Musing with Max

Musing with Max

February 29, 2012

Imitating Art


Salvador Dali
Claude Monet

Georges Seurat

Pablo Picasso

Andy Warhol

Roy Lichtenstein

...poor thing clearly needs a job, or a life...or better yet, both.

February 27, 2012

Is it Spring yet?

Last week we had - oh probably 4 days of 60 degree weather. Considering that this is New Jersey and it is February everything is a tad confused or confusing. So this morning I went out with my trusty clippers and Max

to see what we could find to bring in the house for today's party and came back empty handed cause the daffodils may be pushing up but no blooms, same with everything else except for a neighbor's hellebores but since I don't know these people I thought it best not touch them lest I get arrested. So off to Trader Joe's for the ever reliable alstroemeria.
Happy flower Monday!

February 26, 2012

Oscar worthy

When I was a kid, teenager, young adult; I loved to watch the Oscars. I would get so excited and it wasn't because I wanted to see what everybody was wearing which is pretty much the only reason I watch them now, when I do, but it was because I was genuinely interested as if I had a stake in this or some such nonsense. I also used to got to the movies a lot. I needed to see everything right away. Well not everything just everything I thought was worthwhile which had to fall into certain standards--my standards which were high fallutin' and snooty, and I must say still are; hell when I was in high school I was the movie critic for the school newspaper and boy was I critical. Anyway, things have changed. I (we) don't go to the movies very often at all anymore--or should I say--never. I'm not quite sure why but I imagine it has to do with several factors, for example: there aren't that many movies that capture my attention anymore (Saw, yuck!), there's cable, there's Netflix, those prices!!, those really uncomfortable seats! And I've mellowed, my opinionated snootiness doesn't have to be discussed endlessly with those lacking cultural taste! OK, I'm really not that bad, I won't begrudge anyone their love of the Saw series; I just won't discuss it, I just keep my mouth shut--really. I can wait to see everything when it comes out on DVD, it's no big deal, as I get older I guess the importance of things change. This year was a little bit different though, I really wanted to go and see "The Artist" at the theater. Why? It seems so different, it's silent, it's in black and white, it's French, it has that really cute guy in it. But alas, we didn't go and here is Oscar night so it's too late. However, we can still somehow celebrate (and not like those crazy people who put on a tux and evening gown and sit in front of their TV as if they were in the audience). We'll do it with food! So when Lui, Frank's best friend and father of his godson
called and asked if they could come for dinner we went French.

Coq A Vin- adapted by me
Serves 6 to 8

5 slices of bacon cut in one inch pieces
about 1/3 cup of olive oil
1 large onion coarsely chopped
2 cups pearl onions (I use frozen so I don't have to bother with peeling)
1 large garlic clove minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp butter
2 chickens cut up (should have about 12-14 pieces, or use parts you like)
3/4 cup flour
salt & pepper
herbs de Provence
2 cups of red wine ( something Burgundian)
1 cup of chicken broth
2 cups sliced mushrooms

1. Cut chicken in pieces, season lightly with salt and pepper.
2. Mix flour with salt and pepper and herbs de Provence and dredge chicken pieces in flour.
3.In a large pot heat one tbsp of olive oil then add and saute the bacon pieces over medium heat until they begin to change color. Add the chopped onion, carrots and garlic and saute until the vegetables start to soften. Add the pearl onions and saute for a few minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.
4. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pot and one tbsp of butter. Brown the chicken pieces over medium high heat on all sides, do this in batches so as not to crowd the pieces
adding more olive oil and butter with each new batch as needed

Once all of the chicken pieces have been browned, return them all to the pot along with the sauteed vegetables and stir to incorporate.
5. Add 2 cups of red wine and one cup of chicken broth, IF NEEDED. Bring to a boil and stir up the pieces at the bottom of the pot. Lower to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about one hour.
6. Add the sliced mushrooms for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.
7. Remove the chicken to a serving plate

Taste and season the sauce with additional salt & pepper if needed and spoon over the chicken.
This dish can be made early in the day and then heated in the oven, the flavors will intensify.

Serve with baked rice and a nice green salad, and friends and wine

and make sure no one gives your dog any scraps from the table hence he'll be like this the next day

or maybe he's just worn out from this

And the Oscar goes to.....

February 23, 2012

For the love of a Book

I probably started buying books from very closely after its inception. The convenience was great, you got to browse through thousands of titles in the privacy of your own couch; the newness and novelty of the whole thing was lots of fun; there were other shopping sites but since it was all in its infancy they were limited and Amazon seemed to have gotten it right off the bat especially for someone like me who loves books. When they started adding other "stores" and merchandise I shopped for certain things there also. The prices, selection, and immediacy in receiving your merchandise were pretty much unbeatable therefore hard to resist. Things started to sour for me a few years ago when they introduced the "kindle", their electronic reading device (and I say that with scorn). It wasn't so much the introduction of the thing, after all it is a choice, if one wants to read from an electronic screen fine; who am I to tell you what to do? Me? I'm of the old school variety; I like to feel the weight of the book, the page between my fingers as I turn it, the ability to flip back and forth in mid sentence to verify something I had read earlier, the look of the chosen font. The warm feeling of curling up on my bed, couch, chaise with a book-an electronic device is a tad cold on this. Hell, I need to sit there and read my newspaper every morning and get my fingers ink stained, I even do it in foreign countries where I don't even understand the language. But that's just me, if someone has another preference go right ahead and kindle away. What really irked me about Amazon's kindle roll out was that after a while, maybe a year or so if memory serves, their CEO announced that Kindle would be taking over people's reading preferences in the future and that Amazon would probably eventually phase out all traditional books-I beg your pardon? Do I not live in America, the home of the free and the brave, etc. Don't tell me what to do! or think for that matter. My ire subsided when other things (like life) got in the way and I continued to buy books from Amazon, after all in my mind I thought "never happen, this guy's nuts!". Then last year came the announcement that they were going to start publishing themselves-what??? you're a retailer, what do you know about publishing? By the way, again, you're a retailer not an software company either. They're trying to take over publishing, one of the oldest and most beautiful of industries. I can start listing publishers here that have put together and published some of the most beautiful and heart stopping work...who is Amazon kidding? Then today there was this article in The New York Times, I was floored. When does this strong arming end, when does the greed stop, how much does Jeff Bezos need in his pocket? When is enough enough for this guy? Pulling books???? Is this Fahrenheit 451, 1984? How many companies, or industries do they need to put out of business and destroy? Well, I'm certainly not going to help them. Time for a boycott, or girlcott.

Obras Completas-Gustavo Adolfo Becquer
Aguliar, S.A. de Ediciones, Juan Bravo 38
Madrid (Espana), 1969
a gift from my father to my mother of her favorite poet in 1974.

never to be duplicated by publishers.

Thanks for letting me rant-back to regularly scheduled programming soon.

February 15, 2012

Piggly Wiggly

When I was a little girl we had a pig. Her name was Cecilia and she was already there when I was born. I loved Cecilia and thought she was a pet
I also loved all her offspring which were pink and small and had curly little tails, I thought they were the cutest things in the world. I never understood how and why their numbers used to fluctuate so much, once they got a little bigger they seemed to disappear. I guess I was loving them in more ways than I thought. When we left Cuba my father was adamant that there was no way the government was going to take his beautiful girl (not me) like they were taking everything else so before they came to do the inventory of our house and possessions (yes, they did an inventory to make sure you didn't take anything with you other than your one allotted suitcase, for those people that think Cuba's so great you need a serious education), in which Cecilia would have been included; he had her butchered and passed her out to the neighbors clandestinely because you weren't supposed to have any food other than what your monthly coupon book allowed. It was probably a very hard thing for him to do. Maybe that explains why I have always found pigs to be extremely adorable as is evident all over my house
Had enough? Me too. Maybe I'm making up for past sins or honoring Cecilia in some subliminal way.  Unfortunately, not only do I think they're the cutest things I've ever seen...well not really...this is

I also think they're the most delicious things...after all being Cuban I'm born with a pork lusciousness gene, so this weekend when I wanted to make something a little special for Valentine's Day I heard oink oink, and I remembered something from Pierre Franey that I've been wanting to make for years:

Pate-stuffed pork tenderloin adapted from 60-minute Gourmet
4 servings

2 pork tenderloin
3/4 cup smooth pate (I used truffle mousse)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup dry sherry
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp mustard, preferably Dijon
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup heavy cream

1. Using a sharp knife, split the tenderloins lengthwise, taking care not to cut right through.
2. Combine the pate, garlic, thyme and 1 tbsp of chives in a mixing bowl and blend well.

Spread this mixture over the cut surfaces of the pork.

Reshape the tenderloins and tie them with string at 1 inch intervals. Season with salt & pepper.

3. Heat the butter in a skillet large enough to hold the pork. Add the pork and brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
4. Add the shallots and mushrooms to the skillet and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the sherry, wine, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to blend.

Return the pork to the skillet.
5. Bring to a boil, then cover closely and simmer 35 -40 minutes, turning the pork occasionally.
6. Remove the pork from the skillet and keep hot. Increase the heat and cook the liquid down until reduced and thickened. Add the cream and cook down about 2 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste and add the remaining chives.
7. Slice the pork, removing the string, and arrange on a serving platter spooning the sauce over it.

Serve with mashed potatoes. Then go watch this movie

and feel really guilty...or not.

February 5, 2012

Birthday Boy

Frank and I have been married a long time, this year will be 30 years, (I was a teenage bride?????) and dated a few years before so it's safe to say that we've spent an awful lot of birthdays together. By now we've stopped looking for that perfect birthday gift every year, who the heck needs another sweater and if you do buy it yourself that way you wind up with what you want and not have to go around wearing something you're not so crazy about but have no choice. As long as there's a card we're on the right track and usually we go out to a nice dinner and or plan a weekend getaway as a celebration. We couldn't get away this year and his birthday fell on a Wednesday so we went to his new favorite pizza restaurant and then he said "I'd like you to bake me a cake, I'll pick something out." And off he went to get The Cake Bible, a birthday gift to me from him a whole bunch of years ago, which scared the hell out of me. First of all, the cakes in this book are pretty fancy, and second of all; I may love to cook and cook all kinds of things but cake isn't one of them. Main reason, I don't like cake. Don't get me wrong I love desserts and sweets as much as the next guy...just not cake. It's always dry regardless of how moist people say it is, it's crumbly, it's boring, it's got frosting that's usually wayyyy too sweet and too much of it, clearly not my fave. But it is his birthday and that's what he asked for...and if anybody deserves it, its this guy. He gave me choices, picked three base cakes, all three were chocolate. I could choose the one I wanted to make and build it from there, frosting etc. ...except there was one more wish, it should have Bavarian Cream! What???? OK, the challenge is on.

Frank's birthday dinner

Oeufs a la Tripe or Gratin of hard boiled Eggs
adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home

6 eggs
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large onion, sliced thin
bechamel sauce
3 tbsp unsalted butter
5 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups of milk
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
white pepper

Hard boil the eggs. Peel and reserve in a bowl of warm water.
Melt the butter in  a saucepan over low heat, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until tender but not colored.
Prepare the bechamel:
Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes, do not allow it to color. Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Season with nutmeg, salt & pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer 10 minutes whisking constantly to prevent sticking. Stir in the cooked onions and cook 5 more minutes.
Heat the broiler, slice the eggs. Spread a thin layer of the bechamel over the bottom of a gratin dish. Layer the egg slices over the sauce and cover with the remaining sauce. Broil the dish until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Roulles de Veau Bourgeoise or Veal Shanks with Pearl Onions and Mushrooms adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home

3 lb. veal shanks sawn into 6 slices each about (1.5 inches) thick
5 tbspns butter
¼ cup flour 

1 Bouquet Garni 
Salt and freshly ground pepper
30 pearl onions, peeled
1 clove
¾ lb. small button or quartered large mushrooms, trimmed and cleaned
2 egg yolks
Parsley leaves, to garnish

Put the veal in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, skimming any impurities that rise to the surface. Remove the veal and set aside. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid.
Melt 60 g (2 oz) of the butter in a large, deep frying pan over low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes without allowing it to colour. Whisk in 500 ml (16 fl oz) of the strained cooking liquid. Arrange the veal in the pan and add more cooking liquid as necessary to just cover the veal. Bring the liquid slowly to the boil scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure that the flour does not stick. Add the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Then stud one of the onions with the clove and add it with the other onions to the stew. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, until the veal is tender when pierced with the point of a small knife.
While the stew is cooking, melt the remaining 15 g (0.5 oz) of butter in a medium frying pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook quickly until all the moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms to the stew about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
When tender, transfer the veal to a serving platter with a slotted spoon. Spoon the onions and mushrooms around it. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl with a little of the hot cooking liquid. Return the mixture to the pan of cooking liquid and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the veal and garnish with parsley leaves. Serves 6

Serve with a spinach salad

and the birthday cake you ask

well I made one up!

Perfect All-American Chocolate Butter Cake adapted from The Cake Bible

2.25 oz or 1/2 c + 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder (lightly spooned into cup)
8.25 oz or 1 liquid c boiling water
5.25 oz or 3 large eggs (weighed without shells)
2 1/4 t vanilla (no weight measure for this)
8.25 oz or 2 1/4 c +2 T sifted cake flour (I always used well sifted organic unbleached wheat flour)
10.5 oz or 1 1/2 c sugar
1 T baking powder (no weight measure)
3/4 t salt (no weight measure)
8 oz or 1 c unsalted butter
All ingredients should be at room temperature, except boiling water.
Prepare cake pans : (2) 8″ or 9″ cake pans – grease the pan, line bottom with parchment paper and grease the paper.  Flour pans.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa and boiling water until smooth.  Cool to room temperature.
3.  In another bowl, lightly combine eggs, 1/4 of the cocoa mixture and vanilla.
4.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low-speed for 30 seconds to blend.  Add the butter and remaining cocoa mixture.  Mix on low-speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.
5.  Increase to medium speed (high-speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.  Scrape down the sides.
6.  Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure.  Scrape down the sides.
7.  Scrape the batter into prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula.  The pans will be about 1/2 full.
8.  Bake 25 -35 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.  The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven.
9.  Let the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, reinvert so that the tops are up and then cool them completely before wrapping them airtight.  Finished cakes will be about 1 1/2″ tall.

 Vanilla Bavarian Cream adapted from The Cake Bible

1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 TB gelatin (this is more than 1 envelope)
5 large egg yolks
1-2/3 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split (or 1 ts vanilla extract--if using extract, add it after the sauce is cool)
1 cup heavy cream

Refrigerate the mixing bowl for whipping the cream. Have ready a fine strainer near the range, suspended over a small mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, gelatin, and yolks until well blended with a wooden spoon.

In another small saucepan or heatproof glass measure (if using a microwave), heat the milk and vanilla bean to boiling point. Stir a few TB into the yolk mixture, then gradually add the remaining milk and vanilla bean, stirring constantly. Heat this mixture, stirring constantly, to just before the boiling point (170-180 degrees F). Steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. It will leave a well define track when a finger is run across the back of a spoon. Immediately remove from the heat and pour into the strainer, scraping up the thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out into the sauce, stir to combine.

In the chilled bowl whip the cream until it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon; refrigerate this.

Cool the sauce in an ice water bath, stirring with a wire whisk until whisk marks barely begin to appear. The mixture will start to set around the edges but will still be very liquid. Whisk in the liquid vanilla at this point, if using. Fold in the whipped cream until just incorporated. The mixture will be soupy like melted ice cream. Remove at once from the water bath and pour into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours

not being very big on frosting, I heated two heaping tablespoons of cherry preserves in a small saucepan adding about 1/4 cup of water, poked holes all over one cake layer and brushed the cherry preserves over the top (froze the other layer for future)

Slice, serve with a spoonful of Bavarian Cream

He got his cake and ate it too! I think I'll be baking more cakes.