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.