Musing with Max

Musing with Max

March 29, 2012

My Life in Dog years-part 1

When I arrived on this earth Pichi had been a part of the family by a bunch of years so he was as much of a sibling to me as my brother who preceded me by a year and a half. In fact this picture was taken way before I was even a gleam in my father's eye. He was a mutt. Part Welsh Corgi, therefore the short legs and stocky body, and part who knows what else. I remember my aunt always saying that he looked like the RCA dog
frankly, other than the coloring I fail to see the resemblance, although for years I thought the RCA dog's name was Pichi. I'm sure my brother and I drove him crazy. I remember trying to ride him like a horse, he let me. I remember one very rainy day when we were stuck inside the house and were bored with our toys we decided to construct Pichi a dog house made from some cardboard boxes we found. We set out to put this wonder of modern architecture together making sure that we cut out windows and such, then we put it over him. We forgot to cut out a door and the poor thing couldn't get out which he seemed to really want to do since he just fit in it and was probably suffering from claustrophobia. We wouldn't let him so he walked around in this box with windows until my mother appeared and rescued him from his prison. He continued to play with us and we weren't allowed to put him back in "the house". He clearly had infinite patience. Our neighbor down the street gave me a puppy once from the huge litter his dog had given birth to. We named him Campeon. He was white with some black markings and being a puppy was as cute as could be. Two days later my brother found an abandoned puppy in the corner who looked exactly like Campeon but his tail had been chopped off. He brought him home and we named him Mochito (Stumpy in Spanish). Now Pichi had to deal with these two new additions to the family. Again he showed infinite patience. When their three food bowls were put out Campeon, who was very feisty, would step under Pichi's legs and eat from his bowl ignoring his own. Pichi would step back and wait until he was finished and then he would eat. Campeon would nip bite the ankles of all who came to visit so one day my Dad went out with him and returned alone. He had given the little monster back. A couple of weeks later when the cleaning lady was cleaning and had left the door open Mochito ran out never to be seen again. Pichi was king of the castle once again. (It's a good thing, those two were Great Danes). When we left Cuba we took him to stay at the neighbor's house across the street; I asked why Pichi wasn't coming with us and was told that he couldn't come on this plane but Maria Luisa would send him over soon. I remember sitting on the back stoop of our little house after school every day wondering if each delivery truck that went by was bringing Pichi. Finally after several months I asked when he would be arriving. My Mother looked at me and said "oh honey, Pichi died."  My heart sank, I didn't understand. I was 7, he was 17. My first brush with doggy mortality.

Many years later when I was taking flamenco dancing we had a recital and I performed in a number from a Spanish operetta called "Las Leandras" and I found out who he was named after: "El Pichi"

it means "the gigolo".

March 27, 2012

Sprung...Sprang...what happened?

I thought for once we were going to have a lengthy Spring but Winter decided to return, or at least put in an appearance, and the temperatures plummeted last night. Every single magnolia blossom seems to have shriveled in the cold and they now droop and have brown sickly looking veins. I was terrified for my day lilies which started to pop up last week and are making quite the showing...and I can't believe I just wrote March??? I usually don't spy a day lily until May. They're holding up and looking perky though so that's a relief, so are the Stella D'oro's and the peony shoots. Let's hope the cold snap doesn't hang around too long because we're not liking it
and are a bit nervous about the early growth. And on top of that I switched my clothes and gave myself a beautiful pedicure, only to hide it. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to eat Springy.

Seared Salmon Fillets
serves 2

Season Salmon fillets with Salt & pepper and brush with a mix of finely minced garlic and olive oil

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add Salmon fillets, non-skin side down and sear about 4-5 minutes. Flip over brushing with any left over oil and garlic mix and sear another 4 minutes.

serve with

Spring Risotto
Serves about 3

1 leek- washed and sliced across in 1/2 in rounds
1/2 cup minced onion

1 to 2 tbsp of butter
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth, simmering
1 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 cup frozen peas
grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Add onions and cook until translucent-about 2 minutes.
Add leeks and cook stirring about 3 minutes (add more butter if it's too dry)
Add the rice and stir in for 1 to 2 minutes
add salt
Add the wine and stir until the liquid has evaporated

Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth stirring until evaporated. Continue adding the chicken broth in this manner until most of the the liquid has been incorporated and the rice is al dente. Add the peas and the last of the liquid
stir until all is incorporated. It should be a little sticky. Serve and top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
Put these flowers on the table

and don't step outside. At least not today.

March 26, 2012

Flowers in the House

According to the neighborhood gossips historians, the people who owned my house for many many years were great gardeners (and everything else too) and the next door neighbor was a master gardener. At some point they decided to plant matching flower beds in the area where the two yards meet, which is towards the back down one side of my driveway next to their backyard. They anchored the flower beds with three azaleas towards the back and forsythia at the front. When we moved in almost ten years ago we were once removed from the great gardeners by a couple who had no interest in it at all and had lived here for two years. The master gardener next door had been replaced nine years before. Most of the landscaping was pretty self sufficient but the flower bed required maintenance and all it got was ignored. So during our first month of June we decided to watch it grow and see what was there. What we got was two scraggly rose bushes, loads of phlox (not my favorite), some goosenecks, an occasional sunflower in late Summer and an amazing amount of weeds threatening to strangle everything. The flower bed had to go, so the next Spring we pulled it all out except for the azaleas and the forsythia since they are planted in the middle therefore shared. The flower bed has gone through two transformations and will be going on it's third this year but that's not what this story is about, this story is about forsythia.
The first time I saw it when I moved to New Jersey from Florida I was stunned. It signified Spring in such a vibrant and glorious way, it defined the color yellow, and it made me giddy with joy. I was thrilled to have one of my own. Unfortunately this forsythia was very very old and very very neglected. My neighbor who had taken over the master gardener's place and unmastered it would every couple of years come out to trim it---in the Fall. I always noticed too late to tell her that it bloomed on this year's growth and she was killing the flowers. Eventually it stopped blooming in the Spring and all we got were long unruly sticks which eventually grew the leaves in the Summer. It was a mess. We were overjoyed two years ago when having a conversation with our neighbor we all decided the forsythia was an eyesore and had to go. In the blink of an eye we Frank started to pull it out, all of it. You would think. There are a million shoots that just keep coming up which means we'll hire someone to take the whole thing out. In the meantime all the shoots that popped up this year bloomed a glorious bright yellow and for their last hurrah they're going to a party at Jane's.

We also picked up some friends along the way
...and since our host said "it's tulip time" I obliged by buying some cause mine haven't bloomed yet.

Can't wait to see what everyone else brings!

March 21, 2012

Spring Fever

It's heeeeeeere!

Meatless Tuesday Recipe

Chickpea, Lentil and vegetable stew adapted from Dana Treat
serves 4

Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. caraway seeds
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup dried lentils
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 cup frozen lima beans or edamame (I used green beans)
½ cup chopped parsley
10 oz. fresh baby spinach (I used frozen chopped spinach)
lemon wedges
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic.  Cook another 3 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and all the spices; stir 1 minute.  Stir in broth, water, and lentils.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
Add chickpeas, carrots, lima beans, and half the parsley.  Cover; simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.  (Can be made one day ahead.  Cover and chill.  Bring to a simmer before continuing.  Refrigerate remaining parsley for garnish.)
Stir spinach into stew in batches until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls with rice.  Garnish each bowl with remaining parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

We're so happy we're speechless :)

Happy Spring!

March 18, 2012

Cabbage Patch

In my first real job as an admin for a loan company we had regional supervisors that would visit each office about once a month for a couple of days--to do what I don't know--spy I guess. Our regional supervisor went by the interesting name of Mr. Lovely. He looked a little bit like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor with a severe military haircut and without the funny walk, he was from somewhere in the South complete with the accent and Bible belt conservatism. He was a strict disciplinarian, straighter than straight arrow who smoked three packs of Salems a day (in those days you could smoke in the office) and drank Cuban coffee by the glassful--several times a day. I guess you could say he was wound a tad tight. One St. Patrick's day he was scheduled in our office and walked in wearing a plaid green polyester suit, a light green shirt, a striped green and white tie with shamrocks, and green socks. All in non-complimentary shades. His shoes were brown, thank goodness. I took one look at this vision as he marched in and said, "Mr. Lovely, you look like a cabbage." My boss, who was terrified of him, almost died. He laughed. What my boss didn't understand was that unlike 350 pound 46 year old men, cute 19 year old girls can get away with everything; and at least I didn't call him a leprechaun. That was probably the only time I had mentioned cabbage and would for a long time to come. Until last year when for some inexplicable reason I became obsessed with cabbage. So all Summer long I made coleslaw.
My coleslaw

Thinly slice some red and green cabbage, the amount depends on how much you want to make.
Mix a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise with some vinegar, add a big pinch of sugar, salt & pepper. Mix well, add to cabbage and stir until the cabbage is coated with the dressing.

Then I started making it with pasta.

Spaghetti with Cabbage, Bacon & Onions

4 slices of bacon, cut into thin slices, one inch in length
2 cups of thinly sliced cabbage
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
salt & pepper
8 oz. spaghetti
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute until it starts to color but is still soft. Add the cabbage and onions and continue sauteing, stirring on and off, until the onions and cabbage are soft and translucent making sure not to overcook the bacon. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain in a colander and add the spaghetti to the skillet with the cabbage mix. Lower the heat and stir until the spaghetti is incorporate into the sauce. Serve topping with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

I made this so much that at one point Frank asked me to stop.

So this year when St. Patrick's Day was coming around I thought I would like to make something traditional (which I never have) and of course corned beef and cabbage was the first thing that popped into my head. But with apologies to my Gaelic friends, the penchant of Irish cooking to boil the heck out of everything doesn't really grab me and the thought of my house smelling for days of the aroma of cabbage boiling for hours didn't do much for me either. So I opted for

Stuffed Cabbage-adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home
serves 6

1 head of green cabbage, preferably Savoy
White Vinegar

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
14 ounces pork sausage meat
1 1/2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt & freshly ground pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 egg

3 slices of bacon
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 medium carrots, diced fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, diced fine
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup veal stock, or chicken stock
Bouquet Garni

unsalted butter for parchment paper

Separate the cabbage leaves.

Cut out the hard central vein from each leaf. Add a little vinegar to a container of cold water and rinse the leaves well.

Bring a large saucepan of cold salted water to a boil. Add 6 to 7 cabbage leaves and blanch until tender, 3 to 8 minutes. Refresh the leaves under cold running water; drain. Repeat to blanch all leaves. Reserve 6 or 7 of the largest and greener leaves and spread them out on a towel to dry.

Squeeze out the remaining leaves by hand and set aside.

Prepare the stuffing: Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender but not colored. Add the garlic and sausage meat and cook stirring frequently, for 5 minutes without browning. Transfer to a bowl, add the breadcrumbs and mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Add the nutmeg, parsley and egg and mix thoroughly.

Stuff the cabbage: On a flat work surface, arrange 4 or 5 of the reserved leaves in a circle, overlapping them slightly. Place 4 or 5 of the smaller leaves over the center of the circle. Spread 1/4 of the stuffing over the smaller leaves. Add another layer of cabbage and then a second quarter of the stuffing, and continue alternating layers until all of the smaller cabbage leaves and stuffing have been used.
Cover the final layer of stuffing with the remaining large leaves. Fold the outer leaves in toward the center to reshape the head of cabbage. Wrap with the bacon and overlap the ends. Tie with kitchen twine to secure the bacon, and then cross the twine over and under the cabbage two or three times to hold the shape of the head. Do not tie too tightly or the cabbage will deform while cooking.

Preheat oven to 425F.
Heat the butter in a casserole over medium heat. Ad the vegetables and cook until soft but not colored, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, cook 2 minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni. Place the stuffed cabbage in the center of the bed of vegetables. Cover with a round of buttered parchment paper and lid. Transfer to the oven and cook, basting from time to time, until a knife inserted in the center comes out hot. 50 to 60 minutes.

To serve, transfer the cabbage to a platter. Remove the twine and bacon. Strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan and arrange the chopped vegetables around the cabbage. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid and reduce by half over medium heat. Pour a little sauce over the cabbage, slice and serve.
full disclosure: I used ground beef because I didn't have sausage and didn't feel like going out to get any. I also didn't do anything with the cooking liquid other than pour it over the cabbage.

OK, maybe this is not very Irish but I think it'll become our tradition.

And how did Max wear the green?

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the Sun shine bright upon your face,
The rain falls soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

March 12, 2012

Max goes exploring

I don't have an i-phone, neither does Frank. We are probably the only two people in the world who have no interest in the gadget. The only regret I have not having an i-phone is that you can take pictures with that Hipstamatic thingy of theirs that makes the pictures look so cool, something my smartphone Droid can't have. Which makes me wonder how smart it is. I did some research though and found out that I could download an app for my Droid which does the same effect, and it's free (I won't pay for apps, the service costs plenty). It's called Little Photo. So once I downloaded it and did some experimenting Max and I went for a nice long walk looking for signs of Spring.
and we found lots of crocuses (croci?)



daffodils ready to burst

we even went to the train station
to see what stage the world's most beautiful magnolia is at
then we came home and took a nap

taken with my Little Photo app.