Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happiness is a New Apron

My friend Janet has impeccable timing. Just when I was feeling like I was going to fall into the well and never be able to climb out, she showed up with this lovely apron that she made just for me!

Janet's company, Decades of Style, specializes in reproducing vintage patterns, and I got to be the lucky recipient of this test pattern.

It's hard to stay depressed when you're decked out in such finery, with salmon and chanterelle mushrooms on the stove.

Ah, sometimes it's the little things that get you through life. Thanks, Janet!

Here is a pretty simple recipe that a friend and I bastardized:

Take 2 pieces of salmon and sear them, skin side down, for 4 minutes in a hot non-stick skillet in about a tablespoon of butter.

Flip them over, sprinkle w/ salt and pepper and about a tablespoon of chopped capers, a clove of minced garlic, and a couple pinches of chopped fresh dill. Cook until it's just done, and then transfer to an oven proof dish and keep it warm in a 200-250 degree oven.

Now, add another tablespoon of butter to the pan (but don't wipe it out!) and add about 2 big fat handfuls of chanterelle mushrooms that you've coarsely chopped. Sautee the mushrooms for a few minutes and add a little dollop of dijon mustard and about a half cup of half & half, plus a couple splashes of white wine. Shake the pan and let it get good and hot and bubbly, but don't burn it!

Now pull the fish out of the oven, squeeze a lemon all over the fish, and transfer the fish to your serving plate. Next sprinkle the remaining bits from the fish pan (stray capers, cooking juices, etc..) into the mushroom pan. Give it a quick stir, add another splash of white wine, and pour the whole mixture over the salmon.

Enjoy, and try not to wipe your greasy fish hands all over your pristeen apron!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Empty Cups on a Rainy day in Oakland

There's so much I could say or write, but for some reason, these lyrics keep swirling around my mind not unlike black coffee...

You'll be gone
by the time the coffee's done

You'll give some,
but it will never be enough

I'll linger on
drinking from this empty cup

But you'll be gone, you'll be gone

It's hard to admit to the fact that tonight I'm sitting here feeling empty and disappointed in the midst of vibrant success, but why try to hide it? I feel guilty for even having these feelings. But there they are, as hard to avoid as the grey clouds in the sky today.

Everything ebbs and flows, and like the storm clouds...this too, shall pass.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A week's worth of Goodness in a Nutshell

Holy crap!

Too much goodness, too little time! Can't even write in complete sentences! So I'll just give some highlights, each of which I will attempt to summarize briefly:

1. Not one, but TWO visits to Radio Habana Social Club over the course of two weeks. Cheap, tasty food, devotion inspiring sangria, cool funky art. A winning combo!

2. And there again, not one, but TWO visits to The Knockout in SF for Two Dollar Tuesdays. Quality independent music, cool videos, and two buck cosmopolitans and Speakeasy Prohibition Beer. Did I mention that this is another first prize winning combo? Well there - I just did!

3. The circus! The next best thing to joining the circus was enjoying a friggin' FIVE COURSE MEAL while watching the Teatro Zinzanni with my Gay Husband, courtesy of my pal and musical co-conspirator Wil Hendricks who is both a member of the TZ Orchestra and little old El Mirage! Another winning combo folks - how lucky can one girl be??

4. A rock and roll reunion show featuring two bands for whom I was and am still am absolutely drooling over - ZEBU and the GAZILLIONS. I danced and smiled and sweated and sang along to every damn song long enough to give myself sore muscles and major B.O., and I wouldn't trade one single moment of the glory!! The world is just not as good of a place without these bands continuing to exist, and the fact that I was married to a member of one band, and am siblings with a member of the other band, has absolutely nothing to do with my devotion!! Swear to the kitchen and rock & roll gods!

5. Fat Tuesday and marching bands at the Makeout Room in SF with my dear pal Camille, who's soon to be departing to Austin - gotta love that sweaty sexy New Orleans vibe on a cold, damp San Francisco night with people shaking their booties in the street.

How much sleep can one woman deprive herself of over the course of 5 days? Appearantly just enough to find herself completely inspired and glad to be alive, even with the bags under the eyes at 1:23 a.m....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Golden Fried Tofu & Brocolli + Tara Linda = Perfect Combo for a Thursday Night

That big ol' block of tofu had been waiting patiently in my fridge for more than a week, and it was time to make it feel useful. So I bastardized a recipe I once learned from Cook's Illustrated, and to my surprise, the result was quite delightful!

And speaking of delightful, tonight's soundtrack featured the lovely and talented Tara Linda (and friends!). The recently released Fool's Journey is an engaging collection of songs that take you to faraway places. At time it recalls Alice in Wonderland....such an ethereal quality to these songs, and Linda's voice is as smooth as velvet and cool as an ocean breeze. Delicious, like this recipe:

Cut 1 lb. firm tofu into triangles, and lightly coat on all sides with about 1/3 cup cornstarch.

In a small bowl, combine:

1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup water
About 1 t. toasted sesame oil
About 2 T. maple syrup
About 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce

Now give the sauce a taste and adjust as you like. You want it to be tangy, a little spicy, a little salty, a little sweet (you might like your future lovers to be like that too, but I digress).

Heat a generous but not crazy amount of canola oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When it's good & hot, gently fry the tofu until golden on all sides. Once golden all over, remove w/ tongs and drop onto a plate w/ paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Meanwhile, cut about 1/2 head of brocolli into bite size pieces, and then very gently steam until barely tender. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop it from becoming overcooked.

Once you've cooked the tofu & brocolli, turn the heat back on to medium-high. Drop the tofu pieces back into the skillet and pour in the liquid mixture. The cornstarch in the tofu will cause the sauce to thicken. Gently toss and heat until good & hot. Add the brocolli at the last minute and give it a healthy toss.

Serve immediately, as is or over a bed of rice or noodles. Crank up your Tara Linda record, and give thanks for another perfect evening of music and food.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Salmon Chowder and Five Guitarists...

... it's a match made in heaven!

So last night was our first almost-full band rehearsal for the upcoming El Mirage cd release show at the Hotel Utah on Feb. 24th, and it was such a treat!

Myles Boisen on electric, lap steel, and acoustic guitar!
Wil Hendricks on bass guitar!
Lucio Menegon on electric & slide guitar!
Berge Thomasian on acoustic & electric guitar! (no web link, sorry!)
Joe Rut on slide, electric and lap steel guitar!
(Not present: John Hanes on the drums!)

(...each of these fine lads are worthy of their very own Soup and Song blog entry, but that's another story for another time!)

We very rarely get the entire Mirage together, and so when we do, Ms. Thang always relishes the chance to cook something yummy. And (see my last posting) what I lack in paying these fine players in actual cash, I always try to make up for in culinary delight.

So on this rainy evening, we commenced with first, second, and third helpings of The Soup Peddler's most excellent Alaskan Salmon Chowder, the recipe for which I adapted ever so slightly.

And then, we rocked the house. Well, we rocked my house anyway!

And all of a sudden, after a week of being sick and feeling icky, all was perfect in my world again. Ah, the healing powers of food and music. This blog isn't called Soup and Song for nothing!

And the soup goes like this:

1/2 cup butter
2 large onions - diced
6 large russet potatoes - peeled and diced
4 large carrots - chopped
4 large stalks of celery - chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 pound salmon, cut into bite sized chunks
8 cups fish stalk - I used stock made w/ "Better than Boullion" brand
lobster base; it comes in a jar and can usually be found near the
soups and packaged stocks
1 cup half and half

Heat the butter in a big soup pot, and saute the onions over medium
heat for about 15-20 minutes till they're nice & soft - but don't make
them too brown!

Next add the carrots & celery, keep the heat medium-low and cover it.
Let it cook like this, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Next, stir in the flour and add the stock. Bring to a boil and then
turn down to a mild simmer and cook till the potatoes are just tender.

Now, add the fish chunks and the half and half, and cook for about
another 10 minutes or so, or until the fish is just tender and the
soup has thickened a bit.

Now season with lots of fresh ground black pepper, only adding salt if
you think it needs it - the fish stock was probably plenty salty to
begin with, so taste it first!

Next, serve your soup piping hot, preferably with the company of
some guitar players you adore, and fresh sourdough bread and a nice fat glass of
dry red wine!!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

To Burn or Not to Burn...

... that seems to be the question as of late.

See, everybody burns cds these days. That's just the age we live in (she says, with her old lady voice...).

But I can't help but protest! I mean, for crying out loud - I've been working two jobs for more than a year now, with the occasional third job even - NOT INCLUDING BEING A MUSICIAN!!

Part of the reason I do this is because of the high cost of living in the Bay area. And lest I should come across as a total martyr, part of the reason I work so much is cause I have debt - and also, anyone who reads this blog knows that I loves me some good food and drink too!

But also, I work extra cause I have this whole other life as an independent musican. I pay for all the recording and manufacturing of my albums out of my own pocket. And even though I gig regularly and get played on the radio and have a handful or two of adoring fans, it just doesn't translate to much cash when all is said and done.

And so, I work, and I pay for recording time, and sometimes scrape up enough extra money to pay the excellent players who perform and record with me, and I pay the manufacturer, and I do all the promotion myself. Shit, there's a lot of labor that goes into it, so I guess I'm not so down with people burning cds. To me it feels the same as if you had a bakery and I just walked in and took your pastries without paying, just because I could.

Now - I agree that sometimes a person will burn a track or two of an artist they like and then turn someone else onto that artist - it happens a lot and I am not dead set against that. It's a very fine line, and I also know that I can't control it in the slightest... but maybe some people wouldn't be so quick to burn the cd if they knew all that goes into it.... would they?

I'm very curious to hear what other folks think about this issue - both musicians and music lovers alike. Anyone out there??

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cayenne, My Friend

So the sick bug got under my skin and stayed there, beginning its journey in the form of a very, very, VERY bad sore throat. It felt like I'd consumed gasoline or a handful of nails every time I tried to swallow.... or rather, every time I tried to NOT swallow, unsuccessfully because really, it's hard to not swallow! It's a natural act! It's almost as if the very thought of not swallowing, causes the impulse to swallow! Needless to say, I was in a great deal of pain.

To make matters worse, I had a gig that night and hey, the show must go on. And so it did. I somehow managed to sing remarkably well considering the state I was in, but by the time it was over, I was ragged and shaking. Couldn't get home fast enough. But when I did, I promptly did an internet search to find some sort of natural remedy for sore throat relief, and stumbled upon this site.

It was there that I was reminded of the wonderful healing powers of cayenne pepper.

It may seem counter-intuitive to use cayenne to soothe a throat that is already feeling like it's on fire, but trust me... it works! Mine is not to explain how it works - I just know that it does!

Just take a little sprinkling of cayenne and drop it into warm water and gargle with it and then spit it out. Keep doing this every 15 minutes in very acute cases. I'm tellin' ya, it worked for me. By the time I collapsed onto the couch, the edge of the pain was wearing off. And the next morning, though I still felt mightily shitty, I kept on using this remedy, and my throat started to feel better and better.

It's been a lingering kind of cold so I'm still not feeling 100% well, but the cayenne really did the trick in keeping my throat from turning against me, as it was trying so hard to do. So... Yay for spice!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Quiche, Revisited

Well after the weekend's latest test batch of quiche with nary a crumb remaining, the results are in. My recipe is a winner!

Of course, like many great songs, many great recipes come to life through trial and error and from borrowing the best elements of other recipes. I poured over every recipe I could find, from The Joy of Cooking to The New Basics to every recipe I could find over the web, and I just kept combining ingredients and amounts until I got it right.

Now before I proceed, I must state this disclaimer - my quiche is more of a savory pie... heavy on the fillings and light on the custard. But hey, no one's complained so far!

And also, in my usual haphazard manner, I'm going to give you guidelines, but remember - feel free to improvise on the filling especially, though I don't recommend screwing with the custard formula too much, ok?

So we're going to do this in three parts: the crust, the filling, and the custard.

For the crust, I used this recipe for the "pate brise".

And yeah, you can also use a store bought crust if you're not feeling ambitious. But once you try it a few times, it's not so hard. And besides, you can use this time to procrastinate on those pesky projects/issues that you'd just rather not deal with! At least, that's what I like to do...

And now for the filling - lightly steam one bunch of kale and one bunch of red chard, and then squeeze all the water out of it and chopped it somewhat coarsely. Then use a mandoline to very thinly slice about half a pound of lovely little fingerling potatoes (or whatever kind you like!). Then pour a liberal amount of olive oil into a non-stick skillet along w/ a couple fat cloves of minced garlic and lightly sautee the garlic for a few minutes before adding the potatoes. Cook the potatoes slowly over low to medium heat, adding more oil as necessary, till the potatoes are nice & tender. Since they're thinly sliced, this shouldn't take longer than about 25 minutes or so. Once they're done, put them in a bowl and combine w/ the steamed greens.

Now for your custard: in a separate bowl, beat 3 eggs w/ 3/4 cup half & half and grate some fresh nutmeg into it. Season w/ salt and freshly ground pepper.

Next, fill your partially pre-baked pie crust with the potatoes and greens. Then pour the custard mixture over it, using just enough to reach the top of the crust. Top it with some freshly grated parmesan and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until it's nicely set.

See? It wasn't that hard! You're the hit of the party! Everyone's coming to your house for brunch! Co-workers love you for sharing the leftovers! And you even managed to successfully avoid moving that box of crap out of the living room or having that dreaded conversation w/ that person who probably doesn't really give a shit anyway...so hooray for quiche!