Friday, September 30, 2011

Man Can Cook #14 - Molasses Glazed Roasted Salmon & Tomato Salad

Quickie post to end the month on a tasty note. No backstory on this one, just a nice easy recipe.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The San Jose Mercury News - You Suck!

My Grandmother, Eleanor Marie Turretto, passed away last month. If you've been reading this blog, that's two Grandmothers and a dog in less than a year. I've not yet begun to process this and the impact on my life and my Grandfathers so I won't touch on that here. The point of this post is to vent a little on the San Jose Mercury News and it's owner, the Bay Area News Group.

Anyone that has put together a funeral & burial knows it isn't cheap but one particular expense involved seemed to me particularly egregious. The Obituary. Have a look below, this ran for three days in the Mercury and it's posted on their website. Care to guess what it cost?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Man Can Cook #13 - Simple Staples; Chicken Cacciatore

Ok fella’s (and ladies if you are reading this) here is a very simple and quick dish that you can keep in your pocket for one of those nights when you are fending for yourself and want to stay away from the take-out junk food. I’ll include a couple of ways to elevate it as well if you want to make it for guests. A lot of Cacciatore recipe's call for mushrooms and when I use them I prefer the Crimini variety. But to me, the mushrooms make it more of a "wintery" dish. This recipe is brighter, fresher, less earthy and I think more appropriate to the season.

Where have all the kids gone?

This past weekend my little neighborhood in Mountain View had it's annual block party. Cheesy suburban tradition perhaps...but I happen to like cheesy suburban traditions. So there! It's a nice opportunity to meet that new couple that moved in down near the corner and share some food from the multitude of different ethnicities in the neighborhood. 

What strikes me every year though is the sheer number of kids on our block that I NEVER see other than at this annual party. I occasionally will see them piling in or out of the back of a car, and there are a couple of Middle-School aged kids that I see in the mornings riding their bikes to school but that's it. I'm about 1/2 inclined to put up a flyer stating that I have a ball and glove in case some kids wants to play catch or leave a cinder block and hunk of plywood in the street just to see if there is a kid left that knows what to do with it (you build a jump for your bike).

My street, 4pm on Saturday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Genius; Fried Chicken, Waffles & The Brown Sugar Kitchen

Genius (n): 1) An exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc. 2) A distinctive character or spirit as of a nation, period, or language.
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer
In the sphere of food there are innumerable individual dishes that alone are spectacular; the effective creation of any of them is by definition a demonstration of talent. To take one or more of them and combine them in such a way that neither is diminished yet the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts is to, as Schopenhauer said, “hit a target no one else can see.” In short, a demonstration of genius.

Fried chicken and waffles is such a combination. Rarely have two such apparently discordant, yet individually awesome delicacies been combined to such mind-bending success. I recently experienced my first plate of this wonder of culinary aggregation at the Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Man Can Cook #12 - Zucchini Surplus Part Deux

Just a brief entry here to share a recipe that I fondly remembered from my childhood. I grew up mostly in Morgan Hill, California. When we moved there in 1976 Morgan Hill was mostly agricultural. There was vineyards, mushroom growers, orchards and precious little else. The apricot and grape growers would pay kids a nickel a bird for us to shoot starlings in their fields to keep them off the fruit. We didn't actually hit very many of them, but we made a lot of noise with the shotguns and chased off a lot of birds. I can't imagine what the reaction would be today to a trio of kids riding along a road on Schwinn Stingrays carrying 12ga shotguns but in those days, nobody batted an eye.

My mother worked as a bookkeeper for Emilio Guglielmo Winery. They make a spectacular collection of Italian style wines which in general, I happen to prefer to the German / French influence on most of the Napa / Sonoma wines. My family remains friends with the Guglielmo's to this day. The matriarch of the family is a beautiful 1st Generation Italian woman named Madeline and she is a spectacular cook. The old world sensibility of not letting anything go to waste inspired this recipe that my mother used to cook for us when there was a surplus of zucchini from either Madeline's garden or ours. I hadn't had it in over 30 years and on a recent visit I implored my mother to get the recipe from Madeline.

It's super simple and quick to make and it's just as I remembered it, delicious either warm or cold. I encourage you to give it a try and I hope you enjoy it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Annoying Co-Worker Chronicles - Ep4

Doctor Crappyhands and Chief Stalltalker

The weekly conference call drags on and on…very little of substance is accomplished yet we continue the interminable routine none the less. Meanwhile, deep within my abdomen the first and second cups of morning coffee are being processed by two innocuous masses of tissue and today, my kidneys are working overtime. The filtration of my blood to extract excess water, electrolytes and other stuff has been going on at a furious pace while I listen to the banal blathering of an aspiring middle-manager attempting to impress.

Brevity, son, is the soul of wit…it’s also fucking mandatory on a conference call…especially when I have to wee.

Finally it ends. I bound from my chair and naturally forget to remove my headset. The plug unseats from the phone and recoils back at me threatening to garrote me as it ensnares my neck. I curse and toss the infernal device on my desk and march toward the restroom with the purpose that can only be found in a man who’s bladder has expanded to roughly the size of Rhode Island.

That’s when things got weird.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Guy In The Gray Suit...Were You There On 9/11?

If you know me, you no doubt have heard me tell of the 15 friends and acquaintances that I lost on 9/11. There are enough remembrances floating around on TV, Radio and the web and I don’t know that another serves any real purpose.  But something occurred to me this weekend that I'd previously not considered. I don't know why I never thought about it, how something like this could have slipped my mind but in the ten years since 9/11 the realization never crept into my consciousness. Saturday it did and the thought has consumed me since.

26 February 1993 didn’t start differently than any number of days for me. I woke, drove from my condo in Brooklyn, NY to United States Coast Guard Airstation Brooklyn at Floyd Bennett Field. A cup of coffee with the boys and off onto the hangar deck to work on one of the five HH-65A Helicopters that we maintained and flew. I remember that we had Howard Stern on the Radio in the morning as usual…everything was as usual. I wrapped up what I was doing around noon and was in the shop washing up before heading to lunch when the radio broke in with a news update. At 12:17pm an explosion had rocked the North Tower at the World Trade Center. It was reported that smoke was billowing out of the underground parking structure and was working its way up the tower, emanating from various ventilation ports on the tower.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Man Can and Should Cook, Here’s Why.

If your initial response to the title of this post is something akin to, “Pfft, cooking is for chicks and pussies.” you should leave. Seriously, go read something else.....and stop living in your mother’s basement.

That aside, here are a few of my thoughts on why it’s important for a man to not only know how to cook, but why he should endeavor to do it well.

1 – It’s a basic life skill. Are you going to tell me that you aren’t man enough to get the better of a 5lb dead chicken? You can handle a manual transmission, you can back up a trailer, you can change a flat tire, you can jump-start your car, you can drive a nail, you can fix a faucet….can’t you? Shouldn’t you be able to feed yourself, your spouse and your kids without resorting to fried cheese sticks at the local pub or the KFC drive-through?

Among my male friends that are accomplished cooks are Executives, Cops, Race Car Drivers, Airline Pilots, Construction Foremen, Oil Well Engineers and two professional Chefs. Cooking is in fact, quite a manly art. Get rid of the “woman’s work” meme, its bullshit. Look at Food Network, peruse the latest Michelin Star Ratings. Most of the world’s top chef’s are men.

There’s fire, there’s dangerous hot grease, there’s sharp knives, there’s power tools. C’mon, if that doesn’t get your inner caveman going what does?

Man Can Cook #11 - Dabbling In The Middle East

Those of you who maintain your own vegetable garden know the drill. You work your tail off in the spring getting things ready, you fuss and worry about your plants hoping that one last frost doesn’t come. Then you meticulously tend to the plants through the summer, watering, fertilizing and keeping things generally healthy and then the reward comes…beautiful, fresh, home grown veggies and if you did a good job of things, lots of ‘em. By this point in the summer you’ve got tomatoes coming out your ears, so much basil that you are sweating pesto, enough green beans to sink the Bismark and zucchini…my god what’ll we do with all of this zucchini?

So, like me, I’m sure you are looking for new ways to use some of this stuff lest you have to schlep the surplus into the office to give it away or…gasp…let it go bad before you can use it all. My biggest surplus is tomatoes and zucchini and short of making my annual 2 gallon batch of tomato sauce I’ve pretty nearly exhausted my catalog of ways to use them. A few weeks ago however a friend of ours was over for dinner and inspired me to something I’ve never tried before. Lillian is her name and she’s a dear old friend of my wife Kathy’s family. Lillian is a 1st generation American, born to Lebanese immigrants and she told me about a dish called Kousa Mahshi which is zucchini stuffed with ground lamb and cooked in tomatoes. BINGO! But….she’d lost the recipe. Other than cous-cous, I’d never fiddled around with middle-eastern cuisine and the fact that I didn’t have a recipe to start from presented no small challenge as well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Man Can Cook #10 - A Fish Worth It's Salt

This is a process I’ve used a number of times with great success but for some reason has slipped my mind as far as writing about. We're gonna cook a whole fish inside a massive pile of kosher salt. The process is fun, super effective for creating a moist and perfectly cooked whole fish and is assured to freak out any dinner guests you might have. Win-Win.

You are probably already thinking, “Holy Moses, that is going to be too salty!”. Well stop that right now. Believe me, it won’t. The salt simply creates a sealed environment in which to steam the fish in its own moisture. The salt sorta creates an oven inside an oven that allows a gentle application of heat to the fish, insulates it from the drying effect of the oven and keeps the aromatic ingredients from drying out as well. Again, don’t freak out. This is not going to turn a beautiful whole fish into a salt lick. This isn’t tough to do at all. If you’ve ever seen this done in a restaurant you know that it makes for an impressive presentation as the fish is exposed from its salt coffin. Upon opening you and your guest will find an incredibly moist, fragrant and perfectly cooked whole fish.