Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cat shaped hole

I buried my kitty today.

My beautiful green-eyed, gray-furred kitty now plays in the ceiling cat butterfly fields. I sent her off wrapped in a cozy towel, on top of a bed of flowers along with a container of kitty treats and another of catnip.

She was probably 14ish. You never really know with a shelter cat. Her kidneys failed quickly, she was really only sick for 3 days or so. She spent the last day of fall out in the garden enjoying the grass and the blue sky.

Bye kitty. I miss you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Wedding Phoenix part 2

Can you imagine trying to find a wedding venue for a 100 guests that would permit amplified music and an outside caterer in a beautiful outdoor setting with only 6 days notice?

It's easier when you have a very public, lock-tight sob-story and when 70 of your closest friends are calling in favors and dialing phone numbers on your behalf. Still. Nothing was working out and everyone was getting quite anxious. Friends and family were streaming in from across the country and across the pond. The pressure to find a new location and continue with preparations was reaching a fevered pitch.

Thursday morning, I got a twitter from the groom. Angel Island was back on! Unfortunately, parts of the island were still smoldering and access to the island would be extremely limited. There would be no opportunity to schlep cumbersome items to the wedding site on Friday. This meant canceling the rented tent pavilions, and the second generator. There would be no dance floor, no fairy lights. It would not be possible to transform government grade bathrooms into clean and luxurious powder rooms equipped with full length mirrors and actual soap. The ceremony would have to be conducted in the same area as the reception, so there wouldn't be an opportunity to have a crew set up the picnic while the guests attended the ceremony.

There's an old saying about the best laid plans...

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Wedding Phoenix part 1

Nothing could quench the sobs of my friend Jess, as she watched her wedding venue disappear under billowing clouds of smoke.

You see, late in the evening on Sunday October 12 a careless camper let a spark get loose near the campgrounds on Angel Island, the 740 acre state park in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Tinder-dry brush ignited quickly and soon fully half the island was engulfed in shooting gouts of flame.

Heroic firefighters evacuated campers and the island's few residents. Their efforts contained the fire quickly and kept it from spreading beyond the south side of the island. Thankfully, none of the historic buildings were harmed; the remnants of the immigration station and military buildings will continue to educate the public about the days of Chinese exclusion and the rarely told Pacific story of the US civil war. Still, the California Department of Parks closed the island indefinitely. My friends were scheduled to be married there the following weekend.

The bride and groom chose Angel Island for their wedding site months ago. For their ceremony they planned an elaborate Edwardian picnic in keeping with their English heritage and the history of the island. With the fire closure, cinders and ash replaced visions of lawn games and wicker baskets loaded with china, glassware and silver cutlery.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Hooked on 538

My friend Chris won't stop twittering about the latest aggregation of election polls over at If you're at all interested in statistical wonkery, you should check it out, there are new posts every day.

Meanwhile, I've been meaning to post this very interesting article from the BBC news. Imagine there were a tie vote at the electoral college...

The Unit Rule give the USA its first female president

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

This is the name of a giant music festival that will be held in San Francisco this weekend. It features bluegrass, country, blues, and other folky sounds. The weather will be lovely, and all of the music is free. I think I might go.

Some of you readers probably just snorted your beverage through your nose. My disdain for all music "folk" is barely contained. But... Friday afternoon Robert Plant & Alison Krauss will be performing. Ms. Krauss captured my eardrums with her lyric rendition of Down to the River to Pray on the O Brother, where art thou? soundtrack. Plus, it should be entertaining to hear her paired with Mr. Plant. As long as they don't sing Immigrant Song.

The crowds will be intense, so I doubt I'll stay for a long time. Though it might be worth it, just to check out MC Hammer or Nick Lowe.

Wanna see the whole schedule?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Epic Cooking continues

Cirque de cuisine continued today.

TheRoommate had some apples that were starting to go soft on him. I think a soft, yet tasty, apple is still great when baked in a pie.

It's been about a year since my last pie endeavor. No surprise then that I screwed up the first batch of pie crust. The flour was far drier than expected, and I overworked the dough trying to get enough moisture in. I generally season both crusts and pie fillings, so in addition to the small amount of sugar that I put into dessert crust, I also added lemon zest and a dash or two of nutmeg. Equal measures of allspice, nutmeg and cardamom went in to the apples along with a touch of sugar, a spritz of lemon and dots of butter. I often prefer allspice to cloves; they have a similar flavor, but it's less assertive. It's always a coin toss on whether to use cinnamon. It is so commonly used in desserts, but it's such a great spice. Thankfully cardamom provides a delightful alternative.

Today's pastry recipe was sponsored by Jacque & Julia cooking at home. Finally! A pie dough recipe that doesn't make way too much. I had just enough for a bottom crust and a lattice top.

Since I was already making dough, it made sense to make a half batch of savory pastry fortified with poultry-seasoning. I've been hankering for truly homemade chicken or turkey pot pie ...

While the pie was baking I peeked into the fridge to see what I could use up. There was some corn and black beans lurking from my last taco salad, so I decided to make some more red onion, corn & black bean salsa. Alas, the beans had fermented and I had to pitch the entire batch.

A couple of pork sirloin roasts have been waiting their turn. Rather than trying to stuff and patiently wait for a roast, I sliced one into medallions. The round slices were roughly 3/4 of an inch thick. I dredged them in the beaten egg left over from the pie crust and then breaded them in panko breadcrumbs spiked with salt and pepper and a mixture of celery seed, thyme, and oregano. I panfried these using a small amount of corn oil. The result was a surprisingly light dish somewhat like a cross between wiener schnitzel and chicken fried steak.

The sun hasn't set yet, and I still feel like making a few more things. What those might be I'm not yet sure, although it may involve cherry tomatoes and yellow squash.

Red Pepper Crack

The chiles on the pepper plants are really going gangbusters. Last week, put a pound of them in a bag with some fresh tomatoes and then forgot all about the whole thing. I found that bag today. Happily, it was full of amazingly BRIGHT RED peppers, and a couple of tomatoes somewhat past their prime.

Since these peppers have been a profound disappointment in the spicy realm (they were supposed to be the famed green chiles of my native land), I decided they'd shine best roasted. And then I decided that since they mostly taste like your average red bell pepper they should be used in my all time favorite red bell pepper recipe.

Of the 83 cookbooks on the dedicated shelf, one of the biggest is the 1996 CIA New Professional Chef. Despite its huge size, I use exactly one recipe from it. That recipe however, is a doozy. Tucked beneath a script for vegetarian crepes is a list of ingredients and a few simple instructions for roasted red bell pepper coulis sauce. In it chopped shallots are softened in dry white wine until syrupy while red peppers roast under the broiler. Once the peppers are slipped from their crackling black skins, they join the shallots and are bound together with a few other choice ingredients. A rustic chef serves this as is, but I like to whirl it through the blender to create a lighter sauce. Honestly, I could eat it like soup.

As luck would have it, a few of the peppers are packing some heat. I tested the sauce for balance and to my delight experienced a slow burn roar through the sweet, smoky aftertaste.

It will take an extreme act of willpower not to harvest all the other peppers and use them just for sauce, no matter how addictive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On my mind

There's been a lot going on over the past month. Here's a glimpse at what I've been up to.

Portrait of the Lawyer as a Young Artiste:
After the Bar exam my right brain rebelled against too much structure and I immediately undertook two super secret art projects for the annual Burning Man large-scale art festival cum rave. My first project was to create and execute the exterior design for a small museum. The museum director wanted a collapseable structure that would resemble a log cabin. I was lucky enough to be able to collaborate with a professional set designer, and with her advice and plenty of independent research I pulled off a highly representative design that worked really well.

The second project was a fire art project initially conceived by TheRoommate. The core concept was a small scale effigy. We built small man-shaped statues (nothing in size or shape like the Big Man) that would hold their shape while on fire. Some looked like the gingerbread man, and some looked like South Pacific tikis. They're extraordinarily evocative and beautiful flaming sculpture.

Garden Rant
While I was gone, I'd asked the wife of one of my oldest friends to water for me, every other day or so. She expressed no reservations, and I felt comfortable that my garden was in good hands. On returning home, I discovered that her notions of watering missed the mark. My dahlias were nothing but scorched sticks. My bush beans were a mass of withered leaves and woody pods. My barrel of New Mexico chiles were wilted to the stem. Only 2 of 6 cucumber vines survived. Given that this woman has numerous houseplants, all thriving, I'm forced to consider that this may have been deliberate, and I don't understand why.

Meanwhile, we've had terrible squirrel deprivations. The little bastards have attacked the sweet corn and the seedless sunflowers. They got every ear, and nearly every flower. TheRoommate set up some HaveAHeart traps. The traps are empty. I think he should set the coyote traps.

Garden Gloat
Meanwhile, the tomatoes are finally starting to come in. They are red, ripe, juicy, and unfortunately cracked due to the above watering fiasco. I committed three quarts of unripe globes to Fried Green Tomatoes at a surprise party for a dear friend from the Carolinas. Our 4 Crimson Carmello plants are producing abundantly. The cherry tomatoes which didn't get transplanted in time are trying to play catch up.

Come to supper

Apparently I am the right kind of dinner guest.

You can invite me at the last minute, even when you, yourself don't entirely know what it is that you're to be fixing.

You can shove a cast iron griddle at me when the food isn't cooking right. I'll know what the problem is, and how to correct it. As I'm doing that, you can point me to the plate that has the overflow, and I'll cook that up as well, because if you're going to cook some of it, you may as well cook it all. And yes, I have no problem gripping those squishy, slimy raw chicken breasts and reducing them to a manageable size for your pan. This is because I am an unrepentant carnivore.

You can tell me what you had in mind for dinner. I'll ask pantry questions and come up with a healthier, lower-fat alternative that uses what you have on hand. I'll hop right on it. We'll work in tandem in the kitchen, and before long, I'll set the table and we'll hustle out the hot food.

Afterwards, I'll wash the dishes.

I will also respond to a more timely invitation, dress up, apply make up, arrive on time, and bring flowers.