Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meet My Vespa

I have been riding my scooter a lot lately! Yeah, it's economical as hell, but I mostly ride it because it's cute and sexy. Andy's got one, too. His is white. Together we are an unstoppable force of cuteness. I think I just puked in my mouth a little when I typed that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Walk Away, Muffin Face. This is About Curry Paste!

I'm a huge fan of Jill Bari, who pens a blog called The World According to Muffin Face. I post this warning for her, as she has a particular aversion to curry.

I am working like a dawg this week. Scheduling and staffing two summer camps has me stymied and I am working my second job this week on Wednesday through Sunday. Now, I love to cook and I can't stand shortcuts, but I am against the wall. Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste comes to the rescue. I don't have much time to shop. I have frozen cauliflower and broccoli and peas, so I'll use the curry paste to make a veg curry. Rice is a given, as Andy has purchased what looks like a 50-thousand pound bag of rice so we'll have something to eat when there's no more oil. Go ahead and laugh. We'll be livin' large on beans and rice while you are all reminiscing about the good old days when we had gasoline.

Anyway, here's a quick red curry for you. Sautee an onion in some canola oil. I like to add some pureed ginger and garlic to this when the onions are soft. Add the curry paste and saute it until you can smell the aroma come alive. Add broth--maybe a cup. Heat through. Add your veggies. Add coconut milk, about 6 ounces, to lend a creamy element. Get everything incorporated and just simmer until the veggies are tender. They should be just tender--not cooked within an inch of recognition. Feel free to substitute any veggies in this recipe. It's a good one for using up little bits of this and that.

These quantities are not etched in stone. If you like a really rich curry, use less broth and more coconut milk. The end result should look like a creamy broth with a generous amount of chunky vegetables sitting in it. You can use reduced fat coconut milk, but you will forego some of that wonderful coconut flavor. Serve this with rice.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Westwood Club

I had a little gig tonight at the Westwood Club, a social/sports sort of club in the West End. Scott Wichmann (Currently killin-em as Nathan Detroit in Barksdale's Guys and Dolls) asked if I would sing a couple numbers at he party. He sang 10, and I sang 2. He was flawless, and I was not. I messed up one of my songs and the exemplary piano man and bass player covered for me fantastically.

Lemme tellya, Scott is a great singer. He is sort of known for his bigger-than-Scott presence on stage, but what a lot of people don't know is that he can just stand there and sing a dang song. The guy has range. Not just vocal range, but emotional range. And he can sing a story. I so enjoyed listening to him and watching him, and he can work a room like nobody's business.

After the music was over, Scott was surrounded by gaggles and gaggles of girls, mostly all over the age of eighty. In fact, I don't think I chatted with anybody under the age of 80 tonight. These were the nicest couples. Literally every couple I met had been married for more than 50 years, and they all said things like, "We've never had an argument" or "We're still in love." It made me lonesome for my mom and dad, who just celebrated their 52nd anniversary.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Guys and Dolls this weekend!

I went over to the theatre today to record the pre-show announcement for Guys and Dolls, which opens this weekend. I popped into the theatre to check out the set and it looks fantastic!! I'd post a picture of it on here, but I'm fairly sure I'd be violating some kind of intellectual property law.

I do most of the pre-show announcements for Theatre IV and Barksdale. They're pretty standard--okay, I'll say it--they're pretty dull. What fun it would be to do the pre-show announcement of my dreams...

Good evening, and welcome to Barksdale Theatre's performance of Guys and Dolls, performed at Richmond's historic Empire Theatre.

Please don't take pictures or tape this show. You know you're not supposed to. We tell you a hundred times and there are signs all over the place. If I catch you taking pictures, you will be shaken and have your hair pulled.

And for the love of Pete turn off your cell phone. I know you don't think I mean you. If I hear your phone ring, I'm going to snatch it from you and give it to the first bum I see on Broad Street.

If anybody in your party becomes peckish for a cellophane wrapped treat or overly chatty, we'd like to warn you that you will be required to walk the walk of shame from the theatre and made to sit in the crying baby area for the rest of the show.

We encourage you to get really liquored up at intermission. The actors will like you a lot better if you're tipsy. And speaking of tipsy, be sure to tip those bartenders generously! "Tips that go clank" (thank you Andy Boothby) are not considered generous.

Now do as you're told and enjoy the show!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fettucine with Arugula, Caramelized Onion and Olives

We went to the farmers' market again yesterday and got more of the same lovely arugula that was abundant last weekend.

This is a dish I've made before for myself, but this was the first time I made it for Andy, too.

First, let me say that I am officially spoiled by always having fresh pasta these days. I love my pasta machine so much! It is like having a craft class and a cooking class all in one. Today I made whole wheat fettucine for the first time, and it turned out great! Much better tasting than the dried stuff in the store. Whole wheat pasta is such a healthy choice, but the dried stuff in the store tends to have a rather cardboard-ish texture. But our fresh stuff was springy and supple! Look.

Start a pot of pasta water to boil.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of canola oil, take 2 onions, slice them thinly and caramelize them in a big pan. When the onions are limp and becoming translucent, you can add a slosh of sherry or medeira if you have it, which I didn't so I sprinkled a little sugar to help the caramelization along.

Add a couple thinly sliced cloves of garlic toward the end. Then I added about a cup of halved and pitted calamata olives.

I don't usually use olives in this recipe. Normally I use dried shitake mushrooms that I've soaked in warm water, but the grocery store did not have the shitakes so I improvised with the olives. I actually recommend the shrooms over the olives--better flavor balance--so whichever thing you have, add it to the onions and garlic to heat through.

Your pasta water should be boiling rambunctiously by now. Tip the pasta in and cook it. If it's fresh, that will only be a couple of minutes. If you use dry pasta, just cook it until it's to your liking. Drain it when it's done, and add it to the pan of onions. Then put in the arugula. I use probably 6 or more cups of arugula--it's like any other green in that it really cooks down. I barely cut it up before I add it--just a few broad cuts across the whole mound. Place the pile of lovely arugula on top of the pasta and gently toss the whole mess to incorporate. The arugula will wilt from the heat of the other stuff.
As you mix the mess together, drizzle another couple of tablespoons of your absolute best olive oil and several generous spritzes of balsamic vinegar for some bite. Finally, sprinkle generously with fresh ground pepper.

I must say, the olives were a bit bossy in the flavor balance. The shitakes are a much better balance with the other ingredients, if you ask my humble opinion. But overall, it was pretty tasty and nice to look at, too.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Guest Blogger! A Word from Andy about Toast

Thai Chipotle Toastanini

Everybody likes a bit of toast. Toast is what's for breakfast. Luvverly
doorstep, slathered in butter and marmalade. Brown and toasty on the outside
soft and tasty on the inside. Sliced from a real loaf, cut with a real
knife, irregular but perfect. Not the limp stuff at the breakfast place, but
twice as thick and cooked under a grill (broiler) not a toaster. That's how
I like toast.

So I'm at the local Panera and I thought "'Ows about a piece of toast and a
cup of tea?" So I asked for a piece of toast just like that. You'd have
thought that I'd asked for a massage or something from the look I got. "Sorry
we don't have that" she said. I looked around and saw every shape of loaf
imaginable from Tuscan flippin' this to Asiago flippin' that. Bagels were
getting toasted but a whole store of bloody bread loaves and no bleedin'
toast. Not to mention marmalade and tea, normal tea, without the chai bit,
with milk and sugar.

So... I asked for the "Asiago Thai Chipotle Toastini
(trade mark)" and when they didn't have that either I left with a haughty
British look that I had been saving for this very kind of occasion. Almost
as good as toast... with very bitter marmalade.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Just when I'm feeling all cute for riding my bikey...

I just got my bicycle tires and tubes replaced, (to the tune of $57.00, thankyouverymuch.) and on my way home I got a flat tire!! And I was still a good 2 miles from home. And it was 90 degrees.

So I resigned myself to the long, hot walk, and before I knew it, I had blisters on my feet from the flip flops I had on, which were harmless enough for riding but sucky for walking. Fortunately, halfway home was the Dollar Store. I was never so glad to see the Dollar Store. I bought a pair of $2.00 bedroom slippers, cast my vanity aside and shuffled home with the lame bicycle.

I finally hobbled up my driveway (yes, I know I am totally milking this story for all it's worth, so just work with me here), peeled off my sweaty clothes and enjoyed the best cool shower I've had in a long time!

And now my Jamaican Black Bean Pot is just about ready to eat, and jesus on a pogo stick am I hungry!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Nature Sucks.

Andy and I love to watch the Nature show on PBS on Sunday nights. They often show predators killing and eating their prey. I know it's natural behavior for survival, but it makes me cry and I don't like to look at it. I'm perfectly content knowing that this stuff happens. I don't need to watch it.

I went for a 5-mile walk this morning, which should have made me feel really happy, save this one thing.

I was just starting out down my road and I happened to notice four little baby bluejays that had apparently fallen out of their nest. Or maybe they got pushed out by a predator? All I know is that they weren't quite dead, and they were struggling, albeit gingerly. They were very little, with that sort of big-head appearance that baby birds have.

I stooped over them and fretted for a bit, and then steeled myself and told myself to just keep going, that this was what happened sometimes in nature, and there was likely very little I could do to help them. I just hoped they would die quickly.

Now the image of the little birds has haunted me all day.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New Farm Market on the Southside!

I went to the new farmers' market in my neighborhood yesterday. It's in Forest Hill Park every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon! I am beyond excited to have a farmers market so close to my home. It is absolutely the perfect place for a farmers' market--right in the middle of a beautiful hilly park with loads of parking--and judging by the crowds, it's going to be a huge success.

I donned my backpack and rode my bicycle over. I fortunately ran into my co-worker Andy Boothby, who pointed me to the stall where he found some nice arugula. The selection of produce is relatively small this early in the season. There are other types of things like handmade soaps, baked goods and flowers. There's a stall that sells special order meats and Amish butter. That one had the longest lines by far! It figures the meat booth would be the most popular at the vegetable market. There were too many jewelry vendors for me.
I hope as more produce comes into season, the jewelry vendors will be replaced with veggie vendors.

I had the pleasure of happening upon Lynn West and Jody Strickler. We wandered about together oohing and aahing. Lynnie showed me all the new Tomboy Tools out of the back of her truck.
I went home with a generous sized bag of the lovely arugula.

Today for dinner I made a gorgeous salad of the arugula and thinly sliced fennel bulb, dressed with a vinaigrette consisting of olive oil (that really expensive stuff that Andy bought online when he had insomnia!), balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. The sweetness of the maple syrup was a perfect foil to the bitter peppery greens. Andy, who's not a big salad eater, raved about it.

We also had home made spinach tagliatelle (wide noodles) with peas in a sauce of cream and gorganzola cheese. Talk about decadent. I plan to ride my bicycle to work every day this next week. I'll have to, just to burn off tonight's dinner!