Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things (thank you Julie Andrews) From '08:

*Spicy Daikon Radish and homemade Spicy Tofu from Dave's Gourmet Korean Food. He's a tiny man with a big smile and he sells at the Hollywood, Mar Vista, and Culver City Farmer's Markets in L.A.

*The Know It All: One Man's Humble Quest To Become The Smartest Person In The World, a book by A.J. Jacobs - you'lll feel vicariously foolish and giddily well-informed as you read the author's hilarious account of reading the Encyclopedia Britannica

*Free archery at Rancho Park

*O Ya Restaurant the most amazing sushi on the planet - you may just feel the need to kiss the sake sommelier (who by the way is kind of sultry in the I'm-the-wife-of-the-head-chef-and-far-more-learned-than-you-shall-ever-be-in-the ways- of-rice-polishing-and-approachable-aloofness

*Watching episodes or clips of Summer Heights High on the boob tube or YouTube - a meditation on Aussie insanity

*A board game called Wise and Otherwise

*Listening to Elton John's Greatest Hits, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, and The Zombies on repeat - don't knock it until you try it

*Films (but I will admit that some of them are just great MOVIES): The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Enchanted, Hamlet 2, Happy Go Lucky, Kung Fu Panda, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Visitor, Wall-E, Young At Heart

*Lillet blanc on the rocks before a nice meal

*Reading D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths until you've memorized the illustrations and the saucy stories in this book intended for children but too good to be just for the kids

*The incredible singing Christmas card that both my best friend and brother purchased for me playing one of my favorite songs of all time: I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas
Warning: the timbre of the singer's voice may cause nausea or an inexplicable need to urinate

*My new feather headband - which I've worn for the past week with total disregard for the color of my outfit and whether or not people have seen me with this same accessory in the very recent past. The headband may be causing some severe soreness in the area behind my ears, which I will continue to pass off as a symptom of too many holiday drinks and wearing my eyeglasses which I have NOT worn in the past week because that's just way too much stuff being perched upon the ole cranium

*The word lollygag - saying it over and over is kind of hypnotic and ridiculous (this is probably something you may want to chant in the shower when no one else is home - Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is sooooooooo 1253 AD). If you are into history you may be interested in the fact that "lollygagging" was slang for "fooling around" (sexually) in the beginning of the 20th century. Presently, "lollygag" doesn't have that naughty connotation, but back in the 40's, one Navy captain issued this warning: "Lovemaking and lollygagging are hereby strictly forbidden.... The holding of hands, osculation and constant embracing of [women], is a violation of naval discipline...."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spaghetti Squash with Pomegranate Jewels

Makes 8 servings

1 3 to 3 ½ pound spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick
1/2 cup dried jumbo raisins or tart cherries (I like a mix of jumbo raisin varieties)
1/3 cup chopped and toasted walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons minced, fresh sage
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small pomegranate, seeded (about 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds)
1/3 cup hard sheep’s cheese such as Manchego or Iberico, crumbled or chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375. Halve squash lengthwise; discard seeds. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place squash halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 75 to 80 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in saucepan bring orange juice, broth, cinnamon stick, and garlic to boiling. Lower heat and let simmer for 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick and add cherries; let stand 10 minutes
3. Using a fork, scrape squash pulp from shells into a large serving bowl – the cooked squash can be cooled first, otherwise use oven mitts.
4. Add raisins or cherries with juice, toasted walnuts, sage, and salt, and pepper to squash pulp. Toss to coat and adjust seasoning. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve warm. Makes 8 (about 2/3-cup) servings.
Make-Ahead Tip: Up to a day ahead, cook spaghetti squash; scrape cooked spaghetti squash into a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate squash. Thirty minutes ahead, warm cooked squash in microwave, covered and vented, 3 to 4 minutes, gently stirring twice. Finish recipe as directed in Step 2.

***True spaghetti squash is actually pale ivory to pale yellow in color. However, in the early 1990's, an orange spaghetti squash, known as "Orangetti" was developed and this is what is commonly found in today's supermarkets. Higher in beta carotene, the orange variety is also bit sweeter than its paler counterpart. Both have a mild flavor that is complemented and enhanced by the food served with or on it. This squash is a dieter's dream; a four-ounce serving of spaghetti squash only has 37 calories!

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do. But it is probable
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious dénouement
to the unsurprising end — riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.

by Robyn Sarah from A Day's Grace: Poems 1997-2002

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fall Chicken with Feta

Serves 4

This dish is especially nice served over couscous

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/4 pounds total)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped (into 1/2 inch cubes) winter squash
8 ounces of chanterelles, shiitake, or morel mushrooms, sliced with tough part of stems discarded
1 medium onion, sliced and separated into rings (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
1 teaspoon fresh minced marjoram, savory, or thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried herb)

1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season chicken with salt and black pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook chicken for 12 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 170F on an instant-read thermometer, turning once. Place chicken on a plate and tent with foil.
2. Turn heat up to medium high. Add squash, mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt, and peppers to the skillet. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth. Cover and cook for 6 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in pumpkin and place chicken breasts in skillet. Cover and simmer for 4 minutes more, stirring once.
3. Place chicken on plates and spoon vegetable mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with feta cheese and fresh marjoram and serve.
*** According to many surveys, chicken consumption has nearly doubled in the last 50 years, going from about 50 pounds of chicken annually per person to nearly 100 pounds.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.

-T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

To No Thing

I am stingy in forever
but I apologize well, sincerely
with nothing to show but slippered-feet and clean sheets
If I knew that this is all there ever was
What comfort!
A lesson cannot be talked
We can say to a child the oven is hot
we only know when we get burned

I will say it is raining when actually it sprinkles
I will say it is false when it truly is true
I will say the ornaments are a waste when, really, they are a joy
I will say I am blinded when I have seen
This all depends on my side of the road
When I visit the other, then maybe I will know
the gravel from the dirt
the smog from the clouds
appreciate a sunset for all it’s literary filth
and know that I can never, ever have seen
then I can open my mouth to the rain, my hands to your palm, my eyes to no thing

by Cristina Paul

Monday, December 15, 2008

Coffee Mint Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons shortening
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon coffee liqueur
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon mint extract (peppermint is the preferred)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


3 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
pinch of salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of whipping cream

1. For the cookies: Adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, instant espresso, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt; set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and shortening on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add 1 cup sugar, and beat on medium low speed for one minute. On medium low speed, beat in egg, coffee liqueur, vanilla, and peppermint extract until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally.
3. Beat in the flour mixture, scraping sides of bowl to insure all of the flour is incorporated into the dough.
4. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookies are puffy. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.
6. Dot each cookie with Coffee Mint Frosting.
7. For the frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, coffee liqueur, peppermint extract, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until combined. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in whipping cream to make a frosting of spreading consistency. You may wish to use a pastry bag with a decorative tip to pipe the frosting onto the cookies.
To Store: Layer unfrosted cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Refrigerate frosting and frost before serving. The frosting will quickly soften up to spread easily if you use a pastry bag.

** Coffee farming used to be done under the shade of trees, which provided a habitat for animals and insects. This method is called the traditional shaded method. Many farmers have modernized their production methods and switched to a sun cultivation method in which coffee is grown in rows under full sun with little or no forest canopy. This causes coffee berries to ripen more quickly and bushes to produce higher yields. However, trees must be cleared and fertilizer as well as pesticides are increased when using this method. Alternatively, traditional coffee production caused berries to ripen more slowly and produced lower yields of higher quality coffee.
* Coffee production also uses tons of water - over 100 liters to grow the coffee beans needed to produce one cup of coffee. Moreover, the coffee is often grown in countries with extreme water shortages, like Ethiopia. So I guess the moral of this story is: drink these coffee cookies with a cup of tea.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

I do love the word loo. And while in the loo, sometimes I contemplate all the other words and idiomatic phrases I fancy. Today, I began a short list:

*put the kabosh on (coming from the Gaelic phrase cie báis meaning “cap of death”. The word báis is apparently pronounced “bawsh” and cie is presumably pronounced with a hard initial consonant, rather like “kai”. Alternately, Webster’s Dictionary attributes its existence to Middle High German kiebe, meaning “carrion”. Others argue it comes from the Yiddish word Kabas or Kabbasten, “to suppress”)

*videlicet (pointless AND weird word)

*won't cut mustard (alludes to the difficulty of cutting mustard in its various forms; for example: mustard seed, the plant, and, of course, French's)

*jerkwater (we the existence of this word to the invention of the steam engine — However, the boilers of early locomotives needed to be refilled with water ALL the damned time, and water tanks were few and far between. Thus, small trains that ran on rural lines often had to stop to take on water from local supplies. These trains were commonly called “jerkwaters” from the jerking of water up into buckets from the supply to the engine. The derogatory use of “jerkwater” for all things trivial reflects the fact that these jerkwater trains ran on lines connecting podunk towns (BTW podunk is of Algonquin origin)

*bellyaching (it's just a good and underused word. Plus, bellyaching can be very cathartic around the holidays while eating mass quantities of heartburn-inducing foods with the people you love most - even if they are mouth-breathers, close-talkers, or far too chipper sweater/pancho-wearing fools)

That's as far as I got with my etymological dorkdom... To be continued

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I have learned
that life goes on,
or doesn't.
That days are measured out
in tiny increments
as a woman in a kitchen
measures teaspoons
of cinnamon, vanilla,
or half a cup of sugar
into a bowl.

I have learned
that moments are as precious as nutmeg,
and it has occurred to me
that busy interruptions
are like tiny grain moths,
or mice.
They nibble, pee, and poop,
or make their little worms and webs
until you have to throw out the good stuff
with the bad.

It took two deaths
and coming close myself
for me to learn
that there is not an infinite supply
of good things in the pantry.

by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems

Spicy Honey Roasted Cauliflower

Makes 8 servings

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs
2 garlic cloves, minced
generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 whole heads cauliflower, trimmed and cleaned
Coarsely chopped fresh herbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the honey, mustard, butter, herbs, garlic, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Use a long slim pairing knife to pierce the heart of each cauliflower stem. Place each head, stem side down, in a deep baking dish large enough to hold both heads. Add about 1/4-inch of hot water to the dish. Cover with foil. Bake 10 to 12 minutes (water will begin to steam). Remove foil. Carefully pour off water.
3. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and return cauliflower to the oven. Bake for 5 minutes to dry the heads. Remove from oven and coat well with the honey mixture (using a pastry brush makes this job easy). Return to oven. Roast 12 to 15 minutes or until the cauliflower heads are well browned. If desired, garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs.

*** Cauliflower is no shlub in the nutrition department. High in fiber, folate, and vitamin C, this vegetable is known to kick carcinogens to the curb (mostly by supporting liver function).
**Much like a human, a cauliflower can get fried or pickled. Then again, you can just eat these veggies raw, steamed, boiled, or (my favorite) roasted. Also like people, cauliflower comes in many colors and shapes. Orange cauliflower contains more Vitamin A than the white variety, while purple cauliflower contains the antioxidant group anthocyanin, which is also found in red wine. Green varieties are sometimes called brooccoflower (how clever) and the spiky green guys (more accurately called Romanesco) are examples of fractals, self repeating patterns, in nature.

*Because of it’s color and mouth feel, cauliflower is used to produce a potato substitute known as fauxtato – that’s quite a chuckle for me but perhaps not so funny for the low-carb dieter. I prefer that my cauliflower taste like cauliflower, thank you very much.
Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth - in gold - and I shall call them Bling 1 and Bling 2

Oh and a couple of other things I wish I had include (but are not limited to):

*Hydraulics on my ride
*Mangos de manila in season in December
*A Cartier watch - specifically the Louis Cartier Tank Americain with a leather band
*A cheese cave
*An archery range in my backyard, which should also have plenty of space for a fresh herb garden and perhaps some night shades (which sounds so much cooler than just saying tomatoes, eggplants, and bell peppers)
*Shower heads on both sides of my shower, so one side of my body never gets cold and so I can comfortably take two-person showers
*An audition to be a back-up dancer in Beyoncé's next dance video
*A "manny", a male nanny, who does floors, windows, and toilets and will whisper encouraging things to me (with a heavy accent, of course) and occasionally pat me on the head
*An all-expense paid trip to Croatia
*Better wages for teachers and mandatory toilet cleaning and other miserable forms of janitorial work for all the schmucks who are currently running things within LAUSD

*A set of Petanque boules, along with an older French trainer with a loyalty to anger who can help me hone my skills and mutter indiscernable expletives

Thanks for hearing me out (not necessarily hearing, but reading),

(but you probably already know who this is since you seem to know every person's address and what's on their respective lists)

P.S. I will bake you a fine assortment of cookies if you should choose to humor me by granting any one of these requests

If you are not Santa and you are reading this, please post your own wish list as a comment! If we write, he will listen (or read, I guess).

Monday, December 1, 2008


I told you once when we were young that
we would someday meet again.
Now, the years flown past, the letters
unwritten, I am not so certain.

It is autumn. There are toothaches hidden
in this wind, there are those determined
to bring forth winter at any cost.
I am resigned to dark blonde shadows

at stoplights, lost in the roadmaps of leaves
which point in every direction at once.
But I am wearing the shirt you stitched
two separate lifetimes ago. It is old

and falling to ash, yet every button blooms
the flowers of your design. I think of this
and I am happy, to have kissed
your mouth with the force of language,

to have spoken your name at all.

by Greg Watson from The Distance Between Two Hands

Muhammara (Roasted Red Pepper Walnut Dip)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups of sweetly savory goodness. Muhammara is far more interesting than a ho-hum cheese ball and it’s the perfect thing to bring to a holiday party.

1 1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 (12 ounce) jar of roasted red peppers, (about 4 peppers), drained
1 slice whole wheat bread, torn into four pieces
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread walnuts on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool.
2. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 12 -14 pulses. Transfer the dip to a serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap to let the flavors deepen. Refrigerate for at least a half an hour. This dip can be refrigerated for 3 days and may be served with warm pita bread, pita chips, flatbreads, a sliced baguettes, or alongside fish or meat.

***Christopher Columbus has committed oh so many errors, not the least of which includes giving the bell pepper it's misleading name. When returning to Europe with these fruits, he called them pimientos(peppers) knowing that peppercorns were highly valued at that time. Bell peppers go many names. In Britain, they are simply called peppers, while down undah they are known as capsicum. Paprika, that lovely spice which confers it's lovely smokiness to dishes like chicken paprikash, is made from bell peppers
**Muhummara is a sauce popular in the eastern Mediterranean. The name means brick colored in Arabic.
**Pomegranate molasses can be found at Middle Eastern markets, most Whole Foods, and in the international aisle of many supermarkets.

Adapted by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Marveling At The Ignorance of The Human Mind

*Paris Hilton's My New BFF - grown girls and psuedo-girls with overabundant access to trashy clothes, a proclivity for breathless whining, and a fascinating urge to cry over very serious matters (like whether or not Paris thinks they are "real").

*Facial Feedback - the phenomenon that causes one to be happy if you make a conscious effort to smile or sad if you are a vehement scowler. Kinda cool that the muscles that control your facial expression can outsmart the smartest organ we've got - our brain (and no the brain is NOT a muscle). I had to practice some serious facial feedback when a bird shat upon the handle of my car this week. Luckily, I saw the load of colorful slime before opening the door. Life is just a bowl of cherries.

*The amazing number of synonyms for the word nonsense (which can only have been created because of the extraordinary need to describe what all these dunderheads are doing running around amongst us): flapdoodle (sounds like a whoopie cushion noise or part), claptrap (sounds like the name of the hole in men's undies or long john's), twaddle (not saying what that one sounds like), hokum, hogwash, baloney... and many more. Couldn't the people who coin these words spend their time doing cleaning up the language and ridding it of annoying misnomers like grapefruit and pineapple? I know schools need more janitors... but have you all read a dictionary lately? Messy!

*The entire concept of phrenology. This pseudo science practically rids you of any responsibility for personal problems or intellectual and emotional gaps. Wouldn't it be delightful if we could just tell our friends, bosses, and lovers, "Sorry, the bumps on my cranium just aren't suited to that. But good luck feelin' up someone else's head for more desirable traits." The whole thing doesn't make any sense. Kinda makes me want to crack some 19th century skulls (that was supposed to be funny). I guess, though, that the theory has left us with some pretty cool looking maps of the brain which could possibly be used as decorative posters or toilet paper.

*Okay, so this video is no reason to rejoice in being American, but it will probably make you feel like a superior (albeit ashamed of your country of origin) prick.

Monday, November 24, 2008

therefore I am

To think is uncomfortable,
like a poodle, pissing
Quotidian and extraordinary
My shadow on a passing train
Shapes are clouds, in gravel on the road, cottage cheese ceilings, cowlicks
Numbers are boxcars like cracks in the sidewalk
Colors are red earth and daytime moons
I decide my destinies, not by odd or even petals on a flower
but by how long I can balance on this or that foot
When your resting place is a home,
home is a place of rest
…I think

by Cristina Paul

Coocoo Bars

Makes twenty four 2 – inch bars

1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large eggs plus 1 egg white lightly beaten
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate chunks (1 cup)

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Toast coconut on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring 2 to 3 times, until light golden, about 4 to 6 minutes.
2. While coconut toasts, cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and peppers together in a medium bowl; set aside.
4. Whisk melted butter and sugars together in medium bowl until combined. Add eggs, pumpkin, ginger, and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture until just combined; do not over mix. Fold in chocolate and coconut, and turn batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with a rubber spatula.
5. Bake until top cracks a bit and becomes golden brown around the edges, 26 to 30 minutes; do not over bake. Cool on wire rack to room temperature. Remove bars from pan by lifting foil overhang and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

***Though many purists may scoff at the use of canned rather than fresh pumpkin in any recipe, these sweets have so little of the stuff that it’s not worth roasting a whole pumpkin.
**Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte’s hunger for power is inadvertently responsible for modern day canning? In the late 18th century Napoleon was concerned about feeding his troops. So he offered a cash prize to whoever could develop a reliable method of food preservation. Nicolas Appert thought of preserving food in bottles, like wine. After 15 years of experimentation, he realized if food is sufficiently heated and sealed in an airtight container, it won’t spoil.
* Never cover an opened metal can with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator. This is an invitation for botulism – which is no country club. Be safe; use a rubber… or a plastic… any tupperware will do.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Some Frightening News

These commercials, brought to us by Mephistopheles and his corn-pushing minions:

Nurdles are on the loose. No they are not a cross between Nerds and Skittles. To find out what they are and the havoc they are wreaking upon us, read this article.

After returning home from a four month respite from my life as usual, I found my dad had shaved the goatee he’s had for years and my step-dad had randomly grown a mountain-man beard. The explanation for his unruly scruff: he’s “experimenting”. I was not warned about either one of these most shocking events. As far as I can, tell my step-dad didn’t just superglue my dad’s castaway facial hair onto his own face. I may have to do some gumshoeing though.

My dad is currently displaying some of his naughty drawings in his room. Yes, he’s an artist and yes the pieces are quite – beautiful – I say that as I gag and remember my father’s age and my pseudo-Catholic upbringing. I just don’t want to see peoples’ goods. Being human is an embarrassing ordeal. If I total up the minutes that I've spent checking the spelling of the word embarrassing, it's probably consumed the greater part of a day. I think I've spent less time, in my entire life, tying my shoes. Amazing.

Turkey Day is coming and here are some (fun?) facts about to chew on:
*Nearly all turkeys raised for consumption in the United States are selectively bred and modified to be extremely heavy and large breasted; breast meat is the most desirable and commands the highest price. Unfortunately, these turkeys have such puffed up chests that they are incapable of breeding naturally. Thus, practically all of the turkeys raised commercially in the United States are the result of artificial insemination (AI). Imagine if that were your job - just don't imagine it while enjoying your annual feast this Thursday.

*Some male turkeys can weigh up to 85 pounds, whereas a female weighs around 20 pounds when she begins to lay eggs. Due to the extra weight these poor gobblers must support, many commercial turkeys end up with splayed leg disorder like the one pictured here. Once I'm finished with my Thanksgiving dinner, I too may be rendered a bit splayed in the legs.
*Apparently, humans aren't the only species who shoot blanks. Many of the male turkeys used for fertilization (toms) have less than reliable results. Some hatcheries inseminate females with 200-300 million sperm a week.

Today I witnessed a woman violently sobbing over the loss of her Blackberry. Even Faye Dunaway with running mascara and quivering lips couldn't compare with this woman's desperate ire. It was more like an infant's convulsive and hiccuping sob - a reaction to no sleep, severe butt rash, want of food, and the total lack of a favorite blanky. RUGGED! An iPhone owner would never behave in such a way.

Monday, November 17, 2008


A can of self-defense pepper spray says it may
irritate the eyes, while a bathroom heater says it's
not to be used in bathrooms. I collect warnings
the way I used to collect philosophy quotes.

Wittgenstein's There's no such thing
as clear milk rubs shoulders with a box
of rat poison which has been found
to cause cancer in laboratory mice.

Levinas' Language is a battering ram—
a sign that says the very fact of saying,
is as inscrutable as the laser pointer's advice:
Do not look into laser with remaining eye.

Last week I boxed up the solemn row
of philosophy tomes and carted them down
to the used bookstore. The dolly read:
Not to be used to transport humans.

Did lawyers insist that the 13-inch wheel
on the wheelbarrow proclaim it's
not intended for highway use? Or that the
Curling iron is for external use only?

Abram says that realists render material
to give the reader the illusion of the ordinary.
What would he make of Shin pads cannot protect
any part of the body they do not cover?

I load boxes of books onto the counter. Flip
to a yellow-highlighted passage in Aristotle:
Whiteness which lasts for a long time is no whiter
than whiteness which lasts only a day.

A.A.'ers talk about the blinding glare
of the obvious: Objects in the mirror
are actually behind you, Electric cattle prod
only to be used on animals, Warning: Knives are sharp.

What would I have done without: Remove infant
before folding for storage, Do not use hair dryer
while sleeping, Eating pet rocks may lead to broken
teeth, Do not use deodorant intimately?

Goodbye to all those sentences that sought
to puncture the illusory world-like the warning
on the polyester Halloween outfit for my son:
Batman costume will not enable you to fly.

by David Allen Sullivan from Strong-Armed Angels

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Not-For-The-Kids Muffins

Every time I stop into a coffee shop or bakery, I am bombarded by oversized cupcakes, sans frosting, masquerading as muffins. As a discerning adult, this saccharine array of so-called muffins does not appeal to me at all. Rather, store-bought muffins merely appease sweet-toothed children. This, however, is a muffin that can be made any time for a very particular customer: a grown-up with grown-up taste.

Makes a dozen very grown-up muffins

Chop the dried banana chips with a sharp serrated knife, just as you would chop nuts. Don’t use a nonstick skillet to brown the butter. The dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to see when the butter begins to brown.

1/2 cup finely chopped dried banana chips (unsalted)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of table salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons dried tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 large, ripe bananas
1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. FOR THE STREUSEL: Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl using fingertips, a pastry blender, or the tines of two forks to blend the butter into the other ingredients. The streusel will resemble coarse, irregular crumbs and there should be no visible lumps of fat.
2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with butter.
3. Heat 6 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling the pan until the butter becomes golden brown and gives off a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the ground cinnamon. Set aside for 12 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, add flours, dark brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, tarragon, and salt to the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.
5. Dice 1/2 cup of banana into about 1/4 –inch pieces and set aside. In a food processor, process the rest of the bananas and cream until completely smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and process briefly just to blend.
6. Once the browned butter has cooled for 12 minutes, cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter into 4 pieces and add it to the flour mixture. With a rubber spatula, scrape all of the browned butter and cinnamon mixture into the flour mixture as well as half of the banana mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate the batter. Scraping down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining banana mixture in two batches. Beat at medium speed for 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides once again and fold in the 1/2 cup of diced banana. Make sure the diced banana is evenly distributed by carefully folding the batter about five times.
7. Using a large spoon or an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin tin nearly to the brim. Then, sprinkle each muffin with a portion of the streusel. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time. The muffins should spring back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the tin for ten minutes and enjoy.

*** Because bananas are so sweet, it’s not necessary to add a great quantity of sugar to a baked good containing them. However, sugar makes baked goods tender. Many home-made banana muffins are heavy, sad looking things that seem too depressed to rise. To combat the weighty nature of this fruit, this recipe has a fair amount of baking soda to react with the natural acidity of bananas.
** By emulsifying the bananas, cream, eggs, and vanilla in step 5, you inhibit gluten formation in the batter and produce a moist and tender muffin crumb.
*Using heavy cream, which has 38% fat, rather than the more traditional buttermilk, that has less than 2% fat, also helps to achieve the melt-in-your-mouth texture of this muffin.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Last week, Ludmilla Vasko, fell from her ninth floor balcony in the Ukraine, into an enormous vat of grapes. She survived, unharmed. The police said:

“She was absolutely fine apart from the shock. The grapes cushioned her fall.”

Apparently, Ludmilla saved the winemakers quite a bit of work by having crushed most of the grapes when she landed on them.

For those of us who like to drink our grapes rather than use them as landing devices, I've got a suggestion for you. I recently had a (few bottles of) very good and reasonably priced wine (under $20). It's available at many Whole Foods and wine shops. It's Yalumba's Bush Vine Grenache 2006. The person who (must don an ascot and monocles and) writes for their website claims that it's fragrant with "red fruits and spices with hints of violets and roses and also a savoury complexity", and on the palate it "shows richness and ripeness with textured layers of red and blueberry fruits and youthful tannins". I just think it tastes good and has a cool name - bush vines sound seriously serious. And finally, a BUSH we can all love. So cheers - to NOT falling off of very high buildings and into large piles of fruit. Personally, I find that alcohol does a far better job of giving me an undeserved sense of meaning and grandeur than falling on my keister.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Opposing Forces

Even in this sharp weather there are lovers everywhere
holding onto each other, hands in one another's pockets
for warmth, for the sense of I'm yours, the tender claim
it keeps making ? one couple stopping in the chill
to stand there, faces pressed together, arms around
jacketed shoulders so I can see bare hands grapple
with padding, see the rosy redness of cold fingers
as they shift a little, trying to register through fold
after fold, This is my flesh feeling you you're feeling.

It must be some contrary instinct in the blood
that sets itself against the weather like this, brings
lovers out like early buds, like the silver-grey catkins
I saw this morning polished to brightness
by ice overnight. Geese, too: more and more couples
voyaging north, great high-spirited congregations
taking the freezing air in and letting it out
as song, as if this frigid enterprise were all joy,
nothing to be afraid of.

by Eamon Grennan from Matter of Fact

Granny Smith, Fennel, and Hazelnut Salad

Serves 3

The nuts can be toasted, skinned, chopped, and kept in an airtight container up to four days in advance. The dressing can also be made a day in advance. Even without prior prepping, this refreshing salad comes together in no time at all and can easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled.

1/3 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or hazelnut oil
1 - 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel (about 1 medium bulb)
1 large granny smith apple, cut into 1/8 inch matchsticks

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spread hazelnuts in a pie plate or a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for about 8 minutes, or until fragrant and golden. Let the hazelnuts cool, then transfer to a kitchen towel and rub them together to remove the skins. Coarsely chop the hazelnuts and set aside.
2. In a medium-large bowl, whisk the vinegar, mustard, celery seed, and salt. Gradually whisk in the oil. Add the fennel, apple, and nuts. Toss the salad to coat and serve immediately.

Variations: Celery can be substituted for the fennel and Anjou pear or asian pear may be substituted for the apple. You may also want to add 1/2 cup bleu or feta cheese along with 1/2 cup golden raisins.

*** Hazelnuts are often labeled “filberts” in markets. Although these two nuts are closely related, they are not actually the same. The shell of a true hazelnut is smooth and round and holds a plump, sweet kernel. The filbert is thought by some historians to have originated from the Old English name, "full beard," because of the long husk that entirely covers this nut in some varieties.
**Vinegar is a product of fermentation. Fermentation occurs when sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast. In the first stage, the sugars are turned into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol ferments further, you get vinegar. The word comes from the French, meaning "sour wine." Vinegar can be made many things -- like fruits, vegetables, and grains -- apple cider vinegar comes from pulverized apples. The main ingredient of apple cider vinegar, or any vinegar, is acetic acid.
*Apple cider vinegar is purported to treat numerous diseases and health conditions. It's supposed to kill head lice, reverse aging, aid digestion, and wash toxins from the body. Only some of these claims have been backed by studies, but with the proviso that vinegar may work, but not as well as other treatments. For example, vinegar does seem to help with jellyfish stings, but hot water works better.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Who on Earth invented the magnifying mirror? Isn’t a regular old mirror enough? If we need a good laugh we can go check out a fun house mirror or manipulate pictures on iPhoto. But magnifying mirrors just make me want to weep. They creep me out Dorian Gray style, as if each of my indiscretions has hurtled itself from the ether of All Things Past straight onto my face. I think most people get a secret pleasure from inspecting and picking at their skin. Kind of like when you can’t leave that crusty scab on your knee alone or the feeling of trembling and trepidation you get when you see or touch a really gnarly birthmark or scar. I even thought at one point that I should turn my sadistic fascination with all things epidermal into a career in dermatology. But being confronted everyday by a magnifying mirror in a brightly lit space might make me go hysterically blind or bonkers. When looking into these cold reflectors I get introspective and nervous, like my blood stream has been injected with Nietzschean Teleteubbies. I am mesmerized by the infinitesimal quality of follicles and wrinkles. I ponder what all these flaws will morph into in the future. Then I contemplate the fact that most dust bunnies and, of course, regular old dust are composed primarily of dead skin. So now, I just gotta walk away and start thinking some good thoughts.

Here is a list of a few of those good thoughts:

*Wow, I think hand-beaded moccasins are really impressive and the fact that you can dunk them in water and wear them to bed to coax them into form fitting your feet is COOL

*Cal-Earth's super adobes are awesome (Santa or God if you are out there and listening, take note - I've been exceedingly good this year)

*Gosh, I love listening to podcasts from The Splendid Table – especially when Isaac Mizrahi was interviewed in the June 6th, 2008 episode

*Looking at Spanish moss from below the shade of a tree is really incredible – even though it’s not a lichen or moss. It’s actually a flowering plant, but that’s just me twitching to the deranged hum of my inner obsessive compulsive – back to happy thoughts…

*Gee Whiz, tart apples and almond butter make me smile when you put them together

*Headstands are WOOOOONDERFUL

*Rock chairs are even better than rock-ing chairs - especially when they have a foot rest

*Damn, the French have an awesome President

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Patience of Ordinary Things

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

by Pat Schneider from Another River: New and Selected Poems

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweet Potato Cannellini Soup with Sage Pesto

Serves 4 – 6


2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 medium)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 medium potato)
6 cups chopped Swiss chard (about 1 bunch), chop off bottom of stems
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Pecorino Romano or Asiago cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. To prepare the soup, heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with oil. Add leek and garlic to pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.
2. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Add the potato; cook about 9 minutes or until potato is tender.
3. Stir in chard, pepper, salt, and beans; cook about 2 minutes or until chard wilts. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.
4. To prepare the pesto, combine the cheese and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Ladle soup into bowls and top each serving with a generous tablespoon of pesto.

***North Carolina is the leading state in sweet potato production.
**Many people use the words sweet potato and yam interchangeably, but they are really two completely different tubers. The trouble started when orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were introduced in the southern United States. Producers and shippers wanted to distinguish them from the more traditional, white-fleshed types. Then, slaves in the American South called the orange sweet potato nyamis, because of its similarity to a vegetable of that name that they knew from their homeland. Quickly, Americans adopted the name yam for their orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. This African word, also meaning "to eat", brought the two root vegetables together, despite botanical differences. As aforementioned, there are two popular types of sweet potatoes available in most U.S. markets. The first type is paler and somewhat yellow-skinned with light yellow flesh. This first type is not very sweet and has a texture similar to a white baking potato. The second type of sweet potato is usually labeled a "yam". This darker-skinned variety has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin with orange, sweet flesh. When cooked, these "yams" (actually darker sweet potatoes) have a more moist and stringy interior than the first variety.

*True yams are also tubers. However, they grow from a tropical vine (Dioscorea batatas) and are not even distantly related to the sweet potato. They are slowly becoming more common in U.S. markets. True yams are more popular in the tropical climates in which they thrive: primarily in South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. They are generally sweeter than the sweet potato and can grow over seven feet in length! The yam tuber has brown or black skin which resembles the bark of a tree and off-white, purple or red flesh, depending on the variety.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. 
— Plato

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Poem of the Week

when one is taken with another,
where does one go?
lying on my side,
with only a window pane to separate me from the trees,
can’t tell if they’re blowing, or the house is moving
maybe the trees are just bending down for a kiss
if I were a tree who would I kiss?
if I were me?
what is subtracted from the equation?
in the economy of love,
how does a sapling grow?
do we (n)ever not get what we didn’t pay for?

by Cristina Paul

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crispy-Skinned Roasted Lemon Chicken

Serves 3 to 4

Use fresh lemon juice to achieve true lemon flavor for the delicious sauce that accompanies this dish. The baking soda mixture that is rubbed on the chicken’s skin will produce a wonderful crispiness. A sharp pair of kitchen shears will make removing the backbone of the chicken easy. Use a non-stick aluminum roasting pan for best results.

2 ½ teaspoons table salt, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest, plus 1/3 cup juice from 3 lemons
1 teaspoon sugar
1 whole (3 ½ - 4 pound) chicken, butterflied (backbone removed)
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, savory, or thyme

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, baking powder and pepper in a small bowl; set aside. In another bowl, combine the remaining teaspoon of salt, lemon zest, and sugar and set aside.
2. Place the chicken breast-side down on a work surface. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone of your chicken to remove the backbone. Flip the chicken so the breasts face up and press down on the chicken breasts with your palm to somewhat flatten the chicken. Trim any excess fat.
3. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Using fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon, carefully separate the skin from thighs and breast. Rub 2 tablespoons of the lemon zest mixture under the breast, thigh, and leg meat. Now, rub the chicken skin with the baking powder mixture, coating the entire surface evenly. Using a metal skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on top of breast halves and thighs. Now place the chicken in a roasting pan. Combine the broth, lemon juice, and remaining zest mixture and pour around the chicken.
4. Roast until thigh meat registers 170 to 175 degrees, about 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for twenty minutes.
5. Meanwhile, transfer the pan juices to a saucepan, whisk in butter, and parsley, savory, or thyme; and cook over low heat. Pour the sauce around the chicken on a serving platter. Garnish with lemon wedges and herbs if desired. Carve and serve the chicken.

***Butterflying the chicken helps it cook more evenly and quickly than a traditional roasted chicken.
**Baking powder is the ingredient responsible for the crisp skin of this chicken. Like baking soda, baking powder is a leavener (containing sodium bicarbonate) but it also contains a drying agent.
*Baking powder and baking soda are often used in baked goods. Baking soda alone can create a bitter taste unless countered by the acidity of another ingredient, such as buttermilk. Baking powder contains both an acid and a base and has an overall neutral effect in terms of taste.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

I recently stayed at a bed and breakfast and realized that there is a funny etiquette that operates when you enter into this world of doilies and daisies. I loooooove B&Bin' it - and not just because I get to use the abbreviation as a verb. I have a strange addiction to the conversation at the communal breakfast table. A B&B is a whimsical mingling of people in close quarters, friendly innkeepers, and the serendipity of finding yourself amongst other curious travelers that have chosen this same slice of American pie. When I make may way to the breakfast table, I cross my fingers for a small number of guests so we can most effectively talk at each other. I don't care what type of cable-sweatered, weary traveler fate plops into the wooden chair across from me. The B&B beckons me to ¡EMBRACE! my fellow wanderers/wonderers - to tell them about the book I never wrote, my first crush, explain why I don't take sugar with my coffee but will add it to my tea, marvel at the local discoveries that I have or haven't yet made, realize that I REALLY like the fuddyduddies or freaks sitting within spitting distance. After an hour or two of relaxed rambling over fresh plates of fruit, I exchange emails with the honest intention of keeping in touch with these people who seemed to be so different. Now I feel irreversibly bound to my unlikely friends. If the vicissitudes of fate dropped me down on a plane seat next to this traveler, or my love of sending postcards miraculously brought me to the same post office, I would expect them to greet me by name and introduce me to a loved one. I really and truly believe that anyone I meet at a B&B will name their firstborn after me or at least beg their sons and daughters to do so.

Things I saw during my most recent travels:

The loveliest bird feeder ever

                A happy bush

Elephants on parade

Monday, October 20, 2008

Evolution in Indiana

I thought that species took ten thousand years
to gradually evolve new strategies
to deal with shifts in climate or environment,
but after two snow-free years in a row
the local robins all at once decided
to winter here instead of flying south.
I watched them pace my lawn in late November,
debating like small Hamlets with their instincts:
"It's way past time to migrate; why haven't I?"
Since, every fall, a few old feeble ones
decide they'd rather risk starvation here
than drop off dead of fatigue in Alabama,
at first I thought it was their kind I glimpsed
rummaging discarded Christmas trees
for grubs and squabbling with the greedy squirrels
stealing birdseed from my neighbor's feeder.
But then, one drizzly January walk,
I spotted dozens, looking sleek and healthy,
plucking worms who'd washed up on my sidewalk.
Why here, where I was forced to grub for money
all winter long, when they could fly away,
I wondered as they hopped out of my path.
Does flying hurt so much they'd rather shiver
and see the sun once every other week
than perch in palms swayed by an ocean breeze?
If I had wings, I'd use them…and on and on
I muttered as I trudged around the block
in pointless circles, just for exercise,
hands thrust into my pockets, arms tight to sides,
like some huge flightless bird, while overhead
the most successful members of my species
winged effortlessly southward in high Boeings
invisible from our side of the clouds —
we well-fed and hard-working flock of Dodos.

by Richard Cecil from Twenty First Century Blues

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Winter Squash Soup with Sauteed Apples and Beer Bread

Three recipes for the price of one, people!
Serves 4 to 6

You’ll find many types of winter squash. Try something new like delicata, or kabocha for a different texture and flavor than the traditional acorn or butternut squash. A combination of different squashes is my favorite.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, very finely chopped
Bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 1 sage leaf, 2 sprigs of thyme, 10 whole black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth)
3 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and diced
1 sprig thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
1 teaspoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. To prepare the soup, in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-low heat until foaming. Add the shallot, garlic, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the bouquet garni, squash, and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, to cook the apples, in a skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the diced apple and remaining sprig of thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple is tender and lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
4. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. In the Dutch oven, using an immersion blender, puree the soup to the consistency of your liking – chunkier if you prefer something rustic, smoother for something more refined. Alternatively, ladle the soup into a blender and puree until smooth a little at a time. Add the cream, brown sugar, salt and pepper.
5. Adjust seasoning and ladle immediately into warm bowls and garnish with the sautéed apples.

Beer Bread

Makes one 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf

Different beers produce breads with different flavors and textures. This recipe calls for stout, producing a darker crumb and more complex flavor. It goes well with a hearty stew or pot roast. Lighter ale produces a lighter loaf and would be more appropriate with milder dishes such as this soup.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the loaf pan
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh herbs (use rosemary, thyme, tarragon, marjoram, or chives)
1 (12-ounce) bottle stout, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush one 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with some of the butter.
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the beer and 2 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter, stirring just until combined. (The batter will be somewhat lumpy.)
3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, then invert onto the rack to cool until warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

***There is no fixed recipe for a bouquet garni, although most recipes do include parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf. If you don’t have cheesecloth, use a tea-brewing ball when making a bouquet garni. Just stuff the herbs and peppercorns into the ball.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

I feel like Walker Evans with heightened senses (think amplified fly buzzing, a keen awareness of miniscule sounds and movements like the hard swallows that accompany Adam's apple disturbances, clicking of pens, the feathery-butterfly sound of eyelashes touching, and quiet sipping of coffee) while observing folks during my daily commute. Here are some of Mr. Walker's photographs of his fellow commuters. Plus some of my thoughts about the types I've stumbled into, over, but (fortunately) never under while aboard the train.

There are those who shut their eyes tightly so they look like the puckered part of a citrus where the fruit meets the branch. These people usually rock back and forth subtly as if they were trying to sense the motion of the earth while aboard. In their heads, they recite angry, imaginary rosaries and open their eyes just in time to bumble off to their memorized destinations.

There are others who speak your language with "American" accents, but they don't sound like you. They talk like people who leave the TV on, even when they have no iintention of watching or being in the same room as the humming set. It's a comfort to them to busy themselves and nearby strangers with the soundtrack of the quotidian - cereal box words.

Then there are the suspicious coveters. They want whatever you got. These aren't always young, catty women spying another younger, cattier woman's newer designer purse or shoes either. Sometimes they are older foreigners with no carrot-stick incentive to take interest in other people's stuff. They're nondescript limbs attached at acute angles to empty and envious hearts that long for the gadget peeping out of someone's bag, the watch on the arm that is clutching a pole to steady a body that no one will remember.

My least favorite species of commuters are the ailers. I especially despise the sneaky ones who sit next to you or stand above you as you are seated, breathing normally without any visible accoutrements of the sickly. Then BAM like a fart in church, they hack up something mucilaginous, whip out a covert pocket-pack of tissues (or worse, a yellowed hanky) and continue to ooze their diseases through pores, orifices, and contaminated clothing which, by now, have taken on a scent (imagined or real) of the ill. They are the reason I wake up an hour earlier and wait around work reading many chapters before making my way home on a slightly less crowded train.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Everything that won't happen will happen today

Because you are not just twenty something looking at a biblical field of deer
You are also the angsty seven year old
hoping for a tooth to fall out
And you are still the unstrung post-teen
having a nightmare about permanent teeth falling out
Shepharding thoughts
curating opinions
slow down the truth
Under a guise papery as onion skins
you are still waiting for the maturity of every layered today
to catch it's breath and exhale it's bearded calm
into the wrinkles of your knuckles
to lie it's head in your lap
to rest

by Cristina Paul

It's Greek (Lasagna) To Me - In A Skillet

This dish can be made in only 30 minutes!
Serves 4

1 pound ground lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into 3-inch lengths
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Cook lamb in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, breaking it into pieces with the back of a wooden spoon, until the fat renders. This will take 3-4 minutes. Drain the lamb and reserve 1 tablespoon of the fat.
2. Cook onions and 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt in reserved fat until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Scrape up any browned bits while the onions cook. Stir in cinnamon, garlic, dill, and oregano; cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the lamb to the skillet along with 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
3. Scatter the broken pieces of pasta on top of the meat but do not stir - the lasagna can and should overlap. Pour the diced tomato over the pasta, cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring occasionally until pasta is tender, about 18 minutes.
4. Stir in cream and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the feta cheese on top, cover and let stand off of the heat for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

adapted by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

If you are interested…

Here’s a list of the 12 Most Pesticide Contaminated Foods (or another reason for me to wring my fingers)

1. Strawberries
2. Bell peppers (green and red)
3. Spinach
4. Cherries (U.S. grown)
5. Peaches
6. Cantaloupe (grown in Mexico)
7. Celery
8. Apples
9. Apricots
10. Green Beans
11. Grapes (Chilean)
12. Cucumbers

This data is from the Environmental Working Group (although I sometimes feel like a tortured testimony to the toxicity of my favorite fruits and veggies)

Sunday, October 5, 2008


The internet says science is not sure
how cats purr, probably
a vibration of the whole larynx,
unlike what we do when we talk.

Less likely, a blood vessel
moving across the chest wall.

As a child I tried to make every cat I met
purr. That was one of the early miracles,
the stroking to perfection.

Here is something I have never heard:
a feline purrs in two conditions,
when deeply content and when
mortally wounded, to calm themselves,
readying for the death-opening.

The low frequency evidently helps
to strengthen bones and heal
damaged organs.

Say poetry is a human purr,
vessel mooring in the chest,
a closed-mouthed refuge, the feel
of a glide through dying.

One winter morning on a sunny chair,
inside this only body,
a far-off inboard motorboat
sings the empty room, urrrrrrrhhhh

by Coleman Barks from Winter Sky

Go Bananas - Foster Cakes

Serves 8

14 tablespoons unsalted butter; divided, cut into 14 pieces, and softened
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
7 tablespoons dark rum, divided
table salt
3 large, ripe but firm bananas, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 cup whole milk
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease eight 8 ounce ramekins and set them on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
2. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup of the brown sugar and cook while whisking constantly, until the mixture is thoroughly combined - about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in 2 1/2 tablespoons of the rum and a pinch of salt. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the sauce into each ramekin.
3. Arrange banana slices, on top of sauce, in a concentric circle around one banana slice placed in the center of each ramekin.
4. Whisk the remaining rum, milk, eggs, and vanilla together in a medium bowl.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the remaining 1/3 cup of brown sugar, flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and zest together. On low speed, beat the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs - about 1 - 3 minutes.
6. Beat in all but 1/4 cup of the milk mixture, then increase the speed to medium and slowly beat in the remaining milk mixture until the batter looks slightly curdled - about 15 seconds.
7. Stir the batter, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to make sure the texture is consistent. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared ramekins - using an ice cream scoop makes this job easier. Tap each of the ramekins to release any air pockets in the batter. (you can wrap the ramekins now and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. If you refrigerate the batter, be sure to let the ramekins sit a room temperature for at least 30 minutes before baking.) Bake the cakes on the rimmed baking sheet, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out with few crumbs attached - about 25 - 30 minutes.
8. Run a small knife around the cakes as soon as they are removed from the oven. Carefully invert the cakes onto individual serving plates and the cakes should release on their own within 5 minutes. Remove the ramekins and enjoy with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

***Bananas Foster is a New Orleans dessert and is traditionally flambéed. These are great for a party and do not introduce the hazard of fire nor the pressure to perform a recipe before your friends.

Recipe adapted by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

I can't help but watch and then watch again so that I might adequately dissect my horror.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Windows is Shutting Down

Opal Sunset: Selected poems, 1958–2008) --
Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
The meaning what it must be meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,
But evolution do not stop for that.
A mutant languages rise from the dead
And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long
The best seat from the only game in town.
But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.

by Clive James from Opal Sunset: Selected poems, 1958–2008

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 4

2 medium acorn squash (about 1 ¼ lb each), halved and seeded
5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 15 oz can of black beans, drained
2/3 cup toasted and chopped pecans (in a pinch, substitute pistachios, pine nuts, or pepitas)
1 large tomato (about 6 oz), diced
2 scallions thinly sliced
2.5 oz feta cheese (not mild)
1 teaspoon minced chipotle pepper (from a can in adobo sauce)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Place parchment paper or foil in a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Brush cut sides and cavity of the squash with 2 teaspoons of oil. Then, season with salt and pepper. Place the cut side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until tender, but do not pierce the flesh with a fork. Turn the cut side up.
3. Meanwhile, sauté the garlic, until soft, on low heat with the remaining 3 teaspoons of oil about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the garlic occasionally so as not to let the garlic brown.
4. Now, mix the garlic and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Spoon this mixture into the cavities of the squashes, pressing down gently on the filling to mound as much into each squash as possible.
5. Bake the stuffed squashes 10 – 12 minutes in the oven (you do not want the beans to burn but some of their skins will probably split.

***Acorn squash is considered a “winter” squash even though it belongs to the same species as “summer” squashes, such as zucchini. The terms “summer” and “winter” squash are actually designations which were more important back when people actually ate what was in season. Thus, “winter” squashes earned this title if they would keep until December. Acorn squash should be stored in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place and will keep for up to one month.
**Acorn squash is usually baked but can also be sautéed, boiled, or steamed. They have a sweet, golden, and slightly fibrous flesh. The seeds can also be toasted and eaten much like pumpkin seeds.
*Although acorn squash does not contain as much beta-carotene as other “winter” squashes, they are a great source of fiber and potassium.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

He's got the whole world in his hands - or by the balls...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Wordsworth Effect

Is when you return to a place
and it's not nearly as amazing
as you once thought it was,

or when you remember how you felt
about something (or someone) but you know
you'll never feel that way again.

It's when you notice someone has turned
down the volume, and you realize
it was you; when you have the

suspicion that you've met the enemy
and you are it, or when you get
your best ideas from your sister's journal.

Is also-to be fair-the thing that enables
you to walk for miles and miles chanting to
yourself in iambic pentameter

and to travel through Europe with
only a clean shirt, a change of
underwear, a notebook and a pen.

And yes: is when you stretch out
on your couch and summon up ten thousand
daffodils, all dancing in the breeze.

by Joyce Sutphen