Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Completely Decadent Scalloped Potatoes

Oh man. I need to stop eating scalloped potatoes. But then again, it's awfully freezing in that meat locker I call home, so maybe I'll just keep eating them in the hopes of growing some extra fat to keep m'self warm.

Without further adieu, here is how I made 'em, entirely from leftover Thanksgiving day ingredients.

1. The Herb Butter - to refresh your memory, ya just take 1 stick of butter and bring it to room temperature so it's easy to blend the herbs into it. The herbs will be whatever you happened to have lying around - in this case, I used the classics: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme. Chop 'em fine and add about a couple of tablespoons of herbs to the butter. Also add about a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest, a sprinkling of kosher salt, and about a teaspoon or two of finely minced shallot. Now you're done. See? That was easy.

2. The leftover ingredients - 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic, a good 6 - 8 light handfuls of breadcrumbs, another good 6 - 8 light handfuls of parmesan and just under 1 cup of heavy cream (though you can use milk, or half & half, or even broth if you wanna cut back on the decadence).

3. The Potatoes - peel about 8 - 10 medium sized russet potatoes. I think I used something close to about 4 pounds worth. Once you've peeled them, keep them in a pot of water so they don't discolor.

Next, slice them super thin - for this, I used my trusty mandoline. You don't need to pay a lot of money for a mandoline; I got mine at Target for like $10. It's a handy contraption for the aforementioned super thin slicing.

Now, let's get back to that yummy herb butter. Take little pea-sized dollops of it and dot them all over the bottom of your casserole dish. I used the rectangular kind of casserole dish. Now add a layer of potatoes, a light sprinkling of the chopped garlic, some salt and pepper, a sprinkling of parmesan and a sprinkling of bread crumbs.

Next add another layer of potatoes and keep repeating this process till you've used up all your potatoes and all your herb butter, garlic, parmesan and bread crumbs.

Next, drizzle some heavy cream over your innocent little potato friends, thereby sending them into decadent land! The trick is to add enough to coat the potatoes liberally, but not drown them. I'd say about 1/2 to 3/4 cup is just right.

Now cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 - 40 minutes. Then take off the foil and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes so the top will get nice & golden brown.

Oh yeah, come to mama. Next time you see me, in addition to my Beer baby, I'll be carrying a scalloped potato baby. You'll either run to me, or run screaming...but you're gonna love these potatoes!

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I've been cooking and baking for a week straight - the Thanksgiving day feast was exactly that - a pretty damn sumptuous feast that was worth all the work.

One of the highlights of the meal was the salad; regular readers of this blog know I love a good salad and boy, was this one a winner, thanks in part to the herby dressing I made - recipe to follow.

See, there were a lot of leftover herbs after I seasoned the turkey and the stuffing, so first I made this yummy herb and roasted garlic vinaigrette, then I made herb butter, and then tonight I used the leftover herb butter in scalloped potatoes - perfect comfort food for a cold and rainy day.

Here's the vinaigrette recipe. The herbs I used were finely minced fresh rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley, but you can just use it if ya got it; no need to be highly particular in your herbal selection.

So it goes like this:

Take a good heaping tablespoon or two of your finely minced fresh herbs and put them into your food processor, along with the zest of one lemon, and a couple cloves of roasted garlic. You can use fresh garlic if you prefer, but I love the rich mellow flavor of slow roasted garlic (note: if you don't have a food processor, just mince everything finely and whisk it in a bowl).

Next, add a fat grind of pepper, a generous sprinkling of kosher salt, something like 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon, depending on your taste, and just a touch of olive oil. Now pulse the food processor a couple times to blend the ingrendients, and with the motor running, add 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Keep the motor running, and add two tablespoons red wine vinegar. Now give it a little taste to determine if you'd like to add a bit more vinegar. I like it tangy so I use three tablespoons, but some prefer it not so tangy. It's your salad damnit, so go to town! You'll be glad you did. And now you're done, so toss your greens and enjoy. You can also drizzle this over steamed vegetables or potatoes, or even rice. You can also drop a dallop into your soup.

So - after freezing some of the leftovers and then making turkey broth and herb butter and herby salad dressing, I still had food to use up...including russet potatoes and heavy cream, so you know what that means... ultimate scalloped potatoes! That recipe's coming in my next posting. Right now, I'm busy devouring said potatoes, and trust me... you're going to want to, too! So stay tuned for the recipe.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Music and Memory, part Two

Oh man, I should know better than to mix beer and holidays and... this damn cassette that just wrecks my heart every time I listen to it. But it is so damn good, I simply cannot help myself. I came across it tonight while cleaning and rearranging the house for the big T-day feast tomorrow, for which I've been cooking and cleaning for a good two days straight.

It's an old cassette that was passed onto me, with Yo la Tengo's "Fakebook" one one side and the Old 97's Too Far to Care on the other. There was a time in my life when I played the living shit out of this cassette. I was going through a Major Breakup, another version of Separating the Stuff and Starting Over, and living in my own little teeny tiny place in the East Bay. It was my first time living on my own in a good many years and I hardly knew where to begin or what to do with myself. And I felt raw to the core.

Sometimes it felt liberating; sometimes it felt so lonely that I thought I'd simply evaporate. It was in this little dollhouse that I wrote my first country song, and a few more after that. It was in this little shack that Loretta Lynch was born. So much loss, and so many things starting anew. There were times that I didn't know how my heart would survive. And then again, even though it did, I still have those times.

Anyway, through it all, this cassette was my soundtrack. I would crank it up and feel alternately inspired and hopeless. And isn't that just the way life is?

Forgive me for waxing nostalgic, or don't. I don't really care. It's the holidays damnit, for better or for worse. Tonight feels a little on the worse side, but I have a feeling tomorrow will swing a little bit towards the better.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Feels Like the First Time...

Pardon my recent lack of blogging. Truth be told, I haven't had much time in the kitchen lately and have been feeling a sore lack of inspiration. I did however make some tasty mashed potatoes last night, made all the more savory by the addition of roasted garlic and gorgonzola. Now there's some comfort food!

Last week my pal Denise and I went to the Prism Cafe listen to a lovely siren named Merrill Garbus. This woman has a powerful and unique voice and her delivery is a positively arresting - she really engaged the crowd. She absolutely played the shit out of her ukulele and I hear she's pretty crafty with loops too, but we missed that portion of the evening. I hope she comes back to town soon so I can catch her whole show.

After Merrill played, a gaggle of young-ish (she says with her old lady voice) boys rushed the stage to play their FIRST EVER gig, and it made Denise and Corry and I get all nostalgic. Well, it made me nostalgic anyway, thinking about that feeling of the FIRST EVER gig. I was 21 years old, standing in the corner of The Albion in SF. I was wearing a blue velvet shirt, which miraculously, I STILL have! I was terrified. My eyes were closed most of the time. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that the p.a. broke during the middle of our set, and since the show must go on, we took it upon ourselves to have a Rock Star moment, and stood up on the bar to finish the rest of the set. People loved it. I guess I must've opened my eyes at this point to keep from falling off the bar.

I recently came across a journal I kept back then (see, all that lugging shit around for years was good for something!) and I wrote something to the affect that I could now die happy, for it was the most glorious feeling to finally do something that I had always dreamed of.

Although I'm surely much more jaded than I was back then, I honestly still get that feeling nearly every time I perform live, even when it's not perfect (it never really is!), even when hardly a soul is listening. There's just something magical that happens when I make music live, and for that, I am very grateful.

Time to get busy getting those Thanksgiving fixin's together...and hey all you musicians, drop a line w/ your experiences from your first gig, won't you?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Out to Lunch

So usually, I bring my lunch to work, and once in awhile I go home for lunch. On the rare occasion that I go out for lunch, it usually involves a taco truck, or Lanesplitter pizza.

But folks at work have been raving about 900 Grayson, and today I just had to go & see what all the fuss was about. I didn't exactly go out to lunch though; I went there for take-out and then sat at my desk savoring every beautiful, perfect bite...

Today I had a special featuring chinese egg noodles, grilled chicken and stir-fried eggplant, snap peas & bell peppers, lightly dressed in some kind of Asian vinaigrette, and it was dynamite. I can hardly wait to try the salad with Lemongrass-Kaffir Lime Prawns in Chile-lime dressing. Sounds like something I'd serve in my restaurant!

Oh, and I almost forgot the perfectly dressed salad of mixed greens in a sherry vinaigrette that utterly delighted the salad snob in me!

They have this cool brown bag lunch menu, with the items actually being packaged in little Chinese-style takeout containers, complete w/ a fortune cookie and a piece of fresh fruit. Nice touch!

Next time though, I do want to dine in, because it's a cute, bright little place with friendly staff; of course the atmosphere is a good thing, but in the end it's all about the food. And the food they're cooking up at 900 Grayson, quite simply rocks!

Next time I'm going there for breakfast...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Cook it If ya Got it

Wow, what a week for food. I was so busy wallowing in depression and whatnot that I didn't get to write about food. And boy, was there a lot of food. Such as...

#1: Sunday I made my FIRST EVER pot of Beef Stew using the Joy of Cooking recipe, with grass fed organic beef, and wow - I think that might have been the ultimate comfort food. Sorry, didn't get a pic but suffice it to say, it was loved by all who tried it, a couple times over - and that includes Berge, Vince, Lucio, yours truly and Ms. Spider the dog.

#2: Can ya believe it? It's beef again! I went to a work luncheon at Cafe Rouge, and just couldn't resist enjoying one of their steaks. I'd meant to only eat half and share the other half, but it was just so perfect that gluttony got the better of me. I couldn't eat like this all the time, but it sure was a nice indulgence.

#3: The work luncheon was part of a long week full of gluttony. Our company had guests in town to attend a training session, and we like to feed our guests well. That means gourmet lunch every day, snacks in the morning, more snacks in the afternoon, and at least one wine, cheese and chocolate party. Yeah, my day job is SO hard, huh? I get to help plan these lunches and snacks, and I went a little crazy at the grocery store (Mom & Dad if you're reading this, you'll be happy, or possibly dismayed to know that I have not outgrown that habit!). And that leads me to....

#4: All the guests were getting plump and there was still food left at the end of the week! What's a food obsessed girl to do but take it all home and get just a little more mileage out of it? We had pears on the verge of over-ripeness and a whole bunch of pita bread. Naturally that leads to...

#5: Friday evening was spent in one of my favorite ways - in the kitchen, with KALX on the radio, pita chips in the oven, and pears and apples poaching in port and red wine on the stove. Oh, and there was a raging fire in the living room. This is the life for me.

#5A: I was too impatient to look for a recipe for poaching fruit, so I just did it like this: I poured a mixture of port and red wine into a pot and brought it to a mild simmer, along with a cinnamon stick, 4 cloves and a few drops of vanilla extract. All told, it was about 1 1/2 cups of wine/port, and I used 2 pears and 3 apples. After peeling and slicing the pears and apples, I added them to the pan and stirred gently, letting the fruit poach for about 10 minutes while the wine thickened up just a tad. Then I took it off the heat and am going to refrigerate it for a few days till it's time to meet w/ my Gay Husband and bake it into a pie or cobbler. Or maybe I'll just heat it and serve it over vanilla ice cream...yum!!!

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#5B: Pita chips, pita chips, pita chips! The thing I love about pita chips, is that you can season them any way you want. Last night I was feeling curry-ish, so I first sliced the pita bread into triangles, and then tossed them with a little olive oil, garam masala, cayenne and sea salt. Baked 'em in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5-7 minutes on each side, and now they're done. And boy did the house smell good!

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#6: I can't end without mentioning my hero Rick Bayless - one night this week I was actually craving frozen pizza; don't ask me why! But I bought one if his Frontera brand four cheese pizzas w/ roasted tomatoes & cilantro, and I must say that it was so damn good! Spicy and roasty and much, much better than your average frozen pizza.

Yeah, so it was a good food week! Special thanks to all the folks at my day job who help me to eat so well :)

Friday, November 10, 2006


Miss NoNo posed an interesting question last night.

We were listening to the stunning vocal stylings of Joni Davis at the Starry Plough. I highly recommend giving her a listen; her voice is deep and rich and lusty - somehow calling to mind dark chocolate and cabernet and endless days of rain. She is full of soul, and one gets the feeling upon listening to her tales of dark strangeness that hers is a very old soul.

I also got the feeling, while listening to her cover a Nick Cave song, that she could really give Nick a run for his money. Now there's two people that I'd like to hear perform a duet together!

So the two-part question Miss NoNo posed was this: If you could perform a duet with anyone, living or dead, who would it be, and what is the song?

It didn't take me long to come up with my answer - I'd sing Amazing Grace w/ Jeff Buckley. Funny, I just did a Google search to find a link to Jeff Buckley, and had no idea that there's a documentary about his life, entitled Amazing Grace! Alas, my duet w/ Jeff will have to happen in another life, for he left this one far too soon - but not before leaving behind a spectacular musical legacy, thankfully for those of us who have been blown away by his songs and his beautiful, other-worldly voice.

Ok, there's my answer - now I'd love to hear yours!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Music, Food and Memory

Music and food have been such a meaningful part of my life that sometimes I have certain memories associated w/ them which I find impossible to separate.

My Mom says that to this day, she can't stand to see the bottle of Ivory liquid sitting on the sink, because the mere sight of it still recalls for her the morning sickness she had when she was pregnant over 35 years ago.

And me, whenever I think of meatloaf, I think of the last time I ate some - and how I later that night ended up in the hospital with a fever of 104, sicker than I'd ever been in my life.

Incidentally, this had nothing to do with the meatloaf, and everything to do with the fact that I was suffering complications from a "minor" surgery which turned out to be not minor at all, and ended up changing my life and my health in ways that I never could have anticipated.

And then, there is music that still stops me dead in my tracks - I can't listen to the Guided By Voices album Isolation Drills without feeling very, very sad for someone who's memory this evokes in me, a person who is no longer in my life. I would love to be brave and compassionate enough to call this person and tell them how much space they still occupy in my heart, but my pride won't let me. Instead, sometimes I just play this album and let the sadness overtake me. And I think of how easy it is to lose your appetite when you're full of pride.

And whenever I listen to Low, I think of another person, who is still very much in my life, but with whom my relationship has changed many times over since the very first time we ever listened to Low together. At certain times in my life, I can listen to Low and think of that person and feel calm and loving, and at other times I can listen to Low and think of that person and find myself crying my guts out for all the ways I miss everything that I've shared with this person - but regardless, I can never think of Low without thinking of this person. They are woven together, inseparable.

I can never smell garlic without thinking of my family - of my parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts, but particularly, my grandmother. Fortunately, this is a very comforting feeling. Also fortunately, I cook with garlic almost every single day, so I get a lot of mileage out of this comfort.

Then there is the very distinct reaction I get from cucumber "scented" soap - the Method brand, to be exact. I can't ever smell that without thinking of someone who is no longer in my life, and with whom things ended very badly - it smells like a mixture of loss and pride and anger and sadness; all of these things fill my gut when I get just the slightest whiff of that smell, and so naturally, I do my best to avoid it at all costs.

In those times, the best remedy is mincing garlic, because garlic smells like home, and that is the best remedy for sadness.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Love me Two Times, Baby.

I just love Mujaderra. It's a super comforting food that makes perfect use of leftover rice and leftover lentils so you can fall in love with them both again. Well ok - maybe you, dear reader, are not in love with rice and lentils. I do admit that I have a tendency to gush. But hey, it's my blog and I can gush if I want to. And you just might fall in love with them if you try them this way.

I originally found the recipe for Mujaderra from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and it has made regular appearances in my kitchen ever since.

The bonus about this recipe is that it is simple, adaptable, and just plain easy. And it goes like this:

Take 1 big fat onion and cut it into nice thin little crescents. Then heat a generous couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. I prefer to do this in a cast iron skillet. Sometimes I use a mixture of olive oil and unsalted butter. Next, add the onions and fry them, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or so until they start to become golden brown. Now, turn the heat down to medium low and keep on cookin' those onions until they get nice and carmelized. Add some salt and freshly ground pepper as you go. There now - doesn't your kitchen just smell glorious?

Once the onions are soft, savory, golden and sweet, toss in those leftover lentils and rice. The proportions don't matter so much. I prefer mine heavy on the rice, but just use what you have. Stir it up so the onions mingle nicely with the rice and lentils and heat till it's just warm. Season with plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper, and you're done.

Feeling creative? Go right ahead and add some finely chopped herbs or steamed greens. My dear friend Kanteen mentioned that sometimes she adds a teeny bit of molasses. The possibilities are abundant! You can sautee the onions in clarified butter instead of olive oil. You can use green lentils or french lentils, brown rice or basmati or jasmine.

Use your imagination, or don't - you're still going to love this dish. You can eat it straight up or use it as a bed to serve under grilled fish. Or you can use it to stuff peppers or squash... you get the picture. Some things are just better the second time around!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Where the Rock Stars Eat, part Two

As promised, here are a few recommendations as to where to eat late at night when in the East side of the San Francisco bay, otherwise known as Eastbaynia. This list is pretty short but maybe some of you readers have suggestions that Soup and Song doesn't know about?

Koryo Sushi – late late hours and delicious! Now here's what I like - they're open till 1:30 Tues - Thurs, and till 2:30 on Fri/Sat (and till 11:30 on Sundays!). The food is great.

Lanesplitter Pub – 2 locations for all your pizza & beer needs. Pizza served till 1 am. They were on the Part One list, but technically, 1 am qualifies as late night, so they get to be on this list too.

Au Coquelet - this cafe is open till 1:30 Sun - Thurs, and till 2:00 on Fri/Sat. I can't find a web site for them, but they are located in Berkeley at 2000 University Avenue, near Milvia. The food is so-so in my opinion; you could certainly do worse at 1 am. They have a full menu w/ sandwiches & salads and a huge pastry selection.

Soon, I'll get back to writing about music. Soon, as in... right about now!

Last night I saw a great rootsy duo called Hollertown - lovely bluegrass harmonies led by Corry, a woman with some serious pipes and she knows how to use 'em too! I love it when a duo manages to sound so full. She and Dave trade off playing guitar, mandolin & banjo, performing a mix of really nice originals and well chosen covers. And it's not just straight up bluegrass either; there are some great gospel and country influences in there too. And, it rocks. What more could ya want?

Rock on yourselves, people. Have a wonderful weekend!