Thursday, August 14, 2008

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life's ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.

by Dan Albergotti from The Boatloads

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fennel, Orange, and Olive Chicken

Serves 4 - they'll beg for more

1 1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), patted dry with paper towels
1 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 dry white wine
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium bulb fennel , sliced thin (see below) - about 2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup chicken stock or low-salt canned broth
the zest of one orange
1 orange peeled and cut (see below)
1/3 cup pitted black olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of the chicken breasts or thighs. Heat oil until shimmering in a skillet, at least 10 inches across bottom, over medium-high heat, swirling pan to distribute oil.
2. Place chicken thighs or breasts skin in skillet; cook, without moving chicken, until well browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Flip chicken and brown second side, 3 to 5 minutes longer; transfer chicken to plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
3. Add wine butter, fennel, and garlic to pan and reduce heat to medium, scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spatula to loosen browned bits. Cook until the fennel is softened about 4 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and cook for 1 minute more.
4. Now, place chicken breasts or thighs back in skillet. Cover the skillet with a lid or tightly cover with aluminum foil and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for about 8 - 11 minutes or until cooked through. When the chicken pieces are done, add zest, oranges, and olives to the pan sauce. Adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Transfer chicken pieces to serving plates and spoon sauce over meat and sprinkle with parsley leaves. Serve immediately.

How To Intimidate People Just By Cutting An Orange:

1. Cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of the orange and stand on end. Slice away rind and white pith.

2. Cut in half from end to end, remove stringy pith, cut each half into three wedges, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

How To Prepare a Fennel for Cooking

1. Trim and reserve stems and fronds from fennel.

2. Trim a very thin slice from base and remove any tough or blemished outer layers from bulb. 3. Cut bulb in half through base. Use small, sharp knife to remove pyramid-shaped core.

4. Cut cored fennel, crosswise, to yield 3 or 4 slices.

5. Cut these slices, lengthwise, to yield long strips about 1/2-inch thick, (or thinner if desired).
(Illustrations are from Cook's Illustrated Magazine)

N.B. This:
*****Fennel has many medicinal properties. Many people make tea out of the seeds, noting its carminative properties - it helps us with gas expulsion. Beano's got some competition. Also, a phytonutrient compound in fennel called anethole has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer in animals.
****In medieval times, fennel together with St. John's Wort and other herbs, was used as a preventative of witchcraft and other evil influences. People hung the plants over doors on Midsummer's Eve to ward off evil spirits.
***All parts of the fennel plant are edible - seeds, roots, stalks, and leaves.
**Fennel is best between autumn and early spring
*Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander (cilantro).

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

The fiery passion of Petrarch's poems is no match for my love of the topsider. Boston has ruined me and reignited my irrational love of the boat shoe. I do not own a boat nor do I belong to a yacht club, BUT I would find a way to embezzle the cash, to buy the boat, to join the club, and purchase the swank champagne flutes - which would be the proper sipping equipment - so that I might legitimately sport the shoe. Fortunately, you needn't bother with all the accroutrements of boat culture. If you simply need the shoes - or would like to while away the day browsing through a superabundance that would make Captain Ahab click his heels and forsake the whale, then visit:

A Brief History of Topsiders:
They were invented in 1935 by boating enthusiast Paul Sperry. Sperry wanted to design a shoe that could handle the slippery situations on the deck of a boat without leaving unsightly scuff marks. He created a white (look ma, no marks), grooved sole that mimicked the cracked textured of a canine's foot. Eventually, the Navy caught the Sperry bug and began manufacturing the shoes. Soon after, topsiders became available nationwide and the brand is now owned by the Stride Rite Corporation.

Why I Love Them:
*they can be both ironic and sweet
*they are available in a veritable rainbow of hues
*their earnest slogan: "get wet"
*some have laces, some don't - options are essential to the modern consumer
*they are sturdy but neat
*they take time to break in - so you feel like you've earned the right to wear them
*they now come in patent leather
*if the shoe had a nose, it would point up - it's okay to wear them in fancy places
*nevertheless, they say - "Approach me!" (they never forget to announce themselves without an exclamation point)
*with their sporty utility and squeaky assertiveness, they subscribe to the optimism of life boats and silver bullets