Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'll Pencil You In

For some reason, I was digging through the archives of my daily calendar. (I know the reason....I just don't want to say what it was. I might puke, it's so sickly sweet.)

Yes, I'm old fashioned. I use pen and paper. Have no use for a PDA or an Outlook calendar or anything like that. Mine is portable. I can shuffle appointments around. Just about the only thing I can't do is synch it with my neighbor's.

But anyway....I came across the strangest entry. On Wednesday, July 19, I have an hour blocked off at 11:30 a.m. For important things, I'll use heavy brackets to serve as a reminder. On this particular day, I apparently had an appointment with myself. Three words are written down -- my first name three times.

I guess I'm just that important to myself.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nice

"That's just because it feels good. Your body's rejecting it. Like a kidney. Somebody's doing something nice."

Guess he's right. It does feel good -- but strange -- to have somebody do nice things. And to say nice things. And to laugh at the stupid things I say and do. (Believe me....I need that. It helps me laugh at myself, which keeps me human.)

"Just shut up and enjoy it. You deserve it."

OK.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dinner

I made a date dinner last night. Nothing too complex, nothing all that risky. But it was good, and the guy I had over seemed to appreciate it. The best part? It’s flexible with wine. He drank a Zinfandel, while I sipped a Riesling, which meshed quite well with the slightly lemony sauce.

The menu? A breeze. Rice (cooked with stock to impart some flavor), baguette, salad in a simple vinaigrette and the chicken. Here's the recipe:

Mushroom-Lemon Chicken

8 chicken thighs, bones and skin still on
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 med onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 to 1 1/2 c dry white wine
1/2 c brandy
1/2 c heavy cream
3 c chicken stock
1 tsp fresh thyme
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
salt
pepper
oil
2 T butter
2 T corn starch

Salt and pepper the chicken thighs. In a skillet over med-high to high heat, warm about 2 T oil and the butter until very hot. Add the garlic and IMMEDIATELY put in chicken, skin side down. Sautee for about 5-10 minutes, until well browned and chicken releases from the pan. Using tongs, turn chicken over and cook about 5 minutes more, until chicken is browned. Remove pan from heat, then put thighs into a baking dish that’s been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Return pan to heat, but reduce to medium. Add onions and when they begin to soften, add mushrooms. Salt and pepper lightly, and add thyme. When mushrooms begin to brown, add white wine and most of the brandy. Turn heat to high and reduce, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan and dissolve any caramelized bits from the chicken. Dissolve corn starch into about 1/2 c stock.

When liquid is almost gone, reduce heat to medium. Add stock (the stock without the corn starch) and heavy cream. Stir occasionally and let come to a rolling simmer. Add stock with the corn starch and turn heat up slightly, then stir until sauce begins to thicken. Add lemon zest and juice.

Pour sauce over chicken. Cover and bake about an hour. Let cool slightly and serve, placing a thigh or two on rice, then spooning sauce over.

Pink Is The New Wine

There's been quite a bit of discussion over at FB this week about rose. (That's rose with an accent on the "e." Not rose as in the flower. But I'm too lazy to do accents here.)

I'm no wine expert, but my guess is that people fear the pink wine because of white zinfandel. Nasty, horrible shit. The kind of stuff that you get laughed at for drinking.

But rose? Make sure you get something not-so-sweet, and it's a refreshing glass of pink. Good stuff.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Fresh?

What's that smell? A new cologne? A cheap car freshener?

No. It's Febreze. Don't ask why I reek of it. Because I don't know the answer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Told You So

I've written previously about my opposition to cities (such as Chicago) and states (such as California) banning in one way or another the sale of foie gras. One of my reasons: A prohibitionistic attitude toward food that will lead to who knows what. Such as what Chicago could do, banning the use of trans fats.

This isn't secondhand smoke here, people. Sure, the population as a whole is paying for some of the costs of the increased unhealthiness caused by trans fats (which are horrible, horrible things for the body). But eating an empanada or a perogie or a french fry that's been boiled in oil containing trans fat doesn't impose our unhealthiness on others, as a cloud of smoke does. (Note: I'm all for banning smoking in restaurants and inside public buildings, have mixed opinions about banning it in bars and am completely against banning it in places like parks or on the street.)

What's next? No more whole milk or heavy cream? Banning hot dogs? Everybody has to start their own farm and raise their own meat because commercial farms are cruel to animals and are horrible for the environment?

Here's an idea, which I'm totally behind. Ban the use of trans fats in schools. For that matter, ban the use of high fructose corn syrup in school meals, too, as well as meat or dairy raised with hormones and most of the crap chemical additives that are included in processed food.

With the huge amounts of money (we're talking about hundreds of millions or billions of dollars) coming from the school systems across the country, the healthier food industry will get the financial boost it needs to really thrive. At the same time, we'll be cutting off some funding to one of the travesties of modern-day eating, the corn and fructose industry, which has its sticky fingers in nearly everything we consume.

THAT, my friends, will lead to a slimmer, more fit, more ready-to-take-on-the-world America. Not this feel-good, knee-jerk PC baloney that we're seeing lately.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Travelin' Through

It happens every time. I get ready to skip town, and all I can think about is the next vacation after.

This time, it's even worse. There are already two more trips after next weekend's, and one more set for holiday time in December. So I'm thinking forward to the spring.

I'm actually totally committed to seeing the Seattle friends. (And they're going to beat me up if I don't go in 2007. Because I told them I would head their way in 2006 and didn't. Because I'm a lame-ass.)

But I'm also thinking of a week or so in the SF Bay area. Spend a night in San Francisco, then head north to Sonoma (or even farther) for a few days. Rounded out with a weekend back in the city. Sounds delightful, no? A mix of nice, quiet alone time with some clubbing and drinking and hanging out at wineries.

I've got a while to decide. And months to dream about it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

Probably one of the most true things I've read in a long time:
...baked together into edible proof that the only thing better than plain mayonnaise is mayonnaise bubbling with cheese.


Mmmmm......add a little sour cream with a cream cheese topping, and you could call it heaven.

At every dinner party I throw, I have a set of three dips as something for people to munch on as I wrap up the cooking, served with bagel chips. I always buy them, and I try to mix them up a bit. Spinach-bacon dip is a favorite of mine, as is the roasted red pepper dip I served this weekend.

But these from the LA Times will have to be tried sometime.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Consumed

Advertising works, apparently.

Wasn't going to go shopping, but I needed to get some cologne. (Will run out in a couple weeks, so I guess I didn't really NEED to....)

So I was reading Vanity Fair (it was the Green Issue) and came across a smelly ad for the new Guess fragrance. And I fell in love. In fact, it kinda turned me on. Like, a lot.

So I dragged myself to the local hoity-toity mall and picked up a bottle of the stuff. (Smelled just as good. I could barely keep my hands off myself.)

While I was there, I came across a new store, one at which I could probably spend hours and hundreds of dollars: the Calvin Klein Underwear store. (They need to update their Web site, by the way -- their Dallas store isn't listed.)

I need to stop going to the mall. Otherwise, I'll end up broke.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ready To Roll

Everything's sitting at home, waiting in the fridge (or cabinet) for me to start whipping together.

First up will be the panna cotta. Gelatin is amazingly cheap, by the way. We'll just have to see how cooperative it is. (The garnish will NOT have white chocolate. I forgot to put it on the shopping list, and I'm not going back out to buy a stupid block of coagulated cocoa butter just for a garnish. But it'll still include high-quality bittersweet chocolate curls. Because I have that in the cupboard already.)

As the panna cotta is cotta-ing, I'll pull together the detailed schedule for Saturday. I'll probably be doing the soup tonight, since it's chilled and an overnight sit could help flavors meld. Which, of course, is code for "I want less work to do tomorrow."

Also up tonight is the filling for the ravioli, also to "let flavors meld," if you know what I mean. It also gives me a chance to spend some time fooling around with the filling. Will start with the ricotta (yes, it's fresh ricotta -- made just a few days ago, but not by me) and herb it up. Dried basil and organo, plus white pepper. (No, white pepper isn't made of coagulated pepper solids.) Taste. Add fried pancetta crumbles. Taste. Add salt, if needed. Taste. Put in the fridge.

So....that's dessert and soup done. Next to be done will be the actual pasta. Will need to make 2 1/2 batches -- one for the ravioli and the rest for the fettuccine. As the fetticcine are drying (this is necessary to keep them from sticking together as they cook -- I've learned from experience) will do the ravioli. Then they get to rest/dry out a bit.

And at that point, three of four dishes are done. It should be about 4 p.m. at this point. Next up is the pesto, which should take about 60 minutes, putting us at 5 p.m. -- more than two hours away from guest arrival. Prep soup bowls, though I may do this tonight. Prep ravioli stuff -- the walnuts, pancetta and the aged pecorino romano.

Turn on the dishwasher so it'll be done and empty by the time guests arrive. Time to set the table, prep the pre-dinner munchies, open bottles of red wine to breathe. Then clean the toilet and do spot cleaning around the house -- just make sure everything is spotless.

At this point, it'll be 6 p.m. -- 60 to 90 minutes away from guest arrival. Jump in the shower, get dressed. 6:30 p.m. -- 30 to 60 minutes away. Take a deep breath. Sautee shrimp and set aside. Get ravioli water hot but not boiling.

There's more to do, though. But it'll get done. And this is why I make detailed task lists!