Friday, June 25, 2010

"So remorseless a havoc": veg. challenge.3

The share picked up last Saturday contained lettuce, fennel, zephyr squash, beets, cukes, red potatoes and parsley. We bought squid ink pasta, sweet Italian sausage, ground beef, and eggs from bug-eatin' chickens from other vendors. Also acquired some 'V-8' gazpacho (lunch that blistering day, hot weather has set in)and a hosta plant for under the windsock. The hosta is not included in this week 's veg. challenge. The results:

Saturday: 'burgers, grilled;black olive pasta s'lad with dilly carrots, cuke, and onion. A Sam Adams Summer ale.

Sunday: Sweet Italian sausage grilled; cheese and herb stuffed squash blossoms , ahem,coated and quick fried in peanut oil;remains of the pasta s'lad.Must say, blossoms came out smokin' after requiring diligent cleaning .

RR's remorseless havoc against beets resumed Monday evening, with Red Flannel Hash. A traditional Yankee way to use up leftovers. Joy of Cooking 's recipe was more eccentric than Morash's Victory Garden Cookbook, so I used the latter's recipe. Slapped up the gorgeous yolked , deep tight and colorful, henfruit over the beet laden hash. a nice 'breakfast at dinner' dish.

The late season lettuce formed the core of the meal on Tuesday. Mixed in parsley, tomato, hard boiled eggs, just a wee bit o' bacon, a few shrimp and the lime vinaigrette.

Wednesday: Mexican. We ate at our local Jaliscan joint. Alas, no veg slaughtered for that meal.

Still hot, back to the grill on Thursday. Fished the pork medallions out of the freezer the previous evening; slapped them into the lime vinaigrette Thursday late morning. Made up a pineapple and parsley salsa for the pork. Used the cast iron skillet on the grill, a quick saute of the pig.Remains of potatoes done with onions, squash cooked with the other tomato. a very light and lovely white wine.

Tonight at the Plan B Cafe we will have squid ink pasta, tossed wth the lightest olive oil, lemon,herbs, and shrimp. Beet and fennel s'lad with honey. The beets are Chioggia, with their red/white/red/white pattern;should be weird.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Movie House of Memory:Myth, Motion, and Honor Blackman!

Doodles of Corinthian helmets peppered my school notebook; my vote for a identifying nickname for RR's Jr. high (The Spartans) was used. RR was ready to see Jason and the Argonauts . Ray Harryhausen's models moved, unlike the static shelf sitters young RR built.

"Dimensional stop-motion animation" was created by Willis O'Brien, best known for King Kong, (the original). Tedious work: build a model; pose the model;take the shot, move the Hydra, Harpy, or army of the dead sown from teeth; move it again. Repeat many times.Ray Harryhausen created many dynamic creatures in his movies. They demand the big screen .Their power holds up well; I recently watched Jason after many years. The skeletons fighting Jason and two companions sequence took four months to film, each tiny shield of the army of the dead bearing a picture of a previous Harryhausen creation. Unlike modern CGI, Harryhausen's creations have weight (thank you, Burly Man!) and do not violate kinesiologic principles.

Harryhausen monkeyed with the myth ; to a young RR pagan theologic quibbles did not matter.The Hydra,looted from Hercules' story (played by a manly Nigel Green) was a cool effect,though Talos chasing Herc and Hylas impressed the most. And the ship, the Argos, with a statue of Hera,Honor Blackman looking swell, guiding the argonauts' way. RR has also seen the Sinbad movies with Harryhausen's work on the big screen, as well as his science fiction creations on television;Jason and his brave crew are the favorites of memory.
Next, a different work : The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The beet goes on: veg. challenge, week 2

Que tal, pals? I am typing this on Missus RR's netbook;talk about the small print. One must do.....

The CSA consisted of beets,patty pan squash,parsley,chard,lettuce and scallions. While @ the market, I also scored some knobby onions,peas and mint,as well as herbed pasta and beef.

Saturday:free range beef,squash, and knobby onion kebabs, over rice pilaf. Gotta watch the free range stuff on the grill, goes south fast. The kebabs did not, though it was near run thing.

Sunday's meal was the pasta, pancetta, and peas in a creamy sauce. I learned something from the Missus: she had never had fresh peas before.

I found a leek, still viable, in the veg. bin Monday.I used Jamie Oliver's recipe for chicken (in this case, 3 thighs I had on hand)with leek, thyme, wine,and pancetta,roasted. Served it with parsleyed rice, so some of the CSA was used.

Tuesday evening found us at a niece's graduation;alas, no veg. that evening.

The lettuce and two roasted beets served as a base for Wednesday night's salad. I marinated some shrimp ( get 'em while you can folks, don't even get me started ) in a ginger and sesame marinade.There are more beets, omybrothersandsisters,they are gathering for a final assault. I will fix their little red wagon making a Yankee dish, red flannel hash. Although a wacky version can be found in the usually helpful Joy of Cooking , I will be using Marian Morash's recipe from her Victory Garden Cookbook. Her book is a valuable ally in the struggle with the veg world.

Thursday night RR made a swiss chard and almond sauce to go with the wide Amish noodles on hand. There are three components to the dish: the pasta, natch; the swiss chard, boiled briefly ,then sauteed with garlic and pepperoncino; finally,a pesto (mint is used with the basil , per recipe).All components are combined in the sauce pan. Texas toast accompanied the dish. The recipe is based on a Lydia Bastianich recipe, and was very tasty.Strangely, she uses just the leaves, ostensibly discarding the stems. Seems wasteful in an Italian recipe. Fear not, gentle reader: RR chopped them and is going to saute them severely, making a sauce with mushrooms and wine.

The pattypans remain, enigmatic on the counter.Their destiny is to be stuffed, I think.Further uses of beets after the hash will be in a beet, fennel, and honey salad. After that, RR may have to take the beet by the root as it were, and make borscht. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

" I have no mouth, and I must scream"

We lost power yet again where I live in lower Uzbekistan, VA the other day. Just for 2 minutes, while They replaced hamsters in the wheel of The Grid, or whatever They did; enough to put The Machine at home into so far permanent "Power Saver mode". So I am stealing 2 minutes of machine time @ work to let you know this, and that The Shebeen will back Real Soon Now, as they say in IT support.

The title above is a Harlan Ellison short story, one of 12 'most reprinted in the English language', according to an online source. Oh? And what are the other 11? Why 12?

Gotta go; 'til then, regards.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Monday movie house : eyes, ears, and memory

A change-up pitch this week. Rather than speaking of specific titles, I'd like to talk generalities.For the most part, RR relies on visual memories,still good. When setting up the list of titles to discuss, one came to mind which is very far back.One sequence has stuck in my mind all these years. When discussing this phenomenon with my brother, he too had a sequence from a different film which is still vivid.My brother's lapel grabber is the people sinking in the sand sequence in the original Invaders from Mars, and the subsequent thing on the back of their necks controlling them. RR's film (NO, this one is definitely a movie, not a film) is a worse movie than RR has been presenting here: Puss 'n Boots. Not a cartoon, folks; live action,one with real actors playing the human parts, and a wee actor dressed up in a cat suit as the title character. Very creepy.The sequence RR remembers does not help: a human sorcerer,drunk, is convinced to change himself into an animal by Puss; he turns into a mouse, runs across the floor, and is promptly gobbled by the cat. Whoah. Never saw the movie again.RR has tracked it down, and there is a story behind it.

Soundtracks stand out or work quietly in the background, with lesser impact than visuals. I peg my interest to the viewing (and hearing) of El Cid, at the South Shore Plaza Twin Drive-In. An excellent soundtrack. So were the early (Dr. No, et al)James Bond soundtracks: RR still owns the 33 1/3rpm recordings of them.The soundtracks of memory which really caught my ear are those of Ennio Morricone, in the C.Eastwood 'Italian' westerns. His sound style matched director Sergio Leone's visual style.I have the orginal recordings, plus Yo Yo Ma playing these and other Morricone titles on CD. Morricone has an affinity for the cello.RR has also enjoyed Morricone's soundtracks from later films: his taut score for John Carpenter's The Thing, as well as The Mission and The Untouchables. He is still working, I believe.Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky, seen on a semi-big screen in a dingy hall at college, has sequences where the soundtrack was written first, with the film shot to the score. It works nicely, if one enjoys Eisenstein and/or Prokofiev as RR does; so nicely, it is reported that William Walton's music for Henry V replicates the technique in spots. I cannot confirm, as I have only seen it on the small screen.No film stands out in my memory solely on the basis of sound; a few stand out for lack of sound, even though they are 'talkies', such as Tod Browning's Dracula. The combination of sound and sight strenghtens the memory of the film.

Next time, less pointy headed stuff, as RR recalls the magic of Ray Harryhausen in Jason and the Argonauts.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Cookin' Fool: Veggie challenge , Week One.

Gentle reader: Tool Shed Thursdays will return after the CSA season.This section will discuss the meals we've had from our weekly veg share.

Missus RR and RR have a half CSA (community supported agriculture)share of vegetables withFrog Bottom Farm. We get a weekly allotment of vegetables, depending on what is in season, from May to October. A colleague started a share last year, and kindly let us pick it up when she and her husband were out of town. We are trying it this year. Everybody wins with the deal.

Last weekend was the first week of it. Saturday found us in brain frying heat, picking up our share. Two kinds of squash (zucchini and zephyr), beets (with edible greens), rainbow chard, lettuce, baby turnips and most intriguingly, garlic scapes. I had not heard of scapes before.The challenge was on: for RR, exuberant tyro cook, not to waste any of these beauties. RR hates waste, particularly with food.

Here is what RR made with the CSA share.
Saturday: Blistering hot, so made a salad utilizing the lettuce, and added grilled salmon with maple syrup and mustard glaze. Grade B amber with its depth of flavor is best for cooking, save the good stuff for other uses. Thank you, Charlotte, for bringing the Vermont maple syrup to us from the fatherland.
Sunday: Not a CSA veg dinner; I used the black olive pasta we bought at the booth of Bombolini pasta.A couple days before, I made a grilled plum tomato, goat cheese, black olive and basil side dish. There was some left, so I buzzed it in the food processor and made a sauce from it. The dish was well received.
Monday: I used a recipe from Lydia Bastianich for the dish: zucchini with anchovies and capers. Sounds iffy, but it worked.Young zucchini can be bland, and needs jazzing up. I used both the zucchini and the zephyr squash. As to the protein: Martin's had a two-fer-one deal on pork tenderloins, so I used Michael Chiarello's seared tenderloin with cocoa spice rub. Came out swell.
Tuesday: The Missus had a work meeting, and I had a geek meeting, so dinner was not a CSA meal.
Wednesday: Used the garlic scapes in a frittata with spinach from a recipe found here. I tasted a piece of scape and saw why the recipe has one sauteing it for five minutes before adding the egg mixture:tough and bitter. The cooking softens both those aspects. I diced the chard stems and leaves,cooked up a handful of onion, threw in a diced red pepper and chard stems, then after five minutes or so threw in the leaves. When they were tender I added a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, stirred and served it. A meatless dish: the Missus remarked on carnivore RR doing without meat.

That's ok.Tomorrow I am planning on using the free range pork sausage we bought at yet another booth. RR will puree the baby turnips, and serve the greens on the side to accompany the pork.

Then there are the beets. I'm thinking a beet risotto to accompany the pork tenderloin we have left. Other suggestions or recommendations? Saturday, it's once more unto the breech omysistersandbrothers, and I see scallions in our future. I'm thinking Chinese scallion pancakes,accompanying Ruth Young's sizzling salt and pepper shrimp, which, lacking a wok, RR has made before on the grill in his beloved cast iron skillet. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Movie house of memory: The General.

Rabbiting away in the home office last week, I happened to turn on the radio. "Performance Today" was playing on the local NPR outlet. The host announced they would be broadcasting from the Spoleto USA festival, an annual occurrence in Charleston, South Carolina. Missus RR and I have attended this festival on one of our visits to that lovely city; we had a great time. There are many opportunites to see and hear diverse entertainment.We saw an Indonesian shadow puppet show, heard some excellent music, and your correspondent had an upclose and potentially expensive encounter with modern art. We also saw The General, Buster Keaton's 1926 film, which was playing on a big screen at a church, with improvised organ accompaniment.

How appropriate! A film based on a true incident of the Civil War, playing in a town and state that figured highly in that conflict. Charleston holds the record for an American city being shelled, and South Carolina was the first on and last off the secession bandwagon.Politics are still rough and tumble in the Palmetto state. This was not the first time I bumped into Buster. I had seen him in bit parts in Beach Blanket Bingo and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Those were definitely not Keaton films. The General is, and is arguably his masterpiece. The trouble for some is it is not a comedy.

Keaton's comedy was very physical;gags executed with precise timing and blocking.While physical, Keaton played likeable characters; Chaplin's little tramp, on the other hand, could be a mean little man. Never Buster.His most famous stunt occurs in Steamboat Bill, Jr. : he is standing in the street, facing the camera, when the entire front facade of the house he is standing in front of falls over him, with Keaton being saved from death by the precise placement of a window. In The General, while still a very physical performance, there are few laughs.Keaton is an engineer in Georgia whose two loves of his life, his engine and his girlfriend, are taken by Yankee soldiers in a raid. He takes another engine, Texas, if memory serves, and sets out to get them back. Along the way he executes some physical stunts, very dangerous stuff on a moving train, and there are battle scenes where people die. The film did not do well at the box office because the laughs were not there. Because the audiences stayed away and the cost of the film was so high,the studio never let Keaton have the level of control over production he had with this and his earlier films. Keaton, a train buff, was a stickler for detail. When the Texas wrecks, it is really wrecking, folks.

The audience that muggy night was behind Buster all the way as he put one over on the Yankees. They actually hissed at the Yankees once or twice; never heard a live audience hiss before. It was a night where everything clicked into place, like a well planned stunt. The film, the venue, and the accompanist all contributed to create a sort of magic. This rarely happens, and I appreciated being able to participate.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tool shed Thursday: three knives.

Years ago, my future mother-in-law gave me a Swiss Army knife, the camper model. It has 2 blades, an awl, a saw blade which I have used once, two openers, one for bottles, the other one, reminiscent of the military P-38, opens cans. Those two blades have wide and narrow screw blade tips, respectively. Also included are a useless tweezer, and a frequently disappearing toothpick. The last one is deep in the bowels of the driver's seat mechanism in my car. It also has a corkscrew, perhaps the most used part. It has become my default cork remover, even in the kitchen. Why bother rummaging for one of several 'screws when there is one an arm's length away? My knife has become second nature, like my bottle of nitroglycerin. It is in my pocket all the time, except for rehab. If I am wearing work clothes, it is there; if I am wearing a suit, it is there. Tucked deep inside the checked suitcase,it travelled to Italy. Came in handy once or twice. People are sometimes surprised when I am wearing a suit and someone needs one of its functions and I bring out the knife. "You can take him outta the working class, you cannot take the working class outta him".

The second knife today has only one blade, but it's a pip. It is a Forschner Victorinox Fibrox 8-inch chef's knife. It is my go-to knife in the kitchen, used daily. It holds an edge well;it needs honing less frequently than my 7" Wusthof Santoku knife. The second advantage of the Victorinox is Fibrox,the material the handle is made of. Very non slip, even wet or oily. Finally, the clincher for me was the price. Amazon was selling it for $25.00 yesterday. A great value for an excellent knife.

The knife in the photo is a mystery. It was given to me by my father; he called it a "wrong way knife". And it is. It can only be held in the right hand, as it is designed to cut, no, pare, on the pull stroke. Obviously home made, I'm thinking American Indian or Inuit because of the handle, and the way it works. The blade was originally wider.The first 1.5" of the blade has been ground into a working edge. The rest of the blade is also sharp, but not cut to the same angle.There is a tight curl at the tip. The blade maker's name is stamped just above where the tang enters the handle. A loup would help to discern the maker's name (maybe Sheffield: I see an "..ield" and an "Eng.." below it),truncated when the blade was ground a couple millimeters narrower. The handle is bone,with two rivets through the bone and tang. It is still a sturdy fit. Is it a flensing knife? Nah, the curl at the tip would snag. I googled the heck out of it, and was frequently led to the familiar two handled draw knife of woodworkers. This knife has a very specific task, unknown to me.It would be good for carving a cavity in a flat surface, and that is about it. Any ideas or theories would be appreciated.