Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Plus ça change...

I'm smiling (albeit somewhat bitterly) at the outrage generated by the latest ugliness coming out of the Republican campaign. The cries of "Terrorist!" and "Kill him!" in particular.

In 1996, just after the Republican Convention in San Diego, Tim and I were asked to travel with the Dole campaign for "a few weeks". Those few weeks ended up being until Election Day.

I'm here to tell you that the lynch mobs crowds attending the Palin or McCain rallies are really, seriously, no worse than the bunches of True Believers who attended the Dole rallies in 1996. And they hated us, The Press, and blamed us for the downfall of their candidate.

I remember during the Dole campaign's desperate 96-Hour Non-Stop Victory Tour Tour-From-Hell, landing at a rally in New Mexico around 3 AM. The local press practically fell on their knees in thanks, because the crowd had gotten so hostile that local cops were standing betwixt them and them, as the Dole Faithful faced the head-on press platform and chanted, fists pumping, "Liars, liars. Tell the truth!"

I lost count of how many cretinous assholes got in my face about how horrible we were and how we should all die painful deaths and, on one memorable occasion, a lovely, foaming-at-the-mouth, wild-eyed creep screamed at me that it was too bad he didn't have his gun - at which point I climbed up the barricade between us and went off until my favorite Secret Service agent escorted him off the premises whilst explaining to him that death threats were uncool.

I've worked a lot of political rallies, a lot of political events in general. I've been at this for (eek) 20 years now. And I can say that in my experience, the *only* times I've been threatened by The Left were at the first big anti-Iraq war rally in San Francisco (where some young intense thing also tried to argue that the Mainstream Media *never* covered these kinds of things, then started chanting at me, "Press go home!" - aroo?), and outside San Quentin the night Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed. I wrote about that night here.

Honestly? According to my own, internal, unscientific, anecdote-laden polling? The Far Right is suffering from a collective sociopathic disease, and the tenor of Republican campaigns for the last 30 years does nothing but feed that sociopathy. It's nothing new. I simply think that the 24-hour news cycle and the plethora of cable news networks and their voracious appetites for content, and the explosion of Internet blogs and political websites, means that this sort of thing is covered more.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

(In mostly short sentences, with largish pictures and a link or two.)

I went here.

Instead of taking 880 to 17 to the always impossible 1 interchange, I took 101 down to 152 and west over the Hecker Pass; a winding road with redwoods and parks and a winery or two and some wonderful vistas when half the state isn't on fire and the vistas aren't obscured by smoke.

It's a bit better today, but still pretty hazy, so I didn't stop to take pictures.

At the Gizdich Ranch, I bought two olallieberry pies (one for us, one for a neighbor), one raspberry pie (for my neighbor across the street) and, having called ahead (which means these were picked just for me after I called), two flats of these:

Well, first I stashed them in my trunk, then stopped at the grocery store for sugar and pectin and jars (because most of my canning jars "disappeared" the last time Tim cleaned out the garage - *sigh*).

Seven hours later I had sixteen quarts of this:

I will buy another couple of flats of strawberries and do this again. I will also buy a couple of flats of raspberries when they hit their peak in a week or two.

Tired now. Very glad the temperature dropped, which meant my kitchen wasn't totally unbearable with batches of jam and the canning kettle going for several hours. I smell like strawberries. This is not a bad thing :).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Buy my photos!

Trying out Imagekind. I have some of my latest photos up for sale. Posters, prints, greeting cards, framed art prints? Check it out!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Slow-Roasted Pork Burritos

I didn't get a chance to get a lot of pictures. Having guests for dinner makes it a little hard. But next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I will chronicle it all in photographs. I *did* get a picture of the roast just before it went into the oven. But then events overtook me and I didn't get a chance to record the rest of the process.

I did the black beans in my cast iron skillet and let those cook on the gas grill because I have only one oven, and that was taken up with the pork roast. I also made lime-cilantro rice, guacamole and pico de gallo. I bought the largest flour tortillas I could find, some sour cream and a package of 4-cheese Mexican Blend.

Oh. My. God. Five of us ate, and there was enough meat left for another five people. I still can't believe I paid only $.99/lb for that beautiful piece of meat.

The beans, by the way, were *outstanding*, and could easily be made vegetarian with a good vegetable stock without any loss in flavor. The chipotles brought a nice depth and smokiness, and just the right touch of heat.

This is also great party food, because everything can be done ahead of time, including slicing up the meat. It can be kept warm without any loss of quality. Then just put everything out and let folks build their own burritos.
This evening we used up the leftovers.

The Recipe

From Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World website.

Steve Els's Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder Burritos


This may sound oxymoronic, but the best fast food can take a while to make. Take Steve Els's killer burritos. Once you've prepared the components, the burritos themselves takes about a minute to assemble. But the reason they'll be some of the best burritos you've ever eaten is that the pork shoulder (one of my favorite cuts of meat) has spent three hours in the oven, getting tender and developing a swoon-worthy crust. The black beans get the oven treatment, too, which makes them unusually smoky and delicious.

2 tablespoons salt or to taste
1 tablespoon pepper or to taste
5 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 (4- to 7-pound) pork shoulder (picnic or Boston butt), trimmed of excess but not all fat
1 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons corn, grapeseed, or other neutral oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound dried black beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked in water overnight
1 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons finely chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
2 dried bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
15 flour tortillas

1. Combine the salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the chopped chiles. Pierce meat all over with the point of a knife. Rub the chile mixture all over the exterior of the pork; if time allows, wrap in plastic or place in resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. If not, proceed.
2. When you're ready to cook, preheat oven to 450 F. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the thyme leaves all over the pork. Put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan, fat side down, and put in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the pork begins to brown, then lower the heat to 350 F and add one cup water to the bottom of the pan. Continue to roast, basting the pork with the pan juices and adding water to the bottom of the pan if it threatens to dry out, for about 3 hours, or until the interior temperature of the pork reaches 150 F on an instant-read thermometer. Let the pork rest for at least 45 minutes. (Or longer, since it is best served warm or at room temperature.)
3. While the pork cooks, prepare the beans. Put a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they just begin to brown. Add the oregano, remaining ½ tablespoon of thyme, chile puree, and bay leaves, and stir. Then add the beans, stir, and add the stock. Put skillet in oven, and cook until beans are just tender, at least 1 ½ hours. The meat should be so tender that cutting it into uniform slices is difficult; rather, cut it as thinly as possible so that the meat is almost shredded.
4. Warm the tortillas, either by wrapping them in foil and putting them in a 300 F oven for ten minutes or by heating them individually in a large skillet over medium heat, flipping them when they begin to blister. Spread a portion of the beans on each tortilla and top with a portion of the pork. (You can add rice, sour cream or Mexican crema, guacamole, and pico de gallo, as you wish.) Roll up and serve.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Crab Cakes with Corn and Avocado Salad

Crab Cakes

1 lb lump crab meat
4 medium scallions, sliced thinly
2 tblsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1-1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

(note: if you can't get fresh lump crab, Costco sells 1 lb cans of Phillips brand lump crab for a very reasonable price, and it works beautifully in this recipe.)

Gently mix crab meat, scallions, parsley, Old Bay, bread crumbs and mayonnaise, being careful not to break up the crab meat. Gently fold egg into mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide mixture into 6 equal portions and form into cakes. Place on cookie sheet covered with waxed paper or parchment paper. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper. Chill for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.

Put panko crumbs on a flat plate or pie plate. Press crab cakes on both sides into panko crumbs. Heat oil in non-stick pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Fry crab cakes until hot through, crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes each side.

Corn and Avocado Salad

2 ears fresh corn; steamed, roasted or grilled, then cut from the cob
1 ripe avocado, diced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 scallion, green and white, thinly sliced
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients. Chill.

I took two ears of white corn and trimmed the tops and bottoms, then grilled over high heat on the gas grill, in their husks, for about 20 minutes, turning every five minutes, until the husks were charred. Cooled until I was able to handle them, then stripped the husks and silk, then cut the corn from the cob, then added to the bowl after the kernels cooled.

Grilling added a bit of smokiness to the corn. I think next time I'll shuck the corn and grill, letting the corn brown a bit. But this version was pretty good; the corn was sweet but still crisp, and it went beautifully with the crab cakes.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Seafood Pasta

I had sea scallops. I had prawns. I had spinach fettuccine.

Measurements are approximate.

1 lb sea scallops
1 lb raw prawns, shelled and deveined
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh basil, minced (or 1 tbsp dried)
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, minced
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup sherry, shao shing wine, or dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
9 oz fresh spinach fettuccine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Season scallops with salt and pepper. Sear scallops in olive oil, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add butter to hot oil. When foam subsides, add prawns, garlic, basil and 2 tbsp parsley. Sautée prawns until nearly done. Remove from pan and keep warm. Deglaze pan with wine. Add lemon juice. Cook down until syrupy. Whisk in half-and-half and bring to a boil. Cook down, whisking occasionally, until sauce begins to thicken. Add lemon zest and pepper flakes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta. As soon as pasta goes into the water, return scallops and prawns, along with any accumulated juices, to pan. When pasta is nearly done, using a pasta fork or skimmer, add pasta to pan with sauce and seafood and toss together until pasta is coated with sauce. Remove from heat and toss with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Garnish with remaining parsley. Serve immediately on heated plates.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Well, it's been awhile. Hi!

adapted from a recipe at epicurious.com

Makes 6 servings.

4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 (28-oz) can whole plum tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 cup chicken broth

1 Dungeness crab, cracked and cleaned (I used the legs only; the body meat went for a crab cocktail appetizer)
18 small (2-inch) hard-shelled clams (1 1/2 lb) such as littlenecks, scrubbed
1 lb halibut fillets, skin removed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 lb large shrimp (16 to 20), shelled (tails and bottom segment of shells left intact) and deveined
3/4 lb sea scallops, tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Cook garlic, onions, bay leaf, oregano, and red pepper flakes with salt and pepper in oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, clam juice, and broth and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Add clams to stew and simmer, covered, until clams just open, 5 to 10 minutes, checking every minute after 5 minutes and transferring opened clams to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon. (Discard any unopened clams after 10 minutes.) Add crab legs, fish fillets, shrimp, and scallops to stew, then simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf, then return clams to pot and gently stir in parsley and basil.

Serve cioppino immediately in large soup bowls. ( Next time I'll add a bit of lemon zest at the end.)