Thursday, December 09, 2004

Finally some recipes...

Tonights dinner was a pasta variation which we eat fairly often...we call it Greek Pasta. You'll see why as I describe the recipe. Basically it's a saute' of fresh veggies in olive oil (of course) with some nice kalamatta olives and feta cheese tossed in. Tonight I used fusilli pasta (those corkscrew shaped ones) and the veggies were onions, garlic (I cook almost nothing without onions and garlic - save pastry items- and lots of both), broccoli (another house favorite ingredient), crimini mushrooms, eggplant, and -despite the season- a few plum tomatoes (which were suprisingly nice and ripe, and not too expensive). Instead of the Kalamatta olives, I used the rest of some leftover olive and red pepper tapanade I had taking up room in the ol' fridge. On reflection, I would say that the halved Kalamattas I usually use are much better flavor and texture wise.

So, to get started, put the pasta water on to boil, and don't forget to salt it generously (salty like the sea, mench!) Next prep up the veggies...I like my onions "French cut" or Jullienne (long thin strips from root end to top end ) as it is easiest, and also the onions don't get lost in the dish. I also like to cut my garlic cloves in thin slices (as they did in the prison scene in Good Fellas, but with my chef's knife rather than a razor blade) again, I like the slices for ease, and for that rustic look and feel of the final product. Broccoli, I cut into small flourettes, and I peel the stems and slice them into 1/4 inch half moons on the bias. (hey, they add some crunch- almost like a water chestnut texture if not cooked too long- and besides, we pay enough for them that I can't see tossing them in the compost). The eggplant I dice into 1/2 inch cubes, salt lberally, and allow to drain for a while in a collander (they say this eliminates the bitter taste of eggplant, but I honestly can't say as I've ever noticed the difference really, I just do it out of habit at this point I think). The crimini I lightly rinse (horror of horrors!) and thick slice for added textural pleasure. Lastly, the plum tomatoes get cored, halved, seeded (save those) and jullienned, I rough chop the seeds and tomato innards and set them aside for later.

Everything is set for assembly...this is known in French as Mis en Place or "everything in its place". Now we cook. By this time the pasta water should be boiling, so turn it down to a simmer until the time is right. Fire up the burner under the pot for sauteeing the veggies! Add a liberal amount of olive oil once the pot has heated up a bit, then add the eggplant cubes, stir and saute' until cooked through and even try to brown them a bit on the outside. Remove from the pan and set these aside to add to the pasta later. In the same pan, add more olive oil (remember its's good for you!) and then in go the onions. Season with salt and pepper, the salt will draw the flavor of the vegetable out...let them cook to translucent, stirring often. Next add the mushrooms and garlic, season again, stir until mushrooms are cooked and liquid has evaporated (mostly). Next add the broccoli and the tomato seeds and innards (not the jullianne flesh though). Continue to stir and cook over medium high heat.

At this point, crank up the pasta water again, and when it boils toss in the fusilli. Meanwhile, when the broccoli is dark green yet still al dente' (meaning somewhat still do not want mushy broccoli!) cut the heat under the veggie pan. Crumble up the feta cheese. When the pasta is cooked (again, to al dente'- the pasta should still have some "bite" to it...not be mushy and limp...this is very important!). Drain the pasta.

At last, time to assemble the final dish...mix the hot pasta with the sautee'd vegetables, add even more olive oil, the olives (or tapenade), the feta, the eggplant and the tomato jullienne. Wow! Looks and smells delicious, eh? Scoop into large bowls and serve with crusty bread (and more olive oil!). I find that either red or white wines go well with this dish, but tonight we had a nice Oregon Reisling (dry, and crisp - Alsacian style), and it was quite complimentary. I also set out a bowl of parmesan cheese (shredded, not grated) and some red pepper flakes for additions to taste. Fresh cracked black pepper may be desired at this point as well.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Once again (unfortunately) it is world AIDS day...

December 1st is World AIDS Day. It is an annual opportunity to reflect on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, and to recommit ourselves to the fight against the disease. This year there is a special focus on Women and Girls, who are especially vulnerable. Today, women represent almost half of the 38 million people who are living with HIV/AIDS . And girls in their teens and early twenties represent more than 60% of new infections among young people.

-The Global Fund to Stop AIDS (stopping AIDS before it stops the world)

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is spreading at a terrifying rate. Every day, another 13,000 people become newly infected with the virus--several people each minute. The United Nations estimates that nearly 40 million people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS. Its consequences are devastating to communities: rampant poverty tramples entire regions as the virus spreads, creating widespread hunger, health crises, and economic collapse.

-The Mercy Corps

I am so pissed right now. Partly because 20 odd years later the HIV/AIDS epidemic is only getting to be more of a horrific problem, and partly because my last three attempts to write something about it were lost in the ether when my Compy 148 froze up and this damned BLOGGER site (which I fully realize I - a true neophyte - have in no way figured out yet) lost all my ramblings.

Suffice to say that I had much on my mind after coming across the above and other e-mail messages in my box this morning.

For instance, what exactly is wrong with those in charge (yes, I refer here mainly to our government leaders) that we - the self styled "leaders of the free world"- could allow (actually more like help to perpetuate) this awful deadly serious global health crisis? Are they really serious with all this "abstinence education" crap they are trying to cram down the throat of the worlds population while simultaneously dismantling any real truly progressive and actually useful sex/health education in our school systems? Who the hell do these people think they are? We are in need of honest, straight forward discourse, debate, research, funding, and truthfulness worldwide on this public health issue and NOW for crying out loud! (What the hell is going on around here?) My God, they are taking us back to the puritanical bad old days of our miserable, repressed fore fathers, and half of us (or so the numbers tell us) are helping to row the boat!

TAKE YOUR BLINDERS OFF FOLKS! We are headed down the wrong damn path, and if you think it is the promised land that lies awaitin' around the next bend, let me not be the last to tell you that you are most definitely sorely mistaken. (WRONG DIRECTION!)

UGH! I wish y'all could read what I had to say earlier in the day, 'cuz it was a whole lot more rational, thought out and coherent than this mess, but I'm just too full of irritating bile at this point to simmer down and make sense again for awhile.

Well...All of us with level heads and brains which still work (that means we actually think about things once and a while rather than just going through the motions all day and then spacing out in front of the tube with our mind numbing substance of choice at our side, repeating this cycle endlessly) had better keep the pressure on those who are in control of everything to keep this and other vitally important issues (like say, the environmental degradation of our planet) in the forefront of the collective mind (as we have observed, not all of us have fully evolved beyond the reptilian brain yet, so we need constant, vigilant reminders).

Really. Next time I promise some recipes and more pleasant anecdotes. For sure. Ciao!


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Yes, I'm still here...Let's go!

Okay, so I have been slacking as of late with the ol' postings. Could be laziness, could be lack'o insight, could be too much goin' on in the ol' brainpan to sort through and make sense of...Who the hell knows?

First off, I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a wonderful Thanksgiving groaning board of a meal with some great friends up in the big city (that's Portland, OR - for those of you who are unfamiliar with my whereabouts yet. From now on said city will be known as PDX in these here rants...kayo?). We (that is the family and I ) had a lot of fun cooking, conversing, playing with the new pooch, drinking wine (and later hot buttered rum!) and of course stuffing ourselves to an almost comatose state. What a blast.

The Hosts - Ms. E and Mr. S - provided the big bird (nicely brined, and incredibly flavorful), a cornbread stuffing, Mashed potatoes (mmm, garlicky!) and various snackies. The other honored guests - Ms. L, Mr. D and the other Miss H - brought the perennial favorite Green Bean Casserole (but notably better for the use of fresh beans and a truly homemade creamy sauce!) and Ms. L made her first ever pie!!! (a very respectable, delicious traditional pumpkin one at that. In fact, it was so good that at first I thought Ms. E -a professional pastry chef - had concocted it! Good show!) My offerings this year were some homemade southern style cheese crackers (a new recipe I tried for the first time...Very good, though I think I may have over done it with the cayenne pepper a bit - suprisingly, OUR Miss H. Loved them, and she usually turns her nose up at anything spicy!) I guess with enough butter and cheese, even spicy is good to a five year old. My other dish was one I had been perfecting at work for the past month or so...Roasted Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions, Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese...all baked together into a delicious sweet, salty, richly decadent casserole of autumn flavors. Yum! (if I do say so myself) Ms. K, as is to be expected, provided some equally delectable wines to augment the selection offered by our gracious hosts. All in all a very satisfying and quite memorable meal.

Due to our having to work the next day at the famous traditional Oregon Thanksgiving Winery Open House Tasting Event, (way too early in the morning, if you ask me!) we had to depart before the big Boys Vs. Girls Cranium contest. (Bummer, I have been waiting a long time for my chance to have a go at that wacky game...Alas there is always next time.) Well, I'd best be going...Ciao for Now.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Okay, tryin' to get over it...

Hey yo! So I am still sitting here licking my many wounds...what else is there to do? I came up with a few things that seem to help. First off this video is pretty good, and helps ease the pain a bit through its truthful humor.

Them there is where you can go if you would like to tell congress that you would like more answers about what really went on in the election voting process. Who knows, this may help us get some real information, and bring some closure.

Then, of course there is always cooking. I myself (along with my lovely wife and daughter and a couple of friends) recently had the good fortune to stumble upon a huge stash of natures most wonderful abundance whilst walking in the woods just outside Mollala OR this past week. Yes, we found so many Chanterelle mushrooms, that we couldn't carry them all! I love it! There is nothing more satisfying to me than a nice quiet walk in the misty cool forest at this time of year (my favorite season by far). The bonus of finding all those delicious fungi is just fantastic. I can't get enough of that woodsy, faintly apricot smell fresh chanterelles have. And then there is that fresh peppery taste which adds so much to any dish they are added to.

My favorite combination has got to be fresh pan seared King Salmon, Chanterelles sautee'd with onions, garlic and the last of this seasons sweet corn, (maybe some nice vine ripened sweet 100 tomatoes tossed in at the last minute) over a bed of tiny french green lentils cooked down with some smoked bacon (or pancetta) and a touch of sherry vinegar. Yum.

This time however, I made a large pot of Cream of Chanterelle soup (just substituted for the standard crimini mushrooms I usually use) and cooked the rest down with some garlic for freezing, so we can add them at will to our cooking throughout the long wet winter to come. Very satisfying.

I will try and post the recipe and some others when I next get the chance. Until then, Peace.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Still worth a read, tho' it is too late now...

This is a nice ranting ramble from one of my all time favorite writers...Dr. Gonzo is still worth reading, even tho' it is seemingly too late to make any difference in the election'n outcome...

And what is up with all the voting discrepensies anyway? Why did John Kerry conceed so quickly when - to my understanding - there are still many more votes to be counted in Ohio, and many other states? What is going on around here?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I found at least one reason to be glad for four more years...

Okay, this is a positive to add to the pile of negative I seem to be attracting around me these days. It in no way balances out the whole Bush being re-elected thing, (or should that be "re-appointed"), but at least we can look forward to four more years of hilarious new episodes of my favorite flash animation show... They are all fairly good, esp. the weekly updates, but my personal fave is, of course, "The George Bush Show"...scary funny social good it could almost be true. (sadly, it probably is.)

On a more serious note, here is a reminder of all those brave American souls who have lost their lives for the boondogle known as the Iraq war, and of the man who is largely (though not solely) to blame for the whole mess...

Strap yourself in for another wild ride...(four more years of ChimpCo...)

Hey! Welcome to Land of Soup...There is no rhyme nor any reason to this thing as of yet, but I felt like starting something of my own to let anyone know what is up in my secret little world.

Right now I am wallowing in the mire that is the result of our recent (unbelievable) national election. As you may have guessed, I am not behind the man (or is it a monkey) who won. In fact, I am getting more and more depressed by the second as I think about how these people have hijacked our country right before our eyes and with the rabid approval of just over half of our voting citezens. Geez...those of you who didn't vote are just as bad if not worse than those who voted for him...eqally complicit in my book through your appathy. Shame on you for helping these lying evil bastards walk all over the rest of us like they have been and will be doing for four more freaking years. Ugh. I feel so dirty. I need to take another shower to try and wash off the stink of it all, tho' I know it won't help one bit.