Sunday, July 24, 2011

Distraction Soup

Dear Mouse,

There is a roach in my kitchen. (or, ok, was when I started this post. Sigh.)

There was also roach in my kitchen last week, as you know because I fled to your place seeking help. Your Fiance killed what was probably its cousin in the hallway, but the original beast got away from us. It was enormous and it had WINGS. Dear God.

I put down many traps and had the exterminator in.

And then, the next night, while peacefully making some peacefully quick-roasted veggies for dinner (I know, in the heat, but it only takes like 10 min), I noticed Moth-Ra had returned. I found him? her? on his/her back inside the big soup pot that lives on the stove, very very dead, perhaps roasted from the heat coming from the veggies below. Perhaps. Perhaps it had eaten some poison and crawled in there to die as a last F-You. Either way, it was very upsetting.

As you know, my phobia concerning these creatures is legend in some circles. I've been known to build forts and barricades, stuff towels in front of doors, sleep upright in arm chairs, consider leaving the house without pants, actually leave the house without pants, and, of course, scream bloody murder.

I put on gloves, and threw the whole thing out (the soup pot plus an innocent teakettle that happened to be inside, oh well), and ended the evening with an amplifier blocking the kitchen (as if to ... what?), a big glass of pink prosecco and some dark chocolate. And two NyQuil. Goodnight world, I thought. Let's try this again tomorrow.

You know you're watching your figure when this is dessert.
Green & Black's Dark Chocolate w/crystallized ginger, Trader Joe's dried berry medley. Actually, delicious.

And I did. A week later, after having my apartment cleaned professionally (first time; amazeballs), I got up the guts to cook something (read: enter the kitchen) again.

And I can only blame insect-related PTSD for the fact that honestly, I have never so thorougly botched a recipe in my life. I truly can't believe the number of things I did wrong. I'm including my version of the recipe. Why? Because it was delicious.

Let's review, shall we?

For one thing, I decided to make soup.
Discerning readers will recall that I have thrown out my only real soup pot.

Soup? In this heat? Well, as I so often do when trying not to think about bugs, I was flipping through my trusty Chase Summer cookbook and came upon "Minestrone Freddo" (or, "Cold Minestrone") which sounded perfect in above-90 weather. (Note: actual process of making soup = not cooling.)

Read On.

The Boo's Hot Weather 'Cold' Minestrone
(Adapted Only Partly On Purpose from Sarah Leah Chase)

12 cups chicken broth
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/2-in chunks
1 zucchini, chopped
1 summer squash, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
1 bag (8 oz) baby spinach
1/2 Cup basil, chopped
2 Cups cooked rice*
*I reccommend
Trader Joe's "Brown Rice Medley" which involves long grain brown rice, black barley, and daikon radish seeds)
8 oz (1 package) bacon, chopped (supposed to be half proscuitto and half pancetta, you can do that if you're fancy.)
1 Cup white wine
1 can cannellini (white) beans
Grated parmesan (I'm into Trader Joe's "Creamy Black Pepper Parm" right now)

Side by Side by Side: Brown Rice Medley (L) duet with Chopped Veggies in Bacon Fat (R) (Still healthy!)

1. Right off the bat, forget two ingredients, the carrots (2, diced) and the small green cabbage (sliced). (I didn't miss them but can't hurt.)

2. Heat oil in soup pot over med high heat. Enter bacon. (I like that, I'm gonna start doing stage directions in recipes.) Cook until lightly brown/crispy, 7-10 minutes.

3. Enter squash, zucchini, potatoes, onion, garlic (and carrots if using). (Recommended: chop everything the day before and store in fridge. Makes life easier.) Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

4. Realize you have completely forgotten the onions. Hastily chop and saute them separately, then throw in. This step not recommended.

5. Enter tomatoes, cook 5 minutes longer.

6. Pour in chicken broth! Pour in wine! Realize your Le Creuset is barely large enough to hold everything. Thank the gods that it didn't overflow. (Use a soup pot.)

7. Add spinach (and cabbage if using). Simmer uncovered for 45 min, hoping it cooks down. (It does, but only a little.) Stir/check occasionally.

8. Add rice, beans, and basil. Salt and pepper to taste.

9. Impulsively throw in a bay leaf. Panic, read everything online about whether or not bay works in minestrone, fish out bay leaf and throw away. (Exit Bay Leaf, Stage Left.) (You don't need to do this either.)

10. Simmer 10 more minutes.

11. Let cool off completely and then put in fridge to chill.

12. Get hungry and eat it warm, with grated parmesan on top. (Recommended: I've now had it both ways and I think it's better warm than cold. Go figure.)

So there you have it. Healthy, whole grain, summer deliciousness. If this soup is wrong, I don't wanna be right.


The Boo

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This post is stupid. Don't even bother reading it.

Dear Boo,

Let me say right up front that I am in the midst of an intense crankfest. I blame this unbearable, unbelievable, unacceptable weather, which even now, has me sweating profusely while sitting directly in front of the A/C. Well, that, and some other things, namely a lack of job, lack of money, and lack of general purpose. Oh, and this play that really needs rewriting but seems intent on torturing me instead. Suffice it to say, world, watch out. This girl is PISSED.

I answered a call from a friend the other day, with "Hiiiiiieeeee! How was your birrrrrthday!" He proceeded to, in strained tones, attempt enthusiasm at telling me how he'd spent the day. He got about 15 seconds in before he interrupted himself to say, "You know, I'm actually in a horrible, horrible mood right now, so I'm sure it was a lovely birthday but I just can't give the world the satisfaction of actually saying that, because I'm too determined right now that everything just SUCKS." I wished him good luck in finding a puppy to kick, and got off the phone.

And now here I am. Sitting in my hot apartment, feeling as though the world is just one terrible injustice and humiliating insult after another, and absolutely determined to continue to feel this way.

But I'm having this dilemma. Because I've been meaning to tell you about these cookies.
But if I told you about these cookies, I'd have to acknowledge that they were really quite intensely delicious. And that they came out of a fantastic cookie book with recipes from every year of Gourmet's existence, given to me by our lovely Auntie. And I'd have to tell you that I made them to take to a fantastic backyard barbeque at Chef Josh and Lady Kate's Brooklyn home, and that I got to hang out with great friends there, and eat possibly the best cheeseburger I've had in years (apparently we should all get our ground meat from here), and laughed and played with an adorable child, and sat in the balmy summer air and drank cold beer and then, lucky girl, went home with my gorgeous and smart and funny fiance. And I'd have to tell you these cookies were the very first recipe made using my new baby*, a cornflower blue behemoth that I gaze at with googly eyes and received as a wedding gift from my bestest friend, AMac and her amazing parents, who might possibly be the best people ever to spend a July 4th weekend with, and are hilarious and warm and wonderful and who I am forever indebted to for bringing their fantastic daughter into the world.

And all of those facts just fly directly in the face of my firm belief that everything SUCKS and anyone who thinks otherwise is just an IDIOT.

So you see my dilemma.



Here's the stupid recipe.

The Mouse

Mocha Cookies, from the Gourmet Cookie Book
Makes about 3 dozen

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temp

1.5 cups sugar
1.5 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla

In a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the unsweetened chocolate, 1.5 cups of the chocolate chips, and the butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth, and remove the bowl from the heat. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, the baking powder, and the salt. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is thick and pale, and beat in the espresso powder and the vanilla. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, fold in the flour mixture, and stir in the remaining 1.5 cups of chocolate chips. Let the batter stand for 15 minutes. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake the cookies in the middle of a preheated 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are puffed and shiny and cracked on top. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, transfer them to racks, and let them cool completely. Notes: Make sure to let the batter stand--don't skip that step. Err on the side of underbaking these. Cool for 1 minute on the bakign sheet before transferring the cookies to racks.

*Ain't she purdy?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trick & Fancy: Appalachia CT

Dear Mouse,

I think this fictional Appalachian Family Band might be on to something:

Yes that is me, up left. Objects on the warped left side of this picture are thinner than they appear.

"Oh, Hotcake, Flapjack, put 'em on a griddle
Hotcake, Flapjack, play a little fiddle
Put 'em on a griddle and you play a little fiddle and you
Have yourself a real good time
Oh have yourself a real good time
Don't pay your troubles any mind
Have yourself a real good time!"
- Don Chaffer, "Son of a Gun" (winner: 2011 O'Neill Lyricist Award)

Besides being amazacrazily catchy, this foot-stompin' tune hones in on the two basic ingredients of Bliss (aka Real Good Time):

1.Music (including but not necessarily limited to the fiddle)
2.Food (including but not necessarily limited to hotcakes and/or flapjacks.)

Ok there's at least one other important element I can think of, but this is a family blog after all.

So it's my birthday!! Again! Or was when I started this post! And I am so pleased and thankful to havve spent it where I did: back up at this idyllic oasis in CT, surrounded by emerging illuminati of american Music Theatre (I'll miss the Playwrights Conference this time; sniff) and some truly bad-ass folk/country/rock musicians out of Nashville and NYC, putting up a glorious show in (wait for it) "The Barn".

These people are rehearsing. AND relaxing. "Hearslaxing"? I'll come back to this.

Yes, Real Good Times were abundant both onstage and off. My birthday started with a return to this legendary joint for brunch (GET the corned beef hash even if you think you don't like it, and be warned that Doreen has ditched the guns in favor of making customers wait tables). In the evening we had a performance of the show followed by an epic jam session that ended with me picking shards of glass out of the smiling drummer's forearm as he continued to play). THAT's a birthday.

The title of this post comes from a conversation I had with this guy about his life as a fiddle player:

Obviously he's already past the flapjacks.

Turns out that in competitive fiddling (hee hee), there's often a division called "Trick & Fancy" in which competitors don't just play tunes, they, well, do tricks. Fancy ones. Like fiddling behind your head, or using an unorthodox bowing style, or showing off other unexpected feats of bravado and strength. I fell in love with this expression and immediately tried to think of a way to use it when talking about food (natch).

Gratuitous Clambake shot. July 4: chilled rose and free lobster. Not pictured: plastic bib, foolish grin, steamers, corn, the fact that I had already eaten an entire dinner before this.

You see, folks, when you're on the road, not every meal is a clambake. (Segue!) And even at the best of all Summer Theatre Camps, when it comes to cafeteria food it's generally agreed that the price you pay for - well, paying no price at all - is food that is barely digestible.

(Not true this year, I hasten to say. Apparently they brought in a guy from Whole Foods and it really worked wonders. However, three words to the wise: Instant. Starbucks. Packets. Put 'em in Yer Suitcase, Nothing Rhymes with Suitcase, Have Yerself a Real Good Time.)

I started thinking about the many Trick & Fancy tips I've heard from fellow performers over the years re dealing with Food on the Road. There's my friend MS, who swears she lived on instant oatmeal with peanut butter packets for many's a hotel room buffet breakfast on tour. (I now do that as well.) I remembered Dennis' neverending bags of nuts and dried fruit secreted in rehearsal room cupboards in Louisville. At the O'Neill, my new friend Elmadora would eschew the mysterious bins of salad dressing to concoct her own from honey, olive oil, balsamic, and lemon juice packets.

My goal was to have a blog post full of cafeteria survival recipes but I only got one, which came to me by way of the Khrusty Family Band's Drummer:

Would you drink something he made? Course you would.

This Nashville resident sports a keen sense of rhythm, a Zeppelin tattoo, and a love of iced tea strong enough to wake entrepreneurial instincts when he discovered there was no sweet tea for the non-coffee drinkers. I'm using his real name (a first) because I couldn't bear to change it. Weary travelers, I give you -

Billy Brimblecom, Jr.'s Cafeteria Iced Tea

Get a glass (big cup?) of hot water and a tea bag.
Steep tea bag in water to desired strength.
Get another glass (big cup?) full of ice.
Wait and watch.
Pour steeped hot tea into glass of ice.
Shake or stir.
Boom! Iced tea in the cafeteria!

So there you have it. What a summer so far! Oh, and speaking of Trick & Fancy, our whole cast received cups of this as a parting gift from one of the guys on the tech staff:

Bourbon Slush. I kid you not. Hold on, I will get that recipe if it's the last thing I do.

Thanks, CT. It was a Real Good Time.


The Boo