Musing with Max

Musing with Max

July 29, 2013


I'm not sure if we're at the midpoint of Summer yet. Not likely, that will probably be sometime during the second week of August but if it keeps going like this we'll be summered out by then. It took a little while to get here, what with the no Spring and all, but once it did it hit with a vengeance. The heat has been brutal to say the least with what seemed to be endless weeks of 90F + temperatures and high humidity; rather uncomfortable if you ask me. The air conditioning hasn't taken a breath which scares me a bit, and Max seems to have one position he wants to be in...all the time.

I think you get my drift. It's HOT. The plants seem to be doing well though, the herbs are just taking over

and the pots on the front porch can't contain themselves

and since there's been little rain along with extreme heat the grass doesn't grow, which makes Frank a happy man

even if he doesn't look it here. Then last week something happened...the temperatures plunged by 30 degrees one night and the next day was downright pleasant and then it happened again the next night and the next day and for two glorious days of perfect weather the air conditioners took a much needed rest and we opened the windows and slept like Max usually does.
But then it remembered that it was July and the heat returned and we have to find ways to keep cool, so

Frank's awesome sangria really hits the spot and goes well with some really cool food, like

Crab with Crisp Bitter Greens adapted from The New York Times Magazine


  • 1 Belgian endive
  • 1 head chicory
  • 3 cups arugula (roughly 3 handfuls)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 pound crab meat (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced (approximately 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 pinch Maldon or other flaky sea salt


Separate the endive leaves, then slice them lengthwise as thinly as you can. Soak the sliced endive in a big bowl of ice water. Meanwhile, remove the outer leaves of the chicory and reserve for another use. Wash four big handfuls of the tender inner chicory leaves. Tear them into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl of ice water. Wash the arugula and add it to the ice water. Set aside for at least 10 minutes, or until ready to use.
Make the aioli. Put egg yolk, garlic and 2 tablespoons lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Slowly emulsify with 1 cup of the extra-virgin olive oil. If at any point the aioli becomes super glossy or the oil begins to bead, add a drop of ice water, then continue to stream in the oil. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
Season crab with 1 tablespoon aioli, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Add diced jalapeño. Set aside.
Drain the greens, then spin dry using a salad spinner. Transfer them to a large bowl. Dress with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss thoroughly, and adjust seasoning to taste.
Scatter about 1/4 cup of the dressed crab meat on each plate (a scant 1/4 cup). Place a layer of greens atop the crab and then a little more crab again. Finish each plate with a dollop of aioli on the side and a sprinkle of Maldon or other flaky sea salt on top.

4 to 6 servings

I feel better already.

July 22, 2013

FITH of July

I can't believe I actually have flowers to join Jane's party today considering the heat an no water situation, but luckily I do.

The hydrangeas just keep going which is surprising considering their very slow start this year.

The herbs however love this weather and are growing like mad so I can put together a happy little nosegay

of sage, oregano, mint and coreopsis for my bedside table.

And the last of the lacecaps for some cheer in the bathroom

Now let's go see what everyone else has brought.

July 21, 2013

Dog Day Afternoon

Hello, it's me Max, the star of this show.

Did you miss me? I was on vacation. Well at least that's what they told me when they dropped me off at the doggy hotel and disappeared for two weeks. I think it was two weeks, that's what they said, I have no concept of time. I'm a bit confused though; I thought vacations were fun. I didn't have any.

Can't you tell? Do I look happy? It's OK, they're back now and we're all at home together so everything's fine, except for the heat. Ever since we all got back that's all they talk about, I didn't really know what that meant but then we went outside which is one of my favorite places

and I tried to convince my daddy to play but he would have none of it and brought my outside bed

and I sat there with them looking at our pretty yellow flowers

but after a little while I finally understood what they were talking about.

They must be crazy to want to be out here, I'm going inside where it's cool


Thankfully they got smart and came in too. Hmmm, mommy's taking a chicken out, wonder what she's going to do. Let's see, that's interesting she's taking out all kinds of colorful powders and putting them in a bowl

6 tbsp. Spanish paprika
3 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 pinches saffron

and chopping some garlic and adding that to it and 2 tbsp of tahini, whatever that is, and some honey and then stirring in some olive oil. Ooooh she's putting the chicken in there and rubbing all that yummy smelling stuff all over it and making a huge mess all over her hands, looks like fun. Now she's putting it in the big cold closet, wish I could go in there. I guess I'll take a nap for a while.

That felt good. I'm so refreshed, let me see what's going on. Mommy's turning the heat in the big silver box on, is she insane???? But wait she's putting rubbed chicken in there

Can't wait to see what happens. Looks like I'll have to though, about an hour or so. That's OK cause it sure looks good. Look at them sitting there enjoying it, hey, what about me?

No. Wait a minute, is that the carving board I see on the counter? and is that the chicken on it? Chomp!

Heh heh, where is our next vacation?

*Chicken with Moroccan spices adapted from Terence Brennan.

July 14, 2013

Back to Reality

Ever since we returned from our vacation, which is now three weeks ago, the temperature has been 85F or above coupled with 90% or more humidity. In other words: Yuck! The garden was a bit of a mess since it hadn't been tended for two crucial weeks so it's taken us a little while to whip it into shape. Frankly it is very difficult to weed away, trim, cut, mow, etc in this disgusting soupy weather. Not to mention the swarms of biting bugs that usually accompany this type of weather. So usually after 2 minutes outside we've been bitten alive and are dripping in sweat, which translates into 2 minutes of gardening every half hour or so, or not much gets accomplished. However, despite these hurdles and this daily visitor

the garden is starting to bloom and shape up.

The day lilies are exploding thanks to the concoction I spray on them so Bambi won't munch.

The hydrangeas, (which had me so scared I shot off a panicky email to Jane) have started to bloom profusely and nicely but will get a trimming once the bloom is done since they're a tad unruly. Thanks J.

I'm very happy with the cone flowers and coreopsis that we planted where the tomatoes usually go, so yes we sacrificed the tomatoes. Since we were going away we decided not to plant them. Next year we'll try them in pots...we think.

Most of the hostas are doing well...

as is this Heuchera I planted last year, unfortunately I planted 3 and only one came up so it's a little lonely.

Hot days call for cool food, like the best fried chicken room temp or cold.

Herb and Lemon Fried Chicken

¾ cup olive oil
2 lemons
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
2 chickens cut into pieces
1 ½ cups flour
¼ cup basil and rosemary, chopped
1 egg
¾ cup milk
Vegetable, corn or safflower oil

Combine the olive oil, juice of 1 lemon and its rind coarsely chopped, garlic, rosemary, pepper and the chicken pieces in a pan or a large bowl. Make sure all the chicken pieces are well coated with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight or at least 5 hours. 

Mix the flour, salt and herbs in a large bowl. Beat the egg and milk together. Remove the chicken from the marinade; dip the pieces in the egg wash then dredge in the flour mixture. 

Fill your heaviest, largest frying pan with about 1” of oil and heat until very hot. Fry the chicken in batches (do not overcrowd the pan). 

Cook 12 minutes, turn and cook another 12 minutes. Lower the heat if chicken is browning too fast. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

 Serves 6 to 8.

Finish it off with some ice cream.

Salty Caramel Ice Cream adapted from Jeni's

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don't add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:

Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color--like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour into frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.

Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

It's nice to be home.

...and what's the best part about being home?????????

Did you miss him? We certainly did!