'm still being forced to give up an hour sleep.  I feel like something is being stolen from me. 

So now I am an hour late in starting today's cooking.  I am also an hour late in starting my consumption of caffeine, and an hour closer to what promises to be a week from hell in the office.  But once again, I am living the good life in Orlando, Florida, home of Mickey Mouse and the Orlando Magic, half a world away from the tragedy in Japan, so I am resolved to stop whining and start cooking.

Before there were food blogs ... before there was the internet ... there was Calvin Trillin.

From Wikipedia:  Calvin (Bud) Marshall Trillin (born December 5, 1935 in Kansas City, Missouri) is an American journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, memoirist and novelist.

It is the humorist and food writer I was introduced to in 1981, when a coworker, realizing I was a major foodie, gave me a copy of his American Fried.  I still have it, as worn as it is, for I have reread it many times.  Before Calvin Trillin, I was positively provincial in my knowledge of food.  American Fried opened my eyes to real barbecue, personified in his ode to Arthur Bryant's, the existence of crawfish and beignets in New Orleans, and the absolute joy of travel for the sake of enjoying regional foods.  When my friend Bethe suggested we travel to Italy over Thanksgiving vacation several years ago, because her husband wanted to spend his birthday eating in Bologna, the birthplace of Italian cuisine, that made perfect sense to me.  By the way, it was well worth the jet lag.

One of my favorite Trillin quotes is based on the weight loss experiences of his college friend, "Fats" Goldberg, who ate the same thing every single day of his life (unless he was in Kansas City): "Underlying the Fats Goldberg system of weight control is more or less the same philosophy that led to the great Russian purge trials of the thirties--deviation is treason."

That is why I am giving you the recipe for kasha varnishkes exactly as it has been prepared in my family for 100 years.  If you have Ronzoni farfalle in your pantry, avoid the temptation to use them instead of the Manischewitz egg bows.  It will NOT be kasha varnishkes.  Resist the temptation to substitute stock for the water.  Avoid olive oil, but do not be skimpy with the vegetable oil and for God's sake do NOT try to cut calories by using a cooking spray.  Ignore the fact that the box of kasha now gives directions on cooking the grain by boiling without the initial coating and toasting with a beaten egg.  Do not throw in a casual clove of garlic.  You do not mess with this recipe, just like you do not mess with the recipe for my husband's Grandma's Chocolate Cake, a Rothfeld-Levine family icon. Thirty years ago, I almost got mugged for my innocent attempt to elevate the cake into a black forest version.  That incident is still spoken of only in hushed tones and never in front of young children.  I have been properly chastened and learned my lesson well:  deviation is treason.

Someone should have given that quote to the folks at the original Pizzeria Uno in Chicago, when in 1943 they started selling their deep dish version as "pizza".  Listen to me ... as a native New Yorker, I am here to tell you there is only one kind of pizza, and it is made in New York City.  What Chicago makes is rather delicious, but it ain't pizza.  California-style pizza is a lot closer to New York pizza, but it also ain't pizza.  Don't get me wrong, I think Wolfgang Puck is a national treasure and I love his smoked salmon pizza.  I just wish he'd call it something else.

Wolfgang Puck and my son Cory, circa 2004

In addition to the kasha varnishkes, I am going to be making my version of Deep Dish (It's Not Really) Pizza, and testing a new product off the shelves, Texas Pete Extra Mild Buffalo Wing Sauce.  For the Deep Dish, I purchased two pounds of Publix fresh pizza dough yesterday, combined them into one big ball of dough, punched it down and left it in the fridge overnight to rise.  This morning, I took the dough out to get closer to room temperature.

Don't tell me you didn't see THAT one coming!

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

First, the good news.  We have Progress:

The pattern is Spiral Galaxy from Socks a la Carte in Froehlich Wolle Maxi Ringel on size 1.5 double pointed needles.  Sweet.  I purchased this yarn quite a while ago, can't remember where or when, but it is working up rather nicely.  I like the colors even more than I thought I would, and the yarn, which is 80% wool, has a nice feel to it.  And I am crazy about the pattern, which is easy, practically a stockinette (which on a circular piece means knit every row) but with an occasional yarn over and knit two together to keep things interesting.

This was practically the only bright spot in what was otherwise a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  My case plan conference was cancelled (sick defense attorney).  It was 46 degrees this morning.  In Florida.  The flow of paper into my office never stops.  The walls between offices are paper thin.  I had a sinus headache and a stomach ache.  I sat through an hour staffing with three other people in a room the size of a walk in closet and the air quality of a sauna. I received an email I was expecting but it still sent me into the depths of despair.   At some point during the afternoon, I had a panic attack with a few heart palpitations thrown in for good measure.  Shut and locked the door, shut off all the lights, and sat on the floor.  Tried relaxation techniques I'd learned during rational emotive therapy in 1972.  Recited the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear and some deep breathing.  Ran through the names of all the players I could remember on the Orlando Magic.  Did the same thing for the 1961 New York Yankees, but didn't get beyond Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.  Finally was able to stand up, turn on the light, and resume what I was doing prior to my world crashing down around my ears.

And then God, or Mother Nature, or The Force decides to put things in perspective:

A stranded elderly woman is carried on the back ...World sends disaster relief teams to Japan A man sits in an evacuation center at Namie, ...Japan Defense Force personell help people go ...A ship is swept by waves after a tsunami and ...A Japan Self Defense Force helicopter rescues ...

Every bad science fiction disaster movie I've ever watched has scenes like these ... except these are real.  This is Japan the day after the worst earthquake in over 100 years spawns a monster tsunami.

NAKAMINATO, Japan -- Entire villages in parts of Japan’s northern Pacific coast have vanished under a wall of water, many communities are cut off, and a nuclear emergency was unfolding near two stricken reactors as Japanese tried to absorb the scale of the destruction after Friday’s powerful earthquake and devastating tsunami.

And as if this wasn't bad enough, and it was, the nuclear reactor is leaking ...

TOKYO -- An explosion at a nuclear power plant in northern Japan on Saturday blew the roof off one building and destroyed the exterior walls of a crippled reactor, escalating the emergency confronting Japan after a huge earthquake and tsunami destroyed parts of the country’s northeastern coast on Friday.

That wasn't my world crashing down around my ears ... that was Japan.  My world, despite occasional bumps in the road, is pretty damn fine.

No big cooking this weekend, folks.  Kasha varnishkes are a go, and Rob and I discussed the merits of homemade pizza, starting with the fresh pizza dough available at Publix.

But that's another blog post ...

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Noodles on the Brain

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about kasha varnishkes.  I've also been considering whether I should add the fruit cocktail from one of my noodle kugel recipes to the dairy ingredients from the other noodle kugel recipe.  And I've been checking out cabbage with an eye towards kraut sveckle, a Hungarian masterpiece I learned from my mother in law, one of the world's greatest cooks.  I have to admit she is a better cook than even my mother was, and a lot nicer too.   My mother in law is so nice, she actually liked my mother.

Grammy (my mother), my son Cory at age 4, and Grandma

I am craving those kasha varnishkes, but I think my friend Terry might enjoy a noodle pudding at our next office potluck, and kraut sveckle would make an awesome and original side dish to accompany corned beef on St. Patrick's Day.  There's the answer, I'll just make everything.

Then there's the chopped herring ... I haven't made chopped herring in years.  When I was living in the dorm at SUNY Stony Brook, I used to love to go to Waldbaum's, buy a quarter pound of chopped herring (I was on a budget) and a package of Lender's frozen pumpernickel bagels, then go back to the room, toast the bagel and schmeer on some chopped herring.  Best dinner, ever.

The truth is, one cannot easily stage a Brooklyn Jewish eating orgy in Central Florida.  It is a lot better than it was when we first moved here almost 20 years ago, but the deli counter in Publix does not carry smoked whitefish, baked salmon, chubs, lox that is sliced in front of you, chopped herring, or fat fillets of schmaltz herring that are sliced up by the counterman, and only then added to that wonderful cream sauce with onions.  Oy!  I'm getting heartburn just thinking of it.  

My Publix makes a pretty good challah, and we can get a really fine bagel at Delish New York Bakery, a recent addition to the Dr. Phillips neighborhood (check out the link-bagels boiled in New York!), but nothing will ever compare to Sunday mornings when my Pop would head out to Brooklyn to pick up a baker's dozen of the hottest, freshest, most intoxicating bagels, along with a half dozen fresh bialys. He would rush them back home for the best breakfast ever, but not before he scarfed down at least one of those hot bagels in the car.  Untoasted, unbuttered, no cream cheese or lox - bagel au naturel - the minimalist bagel - sheer bagel purity.  Then he would come home and eat at least one more bagel, piled high with lox, sliced tomato and onion and a lot of cream cheese, or laden with strips of crisp bacon covered in American cheese and placed in the toaster oven for a good melt.

I wandered off course ... back to noodles.

I'm gonna need a lot of onions.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Morning has broken ...

... and thank goodness it is no longer Monday.

Mornings suck and Monday mornings suck worst of all.  This is a statement of Truth, with a capital "T", and like other statements of Truth brook no argument.  One cannot argue the fact that George W. Bush was the worst president of my lifetime, and that only the even-numbered Star Trek movies were worth watching.  Monday was it's usual awful self, and I slogged through mountains of paperwork, which then miraculously reappeared shortly after I moved them to be copied, or for a motion to be drafted.  Now I know how Bill Murray's character felt in "Groundhog Day."  By Monday evening I was cranky, and in no mood to cook anything.

Tuesday evening I prepared the Louisiana Corn and Crab Bisque.  Feh.  It was just barely alright the first time around, and I can tell you now it does not pass the "reheat" test, whereby a melange of great ingredients marry in the refrigerator to create an even better leftover. 

I do have a recipe for a terrific Cajun bisque, replete with andouille sausage, artichoke hearts, crawfish tails and other stuff which never fails to please my audience.  I promise to share that next time I prepare it, so there will be pictures to go with the recipe.

I started a new sock ...

. . . which is coming along nicely since I took this picture.  I am trying to knit a little bit each day, whether at home or at the office during a break, which I haven't had since I took 5 minutes to cast on, so this has all been taking place at home.  I'm learning to watch the Magic and knit at the same time.  Kind of hard to do when I stand up, wave my arms around and holler at the referees.  But I'm getting there.  And so are the Magic.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, Part Deux

I have a sneaking suspicion that the managers at the Hunter's Creek Publix are not reading my blog:

Incidentally, while I am poking gentle fun, I am here to tell the world that my Publix is the best, ever.  I've been shopping there since the day it opened and I love it.  It is always immaculate, the shelves are always well stocked, and the people who work there rock.

Despite the fact that the witching hour has come and gone and normal people in this time zone are sleeping, I have some food prep to do for tomorrow.  It won't take long, but it does bear explaining.

The recipe for Emeril's Texas-Style Smoked Brisket can be found at the Food Network site.  I have made it before, having rigged up a smoker in our very old, sadly departed 25 year old gas grill, and it is simply one of the best things you will ever eat.  I hope it works out as well in the smoker compartment that is part of our new gas grill.  I guess we'll find out tomorrow. 

Vintage Tupperware measuring spoon in a 1970's color. Bet I could sell it on eBay!

One of the most important things for successful smoking of any meat or poultry is the dry rub.  You can see the brisket in the picture above, well-trimmed, and the ingredients for the rub.  The recipe makes a lot of rub, and you use the whole thing.  Then you have to let it sit at least 6 hours or overnight, which is why I am up doing this at such a ridiculous hour.

You also want to make sure the brisket is covered with the rub on all sides before you wrap it in plastic.  It is now taking a long nap in the outside refrigerator, nestled next to its cousin, the corned beef brisket.  Pleasant dreams.

And now, from the "so how could it be bad?" department:

I snagged a package of well-priced turkey legs while I was shopping, and decided I wanted them fruity.  They are in the crockpot now, cooking on low until the turkey is tender.  If they taste good, I'll be sharing the recipe.  If not, this conversation never took place. UPDATE:  After 8 hours the turkey legs are meltingly tender and tasty.  They are also fall-off-the-bone messy, so I have to figure out the best way to serve them.  The sauce is delicious and although it starts out looking thin, once I turned off the heat and let everything cool, it started to thicken slightly. 

After considering rice and couscous, I decided to leave it as is, or at least until I can make some mashed potatoes.  Look at that picture ... you know you were thinking mashed potatoes!  Anyway, the recipe can be found at the Inspiration Nation Recipe blog.

Getting ready to smoke the brisket ... the smoker is preheating, the brisket is coming to room temperature, and the wood chips are soaking.

I've got two more dishes going forward today.  One is, of course, the Louisiana crab and corn bisque, a recipe I found on a rather neat travel site for Lafayette, Louisiana.  The other is a Big Chicken Dish, sort of like a cacciatore on steroids.  Chicken thighs were $1.59 a pound.  Zucchini and yellow squash were on display, looking fine.  I would have liked to add chunks of eggplant as well, working a caponata or ratatouille theme, but eggplant wasn't available.  I want it to be served over some sort of pasta, so I'll be working with sauce instead of just tomatoes.  And best of all, I'm making this up as I go along, so buckle your seatbelt. 

Banzai!  Oven roasted vegetables ... herbes de provence ... oh peeps, meet me over at the recipe blog, I've got that old time inspiration ...

Just to review today's cooking:
Emeril's Texas-Style Smoked Brisket
Louisiana Crab and Corn Bisque
Sweet But Messy Turkey Legs
Big Chicken Dish, working title Chicken Ratatouille

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (but no crab bisque)

Law school education:  $35,000
Florida Bar Review Course:  $2,000
Seeing the look on your opponent's face when you agree with him:  Priceless

Today I had shelter duty, which means that if any of our child protective investigators had to remove a child from their parents within the past 24 hours, I was the attorney who would be covering the shelter hearing in front of the weekend duty judge.  I already knew I had three shelters, so I was on the road to the Juvenile Justice Center in Orlando by 6:30 am, an hour at which I do not normally breathe.  Black coffee, it's what's for breakfast.

Everything went quite well, thanks in part to the weekend duty clerk of the court, who used to work for me when I was in private practice, and who remains a whirling dervish of efficiency.  The defense attorney who showed up on behalf of one of the parents was pleasantly inoffensive, and on the bench was the Honorable Stan Strickland, a Very Nice Judge.  During my private practice days I did take an occasional adult criminal case, and one of those cases caused me to appear before Judge Strickland.  It was a positive experience.

Which brings me to the Casey Anthony trial.  In the "be careful what you wish for" category, the award for dumbest move by a criminal defense attorney goes to Jose Baez, who sometime last year filed a motion demanding that Judge Strickland recuse himself from the case.  Good move, Jose.  Now you've got Chief Judge Belvin Perry, who has already shown he has no patience for your unprofessional antics.

Yesterday, I treated myself to an Attitude Adjustment.  I have been down in the dumps, but let's face it, I can't stay there.  Looking at the balance sheet that is my life, I have a lot more in the positive column than the negative.  I noodled over a lot of stuff, some big issues, some not-so-big, including my last couple of blog posts, and decided to approach those issues in a different way.

1.     One lump or two?  Or none - why I got it stuck in my head that I had to use jumbo lump crab meat in the Louisiana crab and corn bisque is beyond me.  I have always been willing to swap out ingredients to create a more cost efficient dish.  Even my crab cake recipe has been downsized from jumbo lump to "special" crab meat, at a considerable savings, and I do make some awesome crab cakes.  But that's another post.  Anyway, for the bisque, I have decided to use surimi, euphemistically known as "krab."  More about krab later.

2.   The Zen of Scarfing:  Jumbo lump crab meat may be a luxury, but taking a half hour out of my workday to scarf - any way that word is used - is not.  We are encouraged to leave our offices during lunch, and if I have fallen into a bad habit of sitting at my desk, that's my own fault.  Even if it means going no further than the parking lot and sitting in my car, I am going to make the effort to grab my knitting and a bottle of A&W diet root beer and get out of the office for a little while.

So now I'm feeling positively chipper, and decided to celebrate by doing my weekly food shopping.  The only list I had was the ingredient list from the Louisiana bisque.  As usual, I let the supermarket "speak" to me as I walked up and down the aisles, looking for bargains and inspiration . . .

. . . then I went home, unpacked, and passed out on the couch for darn near 7 hours since I started the above post.  Good thing there were still plenty of leftovers in the fridge, or my family would not be eating.  Not only did I not knit one stitch, I did not peel a single onion. 

So now my plans for Sunday include an overly-ambitious cooking menu.  I promise to take pictures.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Scoff it down, Scarf it up, Shkoff like a 220 pound man.

scoff - verb: To eat (food) quickly and greedily.
scarf - verb: To eat, especially voraciously (often followed by down or up): to scarf down junk food
shkoff (shh-cough) - verb: To pig out and eat whole-heartedly.

Nadia G. of Bitchin' Kitchen

Illustrative Example:
Fun fact: Nadia G can shkoff like a 220-pound man (she can also beat him at sit-ups.)

Well, I used to be a 220 pound woman, and I did my own share of scarfing back in the day.  Especially when I was younger, scarfing was a great joy.  I still dream about the veal and pepper heros at this awesome little place in Bellmore, New York.  I used to go with my parents and younger brother.  First we would eat an entire pizza; then we would each have a hero.  Veal parmigiana, meatball, veal and peppers, sausage and peppers.  The sauce was to die for.  My family may have taken the fun out of dysfunctional, but one thing we did well together, and often, was to scarf food. 

We didn't call it "scarfing" in any of it's variations.  We were Jewish, and therefore what we did was "essen" - in both German and Yiddish, this translates "to eat".  Actually, what we did was "fressen"- enthusiastic overeating - but that was sort of impolite (while essen means "to eat", fressen means "to eat like an animal"), so my mother only used that word to describe other people, like her cousins on her mother's side.

Although, in this post-gastric bypass phase of my life, I no longer scarf food, I do scarf.  With yarn and rosewood knitting needles.  Lately, though, I have not been able to finish the two scarves I have on needles, which is preventing me from moving on to the four pairs of socks in various stages of completion.

My Cat's Paw scarf, a variation of Alison Jeppson Hyde's "Rabbit Tracks"

For me, cooking is a form of relaxation.  I realize for many people it is a terrible chore, or just a ho-hum sort of thing one has to do to get the kids fed, but I see it as an outlet for my creativity.  There are many things I cannot do, like using a sewing machine to make beautiful wedding gowns, or fixing a car, or throwing a ceramic pot.  When I cook, when I chop an onion or stir a risotto, I relax.  If I was in a bad mood, it dissipates, and if I was already in a good mood, I get downright cheerful.  My father used to relax by waxing the cars.  As far as I know, my mother never relaxed.  My husband likes to read science fiction or go to the taekwando school to beat up spar with people half his age. 

Some finished and near-finished projects - colorful striped triangle kerchief 
and the oddly pleasing Kink neckwarmer

There are times that one cannot simply pull out an onion and a santoku knife to relieve stress - like on a train, in a car, during lunch break at work ... that is, as we like to say, a "practical impossibility."  Those times, it is nice to have a portable hobby to engage one's mind, and I have two I always keep on tap:  reading and knitting.  With the invention of electronic books and the Kindle app on my iPhone, I am never without a murder mystery.  Police procedurals, forensic mysteries, culinary mysteries; I got 'em.  And if I don't got 'em, I can get 'em with one touch shopping.

Coming in for a close second is knitting, a hobby that is not just relaxing, but soothing.  I like bamboo or rosewood needles for most things, and they feel so nice in my hands.  Ditto for most yarns, as they slide across my fingers on their final transformation destination.  A humble skein of wool becomes a long, lacy scarf or perhaps an afghan for a new baby.  You can't beat that with a stick, or a knitting needle.

I learned to knit at a fairly young age, and kept knitting all those years when it was looked down upon as an old lady's hobby.  Now that it is considered hip and trendy, my mad skills with double pointed needles are the envy of everyone who longs for a silky neckwarmer or that ultimate luxury, handknit socks.  Which brings me back to my current bout of knitter's block.  I am realizing that the last time I had a really good run of knitting was during my completion of "Twins", a long, fluffy scarf of my own design. I finished it on New Year's Day, which was also the day one of my twin cats, Dora, succumbed to cancer.  Everything about the scarf - the pattern, the name, the color and texture of the yarn - was chosen in honor of my two little girls, Dora and Deety, who had been together every moment of their lives, and who I picked as my own from their litter when they were not quite a day old.  Knowing I was losing Dora spurred the completion of the scarf, but once it was done, not even knitting could improve my mood.  During a road trip to Dallas a few weeks later, I slogged through some of my works in progress (knitters call them "WIPS") without my usual enthusiasm.  I had also lost Emeril, the gray and white cat in the picture above, just 5 weeks before Dora, and his illness and death came without warning.  I was down in the dumps.  I guess I still am.

The "Twins" scarf, my design (click for the pattern)

My twins, Deety and Dora

The other part of the problem is my lack of free time.  I usually work through lunch or run over to Walmart to pick up necessaries, so there's no knitting time there.  When I lived in New York, I commuted on the Long Island Railroad and the New York City Subway, and all I had was time.  It was almost a 2 hour trip, each way, every day, from my home in Ronkonkoma to my office in lower Manhattan, and I made good use of that time to knit or crochet.  Knitting needles make great defensive weapons by the way.  I always felt better when I had sharp metal objects in my hands.  Those were pre-Giuliani days on the subway, and it was a tough crowd.

Speaking of tough, today has been a really crappy day.  It started out crappy and went rapidly downhill from there.  At some point during what should have been my lunch hour,  I promised myself a short break for scarfing knitting.  I closed my door, picked up my newest Kink (pictured below) and started to knit.  Rosewood needles and Noro Silk Garden felt so nice in my hands ... and then someone knocked.  Took care of that, tried again.  More knocking.  More questions.  More problems.  No knitting.

Crappy, what did I tell you?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mid Week Musings About Meatloaf

I stopped in Publix after work to pick up a few basics - orange juice, bread, pickled herring, Yukon gold potato chips for my very particular son - and also to scope out the price on a half pound tub of jumbo lump crabmeat.  Never mind.  We won't even go there.  We also won't discuss the green tomatoes in the produce section.  Why yes, they are turning red.  Wonder why that is, hmmm?

I always check out the BOGO tables.  Can't miss them anyway, because they are cunningly arranged between the front door and the deli department.  Mueller's pasta on sale, so I picked up two boxes of their corkscrews.  I like this pasta shape best for macaroni salad, and also for macaroni and cheese.  Besides the corkscrew, there are ridges like you find on rigatoni, and that lets the pasta hold the sauce ever so much better.  Hey, I have a wheel of brie just hanging out in my outside fridge ... but alas, no duck sausage. 

I'm getting way off track from the meatloaf, but I really do want to try this recipe in the near future.  Macaroni and cheese from Nadia G over at Bitchin' Kitchen.  Check it out.

No whole fried okra this week.  Unfortunately, they are too big to leave whole.  Tough okra, y'all.  Maybe next time.

Talk about getting off track ... I'm watching the Magic play against the Knicks.  What a game ... Magic won!  Booyah!!

I wasn't planning on buying any meat, but I always check for sales.  Nothing special, although I lingered briefly over a 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters at 69 cents a pound.  If it had been the weekend, I would have bought it, but I had neither the time nor the energy to clean all that chicken.  I kept walking and saw the market ground beef was there, and that gave me an idea.  Market ground beef is, to my mind, a real treat and a bargain to boot (relatively speaking, of course.  Paying $3.19 a pound for ground beef is hardly a bargain, but you don't want to know what they were charging for the ground sirloin.)  It is priced cheaper than even ground chuck, and tastes better.  Beefier.  Because it is made up of the cuttings from all the different meats back there, including steak trimmings.

So I didn't want chili, or Argentinian beef saute, or shepherd's pie, or even tacos ... I wanted meatloaf.  A nice big, tasty, juicy meatloaf.  But which meatloaf recipe to use?  I'm sure you've faced the very same conundrum, right?  Right?

If you've never strayed from your mother's meatloaf recipe, let me let you in on a little secret:  everybody's mother makes meatloaf just a little bit different.  That's like over 80 million meatloaf recipes in the US alone.  My mother always made her meatloaf on top of the stove, freeform shape.  No loaf pan for her.  Her meatloaf mixture was pretty basic - ground round, grated onion, an egg, some ketchup, a lot of kosher salt, and matzo meal.  Matzo meal is the secret to a great meatloaf, by the way, but what made hers special was the cooking method.  I guess you could call it braising.  Somehow with onions and a little more ketchup and the natural juices from the meat, she created a rich cooking liquid for the bottom of the Dutch oven.  Keeping the pot covered, she "baked" the meatloaf, in this miraculous gravy, on top of the stove.  Remember, when she first started keeping house and cooking for a family, there were no home air conditioners, and she was adamant about not adding to the brutal summer heat by turning on the oven.  Her meatloaf was always juicy, always tasty.  It was the best meatloaf I've ever eaten, and since she never wrote anything down, and I cannot find anything similar in any cookbook, it is one of the few dishes I cannot replicate. 

She was a good grandma and a great cook.  Further deponent sayeth naught.

Still, I must admit I make some really fine meatloafs in my own right, even if I do use a loaf pan and turn on the oven.  Sometimes I follow a recipe like this one from a chef like Emeril; other times I am inspired by the contents of my refrigerator.  Carnie Wilson has a fabulous recipe called "Don't Let Your Meat Loaf" in her cookbook To Serve with Love that includes ingredients I would have never thought of tossing in to my meatloaf mixture - quick oats, grated carrots, horseradish, applesauce, and allspice. 

Most of the time, I play around substituting chili sauce or leftover marinara sauce for the ketchup, panko or Italian bread crumbs for the matzo meal, sauteed onions instead of the raw ... you get the idea.  You can stuff a meatloaf with a cooked sausage like chorizo or kielbasa, or with hardboiled eggs.  You can roll it around a filling of mashed potatoes or a bread stuffing. 

As I shopped for ingredients tonight, I realized I did not want to peel, chop, or grate.  I did want to make it easy on myself, without sacrificing flavor or paying ridiculously high prices for prechopped vegetables.  I had this in the oven in record time with no preparation and minimum mess.  The recipe can be found over on the Inspiration Nation recipe page.  Meatloaf is a natural served with mashed potatoes, but really, any starch will do.  Except grits.  No grits, please.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.