Deviled Egg Dip

29 May

Presenting your favorite dip for summer.
Something so easy shouldn’t taste this good. 

Deviled Egg Dip

deviled egg dip

I have a theory about food…
… well, I have quite a few theories about food, but for once let me try to focus:

Theory: most foods have great versions, good versions and bad. Take a cheeseburger. There are a few incredible cheeseburgers out there (like Hilary’s Smash Burgers!) and there are terrible cheeseburgers but most cheeseburgers are just fine, thank you.

There are other foods, though, where there seems to be no in-between. It’s either amazing or crap and these foods don’t lend themselves to the average. Meatloaf, for example. When you get a tender, flavorful slice of meatloaf, it’s heaven sent. But most meatloaf is god-awful.  There’s no middle ground. Cake is another example. There are few things better than a really moist, perfect slice of cake. Yum. Most cake, though, is dry and ick and I’ve never had cake where I thought, “Yeah, fine, that’s a decent piece of cake.” Cake is awesome or it sucks. Done.

Deviled eggs fall into this latter category. There are few things I love more than a great deviled egg. Damn. I could eat a dozen in one sitting. (This is not a theory.) But I rarely eat them because 1) I won’t make deviled eggs myself as I haven’t the patience to peel hard boiled eggs without destroying them and 2) good deviled eggs are not easy to find. Even at the finest restaurants they tend to be dry, chalky and without taste. 

Imagine my thrill, then, when a close friend of mine, Jeff, who is a wonderful and creative cook, shared with me a recipe called “Egg Chive Dip.” I of course messed with it, the way I do, to move it towards deviled eggs and came up with a tweaked version of Jeff’s already stellar recipe that gives you all the wonderfulness of a deviled egg without all the hassle!

Trust me, you will be dipping into this all summer long.

Deviled Egg Dip

deviled egg dip

DEVILED EGG DIP

Doubles easily!

Ingredients

4 hard boiled eggs (I confess, I get mine cooked and peeled at Costco or Trader Joe’s…)
8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 T Duke’s Mayonnaise
1 T Dijon Mustard
1 T Wooster (Worcestershire Sauce)
1 T cider vinegar (red wine vinegar or even pickle juice will work)
1 t salt
1 t black pepper
1/2 t cayenne (or paprika)
1/3 to 1/2 cup minced chives (one full packet of chives from the store works)

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, chop the eggs pretty fine. 

Add everything else to the food processor but the chives.

Blend the crap out of it. I like this really smooth, but you can play with your own favorite texture. If it’s too dry or thick, add a little more mayo and/or heavy cream. A splash of your vinegar component will help, too.

Taste for seasoning! What else do you need?

Remove to a bowl and stir in your chives. And then, if you’re me, add more chives!

Serve with crackers, crudite’, potato chips… or just with a spoon!

IMPORTANT: This is also wonderful with crispy bacon, chopped, added to the dip!

 

 

 

Hilary’s Smash Burgers

22 May

a simple and glorious burger for your Memorial Day

Smash Burger new

Double Smash Burger

I love friends who cook!

I told you previously about my good friend David Henden, and his wonderful salsa and marinara. I will inevitably write about my friends Tiffiny and Jeff, both marvelous cooks. But for your Memorial Day weekend, I’m bringing in my good friend Hilary (and her partner Pilot) to tell you about these amazing burgers

Hilary and I work together on Guy’s Grocery Games. She produces, I edit. We’ve become fast friends and are both obsessed with cooking. (I told you about Hilary previously in this post about the marvelous Panang Curry we discovered how to make while working on Guy’s.)

She’s a terrific cook and a wonderful friend. We, along with every burger fan in Los Angeles, fell in love last year with a specific burger made at Burgers Never Say Die.

Whoa. Probably my favorite burger ever.

Hilary and Pilot figured out how to make them at home! Let me tell you, these burgers are %#$@ incredible. So here is Hilary in her own words. You will thank us both by Monday Night.

Smash Burger new

Double Smash Burger

DOUBLE SMASH BURGERS Continue reading

Farmer’s Market Chicken Soup

8 May

Healthy and fresh, with a surprising amount of flavor

I’ve never been a fan of chicken soup for a very specific reason. When growing up and home sick from school my mom, like any good mother of the era, served me Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I’m not going to bash Campbell’s! Their soups make casseroles divine! And if nothing else, a benefit of the Covid crisis has been a revival of the company that was about to go bankrupt. Suddenly, everyone wants Campbell’s Soup!

But … even now when I even smell that distinctive flavor of Campbell’s classic Chicken Noodle Soup, I almost throw up. It makes me think of being wracked with fever and chills, and being rubbed down with alcohol (I often would get 104 or above fever when I had the flu.) The smell brings back nothing but terrible memories.

So I never made chicken soup. Yuck!

Then a couple of years ago a friend made some chicken soup for me and I had no choice but to try it. I was amazed by how good it was! It was light, fresh and healthy. Delicious. Not what I remembered.

In the intervening couple of years, I’ve been playing with various versions on my own, trying to find the perfect recipe. I think I’ve finally found it.

Chicken Soup 2

Farmer’s Market Chicken Soup

There are a two keys to this recipe:

– Freshest best ingredients possible (straight from the Farmer’s Market, natch)

– Taking the time initially to cook the chicken while making an incredible broth that becomes the basis for this wonderful soup.

The recipe may take a few steps and a little time, but it’s easy and you can make a lot of the elements in advance, even a day or so ahead. While I love the recipe exactly as presented, you can add any other vegetables  or fresh herbs you find at the market. I’ve added a few suggestions here myself. 

Give it a try! It’s killer good and made even better served over my garlic rice. Continue reading

Panang Curry Perfected

1 May

A luscious and flavorful curry inspired by an amazing chef, Jazz Singsanong

The first time I saw the marvelous Hepburn-Tracy film Adam’s Rib (1949, which you can and should rent on Amazon) I was nine years old and fell in love. I fell in love with those two great actors and their magical chemistry; with Judy Holliday, stunning in what was basically her film debut; with late 40’s New York City and a way of bustling, exciting life completely alien to me; and with the smart, witty script by Ruth Gordon (yes that Ruth Gordon) and Garson Kanin. I could do a whole blog post on this movie – and perhaps I will! But for now:

There’s a moment in the movie that made my nine-year-old jaw drop wide open. The two leads, married lawyers on opposite sides of a case, come home from a hard day battling each other in court and want a romantic night. They decide to cook dinner. And on a quick whim, they decided to make… curry!

Making curry

Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn making curry in “Adam’s Rib”

I couldn’t believe it. Curry to me was an exotic dinner reserved for very special occasions. Surely it must take days to make! You must understand… in The South, the main type of curry we serve has as its base yellow curry powder, and is served over rice with a dozen or so diced ingredients on the side, including bacon, diced apples, slivered almonds, coconut flakes, raisins… It was such fun to eat as a kid! You were able to choose your toppings, which seemed very adult. It had only a bit of spice, which was tempered even more by the fact many of the toppings were sweet. I loved that yellow curry, the only curry I knew existed.  For these two erudite city folk to be able to quickly whip up a curry from their pantry?

Let’s just say I wanted move in with them that instant. (Their gorgeous two-story apartment didn’t hurt either.)

It was years before I discovered there were so many other curries! And that you can indeed make a curry rather quickly if you have the right ingredients on hand. I’ve tried many curries in the last few years. Green has long been my favorite… until now.  Continue reading

The Only Blue Cheese Dressing Recipe You’ll Ever Need

17 Apr

I’m not ashamed to say I eat this with a spoon…

 

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Jar of blue cheese dressing

Our family loved blue cheese. We ate it on crackers, in things, on other things, all alone, crumbled in salads and also as a dressing. Blue Cheese!

My grandmother, Honey, loved it so much she had a big wheel of Stilton delivered every year during the Christmas holidays. It sat on her butcher block in the middle of the kitchen in a round wooden crock and you could dip in whenever you wanted. (It didn’t last long.)

I love blue cheese so much I love even intense blue cheeses. The first time I ever tried a cheese cart/course at a restaurant was at Gramercy Tavern in NYC, one of the best and most beautiful restaurants ever. I was on a date and we decided to go for the cheese course between the main course and dessert. The waitress, who was amazing, rolled the cart to the table and went through twenty-three different cheeses! Describing where they came from, what they were like, etc etc. I was in awe. Not only by what all she knew, which changed daily, but having waited tables ten years myself, I can’t imagine having to take that much time with a table, particularly on a busy Saturday night when in the weeds. Stress. Anyway… she described the cheeses from soft and lush to intense. The last cheese was a blue cheese that actually had mold on it. She said it was “only for people who love blue cheese and then maybe not.” I of course had to try. It may have had mold on it but was so incredible like young Oliver I asked for more. 

I’m not saying you need to use moldy blue cheese for this dressing! (Hey, it’s just penicillin, right?) But if you like blue cheese of any kind, this is the dressing for you. I’ve played with it for years and perfected it to what I love.  So I give you my dressing, as well as my favorite salad with the dressing.

Heaven.

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Blue Cheese Salad

THE BEST BLUE CHEESE DRESSING  Continue reading

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

10 Apr

A creamy spicy dreamy one pot dish perfect for a weeknight dinner

Two shrimp posts in a row? Yes indeedy.

I grew up on the Gulf Coast (Port Arthur, Texas, if you’re new to the blog) and there are few things I love as much as fresh shrimp from the Gulf.  We were all so lucky to have so much fresh seafood from the Gulf and shrimp was always my favorite. I may not always be able to get Gulf shrimp in Los Angeles, but I grab it when I can! Even when it’s not from the Gulf, though, shrimp is delicious and incredibly versatile. 

When you decide to get some shrimp, I recommend two pounds. Then, in one week, you can have two excellent dinners! Last week’s Spicy Sautéed Shrimp with Coconut Milk Rice, then a few nights later this delicious comforting shrimp pasta you can make in one pot.

Garlic Salad, Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Penne, and a crisp gin martini

If you can find fresh shrimp, get it with the shells. Yes, you will need to clean it, but cleaning shrimp is easy and you can make a quick shrimp stock that adds to the flavor of this dish.

Quick Shrimp Stock: Continue reading

Spicy Sautéed Shrimp with Coconut Milk Rice

5 Apr

One of the best main dishes I’ve ever prepared

This is the first time I’ve ever posted two days in a row, but dinner last night was so mind-glowingly wonderful, I had to share this recipe.  With a simple extra step, the coconut milk rice is as luscious and creamy and divine as imaginable. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the light, incredibly flavorful shrimp on top. 

Trust me. Make this soon.

Spicy Shrimp

Spicy Sautéed Shrimp with Coconut Milk Rice

 

SPICY SAUTEED SHRIMP AND COCONUT MILK RICE

This will feed 2 hungry people. It will double easily.

Ingredients

1 lb Gulf shrimp, peeled and cleaned

1 Serrano pepper, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 Fresno Chili, thinly sliced on the diagonal

(or whatever red chili you can find… don’t miss the red)

1/2 sweet onion, halved then thinly sliced into half-rings

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 small knob ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

juice of 1 lime

1 cup jasmine or basmati rice, rinsed in cold water

1 1/2 cup coconut milk (or 1 cup coconut cream mixed with 1/2 cup milk) mixed with 1/2 cup water. Remember, rice ratio is easy… twice the liquid as the amount of rice.

4 T butter

2 t. salt

NOTE ON SPICE: with the chilis, spice is in the seeds, flavor is in the pepper. So if you don’t like a lot of spice, don’t be afraid of using Serranos and Fresnos. Wash the seeds out of the peppers, being careful with your hands… if you get the spice on your hands and wipe your eyes (or elsewhere!) it’s not pleasant. Do note the coconut really tempers the spice. So at least leave a few seeds in!  Continue reading

Lockdown Dinners

4 Apr

cooking during the pandemic

I’m lucky during the COVID 19 lockdown to live with one of my best friends, Rob. He’s been working from home since January. I’m now working from home for the duration of the pandemic. During the day, he works in the office upstairs, I work in my office downstairs (set up in the kitchen) and we come together for dinner and binging after dinner. (Binging TV! Not drinks… or, well…)

Rob says cooking is my ‘Happy Place” and I guess he’s right. Cooking stresses some people out but it de-stresses me. After a long day, to make a martini and cook a great meal relaxes me entirely. Hell, it relaxes me even without the martini! The kitchen and food were always a comfort for me growing up. A safe space, if you will, to use a modern phrase. I guess that just continued into my adult life.

I also learned to cook because I love to eat. I remember realizing in High School that when I went to college, I wouldn’t be able to keep eating all the wonderful food my mom and grandmothers prepared. So I decided to learn how to cook their food before I graduated so I could make the food in college. I’ve been cooking ever since.

Additionally, my mind is on constant overdrive, I can’t turn it off, which is one of the reasons I don’t sleep much. Cooking is one of two things I’ve found (painting is the other) that clears my head of anything but the process. When I cook, all that shit rattling around in my head goes away, for a time. It’s a balm. And so, in this incredible and difficult time, I’ve been cooking like crazy.

If you click over to the Facebook Page, I’ve been posting photos and recipes of the dinners I’ve been cooking. I’m going to continue to do more frequent posts there, particularly of other chefs’ recipes I’m trying, while I’ll also post my own inventions here.

On Food And Film FB page

In the meantime, I’ll give you a couple of recent favorites. There are also some killer recipes upcoming here as the lockdown continues! So stay tuned and if you haven’t subscribed, sign up! You will not get pelted with emails, promise.

A book I’ve been cooking through that is terrific is Alison Roman’s Nothing FancyI’ve tried a lot from this book, including a killer dip I love, and I highly recommend her book.

Here is a dinner I made from Nothing Fancy, her salmon and green beans:

Salmon Green beans

Alison Roman’s Buttered Salmon and Walnut Green Beans

This is the best salmon I’ve ever eaten. Made with lemon, red onion and brown butter, it is ridiculously simple and divine. I’m linking to Stacy Snacks wonderful food blog for the recipe:

Alison Roman’s Buttered Salmon with Lemon and Red Onion

Her green beans were also a revelation:

Alison Roman’s Mustardy Green Beans with Anchovyed Walnuts

Another dinner was my Mushroom “Farroto” (risotto made with farro), with a light salad and creamed kale:

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Mushroom “Farroto” and Creamed Kale

These are easy dishes that are fairly healthy and very comforting.

You can find the recipe for the Mushroom Farotto here:

Mushroom Farrotto

You can find the Creamed Kale recipe here:

Creamed Kale

And for the salad, simply use mixed greens and my vinaigrette, which you should be making all the time ; ) 

Perfect Vinaigrette

So! Keep in touch on the FB page for fun stuff during the week, and once or twice a week my goal is to post some new inventions and discoveries here. As always, let me know what you think… and what you are cooking!

Blessings in this unbelievable time. 

A Cook/Book Who Changed My Life Vol. II

17 Mar

my tribute to a wonderful woman who changed my life and continues to affect it

I’ve written about a few of the cooks who influenced me, from my grandmothers to friends  and family members to Patricia Wells to Suzanne Goin …. Today I’d like to tell you about the cook and her book who influenced me the most — in cooking, certainly, but also in life. 

One of my closest friends growing up was Marty Roos. We spent tons of time together; consequently, I was at his house a lot. It was a warm and fun place to be. I loved his two older sisters, Dorothy and Stephanie (who could make me laugh like no other) as well as his parents. Mr. Roos, Stephen, was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and had a dry sharp wit that could knock you flat. Mrs. Roos, Fern, was a caterer so she was usually in the kitchen cooking for her family and/or cooking for one of her many clients/parties. 

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Fern Roos with her children Stephanie, Dorothy and Marty

Fern Roos started her catering business in 1973 with her best friend, Renee Bennett. In the years leading up to 1973,  Fern and Renee made sandwiches and food for their temple as well as their many friends. Renee’s father, Pop, suggested they start a catering business… and so they did. They called their company fernee’s and turned it into one of the most successful catering businesses in our area of Southeast Texas which is called The Golden Triangle, formed by the towns of Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange. For well over 25 years, fernee’s was the go-to for gatherings small and large, sometimes very large, in our part of Texas. 

I doubt Mrs. Roos thinks of herself as an early progressive feminist. Yet back in the 70s, when women were fighting for equality, for good jobs and for the rights men had, Fern and Renee started their own business without anyone’s approval.  Against the typical odds that kill a majority of restaurants and catering companies, they created a business that thrived for almost 30 years. They were so successful that later in their career they would be asked to speak to college students on how to start and run a successful business. 

Continue reading

Super Bowl Sunday: Killer Dips and Vegan Chili??

28 Jan

Yes! Perfect dips and vegetarian (vegan!) chili for your game day

I’ve been so swamped this January I don’t even know who is playing both in the game itself and at half time. But I’ll find out Sunday because I never miss a chance to make Super Bowl food!

I’m including three previous posts: the best dips imaginable.

What’s new is yet another dip, also wonderful, and a mind-blowing vegetarian chili recipe (actually, its vegan!) that even the staunchest carnivore will love: it tastes like chili!

So scroll down, pick some recipes you like and get ready for Sunday!

First, previous recipes that can’t be beat (click the links!):

The Best Guacamole Ever

Guac 5

(Don’t forget, you can also make Bacon Guacamole…)

and what friends of mine have now dubbed, in all seriousness, ‘crack’:

Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip

Pim Cheese corn dip

This is new! Another dip just as incredible… at least if you like pickles! Courtesy of Foodie with Family, this is divine:

Dill Pickle Dip

DillPickleDip

And now, a recipe for an amazing vegetarian chili.

Most recipes I see online for vegetarian chili are more a vegetable stew, rather than an actual chili. Take, for example, this excellent version from Emeril: Vegetarian Chili (stew)

That’s a great recipe. But it’s not chili. At least nothing like the chili I grew up with in Texas.

So… for a vegetarian (vegan!) chili that actually tastes like chili, walnuts are the way to go! Sound crazy? Not if you know raw food. I actually went raw for 4 months once, to see what eating raw was like. I actually liked the food but it was a pain in the ass! You think “Raw food… no cooking… easy!” Um, no. I spent a lot more time figuring out what to eat and how to prep it than I ever do in a normal week. Still, I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. 

One of my favorite recipes then was Raw Tacos, about which I will soon post. Walnuts, prepped properly, were a shockingly great substitute for ground taco meat. The same transformation happens in this wonderful recipe. Give it a try and surprise yourself! You can make it in an hour, though, as with any chili, it’s best to make it the day before. This only gets better with time.

VEGETARIAN CHILI (It’s actually Vegan!)

Chili

NOTE: I’m simplifying a longer recipe I sometimes cook by using canned beans and store-bought chili powder. If you have the time, cooking your own dried beans from scratch and making your own chili powder will elevate the chili even more. But the easy version is still terrific. Which means that is all you will make. And you will be happy.

NOTE: Making your own vegetable broth really adds to the taste. You can easily make the veggie broth as you sauté your onions: In a pot, throw an onion with skin, a few chilis and/or bell peppers, carrots, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns (all chopped roughly, any or all of these that you have around) and bring to a boil. Then turn down to low. Then start your onions. By the time you need the broth in the recipe… voila!

Continue reading

2019 – The Rest of the Best

10 Jan

final ruminations on 2019

When I looked back over my notes from the past year, I was shocked that some of my favorites were actually from 2019, not 2018; it seems so long ago when I read or watched some of these.

I guess it’s been a very long year.

Thankfully, the content has been tremendous. Last week I posted my favorite films. Here’s the rest of my “Best of 2019” in no particular order or genre:

1917

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I had not yet seen 1917 when I did my best of film post last week. I was a little reticent to see this movie, thinking the technical virtuosity (even more jaw-dropping than I anticipated) would overshadow the emotional side of the story. Not at all. I was deeply, deeply moved by 1917,  less a traditional war movie than a ticking clock thriller within the war genre. 1917 is a wildly audacious, risk-taking film… against all odds, everything works brilliantly. Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins deserve many accolades but my overwhelming shoutout goes to George MacKay as a soldier tasked with a dangerous mission. If this actor wasn’t perfect, the entire movie would fall apart. MacKay carries the movie on his considerable shoulders. See this in the theatre if you can.

Fleabag – Season 2

 

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Andrew Scott and Phoebe Waller-Bridge

 

The note I give my screenwriting students more than any other is “You’re writing about polite people acting politely. Lovely… and completely boring.” Great storytelling, whether comedy or drama, comes from savage conflict and troubled characters. Look no further than Fleabag. I know some have a hard time getting past the opening of Season 1, the literal definition of “in your face.” I implore you to continue. Season 1 is terrific. Season 2 is one of the best pieces of television I’ve ever seen. With the brilliant addition of Andrew Scott as the second lead, playing a devastatingly attractive priest, and the surprising addition of God as the third lead, the second season of Fleabag is hilarious, devastating and complex.

Creator/writer/actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott are both incredible. Equally genius are Sian Clifford as Fleabag’s sister Claire and Olivia Coleman as a truly evil stepmother. It was also wonderful to see Kristen Scott-Thomas (sigh) being given such a meaty, wonderful guest starring role. How cool is it that with all the accolades and awards, Waller-Bridge decided to stop the series at the end of Season 2 rather than extend it on and on, as do so many other shows. The last episode is perfect. As is the rest of the series. I love me some Fleabag.

Continue reading

Best of 2019 – Film

3 Jan

For eight or so months it seemed 2019 was going to be a mediocre year for movies. Sure there was the occasional surprise (Shazam! – Zachary Levi, my goodness), a couple of much better than average Stephen King adaptations (Pet Sematary, It 2 – both very effective) and even a grump like me had to admit Marvel somehow pulled off a very satisfying end to their multi-year experiment with Avengers: Endgame. But otherwise… meh. Around September, however, some switch went off! Fall and winter have been terrific. It’s been a while since I’ve been this jazzed about a string of such strong films. My best of the best:

JOKER

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I did a full post on my favorite movie of 2019 shortly after Joker’s release so I won’t belabor it here. Here’s a link to the piece if you’re interested:

Jokers, Parasites and Fear

This post on Joker also discussed another big favorite:

PARASITE

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Already an extremely accomplished director (see Snowpiercer, Mother, The Host, etc) Bong Joon-ho somehow stepped up his game with this savage black comedy about class and family. Brilliant.

Continue reading

Christmas Carols

22 Dec

Spotify mixes for your holiday enjoyment

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I’m a Christmas Music Fanatic. I know them all and am very opinionated about what is best. So I was going to do a big post on the best Christmas Music… yet I’ve found, over the years, that wading into discussions about the best Christmas Music is fraught with more danger than throwing left and right wing people into a room to discuss impeachment.

You think debating politics is bad at a family gathering? Try Christmas Carols!

So when I thought I would post about all my favorites, I wisely decided to refrain. But…

I’m not only a Christmas Music Fanatic (with a few exceptions, I’m generally old school, all the way… talk to the hand, for instance, if you prefer the abominable Madonna Santa Baby over Eartha Kitt… in fact, just de-friend me right now) but I’m a playlist fanatic. I’ve spent years tweaking and perfecting a playlist. 

So instead of listing music, I want to direct you, if you Spotify, to my Christmas playlists. You’ll see what I like and I believe you will be pleased.

Note: you can click on these and access Spotify.. or just find me on Spotify: provostom

TOM’S CHRISTMAS PLAYLISTS

For a classic Christmas Carol playlist, mostly upbeat but with some slow, A Classic Christmas Mix:

 

For a slow, gorgeous night before the fire, A Romantic Christmas Night:

 

If you’re having a Christmas Party this has a lot of Christmas music but other music as well. It’s almost 7 hours, it will survive just about any Christmas Party!

And, if you dare, let us know your favorites!

A Delightful Stir-Fry

13 Dec

This feisty and ultra-satisfying vegan dish turns carnivorous in one simple step

Winter may seem an odd time for a stir-fry. Aren’t vegetables best in the spring and summer? But most of the vegetables used in a stir-fry… onions, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, etc… are available year round. On a cold night, yes, a hearty stew or soup is wonderful… but so is a delicious bowl of perfectly cooked vegetables. Finished with a savory sauce and fresh herbs, this stir-fry will satisfy the hungriest soul.

StirFry ingredient line up

Stir-fry lined up and ready

I’ve been playing around with this recipe for a while, working to get it just right. I discovered there are two keys to making the best stir-fry possible:

  1. the order in which you cook the vegetables
  2. the sauce you use to bring the dish together. 

When it comes to cooking the vegetables, for ease you certainly can throw everything in a sauté pan and quick cook the vegetables all together. But different vegetables have different cooking times and if you cook everything together, you end up with a less than satisfying mush. Additionally, I like certain vegetables (onions, chili peppers, garlic) cooked down soft for flavor, while others (colored bell peppers and zucchini) I like to remain just a touch undercooked to give the stir-fry different layers of texture as well as a satisfying crunch. It takes a little more time to cook this way, but the final dish is infinitely better. Acid and fresh herbs at the end brightens the dish enormously. 

As for the sauce, most recipes I saw online were way too sweet. Experimenting with a variety of choices, over time I narrowed the sauce down to three savory ingredients with a dollop of honey. It’s killer. A lot of stores are carrying these ingredients now but you can easily order them from Amazon; just click the links in the recipe. It’s worth having these in your pantry.

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An Elevated Potato-Leek Soup

6 Dec

This revamped classic, flecked with fresh herbs, hides a delicious addition

My dentist said, “soft foods only for a couple of days.” Who was I to argue? For me that meant making both the best macaroni and cheese ever, and soup.

But which soup?

In fall and winter my mom often made a terrific and comforting potato-leek soup. Bingo: perfect for cold weather and just what the dentist ordered. But I have no recipe from mom. A wonderful cook, she rarely used recipes and when she did, she deviated every time, giving each dish her personal flair. So I had to come up with my own.

Potato leek soup

elevated potato-leek soup

Looking at various recipes online, I realized most versions of potato-leek soup are solid… and boring and a little bland. Most are also ridiculously simple, which is certainly a plus, but little time is taken at the start to prep the ingredients to insure the soup has depth of flavor. Many versions do no prep, instead throwing raw leeks, potatoes and onion in a pot with broth, boiling, then blending… easy, yes but, again, bland and a bit lifeless. I wanted to see if I could liven it up without taking the comfort out of the dish. After a little experimentation, here’s a fresh yet rich version of the classic.

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Your Perfect Thanksgiving

23 Nov

While this is an amalgam of previous Thanksgiving posts, I hone every year. I know you have your favorites! We all do. But trust me… add a few of these (the cocktail and the turkey in particular.. and the dips… and, well, you know… ) and you will have the best dinner ever. Hell, just follow it all! I won’t let you down. 

Not a lot of writing below… you can scan other Thanksgiving posts for more detail. If it’s on the list below, I’ve made it many times, it’s easy, and your friends and family will be thrilled. 

COCKTAIL

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Cranberry Daiquiri

This is my signature cocktail for people from Thanksgiving thru New Years. Not too sweet and incredibly tasty. Once you have the syrup made, you can make it fast anytime:

Cranberry Daiquiri

DIPS

Pim Cheese corn dip

Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip

The pickle dip is killer. The pimento cheese dip is now referred to as “crack” by everyone who has tried it. Both will make you supremely happy:

Dill Pickle Dip

Spicy Pimento Cheese Dip

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Breakfast Tacos

17 Nov

A Texas staple that will become a regular part of your repertoire

Breakfast Tacos

Breakfast Tacos

It was called The Lazy Daisy: a 24 hour restaurant on ‘the drag’ in Austin, a locally owned Denny’s like place that was so much better than Denny’s. When I was in college at The University of Texas at Austin, The Lazy Daisy was always filled, even at (or particularly at) 2:30 AM in the morning after all the bars closed and people wanted good sustenance to help mitigate their buzz.

“The Daisy” as we came to call it, was also one solitary stumbling block from my fraternity house. The most inebriated person in the world, and their equally drunk date, could manage to get there in minutes on foot.

Needless to say, many of us were fixtures.

While I enjoyed a lot of different foods at The Daisy — they had surprisingly good salads, for instance, and a better than decent chicken fried steak — by far the greatest menu item, which I came to know intimately, were the breakfast tacos.

Breakfast tacos are one of my favorite foods. They are so incredibly satisfying I’m always shocked I can’t find them anywhere but Texas. Yes, breakfast burritos are ubiquitous. I like them, too. But there are subtle yet huge differences between a breakfast burrito and a breakfast taco. Give me a breakfast taco any time.

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Halloween Favorites

27 Oct

 Some terrific scary movies you might not have seen…

Halloween week! You gotta watch at least one scary movie, right? Let me give you a few choices you may not know, movies you can easily find right now. 

Note: It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find classic movies online… some favorites I wanted to list here… Ils (Them), Session 9, The Haunting, Rebecca, The Innocents… are not available, which is a problem. Still, this is a wonderfully scary list.

TRAIN TO BUSAN (Netflix)

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If you haven’t seen Train To Busan, this is your watch. It’s a remarkable movie. Not only is this hands down the best zombie movie ever made, Train is an equally gripping emotional rollercoaster, a beautifully crafted movie that goes much deeper than your usual scary movie. Think of the emotional depths of something like Ordinary People… combined with zombies. It’s that good. The first 45 minutes is textbook craftsmanship on how this kind of movie should open. The rest? Whoa.

If you think a zombie movie can’t make you weep, you haven’t seen Train To Busan.

THE ORPHANAGE (Hulu)

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The Orphanage goes just about as deep emotionally as Train To Busan. A woman returns to the orphanage where she was raised, now an abandoned mansion. She buys the house with her husband, intending to turn it into a home for sick children. More a classic ghost story than horror, that’s all you need to know.

Awesome, with an Oscar-worthy performance by Belén Rueda.

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Jokers, Parasites and Fear

17 Oct

Why are people so afraid of Joker?

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In the September 25th issue of The New Yorker, Pauline Kael asked “Are people becoming afraid of American movies?” 

This was, of course, 1978, not 2019. Yet it seems likely the great film critic would have asked the same question forty-one years later, given the critical hysteria over Todd Phillip’s Joker.

Kael continued: 

When acquaintances ask me what they should see and I say The Last Waltz or Convoy or Eyes of Laura Mars, I can see the recoil. It’s the same look of distrust I encountered when I suggested Carrie or The Fury or Jaws or Taxi Driver or the two Godfathers before that… They don’t see why they should subject themselves to experiences that will tie up their guts or give them nightmares….Discriminating moviegoers want the placidity of nice art—of movies tamed so that they are no more arousing than what used to be called polite theatre. So we’ve been getting a new cultural puritanism… and the press is full of snide references to Coppola’s huge film in progress, and a new film by Peckinpah is greeted with derision…

The parallels to today should be obvious to anyone following much of the critical reaction to Phillip’s brilliant and deeply unsettling masterpiece.

I’m a fan, obviously. Joker is one of the best films I’ve seen in years. If left me shaken, disturbed and in need of a double shot of Bulleit. Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, the troubled man at the center of the movie, delivers one of the great cinematic performances of all time. Brimming with dozens of cinematic references, the movie is gorgeously crafted: this was a crew that working overtime on every single frame. Joker resonates on a deep emotional level, particularly for those of us who have struggled personally or dealt socially with madness. Joker is upsetting for many reasons, not the least of which is that although it’s set in fictional Gotham of 1981, the movie thrusts many troubling aspects of our present society in our face, forcing us to bear witness.

The movie certainly has many fellow defenders. Joker won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival where it received an eight minute standing ovation. And the public is supporting the movie with wild abandon: the film is a smash hit worldwide, already earning over half a billion dollars.  In the US alone it had the biggest October opening weekend ever and broke even more records this past weekend, its second. Hitting #1 the second weekend is telling: films can have a big opening but then fall off once word of mouth spreads a movie is a stinker. Joker is not falling off. People are continuing to go see it. 

Yet many critics are assaulting the movie. I don’t mean the typical “I didn’t like this and here’s why” type of reviews. Before Joker’s release two weeks ago these critics were clearly trying to hurt the film, cripple its box office and wipe it from memory before it could get going.

Here’s a quick look at what some of these critics had to say:  “a viewing experience of a rare, numbing emptiness.” “ punishingly dull”, “pompous, grim, relentlessly one-note”, “Dangerous”, “pernicious garbage” , “grim, shallow, distractingly derivative”, a dangerous manifesto that could inspire incels to commit acts of violence” and “wildly dull and mundanely uninteresting”, which, if you’ve seen the movie, even if you hated it, has to appear ridiculous given what happens in Joker. To call this particular movie dull and uninteresting is in itself “wildly dull and mundanely uninteresting.”

Clearly the movie is getting under these critics’ skin. They are attempting to render Joker immoral, often wildly misrepresenting the movie and its contents in order to do so.

One frequent attack is that the movie is hero worshipping a killer, that it’s a how-to manifesto for incel violence, and that the movie turns the hero “into an angry guy with a gun and violent disregard for everyone.”

But this isn’t true in the slightest. Joker doesn’t go rampaging through the city shooting at any or everyone (see multiple action movies that garner no critical attacks). Key here are two sequences: one in which Arthur lets a co-worker go free after killing another co-worker: “You were the only one who was nice to me.”  The other is Arthur’s TV appearance. He easily could have been depicted as going on a rampage, shooting into the audience, yet he only kills one man, the man who made fun of him. The violence in the movie, while shocking and horrifying, is nothing compared to normal screen violence (see multiple action movies that garner no critical attacks). In fact, compared to such movies the body count in Joker is quite low.

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A Hearty Mushroom Ragout

4 Oct

A delicious Autumn meal I eat year round.

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I love fall. Hands down my favorite season. It’s not because I look my best in fall clothes… although, to be honest, that is part of it. I love everything about fall: cool crisp sweater weather, football games at twilight, County Fairs, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Fall Back from Daylight Savings Time (an extra hour of sleep, yes!!), earth tones, melancholy (can’t be beat) and of course all kinds of fall food… from soups to stews to root vegetables to pie to, well, any food that warms the soul and speaks to Autumn.

I love Fall so much I even have a playlist I created that makes me feel like Fall, all year round:

To start fall off right I present to you a divine Mushroom Ragout, one you can serve in a variety of ways. Vegetarian to the max (and even Vegan if you omit the final pad of butter) you’ll never think of this as a vegetarian dish, it’s so hearty and meaty and satisfying.

A twist on a ragout by the incredible chef David Tanis (his books are wonderful) this easy ragout will satisfy your soul.

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Mushroom Ragout over polenta

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