Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Left Over Heaven

So I had people come in last week. Several of them. Some came for a visit, some came for medicine and a visit, some just needed to know they were not alone in the universe. Then Madeleina showed up unexpectedly on Friday and hung out till Monday morning when I drove her back to school.
   Most of the people gave scant warning and I didn't know if they were coming for an hour or overnight--except for one old friend who came for a couple of nights with plenty of warning. So I did what I do: I erred on the side of precaution with food and made enough each night to cover several people. Which left me a lot of left overs. I didn't realize how many left overs I had until my oldest son, Italo, said he wanted me to cook him something great for breakfast. So I looked in the fridge. Low and behold: I had a large bowl of pasta--thin spaghetti--with a shrimp and clam white sauce. I had a nice bowl of well-seasoned taco beef I made for Chepa and the kids one night. I had lime chicken, about three pieces. Lime chicken is one of my old dishes: Take a half of a chicken breast, slice it in two and then open each one of those halves-of-halves up so that they are thin pieces of breast. Bread them in a mix of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, saute till golden brown on one side, transfer to an oven dish, put more parmesan on the chicken and squeeze the juice of a whole lime on each, then bake till glistening at 325--about 8-10 minutes. Man, that is good stuff.
   Then there were the ribs I made that no one ate. I pulled the meat from the baby back ribs and put it in a bowl. Heated up garlic and olive oil in a saute pan, tossed in a diced onion, threw in three diced Roma tomatoes, put the pulled pork into that, added a good quality spicy barbeque sauce (I was too lazy to make my own that day) and wound up with wonderful pulled pork left over. Then there was the sausage and peppers and onions I made the night before Italo wanted breakfast. Good hot Italian sausages, first stabbed then boiled (the stabbing allows the fat to escape into the water); then baked till brown, then sliced into pieces and cooked with garlic, olive oil, onions (sliced, not diced), and red and green sliced peppers. Lots of good cracked black pepper. Just like you get in Little Italy in the old days in New York City.
   So Italo had a freaking feast for breakfast. He skipped the pasta, which I eventually served the dogs, but had some of each of the rest. He went back for seconds. And while he was eating he asked why we couldn't go to a restaurant that would serve food this good that was left over. Or this good when it was first made. I told him we could if we opened another restaurant. But until then, if he wants my style cooking, well, he's got to come to my house to eat.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

This Pope is Dope!

Pope Francis has had people reeling since he arrived on U.S. soil. He’s pushed love, forgiveness, decency, and climate change awareness,. He’s discussed corporate greed and economic inequality, calling out those who ignore the poorest among us. He’s reprimanded bishops who have swept pedophilia among their priests under the rug. He’s got some people saying he’s talking like a leftie, and others accusing him of being a socialist. Good for him. He’s just talking common sense stuff.
No, he hasn’t been perfect. He has not called for women to be allowed to become priests. No, he has not said that over-population is a serious problem and it’s time that Catholics worldwide embrace birth control. And no, he’s not come out pro-choice.
But he’s been on the money most of the time, and has shown great courage in not just being a religious leader, but a political leader as well.
On Sunday, he went one better, when he visited a prison in Philadelphia and immediately decried our prison system and any other prison system like ours. After embracing a prisoner, Francis called it, “painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.”
That sentiment echoed what he told the U.S. Congress on Thursday, when he said: “just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
That’s the sort of courage every politician ought to have, but few do, and the sort of courage that great statesmen always have. Good for you, Pope Francis.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Story About Moi! in Roads and Kingdoms

I thought I'd posted this but apparently I have not. This is a story about me, of all the damned things, that a writer named Jared Johnson wrote for, a fantastic on line magazine of travel stories. Not your normal travel stories, these are interesting enough that now that I know it exists, I shoot over to once a week to see what new material they've put up. Do it, you won't be disappointed.
    But just for the ego/ego-smashing of it all, here's a link to Jared Johnson's Under the Texas Sun.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My Kid, Italo, is the Greatest!

Not to besmirch my other kids, cause they're all the greatest, but right now I'm thinking about my oldest son, Italo, and thinking that he's the greatest. The other kids are the greatest too, but this second it's Italo's turn. Why? Because he can fix anything I break. I break every freaking thing that has electricity associated with it. $900 ovens burn out in 6 months with me. $300 Microwaves burst into flames after 3 months with me. I spent 20 minutes trying to start my damned electrical push mower yesterday and it wouldn't turn over and he shows up today and it roared into action on the first pull of the toggle! Then he borrowed my Home Depot card to buy something for his mother, the beautiful Chepa, my wife/ex-wife who always seems to need to borrow my cards to get things or pay bills, and he also bought a new battery for my riding lawn mower.
    So I called him to invite him to take home some baby back ribs for dinner. He was on the way to the dentist with my granddaughter, Taylor Rain, so I told him just to stop by on the way back and pick up the ribs because they'll be ready. And he laughed and asked me what jobs needed doing at my house. And I said I wasn't going to start crying just because I loved him, and then I told him to pick up the damned ribs and a couple of baked potatoes and that was that. And he laughed again and said, "thanks, pops, see you in a while," and then I wrote this and right now I think he's the greatest ally a person could have. Just saying. And I feel the same about Marco and Madeleina and Chepa and Sierra and Alexa and Taylor Rain. But right now, it's Italo's turn. I love you, buddy. Thanks for being my kid. How lucky I got!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Raking Leaves, Eating Shrimp

So yesterday I was pulling into the Two Bucks liquor store parking lot to get two mini-bottles (airplane bottles) of James Beam and just before I entered I had the sickening revelation that before I left the parking lot--about two minutes total, including the store time--I was going to have a flat tire. And dammit, as I started to drive off, I felt the rear left thumping along. I turned around and went back into the lot and sure enough, there was the flat I knew was coming.
   The people at the store know me so it was no problem to use the phone to call Chepa to have her text Italo to come and save me. I wouldn't have needed to phone if the spare was in the car along with a jack, but there was neither. And since I just bought this car from Italo and he's so meticulous about those sorts of things, it never occurred to me to double check. [Note to self: Even though your son Italo is fantastic, check things like spare tires when you buy another car from him cause he ain't perfect.]
   Anyway, the work I was going to get done didn't get done with the loss of a couple of hours, as I wound up getting home at 7ish rather than 5ish. Which meant it was dinner time. What to make?
   I looked through the stores. Two hours twiddling my thumbs--and I was really, really glad when Italo showed up, brought me to a meeting place where his wife, Sarah, was waiting to take me home--and I was in the mood for red meat. I had none.
   So I took out some fresh (formerly frozen) shrimp, maybe 16-25s (16-to-25 to a pound), from the fridge, pulled out 11 of them, cleaned them, cut them open. In a nice sauté pan I put olive oil with garlic. When that was hot I put in the shrimp and salted and peppered them with good pink sea salt and cracked black pepper. While they sizzled, I cut and trimmed five scallions and diced one Roma tomato. When I pulled the shrimp I put the scallions and tomato into the sizzling hot pan, added a touch of a good light soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of butter (that was to replace my meat fix for available fat). Veggies cooked I pulled them, then put a huge handful of organic spinach in the pot with a bit of white vinegar to pull out any pan bits, sauteed that till just done, put that on a plate, covered it with the shrimp, then tossed on the veggies. No starch as it was too late in the evening.
   Man, that meal took all of 10 minutes but was really good. Every bite a epicurian delight. Try it. I'm not lying.
   Then today, after we got the wheel with the flat from the car at Two Bucks, brought it back to Joshua and had a new tire put on and then brought that back to Fort Worth and got the car in running shape, I stopped at the store. I was still dying for that red meat I wanted yesterday. So I bought a good full-inch-thick rib eye for tonight. But I also bought some chicken drumsticks just in case--and hoping--that Chepa and the girls would come for dinner. They did. So I quickly put on good Jasmine rice, put the dogs' food--chicken backs and necks today--in the oven, put on a large sauté pan--a rock solid pan I've used almost daily for more than 20 years as it was a wedding present back in 1994--put in vegetable oil and got that good and hot--about 8 1/2 on my hottest burner with 10 being the hottest. While that was warming up, I washed the drumsticks then dredged them in organic flour, then sauteed them till a lovely brown. When I got all 12 drumsticks done--made the whole flat because Chepa might want to bring a couple home for Marco and Sarah might want to bring a couple home to Italo--I put them in a good glass Corningware pan and put that into the oven at 350. They should be done in 20 minutes. All the flavor of fried chicken without the grease. Rice should be done at the same time. Kids can eat early. I've lost my appetite from the cooking so I can skip a meal tonight--or just have a good salad--and I can stand to lose a meal now and then.
    So life's perfect, right? I mean, one night it's shrimp, one night chicken drumsticks, one night skip food. I try to remember to thank the universe every day that in this incarnation I came here poor but middle-class poor, not poor, poor, and I came here smart and I came with a good set of parents and a great brother and four great sisters, the whole shebang. Not everybody gets that by a long shot. I know I won the Earth Being Lottery and I'm very thankful. A couple of billion of us did not win that lottery. I hope they find enough to eat. I hope I put in my fair share to help make that a reality. Because my kids eat and a lot of parents cannot say that, and it's not their fault. They just did not have the same beginnings I had. Dammit, this was a story about a busted tire and food, and now it's taken the right hand fork in the road into something else. But that's okay. Everytime we eat, and eat what we choose to eat, not what we can find, we ought to remember that someone else doesn't have that choice and that's not generally because that's their choice. That's what they were dealt. Thanks Universe. And I will try to keep remembering to share what I've got.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Braised Short Ribs

On the continuing quest for interesting things to eat while I eat alone because Madeleina's away at college--Tarleton State U--and having a blast, tonight I just put short ribs in the oven. Normally I just sear them and put them in with some sea salt and cracked black pepper with garlic and olive oil, but tonight I'm going differently because I have some lawn to cut and won't be in the house for an hour or so.
     So first thing after I bought the short ribs was to pick up a decent ($30) dutch oven. Not the best, but a pretty good one. Funny that I could not find mine. I'll bet I could if I looked in Chepa's cabinets, but I've given up on that sort of thing. It doesn't make anyone happy. Hell, last week I raided her garage, took two shovels, a good branch parer, a sledge hammer, my sythe and several other tools she's borrowed, or my sons have borrowed on her behalf, in the not too distant past and the next thing you know I'm being asked why I'm stealing all her stuff? I said, what stuff? It's all mine. She said, I'm still your wife. Everything you own is mine, so it's my stuff and you're stealing it, trying to make me look like a poor lady.
   So I'm not looking for missing pots, bowls, cups, silverware. Because she's right, in a crazy way: She owns me till I'm dead, and I work more than her, and if she needs stuff she takes it and if I need that stuff again I should go buy it.
   So I did.
   Home, I heated up my fantastic large saute pan, put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into it, floured the short ribs, then browned them on all sides with good salt and pepper. Then I took out the ribs, added a diced onion, five sliced scallions, lots of garlic in not-so-much olive oil, and when that was all done, tossed in two over-ripe diced tomatoes.
   When that was all scalding and smelling like dinner, I poured in two glasses of decent cabernet sauvignon and scraped all the pan material, then added two cups of organic vegetable broth and let that boil and let the flavors marry for a few minutes.
   Then I put a touch of olive oil in the new dutch oven, put in the meat, and covered it all with the wine and veggies. Then I tossed in some organic baby carrots, two diced organic celery stalks, a couple of rosemary stems I had in my freezer, added a bit more pepper, covered that baby, and put her in the oven at 315 degrees. I won't even look at her for two hours--now one hour and 30 minutes. And when I do, I'll be looking at a few bites of the ripest meat in the world. I know it's horrible to eat meat, but short ribs, done right, are something else. And I swear I'll let the cows eat me when I'm dying. Or kill me and eat me. Promise.
   So I'm gonna have that with a nice salad, as usual, and broccoli and cauliflower florets, par-boiled then seared in olive oil with garlic--the olive oil drained before serving. No rice, no potato, no bread, no starch. Meal's rich enough without that. (Besides, I had that last night when I made myself a nice hot Virginia ham and baby Swiss cheese sandwich on super fresh French bread.)
   I hope all of you have a few minutes to plan and execute a fantastic meal for yourselves tonight and every night. Try to make the time. It beats fast food and doesn't cost much more. And if anybody's hungry, come on over, I'm sure there is enough to share.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Yes, I'm a taco virgin...

Ridiculous as this might be, considering I was a chef for a long time in Manhattan, then had my own restaurant in Peru, and have fed my family daily--with help from my wife/ex-wife Chepa--since 1994, I don't think I've ever made or eaten a taco. So somehow I woke up with the idea of making tacos today. I'm not gonna look up recipes, I'm just gonna do it based on what I've seen in ads and how Mexican meat is frequently seasoned.
I bought some crunchy shells, number one.
I just par seared about 1 1/2 pounds of good quality chuck meat. It's draining. I'm about to dice a fat red onion and maybe five organic scallions, a nice red Bell pepper, and three or four good organic Roma tomatoes, also diced. I'm gonna put a couple of good tablespoons of my fresh garlic in olive oil in the pan in which the meat was seared, then add the onion and scallions and pepper till everything is see-through. Then I'll toss in the tomatoes. Then I'll toss in the meat. When it gets hot I'm planning on putting in some pink sea salt, cracked black pepper, a little chile powder, some good cumin, a couple of ounces of white vinegar, a spoon of red pepper flakes, and, if need be, a couple of spoons of Peruvian tomato paste.
When it simmers and the flavors marry, I'll check it. When it's good, I'll probably put in a couple of slices of really good, sharp cheddar, and when that's disappeared into the pan, I'll top with a head of minced fresh cilantro.
I'll put that into the Taco shells I bought, top with shredded romaine and raddicchio, a slice of avocado, minced cheddar cheese and a smash of some Taco sauce I bought.
I hope that's something like a taco. I could probably check the internet but I don't want to be disappointed and have to change my plan if I'm wrong.
Sixty-four and having my first--I think--taco. I hope it won't kill me.

PS: Turned out pretty good. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Vampires at Kim Davis' Neck

Born again Kim Davis is probably in over her head, and certainly in it up to her neck. The Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for several days for contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone since the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex marriages were legal throughout the country, has become a star/darling of the radical Christian Right. At her release-from-jail fest (it was originally a protest until U.S. District Judge David Bunning surprised the crowd gathered in front of the local jail and released her) both Mike Huckabee and Texas’ own, Ted Cruz were there to greet her. Huckabee pulled a fast one and blocked Cruz from air time, which was classic but is off point here.
   What’s on point is that Davis probably does not realize that the vampires are already at her neck and by the time they’re through with her, there might not be much left. An email was sent out by the American Family Association yesterday in support of not only Davis but a call to arms for “states to make accommodations for all Christians like Kim Davis.” The AFA didn’t specifically ask for money, but did point toward where a person might be able to reach the non-profit. The fundamentalist group was labeled a hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010 for demonizing false propaganda against LGBT people.
   Davis’ legal team belong to another group labeled a hate-group by the SPLC. The Liberty Counsel, which claims its work is devoted to First Amendment rights focused on religious liberty, like Huckabee, Cruz, and the AFA are all hoping that Davis’ situation brings in the big bucks. And it probably will. But to keep Davis in the spotlight long enough for that to happen, Davis will probably need to get jailed again–which will probably happen if she defies the court’s order not to interfere with any of her Rowan County assistant clerks handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis might feel like a vindicated star, but she will be played like a fiddle by the professional leeches surrounding her if she doesn’t watch her step. She’s in the water with sharks and someone needs to tell her that she’s the meal. And then someone ought to school her on what the separation of church and state means when it comes to doing her job.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What the heck am I to eat??????

With Madeleina away at university all week--and for three weeks at the moment--I'm sort of alone except on nights when Chepa asks for a fast barbeque or Italo and Sarah say they're coming over, or when friends come over on the weekend. And when I'm alone, I don't like to cook a lot. I almost resent having to cook the dogs their chicken legs and backs, much less want to bother with anything for me. So yesterday I bought two sushi rolls and that was dinner, along with a seaweed salad. Tonight I'm making duck breast. I'll score the fat, sear it in a touch of olive oil, add minced garlic and olive oil to the pink sea-salted/crack black-peppered breasts and put them in a low oven, maybe 320 degrees for 8 minutes or so. Then I'll pull them, turn the oven to 400 and when it's ready, put those babies back in for three minutes to crisp the skin. Then I'll pull them again and set them aside.
    While they're cooking, I'll toss diced red onion, sliced mushrooms, minced organic scallions into the pan juices. When the onions begin to clear, I'm tossing in a small handful of organic raspberries and I'll stir things up so that they sort of melt into the mix. I'll finish it off with a good shot of nice balsamic vinegar. Then I'll put that sauce aside and put a huge handful of spinach into the remains of the pan sauce and reduce that. Put that on a plate as a bed, slice the duck breasts--two of them don't weigh 11 ounces before cooking--and pour the raspberry glaze on them and the spinach.
   I'll have that with a nice salad of radicchio and romaine with a touch of bleu cheese, organic cherub tomatoes and my shallot vinagrette (thank you again, Christie!).
   And that is it. Gonna take 15 minutes top to bottom, maybe 20 by the time I'm actually served and the saute' pan has been washed (always wash as I go). And it is gonna be good.
   Then tomorrow I'll worry about that 10 ounces of swordfish I picked up today...
   So what the heck am I gonna eat if I'm alone? The very best quick stuff I can think of.

Oh, and now that my book Ayahuasca in My Blood has been published in Italy, a second Italian publisher, the name of which I forget this minute but I looked them up and they're legit--asked for the Italian rights to Sapo in My Soul. Cool, I think, right? Pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Last Minute Barbeque

So the heat finally broke here in Joshua, Texas, dropping down from over 100 daily to about 85 today with some rain and continually overcast skies. Chepa surprised me this morning with a call to say that one of her mother's sister's boys was in town and I should make a barbeque. But I have someone coming who needs some frog sweat medicine, so that meant, after I wrote a short piece for the Fort Worth Weekly, that I had to race to the store. I got 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp, eight chicken thighs, and a rack of baby back ribs.
   Race home. Person coming is a little late. Put the dogs' chicken legs in the oven, wash dishes, clean kitchen, vaccuum, cut thighs and put them in the oven to partially cook them so that the barbeque will be just 15 minutes and they will still be juicy.
   Cut two heads of garlic and a large onion. Put in bowl. Add oil, vinegar, other secret liquids and spices and have marinade for everything ready.
   Skin the shrimp, put in bowl.
   Cook potatoes and eggs for potato and egg salad.
   Cut broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and yellow squash for later use. Put in pot of cool water. Don't cook till later.
   When the time is right, I'll take out the chicken thighs and put in marinade. Wash glass Corning Ware pan and put a little olive oil and garlic and pepper on the ribs, then put them in the oven, slow cook.
   When the chicken goes out to the grill later--which will be manned by Chepa--I'll toss the shrimp and by then cooked veggies into the marinade. When chicken is near done, I'll finish potato and egg salad, skewer shrimp and remove them and veggies from marinade for Chepa to grill, then I'll turn up heat on ribs to brown after I drizzle some tangy barbeque sauce on them.
   Somewhere in there I'll make good basmati rice.
It's touch and go, especially since I'll have someone puking from the frog sweat medicine during the main events, but should wind up just about perfect.
   I love a challenge. Gets my blood going.
   And if you're in the neighborhood, come on over. I'm sure there will be enough for everybody.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Dinner for One, Please

So my beautiful Madeleina went off to college on the 12th of August, or the 13th. She didn't go far, just too far to commute at about 60 miles. So I was going to be alone. But my friend Hector came into town and stayed till Monday afternoon, maybe 17 days. During that time he completely redid my web page/pages. So it's all good. And while he was here, some other people came as well, so I was never alone at dinner and actually had to make good meals daily, plus a few breakfasts. And when Madeleina came home for a night or two on the weekend, well, I cooked normally, which means I cooked for maybe 6-8 people a night, knowing that Chepa and the babies might show up, or Italo and Sarah and Taylor Rain, or friends or whatnot. And if nobody ate the food, they might stop by the next day and have some for lunch. Last resort? It went into the dogs' bowls.
     But Hector left Monday, and so I've had three nights of being alone. The first night I cheated: I bought some sushi--just a couple of rolls--and a great seaweed salad and that was dinner. Last night I treated myself to a ribeye, sauteed screaming hot so that it would be a sort of black and red, topped with a bit of good quality crumbled bleu cheese and served with a nice romaine salad--with organic cherub tomatoes and a good balsamic vinagrette (thank you again, Christie E), and spinach with garlic. No need for starch with all that meat.
    Today I wasn't sure, but finally settled on the hidden guinea--New York Italian, all respect--part of me, even though I'm Irish. I bought 12 ounces of the hottest sausages I could find. They're in a pot of water now, stabbed with a sharp knive several times to allow the excess fat to be eliminated. Then I got one large organic red bell pepper and two organic greens. They are cleaned and cut lengthwise. I have a beautiful sweet purple onion, chopped garlic in olive oil and three nice Roma tomatoes.
    When the fat is rendered from the sausage, I'll drain them, then cut them into circles, put them in a very hot saute pan with olive oil and garlic and brown them. Then I'll add the onions, peppers, and finally the tomatoes, cut into thin wedges, lengthwise. Stir, add some pepper, and voila: You got Mike the Hat's recipe for Sausage and Peppers. Now Mike would have put all that on Italian bread, but considering I'm feeling fat, I'll put mine on a bed of sauteed spinach and eat it with a nice salad. I'll have a glas of wine: I'm drinking a Cabernet blend called Rare Red Grape 4 Blend, from California which is out of this world for $8 bucks.
   Then I'll turn on a movie. One I like because no one is arguing with me or having better suggestions. Last night I watched Fletch, with Chevy Chase as the off-beat detective Fletcher. Tonight? Who knows. Maybe an Ingmar Bergman.
   But that's living alone: You have to decide on your food, make your food, serve yourself, clean up and nobody says thanks. I mean, I say thanks to the universe that I can afford to eat. Thanks that I have choices and breath and a few teeth to chew with, but nobody is saying "Gorman, this was freaking incredible" unless me looking into a mirror counts.
   I hope you all eat well tonight. Prepare your food with focus, cook it well, enjoy it, let it make you strong.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Christians and that Damned Non-Christian Old Testament

Okay, so I'm not gonna go completely nuts here, but on Facebook the other day, some blooming nut was talking about homosexuality and claiming that "the Lord" whom he followed as a Christian, had spoken about it, condemning it. Backing up his argument he quoted from Leviticus in the Old Testament. Sort of sent the hair on the back of my head curling and I had to respond. This was my very simple point:
I'm always surprised when people who call themselves Christians drag out the Old Testament, which is not in any way Christian. It ends when Christ was born--assuming that happened and so forth. And Christ, as we are told through the various gospels--stories--written about him over the years, never said anything about homosexuality. He did discuss and condemn greed and hatred, among other things, preached forgiveness, acceptance, and love, among other things, but never discussed homosexuality or said anything about abortion or prostitution or any of the other things that so many people who call themselves Christians appear to condemn. For those perspectives they have to cherry-pick that old testament, which, again, has nothing to do with Christianity or Christ. Just pointing out the obvious, I know.