Musing with Max

Musing with Max

April 7, 2014

April flowers in the house-Spring is here.

No I didn't fall off the face of the earth. I've been running ragged and busier than a little bee. That's another post though. I've fallen way behind on my blogging and blog reading but today I have to find the time. You see Jane is recuperating from torn rotator cuff surgery but being Jane she's still hosting the Flowers in the House party. How could I possibly not attend?

Happy yellow daffodils from trader Joe's cause mine are just starting to peek out of the ground.

Happy Spring Everybody!

March 16, 2014

Signs of Life

The meltdown began last weekend. All of a sudden there were temperatures in the mid 50's, the sun came out a shone down on the piles of ice, we had a little rain here and there. I could actually get into my car wearing regular shoes since the ice around it had melted down to blacktop on the driveway. Yes the cold came back towards the middle of the week but the predicted snowfall didn't happen at all so it made it more bearable. I can wear sneakers when walking with Max rather than snow boots. Yesterday I looked out towards the backyard and was shocked to see that most of it is green with a couple of little ice caps here and there, I can see the entire patio. This morning Max was able to sniff the ground on our walk

and kept his nose down for most of the time or hopped around in ecstasy. I saw a bunny. And tiny buds on the magnolias.

The birds are singing and Max finds more places in the sun.

I bought daffodils at Trader Joe's

to bring in some much needed Spring...despite the forecast...snow tonight. Can't wait til Thursday.

March 2, 2014

Roaring in

Winter refuses to abate. It is relentlessly hanging on for dear life as if this will be it's last breath ever. The frigid temperatures have become the norm as has the white landscape. This has become our regular footwear,

nice no? No. I can't remember the last time I wore a skirt, and I love wearing dresses...and heels. This must be what purgatory is like...or Alaska, same thing. Two weeks ago I read in the Times that we had accumulated 50 inches of snow, the norm for the entire winter is 20 , and then we got another 12. I hate being in the record books. I was actually under the delusion though that once this most frigid and snowy of February's bade it's adieu we would be out of the woods, or more precisely, the ice. Wrong! Today is March 2nd, (which I just realized as I type this is the anniversary of my arrival in this country...48th to be exact) and we are expecting yet another snow storm. 6 to 12 they say, March is definitely being lionesque. Being snowbound is getting old, driving through the obstacle course of potholes is getting even older. Eating and cooking, however never will, especially if it's Portuguese!

Cozido de Grao (Chickpea Stew with Lamb Pork & Veal) adapted from Saveur


  • 2 tbsp. lard or unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. cured Portuguese chouriço sausage, sliced 1½" thick
  • 6 oz. boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1½" pieces
  • 6 oz. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1½" pieces
  • 6 oz. boneless veal shoulder, cut into 1½" pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into ½" pieces
  • 2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ medium butternut squash (about 1 lb.), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1" pieces
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped mint
  • Portuguese pão, or rustic country bread, for serving


Heat lard or butter in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, 9–10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a bowl; set aside. Season lamb, pork, and veal with salt and pepper, and working in batches, cook meats, turning as needed, until browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to bowl with sausage. Add garlic and onions to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Stir in paprika and cayenne; cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Return sausage and meat to pan, along with stock and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, partly covered, until meat is tender, about 45 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, squash, salt, and pepper; continue to cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more. Discard bay leaves and stir in mint. Ladle stew into bowls; serve with country bread on the side.

Day 2.

Entrecosto No Forno (Braised Spareribs and Potatoes) adapted from Saveur
Serves 4 to 6


  • 2 racks (about 6 lb.) St. Louis-style pork spareribs
  • 1½ cups massa de pimentão, or jarred red bell pepper paste, preferably Incopil brand
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½" pieces


1. Place ribs in a roasting pan and rub with pepper paste, coating completely. Cover with plastic wrap; chill overnight.
2. Heat oven to 325°. Let ribs come to room temperature. Uncover pan and season ribs with black pepper. Cover pan with aluminum foil; bake until ribs are tender, about 2 hours. Remove from oven; increase oven to 425°. Transfer ribs to a baking sheet. Scrape red pepper paste from ribs and transfer to a bowl. Pour half the drippings from pan over paste; whisk until smooth. Add potatoes to roasting pan; toss with remaining drippings and season with black pepper. Place ribs over potatoes. Brush paste mixture over ribs. Return to oven; bake, uncovered, until ribs and potatoes are tender, about 1 hour more. Remove pan and heat oven broiler. Broil until ribs are slightly charred, 3–4 minutes. Transfer ribs to a cutting board; let rest until cool enough to handle, then slice into individual ribs. Transfer potatoes to a large serving platter; place ribs over top.

(I did not have the pepper paste so I improvised, took a jar of pimentos added some dry piri piri pepper for heat and whizzed it in the food processor, worked out nicely)

Can't skip dessert, right?

Encharcada (C0nvent Sweet) adapted from Saveur
  • 2 eggs, plus 9 yolks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 (2"-long) strips lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon


Whisk eggs and yolks in a bowl. Using a ladle, press the eggs and yolks through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; set aside. Bring sugar, lemon zest, and 1 cup water to a boil in a 12" skillet; cook, without stirring, until sugar is dissolved and a candy thermometer inserted in the syrup reads 225°, about 5 minutes.

 Using a slotted spoon, discard lemon zest; reduce heat to medium. While stirring, slowly drizzle egg mixture into syrup.

Cook until small curds form and mixture is very thick and appears slightly curdled, about 15 minutes.

Transfer to a 9" pie plate and sprinkle with cinnamon. Guide the flame of a blowtorch back and forth over the top of the egg sweet until the surface caramelizes. (Alternatively, place under oven broiler.) Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Warning: this is SUPER sweet, I would cut back on the sugar a bit, maybe by half a cup)

And neither will cuddling with your baby

I think we'll survive the Winter.

February 13, 2014

Hunkering down


No, that is not me. To some extent though I wish it was, first off I couldn't possibly get any cuter, and second I would feel right at home and very comfortable right now in my present element.

This is what is visible of my patio furniture,

and the really big boxwood which stands next to the patio,

and my front steps; trust me they are there somewhere. I don't want to look in the direction of my car for fear that I may not see it. I look out and wonder what happened to technicolor since my outside world is all black and white,

although on occasion a hint of color pops in, as in a piece of my neighbor's yellow house

or a glimpse of my purple facade and some hints of wood. But for the most part its mountains of white; blinding bright white. Going out is no fun. First of all it takes a while to put on all the paraphernalia required to venture out in the frigid temperatures, then you have to put on the clunky snow/ice footwear so as not to slip and break your neck on the eight inches of solid ice covering the ground. Which means you have to remember to bring along a bag with your other shoes so you're not stuck wearing the big old clunky icky boots all day long. Some of us have the right idea though,

and figure out how to make the best of it. So we'll just follow suit, hunker down, and cook warm stuff.

Chicken, Potato & Artichoke Cake - adapted from Paula Wolfert
Serves 6

1 pound purple eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse kosher salt
6 skinned and boned chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, at room temperature
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup rendered duck fat or clarified butter
1 cup finely diced ventrèche or pancetta
1 cup cubed (½ inch) blanched fresh or thawed frozen artichoke bottoms
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup unsalted chicken stock 
3 tablespoon minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
2 pounds russet potatoes
2 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse sea salt

Sprinkle the eggplant with 1½ tablespoons coarse salt and let stand for at least 2 hours. Rinse the eggplant chunks under running water; squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Do not worry about maintaining the shape; you should have about 1 cup dry clumps of eggplant.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the duck fat or clarified butter in a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, over moderate heat. Add the ventrèche and brown lightly. Raise the heat and, working in batches, add the chicken and sear 30 seconds to a side; transfer to a platter to cool. Then cut each thigh into 6 pieces.

Add the artichokes to the hot skillet and cook, stirring, with the pan juices until just golden around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the artichokes to a bowl. Pour off the fat. Deglaze the skillet with a little white wine and stock and boil down to a syrupy glaze. Scrape into the bowl with the artichokes. Add the chicken chunks, chives, thyme, and l tablespoon of the lemon juice. Season with l teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and toss lightly to mix. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons duck fat in a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Add the eggplant, cover, and cook, turning the clumps from time to time, until they begin to plump up, feel tender, and turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. At this point, reduce the heat to low, add a pinch of sugar, and slowly cook, uncovered, turning the pieces of eggplant often, for 5 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and garlic and continue to cook, turning often, for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the eggplant has a glowing, bronzed, moist appearance. Set aside on paper towels to absorb any excess fat.

Peel the potatoes, halve lengthwise, and cut into long thin slices. Wash well to remove their starch and pat dry with paper towels. In the same skillet used to cook the eggplant, set the olive oil over moderate heat. Working in batches, add the potato slices and cook until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes.

Arrange a generous third of the potatoes slices, overlapping, in the bottom of a buttered, 9-inch straight-sided cast-iron skillet, copper tart tatin pan, or 6- or 7-cup shallow ovenproof baking dish. Cover with the chicken, pancetta, artichokes, and eggplant. Arrange the remaining potatoes on top and cover with a sheet of foil. Crimp the foil against the edge of the pan to seal tightly.

Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, press the pie down, and continue baking, uncovered, for 30 minutes longer. Brush the top with the remaining duck fat and place under the broiler for a minute or two to brown. Serve in the pan with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Happy Shoveling!

February 2, 2014

Magnificent Obsessions

I am absolutely head over heels obsessed with dishware/china. Just love them. I own eight sets of dishes. Yes, I know, sounds indulgent...and maybe it is but I can't help myself. In my defense though most come from thrift stores and sales so it's not as if I'm spending copious amounts of money on them, that would just be sick. There are the everyday dishes,

shown here with one of Frank's fabulous egg breakfasts. I got these from the Ross-Simmons catalog years ago, it's a service for twelve and was very well priced. I like their lovely Greek motif and that they are white.

Frank gave me the beauties for my birthday one year.

He got them at Pottery Barn, I love them in the Spring time and early Summer when the green starts to show.

These are my "I can't afford Wedgewood but let me fake myself out" dishes. I got them at Conran's at Astor Place in NYC 30 years ago when we were newlyweds.

Here they are holding a Salmorejo soup. I love them, they are probably my favorite. They, however, seem to be quite abundant (which is fine)... a little story. My sister in law's brother who was a soul mate had the same dishes, bought at Conran's somewhere 30 years ago in NYC. When his light was extinguished his mother inherited the dishes, I then gave my brother and sister in law a set when they celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. All together we have 24 place settings. Family reunion anyone?

These I found at a thrift shop near my old house where we also found a whole bunch of fabulous furniture,

they are incredible. Shaped like leaves with a whole bunch of different colors that I have an enormous amount of fun playing with, several serving platters and bowls; they were displayed in an etagere and I asked, "how much?" he said "hm mm, $60.00" I then counted 60 pieces, sold! Perfect for Thanksgiving.

What I call the Summer outdoor dishes, I detest paper plates and paper napkins, so I bought 12 of these for buck a piece and 12 of the smaller ones for the same price

same with the matching wine glasses, how can you go wrong?

These wacky little dishes are from the local thrift/antiques store,

I call them the Amish dishes since they have this adorable farming motif with farmers and milkmaid outfits. We went to go for a look to see what was in store and the minute I saw them I couldn't see anything else. I said no, I have plenty and then we came home. I then said to Frank " I can't stop thinking about them, am I being an idiot? " He looked at me and said "I own 10,000 records" I ran out the door..they were $40.00, set of 6 with cups and soup bowls.

Then there are the dishes we got at the junk shop that was in the next town over owned by the Cuban lady who was closing down, who said if you wrap them they're yours for $30.00. So I used them for one of my other obsessions

for his birthday dinner.

My mother's china.

Don't even get me started on linens.

Oh, one more....

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!