Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In My Next Life

I will own a sailboat sleek
as fingers of wind
and ply the green islands
of the gulf of Maine.
In my next life I will pilot a plane,
and enjoy the light artillery
of the air as I fly to our island
and set down with aplomb
on its grass runway.
I'll be a whiz at math, master five or six
of the world's languages, write poems
strong as Frost and Milosz.
In my next life I won't wonder why
I lie awake from four till daybreak.
I'll be amiable, mostly, but large
and formidable.

I'll insist you be present
in my next life—and the one after that.

by Mark Perlberg from Waiting for the Alchemist

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Lonely Shoe Lying on the Road

One sad shoe that someone has probably flung
out of a car or truck. Why only one?

This happens on an average one year
in four. But always throughout my
life, my travels, I see it like
a memorandum. Something I have
forgotten to remember,

that there are always
mysteries in life. That shoes
do not always go in pairs, any more
than we do. That one fits;
the other, not. That children can
thoughtlessly and in a merry fashion
chuck out someone's shoe, split up
someone's life.

But usually that shoe that I
see is a man's, old, worn, the sole
parted from the upper.
Then why did the owner keep the other,
keep it to himself? Was he
afraid (as I so often am with
inanimate objects) to hurt it's feelings?
That one shoe in the road invokes
my awe and my sad pity.

by Muriel Spark, from All The Poems of Muriel Spark

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fresh Fig and Thyme Cake

I like to use a mix of the more common Black Mission and green Kadota figs. It is best to use regular olive oil rather than extra virgin olive oil in the cake.
Serves 8

1 pound fresh figs (quarter larger figs and halve smaller figs)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FIG TOPPING: Butter bottom and sides of 10-inch spring form nonstick pan; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients for fig topping in a bowl. Gently toss and transfer about a quarter of the figs, cut side down, to prepared pan. Figs will not cover entire pan! Refrigerate remaining figs while preparing cake.

3. FOR THE CAKE: Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. In electric mixer, mix granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and olive oil together on medium speed until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. On low speed, whisk in butter, sour cream, thyme and vanilla until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk on low speed until just combined. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly over figs. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 44 minutes.
4. Cool pan on wire rack 20 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Release the sides of the pan. Place serving plate over cake pan. Holding dish tightly, invert cake pan and serving dish together; carefully lift off top of spring form cake pan. If any fruit sticks to pan bottom, remove and position it on top of cake. Let cake cool 20 minutes (or longer to cool completely), cut into pieces, top with the remaining figs and serve.

**And you thought figs were fruits… although they look like fruits and are quite tasty they’re actually the flowers of the tree. Like pineapples, they are inflorescences (arrangements of multiple flowers), false fruits or multiple fruits, in which the flowers and seeds grow together to form a single mass.
*Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber. Plus, if you’re just not that keen on prunes, figs have a laxative effect.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Monday, August 10, 2009

I Admit

I've been eating the cookies behind your back
I couldn't cry at the funeral
I am not, and won't ever be, a vegetarian (although I'm conscious of overfishing)
I wear white after Labor Day (frequently)
I don't actually like you; I just enjoy the attention
I want more than my fair share
I've lied about books I haven't read, people I've never met and nodded about films I'll never see
I think buffets are barbaric
I probably wouldn't forgive me

by Cristina Paul, inspired by William Carlos Williams' This Is Just To Say

Thai Beef Over Coconut Brown Rice

Serves 4

1 cup brown jasmine rice
1 can (13.5 ounces) thin or light coconut milk (see first note below)
1/2 cup chicken broth
generous 1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 long peppers or red jalapeños, seeded and julienned
1 pound ground beef sirloin
1/4 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup loosely packed and torn fresh basil leaves (preferably purple or opal basil)
1/4 cup loosely packed and torn fresh mint leaves
optional lime wedges, for serving

1. In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, broth and water. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, keep covered and cook until rice is creamy and liquid has absorbed, about 30 minutes.
2. When rice is nearly done, combine fish sauce, tamari, lime juice and sugar in a small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add scallions, garlic and chiles; cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add beef. Cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until completely browned, about 4 minutes. Add tamari mixture and cook for 30 more seconds. Add basil, mint and carrot and stir to combine. Serve over coconut rice with lime wedges, if desired.

*Coconut milk is the sweet, milky white cooking base derived from the meat of a mature coconut. Two types of coconut milk exist: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is prepared by squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. Then, the squeezed meat is soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. Generally, thick milk is used to make desserts and rich sauces. Often, thin milk is used for soups. This distinction isn’t usually made in Western nations since fresh coconut milk is seldom produced, and most consumers buy coconut milk in cans. Manufacturers of canned coconut milk typically combine the thin and thick squeezes with the addition of water as a filler.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Poem of The Week

When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything in the universe

˜ John Muir

syllogisms are toe - shoes of the mind
finger snaps are the coming storm
nametags are like unicycles
at a party, I'm the missing sock
a toe circling in sand is like a raised eyebrow
a fig is like a pregnant woman
my heart is a hammer
the crook of your arm - a silk scarf
After it all, your eyes were stones
dogs on roller skates are like toddlers on tippy toes
Even when things are different, they're still alike

by Cristina Paul

Monday, August 3, 2009

Preserved Lemons

when life gives you lemons... preserve them!

LEMONS - lots of them
1/4 cup coarse salt

Scrub two large lemons under cold running water and pat them dry. Cut lemons into eight wedges (or you may slice them into thick circles) and toss with coarse salt. Place salted lemons in a sterilized glass jar with a lid. Pour enough fresh lemon juice into the jar to cover the lemons (you will require many lemons for this part), and seal it tightly. Let lemons stand at room temperature for 7-10 days, shaking and turning the jar over once a day to redistribute the contents. Rinse the salted lemons and use them immediately, or cover them with oil and store them in the refrigerator for several weeks. Slice and serve them in salads or add them to fish and meat dishes. They are also a great surprise in a cocktail!

*Preserved lemons are popular in certain parts of the Mediterranean and they're also a very easy and handsome gift.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

After a summer of warm travel destinations...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

first is first

Today, I saw a baby hummingbird
A stranger marvels, “No”
that’s a hummingbird moth
(… ! …)
Oh to be wrong, and the delirium of discovery increases

by Cristina Paul

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pickled Nectarines

If you like spicier pickles, use a 2 inch piece of ginger root instead of just 1 inch. 12 apricots can also be substituted in this recipe.

6 medium fresh nectarines
1 1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 - inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and cut in strips
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 small sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced

1. Quarter and pit nectarines; set aside.

2. For pickling mixture, combine water, vinegar, sugars, cinnamon, gingerroot, salt and red pepper in a Dutch oven. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugars. Reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.

3. Add nectarines and onion to pickling mixture; return to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 3 minutes or just until tender, gently stirring once or twice. Discard cinnamon stick. With slotted spoon, divide nectarines and onion evenly among two clean 1-quart jars. Pour pickling mixture into jars; cool. Cover and refrigerate at least 24 hours or up to 3 weeks. Serve nectarines with a slotted spoon and drizzle with a little of the juices. These pickles taste great as an accompaniment to cheese, on top of a burger, and alongside grilled meats.

***Before filling the jars, wash them in hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Pour boiling water in and over the jars and let them stand in the hot water until ready to fill. The pickled nectarines are stored in canning jars, but are not processed as canned. Therefore, keep refrigerated and eat within 3 weeks.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

According to Vonnegut, "traveling is dancing for the soul". But long distance flights can also be a preview to menopause - the plane flying through Little Thailands of the skies one hour and coasting through toe-chilling Siberias in the clouds the next. The extreme temperatures aboard a plane aren't so bad if turbulence can be avoided. I recently experienced the extreme-sports version of turbulence which wrapped a rickety blanket of fear around me made of long and thin human hand bones.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn't hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who've wronged me—for bitterness—
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don't even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toylike mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.

by Cecilia Woloch from Carpathia

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Asian Supper Salad

Serves 4


For Dressing/Marinade:
1 tiny Thai chile or 1 fresh Serrano chile (seed chilies to reduce their heat, if desired)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup water

For Noodles and Meat or Tofu:
1 ounce dried mushrooms (preferably shiitakes)
1/2 pound thin soba noodles
1/2 pound cooked chicken, lean pork, or lean beef, cut into thin strips, or extra firm or baked tofu cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 quarts water

For Salad:
1/2 small sweet onion (Vidalia, Maui, Walla-Walla, etc., sliced thinly)
1/2 head napa cabbage, outer leaves removed, washed, dried and sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1/2 cup roasted and salted, chopped cashews


1. Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Boil enough water to cover the mushrooms. Let mushrooms sit in water for at least 10 minutes. Then drain, squeeze out excess liquid from mushrooms, and set aside. Meanwhile, place onions in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let stand for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside. Mix dressing ingredients in a medium bowl.

2. Add the meat or tofu and mushrooms to the bowl of dressing.

3. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a Dutch oven and add salt to the water. Add noodles and cook according to directions on package until tender, but not mushy. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water, let drain completely and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, herbs and onion. Divide this mixture between 4 large soup bowls or dinner plates. Pile noodles atop each mound of cabbage. Top each serving with the marinated meat or tofu, being careful not to pour too much dressing onto each serving. Leave the extra dressing on the table and invite friends to spoon extra the dressing over their salads, if desired. Top it all off with chopped cashews.

**This dressing is also excellent over thinly sliced, barely ripe peaches, pluots or nectarines.
*Napa cabbage is a type of Chinese cabbage. In Korean cuisine, it's used in making the most common type of kimchi.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

You'll need 2 parts curiosity and 1 part time for this little do it yourself project. Vanilla's flavor is soluble in water or alcohol. So all you'll require is 1 vanilla bean (make sure that it doesn't look old or dry like Keith Richards face) and 3/4 cup of bourbon or vodka. Heat the alcohol and pour it into a clean 1-cup container that can be sealed. Now split your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the warm alcohol. Toss in the vanilla bean. Once the alcohol has cooled, seal the container and store it at room temperature for at least a week. Gently shake (like a Polaroid picture, if you wish) everyday for that week. Now you may strain the extract and it will keep indefinitely!
Bonus: This extract tastes better than the store-bought stuff and it costs less as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Radicchio-lously Tasty Cauliflower Slaw

This is a bitter and slightly sweet alternative to the same old slaw

Serves 6

6 cloves garlic, with tips cut off (the side that is pointy)
1/2 cup virgin olive oil, divided
I head (about 2 pounds) cauliflower
table salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces green beans, trimmed
1 small head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
4 anchovy fillets
2 teaspoons zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (1 ounce), plus more shaved for serving

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, place large rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.

2. Cut one 12-inch sheet of foil and spread flat on counter. Place garlic cloves, in center of foil. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon oil over the garlic and seal packet. Place packet on oven rack and roast until garlic is very tender, about 40 minutes. Open packet and set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, trim outer leaves of cauliflower and cut stem flush with bottom. Cut head from pole to pole into 8 equal wedges. Place cauliflower in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and sugar.

4. Remove baking sheet from oven. Carefully transfer cauliflower to baking sheet and spread into even layer, placing cut sides down. Return baking sheet to oven and roast until cauliflower is well browned and tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer cauliflower to cutting board. When cool enough to handle, chop into rough ½-inch pieces.

5. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add beans and return to a boil, and cook until they start to turn bright green, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to ice-water bath. Let cool. Thinly slice beans on the bias. Transfer to large bowl, and add radicchio.

6. In a blender or food processor, process anchovies, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, mustard, and roasted garlic until smooth. With machine running, pour remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, blending until emulsified. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

7. Pour dressing over vegetables. Stir in grated cheese. Again, season liberally with salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Garnish with shaved Pecorino or Parmesan.

** Radicchio is a bitter and slightly spicy leaf vegetable, sometimes called Italian chicory. Different varieties are named after the Italian regions where they originate: the most readily available variety in the United States is radicchio di Chioggia, which is maroon, round, and about the size of a softball. Just like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese-makers of Parma, Italy, have attempted to protect the name "Parmesan" to signify only cheeses made in their region, so too have the radicchio farmers of the Veneto sought to protect the names of some radicchio varieties.
* Chicory is known for its toxicity to parasites (many bitter plants have a similar toxicity). Studies show that ingestion of chicory by farm animals results in reduction of worms, which has prompted its use as a forage supplement.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Excerpt From a Sonnet

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay from Fatal Interview

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I Ate In Cartagena

Arepas... lots of them.

I also ate Sancocho de Costilla

(a meat soup accompanied by rice that has yucca and other vegetables)

I disarmed many fishies

Here's a before and after of one of my attacks:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Advice to Young Poets

Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head

by Martín Espada from The Republic of Poetry

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tortilla Española For Two

Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as an appetizer.

Spanish tortillas are often served warm or at room temperature with olives, pickles, and a garlicky mayonnaise (recipe follows) as an appetizer at tapas bars or at a picnic. Sometimes they are even cut and placed in crusty sandwich bread. They may also be served with a salad as a light entrée.

3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (2 medium), quartered lengthwise, and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1/2 small onion, halved and sliced thin
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 large eggs
Spanish aioli (optional)

1. Toss 2 tablespoons oil, potatoes, onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl until potato slices are thoroughly separated and coated in oil. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium-low, add potato mixture to skillet, and set bowl aside without washing. Cover and cook, stirring with rubber spatula every 5 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooking, add minced garlic and continue stirring every 5 minutes until potatoes offer no resistance when poked with tip of paring knife, 22 to 26 minutes total (some potato slices may break into smaller pieces).
2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in reserved bowl until just combined. Using rubber spatula, fold hot potato mixture into eggs until combined, making sure to scrape all potato mixture out of skillet. Return skillet to medium-high heat, add remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil, and heat until just beginning to smoke. Add egg-potato mixture and cook, shaking pan and folding mixture constantly for about 20 seconds. Smooth top of mixture with rubber spatula. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook, gently shaking pan every 30 seconds until bottom is golden brown and top is lightly set, about 2 minutes.
3. Using rubber spatula, loosen tortilla from pan, shaking back and forth until tortilla slides around freely. Slide tortilla onto large plate. Invert tortilla onto second large plate and slide it browned-side up back into skillet. Tuck edges of tortilla into skillet with rubber spatula. Return pan to medium heat and continue to cook, gently shaking pan every 30 seconds, until second side is golden brown, about 2 more minutes. Slide tortilla onto cutting board or serving plate and allow to cool at least 15 minutes. Cut tortilla into cubes or wedges and serve with Spanish Aioli, if desired.

Spanish Aioli
This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups - far too much for a small tortilla but you will want to refrigerate the aioli and use it for sandwiches.

2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika

Process yolks, mustard, lemon juice, and garlic in food processor until combined, about 10 seconds. With machine running, slowly drizzle in vegetable oil, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and whisk in water. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil, about 30 seconds. Whisk in salt and pepper. Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 4 days.

*Tortilla Española means "small torte" but it has nothing else in common with the Latin American staple known as a tortilla.

Adapted by Cristina Paul

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink...

The average amount of water us Yankees use in a day is more than any other country in the world. People in the States use 151 gallons per person per day whereas the French survive on 71 and Brits use a mere 37!

The good news is that you needn't stop washing and brushing to save a few gallons each day.

Some water saving tips:
1. DON'T hand wash your dishes! If you have a dishwasher, let it do the work - even if it's not an Energy Star it will still use less water. Only run it when it is full and don't go overboard and pre-wash dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
2. Keep your shower time down to 5 minutes. If you must bathe, use the bath water to water your plants.
3. You can halve your kitchen's flow in a few painless (for the wallet and for the old cranium) minutes. Buy a faucet aerator for less than $10. Just slip the metal collar over your faucet head and voilá - air meet water, water meet air. The mesh introduces air into your water stream to maintain a consistent pressure while reducing the volum of water that you use. Chances are that if you look inside your faucet's nozzle and it tells you the gallons per minute - you already have one. But if you don't they can reduce your use by up to 50%!.
4. Drink tea! Instead of your regular cup of coffee in the morning, have a cup of tea. Most coffee makers require far more water to use and clean up than your average kettle. Moreover, less water is used in the process of growing and harvesting tea leaves than coffee beans.
5. If you live in a rainy place, invest in a rain-barrel. They're about $100 bucks and they can retain up to 35 gallons of water. They are collapsible and can be stored easily in the off-season. Hey, rain is free water!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

Susan Heller

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Effort

Would anyone care to join me
in flicking a few pebbles in the direction
of teachers who are fond of asking the question:
"What is the poet trying to say?"

as if Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson
had struggled but ultimately failed in their efforts—
inarticulate wretches that they were,
biting their pens and staring out the window for a clue.

Yes, it seems that Whitman, Amy Lowell
and the rest could only try and fail
but we in Mrs. Parker's third-period English class
here at Springfield High will succeed

with the help of these study questions
in saying what the poor poet could not,
and we will get all this done before
that orgy of egg salad and tuna fish known as lunch.

Tonight, however, I am the one trying
to say what it is this absence means,
the two of us sleeping and waking under different roofs.
The image of this vase of cut flowers,

not from our garden, is no help.
And the same goes for the single plate,
the solitary lamp, and the weather that presses its face
against these new windows--the drizzle and the
morning frost.

So I will leave it up to Mrs. Parker,
who is tapping a piece of chalk against the blackboard,
and her students—a few with their hands up,
others slouching with their caps on backwards—

to figure out what it is I am trying to say
about this place where I find myself
and to do it before the noon bell rings
and that whirlwind of meatloaf is unleashed.

by Billy Collins from Ballistics

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ginger Baked Salmon

Serves 4

The marinade for this salmon is great used as a dressing for other recipes or poured over any kind of grain.

1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil or toasted sesame oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, grated with a microplane
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1 1/2 pound fillet of salmon, skin-on and cut into 4 equal pieces

1. Combine all ingredients except salmon in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. You will have a little over 3/4 cup of marinade. Set salmon, skin side down, in a rimmed dish and pour marinade over fish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You may marinate the fish in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees and set a rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack.
3. When the oven comes up to temperature, remove the baking sheet and turn the oven down to 275 degrees. Place the salmon, skin side down, on the baking sheet. Pour the marinade over the salmon. Bake for 9 - 13 minutes. The salmon will have a tender interior with nice crispy exterior. Serve and pour liquid over fish.

**Nearly all salmon are anadromous; this is just a fancyway of saying that they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, then return to fresh water to have salmon babies. Salmon are believed to return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn and studies have corroborated this belief. We still aren't sure exactly how these creatures do it though.
* I had to add this little tidbit of information since it's summer: salmon, and other fish that are high in antioxidants and omega 3 oils, can reduce chances of skin damage and inflammation resulting from sunburn and potentially reduce the risk of skin cancers! Kind of cool. You shouldn't abandon the sunscreen but having a fillet of salmon after a day in the sun will seem doubly delightful and salubrious.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


If on a summer afternoon a man should find himself
in love with only one woman
in a sea of women, all the others mere half-naked
swimmers and floaters, and if that one woman
therefore is clad in radiance
while the mere others are burdened by their bikinis,
then what does he do with a world
suddenly so small, the once unbiased sun
shining solely on her? And if that afternoon
turns dark, fat clouds like critics dampening
the already wet sea, does the man run—
he normally would—for cover, or does he dive
deeper in, get so wet he is beyond wetness
in all underworld utterly hers? And when
he comes up for air, as he must,
when he dries off and dresses up, as he must,
how will the pedestrian streets feel?
What will the street lamps illuminate? How exactly
will he hold her so that everyone can see
she doesn't belong to him, and he won't let go?

By Stephen Dunn from Local Visitations

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer Roast with Mint

If you aren't afraid to turn on the oven in the summer... this recipe serves 4


2 small summer squash (about 12 ounces)
4 medium carrots (about 8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups chopped fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb)
1 medium onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly chopped mint

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Quarter squash lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Cut carrots into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Combine squash, carrots, fennel, onion, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread mixture evenly in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Roast for 10 minutes and stir vegetables. Roast the vegetables for 6 – 10 more minutes until the vegetables are tender and the fennel begins to brown. Stir in the mint and serve.

**Summer squash are harvested when they are immature, so their rind is still tender and edible. Summer squashes are actually fruits (they’ve got seeds!) of the species Cucurbita pepo, but they are considered vegetables in terms of culinary use. They are dubbed “summer squash" due to their short storage life.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

During a recent potluck/screening with friends, I was just informed of the origins of this word and event. The potlatch is a ceremony that has been practiced among Native people of the Pacific Northwest. Families would host guests in order to re-distribute and/or destroy wealth. Often, the host would give away his/her most cherished possessions, as would the guests. Sometimes the offerings would be burned and other times the offering would be accepted by guests. Potlatching was practiced more in the winter seasons because the warmer months were typically a better time for accruing wealth. Hierarchical relations within and between clans, villages, and nations, were observed and reinforced through the distribution or destruction of wealth and dance performances involved in a potlach. The purpose of a potlatch was not to get the most but to give the most resources.

I've a lways been a bit of a control freak and greatly feared the non-sensical food combinations that are the inevitable result of a potluck. The historical context of the potlatch, however, has given me a smiling perspective of this ritual and a gratitude for it's abiding existence - even if it means eating off of paper with plastic (YIKES!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What I Believe

I believe there is no justice,
but that cottongrass and bunchberry
grow on the mountain.

I believe that a scorpion's sting
will kill a man,
but that his wife will remarry.

I believe that, the older we get,
the weaker the body,
but the stronger the soul.

I believe that if you roll over at night
in an empty bed,
the air consoles you.

I believe that no one is spared
the darkness,
and no one gets all of it.

I believe we all drown eventually
in a sea of our making,
but that the land belongs to someone else.

I believe in destiny.
And I believe in free will.

I believe that, when all
the clocks break,
time goes on without them.

And I believe that whatever
pulls us under,
will do so gently.

so as not to disturb anyone,
so as not to interfere
with what we believe in.

by Michael Blumenthal from Days We Would Rather Know

Friday, June 12, 2009

Amazing Balsamic Caesar Dressing (ABC Dressing)

Yields about 1/2 cup but can easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 anchovy fillets
1 minced garlic clove

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the dressing has a homogeneous consistency. This dressing is very nice with chopped romaine and home-made croutons.

**Original and traditional balsamic vinegars are made from a reduction of cooked grape juice. They aren't vinegars in the usual sense, but they have been made in Modena and Reggio Emilia since the Middle Ages. Balsamic vinegar of Modena is actually an inexpensive modern imitation of the traditional product. We use this kind for salad dresings and, together with olive oil, to dip bread in.

*There are three types of Balsamic vinegar:

1. Authentic traditional artisan balsamic vinegar, also known as Balsamico Tradizionale

2. Commercial grade Balsamic vinegars which are mass-produced

3. Condimento grade products, which are usually a mix of the two above

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

If you are in the Southern California area and have NOT been to Lotusland... GO! I love being a tourist in my own city or state. I recently made reservations (yes, you absolutely need reservations) to visit this beautiful botanical garden in Montecito. The two hour walking tour was lovely. Not only did I learn about Ganna Walska - the eccentric woman who married six times and owned the property - but I also managed to learn some interesting facts about different plant species, the five elements of a Japanese garden, how to tell the difference between male and female flora... I thoroughly enjoyed and think that most anyone would be interested in the magic and many stories that lie within the walls of Lotusland. So take a camera and toy with a topiary, frolic with a Fishtail Palm (which, by the way, is a misnomer - they are actually Cycads), giggle at a bonzai Ginkgo Biloba (but beware of the female Ginkgo trees - they smell like BMs when they are producing fruit), prance amongst some Ponytail Palms (these guys are actually Agaves!) and enjoy the ostentation of imported tiles, reflection pools and paths paved with semi-precious stones.

Fishtail Palms

An impish statue in the theater garden

Madame Walska's beautiful shells that
surround the pool in which she skinny dipped

Friday, June 5, 2009


When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother's piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I've never understood
Why this is so

Bur there's an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

by Anne Porter from Living Things: Collected Poems

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Coriander Carrot Cake

Makes one 13 by 9-inch cake or 24 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound medium carrots (6 to 7 carrots), peeled
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil or canola oil

2 vanilla beans
8 ounces cream cheese , softened but still cool
5 tablespoons unsalted butter softened, but still cool
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position if making a cake or to the two middle positions if baking cupcakes. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13 by 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray if making a cake; line bottom of pan with parchment and spray parchment. If making cupcakes, line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
2. Whisk together flour, coriander, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, Chinese five spice, salt, pepper, and cloves in large bowl; set aside.
3. In food processor fitted with large shredding disk, shred carrots (should yield about 3 cups); transfer carrots to bowl and set aside. Wipe out food processor workbowl and fit with metal blade. Process granulated and brown sugars and eggs until frothy and thoroughly combined, about 20 seconds. With machine running, add oil through feed tube in steady stream. Process until mixture is light in color and well emulsified, about 20 seconds longer. Scrape mixture into medium bowl. Stir in carrots and dry ingredients until incorporated and no streaks of flour remain. Pour into prepared pan and bake until toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. If making cupcakes, fill each cup to about 3/4 full and bake for 32 to 36 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cool cake or cupcakes to room temperature in pan or pans on wire rack, about 2 hours for cake or 1 hour for cupcakes.
4. For the frosting: Halve and scrape seeds from 2 vanilla beans. When cake is cool, process cream cheese, butter, sour cream, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, and coriander in clean food processor workbowl until combined, about 5 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add confectioners' sugar and process until smooth, about 10 seconds.
5.Run paring knife around edge of cake to loosen from pan. Invert cake onto wire rack, peel off parchment, then invert again onto serving platter. Using icing spatula, spread frosting evenly over surface of cake. Cut into squares and serve. For cupcakes, simply frost each cupcake. Leftovers may be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

** Coriander is known as cilantro in the Americas. It is native to southwestern Asia and west to North Africa
*Coriander has been used to relieve anxiety and insomnia in Iranian folk medicine. Experiments in mice support its use for the preventions of anxiety. I’m just wondering how anxiety is measured in mice???? Coriander seeds are also used in traditional Indian medicine as a diuretic by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid. I’m sure you’re already running towards the kettle now in hopes of testing out the diuretic properties of coriander for yourself.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

As I grow to understand life less and less, I learn to love it more and more

- Jules Renard

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Time + Distance

The tea you pour is black and strong.
It doesn't taste like tea to me;
I must have been away too long.

It isn't jasmine, spice, oolong;
It tastes like an apology—
This tea you pour, so black and strong.

Where's that old fork with the bent prong?
What happened to the hemlock tree?
Have I really been gone that long?

I think I hear the saddest song;
It has no words, no tune, no key.
The tea you pour is black and strong.

You're careful to say nothing wrong,
You seem too eager to agree...
Yes, I've been travelling far and long,

And now it's clear, I don't belong.
I watch you sash your robe, as we
sit, sipping tea that's black and strong.
I went away too far, too long.

by Leslie Monsour from The Alarming Beauty of the Sky

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gingered Cucumber Salad

Serves 2
Any variety of cucumber will work in this recipe, but seedless varieties are preferable.

1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil or toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 garlic clove minced
2 -3 large Persian or Kirby cucumbers, sliced thinly (about 3 cups)

1. Mix all ingredients, except for cucumbers, together in a medium bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. Add cucumbers and toss. Refrigerate for at least a half an hour. You may marinate for up to one day and toss several times. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with shiso leaf or sliced scallions if desired and serve.

**Cucumbers are creeping vines in the gourd family that root in the ground and grow up trellises or other supporting frames. The plants have large leaves that shade the fruit. Cucumbers grown to be eaten fresh are called slicers and those intended for pickling are called picklers. Both types are similar. Cucumbers are mainly eaten in the unripe green form because the ripe yellow form becomes too bitter and sour.

*Cucumbers are classified as fruits because they have an enclosed seed and develop from flowers. A few varieties of cucumber are parthenocarpic, which means the blossoms create seedless fruit without pollination. Pollination for these varieties degrades the quality. In the US, these are usually grown in greenhouses, where bees are excluded. In Europe, they are grown outdoors in some places, and bees are excluded from these areas. Most cucumber varieties, however, are seeded and require pollination.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Nature is MAGIC!!!

This week, a ladybug flew into my Louis Vuitton purse. Either this ladybug has really good taste or I have really good luck - I think the fact that it flew specifically into the purse is a good omen.

Also, if you ever are lucky enough to be sitting under a jacaranda tree there are many fun things you can do. I use to use the seed pods as hopscotch markers in grade school. Now, I've graduated onto bigger and better things. Here is a friend holding an assortment of "jacaranda stems". Kind of like threading flowers together to make a daisy chain, but more beautiful. All you need is a sturdy thread and some freshly fallen jacaranda flowers - thread away!

Here is another friend posing as a butterfly perch - or perhaps the butterfly is posing as a piece of lint.

If you STILL don't believe that nature is magic, check out the Fibonacci sequences in a pine cone, slice open a steamed beet and stare at it, buy yourself some peonies, or pick your own fruit.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Anniversary: One Fine Day

Who would sit through a plot as preposterous as ours,
married after years apart? Chance meetings may work
early in stories, but at operas, darling, in Texas?
A bachelor pilot, I fled Laredo for the weekend,
stopping at the opera from boredom, music I least expected.
Of all the zoos and honky-tonks south of Dallas,
who would believe I would find you there on the stairs,

Madame Butterfly about to start? When you moved
four years before, I lost all hope of dying happy,
dogfighting my way through pilot training, reckless,
in terror only when I saw the man beside you.
I had pictured him rich and splendid in my mind
a thousand times, thinking you married with babies
somewhere in Tahiti, Spain, the south of France.

When I saw the lucky devil I hated—only your date,
but I didn't know—he stopped gloating, watching you wave,
turned old and bitter like the crone in Shangri La.
Destiny happens only in plays and cheap movies—
but here, here on my desk is your photo, decades later,
and I hear sounds from another room of our house,
and when I rise amazed and follow, you are there.

by Walt McDonald from Blessings the Body Gave

Polenta Bread

Makes 8 to 10 servings. This bread can be prepared and wrapped in plastic. It tastes great when served the next day.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups medium or coarse ground cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesan
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups half-and-half or light cream, at room temperature
2 large eggs, lightly beaten at room temperature
1 8-oz. jar oil-packed dried tomatoes, drained, snipped and halved
4 ounces chopped pancetta, crisp-cooked and drained
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon minced, fresh rosemary

1. First, caramelize the onions. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and vinegar over medium heat in a large skillet. Place onions in skillet and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes until the onions soften and caramelize. Let cool.
2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375. In medium bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, cheese, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Place in oven for 5 minutes. Remove skillet or pan from oven; carefully swirl oil in pan to coat bottom and sides of pan.
3. For batter, in large bowl combine half-and-half, eggs, and remaining oil. Stir tomatoes, pancetta, garlic, and rosemary into egg mixture until combined. Add cornmeal mixture all at once to egg mixture. Stir just until moistened. Pour batter into hot skillet. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 10 minutes then cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature with a caponata, tapenade, infused olive oil or softened butter.

**Polenta is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal. It can be ground coarsely or finely depending on the region and the texture desired. Polenta was originally, and still is, a peasant food. It comes from earlier forms of grain mush (known as puls or pulmentum in Latin or more commonly as gruel or porridge) eaten since Roman times. Early forms of polenta were made with starches such as the grain farro and chestnut flour.

*Polenta is traditionally labor-intensive and takes a long time to cook, sometimes taking an hour or longer and requiring constant stirring. This has led to a profusion of shortcuts. These include alternative cooking techniques that are meant to speed up the process. There are also new products such as instant polenta, popular in Italy, that allow for fast, easy preparation at home (although the results are usually lackluster). When boiled, polenta has a smooth creamy texture due to the gelatinization of starch in the grain.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Friday, May 22, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

If you ever happen to be in Rosemead, California - scratch that - NO ONE ever just happens to be in Rosemead, unless they happen to be unfortunate enough to actually reside there. Anyhow, if you are ever willing to make the trek to Rosemead, you should check out The Bahooka Family Restaurant. It's a tiki resturant where you will have the good fortune to drink a flaming drink out of a salad bowl and stare at the likes of Rufus (or maybe Rufina - the jury is still out) the largest 32 year old fish I've ever seen in Rosemead. You won't mind the terrible fried food after having had a few cocktails with names like the Head Shrinker and Zombie. These liquid libations are mostly combinations of Coke, ultra-pasteurized and from concentrate fruit juices and cheap booze. Plus, the thousands of aquariums that surround you will really make your head spin. I highly recommend a visit before you die.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

by Mary Oliver from American Primitive

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

MoRockin' Chicken

This dish serves 4 and pairs nicely with Israeli couscous, rice or quinoa

For sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup thinly sliced apricots
1/4 cup golden raisins
4 cloves garlic, minced or pushed through a garlic mincer
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon each of: garam masala, ground ginger, turmeric and coarse salt
dash of cayenne pepper and ground cinnamon

For rub:
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon each of: garam masala, ground ginger and turmeric
dash of cayenne pepper and ground cinnamon
1 ¾ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs that have been cleaned of excess fat

1. Mix all ingredients for sauce in a large liquid measuring cup and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the rub. Sprinkle rub evenly over chicken things and massage evenly into the meat.
3. Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the ingredients for the sauce then place thighs so they fit snugly along the base of the skillet. Cover skillet and let cook for 14 minutes. Uncover skillet and turn chicken thighs over. Re-cover and let cook for another 12 – 14 minutes until juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife. Season to taste and serve chicken with a spoonful of sauce and stewed fruit. Enjoy!

**Ever wonder what garam masala means? Well, “garam” means hot in Urdu and “masala” means paste. This mix of ground spices varies from region to region but commonly features: black and white peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, long pepper, black cumin, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, star anise and coriander seeds.

*Garam masala can be found in two forms: the whole spices purchased separately, or a commercially ground mixture made from the spices. Commercially ground garam masala is often added at the end of cooking a dish so that the pungent aroma isn’t lost. Whole garam masala, however, is added with fat for a more piquant flavor. Many professional chefs turn their noses at commercially ground garam masala and insist on making their own from whole spices and herbs.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

My new FAVORITE THING: A succulent wreath!

Puts the pedestrian Christmas wreath to shame

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lies My Mother Told Me

If you keep eating raw spaghetti
you'll get pinworms,
then I'll have to make
a necklace of garlic for you to wear
each night while you sleep,
until they go away.
If you're mean to your younger brother, I'll know
because I have a special eye
that spies on you when I'm not home.
You cannot hide from it,
so don't try.
If you touch your "down there"
any time other than when using the toilet,
your hand will turn green and fall off.
If you keep crossing your eyes
they will stay that way
until the wind
changes direction.
It is bad luck to kill a moth. Moths are
the souls of our ancestors and it just
might be Papa paying a visit.
If you kiss a boy on the mouth
your lips will stick together
and he'll use the opportunity
to suck out your brains.
If you ever lie to me
God will know
and rat you out.
And sometimes
God exaggerates.
Trust me —
you don't want that
to happen.

by Elizabeth Thomas from from the Front of the Classroom

Friday, May 8, 2009

Minty Beet and Mango Salad

BEET the heat with this lovely side dish that serves 4


2 1/2 cups chopped cooked beets (about 4-8 depending on size) *see
directions below
4 cups chopped mangoes (3/4” pieces), about 6 champagne mangoes
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne

1. For the beets, remove greens and reserve for another use, leaving a 1-inch beet top. Wash beets thoroughly. Place beets in steamer basket set in large saucepan with 1 inch of water. Bring to boil; steam over high heat until beets can easily be pierced with thin knife, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on beet size. Reserve steaming liquid in a large liquid measuring cup. Cool beets slightly, and remove skins. You may want to use dish washing gloves while removing skins to avoid staining your hands. Chop into 3/4" pieces.
2. Mix the beets and the rest of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Refrigerate for at least twenty minutes Adjust seasoning to taste and serve.

*** Mint leaves are often used by campers to repel mosquitoes. Mint oil is also used as an environmentally-friendly insecticide because of its ability to kill common pests like wasps, hornets, ants and cockroaches. Mints are supposed to make good companion plants, repelling pest insects and attracting beneficial ones.
**Mint comes from the Latin word mentha, which is rooted in the Greek word minthe. In Greek mythology, Minthe, was a nymph who was transformed into a mint plant.
*Fresh mint leaves should be used immediately or stored up to a couple of days in plastic bags within a refrigerator.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

I want these people to be my friends. Check out more photos at:




Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sleeping Next to the Man on the Plane

I'm not well. Neither is he.
Periodically he pulls out a handkerchief
and blows his nose. I worry
about germs, but appreciate how he shares
the armrest —especially
considering his size —too large
to lay the tray over his lap.
His seatbelt barely buckles. At least
he doesn't have to ask for an extender
for which I imagine him grateful. Our upper arms
press against each other, like apricots growing
from the same node. My arm is warm
where his touches it. I close my eyes.
In the chilly, oxygen-poor air, I am glad
to be close to his breathing mass.
We want our own species. We want
to lie down next to our own kind.
Even here in this metal encumbrance, hurtling
improbably 30,000 feet above the earth,
with all this civilization —down
to the chicken-or-lasagna in their
environmentally-incorrect packets,
even as the woman behind me is swiping
her credit card on the phone embedded
in my headrest and the folks in first
are watching their individual movies
on personal screens, I lean
into this stranger, seeking primitive comfort—
heat, touch, breath—as we slip
into the ancient vulnerability of sleep.

by Ellen Bass from Mules of Love

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Key Lime Pie with a Gingersnap Crust

Serves eight

Use instant pudding that requires no stovetop cooking for this recipe. Regular supermarket (Persian) limes taste best in this recipe; bottled lime juice makes for a lackluster pie. This easy homemade crust can easily be made with gluten-free ginger snaps as well! Use a deep-dish pie plate because there’s a whole lot of crust and it’s the kind that people will fight over.

2 cups ginger snap crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons lime zest
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup fresh lime juice from 10 – 14 limes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse ginger snaps in food processor until finely ground; measure to make 2 cups. Add sugar, and salt and process for 10 seconds. Add melted butter in steady stream while pulsing until crumbs resemble damp sand. Using bottom of dry measuring cup, press crumbs firmly into bottom and sides of 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Bake until fragrant and browned around edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool completely.
2. For the filling: Process sugar and zest in food processor until sugar turns bright green, about 30 seconds. Add cream cheese and process until combined, about 30 seconds. Add condensed milk and pudding mix and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Stir gelatin and 2 tablespoons lime juice in small bowl. Heat in microwave for 15 seconds; stir until dissolved. With machine running, pour gelatin mixture, remaining lime juice, and vanilla through feed tube and mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.
3. Pour filling into cooled crust, cover with plastic, and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. To serve, let pie sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing.

**Gingersnaps are often referred to as ginger nuts in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
*Key lime pie is usually made with key limes, which are more tart and aromatic than the common Persian limes available year round in most grocery stores. Key lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is a pale yellow. The filling in key lime pie is often yellow due to the egg yolks featured in many recipes. Canned sweetened condensed milk was initially used in key lime pie recipes because fresh milk was not common in the Florida Keys before modern refrigerated distribution methods.

Recipe adapted by Cristina Paul

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

A Word on Table Etiquette


(I KNOW I had to take Etiquette lessons as a child)

Although I am not a wasp and did not grow up in the penthouse of a fancy hotel, I do know a thing or two about table manners. I recently attended a wedding at which an entire table was chewing gum - like a herd of bored, masticating cows. I was in shock - SHOCK - I say. Then I took note of how they were eating and leaving their table.

So, I thought I would write a few notes on some common dining foibles. Some ill-informed diners may push their plate away when they have finished eating.  Please leave your plate where it is in the place setting.  Actually, you should attempt to keep the same place setting throughout the dinner, so that all items remain in the same location that the host/hostess intended.  The common way to show that you have finished your meal is to lay your fork and knife diagonally across your plate.  Place your knife and fork side by side, with the sharp side of the knife blade facing inward and the fork, tines down, to the left of the knife.  The knife and fork should be placed so as to resemble 10:20 PM on a clock face.  Be sure to arrange them in such a way that they do not slide off the plate when being removed.  This could be catastrophic for your white pants!!! Once you have used a piece of silverware, never place it back on the table or leave a used spoon in a cup; place it on the saucer.  Any unused silverware is simply left on the table.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Doesn't Matter What It Looks Like

"When you have blown your nose,
you should not open your handkerchief
and inspect it, as though pearls or rubies
had dropped out of your skull."
The Book of Manners (1958)

After you have blown your nose,
Father said, it's not polite to look inside
your handkerchief to see what it looks like.
You're not a doctor. What's more important
is getting the handkerchief back into your pocket
without staining your pants. There are some things
it's better not to look at. It should be left
to your imagination, but if you have
a strong desire to look you can always
find pictures of it in a medical book.

by Hal Sirowitz from Father Said

Cream Soda Cupcakes

Makes 18 people smile with no sharing involved

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup cream soda (not diet), room temperature
3/4 cup toffee pieces, divided
1 recipe Brown Butter Frosting


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; set aside.
2. In large bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium to high 30 seconds. Add sugars; beat until well combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on low until combined. Beat in molasses, vanilla, and scrape in vanilla bean “seeds”.
3. Alternately add flour mixture, buttermilk, and cream soda to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of the toffee. Let batter rest for at least 10 minutes while you line eighteen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper baking cups.
4. Fill cups 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in pans on racks 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Frost and garnish with remaining toffee.
5. Brown Butter Frosting: For brown butter, in saucepan heat 1/4 cup butter over medium-low heat until lightly browned, about 8 minutes; cool. In bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1/4 cup softened butter with mixer on medium 30 seconds. Add cooled brown butter; beat until combined. Add 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, the “seeds” of 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise, and dash salt. Beat in 1 tablespoon buttermilk. Use immediately. If frosting begins dry or harden, stir in a small amount of boiling water. Makes 1 1/4 cups frosting.

*Cream soda varies from country to country, but usually has a vanilla flavoring. Its name originated, at least in the United Kingdom, from "ice cream soda" because it was traditionally served with a dollop of ice cream floating on top. The first patent for cream soda was granted in Canada in 1886. The recipe had whipped egg whites, sugar, lime juice, lemons, citric acid, and bicarbonate of soda. Today, Canadian cream soda is often pink and has a unique taste similar to grenadine. Clear versions of cream soda can also be found in Canada. In the U.S. market, cream soda is often clear or colored light brown and vanilla-flavored, but pink, red, and blue are also available. In some places in the U.S., where the drink is made on location, cream soda consists of soda water, vanilla syrup, and cream or half and half.

Adapted by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Armpits are so sexy - so who gave them that awful name?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Banking Rules

I was standing in line at the bank and
the fellow in front of me was humming. The
line was long and slow, and after a while
the humming began to irritate me. I said to
the fellow, "Excuse me, would you mind not
humming." And he said, "Was I humming?
I'm sorry, I didn't realize it." And he went
right on humming. I said, "Sir, you're
humming again." "Me, humming?" he said.
"I don't think so." And then he went on
humming. I was about to blow my lid. Instead,
I went to find the manager. I said, "See
that man over there in the blue suit?" "Yes,"
he said, "what about him?" "He won't stop
humming," I said, "I've asked him politely
several times, but he won't stop." "There's
no crime in humming," he said. I went back
and took my place in line. I listened, but
there was nothing coming out of him. I said,
"Are you okay, pal?" He looked mildly peeved,
and gave me no reply. I felt myself shrinking.
The manager of the bank walked briskly up
to me and said, "Sir, are you aware of the
fact that you're shrinking?" I said I was.
And he said, "I'm afraid we don't allow that
kind of behavior in this bank. I have to ask
you to leave." The air was whistling out
of me, I was almost gone.

by James Tate from Return to the City of White Donkeys

Ginger-Mango Salsa

This was inspired by a salsa I had at my dear friend's recent wedding. The salsa pairs well with chips, pork, chicken, or firm white fish.

2 large, ripe champagne mangoes (the smaller more lima bean shaped ones), peeled, flesh cut from pit into 1/4 inch dice (1 3/4 to 2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 – 3 tablespoons lime juice , from 1 to 2 limes
2 teaspoons minced ginger (from about a 1 inch piece of peeled ginger)
kosher salt salt
cayenne pepper
In medium bowl, toss together mango, onion, 2 tablespoons lime juice, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne; let stand at room temperature to blend flavors, 15 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning with additional lime juice, salt, and cayenne. Serve.

***The word salsa is derived from the Latin salsa ("salty"), from sal ("salt"). Saline and salad are also related words. Mexican salsas have traditionally been produced using the mortar and pestle-like molcajete, although blenders are now more commonly used.
** Most salsas sold in the U.S are forms of salsa cruda or pico de gallo, but to increase their shelf life, have been cooked and have vinegar added.
* The dollar amount of salsa sales in the U.S. has overtaken those of ketchup. This may be attributed to the fact that fresh salsas (ones that must be refrigerated) spoil faster than other condiments, and may be purchased more often than condiments with longer shelf lives.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

Today is Tax Day. The federal income tax has been in effect since Congress ratified the 16th Amendment in 1913. Basically, all that means is that each year, when April comes around like a big brown paper bag full of doody, I just want to stab myself in the eye with a dull pencil until my tax return arrives. I wish I could order up a glass of toxic assets like so much milk and just laugh until they squirted out my nose and my mutual funds recovered from the havoc that the economy has wreaked upon all of us. This whole situation is really a laugh. I liken it to a bunch of kids playing Dungeons and Dragons - except instead of sci-fi fantasy nerds, they are numbers dorks and con artists and they're making big bucks doing number wizardry. But instead of laughing at these money hungry wizards - we all bought into it. All I really need to know about money is what I learned in grade school - don't trust people who have fun playing make-believe games or at least don't eat lunch in the same area and don't join in.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

by Billy Collins from The Apple That Astonished Paris

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Red Quinoa With Oro Blanco and Avocado

Serves 4

Heating the quinoa in the saucepan imparts a nutty flavor to this pseudocereal (technically it is not a grass). This dish makes for delicious leftovers or it can be made ahead; you should add the avocado the day the quinoa is served.

2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup halved and then thinly sliced leeks (about a half of a small leek)
4 cups red Swiss chard chopped, with red stems chopped and set aside (about 4 leaves)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup red quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 oro blanco grapefruit, peeled, with individual wedges cut in half
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 medium avocado chopped into 3/4 inch pieces

1. Heat oil in a 12 inch skillet on medium. Add leeks and red chard stems. Cook and stir occasionally until softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.
2. Add chopped chard leaves and kosher salt to skillet and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring once so that leaves wilt evenly. Uncover and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, add red quinoa to a medium saucepan and heat on high for 30 seconds. Add liquid and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until most liquid is absorbed. Taste quinoa to test for doneness. The grains should be translucent, red and the germs should have opened.
4. Toss in the grapefruit, feta and raisins. Salt the avocado and gently toss the avocado in last. Serve warm or at room temperature.
**Red quinoa is a complete protein just like plain old white quinoa. Protein is made up of amino acids, 12 of which are produced by the human body. Another 9, called essential amino acids, must be obtained from food. A complete protein contains all of the essential amino acids.
*Compared with white quinoa, the red variety has a subtle, earthy flavor, but it’s just as easy to digest. Once cooked, it has a light brownish color.

Recipe by Cristina Paul

Monday, April 6, 2009

Blah-Blah-Blahg: Food For Nought

I feel like Uncle Joey from Full House, 'cause all I have to say is: "WOH!"

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Meditation on Ruin

It's not the lost lover that brings us to ruin, or the barroom brawl,
or the con game gone bad, or the beating
Taken in the alleyway. But the lost car keys,
The broken shoelace,
The overcharge at the gas pump
Which we broach without comment — these are the things that
eat away at life, these constant vibrations
In the web of the unremarkable.

The death of a father — the death of the mother —
The sudden loss shocks the living flesh alive! But the broken
pair of glasses,
The tear in the trousers,
These begin an ache behind the eyes.
And it's this ache to which we will ourselves
Oblivious. We are oblivious. Then, one morning—there's a
crack in the water glass —we wake to find ourselves undone.

by Jay Hopler from Green Squall

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cauliflower With Ginger and Chickpeas

Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side

The cauliflower can be steamed a day ahead and reheated before serving. The onion sauce can also be made ahead. Spoon this same sauce over grilled or sautéed fish or rice as well.

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, thin sliced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced (about 1 3/4 teaspoons)
1 chile de arbol, chopped (with seeds for greater heat)
1/3 cup raisins
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
4 threads of saffron
1/4 cup vinegar (rice, cider or wine)
2 tablespoons sun–dried tomato paste or regular tomato paste
1/2 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth
1 large cauliflower, cut into large florets
optional * 1/2 cup salted cashews broken into large pieces

1. Film the bottom of a 12-inch skillet with oil. Heat over medium-high to high. Add the onions and season liberally with salt and pepper. Sauté over high heat, stirring often, until onions begin to color, about 10 – 12 minutes
2. Stir in the garlic, ginger, chili, coriander, raisins, chickpeas, turmeric, and saffron. Stir over medium-high 2 minutes then add the vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all vinegar has evaporated, about 3 minutes.
3. Push the sauté to the sides of the pan so the center is empty and add the tomato paste. Sauté about 30 seconds, add the broth, then stir until the paste and water are combined. Now stir everything together, cooking another 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and set the sauté aside. (You may refrigerate the sauce overnight at this point).
4. Set a collapsible steamer in a 6-quart pot, add several inches of water, cover the pot and bring to a boil. Place the cauliflower in the steamer and sprinkle with salt. Steam until the cauliflower shows a little resistance when pierced with a knife. With long tongs remove the cauliflower to a large shallow bowl.
5. Heat the onion sauté and spoon it over the cauliflower, using any liquid in the pan. Scatter with cashews, if desired. Serve.

**Turmeric is part of the ginger family. The rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens. Afterwards, they are ground into a deep orangish powder commonly used as a spice in curries and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, for dyeing, and to color mustard condiments. It has an earthy, bitter, peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.
In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian Saffron, since it is often substitute far more expensive saffron.

*Leftover fresh ginger root can be stored in the freezer. Wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and seal in a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze for up to a month. When it is frozen, ginger is very easy to grate.

Recipe by Cristina Paul