Sort of a Pilgrimage

In preparation for its annual Sacred Sites Open House Weekend http://www.nylandmarks.org/events/sacred_sites_open_house/2017_sacred_sites_open_house/, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, where I volunteer as a writer/researcher, held a kick-off event at Temple Emanu-El. We strolled around the gigantic sanctuary that can hold 2500 people with Art Feminella, who talked about his work as conservator for the stained glass windows of the Sanctuary and Beth El Chapel. I’d interviewed Art by phone so it was nice to meet him in person.  Later we went into Greenwald Hall, a chapel with wonderful landscape windows including two by the Tiffany Studios, for a talk by Peter A. Rohlf, CEO of  Rohlf Stained and Leaded Glass Studio restored them.

Established in l845 at a gathering of 33 Jews from Germany, Temple Emanu-El held its first services in a second floor loft at the corner of Grand and Clinton streets on the Lower East Side. Then began the trek uptown; by 1868 the temple built at Fifth Avenue and East 43rd Street. In 1927 Emanu-El, which had consolidated with Temple Beth-El, built its present house of worship.  In addition to everything else about this grand building, it has a nifty museum with permanent and changing exhibitions as well as an excellent library.

A few days later, it was up to St. John the Divine to see the newly re-installed Barberini tapestries.  These were produced in Rome between 1644 and 1656, woven by handpicked weavers for Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, in his own tapestry workshop and originally installed at the Vatican and Barberini palaces.  Factoid: Barbarini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, was known as a cardinale nepoti;  the Latin word nepos (nephew) became the coined word ‘nepotism.’ Family climbing aside, think of hanging these textiles in your palace, both to admire and to keep out some of the brutal

Francesco Barberini after being made cardinal

wind.

detail from one of the Barberini tapestries

The artistry at both sites reminded me of how little I know about conservation which seems fascinating with its intersection of art, history and science. I bet the demand for skilled craftspeople in stained glass and textiles (as well as other fields) are huge as there is a shortage of highly trained workers.

This recipe for Carciofi alla Giudea (Jewish-style artichokes) requires a little work what with the hot oil but if you persist it’s worth it.

 

 

Carciofi alla Giudea (courtesy Williams Sonoma who have simplified the operation.)

Serves 4

4 artichokes (regular globe ones) If you want to hunt down the little ones, there’s a lot less cleaning as there are far fewer outer leaves. Buy about a pound or even more.

3 ½ cups olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 lemon

Remove the hard leaves from the artichoke. Cut stalk leaving about an inch and a half.

With a very sharp small knife, cut off all the leaves leaving the soft, underneath ones. Put each artichoke when trimmed into the water with juice of one lemon and repeat the operation for each artichoke.  Start heating oil in a pan.

Drain artichokes, dry on paper towel and  press them lengthwise on the table to open the leaves, again, one by one.

Season insides of artichokes with salt and pepper. Dip artichokes into the boiling oil with the stalk up and  cook about 10 minutes; turn over and cook other side for about same time. Drain them on more paper towel. Serve hot or room temp.

If you use the big ones, it’s one per person. Small can be a great first course; if you make even more they could be the basis for lunch with bread, cheese and a salad.

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Korean in Two Hours

Responding to a pop-up email, I went to a (South) Korean evening on West 35th.  Welcomed by three lovely women in gorgeous hanbok, (their national dress), our small group saw two documentary films – one about the wonders of the country including a sacred bell that out- rings any bell anywhere; the development of the Korean alphabet that based the consonants on sounds made by our speech organs and astronomy with constellations like the “Celestial Orchard,” a new one for me as someone who has always had trouble finding Orion’s belt.  The second short film heralded Korean medical care and shipbuilding.  Yes, proselytizing but very low-key. The sponsoring organization is a Buddhist group but other than a brief mention religion didn’t come up.

The Korean women “modeled” their handbok complete with norigae, a hanging decoration that used to have a function  but today is a good-luck decoration—each different. The skirts are

The others were orange and yellow/ pink and green–all stunning

puffed out by a sort of crinoline beneath; these were silk but fabric choice is dictated by the season.

Afterwards, we shared a really good Korean meal, piling our (disposable foam—too bad, planet) plates with sweet potato noodles, kimchee, something like a scallion pancake, Korean barbeque, rice, salad and a bean sprout dish and washing it down with a  drink of fermented barley that tasted much better than it sounds.

pancakes

Dessert was various nibbles including caramelized walnuts.

The group was interesting, especially a young Dutch couple visiting the U.S. for a few weeks. Emma could be from anywhere; Bass (‘Boss’), her boyfriend, is straight out of Rembrandt if you take away his contemporary clothes and haircut.  The pair loved being in NYC and Boston; their education (paid for almost entirely by their government) sounds exemplary and both have good jobs.  Oh, and speak Dutch, English, German and French. They wish the Netherlands were less homogeneous. I almost wept.

I’m not about to attempt a Korean recipe nor are you. This for candied walnut is a cinch— and makes a great snack, nibble with drinks, delicious on ice cream etc.

Candied Walnuts

½ cup sugar

½ cup walnut halves

1/8 tsp kosher salt

(Some recipes call for cinnamon as well but that gives a very different taste.)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test for doneness. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack. (Frankly, this toasting step is not entirely necessary. Your call.)

Pour sugar into a medium heavy saucepan with a thick bottom. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until all the sugar has melted and the color is medium amber. Then add walnuts to the pan, stirring to coat pieces as sugar thickens.  As nuts coat, spread out on baking sheet lined with parchment (or a Silpat non-stick mat). Sprinkle with salt, let cool and that’s it.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.  Store in a tin box but you won’t as they’ll be eaten in no time.

 

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Olé!

A friend is a flamencist, (I know this isn’t an actual word; the correct term is closer to flamenco aficionado but so what?)  Said friend really loves the art, an involvement she shared with her late husband.

She took me to the brilliant Flamenco Origenes, a far cry from snapping castanets and pounding heels as the concert did not involve dancing but rather vocals and instruments. Led by Javier

Javier Limon

Limón, an eight-time Latin Grammy winner, currently the artistic director of the Berklee Mediterranean Music Institute and an accomplished guitar player, a group of six young musicians played instruments and sang, sometimes solo and sometimes together. The performers come from Israel, (Tali Rubenstein); Dubai (Shilpa Anath who is Indian); Bagdad-born and raised in Beirut (Layth Al-Rubaye) and other parts of the world–a  true multicultural medley.

Flamenco  originated in Andalusia; from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries, when Spain was under Arab domination, the original music and instruments were modified and adapted by Christians and Jews and later by gypsies, incorporating sounds and structures from these cultures.  The concert made these interlinking connections very clear as the musicians played frame drum, violin, guitar, hand drums and various wind instruments including one, played by Rubenstein, that resembles a wooden leg. (How she alternates singing while summoning the breath to play a wind instrument is beyond me.) I also admired Layth Al-Rubayered-headed Al-Rubaye who plays the violin and sings and Brazilian hand-percussionist Negah Santos, a wonderful musician with a brilliant smile.

Before the concert, we ate dinner at the very appropriate Andanada where the tapas included the best tiny, fried artichokes I ever ate. Ole indeed.

More in keeping with the music. this recipe is for Flamenco Eggs, a wonderful brunch dish that brings Spanish flavors together.

(recipe courtesy Anne Burrell  via the Food Network)

High quality olive oil

1 onion, diced

Kosher salt

2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped (you know me, maybe one clove)

1 cup (1/2-inch) diced Spanish chorizo

1 teaspoon pimenton. (Pimenton is Spanish paprika that comes in various degrees of hotness. You can substitute regular paprika although the end result won’t be quite as authentic. If you’re going to buy the real thing, get the ‘hot’ version.)

1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with their juice

8 eggs

1/2 cup finely grated aged Manchego cheese

2 tablespoons chopped chives

Coat a saucepan with olive oil, add the onions and bring to a medium heat. Season the onions with salt and cook 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions are soft and very aromatic. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes. Add the chorizo and pimenton and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Oil a flat oven-proof dish large enough to hold what you’ve cooked plus the eggs. Fill dish about halfway with the tomato sauce. Break eggs into dish and sprinkle with grated cheese. Place the dish in the preheated oven and bake until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny, about 8 minutes.

When the eggs are done, sprinkle with chives and serve.

Bring  the dish to the table as it’s so attractive and serve from there. Spanish wine? Why not? Sherry beforehand? It’s your party. Get out your mantilla.

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The Greatest Show on Earth

In another life I spent lots of time in Sarasota, FL as my first husband’s family lived there. Fast forward to a recent trip to Longboat Key visiting good friends from Canada. Blessed with spectacular weather, we took a little time out and, partly in homage to the announced closing of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, went to the Ringling complex.

Full disclosure: I’ve always been something of a circophile as I went regularly with my father as a child and, even by myself as an adult, never missed the show’s annual appearance at Madison Square Garden. Something about so much spectacular all at once that appealed to my multi-tasking self.

We went to the Circus Museum that houses the enormous Howard Bros. Circus Model, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the circus from 1919-1938 when it played one-night stands all over the country. The model is terrific, depicting the gigantic cook tent where thousands of meals were served daily; rehearsal areas, tents devoted to circus horses, raising the big top and more.

Small section of the circus model

Adjacent displays include several calliopes, costumes, posters, circus wagons and memorabilia including enormous rings, exactly like one that the “World’s Tallest Man” nonchalantly slipped off his finger and into my hand so I could wear it  as a bracelet.  There are videos of famous circus acts including the Flying Wallendas, Clyde Beatty and Gunther Gabel Williams, both of “wild” animal training fame. I loved the poster of one of my fave acts, the seal who played the horn (does anyone remember the song–could it have been My Country ‘Tis of Thee?) Sadly, there was no mention of another act I loved, Unis, the man who balanced on one finger wearing top hat (never removed) and tails.

 

I remember the pre-show fun of going downstairs to feed the elephants and see Gargantua, the gorilla who hulked in his specially air-conditioned cage. I found him terrifying as I was always sure this would be the day he’d break free and crush me to death –not very Jane Goodall but that’s nine years old for you.

In May Ringling Bros. will close, partly due to rising costs, partly to animal activism and probably also because entertainment is now available at the touch of a button on an electronic device. Despite all the work it took to arrange and perform, the  circus remains a romantic, romanticized part of American history.

 

Popcorn is an integral part of circus lore. Herewith, Popcorn Cauliflower:

Florets from 2 cauliflower hearts–if florets are too big cut in half.

1 tsp salt

2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. paprika

About 6 Tbls olive oil

Preheat oven to 450. In large bowl combine everything except the cauliflower and mix. Then add cauliflower and toss to coat well. Place in single layer on a cookie sheet and roast uncovered for 30-35 minutes, tossing pieces occasionally.

And that, ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, is it.  Pink lemonade is the time-honored  circus beverage  but if this veggie will be part of dinner, how about a cold white wine?  A toast to Ringling and his confreres.

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Q and other New York Stories

For those non-New Yorkers, the Q is the just-opened Second Avenue subway. Construction of same has been going on seemingly forever, wrecking businesses along the avenue, adding to traffic congestion in the area and generally driving everyone mad.

The three-stop  new line opened New Year’s Day; as I was going to a party ‘up the line’ I took it. Talk about small worlds: I got off at my stop and ran into people I know. While we chatted we took the very long escalator to the top and ‘ran into’ my (non-New Yorker) older daughter and her significant other coming down the opposite escalator. The Q is what the rest of our ancient subway should look like–clean, shiny, laden with interesting art and pretty nice all around. Sadly, two days later when I took the Q again, soil was beginning to build up although it has a long way to go to match the rest!

The second Q trip took me to the Museum of Art and Design, a truly great venue that doesn’t get enough visitors. I’d planned to go to the  current show’s opening reception but got stuck in traffic so this was my exposure to the current exhibition devoted to the work of five artists.

A work from Crochet Coral Seas

Crochet Coral Seas: Toxic Reef is made up of crocheted yarn combined with plastic trash from the ocean to point up the stress living reefs undergo due to global warming. The exhibit, the work of sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim as well as other crafters, is gorgeous, colorful and uplifting as well as upsetting when you think of all the junk in our waters. Another work on view is Forbidden Fruit by Chris Antemann who works in Meissen porcelain–I don’t usually think of porcelain as sexy and

Not your average porcelain teacup

lascivious but here it is. Both shows close pretty soon so get to MAD if they interest you. While there, drop into what is absolutely the most wonderful museum gift shop in the city– while very little could be characterized as inexpensive, everything is stunning.

 

On Saturday, during our biggest snowfall  this winter so far, there was a sign- making workshop for the upcoming Women’s March Saturday, January 21 from 11-4. It’s going to be a zoo but it’s a once in a lifetime (let’s hope) thing. There will be similar marches in DC, others US cities and many in other parts of the world; this is the link if you want to sign up and take part:

Not your average porcelain teacup

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-march-on-nyc-tickets-29464021682

 

Were you marching and afterwards could make your way back to my home, I might serve you:

WHITE BEAN SOUP WITH SAUSAGE AND COLLARDS (this amount feeds 6; just double for 12)

 

1 package frozen bulk sausage, thawed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 packages frozen chopped collard greens (or substitute frozen chopped spinach or kale)—do not thaw

2 cans cannelloni  beans, drained, rinsed and slightly mashed

Salt and pepper

1 Tbls. red wine vinegar

Cook sausage and onion in a large pan over medium heat until sausage is all cooked through to brown and crumbled into bits.  Try not to let bottom of pan burn.

Add collard greens or spinach, beans and 4 cups water, season with salt and pepper. (About 1 Tbls. salt –add, taste and add more depending). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until soup thickens a little, about 8 minutes. Stir in the red wine vinegar.

 

Serve with crusty bread and a salad. Drink to getting through the next four years.

 

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Verona: Cut the Capulets, Cue the Culture

http://www.gonomad.com/78212-verona-italy-by-myself

Please click above to go to the article on my October trip to Verona, (Venice, second part of the trip, will come later), published 12/09/16 on Go Nomad.

Now for  an accompanying recipe. You didn’t think I’d be nutty enough to give you a recipe for donkey as in the article did you?  These meatballs are easy and can feed a crowd as part of a buffet or a small group as dinner.

moroccan-lamb-meatballs-in-tomato-sauce2

Lamb Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce

for meatballs:

1 onion, peeled and chopped very small

1/4 c heavy cream

2 egg yolks (recipe says extra large but use what you have)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin

pinch red pepper flakes

pinch cayenne pepper (if not around, use a good grind of regular pepper)

2 lbs ground lamb (or the pork, veal, beef mix you can buy to make  meatloaf)

Kosher salt, more freshly ground black pepper

1 c bread crumbs

1/4 c chopped parsley

Heat broiler. In bowl mix onion, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes,  and cayenne or other pepper. Add lamb. Season well with salt and pepper. Add bread crumbs and parsley and combine well. Make meat into balls just a little bit bigger than golfballs.

Grease baking pan with olive oil and put meatballs on it, spacing evenly. Put in broiler and cook, turning once or twice until brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven.

Make sauce:

28 oz can whole tomatoes

3 Tbls olive oil

dash of rosemary (sprig of fresh; pinch of dried)

1 med onion peeled and chopped

1/4 tsp thyme

pinch cinnamon

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp white sugar

1/4 c orange juice

3 inch  strip of orange peel with white under part removed.

Chop tomatoes or use blender to chop. Put olive oil in medium saucepan, heat a minute, add rosemary, red pepper, blend.Cook another minute, then add onion, thyme, cumin, bay leaf and cook about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and peel. Cook about10 minutes over medium-low heat. Add salt if needed.

Pour sauce into a big baking dish (a lasagne pan works fine) that can go into oven. Put meatballs in sauce. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until sauce bubbles and meatballs are cooked through. Serve w feta crumbled on top.  Toast meatballs and Verona in Valpolicella. Or your house plonk.

 

 

 

 

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Belasco, the Bishop of Broadway

David Belasco

David Belasco

The Belasco Theater, 111 West 44th Street, is to my mind, the most beautiful theater in NYC  It was built in 1907; originally named the Stuyvesant  and renamed after Belasco in 1910. David Belasco, known as ‘the Bishop of Broadway,’ (a tad odd for a nice Jewish boy but he loved the appellation and went around in a sort of clerical collar), had the theater built as he wanted it, complete with Tiffany ceiling panels and other Tiffany lights as well as magnificent woodwork and murals.  In 2010 , the theater, which has been owned by the Shubert Organization since 1948, underwent a massive restoration to bring it back as much as possible to the condition it was in when Belasco was alive.

Belasco Theater interior - photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Conservancy

Belasco Theater interior –
photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Conservancy

I had the chance to see the theater inside and out thanks to work as a volunteer with the New York Landmarks Conservancy which gave the coveted Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award to the theater for interior renovation in 2011. The theater is small with 1000 seats and has two balconies so it’s not suitable for all productions. In the company of Thomas Stein, the Shubert project coordinator for the renovation,  we started our visit onstage and then went to view the star’s dressing room which is relatively small but at least it’s a single with its own shower and toilet. As you go up, dressing rooms and accompanying plumbing are more, um, democratic.

 

The  2011 renovation was overseen by designer Francesca Russo who brought  back the cozy ‘living room’ atmosphere Belasco envisioned. Downstairs, a series of murals by Chmielewski depicts scenes from Rienzi, a Wagner opera I’d never heard of, that includes a portrait of a

Lights from Belasco stage, photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Connservancy

Lights from Belasco stage, photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Connservancy

pope with Belasco’s face.

 

 

Lighting was enormously important to Belasco who wanted his productions to have a natural look. Belasco is credited with helping develop modern stage lighting to evoke mood and setting. Beginning in February, 2017, Joe Mantello and Sally Field will be at the theater in The Glass Menagerie. I can’t speak about the production but the theater is glorious.

Here’s a bit of a jump. Among Belasco’s theatrical endeavors was writing Madam Butterfly which was later adapted as the libretto for Puccini’s opera of the same name. Madam Butterfly–Japan–teriyaki salmon, yes? Why not?

salmon

Teriyaki Salmon from Gordon Ramsey

2 piece of fresh ginger, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced (I’d use one if I used garlic at all)

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp mirin (rice wine)

Olive oil

4 salmon fillets Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the ginger and garlic into a bowl and mix with the soy sauce, maple syrup, mirin and a drizzle of olive oil.

Place the salmon fillets in a dish, season with salt and pepper and pour the sticky dressing over them. Cover with film (as in Saran wrap)  and set aside in the fridge to marinate for up to 2 hours, but at least 20 minutes.

Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a dash of oil. When hot, add the salmon, skin side down, reserving the marinade. Cook for 2 minutes, then pour in the reserved marinade and cook for a further minute or so, until the salmon fillets are opaque halfway up the sides. Turn them over and cook on the other side for 3–4 minutes, basting with the sauce so that the salmon is well coated. Add a splash of water if the sauce is too thick.

Serve the salmon fillets on individual plates, spooning over any teriyaki sauce left in the pan.

Belasco was a stickler for detail so perhaps you’d like to summon his ghost,(said to have haunted the theater until Oh! Calcutta played there), and serve sake with dinner. No? Your call.

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Learning from The Bard

shakespeareI’m taking a course at Hunter College called Shakespeare’s Heroines. Hunter is a wonderful resource, (and handy– only a few blocks away from where I live), although they don’t make it easy  to register as what’s known as a ‘senior auditor.’ My sense is they offer this ‘perk’ because, as part of the CUNY system, they have to.hunter

The professor, who shall go unnamed, is a treat, reminding me in the best possible way of some of my Vassar teachers. Not a kid, this woman also teaches at PACE and Montclair State University in NJ–something like six or seven different courses overall, which seems like an incredible load –yet somehow manages to keep it all straight.  Years of experience probably help. She’s well-informed, has a sense of humor and  structured the Hunter course so the students learn how to write a research paper using  resources like the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and learn to understand Shakespeare as theater.

One of the course requirements is seeing one of the Bard’s plays live and in person and documenting attendance.  Early in the season I ran into a young classmate, (an actual, matriculated student), at a presentation of Measure for Measure at Bryant Park.  Never measure-playbillone of my favorite works, this offering was not enhanced by the addition of a “minstrel,” i.e., an overall-clad guy who played the banjo with accompanying bells on one ankle as well as a noisy party behind the stage that looked like a lot more fun than watching Isabella and Claudio. Each actor in the play had elected to speak in a different dialect, several vaguely Southern, and the whole was a mish-mash of styles. The good part: it was free and I saw it with friends.

 

Taking a course now is a big departure from back in the day. I mostly do the required reading (a play a week plus several critical works) but don’t deal with either papers or exams. In some ways, age does bring privileges.

This recipe has nothing–zero-zip– to do with Shakespeare but it does require (a little) measuring. It works well for serving to a group and can be frozen for later use. The original came from Sam Sifton in the NY Times a few weeks ago. I modified it for ease; it’s probably not as good as Sam’s version but quicker and would have been even more so had I put my blender together correctly and not had a sauce explosion that set me back a good half-hour.

tet-2

Chicken Tetrazzini (modified from Sam Sifton, New York Times)

 

This is a link to the original recipe: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018335-chicken-tetrazzini

 

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

3 or 4 cremini mushrooms (or not; I thought they’d make a nice addition)

1 ½ cups chicken stock, (Sam suggests homemade or low salt–guess which I used?)

1 tsp cayenne (original recipe calls for several kinds of chilies requiring seeding, cooking, peeling. To decrease the work AND degree of hotness as I was cooking for non-spice lovers, I simply used cayenne. Next time will bump up amount to 1 Tbls or use real chilies.)

1 ½ cups whole milk  (I used 2% and whole would be far better)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced  (or less)

1 medium-size shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese (buy packaged)

1 pound spaghetti

1 store-bought rotisserie chicken, the meat removed and shredded, approximately 1 pound

1 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¼ cup parsley, roughly chopped

Put porcini in small bowl, pour boiling water over them and let them soak. Strain, chop, set aside.

In a medium pot over medium heat combine chicken stock, milk, garlic, shallots. Simmer about ten minutes. Add cayenne, remove from heat and pour into a blender with 6 ounces of the grated Cheddar. Process to a smooth consistency. Reserve.

Heat oven to 400. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water in the large pot until just al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Return spaghetti to the cooking pot and toss it with all mushrooms, chicken and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a casserole dish, approximately 9 inches by 13 inches (in my house called a ‘lasagna pan’) and pour the reserved cheese sauce over it. Cover with the remaining shredded cheese, place in oven and bake until the cheese has melted and started to turn golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley, if you like, and serve.

Not hard, not all that much measuring and delicious. Serve with a good salad and voila, there’s dinner. Pour the wine but skip measuring. These days we need all the alcohol we can get.

 

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Talk to the Animals

st-fSt. Francis is the patron saint of animals. On Sunday, October 2nd, thousands of people and animals of every type gathered at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the saint’s feast which includes the annual Blessing of the Animals.  It’s a hoot, or, more correctly, a yowl, bark, snort and whinny.

There were lots of incredibly well-behaved dogs (and a few cats) in attendance, each sporting a red carnation.  Zoe, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel sat quietly behind us; down the row a large lab wagged herself silly;  everyone smiled benignly at the occasional outbreak of barking.

During the event, I had several sneezing attacks which my friend insisted was  a coatimundi allergy.

South American Coati at Iguazu Falls

baby coatimundi

(For those not in the know, a coatimundi is a racoon-esque mammal with a ring-tale.) This particular coati  was among the more exotic animals in the procession that included a camel, cow, horse, kangaroo, goats, hawks, owls, a huge tortoise aboard a rolling dolly, a peacock, rabbits, a fox and other birds and beasts.. The highlight, though probably not for her or her handlers, was when Peggy, a white llama, lay down in the aisle next to our seats and would not be budged. Finally, when the procession traversed back up the aisle and a cow almost tripped on her, Peggy arose and agreed to depart. Clearly, she had other plans for the day.

Peggy, not even remotely interested in marching along

Peggy, not even remotely interested in marching along

 

In addition to the regular service and the animals there were dancers, puppets, music set to sounds of the tundra wolf, humpback whale, harp seal and more. Churches all over bless animals in honor of St. Francis but none does it in more style than St. John’s.

 

Since we spent the day honoring animals, it seems wrong to include a meat recipe. Herewith, something that doesn’t involve anything with a face or a mother:

veg-chili

Chunky Vegetarian Chili (courtesy Cooking Light)

 

Serves 8 (if you want less, decrease proportionately)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 16-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, juice and all

2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

Get out that can opener!

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add sugar and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Serve in mugs or bowls with a salad, bread,  taco chips or what you will.

Be sure there’s water in your pet’s bowl.  For you, a glass of wine.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Berkshires: From Melville to Mexico

Jacob's Pillow--not me onstage

Jacob’s Pillow–not me onstage

Spent a week in the Berkshires, specifically Becket, MA, home of Jacob’s Pillow.  My rented cottage was only a small step up the bunk I’d shared at camp in Maine many moons ago,  in Sherwood Forrest, an area rife with cutesy, Robin Hood-esque names (Maid Marion Drive, Will Scarlett Lane, etc.), just across the street from a pretty lake.

The location required a tad too much time behind the wheel  as every event was in a different hamlet.  One night I went to Tanglewood, something I’d never thought of as a competitive sport. It is if you picnic on the lawn and return your lawn chair to your car before going into the concert venue. Finding your car after the concert is another sport–I clocked in at one-half hour, a personal best.Tanglewood

 

In Pittsfield to collect a friend I stumbled into the very chic Hotel on North where your breakfast comes in a galvanized pail (God know why you’d want it served that way but it’s probably cute). There’s a very good bar rawbarand restaurant just off the lobby as well as Dory & Ginger (www.doryandginger.com) a wonderful gift shop packed with delightful things to take as hostess gifts (or use yourself.) Cara Carroll, one of the owners and I began to chat and she recommended dinner at the Dream Away Lodge, not too far from the rented cottage, www.thedreamawaylodge.com. Rumored to have been a brothel and speakeasy during the depression, Dream Away is a terrific restaurant complete with  outdoor fire pit and a wildflower meditation labyrinth as well as live music on many nights. Dinner was so good we returned for a second outing.

At Melville’s home, Arrowhead, we learned that “sleep tight” is a holdover from the days of rope beds– as the rope slackened, it required tightening. Didn’t look ultra-comfy regardless. Melville, who had worked onboard whaling ships,  wrote Moby Dick at Arrowhead where he became friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne to whom he dedicated the book. The Melville-Hawthorne friendship was deep but for some reason didn’t last very long.MobyDick

 

It was a great week including meals at the houses of friends in the area.

 

This is a recipe for Mexican Elote which we had as an appetizer at Dream Away  (not their official recipe.)  Make it –it will change the way you think about mayo even if you hate it. In Mexico you get the whole ear of corn; we had it as kernels cut off the cob, mixed with the other ingredients and presented with tortilla chips to dip with.

elote

Mexican Elote

This amount would serve four. For fewer, decrease amounts; for more, increase. It would work fine mid-winter with frozen corn kernels.

4 ears corn, shucked

1/4 cup melted butter (think you could skip this)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbs. chili powder

1/2 cup grated cotija cheese (or use feta)

tortilla chips if you’re going to remove kernels and serve as an h’ors doeuvre.

 

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat. (Note; grilled is better but you can get away with cooking the corn in the usual fashion–it just won’t have that charred taste).

 

Grill corn until hot and lightly charred all over, 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of the grill. Roll the ears in melted butter, then spread evenly with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with cotija cheese, then sprinkle with chili powder. (If you’re going to go the appetizer route, cut off the kernels, mix mayo and cheese, toss kernels and sprinkle chili powder on top. Serve in dish with tortilla chips. (a blast of fresh lime juice won’t hurt either.)

A round of margaritas might be in order but a cold beer, Mexican or not, would go nicely.

 

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