Friday: Volunteer at Book Festival 7:00 - 9:00 pm (I'm gonna get soaked in the Nor'easter we're having. It's howling outside tonight).
Luckily, the cleaning lady was here on Tuesday, and I have clean sheets and a clean bathroom. Unfortunately, there is a pile of shoes immediately inside the door as I kick them off when I enter the house, and the sink is full of coffee cups, wine glasses and breakfast dishes from the last couple of days.
Broadsheet is trying to get the word out about the 13th Annual Baltimore Book Festival, which is the mid-Atlantic’s premier celebration of the literary arts and will be held Sept 26th-Sept 28th at the Historic Mount Vernon Place centered on the 600 block of North Charles Street, 21201. Baltimore, MD. We are working with the Book Festival organizers hoping to create a buzz about the event through the internet.
I will be representing the League of Women Voters at the festival all weekend registering voters, handing out absentee ballots, and giving everyone a chance to change your address without standing in line for 5 hours at the MVA. This is a NATIONAL election year, and the deadline for voter registration in Baltimore is October 14, 2008.
I represent the League of Women Voters, and our primary goal is to get as many people as possible to exercise their constitutional right - VOTE!
This is an historic election. Your vote is your voice. Please speak up. We'll have lots of voter education materials - please stop by.
The Baltimore Book Festival is free to the public and is featuring both nationally known and local authors including: Dr. CornelWest, Naomi Wolf, WalterMoseley, Congresswomen Linda and Loretta Sanchez, Iyanla Vanzant, Daniel MarkEpstein and Omar Tyree. It will also have poetry readings, children’s activities, cookbook demonstrations by chefs such as Martin Yan, George Duran and The Hearty Boys, live music and more than 100 exhibitors and book sellers.
As with any Baltimore festivals, there will be plenty of great food, great music, and terrific people.
I'm sitting here with my Sunday morning coffee checking the news on line and watching the talking heads and wonks in DC debate the current financial crisis.
I'm listening as Hank Paulson makes the rounds on all three networks this morning describing the need for stabilizing the market, and that the Government had no choice but to step in. Many people are screaming that this smacks of socialism.
I know all this, but really, I mean instead of socialism, aren't we just enabling money laundering on a scale that's almost incomprehensible? And no one but the taxpayers pay the consequences of that?
Wikipedia defines money laundering in part as..."any financial transaction which generates an asset or a value as the result of an illegal act, which may involve actions such as tax evasion or false accounting."
Well, the US Government is about to provide a massive financial transaction which is certain to generate an asset and a value to the banks and insurance companies as the result of what could certainly be construed as false accounting by many of these banks.
I was listening to NPR the other day, and the commentator was saying that these sub prime mortgages had been "bundled" into products in such a way that no one really knew what they were buying because the complexity of the "bundles" prevent almost anyone from truly understanding what's in them. They're like onions of bad deals, with layer upon layer of overvalued asset hiding in every ring.
That's a pretty poor excuse for fiduciary mismanagement bordering on the criminal - don't you think?
If you follow the link, you'll immediately realize that my pastry work leaves a lot to be desired compared to their perfectly styled and lit magazine photos. I am not a pastry maven. I think it's a lot of work, and hard to manage. This wasn't that bad, even if my galettes are a little more "free form" than the ones in the magazine.
Anyway, here's the "before" photo - ready to go in the oven. The orange flecks are Hawaiian sea salt I use as a finishing salt.
These are like mini quiches, and just burst with lemony, creamy, zucchini flavor. They are fine on their own, or paired with a lovely piece of perfectly grilled and seasoned leg of lamb.
These freeze really well, so I look forward to enjoying the remainder at a later date.
If anyone ever asks me what I would want as my last meal, it would include what I made for dinner Tuesday night.
On my first trip to Europe, I was with my parents in a little village on the edge of the Black Forest in Germany and we were in a very simple tavern with a roaring fire and lots of Hansel and Gretel charm. The menu had a lot of fresh game, trout and pheasant dishes from the local forest, and everything came "mit pfifferling". A quick glance in my handy German dictionary, and "pfifferling" are chanterelle mushrooms, also a local forest delicacy. Chanterelles are bright orange, with white meat, and have a very delicate, almost nutty or apricot flavor to them. I fell in love with them on the spot and have had a craving for them ever since.
So imagine my delight when they were selling them at the Farmer's Market last Sunday. Granted, they were still $10 a box, but they were beautiful. I also picked up a small tub of black truffle butter.
I decided to use them in one of my favorite comfort food dishes - risotto.
A classic risotto is actually very easy to make:
Chop a large sweet onion and saute it in 1 TBL of good olive oil and 1 TBL of butter - only here I used the black truffle butter.
Once the onions have sweated for about 5 minutes, add a cup of good arborio rice and stir for about 2 minutes until every grain has been coated with the oil and butter.
Deglaze the pan with a glass of white wine and let the rice absorb it.
Start adding a cup of good chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time as the rice absorbs it, and keep stirring. Stirring is important in good risotto, it kocks the starch off the grain and give the risotto its famous creamy consistency. You'll need about 2 cups of stock for a cup of rice.
When you add the last 1/4 cup of stock, toss in the mushrooms and add a sprinkle of saffron. About a dozen or so threads crushed with your fingers. I happened to have some REALLY high quality Khyrgyz saffron I bought in the markets in Kashgar, China, and this seemed as good a time as any to use it.
As the risotto reaches its creamy stage, toss in 1/2 cup of high quality, grated Parmegano Reggiano cheese and stir till the cheese is melted and the risotto is thick and creamy. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Pour this into a bowl and shave some more cheese over the top.
Then to add some BAM - drizzle a few drops of white truffle oil over the top. And yes, it's over the top.
Last year, when Chinese pet food tainted with melanine was killing pets here in the US, and there were questions about the safety of Chinese pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, the leader of China's FDA was arrested and later executed for taking bribes and allowing it to happen.
Now, with China's own children on the line, in a country with a one child policy where children are the centerpiece of Chinese Society, the government is again cracking down, this time on milk suppliers in provinces across China.
Rumors are also flying that this crisis has been going on knowingly for at least three months, but that the Chinese were reluctant to interrupt their spot in the global sunshine during the Olympics in August.
Now I know China is a totalitarian regime, and we would never do something like this in the US, but don't you wish for one minute that instead of the government being forced to bail out our entire financial system on the backs of the taxpayers, that maybe they should have cracked down Chinese style on unscrupulous lenders and companies when this was all happening in the first place? I'm just sayin. It's not as if these idiotic high risk lending practices were some sort of secret or anything.
I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and headed to the Farmer's Market with some friends where I scored beautiful zuchini and the most perfect pint of raspberries ever grown. I also treated myself to a bag of fresh chanterelle mushrooms and a fresh rabbit, along with some of that incredible smoked salmon pate' and freshly made mozarella from the Belvedere Market. I grabbed some fresh flowers and some good breakfast sausage from the Pig Boys and headed home to make brunch for the neighbors.
So....at 10:00, the neighbors all came over for brunch in the garden. I had thrown together a crab, cheese, and red pepper strata last night which I simply had to toss in the oven to get puffy and golden, along with the fresh sausage and some tomatoes from my garden that I simply broiled with some basil butter and parmesan cheese. Wash everything down with a spicy Bloody Mary and lots of coffee, and so far Sunday morning is about as perfect as they come.
I figure I'll do some laundry, take a nap, and then at 5:00, our neighborhood is hosting its annual end of summer picnic in the commons across the way. That would make it a perfect Sunday all the way around in my book.
That was, until I sat down to check email and read the NYT after I cleaned up the brunch dishes and discovered that not only had one of my favorite authors died, but that he hanged himself at the age of 46. David Foster Wallace.
As I'm sitting here, on a beautiful Indian summer day having enjoyed some good food with good friends, it seems so hard to believe that such a brilliant and gifted person could have been suffering so much that they lost the will to live.
I was stopped at the stoplight at the intersection of Greenspring and Old Court Roads the other day and glanced over to see a stately brick estate with wonderful landscaping, tennis courts and all the trappings of wealth in that part of town. The driveway was flanked by two large, brick columns with ornate lamps on them. On the front of one of the columns was a brass plaque that said "Six Chimneys" - the name of the estate.
I glanced to my right, and directly across the street was a rather down in the mouth rancher that had seen better days with a pickup truck parked in the driveway. A smaller, less ornate plaque on the mailbox proudly proclaimed "One Chimney and a Vent".
I was laughing so hard, I nearly missed the light turning green.
A lone bumblebee somehow found its way down my chimney flu and got covered in soot and ash. He's was making quite a buzzing racket and immediately attracted the attention of the stealthy hunters living in the house...
Hours of enjoyment ensued as the cats tried to make sense of the angry buzzing lump of soot alternately crawling and flying around inside the fireplace.
Does anyone have any tips on getting an angry bumblebee out of a fireplace? If it gets out, it'll leave ash marks everywhere, not to mention the trail of destruction along its flight path caused by two huge cats chasing it and knocking things over to get at it.
My tomato plants have exploded in the past two weeks. I've already made a big batch of fresh gazpacho, and a wonderful panzanella salad with crumbled ricotta salata, but this is what I collected just this week since I've been back from New England:
I planted a Roma tomato plant and a Yellow Beefsteak plant. Yep, all this and much, much more from two plants I got for $.50 apiece in May.
In search of the perfect tomato sauce recipe to capture the essence of summer, I looked at a variety of recipes for tomato sauce. I wanted something both basic and straightforward that I could add to later, but also something that would be fresh tasting and perfect on its own. I liked the idea of roasting the tomatoes instead of stewing them in a pot, and adding the flavor of roasted garlic as well. So here goes:
Broadsheet's Roasted Garlic and Tomato Sauce
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Take an entire head of garlic and take off as much of the paper from the bulb without separating the cloves. Take the top 1/4 inch of the bulb leaving the cloves intact. Wrap the bulb in a piece of aluminum foil after drizzling a tablespoon of good olive oil into the foil package. Put this package in the oven when you roast the tomatoes.
Take 5-6 pounds of tomatoes, quarter them, and toss them in a large roasting pan. Toss in a large, chopped yellow onion Toss everything well in about 1/4 - 1/3 cup good olive oil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar (~ 2 TBL) Add 1 TBL of sugar Sprinkle with sea salt and lots of ground pepper. Toss well.
This is what you have going into the oven:
Whack this in the oven for an hour - stirring every 20 minutes or so. This is what you get:
The tomatoes are completely cooked down and have a bit of a char on them. Don't worry about skins and seeds - this is all gonna get pulverized in a minute.
Let this cool a bit, and then squeeze in all the lovely roasted garlic cloves. To this, add: 1 cup of chopped fresh basil 1/2 cup of chopped fresh oregano 1/2 bunch of flat leaf parsely - chopped 1 tsp cayenne pepper to taste
Take an immersion blender to the whole thing. You can make this silky smooth, or just get the garlic and herbs incorporated well, and leave it a tad chunky like I did. Adjust all seasonings before freezing.
I divvied up the sauce into freezer containers and stashed them away till winter. It made nearly three quarts of sauce.
Now, when you thaw this saucy goodness later this fall or winter, you can use it as is, or toss it in a pot and add olives, peppers, capers, and other spices for a Putanesca Sauce. Or, you can add caramelized carrots and celery along with some ground beef, ground pork and cream for a delish Bolognese Sauce. Toss in some pan roasted wild mushrooms like porcini and portobella, along with some caramelized onion, pancetta and lots of Asagio cheese for a great wild mushroom sauce.
The possibilities are endless.
PS Your house will smell amazing when making this sauce. It rocks.
I think we should have a Tropical Storm every Saturday. Last Friday, it was Fay. Certainly not as dramatic as Hannah, but it made the day a washout, and followed me up to Rhode Island for the weekend. It made Saturday up there a washout as well, but luckily, we had nothing more pressing on our agenda than getting massages, having a late lunch and shopping.
Sunday and Monday were stunningly beautiful, and we spent them at the Rhythm and Roots Festival listening to some terrific live music, grilling lots of veggies from the garden to eat with freshly grilled fish at home, and floating in the pool and watching the falling stars at night. You can see the Milky Way really clearly from my friends house, and the falling stars were showing off.
And then as soon as I left my friends' house, my week went to hell in a hand basket.... My flight was delayed getting out Providence thanks to Gustav, and when I finally got home at 10:00 PM, I discovered that my cat Pumpkin was howling in pain and had a blocked urethra - again. Another trip to the vet, 3 days in the ICU and $1,500 later, and he's resting comfortably at home with another weird haircut to show for it. They had to shave his butt again and it looks like he's wearing ass less chaps. It's pretty funny actually.
While that drama was going on, work was crazy with the opening of a new physician practice, the closing of another one, and two board meetings and a business dinner. I used my house like a hotel through Friday, except that there was no maid service to pick up after me.
Yesterday was a gift. From the moment I heard the rain on the skylights, I slept in and snuggled with the cats, read the rest of a book, lounged around without makeup or contacts, took a nap, didn't touch the computer once, and watched zombie movies all day. Oh, and I made about 2 quarts of roasted garlic and tomato sauce from the bounty of my garden. Recipe and photos in the next post.
So Hannah, despite her watered down fury - was very welcome here indeed. Just the perfect mix of drama and seriously awful weather to prevent anyone from going into the storm unless they absolutely had to - and thankfully, I didn't.
I'm incredibly stressed for time right now, but this made me laugh out loud:
Seriously though, this whole issue of her daughter's pregnancy is a non issue and should not play a part in anything. The only people that care about this are the media and they look like the absolute idiots that they are for fawning over it endlessly.
On another topic, I have heard more than a few people criticize Palin wondering "how can she handle all her young children and the VP job?"
THAT is THE most sexist thing I've ever heard. NO ONE is questioning how Obama will handle raising a tween and pre-tween in the White House. This is the most hypocritical thing I've ever heard. Michelle Obama is a well respected lawyer and hospital executive who quit her job to devote time to the campaign. No one is wondering about how the "First Lady" will handle raising the kids.
Sarah Palin's husband seems to be a lovely, good looking, stand up guy, with the kind of career that could easily be modified to be primary caregiver to the kids. And even if it weren't - SO WHAT???
Children aren't a handicap, and while I do NOT agree with her politics, I strongly support Sarah Palin's ability to be VP as a career choice.
I just can't imagine being a grandma at 44..... but, it's her life not mine - and I have no doubt she can handle it well.