Musing with Max

Musing with Max

January 25, 2015

On a Winter's Day

Yesterday morning I woke up, looked out the window and saw this.

Everything covered in a beautiful blanket of fluffy virgin white snow. It fell in that way that somehow looks fake, like if it was painted on, covering every branch, every pine leaf, every surface. It was early enough where no one had yet trudged all over it and no one had gone out to shovel. The world was suddenly black and white. And it was Saturday. The perfect day for a snowstorm since I had no place to go. A friend who moved to California a couple of years ago commented very sarcastically on facebook to his NJ friends that it wasn't too late to move to sunny California. I proceeded to burst his bubble by letting him know that for someone who grew up in Miami I savor my four seasons. No California dreamin' here. So what to do on a day when you've got no place to go, why cook of course.
Preferably something that takes a really long time, like herb and onion focaccia!

How about some mac & cheese?

or maybe some gumbo!

I know, beef stew with loads and loads of onions!

I love a stormy weekend! Wait, there's another coming on Tuesday, oh no!

January 10, 2015

Happy Meals

This is not a food blog. It would be a tad presumptuous of me to ever suggest such a thing considering the myriad of fabulous food blogs permeating the stratosphere. I am in constant awe of the great food writers and cooks out there of which I pale by comparison. That's not to say however than on occasion I can't weigh in with what pretty much is my favorite past time and something I'm pretty good at, if I do say so myself. Unlike a lot of people I look forward to winter because it allows me to spend hours in the kitchen and that makes me happy. Cue Pharrell Williams! Just kidding! 

Anyway when we were in Miami during Christmas week we took advantage of that fact and pretty much ate Cuban food all the time, except for the salad I had for lunch at the museum during my one futile attempt at trying to eat a little healthier. But I barely cooked so when we finally made it home on Sunday evening we needed something warm, homey, somewhat quick, and not Cuban.

Saffron Risotto with Sausage & Peppers-serves 4 An 8 on the happy scale.

Pinch of saffron threads
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 red onion, minced
1 stick celery, finely chopped
8 ounces Italian sausage, diced
2 fresh sage leaves
2 red and green peppers, cored, seeded and cut in strips
1 3-4 cups whole canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 1-2 cups Arborio rice
4-6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
sage leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place saffron in a small bowl, pour on two tablespoons of boiling water and leave until needed.

In an oven proof skillet heat the oil and brown the carrot, onion, celery and sausage. Add the sage and peppers and cook for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and half the juice from the can. Season and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the rice, stir in the saffron, add remainder of the juice (enough liquid to just cover the mixture, if more is needed use broth) from the tomatoes bring to a boil. Stir and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is tender and cooked. Garnish with fresh sage.

New Year's Eve called for something a little fancier so we bought a big hunk of meat and called the neighbors.

Pepper Crusted Prime Rib- serves a bunch of people depending on weight, a 9 on the happy scale unless you're vegan, then it's a minus something.

Salt and pepper the meat. Rub all over with a mixture of Dijon mustard, a little olive oil  chopped rosemary, thyme and different color crushed peppercorns. Roast in a preheated 400F oven for about 20 minutes, lower temperature to 350F and roast for another 1 1-2 to 2 hours depending on weight.

Serve with roasted onions

a 10 on the happy scale just because they are onions!

The first day of the year is always the laziest day of the year and calls for some light, yet very happy, meals.

Brown butter Pasta-Serves 4- A 10 on the happy scale, I mean just look at the ingredients...and it's got an egg on it! Need I say more?


Kosher salt, to taste
8 oz. fresh pasta, such as fettuccine or tagliatelle
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup pine nuts
4 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan 
Grated nutmeg, to taste


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 4 minutes. Set a strainer over a bowl; drain pasta, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking water, and set aside. 

2. Melt butter in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pine nuts to a bowl. Working in two batches, crack eggs into butter and cook, spooning butter over yolks, until whites are set but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Transfer eggs to a plate and keep warm. Add pasta and half the pine nuts to skillet and toss until hot. Stir in some of the reserved pasta water to create a sauce, and season with salt and pepper. To serve, divide pasta between 4 serving plates and top each serving with a fried egg. Sprinkle with remaining pine nuts, Parmesan, and nutmeg.

And even though he doesn't get any, Max is doing the happy dance!

January 1, 2015

King of the Road

I grew up in Miami. A hot tropical place with palm trees and beaches and bugs and very high humidity. Christmas in Miami is a bit odd and surreal. I say this because when you look at all the Christmas storybooks and images there is always snow and cold and reindeer and coats and furry hats, none of which you will find in Miami. The Christmas trees go up with their twinkling lights and fake snow skirts and look completely out of place, so does Santa Claus with his red fur lined coat and hat, the man must be suffocating to death. As a child I would get up on Christmas morning and put on a sweater and wool hat and scarf (yes, I had them) and since the air conditioning was blaring I felt like those storybook Christmases, then I would go outside to play with my new toys and run back in to change into shorts and a t-shirt. Reality check. When we were married we moved up North to New Jersey and have spent every Christmas here ever since. Not because we didn't want to go home for Christmas, it was because where I worked which was a very small firm my boss would take the week off and I had to hold down the fort so I could never have Christmas week. I no longer work there so this year we decided it was time to go home for Christmas and spend it with the family and since Max is a part of the family he would come along which meant driving from South Orange, New Jersey to Miami, Florida: 1280.64 miles or 19 hours or so  on I-95 if everything goes perfectly well. We left on Friday evening at around 7:00 PM, stopped in Richmond, Virginia somewhere around midnight and found a pet friendly Comfort Inn, got up at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning and arrived at my brother's house in Miami close to midnight thanks to a bumper to bumper traffic jam through two thirds of South Carolina's 198 miles and a massive accident that closed the Palmetto expressway in Miami and stuck us there for 40 minutes when we thought we had finally hit home. Thankfully my brother had had the where withal to go buy Cuban sandwiches for us at La Carreta
and just like that we were home for the holidays. Miami, better known as Cuba North! Here's a little triptych.

Max eyeing the pool at my brother's house.

The stunningly gorgeous Perez Art Museum! Finally!

The stunningly gorgeous views of Biscayne Bay from the Perez Art Museum.
Cielito Lindo. The building where Cubans were processed when we arrived during the freedom flights.
Lunch at PAMM!

EL MAGO DE LAS FRITAS!!!!! Worth the trip alone!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy Wine! A converted gas station selling wine and serving tapas, yes it's true.
Christmas Eve at my BFF's from childhood. (This is an absolute terrible picture of me but the humidity was high, my hair yucky, a strange pose but who cares, it's Christmas and she looks awesome!)

Christmas morning with my brother, sister-in law, niece and nephew!

Christmas Day ducky face selfies with the cousins and Frank having a Cuban!

Dinner at "El Carajo" with the cousins, yet another converted gas station! I'm not even going to get into trying to explain the name!

And then, just like that, we're home! Happy New Year!