Author Archives for theRaggedys

Three Cities

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Cleveland looks pretty amazing to me.

“America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

Tennessee Williams, who died in 1981, may (or may not) have made that remark.  And though you might be puzzled, amused, or annoyed by his choices, it has the possibility of stimulating some fun conversation (perhaps around a dinner table!).  Should Chicago have been included?  If Williams were alive today, would he still include SF?  Should Dallas replace Cleveland?  What’s your favorite up and coming city – Portland (could be Oregon or could be Maine)? Denver?  Where does L.A. fit into all of this?

When you think of New York, do you automatically include Brooklyn?  We had a lively conversation about Brooklyn as part of New York City during our visit last week to our Brooklyn kiddos.  Those boroughs of “New York City” could not be more different.  Clearly, Manhattan is filled with amazing attractions; our dinner conversation won’t need to go there.  But what a trip Brooklyn is – food-wise, culture-wise, people-wise, gritty-wise, real-wise.  I’m meeting up with my Fort Collins Besties there in October and couldn’t be more excited.

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I don’t think there is any other place in the U.S. where you hear so many languages and encounter so many ethnicities on one long walk: Irish (hi, Miriam!), African-American, Caribbean, Italian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian.

It’s tricky touring around Brooklyn; after all, it has about 1 million more people than Manhattan and area-wise is 70 square miles compared to Manhattan’s 23 square miles.  But you can take it neighborhood by neighborhood: Crown Heights/Prospect Heights for the Brooklyn Museum and for the Botanical Gardens and Prospect Park; Park Slope for beautiful brownstones; Fort Greene for BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music), Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge OverPass) for food, shopping, art, and an amazing view over the East River to Manhattan.

And the food!  Brooklyn has over 90 restaurants in the Michelin Guide, and they include almost every imaginable cuisine – from Mexican/Oaxacan (Claro) near the infamous Gowanus Canal – to Jewish/Japanese (Shalom Japan) in hipster Williamsburg.  We heartily recommend Hunky Dory (Claire, the charming young owner, a native of Houston, came to Brooklyn via San Francisco) and Glady’s (Caribbean) – both just around the corner from our kids’ Crown Height’s condo, the lauded Roberta’s (delish pizza) in Bushwick,  Frankies 457 (Italian) in Carroll Gardens, and Dumbo for the new Time Out Market with fun spots such as Jacob’s Pickles (Southern) followed by a great cup of coffee at the Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Which reminds me, Andy is still focused on coffee.  After being a coffee wallah on his bicycling trip, he’s now reflecting – in today’s Andy’s Corner  – upon our daughter Sara’s foray into the coffee culture.

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I agree with this review: “These recipes range from fantastic to not very good to overly simplistic.”

In 1992 Molly O’Neill – probably known best as a food columnist for the NYTimes – published the New York Cookbook.  I got the book back out after reading that O’Neill  recently passed away.  Even if the recipes in her book are a little random and may not delight everyone’s palate (eel handrolls? callaloo? dill kalv?), the cookbook is filled to the brim with fascinating snippets about New Yorkers (including Brooklynites!) and their food.  Plus, that’s where we got Katherine Hepburn’s brownie recipe, which is one of our all-time favorites.

Even though I’m not crazy about okra when it’s used in the Caribbean callaloo recipe in O’Neill’s cookbook, I really love okra cooked other ways and think it’s a shame that more folks aren’t willing to give it a try.  So here’s another Caribbean okra recipe; it’s easy; it’s delicious.  And frying the okra takes all that disliked sliminess away.  Now if someone could just explain to me why it’s called “Limpin’ Susan!”  The story goes that it’s an alternative to “Hoppin’ John,” a peas and rice dish.  Mmmmmm.  Why isn’t it Hoppin’ Susan and Limp John? 🙂

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Limpin’ Susan – Fried Okra and Rice

Limpin' Susan

This is really two recipes in one.  My absolute favorite way to do okra is to just slice it and fry it over medium high heat.  Don’t bother to bread it…way too much work.  Then serve it as an appetizer or side dish.  In that case, you just need the oil and the okra (and some salt and pepper) and complete step #1 (well, a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning is always appreciated).  But if you want something more substantial, continue on with the onions, seasonings, rice, etc.  Recipe adapted from Kim Severson and the NYTimes

  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 2 c sliced fresh okra (1/2 pound), about 1/2-inch thick
  • 1/2 c finely chopped onions
  • 2 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger 
  • 1/4 to 1 fresh hot pepper, such as habanero, minced and added to taste
  • 1/2  – 1 tsp  salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • a handful of peeled chopped, uncooked shrimp can be included when the onions and seasonings are added (optional)
  • 2-3 cups cooked long-grain rice; leftover rice is perfect
  1. Pour oil into an 8-inch skillet, adding more, if needed, to make sure it coats the entire bottom of the pan. Heat over medium to medium-high heat and add the okra.  Sprinkle with some salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until okra is nicely browned and tender, about 4-6 minutes (you can stop at this point and serve the fried okra as a fabulous appetizer; be sure to serve it sizzling hot; OR you can go on to step #2).
  2. Add everything else but the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Increase heat to high and add rice, stirring gently but constantly for about 2 minutes. If you want the rice to brown. like fried rice, you can cook the mixture longer. Taste frequently, and add more seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Franzisca Tönnies Heberle

This blog – and my recent “girls” dinner party – came about because of Franzi.

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Franzi and her husband, Rudolf Heberle, at our house in Baton Rouge in 1984.

Andy and I knew Franzi – whom everyone addressed only as “Mrs. Heberle” – (pronounced with 3 syllables Hay-Bur-Lee) – and her husband, Rudolf, from our years in Baton Rouge, where both Andy and Rudolf were part of LSU’s Sociology Department.  Franzi and Rudolf arrived in the U.S. in the late 1930’s, leaving Germany as the Nazis solidified their power.

Though we were part of some lovely get-togethers at the Heberle home over the years, it’s my Baton Rouge friend Katie who really gave me insight into Franzi when she reminded me of the talk she delivered at Franzi’s memorial service in 1997.

I loved, admired and respected her, regarding her almost as an additional parent but without the usual baggage between mothers and daughters.

Katie continues – with a hilarious aside – “…their front porch was…the scene of many wonderful parties and afternoon teas.  Rudolf and Franzi were gracious hosts, the company was always varied and the conversation was stimulating and exciting.  The atmosphere was enhanced by the presence on the porch of a life-sized statue of a nude woman, a loan from a friend, I believe.  In my home village, a nude statue would have been questionable anywhere; on the front porch it would have been unthinkable if not illegal.  I knew I was on the fast lane and I liked it.”

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I can’t compete with Franzi.  This is the best nude piece we have – and it’s 8″ – not life-sized.

Though Katie was 30 years younger than Franzi, Katie remarked that “just knowing Franzi would have been a rare privilege; to have had her as an intimate friend for almost fifty years has been an unequaled blessing.”  

It’s ironic that Franzi’s father, the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, is famous for his writings on Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.  Gemeinschaft, after all, is the study of community – the feeling of togetherness.

And when I think about Franzi and Katie – and about Katie and myself, I think about the value of friendships among women – and of having a community of women friends – of all ages.

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Franzi’s father, Ferdinand Tönnies

Just this morning, Katie, who is now 89, and I spoke on the phone for about an hour, as we do several times a month.  We could have easily chatted another hour – about children and grandchildren, about Trump, Brexit, about cooking, about our parents and husbands and brothers, about the weird weather.  And we talked about Franzi.

It was because of Franzi and because of Katie that I decided to have an “Intergenerational Women’s Dinner Party” at our house, dedicated to them both  – and to gemeinschaft.  I think all of our women readers should do the same!  I’ll give you hints.

The dinner party was a piece of cake to plan (please note all of the cake recipes included in our blogs :), because I had my younger friend Sona – who also happens to be a best friend of our daughter – to call upon.  Sona rounded up a cadre of Sonoma friends ranging in age from 50-something on down (I know you’re laughing and asking how that qualifies as young, but when you’re 75, it is!), I invited three over 70’s – and the party was on.

Because Andy, my dishwasher and general clean-up person, was off on his weeklong bicycling adventure (see today’s Andy’s Corner), I decided I had to carefully plan everything, so that I didn’t get in a twit on the day of the dinner.  I could have served a much simpler dinner but I had lots of free time that week – and truly enjoyed my creative time in the kitchen.

The menu?

The hummus and carrots were prepared 3 days before the dinner, the cheesecake 2 days before the dinner, and the burgers 1 day before the dinner (re-warming them just before serving).  The only thing left to do on dinner day was prepare the spinach salad (I bought pre-washed organic baby spinach) and set the table.  I could also have set aside the day just ahead of the dinner to prepare everything, rather than spreading the prep out.  Or I could have taken an entirely different approach and assigned everyone a recipe to prepare.  I think that actually contributes to the feeling of “we’re all in this together.”

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Roses from Lynne for our dinner

The highlight of the evening?  Lynne, who brought this rose bouquet from her garden, made the follow remarks for the occasion:

I always think of my Mother when I arrange roses.  Their beauty and fragrance are quite simply, her.  So I decided to bring a bouquet of roses along so that she could join us, in spirit, for an Intergenerational Women’s Dinner. Like our group, whose ages spanned four decades, the vase held roses that were in various stages of splendor.  Some were large and just past full bloom, their color mellowing to a soft yellow.  Others were bold in shape and rich with red and rose and yellow.  Others were tight buds, still emerging.  Each is a singular beauty, together, a bouquet representing the spirit of all things female and nurturing and loving. 

A perfect conclusion to a lovely evening with this community of women.

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The First Ever – and not the last – Intergenerational Women’s Dinner

Much love to my guests!  Left to right: seated – Connie, me (Ann), Pat, Katherine, Barbara; standing in back –  Lynne, Sona, and Nina

Lagniappe: Red Beans and Rice

 

We recently entertained some friends who live in Madrid, Spain; guess what I served them…wanting to reflect our Louisiana past: Basic Red Beans and Rice.  What surprised me was their comment that Spain encourages everyone to eat beans at least once a week – for good health, so my bean dish was nothing particularly innovative to them.  But they did like it!

There are lots of things you can do to enhance this red bean recipe, but with this meal I was looking for really simple and basic, feeding off our blog on “Two Bucks, Chuck, and my Bro,” and trying to keep things in the kitchen as easy as possible.

Here’s a great old blues music video with Kokomo Arnold to watch while you eat your red beans – even if it’s about leaving Chicago and going back to Georgia – and not Louisiana.  The Great Migration in reverse.

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Basic Red Beans and Rice

  • Servings: 1 16-oz pkg of beans will make about 6 cups of cooked beans
  • Print

This is a quick and easy version of red beans and rice, but it works.  A more authentic recipe would call for a ham bone or ham hocks cooked with the beans.  Omit the ham, use vegetable broth and it’s vegetarian!

  • 1 16-oz pkg red kidney beans (Camellia brand makes it very authentic)
  • 4 c chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2-3 c water
  • 1 T Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (you NEED this to be included amongst your spices!)
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c chopped ham (I use Niman Ranch Uncured Canadian Bacon) (may be omitted if going vegetarian)
  • cooked rice to serve with the beans

Rinse the red beans and place them in a medium pan; cover with about 2″ of water; bring to a boil and, keeping the water between a simmer and a hard boil, cook for 10-15 minutes, thereby eliminating any danger of toxins.  Drain.

Now put the beans in a slow cooker – or in a medium pot on the stove.  I prefer the slow cooker because it’s so easy.  Add the beans and all the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker; add just enough water to cover the beans by about 2″. Turn the slow cooker to high, cover, and let cook until the beans are almost mushy; if the beans appear too dry while they cook, add more water.  Mine took about 3 1/2 hours to become tender.

If using the stove, add the beans and the remaining ingredients to a medium pot; add just enough water to cover the beans by about 2″.  Bring it all to a boil, turn it down until it’s barely simmering, and cook, uncovered, until the beans are almost mushy.  If the beans appear to be too dry while they cook, add more water.

Serve over a bed of rice.  Put some Tabasco on the table in case anyone wants more spice.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Two Bucks, Chuck, and my Bro

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Trader Joe’s Organic Charles Shaw wines are no longer two bucks.  Try $4.  Still crazy cheap (at least compared to Sonoma wines).

Now that we’ve celebrated our two years of blogging, it seems appropriate to return to our roots – even if it’s just for a few blogs.  Our blog is/was rooted in the idea that small, simple dishes should make up the bulk of our cooking repertoire.  Who has time, no matter what one’s age, to spend hours in the kitchen – unless, of course, it’s a fun hobby?

Cooking when you really don’t like to cook – or don’t know how to cook – or are cooking for just one – isn’t fun.  We admit that.  Our two Buck friends – T Buck and Buck H – and our friend Chuck and my bro, AV, would clearly agree.  Also, our bestie Danielle – who is in the midst of a move from Boulder to L.A. and to new digs and a new job – just asked me how a non-cook feeds her family of four during this high stress time.

We’re on top of this.  Andy suggests you get all philosophical about cooking and recommends his simple and delicious breakfast in Andy’s Corner;  meanwhile, I’ve gone back to the dinner basics.

For your main course: think Basic Home-Cooked Beans, Basic Roast Chicken, Basic Pork Tenderloin.  The point in all of this is to have one delicious and simple Basic meal and then several easy-and-quick-to-fix meals using the leftovers from your Basic recipe.

Be sure you have these seasonings: Za’atar (Middle East), Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning (Louisiana), Italian Seasoning (mmmm, let me think about where that’s from :), garam masala (India), five-spice powder (China).  And make a note whether your seasoning has salt added to it (Tony’s definitely does and Za’atar often does) because you’ll want to cut back on the additional salt when you use it.

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Basic spices for around-the-world seasoning

When you’re ready to eat, add some greens to your plate – if you don’t eat greens at home because you hate to wash them – just buy triple-washed greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc) in the market, but be sure they’re organic.  This easy Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing is good to have on hand.

As for veggies – it doesn’t get better than roasted asparagus, roasted carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, and/or roasted broccoli.  Cut everything (except the asparagus) into chunks so they roast quickly.   Put them in a 425 degree oven tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast around 25-30 minutes. If you don’t want to heat up the oven, steam them.  A miso dressing would be a delicious addition.

And make rice once a week.  Lots.  Enough to warm up and use again several times.  We were reminded just the other day how much we love this relatively-easy, vegetarian, leftover rice recipe – Breakfast Lunch and Dinner Fried Rice.

Finally, scramble some eggs for a quick and nutritious weeknight meal.  These 3 simple little recipes we call The Egg and I are my go-to’s.

New for today we’ve got the 3 basic Basic Recipes – for beans, chicken, and pork, as well as some quick and simple recipes to use up those home-cooked (or maybe canned) beans.   In the next few blogs we’ll have suggestions for using your leftover chicken and leftover pork. Continue reading

End of the Line

Ha!  I’ll bet you thought we were announcing the end of our blog – now that we’ve succeeded at blogging for two years.  No way, José!

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Emily the engine from Thomas & Friends “can be fussy and compulsive at times.”  Mmmmm.  I’ll bet Sir Topham Hatt can be fussy and compulsive too.

Andy has been heavily into Thomas the Tank Engine research for today’s Andy’s Corner, so it’s obvious as to why I’ve been watching the video of  “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys – rather compulsively, I admit (an aside: as I’ve mentioned before – how did we ever live without Sonos and Spotify and YouTube? I can spend hours making playlists, listening to 50 different versions of the same song and watching old music videos – all the time marveling at what amazing things technology has done to make our lives more fun, even while acknowledging the dark side to some of those same technologies.).

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Upon hearing my current song obsession, our son got a little concerned that I was….what should I say…maybe dwelling on THE end too much?  In fact, I’m thinking about beginnings.  Isn’t the end of a train track also the beginning of the track?  And I was also thinking about how much I’d love to be going to the end of the line in that train car with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty as my mates!  That YouTube video is a must-watch; I’ve probably already watched it 50 times :).  Now I just need to get a guitar and begin my guitar lessons.

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I never took a course in philosophy and am sure I couldn’t have passed it if I had.  My eyes glaze over and a fake snore comes out whenever Andy the Sociologist mentions anything remotely philosophical.  But I do like to think of an ending as just the beginning of something else.  That’s the reason we were going to name our gardening business ReBloom.com – that is, until someone offered to buy that domain name from us and we happily switched to MiniBlooms.com!  And that’s why I avoid planting annuals but love perennials.

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Pretty perennials in our yard: ‘Berry Smoothie’ heuchera, backed by a geum ‘Fire Storm’ and a stipa arundinacea (grass).

Our grandson Silas is graduating from San Francisco’s Mission High School in a few weeks and will be starting Berkeley (Cal to those of you who grew up in the Bay area) in August.  An ending. A beginning.

“You only grow by coming to the end of something and by beginning something else.”
― John Irving, The World According to Garp.

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Mission High School in San Francisco

Here’s Silas’s favorite dish that I’ve fixed for him over the years.  Maybe he’ll begin fixing it for himself and his UCB mates next year.

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Butter Chicken – for Silas

Indian Butter Chicken

 

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Sauté onion until soft and translucent. Stir in butter, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, 1 teaspoon garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in half-and-half and yogurt. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat, and season with 1 teaspoon garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced, and chicken is no longer pink. Stir cooked chicken into sauce.  Simmer for about 5 minutes longer.  

Serve over rice.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

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