A photo essay in a series of framable art.

100% within the Zone™.

Recipe is irrelevant, use whatever you like and what you have. Start on stovetop and finish under broiler. I added 1/2 tsp baking powder because I felt like trying it out for foamy goodness, (its effect was negligible -- I think I'd prefer a scrambled egg texture. ) and Italian seasonings with habanero flakes to beaten egg with milk. The older I get the more BANG! I like, I think my taste buds are getting bored. Either that, or they're wearing out. Taking photos was weird. Kept fogging up mah lens. Two types of cheese, Gruyere and Parmigiano.

Kind of like a pizza, 'cept differ'nt.

Seafood salad

If I served this in a restaurant I'd charge twenty-five bucks just to make a point. OK, fine ! Fifteen bucks. It has so many ingredients they're not even all showing in the photograph.

The thing is, so many of its ingredients are treated separately then brought together at the end. Lots of chopping, dicing, rinsing, gently carefully braising, heating, chilling seasoning separately, picking, tearing, opening of jars, tossing and sprinkling. It makes use of strong conflicting flavors used in moderation resulting in a symphony that must be tightly controlled so not to overwhelm the individual flavors of shrimp, halibut and crab, each with their own unique but subtle flavors which must predominate. Every single forkful is a recombination of flavors so that no two mouthfuls are exactly the same but without ever confusing. Additionally, you could graze on this all day and still lose weight, confident that you're eating healthfully.

For the dressing.

* Lemon juice into a bowl with enough size to handle a whisk.
* Olive oil reserved for the end to whip together with the following.
* Cranberry relish, already a combination of sweet + tart
* Mustard, tang, an emulsifier
* Horseradish, either grated or creamed.
* Ginger, grated
* Salt + pepper
* Habanero sauce. Anything hot. Flakes, Tabasco™, Franks™, Cholula™, whatever.

See what what's happening here? Every taste receptor on your tongue is covered. The trick is to use only about 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon each thing so nothing overwhelms but everything manages to contribute a spark of its own special magic. It's pink.

For the salad.

* Halibut is cooked separately. Incidentally, thank you, Friends, for the halibut. It's gently coddled in salted water with lemon juice added. Cut into squares and set aside. It's coated with dressing separately and added at the end so it's not tossed with the rest.

* Shrimp, pre-peeled and cleaned. Nothing was necessary except to thaw, coated along with the crab and halibut with dressing.

* Crab, pre-picked and packaged by the pound. Dressed with the shrimp and halibut

* Tomatoes, diced
* Avocado, diced, and seasoned with salt + pepper separately
* Fennel, shaved
* Pine nut heated to activate their oil and bring it to the surface.
* Artichoke hearts, marinated commercially
* Onion, sliced and rinsed to remove surface sulphur.
* Bell, pepper, cut and cleaned
* Celery, sliced
* Spinach, torn
* Romaine, cut
* Mint, fresh
* Cilantro, fresh

I considered adding apple but then I though, "What, are you CRAZY?"

If your impulse is to blurt, "Yeah, but I don't like seafood," then remind me to smack you.

Mushroom, chicken, miso soup

Ham, asparagus, mushrooms

Crab patties, apple and fennel salad

Recipe from Spongebob Squarepants at the Krusty Krab underwater restaurant.

Recipes for crab patties will not call for celery or bell pepper or onion, and honestly, I can't imagine why not. Club crackers instead of white bread. Cilantro instead of parsley. Jalapeño peppers and habanero flakes instead of Old Bay seasoning, which frankly, makes me sick in the same way commercial chili powder does. I keep trying those two things and I keep concluding they're both cruel hoaxes perpetrated upon an unsuspecting and innocent public. Homemade mayonnaise, which is so fun to make it makes me squeak with glee every time I make it. Plus, I get to add all my favorite things turning it into a veritable aoili. Egg beaten separately from all the above and added to the mixture last.

The more you boil cranberries, the more pectin is drawn out, and the more water evaporates. It thickens as it cools. At room temperature, this cranberry relish became so thick you can cut it with a knife. That's what I wanted. I added raisins and pecans, and crystal ginger because I like goofing on cranberries like everything else and because I intend to use this relish for a bunch of other things.  Just watch.

* one cup white sugar
* 3/4 cup water
* 2 oz. package cranberries
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon crystal ginger
* boil until the cranberries all pop
* raisins and nuts. withheld habanero flakes but I was seriously considering it.

Apple and fennel salad with home-made mayonnaise. Pecans, spinach, Romaine, tomatoes.

The thing about the asparagus is it's purposefully sauteed on only one side. Because they weren't moved once in the pan, they form a single tasty charred stripe. Wine splashed on top of the hot oil, then quickly covered, steams the asparagus to tenderness. Thus, you get the best of both worlds, char and perfectly steamed spears. You can see how rolling them around until they're charred all over will overcook the spears and you'd end up with charred but limp and unpleasant spears.

The patties were sauteed on one side to set the egg then carefully lifted and placed in the convection oven to finish. If I was cooking more of them, I'd have used a larger pan that I could slide into the larger oven to finish. This protects their tender selves from abusive over handling and unnecessary flipping.


... ♫ roasting in ♪ a closed elec♩tric ♬ oven ...

Chestnuts explode. I did not know this. They sound like a gun going off in your oven. Not like popcorn. It makes a huge mess. This is going to take some oven cleaner. The thing is, it didn't alarm me. I thought it was a little bit funny.  I was just going to go ahead and let them explode but eventually it got to be too much. I was risking someone calling the cops. But then I was afraid to cover them or to open the oven door and take them out. It was a problem there for a few minutes. Anyway, they're delicious.

Eventually, I check the internet [ +chestnut +explode ] Sure enough. You're supposed to puncture them.

Live and learn, eh?

Exploded mess sticks to sides, back and top of oven

A modest turkey plate


Turkey in brine. Two cups kosher salt, one cup sugar.

Oiled (olive oil). First baking portion set upside down so internal moisture tends to settle into the breast, to be inverted later to brown the breast in an attempt to produce the elusive Norman Rockwell pictured turkey.

Half baked.

Inverted. A bit lop-sided due to the absence of a rack. Rockwell would not approve. Re-oiled. Returned to oven.

Turkey done! Beyond done, actually. I prefer to slightly overcook poultry. I realize this is bad, but I don't care. La la la, it's my bird and I'll do what I want. I brined the thing, and I'm certain it'll be moist enough for me. I like to observe the meat pull away from the bones at the legs. This assures me I won't be messing with any of those disobliging resistant uncooperative tough tendons, which are loaded through the bone legs. I hate those. Notice that unreliable automatic red popper thingie failed to alert me the turkey is done, worse it failed to alert me that it's slightly over done. I learned at seventeen years old not to ever trust those things. I burnt a roaster to charcoal because I misplaced my faith in those timers over my own good common sense.

There's the timer! It popped while I was photographing it. Ha ha ha. Beat you!

In'nit purdy? Lopsided, I know. But I'm going to tear it apart.

))) Knock. Knock. (((


"It's me, Norman Rockwell. Your turkey is lopsided."

"Bugger off, Norman. I'm carving."

Sweet potato, butternut squash soup

Apparently the most downloaded holiday recipe from the NYT online site. The following recipe is nicked from the NYT.

[This silky fall/winter puree tastes rich, though there is no cream or butter in it.]

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 medium-size Yukon gold or russet potato, peeled and diced

6 cups water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock

Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the squash, sweet potatoes, regular potato, and water or stock, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are thoroughly tender.

2. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (or you can put it through the fine blade of a food mill or use a regular blender, working in batches and placing a kitchen towel over the top to avoid splashing). Return to the pot and stir with a whisk to even out the texture. Heat through, adjust salt and add pepper to taste. ]


What? No butter? No cream? That's nonsense. I put both in mine. What would be the point of leaving them out? If NYT was serious about health they'd have insisted on salt-free home-made chicken broth and not leave it to their readers to error by ruining their soup with overly salty canned broth or even broth in a carton which is an improvement but only hardly. It's barely bullion and water. Home-made chicken broth is 100% aspic, the gelatin extracted from bone marrow, and infinitely richer than commercial broth. Period. Right here is where your broth is put to best use.

Also, I do not understand the dearth of spices. What are they, ascetics over there at the NYT or what? Surely, they're intending this as merely a starting point for their reader's own elaboration. This recipe screams for touches of cinnamon, specks of clove, possibly allspice, and definitely nutmeg. Garlic pairs naturally with ginger and goes excellently well with gourds. All of that in amounts so minute compared to the total volume, that it's barely noticeable and in no wise competes with the flavors of roasted sweet potato and butternut squash but adds mysterious flavor and body that has to be tasted to be believed. The potato is almost gratuitous. It's there to add starch and to thicken the soup. I do not understand not suggesting roasting the vegetables rather than just jumping right in and boiling them. Boiling vegetables dilutes their flavor into the water, on the other hand, roasting them develops flavor and intensifies it. The depth and breadth of complexity of flavors is completely absent by simply boiling them. Roasting the vegetables causes them to caramelize and then the caramelization undergoes further complex chemical reactions. The sweetness of roasted vegetables is simply outstanding.

I forgot to buy ginger. Luckily I have crystalized ginger and powdered ginger, but those are different things. I used both but understated them because they are different and I didn't want the soup to be BANG !, ginger.

Used a couple of leeks because I had them and wanted to use them. They were roasted along with the gourds and potatoes.

This soup would benefit from some citric. Grated orange peel would be excellent.

It would not be harmed by chile pepper flakes. Paprika, dashes of Tabasco, habanero. Anything hot. It could even stand a few dashes of your favorite curry. Look, if you're going to all the trouble of making your own soup, then plan a party for your mouth. That's my attitude.


Chocolate cheesecake

Via Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, a national treasure of the Food Network fame.

I licked the bowl like a dog. Like a dog with no manners at all. Like a dog with no manners who completely licks finished a bowl of beef gravy. I do this because there was nobody here to ridicule or to stop me. You can see how that central post in the bowl would present a problem for sticking my face all the way in there. That's why I have chocolate drying in my hair and on my eyebrows and cheeks and in my ears. I can't get it all off. Cats are following me around trying to get all up in my face to lick me.  OK, I might have made up this whole paragraph. I used a spoon.

Developed at Ina's shop in the Hamptons, New York, here's the recipe for the cheesecake she called The Money Maker. It wasn't called that openly, of course, it was called that in private between her and her shop's co-owner and always with a mischievous giggle. Publicly the cheesecake was called something like Chocolate Cheesecake or some other name sufficiently innocuous that didn't hint at the hideous profits this cake brought in for the shop. It went for something like $40.00 per cake, or perhaps it was $140.00, I forget, but it was outrageous and the good citizens who stalk the easternmost area of the southern fork shore of Long Island are ever impervious to cost when it comes to the subject of their own catering. A helicopter ride around the area will demonstrate why this is so.

Try this cheesecake sometime when you feel like being extra good to yourself. And by good, I mean bad. You will not be disappointed.


For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee
1 3/4 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature (I didn't bother with room temperature because I wanted to get on with it. I just made sure it turned fluffy. Plus I added hot coffee and warmed chocolate)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon of table salt would be too much by double)
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (I used four regular eggs)
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the ganache:
1/4 pound semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust:

Place the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and cinnamon in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until combined. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, chop the bittersweet chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the espresso and stir until just melted. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. (I put couverture chocolate discs into the microwave and heated until they melted, carefully watching them like a chocolate-watching hawk the whole time which turned out to be 1 minute 45 seconds.)

To make the filling:

Cream the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and almond extracts and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, and the cooled chocolate mixture. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.
Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door opened wide for 1 1/2 hours. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature, until completely cooled.

For the ganache:

Finely chop the semisweet chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the cream and stir until just melted. Set aside until cooled to room temperature.
Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving. Drizzle the ganache over the top of the cheesecake.


This time I used a water bath because the last time the cake cracked, not a problem because it's covered with ganache anyway, but I hoped to avoid that this time because I'm neurotic that way. This involves wrapping the pan with aluminum foil to prevent the spring-form pan from allowing in a little water from the ban marie.

The ban marie, it failed.

Le boo. Le hoo. Le boo hoo hoo hoo.

I weep.

I wipe away my tears.

I compose myself and hold my chin up high.  Sniff.

Who cares?  I cover this obscene crack with ganache and pretend I planned the whole thing.

Yay! Crack. Gone.

* glees *

* does the happy cheesecake dance *

It's like chocolate foam, with a hint of coffee and a whiff of almond.

Spinach omelet

Standard Béchamel, so easy it's ridiculous. Butter in a pan. Sizzle. Flour in equal part. Cook the flour. Add milk. Whip vigorously. Done.

But why stop there? Salt and pepper. Daub of mustard. Onion. Garlic if you feel like it. Garlic powder if you're lazy today. Look what we've done already. Does it get any better? Wine. Splash. Spinach. Wilt. Remove from heat. Add cheese. What kind of cheese? Any kind of cheese !

Cheese is already processed. If you melt in over heat you risk it separating. Don't want that. Let it melt by the heat already there.

In real life omelets are not stuffed. But we don't care. We stuff them anyway. Let's call these things egg enchiladas then if by calling them omelets it offends anybody, say, somebody from France.

Whip the eggs with a fork, not a whisk. Don't go all crazy whipped on them. We don't want foam.

Midnight snack

Did I ever tell you about the personal trainer who helped me after a serious health spell? He took an interest in me because I was such a wreck. He's a total stud. and completely beholden to Barry Sears. He didn't even eat potatoes or rice. Wouldn't touch 'em. That's taking it a little far, if you ask me, but he does have the abs of death.

Check it out, this is all stuff I have around the house based on what I made previously. When I scrounge around, I can't go wrong because there isn't anything around to wreck a program.

Even chocolate. Chocolate is actually a health food, especially the low sugar kind. Two books I read said that so it must be true. I try to disregard the fact that the two people who wrote those books are morbidly obese. Just say'n.

* Venison meatballs. Those things are still tender and wonderful. Full of good stuff.

* Chicken broth made from roasted chickens. I never get tired of saying that,

* Chickpeas. My new favorite fun things.

* Brown rice miso. Power food extraordinaire.

* Plum tomato that was just sitting there being red, waiting to get used

* Basil from the kitchen AeroGarden with brand spank'n new lights.

* Ice water in a Mason jar 'cause ah still got no class.

* You'll notice this looks remarkably similar to the post below.

Chicken, chickpeas, miso

From the Random Recipe Generator™, Middle East meets Far East meets me.

Chicken bits with chickpeas, brown rice and mild white miso, home-made tahini made from unhusked sesame seeds.

Did I say Random Recipe Generator™? I'm sorry, I meant to say from my own impulse.

* chicken bits frozen from chickens roasted for broth.

* chickpeas (garbanzo beans) that were soaked and pressure cooked for 1 minute on extreme then allowed to cooled down the slow way, tossed with tahini and olive oil, garlic, and lime, amounting to a brutally unrefined hummus. Mmmmm, brutal.

* miso because I just can't get enough of that stuff, and because I'm growing quite fond of blending them.

* garden tomato, alas, the last of it.

* onion because it was there.

* cilantro and basil just for the hell of it.

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