January 31, 2013

"I Like It When You Talk Pig to Me."

Mr. B's Tasso Ready for the Smoker
Like any hot-blooded husband, nothing excites Mr. B more than when I talk pig to him. But this time, it wasn't a simple matter. I wasn't looking for his delicious ribs or that delectable and juicy tenderloin he does just so; I was looking for something more.

"I need tasso," I cried. "My green beans are nothing without it!" He patted my back, consoling me. "And pickle meat, too. How am I supposed to make a decent pot of red beans without pickle meat?" I lamented. And, just like always, Mr. B promised to make it all better, so I made him a stack of pancakes and sent him on to his office with a few perfectly packaged little treats.

That evening, when Mr. B returned home, securely under his arm he had a large brown paper package deftly tied with twine. I only had to wonder for a minute about its contents, for just as Mr. B bent to kiss me, he whispered ever so sweetly, "My dear, you shall have all the tasso your little heart desires."

Aw, just like always, Mr. B is my Prince of Pork.

January 30, 2013

Even Rich Girls Love Po' Boys

New Orleans Shrimp Po' Boys
The other night, Mr. B and I were in bed with Anthony Bourdain--well, Anthony Bourdain wasn't in bed with us (that would have been awkward), but one of his shows was on TV and it was all about his wanderings through New Orleans.

Gosh. It made us homesick.

Some of the places that he went were places that were our stomping grounds, but then, the beautiful thing about New Orleans is that there are so many little neighborhoods and so many little neighborhood joints that everyone has their favorite. Mr. B and I started talking about our favorites. You know, favorite place to get a roast beef po' boy, favorite place to get a shrimp po' boy, favorite bar, best place to eat oysters, favorite place to people watch. It was a long conversation, and when I finally dozed off, I dreamt of little fried shrimp jumping over bottles of Tabasco™ sauce and landing smack on long loaves of French bread.

In the morning, when I saw that I had gnawed away part of my pillow, I headed to the grocery for some shrimp. Evidently, I needed a shrimp po'boy.

I think you do, too.

January 29, 2013

"Hey, Mister. Gimme Some of them Head-on Shrimps!"

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
Somedays, Mr. B and I struggle with homesickness for our beloved New Orleans. Especially at this time of the year when carnival music floods through our brains and we crave King Cake and Abita beer and fried oysters on buttered toast. The good thing about living in the modern world is that everything is just a phone call or a few internet clicks away. With one exception: head-on shrimp.

Head-on shrimp are a necessary ingredient for one of my favorite dishes--New Orleans BBQ shrimp. When we lived in San Francisco, it was an easy walk to Chinatown where finding the shrimp intact was no problem, but then, as we moved, first north of San Francisco, then south of Santa Barbara, and then, here, north of San Luis Obispo, finding head-on shrimp proved more difficult than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. When I'd ask at the fish counter for them, I was given that 'look' and asked what I could possibly want the heads for; there was no point in explaining.

Then, last weekend when I rounded the corner and found myself staring straight smack at a pile of head-on shrimp in the fish case, I pinched myself, not once, but twice, thinking I was suffering the aftereffects of my trip to the gym. Cautiously, I approached the counter. Sure enough--head-on shrimp and best of all, they were from the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. B was in for a real treat.

January 28, 2013

Gentlemen Prefer Blondies

Flashy Blondies
As a brunette, I'd always get a bit miffed when I'd hear the phrase, "Gentlemen prefer blondes." Or, the famous, "Blondes have more fun." Who could measure something like that, I'd wonder, and of course, as a brunette, I knew it was just hogwash. Any man with common sense could clearly see that brunettes were the better choice.

One college semester, I wound up in a film studies class and although I was quite a Hitchcock buff, until then, I'd never even heard of the Hitchcock Blondes. But there it was, clear as day--each film had the leading blonde, each one different--some platinum, some golden--but all the same--cool and dangerous. When asked in an interview why he always chose the blondes, Hitchcock replied that he liked the tension between the cool exterior and the fire beneath. In other words, where men where concerned, these women were cool and aloof on the outside, but once a man got through the exterior, it was all fire and passion underneath.

Well, gentlemen, if you're looking for a fiery partner for your taste buds to tango with, meet my Blondie.

January 26, 2013

Three Little Cheesecakes Sitting on a Plate

Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes with Myer Lemon Curd
Back in the '80s when I was a spunky teenager with a penchant for Joan Jett and baking, my mom would always let me pick out a magazine or two on our bi-weekly grocery expeditions. While she'd be checking the eggs, I'd be flipping through the pages, looking for recipes.

One day, as I was flipping along, I came right to a heart-stopping, head-swelling, mouth-salivating photo of the most exquisite chocolate cheesecake I had ever seen. When I showed the picture to my mother, she snatched it from my hands, exhaled a few 'oohs' and 'ahs' and expertly did a 180 with the cart and took off in a flash to the dairy aisle. Then I watched in awe as a shadow swept over her face and she tossed brick after brick of cream cheese into the cart before heading to the baking aisle.

January 25, 2013

Lemon Love

Myer Lemon Curd
I hate to say it, but winter is a season often lost on the masses. Even more, I hate to admit that I was once guilty of the same.

Spring was fabulous with all the burgeoning greens--vibrant new asparagus, tender peas, delicate leaves and greens, and summer, well of course summer won me over with her heady, juicy fruits--strawberries bursting with sugary goodness, melons and peaches that not only sent their juices down my chin, but through my fingers and all the way to the crook of my arm; fall was unforgettable, her harvest seemingly unending with overripe tomatoes and bushels of peppers that still tasted of the sun and zucchini too numerous to count. Fall was ongoing and each week I'd come from the garden, my basket full of some newly ripened treasure--pumpkins and squashes and eggplant and fennel.

And then, the first frost would come, most likely catching me off guard. The last of the tomatoes would fall to the ground and rot, the once gorgeous landscape of gold and orange and red foliage would change and everywhere the eye moved there was nothing to see but cracked ground, dead grass, and bare branches.

One day,  though, like any great love story, I had an epiphany and in a single moment, after catching a glimpse of the beautiful winter sky, edged in an array of grays, I fell desperately for winter. Now, I await her with anticipation and joy, and savor each of her gifts.

January 24, 2013

Artichoke Season

Prepared Artichokes Oven Ready
Hooray--for who wouldn't want to sit around the table and pick over a heap of artichokes? Well, probably a lot of people. It's been my experience that when it comes to this prickly thistle there are two camps: love them or hate them. If you hate them, there are only two possible reasons. One, they are a challenge to prepare and two, there simply isn't much to eat on an artichoke. True; I've known many a person who utilizes an artichoke leaf as a vehicle for a dipping sauce, and it's even more true that there is just a little bit of 'meat' for one's teeth to scrape away on each leaf, but eating a pile of artichokes is as fun, rewarding, and delicious as spending an afternoon picking crabs. Not to mention, once you pick your way through all of the leaves, you get the real prize--the heart. So, it's fairly safe to say that if you can't fathom a better way to spend the day, then you come down in the other camp--a bona fide artichoke lover!

January 23, 2013

I'm Just Wild About Chanterelle

Chanterelle Mushroom Quiche
Like any good mother, my mother has always been two steps ahead of me. When I first developed my real passion for cooking and for incorporating the unusual ingredient, she was always there to warn me of the dangers. Mostly, this focused on common sense stuff, such as: not eating raw meat (never listened), not eating sushi (she came from a generation where they cooked their fish), and especially, never eating wild mushrooms unless the person who had foraged for them was an expert.

When she discovered a book in my apartment on identifying wild mushrooms, like any responsible parent she somehow found the mother lode of newspaper articles depicting stories of people dispatched by their wild mushroom meals. One, that I remember more clearly than the others, told the story of a couple who had a dinner party where they served a course highlighting the wild mushrooms they had foraged earlier in the day. The next morning, all eight diners were found slumped over the table.

I don't tell this story to scare you, but it certainly scared me enough to dispense with any foraging fantasies spinning through my mind. Instead, I rely on the kindness of strangers for my wild mushrooms.

January 22, 2013

Fried Rice to Tame a Hungry Husband

Fried Rice
I had to come up with something to make on the fly and since my new bent is to try to use up whatever leftover ingredients I have in the fridge, on this particular January night I was left staring blankly at a pot of cold steamed jasmine rice. Then I heard Mr. B's tires hit the gravel as he backed into the driveway and the realization that I had forgotten to plan for dinner was clearly evident by the two scrawny, boneless chicken breasts that I had thawed out. My mind flashed back to the spartan lunch I sent with him that morning and the even more austere breakfast that I had fed him over NINE hours earlier. My panic was underscored by the slam of the front door because I could tell, as only a wife can, by its very tone that he was hungry and a hungry husband is a terrible beast that must be tamed immediately, lest an entire evening be ruined before it's even begun.

January 10, 2013

Nice Buns

Cafeteria Lady Yeast Rolls
I wrote this piece a few years ago as a post on my old blog. I wound up entering it into a writing contest and it won 1st Place, not only garnering me a lovely medal and certificate, but the chance to read an except in front of an audience.

It's still one of my favorite pieces, because while some may think that Cafeteria Lady is an exaggeration, she really was taking up too much space in Mr. B's heart. My successful roll making not only toppled her, but was the first step in building my bread confidence. Of course, like most yeast enterprises, that confidence rose and fell on a daily basis.  Enjoy!

January 06, 2013

Whole Potta Love

Southern Style Collard Greens with Pot Liquor
What better way to start a New Year than with this traditional southern delicacy? While most people are salivating over Christmas hams and prime ribs, fluffy mashed potatoes and casserole dishes filled to the brim with stuffings, macaroni and cheese, and other seasonal stars, I am quietly biding my time, waiting for New Year's day when I can snatch the remains of the ham from Mr. B's plate and put the last handsome chunks into my pot of greens.