Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bands that Make you Gay

So apparently there are bands that can make you gay! I read it on the inter-web so it MUST be true! I wonder if my music could "turn someone gay"??

I DO live with a lesbian after all...so if my music brings out your inner homosexual, I'll just blame that on her.

Anyway... if you listen to me and find that I've made you gay, you can just notify the folks at this web site and they'll add me to their list...and what fine company I'll be in - with the likes of Ravi Shankar! And the Doors! And Frank Sinatra for heaven's sake!

Now when I sing the line from the Rolling Stones song Dead Flowers... "...I'll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon and another GIRL to take my pain away..." it can be sung with new meaning, eh?

In fact,maybe my own damn music has already turned me gay and I just haven't figured it out yet. Go ahead; turn me in...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Me and Deborah Madison

Well the good news is that my cooking mojo came back, thank goodness! Don't know if it was the two weeks of eating out, or the car breaking down, or like um, the planets, man... but who cares! Yesterday I had an unexpected day off, so I loaded up at the grocery store and proceeded to spend a good part of the afternoon chopping, slicing, dicing and stirring, making the sink overflow with dishes and the kitchen smell intoxicatingly good.

Our tour guide for Saturday was Deborah Madison. I had decided it was time to use the barley and dried shitake mushrooms I had in my cupboard, so I used her recipe for a mushroom and barley pilaf (substituting the shitakes for the porcinis that the recipe called for). I don't know if it was supposed to, but it turned out very much like risotto. This is the second time I've cooked with dried mushrooms recently, and they lend such a depth of flavor - very rich and earthy. I've said it before and I'm saying it again; just go get her cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone - it's a great reference guide and full of interesting and flavorful recipes!

Next, we moved on to a recipe from her book which I started yesterday and will finish today - it's a butternut squash soup with coconut milk, lemongrass and galangal. It calls for making a veggie stock from scratch which includes sauteeing the veggies first in clarified butter along with cardamom pods, cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks and cloves - and oh my god, not only did this scent make me practically swoon - it was a lovely sight to behold in my Le Creuset pot!

And lastly... we moved on to do our best to kick some aoili ass. Regular readers of this blog are well aware that I have a track record of being an aoili ruiner. Finally, I was gonnna get it right, following Deborah Madison's instructions.

But first I had to ruin one more batch.

And then Miss NoNo pointed out that using a food processer isn't the best way... so then I started over and I whisked and I whisked and I whisked till my skinny little Olive Oil arms couldn't take it anymore, and then I whisked some more, and it seemed to go on endlessly like this but sooner or later (much later!), my bowl was full of creamy, velvety homemade mayo scented with roasted garlic and lemon juice, and I emerged triumphant, exhausted and too tired to eat much of anything, but happy and satisfied nonetheless.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sam Phillips makes the Rollercoaster shift Upward

Tonight, after a surprisingly good day despite some bad financial news, I don't give a shit about ANYTHING except Sam Phillips singing "I Need Love".

Such exquisite harmonies, catchy pop melodies, gorgeous vocals....all I can say is FUCK, who gives a shit about my car breaking down or mac & cheese? How could I possibly get too bent out of shape about anything when I am listening to this lovely little treasure?

Here are the lyrics - I'm not sure if it's the sentiment of the song, or her hypnotic voice, but tonight, it doesn't really matter. The only thing that matters is that I know that everything is going to be alright. And that feels rather triumphant.

I Need Love - by Sam Phillips

i left my conscience like a crying child
locked the door behind me put the pain on file
broken like a window i see my blindness now

i need love
not some sentimental prison
i need god
not the political church
i need fire
to melt the frozen sea inside me
i need love

driving into town tired and depressed
like a flare the streetlight bursts into an s.o.s.
peace comes to my rescue i don't know what it means
i need love

Double uh oh

Well, I guess I better get my ass back in the kitchen, inspiration or no inspiration, hell or highwater. Cause today I got the lovely news that I have a blown head gasket on the car I bought less than two years ago for $1500 - and then spent another $3000 repairing in the good faith that it would last me a good long time. Now we're looking at another $2000 - all this for a car that doesn't even have power locks! It's a 1987 Subaru for god's sake!

Dude, I'm ready for some royalties. Some passive income. Some money raining down on my head. Some incredibly generous benefactors. Hidden treasures in my back yard. A little filthy richness not achieved through pushing papers or slaving away over a hot stove (oh my god, did I just say that?).

I mean, I'll happily eat mac & cheese out of laziness and a sore lack of inspiration. But I don't want to eat it due to my grocery budget being eaten up by my mechanic. And anyone who knows me knows I'm not the best with budgets to begin with.

Just the other day, I told someone that I still had a little stash of things just waiting to be smashed with a hammer, and that I didn't want to smash them indescriminately and for no good reason; I wanted to wait until I had just the perfect opportunity to unleash some true anger - I guess this is a good a time as any.

Or maybe I'll wait till I get the bill for my car.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Uh oh...

I'm experiencing a bit of paranoia (or shall we say...a bit more than usual?). It's been about a good two weeks of feeling wholeheartedly uninspired in the kitchen.

Two weeks of eating out, or when I do find myself eating in, it's something like cheese and crackers or processed mac & cheese! Two weeks of thinking "...surely I'll get inspired and go to the grocery store soon...".

And the clock ticks. The days pass. The hard earned dollars get spent. The kitchen continues to feel lonesome.

Granted, I've eaten some great meals out lately - sushi at Koryo and a most perfect chile relleno at El (or is it La?) Zamarono in East Oakland, just to name a few.

But horror of horrors, could it be true? Could it be true that now that I find myself being paid to cook for other people, that it's sucking up all my culinary creativity?

Or am I just being paranoid while finding myself in a bit of a rut?

I suppose the answer will reveal itself before I go through too many more boxes of mac & cheese. At least, I hope it does...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pasta w/ Broccoli

So I've been working on my Italian cooking skills. My Italian heritage be damned, one of the best Italian recipes I've had the pleasure of enjoying recently came from a friend of mine who is half Indian, half Norwegian. Remember that posting I did awhile back when I was whining about wanting someone to come cook for me, solve all my problems and strut around looking fine? Well, at least I got two out of three. I didn't dare tell this friend that to cook Italian food for me is almost guaranteed to turn me into putty. No, we'll keep that as our little secret, eh?

Anyway, here's the recipe. It's perfectly simple and utterly delicious, and it goes like this:

Put a big pot of water on to boil, and add a sprinkling of salt. Take one head of broccoli and cut the crowns into nice little bite size pieces. Rinse and set aside. Take 2 or 3 (or however much you like) cloves of garlic and cut into thin slices. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, along with a couple of dried red peppers. Or you can use crushed red pepper, which is what I used when I made it. Cook the garlic & peppers gently till the house smells divine and the garlic is cooked but not browned. Now turn off the heat.

Once the pasta water is boiling, add about half a pound of pasta. Corkscrews or penne work nicely. Cook the pasta till it's about 4 minutes away from being done, and then toss the broccoli in to cook with the pasta. If you like your broccoli super soft (that's for you, Mom!), then add it sooner. If you want it more crisp-tender, then wait another minute to add it. Once the pasta & broccoli are done, drain them, but leave a little bit of water clinging to the pasta. Just a smattering.

Now throw it back into the pan and pour the olive oil & garlic/pepper mixture over it. Add salt, fresh ground pepper, and freshly grated parmesan. Drink wine, and proceed to eat 3 helpings in one sitting. And if you're lucky, sit back and relax while your friend does the dishes.

Problems? Who's got problems??

I Don't know Why you say Goodbye

Shit. My pal Camille is moving away. The Bay area's loss is gonna be Austin's gain and though I totally support her, I just can't quite let her leave.

But since I have no choice, I am already planning my visit to both play music and do a little mini-internship with the Soup Peddler. The Soup Peddler doesn't know this yet, but he will.

I am already fantasizing about all the ways I'll eat queso and barbeque.

I am already picturing myself wearing a breezy sundress with a perfect pink vintage apron and an acoustic guitar strapped to my back, offering up and tasting some Texas drenched musical and culinary creations.

I'm pretty excited to go to the land where they pass out beer as if it were cold iced tea.

I tell myself all of these things so that I won't feel so stung by the knowledge that Camille, my confidant, dear friend and musical collaborator is leaving us for more humid, arid and... Texan pastures.

I think I feel Camille's next album full of country songs coming on. We gotta focus on the good stuff, right? So there - that's me trying. Not a bad effort, I think.

That's all for tonight, friends. Happy trails to Camille.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Quiche Fairies

Isn't life great the way we learn so much every single day and with every single mistake?

Luckily for me, I've made a lot of mistakes lately. Not big mistakes, but more like the kind of mistakes that creep up on you when you're not paying attention.

The clients that Miss NoNo and I did personal chef work for a couple weeks ago were just crazy enough to hire us back again! I don't know why I found myself a teeny bit surprised when they said they loved all the food, but somehow, I was.

So there we were, back for a repeat performance and a whole new menu. This one included quiche. But see, there's this important little detail. I never made quiche before! And for the life of me, I couldn't find a recipe that didn't include cheese, which my client can't eat.

So I did what I do a lot. I improvised. Little bit o' this, little bit 'o that. A homemade crust, some sauteed spinach and mushrooms with fresh dill, a handful of breadcrumbs, and some egg & milk. I was praying to the quiche fairies to make it all be ok while trying not to sweat bloody balls in my terror that it might just all be a massive flop.

The craziest thing happened. They took one bite and said "This is the best quiche we've ever had!", to which I mentally responded "Holy shit! How the hell am I ever going to repeat that if they want it again???". But of course, I just smiled graciously and told them how pleased I was that they liked it.

Thankfully, the quiche fairies didn't let me down. And you didn't even know there was such a thing as quiche fairies, now did you???

But now of course, I was going to have to go on a quest to remember exactly how the hell I had made it so that some day, it'll be like I'm this fancy quiche pro who can make divine quiche in her sleep. Or so my clients will think.

So I started tonight, and above is a picture of the end result. I'm still tweaking the recipe so I'm not going to post it just yet. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, writing this with a full belly and a half full glass of wine. No complaints here, my friends... no complaints at all.

Thank you quiche fairies!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

When Life give you Lemons

So... I've been on a quest to try to improve my skills at cooking Italian food. It's a little embarassing to admit that my father's family is from Northern Italy, and my mother's family is from Sicily, and I'll be damned if cooking Italian somehow just doesn't seem to come naturally to me. I fear I will be struck down if I even utter the words out loud! But there, now I have.

You see, I can make salsa that'd impress you and maybe even your Mom, or a mean Thai curry that'll leave you dying for more. My friend Adam says he dreams of my chicken tacos in tomatillo sauce. But damnit! My Italian food attempts are SO hit or miss! It's like playing the slot machines for god's sake.

So this evening, I thought I'd try a new recipe for "Savory Lemon Pasta" that I found on Italian Food Forever. The basic idea is this: combine fresh garlic and parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice, and toasted pine nuts. Toss it all with olive oil and pasta. But shit, the recipe called for the zest and juice of 2 whole lemons! It seemed excessive. It seemed like it was going to be overkill. But I thought to myself "just follow the damn recipe, little miss you wish you knew everything"! I mean, how the hell am I going to become a good Italian chef if I think I know more than the recipes?

So, I followed the recipe, sort of. Sauteed some garlic very lightly in olive oil and then transferred it to a bowl with some chopped parsley, salt, olive oil, and the zest and juice of two lemons. Threw in about 1/2 cup of toasted pine nuts, and eventually added the pasta and a wee bit of the hot water that was used to cook the pasta.

Consistency was lovely. Presentation was mighty fine. But DAMN was it lemony! Yes folks, there is absolutely such a thing as too much of a good thing. You don't want to pucker when you eat your pasta, now do you? NO! So I say, first follow your instinct. And second, don't go overboard on the lemons.

Miss NoNo and I added LOTS of parmesan cheese, fresh ground black pepper and crushed red pepper to try to balance it out. It helped. It helped enough for me to eat 2 large helpings, but still... next time I'm gonna be super conservative w/ my lemons. And you should do the same.


Ok. Just cause life presents lemons, doesn't mean you have to use them to excess.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Yeah, I'm a bit of a food snob. But the operative word is "bit". Cause I loves me some occasional greasy processed cheese food goodness.

Little Miss NoNo and I were talking the other night about the much beloved Queso dip. Main ingredient being Velveeta, and lots of it.

My First Love and I used to devour this stuff when we lived for a brief time in Austin. It seems that just about all the restaurants there served it, much in the same way that just about everywhere you would go there, people offered you a cold beer as if it were iced tea. My kinda people! At least, back in 1992 it was like this in Austin.

Anyway, Miss NoNo says they serve Queso dip in Utah too, and probably in a bunch of other places unbeknownst to me.

Honestly, I had such fond memories of loving this stuff (which may have perhaps had to do with the fine company with which I enjoyed it), which I hadn't eaten in like... 12 or 13 years... that I wanted to see if I could still love it. Seeing as how, you know, my food tastes have evolved so much since then.

Only one way to find out! Head to the local Safeway and buy one log of Velveeta (no imitations please!) and one jar of Pace Picante sauce (which I think is lame, but it works here!).

Go over to Miss NoNo's to watch the season premiere of the L Word (where just about everybody who digs the show is actually straight!). Throw the Velveeta log into a pot and get it started melting on the stove. Then go ahead and add that jar of Pace Picante. Stir it all up till it's nice and melty. Now pull out the bag of chips, and watch the hungry masses gather like flies on shit. Now watch your Queso dip disappear. Just like that. So simple. Before you know it, they've licked the pot clean so you don't even have to clean up that rubbery cheesy mess.

I recommend in fact that you ONLY make this with a crowd of people to enjoy it with. Don't try this alone folks, because then you'd just have to eat the whole damn pot yourself, and that would make your arteries and your belly very sad. Not that I know anything about this. But I've heard...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Let's Get Back to my Freezer, Shall we?

So last night I made the soup I'd meant to make on Saturday - almost entirely with ingredients from my freezer, primarily from Thanksgiving. I also happened to have a couple things on hand in my fridge needing to be used up, so it was nice to have the opportunity to do so. I managed to whip up an extremely tasty, very velvety squash-potato-sweet potato soup w/ coconut milk & curry paste.

Here's how I did it, though I doubt you'll be trying this at home unless you have the exact same things in your fridge!

I made veggie stock by boiling and then simmering 3 carrots, 2 celery sticks and a bay leaf for about an hour. Then I removed the carrots, celery & bay leaf.

To the pot I added the previously frozen mashed potatoes & mashed sweet potatoes with roasted garlic, plus the previously frozen roasted butternut squash and shitake mushrooms. So easy!

I then simmered that for about 30 minutes, and added the previously frozen coconut milk, plus about two teaspoons of curry powder, and two tablespoons of Mae Ploy curry paste. Next, lots of salt and fresh ground pepper and a sprinkling of cumin & turmeric. Now it was starting to taste pretty good.

After cooling it, I pureed it in my trusty Cuisinart along with half a bunch each of parsley, mint and cilantro, until the whole mixture was smooth as silk.

Returned it to the stove and added some soy milk and a little more pepper, and it was now time to enjoy Thanksgiving all over again...in a...different, but very tasty way!

Yay for my freezer!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blissed out on Song

So... I went on a small record buying binge yesterday, in anticipation of my "Holed up and Hiding out at Home" weekend that I'd planned. I won't have another day off after this for about a good 2 weeks, so I was feeling a need to just hunker down with the company of my dog and my stereo, and I wanted the soundtrack to be full of soulful, torchy stuff.

Hence, I just couldn't pass up buying Nina Simone's Sugar in My Bowl - one of her greatest hits anthologies... and the greatest hits of Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin's Queen in Waiting - more stuff from her Columbia years... and I was lucky to find, for just 5 bucks, the k.d. Lang album Drag. And damn, if I don't keep listening to that over and over (currently on my 6th listen in 24 hours) and saying to myself "... how in the hell did I not know about this, and how have I survived this long without it????". Her version of the song The Air that I Breathe is absolutely heart stopping, as is Nina Simone's I Shall be Released, as is Aretha Franklin's Drinking Again. Oh, what these songs do to me. They slay me; they take my breath away; they just make me want to melt into a puddle. Perfect songs for cold, crisp winter days and nights.

Tonight, I just can't bring myself to make the soup I'd planned to make. Listening to these perfectly delivered songs, it's hard to feel like I could want or need anything else but this music. It's the kind of night where I find myself just wanting to lay down on the floor in the living room with the stereo cranked up loud, a fire in the fireplace and my head in between the speakers. Blissed out. Not caring about all those projects that I was so gung ho to dive into. Not caring about all the things that have made my heart feel heavy lately. Letting the music be the elixir that makes everything feel absolutely perfect just the way it is. There aren't many better feelings than this, and so tonight I'm just going to surrender to song. I can think of worse ways to spend an evening...

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Freezer Challenge

So I've decided to challenge myself. I have lots of stuff in my freezer that I should probably use, so I can make more stuff and put it in my freezer! I thought it might be fun to create or find recipes based on the contents of each container. I also thought it would be fun to challenge myself to work only with the ingredients that I've got on hand. Challenging, or perhaps just crazy!

Here's what I've got: One container of cooked lentils. One small ziplock bag of cooked chic peas. One decent sized container of roasted and mashed sweet and russet potatoes with roasted garlic. One quart sized ziplock bag of roasted butternut squash with shitake mushrooms. One small ziplock bag filled with coconut milk. One small container of delicious gravy from Thanksgiving. Two frozen pizzas, but they don't count! About half a can of tomato paste. Four portions of extremely spicy mole. 6 egg whites. One plastic container of tomato sauce. Lots of nuts. One bag of shredded coconut. One ziplock bag of cranberries. Probably some other stuff too. Hmm, this is going to be interesting!

Alas, I forgot to take anything out to defrost this morning, so I guess it'll be frozen pizza tonight, before our little experiment begins. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mushroom Hunting, and more

So it was New Year's Day. As in like, yesterday. I slept until 11 am and still managed to awake feeling sleep deprived after a long and intense couple of weeks.

My body was still recovering from a big personal chef gig I did a couple of days prior. I do these gigs here & there; I don't do much active seeking out of clients, cause I've already got my hands full with two jobs and a music career. But sometimes the jobs come my way and I just can't say no. And every time I do it, I learn so much (and it seems to wreck my body a little bit, since I'm not doing it regularly).

This time, I learned that it's a good idea to know how to de-bone fish if you're going to be cooking a lot of it! And also, that it's a good idea NOT to drink a lot of wine while you're on the job, even if it is the client who is so graciously offering it to you. Even if it is a several hundred dollar bottle of wine that makes you feel like Cinderella at the ball when you taste it...(she says, drooling like Homer Simpson). Remember folks, liquor, small bones and sharp knives can easily add up to disaster if you're not careful! Don't try this at home, unless you have Miss NoNo there to help.

Anyway the job turned out just fine in the end, and it looks like there's going to be more work where that came from. Now if there were only 8 days in a week.

So back to New Year's Day - I vowed to make no plans and to just be lazy and hunker down, but my wonderful friends (who are big foodies and badass musicians too) Steve & Patsy called to ask me to come mushroom hunting with them and their new baby Monique, and I just couldn't refuse. It was a gorgeous day, the company was divine, and duuuuude, I picked wild chanterelle mushrooms w/ my own two hands! One more reason to love living in the Bay area. I wouldn't try to identify wild mushrooms on my own, but it sure was fun to be along for the ride. I guess I better get busy collecting mushroom recipes, eh?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Is that an avocado in your bosom, or are you just excited to see me?

Well, there were many highlights of New Year's Eve, but I couldn't resist sharing this one. Many thanks to my dear friend Kanteen for so proudly displaying the avocado.

Here's to more goodness of every kind in 2007!

I swear, I'll get back to regular blogging soon. For instance, I got hired for a personal chef job just two days ago... it was the first client whom I didn't know personally, so it was a bit of a big deal. Miss NoNo assisted me and ended up saving the day in true superhero fashion.

And just for the record, I've been listening to a lot of Etta James lately and that's what's keeping me sane. That, and James Brown. Thank you James, for all the ways you rocked this world.

Happy 2007, folks!