Musing with Max

Musing with Max

November 27, 2011

Living dangerously

Some of us tend to go about our daily lives with a warning chip in our brains that allows us to not get into all manner of trouble. For example we don't run out into the street without glancing in each direction looking for oncoming vehicles and such, we don't chase after motorcycles at high speed just because the noise bothers us, we don't chase after people walking by with baby carriages which undoubtedly freaks them out since they think you are out to harm their little bundle of joy, we don't lunge at cars as they pass by while we are strolling, we don't stick our noses in the mulch and come out chewing something mysterious, we don't pick up discarded tissues on the sidewalk and hide them in our cheeks for later chewing thinking that no one has noticed, we don't chomp on tree bark regardless of what Ewell Gibbons says; and usually when we encounter this
we back away slowly...not run up to it at breakneck speed and stick our snout in its face. But that's only some of us, others prefer to be adventurous

and suffer the consequences

but so do those around us, so sometimes we get a bath at 1:00 am.

At least none of us drink water out of the toilet bowl.

November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

For the first time since I can remember living here in New Jersey I did not cook Thanksgiving dinner; meaning that I didn't have an entire week of marathon cooking and preparations which, frankly, is something I enjoy immensely. My sister-in-law asked us to go over to their house in Connecticut, I hesitantly said yes but also begged to cook something since I need my fix, and she said "please do" since let's face it for Thanksgiving we need the obligatory million side dishes and desserts. So I pulled out my old trusty Thanksgiving Food & Wine issue from 1994 (the best one ever) and proceeded to make my favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

warning: it takes 4 hours in the oven and MUST be refrigerated overnight.

Sweet Potato Ricotta Cheesecake adapted from Nancy Silverton

12 servings

1 lb. sweet potatoes
1/4 cup pecans
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 lb. cream cheese, at room temp.
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp.
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbpn bourbon

1. Preheat oven to 400f. Bake the sweet potatoes for about 35 minutes, until tender when pierced (I find this takes more like an hour). Split them in half and let cool for 10 minutes. Scoop the flesh out and work through a food mill, there should be about 1 1/4 cups. Lower the oven temp to 250f.
2. Spread the pecans on a small baking sheet and roast tin the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Let cool then chop coarsely. Leave oven on.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
4. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter at high speed until smooth.
ad the granulated and brown sugars, the whole eggs and egg yolk and beat at high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the ricotta and sour cream and mix at low sped until just blended. Beat in the flour mixture until incorporated.

Fold in the mashed sweet potatoes and the bourbon. Scrape the mixture into a lightly buttered 10 X 2 inch spring foam pan and sprinkle the chopped pecans on top
5. Bake the cheesecake for 3 hours. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour longer. Transfer to rack and let cool completely.
6. Run a small sharp knife around the edge of the cheesecake, remove the sides of the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

and some side dishes, yay, yay, yay

Roasted Sweet potato & black bean salad adapted from Chez us

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • zest from one lime
  • 1 tablespoon blue agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 medium roasted sweet potato
  • 2 cups black beans
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 425.  Prick the sweet potato with a fork, and put into the oven, as is.  Let roast until tender but still slightly firm;  about 35 minutes.  While the potato is roasting, rinse, and drain the black beans.  Gently pat the beans dry with a paper towel.  In a small jar add the oil, lime juice, zest, nectar, cumin seeds, and shallot;  shake to combine.  Once the potato is finished roasting, remove from the oven, and let cool to touch.  Peel off the skin, and cut the potato into small cubes.  Add the beans, cubes of sweet potato to a salad bowl, gently toss with the cilantro, and then drizzle in the dressing.  Gently toss before serving.  Season with more salt and pepper, if needed.  
I don't know how many this serves, so I doubled it and a half- didn't use the agave

Onions baked with rosemary & cream adapted from Saveur

Adding cream at the last minute softens the rosemary's pungency.

6 large yellow onions, unpeeled
2 cups chicken stock
3–4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 3–4 branches
Rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Slice about 1/4" off the bottoms and tops of the onions so that they will sit upright; then slice in half crosswise. Arrange onions skin side down (cut side up) in a baking dish.

2. Pour chicken stock over and around the onions in baking dish. Drizzle oil over the onions, then liberally season with salt and pepper. Scatter rosemary over the onions and into the stock in the baking dish.

3. Transfer baking dish to oven and bake, basting often with the stock, until onions are soft when pierced with the tip of a paring knife and stock has been reduced by about three-quarters, 1–1 1/4 hours.

4. Remove baking dish from oven and pour cream over onions. Return dish to oven and bake until pan juices have thickened slightly and tops of onions have browned, 20–30 minutes more.
So as we set off with our offering packed into a cooler I couldn't help but feel a little melancholic  -  he couldn't come
which made me even sadder than this look, but there was turkey
and stuffing

and even more sides

and cheesy decorations made by children

and children

and seashores

and too much food and squabbling family members and drama and not enough wine to drown out the squabbling family members and memories of Thanksgivings past and finding all those things we should be thankful for but overlook when life gets in the turkeys, and stuffing and cheesy decorations made by children and children and seashores and too much food and squabbling family members and drama and wine, and for being able to get all the awful stains out of my tablecloth and another Thanksgiving memory to add to the repertoire. Here's to it all and to knowing that we'll get home to this
but hopefully not on the living room couch.

November 22, 2011

Be Italian

Our friends Louise & Michael went to Italy for 2 1/2 weeks (hate them), they even sent us pictures of some of their meals
(breakfast in Siena, ugh showoffs!!!!) Then they came back and brought us a big hunk of cheese with the most adorable grater

LOVE THEM!!!!! I couldn't wait to use it but I had to think fast before it disappeared. Apparently somebody was nibbling away at it (it was much bigger than the picture when it arrived). Wonder who

probably, but he had to have an accomplice since he has no thumbs, hmmm?

Anyway, back to the food...Something authentic, something delicate, something worthy of the sexiest man alive
even though he's dead.

Spaghetti a la Carbonara adapted by me

4 oz. pancetta or bacon roughly chopped
Olive oil for sauteing, if using pancetta.
one small onion thinly sliced
8 oz. spaghetti
3 large eggs, beaten
salt & pepper to taste
about half a cup grated Parmiggiano Reggiano brought from Italy

If using pancetta, heat oil in a skillet, add pancetta and saute until soft
or saute bacon in hot skillet until starting to color, then add onions and continue sauteing until onions are soft

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente.
When spaghetti is cooked, drain, add to the skillet and stir into the onion bacon mixture until well incorporated

remove from heat and add beaten eggs stirring constantly until eggs are cooked
add salt & pepper to taste Serve dusted with lost of Parmiggiano Reggiano brought from Italy

November 17, 2011

The Boy in the Dog Suit

When my niece Amanda
was 3 years old, which is clearly not in this picture, she used to wake up in the middle of the night and walk all the way across the house and jump into her parents' bed in-between them. If memory serves, I believe they let her stay the first night but when she returned the next night and every night after that for the next 3 months her mother would take her back to her bed and tell her she had to stay there until eventually they came up with some compromise where she could sleep in their room (not their bed) once a month if she behaved. This worked and eventually she lost interest and stayed in her bed. It's a kid thing.

Frank's godson Luis

would scream so loud in the middle of night from his crib when he was 1 that his parents started bringing him into their bed to sleep with them so that they could. He is 3 going on 4 and still there. It's a kid thing.

My godsons Franky and Gaspar
jump into their parents' bed in the mornings and cuddle up. They just turned 3 so the jury is still out on the outcome of this one. It's a kid thing.

Whenever we go away for a weekend and bring Max with us he always jumps into bed with us even though we bring his
and when he finally wore us down (cause we're suckers for a cutie pie) and convinced us to let him on almost every piece of furniture including our bed

he went one step further (just one, really?) and now jumps in every morning, sometimes he just waits for us there

it's a kid thing...I'm changing my name to Gepetto.

November 9, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

The second question during my umpteenth job interview yesterday he asked "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?" For a minute I went completely blank, then the thoughts started to race like a rushing waterfall into my head: a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, chief cook and bottle washer; literally. Dancer, Prancer, Donder and Blitzen...recruiter wasn't part of the rush but its what came out of my mouth since that's my experience and what I'm applying for and talking to a lot of people about, alas, without success since I'm still here. Maybe they can read my mind.
a gardener
a cook

a recipe writer

Cod Vera Cruz (see above) adapted from Roberto Santibanez

Servings 4
4 eight-ounce skinless red snapper fillets (or other white-fleshed fish)
2 limes, cut in half
1 tablespoon salt
2 pounds ripe tomatoes (use any kind, as long as they are very red and ripe)
1 large white onion, cut in half and then into very thin slices (about 3 cups)
6 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
12 fresh sprigs thyme
3 pickled jalapeños, stemmed and coarsely chopped or sliced, plus 3 tablespoons pickling juice
12 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pitted small Manzanilla (Spanish) olives
2 tablespoons tiny (nonpareil) capers
3 tablespoons olive oil

1. Put fillets in baking dish. Squeeze juice from one of limes over both sides of fillets, over and under, and season generously with salt. Turn over once or twice in seasoning. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours.
2. Peel tomatoes, either by blanching in boiling water or using peeler. Cut into 3/4-inch slices.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Scatter half onions over bottom of 13- by 9-inch baking dish, or another dish in which fillets will fit snugly with a little overlap.
4. Arrange a little less than half tomato slices over onions. (If you plan to present finished dish at table, use smaller, end slices tomato here and save prettier center slices for top.)
5. Top tomato slices with bay leaves, and then scatter half cilantro, thyme sprigs, and chopped jalapeño over that. Season with at least 1 teaspoon salt.
6. Tuck garlic cloves into vegetables around edges of dish. Squeeze juice from remaining lime over vegetables and top with seasoned fillets, spacing evenly but overlapping a little if necessary.
7. Scatter olives and capers over fillets, then add another layer of remaining onions and tomatoes to cover fish. Scatter remaining cilantro, thyme sprigs, and chopped jalapeño over that. Season again with salt, then drizzle olive oil and pickled jalapeño juice over everything.
8. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Casserole can be prepared ahead and refrigerated up to 6 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
9. Bake casserole 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until juices given off by vegetables are bubbling and fillets are cooked thoroughly 10 to 15 minutes.
10. To serve, scrape vegetables covering fish to sides of dish. Gently lift up fillets and transfer to serving plates. Most likely they will break apart a little; that is fine. Pick out garlic cloves, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs and discard. Mash remaining ingredients coarsely into juices with fork to make chunky sauce. Check for seasoning, and add salt if necessary. Spoon sauce over fillets and scatter some jalapeños over each if you like.

a pastry chef - Far Breton

a baker - English Muffins

a pet photographer

a landscape photographer

a florist

a champagne swigging socialite

a world traveler

a blogger-duh

The Dude

but maybe I haven't grown up yet

then I realize, hey I am all of those things...except maybe the Dude.

There is one thing I certainly DON'T want to be: a statistic - 9.1%.

November 1, 2011


It's impossible to get any rest around here
no matter how hard I try

she shows up
pointing that thing at me

nowhere to go
nowhere to hide

she's relentless...whatever that means

I think she missed her calling