Sunday, October 31, 2010

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

Ancient Romans celebrated a holiday called Feralia on February 21. At first it was a simple day off to recover from the holiday of February 20 (Bougainvalia), and to take care of last minute shopping before the holiday of February 22 (Onsalia).

It was, coincidentally, the last day of the year according to the Roman calendar.

Over time it became a sacred day in its own right. It became a festival to honor the dead, and like most Roman holidays it involved some serious drinking. Feralia also resembled most other Roman holidays in that it outlasted the western Roman empire. The jolly men and women of the Mediterranean basin saw no reason to give up the riotous holiday, with all its drinking and orgies, despite countless reminders from an ascendant Christian church that drinking was bad (unless it was Jesus' blood) and orgies were worse.

At last, in the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV decided that the holiday was Christian after all, except that instead of honoring all the dead it should honor only dead saints, that instead of Feralia it should be called All Saints' Day, that instead of drinking and orgies it should be a day of prayer and meditation, and that instead of February 21 it should be observed on May 13.

The good peoples of the Christian world happily accepted the new name and date, but persisted in drinking and orgying. As punishment for this inappropriate enjoyment, Pope Gregory III moved it to November 1, and unwittingly laid the foundation for our modern Halloween.

Hold that thought.

Since as early as the 5th century BC, the ancient Celts had considered October 31 the last day of summer. They called the day Samhain (rhymes with Clamhain), and they believed all the divisions between the world of the living and the world of the dead were dissolved for that brief period. They thought the dead used this window of opportunity to possess the souls of the living, and the thought scared the piss out of them.

A variety of bizarre rituals to ward off the dead accumulated around Samhain over the centuries, including the sacrificial burning of virgins (when any could be found).

When these Celtic rituals collided with the Christian All Saints' Day, all hell broke loose. People didn't know whether they should pray, drink, orgy, burn virgins, or what. They tried a lot of different combination: they got drunk and prayed, they burned virgins and got drunk, they prayed to have orgies and got drunk with virgins, they prayed then got drunk and had orgies with virgins.

Eventually they settled on sending their kids out in silly costumes to ask their neighbors for candy. This was intended to keep them out of the house while the drinking and orgies raged, but since everyone's doorbells kept ringing from everyone else's children, the drinking and orgies gradually faded away.

Of course, this brief outline only traces the development of Halloween as we know it in America. The holiday is still celebrated in countries all over the world in an astonishing number of ways.

In Bulgaria, for example, October 31 is a national holiday called Bulgerplutz. In rural districts, children dress up as kitchen utensils and dash from farm to farm tying chickens' feet together. Any unhappy farmer attempting to shoo the children away from his chickens will find himself pelted with manure and glass shards as the children sing playful Bulgerplutz carols. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead lasts from October 31 through November 2, which has long been a concern to students of the Mexican calendar. The celebration is a fusion of sixteenth-century Spaniards' All Souls'and All Saints' Days and the Aztec festival honoring Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of the dead. (Mictecacihuatl was said to have died at birth as the result of complications relating to pronunciation.)

One can't help but marvel at the similarities between the Day of the Dead that arose in Meso-America and Kyrgyzstan's Day of the Very Sick (Nov 1), Papua New Guinea's Evening of the Emotionally Exhausted (Oct 31), and Vanuatu's Cardiovascular Appreciation Days (Oct 31 - Nov 2).

In Saudi Arabia, October 31 is Sandy Night. As soon as the sun sets, children scamper out into the desert and fill their home-made bags with sand. The holiday is believed to be derived from the ancient Bedouin tradition of sending children out to fill bags with sand.

In Chile, Halloween is infused with ancient Incan traditions. Fretful mothers extinguish the fires in their hearths for fear of attracting Spaniards while naughty children take their parents hostage and demand their weight in chocolate.

In Wittenberg, Germany, October 31 is celebrated as the day on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in 1517. Many of the town's children frolic giddily about, nailing Theses here and there with impish delight, while others try to catch and burn them as heretics.

Whatever your own tradition, enjoy Halloween.

For all you parents - remember to sort your kids candy later tonight. It is not a crime to save all the good chocolate for yourself.

Tell'em you have to sample it for poison.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cauliflower (the white cruciferous vegetable)

Cauliflower is another vegetable you can add to your diet. All the health benefits of broccoli and it's not green (I'm not partial to green myself.) I have two ways to prepare it here - one a health way, the other is a delicious way (I'm joking.) Roasting the cauliflower is delicious and it's a convenient method if you're already roasting a piece of meat in the oven.

Roasted Cauliflower

* 1 large cauliflower
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (
or canola oil)
* 1 tablespoon sliced garlic

* Juice from half a lemon

* 1 anchovy fillet (
you won't taste it.)
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan


* sharp utility knife
* cutting board

* 1 large bowl

* 1 heavy duty baking tray

* 1 large pot

* 1 large wooden spoon or tong

* 1 sieve

* 1 glass of water (
come on, you can't drink all the time.)


Turn on the radio, preferable to NPR. Hey, a lot is going on in the world that you should know about.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water (if my father-in-law was in the kitchen with you and you were boiling water for pasta, you didn't put enough salt in the water. But that's another story.) Cut your cauliflower away from the central core and into florets. Joke with yourself about how you are doing brain surgery. Realize how lame a joke that was. Cut the core up into bite size pieces. Put all of your botched surgery into the boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes (again, for those of you with OCD - exactly 2 minutes 23 seconds.) Drain and set aside. I don't know how large a kitchen you have but when I have to set things aside usually things are stacked on top of other things, but I digress...

In a large bowl, add the olive oil, lemon juice (which you strained through your fingers to catch the pits. No one likes roasted lemon pits), anchovy fillet, salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix and mash them all together so you can't recognize that you used an anchovy fillet (I promise you, even if you hate anchovies, you won't taste it.) Add the cauliflower and toss so they are well covered. Notice that NPR is covering a story about how the Chinese are holding a large amount of the U.S. debt. Wonder to yourself if this is a problem or not. Wonder if the Chinese will call in this debt anytime soon. Wonder if the Chinese like roasted cauliflower. Take a sip of water (notice it doesn't taste anything like alcohol.)

Pour the dressed cauliflower onto the baking tray and spread out into a single layer (make sure you get any remaining oil or bits out of the bowl and onto the tray.) Put the tray into the oven and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. Listen to some more of NPR. Hear a story about a young man in Africa who built a windmill that supplies electricity for his village with bits and scraps he found in a local dump. Realize that you can barely put together a bookcase from IKEA with that damn Allen wrench. Finish your water and probably have to go to the bathroom (wash your hands.)

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan (if you wish.) Serve immediately while still warm.

In case you need to force vegetable onto some unsuspecting diners in your crowd, everything goes better with cheese -

Baked Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce

For those of you on a diet, avert you eyes.


* 2 tbsp. butter + 1 tbsp
* 1 tbsp. flour

* 1 cup milk

* 3/4 c. Cheddar cheese, grated (
or any other firm cheese that you like, I'm not the boss of you)
* 1 teaspoon of mustard (
or in my house 'moutarde', leave the 'S' off for savings)
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

* 1 large cauliflower

* 1/2 cup of Italian Bread crumbs (
or plain bread crumbs if you have a beef with Silvio Berlusconi that day.)


* sharp utility knife
* cutting board

* 2 1/2 quart oven proof Casserole Dish

* 1 2 quart saucepan

* 1 large pot

* 1 whisk

* 1 large wooden spoon or tong

* 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup

* 1 sieve

* 1 glass of water (
come on, you can't drink all the time.)


Turn on the radio, preferable to a classic rock or an adult alternative station (you need to move around for this one.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter your casserole dish and set aside.

Fill pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water (you already know the drill about my father-in-law.) Cut your cauliflower away from the central core and into florets. Avoid the brain surgery joke - it didn't work the first time. Cut the core up into bite size pieces. Put all of your pieces into the boiling water for 5 minutes (again, for those of you with OCD - exactly 4 minutes 56 seconds). Drain, dump into large mixing bowl and set aside. Start thinking about getting a new apartment with a bigger kitchen if you are going to do all of this cooking, but I digress...

Put saucepan over a medium heat and melt butter. Add the flour to melted butter and whisk until all the flour is incorporated into the butter and continue to whisk for two minutes (make sure you don't burn the roux - yes, you are in Emeril Lagasse territory.) If you wish, you may begin doing your Julia Child impressions at this point. Hopefully the Rolling Stones are playing in the background at this point, believe me, imitating Julia Child and bopping around to the Rolling Stones at the same time is funny. Psst, you’ve about to make a morney sauce

Microwave your milk and add slowly to your roux (it's going to hiss and bubble as you first add it - don't worry, be happy.) Add all of you milk and boil and stir until thickened (stick with me here, most of the hard work is done.) Add seasonings, moutarde and the grated cheese (hopefully, you've come to a decision about what cheese you want to use by this point) and continue to heat, stirring constantly until cheese is melted. Take off heat.

Pour your sauce over the cauliflower and mix well but be careful not to completely mash up the florets. Pour out the sauced florets into the buttered casserole dish and top with bread crumbs. Place dish into oven and bake for 30 minutes (the dish should be bubbling and the breadcrumbs golden brown. If that happens 25 minutes into cooking, so be it.)

Take it out of the oven and serve.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cream of Broccoli Soup (maybe even with no cream)

Here's an easy soup recipe that can be made somewhat lo cal and it tastes good as well. Since it is a Broccoli soup, I suggest having it alone or with your loved one (passed gas at a formal dinner or with strangers can be uncomfortable.)


* 2 tablespoons olive oil (or canola oil)
* 1 medium onion
* 1 clove of garlic

* 1/2 cup cream, heavy or half-n-half
* 2 medium size Idaho potato
* Nutmeg, to taste

* 6 cups chicken stock (
homemade, if you can or a good quality stock bought)
* Kosher Salt and Pepper

* 2 'trees' of broccoli (
about 3 cups chopped broccoli florets and stems)


* sharp utility knife
* cutting board

* peeler

* 1 large heavy bottom stock pot
* 1 wooden (or metal) spoon
* measuring cup

* a regular upright blender (
or immersion blender - I'm not Alton Brown, you can have as many cooking utensils that have only one or two functions.)
* Any beverage (
I don't want it to seem that you need to consume alcohol in order to cook)
* CD (
I'm going to suggest Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. for a specific reason but listen to what you like)


Start CD

Peel and roughly chop your onion (remember they do not have to a uniform dice - you're going to blend the soup.) Wash, peel and cube your two potatoes (actually it's your choice if you want to peel your potatoes - I think the Idaho skin is a little too thick. If you're using a new potato, no need to peel.) Put your chopped vegetables aside and reward yourself with a sip of the beverage of your choice. Peel your garlic clove and press the side of your knife blade against clove with the back of your hand (if this makes you nervous, just chop the garlic.)

Cut the top part of the broccoli and separate the florets (realizing how silly that sounds.) Peel the broccoli stem (believe me, there is only so much roughage a body can take) and chop the peeled stem. Put them aside. Have a sip of your beverage.

Put your large stock pot over medium high heat and when the bottom of the pot comes up to temperature; add the 2 tablespoons of oil. Add your chopped onions and turn the onions around until they soften and become translucent (about 3 or 4 minutes) but not browned. Add the garlic and the potatoes stir around for a minute or two. Add a pinch or two of salt

Add 5 cups of stock and bring to a simmer. Have another sip of your beverage.

Add broccoli and return to a simmer. Stir the pot occasionally and enjoy the early Bruce. Remember hearing him for the first time. Remember listening to the album Darkness on the Edge of Town so much that you wore out the needle on the record player (remember record players.) Have another sip of your beverage and sigh. (If you don't like Bruce, remind yourself that your mother probably whacked you with a wooden spoon much like the one you are stirring your soup with right now. Even worse, remind yourself how much it hurt if she was using a metal spoon, freshly out a hot scolding pot. Definitely, have another sip of your beverage and sigh.)

When potato and broccoli are tender (12 minutes or so), puree in batches in a blender or use your immersion blender directly in your stock pot. Be careful, the soup is hot, if you're using the blender, make sure you place a dish towel and your hand on the lid of the blender when you turn it on or your ceiling will be covered with the soup. Remember you're not making baby food, so leave some recognizable pieces.

Now if you're playing the home game, Lost in the Flood should be playing about now. Score extra points if you hear the line, "nuns run bald through Vatican halls, pregnant, pleading Immaculate Conception" - by far Bruce's strangest lyrics. Finish your beverage as a reward.

Decide if your soup is thick enough for your liking. If it is - the soup is finished at this point. You could have it at this point as a lower calorie soup. If you would like a less thick soup, add some of the cup of stock that you left aside. Or you could stir in the 1/2 cup of heavy cream or half and half for a richer soup. Bring soup back to a simmer.

Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve warm

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Birthday John

October 9, 1940 -
John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE, one of the most successful songwriier of the 20th century, was born on this date.

Risotto (all the way)

Now that the weather is turning cooler, it's time for comfort food. And a great comfort food that some people are afraid of making themselves is risotto. Here is a recipe that is not that labor intense and is another enjoyable adventure in the kitchen.


* 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (homemade would be great but I won't hold it against you.)
* 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (
whatever you can find or afford)
* 3 tablespoons butter

* 2 tablespoons olive oil

* 1 medium onion, diced

* 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

* 2 cup dry white wine

* 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

* 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
* kosher salt
* freshly ground black pepper


* 2 heavy 2 quart saucepans (and a lid that will cover one of them.)
* 1 wooden spoon

* 1 slotted spoon

* 1 Sinatra CD (
preferably Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely)


Start the CD

Heat a heavy saucepan, over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter, when bubbly but not burnt, add sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle a pinch or two of salt and a pinch of freshly ground pepper over mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionly, until golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Without rinsing the pan, add chicken stock. Bring to a simmer on back of stove and keep warm over low heat. Open bottle of white wine, pour out one glass and sip. Think about how cool it would have been to have risotto with Sinatra.

In a large, heavy saucepan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are tender but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add one cup of wine and simmer until the wine has almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Lower the flame under the saucepan to medium and add 1 1/2 cup of warm stock, stir and cover with lid, about 7 minutes. This is heresy for risotto purists but what the hell, they're not in your kitchen. Take another sip or two of wine and begin singing along with Sinatra.

After appx. 7 minutes uncover saucepan and add 1/2 cup of stock and stir, allowing stock to be absorbed. Every 3 or 4 minutes add an additional 1/2 cup of warm stock to be absorbed, until the rice is tender to the bite and the mixture is creamy - this will take about an additional 15 minutes. You may or may not have stock left over - this is not a problem. (You should be listening to the cut Blues in the Night if you've timed your risotto correctly but it's no great shakes if you're not. Again, you're listening to Sinatra, making a great risotto and you've probably finished your glass of wine. Reward yourself and have another.)

Once your risotto is creamy and tender to the tooth, as they say, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan, the remaining butter, chopped parsley, salt and pepper (for added decadence, swirl in a tablespoon or two of sour cream. For real decadence, add a drizzle of truffle oil. For pure decadence, have a third glass of wine.) Cover the saucepan.

At this point, the cut 'Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry' should be playing and you should be well into your cups. Set the table and quickly call whomever you deem worthy to share the risotto with you - Sinatra and risotto will not wait for everyone. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl.

Serve and have additional grated Parmesan and fresh cracked black pepper available.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tastier vegetables

Let it not be said that I am pushing an all meat and dessert diet, far from it. I actually like vegetables. In fact, here is a simple and quick way to prepare most vegetables - substitute your favorite vegetable for green beans in this recipe (although I don't know if you can fit an entire Hubbard Squash in a 2 Qt. Saucepan.)


* 1/2 lb green beans
* 1/3 cup of chicken stock (
or water)
* 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or canola oil)
* 1 clove of garlic * Kosher salt and ground black pepper


* sharp utility knife
* cutting board

* 2 quart saucpan with lid

* 1 glass of wine


Turn the radio on in your kitchen or place the on in the livingroom loud enough for you to hear it in the kitchen but not loud enough for you to get evicted (that would be incredible stupid - over cooking green beans, come on.) Listen to what ever you like, once again, it's green beans. I'll leave the choice between you and your God.

Trim the ends of the green beans (this is a great job for your prep chef. Since you are working in a professional kitchen, this job should fall to the youngest person in your house that you can still boss around. If you live alone, you're the man.)

Rinse your bean and set them aside.

Peel and thinly slice your garlic. Place your saucepan over a medium-high flame. Put all of your trimmed green beans and sliced garlic in the hot saucepan and add your water and canola in you're on a diet (add the chicken broth and olive oil if you're not.) Add a pinch of salt over the beans and cover with lid.

Occasionally, shake the saucepan back and forth over the heat much in the same way you would make Jiffy Pop. Listen to the music, sip your wine and contemplate how much belly button lint you would need to knit a sweater. It should take you about 7 minutes to finish your wine, come up with an answer (which I'm not sharing) and cook your beans. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.


While we're at it, here's another vegetable you can cook in the same method - Escarole. The only thing about escarole is - it's a filthy vegetable. Really dirty, what do they grow this thing in -dirt. You have to wash your escarole several times to make sure you get all the grit out of it or you are on your way to consuming the average 8 lbs. of dirt most Americans consume during a year (now there's an appetizing way to start a recipe.)


* 1 medium head of escarole, (about a lb.)
* 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or canola oil)

* 1 clove of garlic

* Kosher salt and ground black pepper

* Pinch red pepper flakes


* sharp utility knife
* cutting board

* 2 quart saucepan with lid

* pair of tongs

* 1 glass of wine


Repeat the directions concerning music from the green bean recipe.

Remove any wilted, tough outer leaves of the escarole and discard. Dismember the remaining head and put in the basket of your salad spinner (if you don't have a salad spinner then put the leaves in a deep bowl.) Fill with very cold water and agitate the leaves (tell them anti-union jokes) until all the dirt has rested on the bottom of the bowl. Be disgusted by how dirty the water has become. Lift the leaves from the bowl and repeat a few times until the water in the bowl appears clear and not girt is on the bottom (if you have OCD, do this exact three times - no more or less.) Dump the water, shake the leaves dry (not bone dry) and put aside.

Peel and thinly slice your garlic. Heat the oil, garlic and pepper flakes in your saucepan over medium-high heat. Add half the escarole and stir until just wilted. Add the remaining escarole. Place the lid on top of the saucepan (leaves should be poking out.) hold down the lid over the leaves as though you are trying to suffocate them with a pillow. Once the leaves have given up the ghost, lift the lid and toss the wilted leaves around so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. This should have taken you about 2 minutes and you make have broken out in a sweat, murdering your vegetable. Reward yourself with a sip of wine.

Occasionally, shake the saucepan back and forth over the heat much in the same way you would make Jiffy Pop. Listen to the music, sip your wine and contemplate that that delicious soup called Italian Wedding Soup, containing escarole, little meatballs and chicken broth is about as Italian as Chicken Chow Mein is Chinese. It should take you about 5 more minutes to finish your wine (a little less if you life a firmer escarole), remember the last time you had Italian Wedding Soup or went to that kind of wedding and finish your escarole. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tomato Sauce vs.Gravy (or taking Pascal's Wager)

There are many great religious debates that have rages throughout the world - the Great Schism, the entire plot of The Mahabharatathe, Diet of Worms, Henry VIII vs Pope Clement, Shiite vs Sunni and the most virulent - is it Tomato Sauce or Gravy. I'm not that wise a man and I'm only part Italian but it's Gravy and not Tomato Sauce and if you don't understand that then you should just eat at the Olive Garden and you've basically missed the whole point of all the Godfather movies. So, even though this gravy (tomato sauce) is not mixture of a roux and pan dripping, a person should wager as though it is called Gravy, because living a life based on this has everything to gain, and nothing to lose.


* About ½ cup olive oil
* 1 lbs sweet or hot Italian sausage (or mixture)
* 1 lb your favorite meatballs (about 16 formed meatballs*)
* 1 1/2 lb beef short ribs (cut into 2 inch pieces, if you're good with a meat cheaver great, we'll talk later, if not have the butcher do it for you.)
* 1 lb marrow bones (
if you can find them - make friends with your butcher you never know when you may need to dispose of a body)
* 1 lb lamb neck bones (
pork bones will do, in a pinch)
* 1 large Spanish onions, chopped
* 5 or 6 garlic cloves, chopped
* 1 12-oz can tomato paste
* 2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes (
preferably San Marzano) with juices
* 2 bay leaves

* 2 bottles of Montepulcino (
or any other dry red wine)
* Salt to taste (
about 2 to 3 tsp)
* dried basil and dried oregano to taste (
about a tablespoon each but God forbid you actual have to measure that out.)
* Box of italian pastries (
must include cannoli) * no sugar (yeah I know your grandmother probably used it but don't)


* 1 large heavy bottomed stock pot (you know you have the right size if you can fit a severed head in it with the lid closed)
* cutting board
* sharp chef's knife
* large wooden spoon

* large serving bowl (
preferably one with a picture of Pope Paul VI giving a benediction but 'Kiss the cook or else' will do.)
* large serving platter (
the one with the chip in it. 'Yes I know, we can never have anything nice in this house' one.)
* the special bowl we use to make grandma’s meatballs (
even though we aren't making her meatballs)
* small bowl to beat eggs (
sorry, I don't have a funny name for it. What am I a comedian?) * DVD of the newly transferred Godfather
* CD of Al Martino or Julius LaRosa's greatest hits

* small empty Welch's grape jelly jar (
if you don't have one or don't remember what I'm taking about use an empty Bonne Maman Strawberry jam jar but don't tell anyone you used it.)


Open the first bottle of wine and pour into the jelly jar. Go into the living room and start the Godfather. Take your first sip of wine and wonder what wedding gift you would have brought Connie. Gauge the distance between your living room and the kitchen and adjust the audio of your TV accordingly (you will need to be able to just about hear the movie over the music in the kitchen.)

Start the CD.

Place the large heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat. When it feels hot when you put your hand over the top of the open pot, coat the bottom with olive oil. When you can smell the olive oil, begin to brown all meats on all sides. Start with the sausage (curse in Italian when splattered by grease), and remove; meatballs*, and remove; ribs, and remove; then finally the neck bones, remove. (Add more olive oil and sip wine as needed.) Add onions to pot and slowly brown, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 5 minutes (don't burn). Add garlic and lightly brown, stirring occasionally, another 1 or 2 minutes. Have the bizarre Proustian rush that Grandma smelled like Maja soap and onions cooked in pork grease. Sip you wine slowly, listen to 'Al di la' and ponder this.

Add tomato paste and stir to coat onions. Slowly cook until paste begins to thicken and turn deep reddish brown, about 5 minutes. Fill tomato paste can with wine and stir it around, put aside. Add tomatoes, one can at a time, slowly crushing them with your hand (imagine they are the hearts of your enemies) bay leaves, dried oregano and dried basil. Stir well, making sure you get down to the bottom. Put the wine and tomato paste mixture into one empty tomato can and more wine to fill half the can. Swirl it around to clean the can. Pour the contents into the other can and repeat. Pour the contents of that can into the pot and bring to a low boil.

Call in one of your kids (or the neighbor's kids) to throw cans into recycle bin and playfully swat them on the ass. Not too hard or child service may get involved. Have another glass of wine and wonder what scene the movie is up to. Run into the living room to see. Lower heat and simmer. A major controversy arises at the point - do you partial cover or not. Purist will tell you to cook uncovered (they are either OCD and enjoy cleaning or you have a kitchen slave.) Partial cover until sauce begins to thicken. Wonder whether or not Luca Brasi "sleeps with the fishes." Bring your freshly refilled jelly jar with you and find out. Remember to come into the kitchen ever now and then to stir the gravy. Life is not worth living if you burn your gravy.

After about an hour, add ribs and marrow bones (if you had them - major secret, the marrow from the bones will add an unbelievable depth to your gravy and will cut the acidity taste, so you won't need the sugar.) Wipe down the side of the stove from the gravy splatters. Tear off a piece of the Italian loaf and taste the gravy. Hurry up back to the movie before you miss the hit on The Godfather and Richard Castellano giving Italian cooking lessons.

In about another hour, cut the sausages into quarters and add. Once again wipe down the sides of the stove. Start thinking about what pasta you want with the gravy. I prefer fresh tagliatella or spaghetti but you could go with ziti or rigatoni, if you must. Remember to stir that gravy. If the gravy seems a little too thick and a glass of water (from your jelly jar. No one's in the kitchen - who's to know.) Again curse in Italian as you are burned by the hot splatters of gravy and the red oil slick that has developed on the top of the gravy. More bread, more wine (maybe a piece of cheese or dried sausage) and back the film.

Hope you've gotten back to the film in time for 'drop the gun and take the canolli’. Be happy as a clam you remembered to buy cannoli. In about another half hour, stir the gravy add meatballs and stir again. Turn off the heat and cover the pot (the residual heat will continue to cook the gravy and heat a small Cape Cod house in the middle of winter.) Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta, remember to salt the water. Go watch the rest of the movie.

Come back to the kitchen after the movie's over and realize that a lot of the water has probably been boiled away. Add about 2 more cups and bring to a boil. Restart the CD and play the theme from The Godfather cut. Turn the heat back on under the gravy. Season to taste with salt and add about a 1/4 of grated cheese (another secret.) Add your chosen pasta to the boiling water and cook for the required amount of time.

Drain in a scolapasta (colander.)

Be impressed with yourself that you know that a scolapasta is a colander. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to serving platter. Ladle sauce over your favorite pasta.

Call your family to the table, open the second bottle of wine and manga (have plenty of grated cheese at the table.)

* Meatballs (probably not like your grandmother's)

I'm not your grandmother (not even your grandfather.) I have not sweated nights trying to figure out how I'm going to pay the rent while my no good husband is out gambling or god knows what. I have not made homemade pasta for my no good sister-in-law, whose running around with Frankie the Butcher behind my stupid brother's back. I do not have decades of seething internalized rage that may had helped your grandmother perfect her meatball recipe but I'll share one with you anyway.


* 1 lb of Ground Chuck
* 1 Egg
* some of your crusty italian bread
* 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (about 3 Tsp.)
* Fresh Parsley
* Grated Parmesan Cheese
* Fresh Garlic - You can never have too much garlic!
* Coarse Black Pepper and Salt
* Pinch of salt
* Teaspoon of dried basil

Put the chop meat in the bowl you use to make meatballs, the one your grandmother gave you instead of your cousin. Even though your cousin was always the more handsome one, the one everyone thought would be a fashion model or a famous actor some day (who now lives down in Miami, giving elderly divorcees 'erotic massages'.) Add all of the seasoning and cheese into the bowl as well.

Tear up about two pieces of Italian Bread into small pieces and moisten them with a little red wine. Add them to the bowl of meat. Add half of the breadcrumbs and begin mixing the meat and other things together - just until they are combined.

But don't mix the meat too much. Does the meat mixture look like it's not coming together? Add a little more breadcrumbs. But don't mix the meat too much. Imagine that you've just gotten slapped in the back of the head from mixing the meat too much. Stop. Wash your hands and have a glass of wine to calm your nerves.

You should be able to make about 16 meatballs with this recipe (unless you have OCD then you can make exact 16 meatballs - divide the meat mixture in half, then half again, then half again - you get the drill.) When you roll your meat mixture into balls moisten your hands lightly (so the meat won't stick to your hands.) Don't compress the meatball too tightly or it will be tough but roll it between your hands until it holds together to form a ball.

Put aside until you're ready to cook.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Most Excellent Apple Crisp

Now that the weather has turned cooler, you can once again cover up and think about eating deserts again. This is a dessert that you can have no guilt eating. It has apples and oats (the butter merely carries the flavor) - what isn't healthy about those ingredients? And it's so simple that it almost makings itself (especially if you get your other guests to help.)


* 8 - 10 apples (I don't know what type of apples - what type of apples do you like?)
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 3 cup rolled oats (The old fashion kind not the instant)
* 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
* Pinch of salt
* Pint of very good vanilla ice cream (or heavy cream for those of you on a diet)


* sharp utility knife
* cutting board
* 9 x 13 Baking Dish
* 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup
* 1 large wooden spoon or tong
* 1 large mixing bowl
* 1 bottle of wine (what ever you are going to drink with dinner)


Pre-heat the oven to 350° F. Or if you are making dinner, make sure you are cooking something that has to roast at 350° F.

Butter a 9-inch baking dish (this is a perfect job to assign to someone else in your home, preferably someone who claims that they can't cook.)

Peel, core and chop the apples (again this is a perfect job to assign to someone else in your home. Remind the ungrateful louts that they are happy enough to eat the food that you are making for them.) Toss the apples with lemon juice and spread the apple mixture in bottom of baking dish. Set aside. Open the bottle of wine that you plan on having with dinner.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt and oats. Actually, you can add them in any order that you like as all as you mix them well. Cut your stick of butter in pieces, put them in the Pyrex measuring cup and melt the butter in a microwave. Pour the melted butter into the dry ingredients and mix well. Set aside. Sample your wine to see if it's going to be a good match with your dinner. Ask (yell) the other people in your house to set the table for dinner.

Take another sip.

Spread the buttered oat mixture on top of the apple mixture. Put into the oven (once you took your dinner out of the oven.) Bake at 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes. Sit down for dinner and continue to drink you wine.

Bake until apples are tender and topping is lightly browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream or a little heavy cream, if desired.