Monday, July 29, 2013

Blue Moon of Kentucky Keep On Shinin'

When I was little and thought of myself as a grown lady, I imagined high heels, hips to put in a tight but modest dress and a nice matching pocket book filled with tissues, gum, and assorted other handy items for emergencies that I would readily hand out to kind strangers if asked.  Now that I'm over 50 it's all gone terribly off course.  I haven't wore a shoe without a rubber sole in years, don't carry a purse and not being one to share much of anything naturally, I tend to horde my gum like it was the last morsel on earth.  When women at work ask if anyone has gum, I stand silent.
When P was given tickets for his birthday to see Bonnie Prince Billy at Town Hall I was very excited to see a live show in a great theatre that boasts no bad seats.  We'd seen Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson there and it was always magical.  It's an event.

And a rare attempt to look decent. I ended up wearing my traditional Midwestern chic which consists of most flattering pair of clean jeans with a pretty blouse and for summer, a nice wedge heal and jewelry.  I took great detail with the extras like hair and nails.  I smelled nice and really tried to keep smiling and looking alert so my face didn't resemble my dads like it tends to do at the end of the night.  Basically I looked the best that I could given my limted resources.
We took our friend to Republic in Union Square since it was close to P's work and we love it anyway.  But I did take the liberty of ordering something new, Grilled Chicken with Pesto
black rice, tomato, cucumber, corn, snow peas, mint, shallots, aged vinegar dressing, sesame seeds.
I have to say that black rice with the crunch of those snow peas and the way the cool corn and cucumber, mint went together was so dang refreshing and invigorating.  I loved it!  The chicken looked really cool sliced on the bias and edged in green.  Maybe a tad low on flavor but the bottom of the dish was so good it didn't matter.

The show was different than anything I'd seen in quite awhile.  I felt like I was in the 60's in some small bar in the village.  Then at other times it was whacked out folky stuff that I can't quite relate to.  But mainly it was impressive and sincere, never boring and every musician on the stage was real.   An intellectual sort of audience but still I was super happy to be there and was so proud to see a Kentucky boy up there almost berating all the well read New Yorkers.

J got a last minute ticket to the show to join us and it turned out to be a super nice night out.  Maybe I'm not what I dreamed I'd be as a little girl but when forced, I can manage to clean it up and dust it off, polish it up a bit once in a blue moon.

Eggs Bendito

Eggs Bendito, or blessed eggs.  Blessed because they are lightly covered with a cheese sauce!  Actually, I've done better versions of a take off on Eggs Benedict but this was super easy. Toasted 100 calorie thin sliced bread below, sautéed spinach, poached egg, the cheese sauce and turkey bacon marking the spot. 

A nice departure from the mundane.   I made the cheese sauce with a simple roux and just added jalapeno jack cheese, salt and pepper and a little cayenne. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Don't Let Me Hear You Say Life's Taking You Nowhere, Angel

I do breakfast a lot because of my work schedule.  I really enjoy cooking for me and the nut but many times breakfast is the only meal we get to share.  I still have lots of breakfast ideas but when reality actually hits, I tend to make things we know we like and are quick.  Plus I usually have tomatoes and spinach around.  But in general my cooking has not been that inspired. 

It's economical too.  What is affordable?  Turkey bacon, turkey sausage, spinach, onions, tomatoes. The usual suspects. Potatoes too but as with the white flour, we're trying to limit starches and complex carbs.  The 12 deadly foods coincidentally are very cheap, always in huge fresh quantities front and center of the grocery store and frankly, I'm not so sure I completely trust all the information out there.  Why would I?  Everyone has their specific agendas and funds their own studies to skew the facts.  But just like I feel that some of the food might not be as bad for you as they are reporting, I also feel some of it may be worse.  Have you opened a regular can of chunk light tuna lately?  And what is that anyway, chunk light?!  The fishy smell is strong, the texture is freaky, it's bad.  You have to be a lawyer and a scientist to break down all the info and decipher for yourself what is safe and healthy to eat.  There are so many factors. Too many. 

Local farmers can use pesticides too.  Organic fruits and vegetables are not always necessary so you have to memorize that long list.  A few years ago there was nothing better than rich canned tomatoes and now all the sudden they are practically poison because of the lining in the can?  Why is it okay to keep producing them?  Why don't they fix it?  Instead they just say 'you shouldn't eat canned tomatoes'???!!  Basically anything cheap is really bad for you. Remember when the egg got all that bad press?  Do you now have to be a private investigator just to buy your week's grocery supply?  It's getting ridiculous.  I burrow through the International food aisle searching for anything new I may have missed that is still cheap but edible.
But without trying to make excuses I sit here and admit, I lost some of my cooking mojo simply because my day to day life has also lost some luster.  The bloom is off the rose.  We're knee deep in summer and I'm lost in my own mental Siberia.  

You're the Reason I'm Traveling On

I have a very strange fascination and preoccupation with the doings of Mr. Bob Dylan.  I love his music and I'm a huge fan of anyone that can stay so compelling for so long and he just happens to be one in a very small group.  I've even found that my own mother now reminds me of Bob Dylan as does my aging cat Willie.  There are traits that I've found in Dylan since his inception and also ones that he has possibly formed in later years that I yearn to see in more people.  I love watching old interviews and even ones where he's guarded and negative because even way back then he didn't give the reporters any relevance. And of course they didn't deserve it but who at the time knew that?

We saw Bob Dylan last night at the Americanarama Festival in Hoboken.  Great show.  We weren't really sure how much we loved it until we got home, rested, fell asleep and then awoke to watch YouTube videos of the highlights.  I'm short so unfortunately I've learned to enjoy live stand up shows through tiny peep holes between shoulders and necks.  Basically I miss most of the visuals, which just sucks plain and simple, but I've learned to accept it.  They had strange guests like Ian Hunter, Peter Wolfe and Warren Haynes.  The bands invited each other up which we were hoping for and actually played All the Young Dudes. That's on my (long) list of favorite songs of all time. 

The venue, Pier A, was pretty incredible, with the city views, right on the water, the food trucks, vast lines of porta-potties and even nice trees to make it feel intimate.  Lush green thick grass on the lawn that wasn't the kind you felt rats have been pooping on all night like the city parks.

The crowd, not what I expected.  Very straight-laced, jockish young men.  Most of the women were dates of the men, which I guess technically I would be judged as.  They seemed like a crowd that was going to see the new Adam Sandler movie and not Dylan. Wilco maybe, because they always did have the most annoying following.  They were amazing as was Ryan Bingham. What a voice and his music is so agreeable is the word that comes to mind although that's not at all a diss because I loved it.  My Morning Jacket was surprisingly thin musically. We both felt the sound lacked connection.  I accused them of putting me in a trance where I lost about 20 - 40 minutes.  That was kinda cool.  There were plenty of old-ish people too, the 50 to 60 crowd. If they were cool once, it was almost unrecognizable because they'd shed any ounce years before in exchange for possibly money or maybe they just stopped believing they were different. Maybe they never linked the music to a particular lifestyle, just liked the way it made them feel.

Maybe that's why I'm over here on the other side of the spectrum because that music and so much more does represent a lifestyle or ideals.  Not political views necessarily or anything too specific but it made me believe that my world didn't have to be filled with thick necked guys in flip flops.  That music made me see there are super cool people out there that create and feel and when they talk you eat it up like the best food.  They see with their heart and mind both, not just their eyes.  Real humor and joy do exist as does humbleness and humility, sparks of hope.

My mom reminds me of Bob Dylan because even though she's 90 and has dementia when she talks to me she always communicates profoundly and even though you have to sort of interpret through a decoder ring now, her words are never wasted.  And just like I'd imagine with Dylan, before I ask her anything I realize she already taught me I have the answers to my own questions. 

My cat reminds me of Bob Dylan because he was so cool when he was a little buck and was the great bird killer, taking down many.  He always ate his kill and instinctually knew how to be an awesome cat.  In his prime he was incredible.  Now that he's older, he has integrity and you feel respect for his life's work somehow.  He never let us down, even when he did.

I spent all day after the show watching old footage of Dylan and rare interviews, snippets.  I sat and wondered what he was doing today.  He plays tonight in Jones Beach so there was not a lot of downtime but did he spend the morning in bed?  Does he read his reviews?  Who does he Google?Does he take anyone to breakfast?  Does he have a bestie to hang with on the road?  Do the touring groups have any contact with him?  Does Tweedy dare knock on his door to chat?  What happens when he needs something from Walgreen's?  Who goes to get it and does he talk to God before he goes to bed? 

I don't idealize Dylan because he seems to be a very flawed person just like everyone else. But everyone else didn't write Visions of Johanna or Masters of War or live that musical history.  They didn't keep saying I want to do this now even if you all think it's shite.  Musically, he kept getting a new clean white sheet of paper to work with and that is so brave and uncommon.  I admire that but recognize it might not be love that fuels that but possibly malaise.   Even some of his failings are curious, like his mysterious love life and pension for voluptuous African American women.  Hell, even black men are afraid of beautiful black women and here comes this skinny Jewish man and if what I've heard is true, he charmed many of them.

Anyway so even though I am still preoccupied with odd details of Bob Dylan's life doesn't mean so much.  I appreciate him so much but I no longer ache to be him. I have always loved musicians and people that just have to do what they do.  I also watched about 3 hours of Jeff Tweedy interviews and although he's an excellent musician I bet he's only truly that magnetic to his closest of friends. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes

Mental states can show in your cooking.  This dish started out stable....
...with chicken breast meat.  I made stewed chicken tostadas.  Sounds reasonable.  After sautéing the meat, I stewed it in a spicy tomato sauce for about 45 minutes until it pulled apart easily. 
My friend M at work often tells me about his cooking expeditions that start off interesting enough but  then quickly plummet into a psychotic mass of ingredients not made to ever meet.  I think he just can't help himself from adding that one next thing, unable to finish a dish.  This should be named as it is a common cooking malfunction.  If he already has an Italian dish going he just might get the urge to throw in some curry powder for example and then in trying to find a balance for that new flavor, goes on to add in two more mismatched things.  By the end, I always feel a little queasy and end up saying things like 'hmmm...that sounds...... interesting' or just 'wow'.  He's a mess.
This might be an example of my own mental state coming through in the evening meal.  I tried these 'other' avocados that I never buy because I just didn't believe they would be as buttery and flavorful as the Hass and you know what?  I was right.  Maybe I got a bad batch but these were watery and flavorless. The texture wasn't there and the color is baby poop yellow.
I put the chicken atop a bed of black beans mixed with a little sour cream.  I served a red cabbage slaw side saddle instead of on top because it was just way too crowded up there.
These were good but a better example of a bunch of good ideas that don't necessarily go well together.  If I'd have skipped the tomatoes, radish and avocado and the cheese topping and just went with the slaw over the chicken, I think they would have been a hit.  Black beans with sour cream are really good but a little overpowering for the chicken. They are a good substitute for meat on their own. Cheese is not needed on tostadas and that's just a fact.  I hated the avocado so I should have just scrapped that mixture but you know I hate throwing any good food out.  The colors were a little manic too.  This plate says Crazy Mexican. This was almost too much flavor on one plate. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pop That Thang!

There is something to be said about breakfast for dinner, about a good fried egg and also eggs combined with pork chops.  It's an ultimate satisfactory oral sensation combo.  I guess the only thing better would be steak and eggs.  But actually with steak, the steak is clearly the better thing on the plate.  The eggs are good with the steak but it's still all about the steak. With pork chops and eggs, they both compliment each other very well and you are equally excited to eat them both, and together.  Pork doesn't overpower but enhances the egg. To dip a nice chunk of spicy meat into the yellow creamy egg yolk.  That's a perfect moment in time.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

You Don't Own Me

Before heading into the abyss work, I dreamed all morning of making these wraps. I took my leftover chicken tenders, sliced with fresh baby spinach, tomatoes and topped with Ranch dressing wrapped in a warmed white flour tortilla. 
Yes. Yes. And Yes!  I love warm food mixed with cool toppings!
I love to work but I deeply resent any company that takes more than they give and I am currently not happy with my work situation. (understatement). Life might suck for the next 8 hours of my day but for 20 minutes, eating these delicious wraps snatching a few minutes of the Wendy Williams show's Hot Topics, everything was right.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

C'mom Baby Light My Fire

Summertime stovetop chicken tenders.  Thin sliced chicken breast dipped in buttermilk then coated in a light topping of crushed French Fried Onions, Panko bread crumbs and Parmessan, a little seasoned flour.  Sautéed until crisp on both sides.  A marinara dipping sauce.
Nothing to write home about but on a weeknight, these were pretty good. 
The humidity has been so stifling that the thought of even turning on the burners fills the room with heat, let alone the oven.  This is when city folk dream of having a back yard and grill.  How wonderful and easy it would be to just throw these babies on a hot grill and then come inside to cool central air conditioning to eat them. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I'm Hooked on a Feeling

I love breakfast!  When I work a late shift on the weekends I make sure to at least make a nice big meal for me and the P.  These are two examples of breakfast eggs.  One savory and cheesy with the emphasis on a robust, sturdy, solid meal.
Note I have the warmed white flour tortillas that I'm trying never to eat again but somehow keep sneaking into my fridge.  Turkey bacon, mozzarella cheese, baby spinach and a dollop of sour cream in the eggs.
The second breakfast is also very filling but the flavors are more fresh and energizing, with zest of lemon, cold tomatoes and eggs with baby spinach scrambled over two little corn meal cakes just lightly dusted in seasoned flour and sautéed in a little margarine.  Served with spicy chicken sausage.
In the morning before the real hunger starts, I start to fantasize about the breakfast I'd really like to have that day.  The fantasy can be anything from a real restaurant, to a make believe one, home cooked food, someone making me breakfast...anything. Then I come back to reality and consider what I have in the house.  I mix them all together in my head and then figure which one I can really make.   
The good thing is I try to start a bit of the fantasizing earlier in the week at the grocery store so I actually have interesting ingredients or at least complimentary breakfast type foods, like the turkey bacon, baby spinach, potatoes, etc to work with.   One item can spark an idea.  In this case I knew all week I wanted to try these little cornmeal cakes, so they began with that cream dreamy polenta earlier in the week. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sympathy For the Devil

I've made tons of roasted and boiled tomatillo salsa but I've never made it fresh just blended with pepper, onion, cilantro, water, and salt.  Dang, that is about the greenest tasting thing, so refreshing.  Just right for summer. 
I did a shredded chicken, corn, onion mix and added the salsa.  I forgot how I served it but I remember it was a perfect fit. 
The August cover of Rolling Stone Magazine was in the news this week.  I wasn't sure why it didn't hit me the same way, with outrage.  When I first saw it I thought, 'Gosh, what a striking cover when you put the photo in that light'.  It was shocking in a way but mostly I just thought about how the people who's job it is to make a cover sell must have been elated for that photo to work with especially as a fit for Rolling Stone.  I wasn't angry.  That may have come from my mother's teachings.  Whenever I felt threatened or bullied by a kid at school, she'd convince me they were all wrong or screwed up.  Like when a girl called me a spic in school, my mom simply said how ignorant she was because spics were actually Puerto Ricans. True story and you can laugh because that's just funny.  My mom's a hoot and she was trying to help. 
So for some reason that cover did not incite any feelings of hatred for me.  He was not something I understood or could comprehend easily.  I do want to understand how it happened that a kid that looks like someone you'd say hey to on the street could do something so horrible.  I hate what he did and I have great sympathy for anyone who suffered.  I'm not an asshole.  I don't have empathy for him either.  Now I feel guilty because I don't harbor hate.  It has nothing to do with him looking like Jim Morrison on the cover.  I can't hate his brother either.  I don't hate that clowny looking crazy kid with the red hair that killed all those people in the movie theater either.  They scare me and I fear them but I don't hate them.  Do you?
I don't think there is magical power in getting on the cover of Rolling Stone that was given to this asshole.  That power was gone long ago.  I was more offended to see Kanye with a crown of thorns on his head.  There have been other upsetting covers but for me they don't really hold any power. 
But I am very upset and still mourning the death of the music industry itself.  And that there are so many amazing musicians out there right now that can't make a living on their craft.  Songwriters, singers, guitar players, drummers, bass players and the list goes on that have all this passion and true ability and the world has just shut the door on all of it, aside from a very select few.  These people are out there and they could be uplifting our lives, enhancing the experiences, making things better, pleasant even.  Instead we gotta be force fed celebrity emptiness each day?
I'm outraged that greed, power, money and corruption took down the industry and the music hasn't found a way to pop back up like a weed and just get back out there into our everyday lives.  I'm a victim right now that must listen to pop songs all day at my job because they pipe it through.  Talk about upsetting.  Taylor Swift looped at least three times a shift?  I'm not smart enough and too old to understand how to find all the good music anymore on the web.  But how could this happen and will it ever be alive again in the same way or better than it used to be?  My life was always filled with music, always as a young child and growing up, tween, teen, adult, etc.  Now I have to really work at involving the music and I miss it.  I would have worked at record stores all my life and retired there if I had the chance.  Music retail was perfect for misfits like me and thousands of others.  That's about the only thing I could honestly sell with a good conscious.  Now I sell kitchen cabinets and I feel like a lie every time I punch that clock.  There are so many injustices in the world right now.  Hell, almost everything on your lunch plate contains tons of poisons and cancer causing agents.  Those strawberries everyone put on their red white and blue desserts for the 4th of July are not even fit to eat apparently unless you bought organic for like 6.99 a lb.  The people that grow them have to wear special clothes and masks so the stuff they spray all over them doesn't penetrate.  It's that bad??? We need to prioritize and get organized people.  Do we really want to spend two weeks on what Paula Deen's ignorant ass said?  Is this one kid's photo on a magazine that more than half the upset people don't even read really gonna divide us?   I feel the devil does lives in this picture but not where people think.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Gotta Have Some of Your Attention.... Give it to Me!

Was this corn meal mash as good as I believe it was?
At first sight this plate looks pretty boring but that chicken was baked to a juicy perfection and that corn meal was heaven.  Cheesy, a little spice, creamy but with enough corn grittiness for it to be hearty and more than pleasing.  And I have to say, the green beans, a perfect accompaniment.
I often wonder, is anyone special? 
Is everyone special?
I know acting is a real craft but are TV personalities really any different or do most people have the ability to play characters and be charismatic with the proper tools, lighting and direction?
Do we all carry some unique beauty or talent that if unleashed and filmed, we all have the capacity to shine on stage or screen?

But it also raises the question, is anything really distinctive? 
Was I just super hungry and anticipating the tasty mash because I already know I usually love it?
Do I know what good baked chicken tastes like and so I arrived at happy before even biting into the crispy skin?
Did you ever notice that when you first meet people they might seem so ordinary but after a few weeks you might find that same person intriguing in one way or another.  You find their quality even if it's faint.  You can't put your finger on it but that person gets a distinction in your mind.  They're filed and classified as friend, foe or pending.  Some need more research but one thing is for sure is that they are individually different. 

Or the opposite, when you meet someone and they shine so bright you can't ignore their presence even if you wanted to, whether you like them or not?  Is presence specialness? Or do special people usually have presence but presence does not necessarily mean someone is special?

This corn meal mash was that exceptional tonight.  The spices were that perfect balance of the cheese and texture.  It doesn't always happen this way.  I've certainly made standard blobby mash before, in fact probably the last three times.  It was good but not that good.

Perhaps we aide in the specialness status by hoisting our picks up the ladder and with enough nudges, people recognize their potential and that recognition grows like a virus until the perception becomes the reality? 

Could that work with food though?  Someone who does not like the taste of corn might not be moved when that combination hits their pallet. It may be perfect only to me, therefore special only to me, although P loved it too and I waited for his reaction.  He definitely got that it was really good and went on about it for a long time.  He made a point to say it was indeed special.