Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Down South

Here's hoping that all your loved ones in New Orleans and Mississippi are safe and sound. If you've ever wanted to make a donation to the Red Cross, or donate blood, now might be a very good time to do it. I've only been lucky enough to go to New Orleans once, on a much-too-brief business trip, but it's a place that lives in the imaginations of writers, dreamers and cooks everywhere. Here, a reprint and a recipe, originally written when a sudden spate of warm spring weather got everyone thinking sultry thoughts of Spanish moss and wrought-iron balconies, tarot card readings in Jackson Square and beignets and coffee at 3 am.

This is one of the best ways I know to eat shrimp, marinated and smothered in a fiery, sweet-spicy sauce that begs to be sopped up with a big loaf of hot French bread. My mother, who got this recipe from a little spiral-bound cookbook bought in New Orleans, used to make it with unpeeled shrimp, thinking (rightly) that the shells added additional flavor to the sauce. However, this meant each person had to peel his or her boiling-hot, immersed-in-sauce shrimp one by one at the table, which was a wildly sloppy (and finger-burning) business. Thus I would recommend peeling your shrimp at the beginning, unless you really want to end up with sauce up to your elbows. Even with the shrimp already peeled, this is a dish that will get you good and messy, what with tearing off hunks of bread to swipe through the sauce and the inevitable orange spatters on the tablecloth.

Now, I know this isn't what a real New Orleans resident would know as barbecued shrimp. I've had locals make me real bbq shrimp, and it's nothing like this. Instead, it's shrimp cooked in a whole lot of incredibly delicious, garlicky-spicy butter, and eating it, like eating snails, is a reason to kiss the ground and thank god for butter. This is different--not authentic, but good.

For dessert, peach pie, figs roasted until just plump and bursting, or a last box of tiny Tristar strawberries. Nip the hulls off, then toss the fruit with a little sugar and an almond-fragrant splash of amaretto, and let them stand for a few minutes while you clear the dinner plates. The sugar will dissolve into the berry juice, surrounding the berries with a puddle of brilliant red liquid that tastes like the essence of strawberry jam. Plain heavy cream, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream would be good on top, or you can just enjoy them straight up, flush with the flavor of warmer seasons to come. Or you can save a final box of berries until all the guests save one have packed up their mandolins and harmonicas and gone home. Run a bath, light some candles, sprinkle in rose petals and eucalyptus bath salts, and serve that lucky person a bowl of chocolate pudding for two sprinkled with almonds and topped with strawberries. Sit on the edge of the tub, sink your feet in the scented water, and eat your chocolatey strawberries. Seek, kiss, eat, breathe.

Barbecued shrimp, New Orleans style

1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce, such as Heinz's
2 lemons, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbs butter
2 tsp each oregano, paprika, and cayenne pepper
3 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
2 lb raw shrimp, peeled but tails left on
2 Tbs chopped parsley
Sweet baguettes, warmed

Mix all sauce ingredients in a deep saucepan. Over low heat, warm until the butter is melted and the mixture is just beginning to simmer. Let cool, then pour over peeled shrimp in a deep bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Pour back in a wide saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring, until shrimp are just pink and opaque. Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve in wide bowls with bread on the side.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

tomato wonderland

Today it was all about the tomatoes. Went over to J.'s house down the street for an impromptu dinner...when I arrived, A. was dusting three big butterflied trout with flour mixed with a little tarragon and some of Eatwell Farms' excellent lavender salt. I brought out my bag of squishy-ripe tomatoes from all over--two from last weekend's trip to the farmstands of Rt. 14, red as a happy heart, a rainbow of golden-red marvel striped from the CSA box, brandywines, black prince, and green zebra from the Tuesday farmers market at Borough Hall. And, of course, a dainty handful of grape tomatoes from my very own fire-escape plant. Too ripe to slice, they all got chunked up in a big yellow bowl and sprinkled with lavender salt, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and lots and lots of purple basil (from the new garden plot!) and green basil from the CSA. It was summer on a plate, and I was humble and full of gratitude every time I came across one of my resilent but sweet little home-grown babies.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Summer Sweet

Coming home with the aforementioned local cantaloupe, I had a sudden craving for this salad as I walked down the hot pavement of Court Street on my way to water the garden (and pluck a little harvest of purple basil and lemon balm). I have to admit, I've never made it at home--yet!--but here is the recipe, begged from the chef, plus some other late-August musings.

Late summer, bountiful time, and I'm been dreaming about ravishingly multihued tomatoes, swinging from suave to acid and back again. Intensely perfumed melons, deep orange and yellow, begging for lime. The swift crunch of a knife going through the green skin of the coldest, ruby-hearted watermelon. A watermelon (sandia) agua fresca at La Taqueria at 25th and Mission (in San Francisco), pulling the sandy bits of melon up through a straw in between bites of a veggie taco with extra tomatillo sauce and a hefty slather of avocado. Melons are the true beauties of late summer, holding all the season's musky heat in their sunset-colored, dripping flesh.

Everyone goes on and on about the beauty of figs (even me--see below to "Figs Are Sexy"), their sexy plumpness, their sticky, seed-crunched pulp. And yes, they're nice. But there's no tang to a fig, no snap of acid to pique your appetite. It's the same with white peaches: delectable, but not piquant. And in summer, piquant is what you need, something that rolls like a breeze over your tongue. Ceviche, gazpacho, lemonade, the tangy brine of seafood. I'm still charmed by a salad I had at the now-closed Chickenbone Cafe, on a hot July night during one of my first weeks in Williamsburg. The chef, Zak Pelaccio, who'd trained at the French Laundry (and now runs the kitchen at 5 Ninth), built a crisscross stack of watermelon batons topped with whorls of grilled squid. Interspersed were frilled shreds of mint and cilantro, salty bits of feta, and down at the bottom, tiny, tiny sweet-sour cubes of pickled watermelon rind. It was delicious, and also witty: watermelon two ways, both of them unexpected.

Melon – watermelon especially – goes better with salt and savory than you might expect. With something salty, and something hot, and something savory (what the flavor experts call umami, the Japanese term for the sort of savoriness you find in soy sauce or Parmesan cheese), you can fill out almost the whole flavor pantheon in one dish. And the heat doesn't have to come from pepper: the bite of a red onion will work, in a Greek-style salad of watermelon, onion, and feta drizzled with olive oil and showered with mint. Or the classic, unbeatable combination of ripe cantaloupe and sheer slices of prosciutto. Grilled or boiled shrimp on skewers with cubes of pale green honeydew, dunked in lime juice and sprinkled with red pepper.

But my favorite melon salad ever comes from a dish I've had – and had again, whenever I could – at Ponzu in SF. Asian fusion is a tricky genre; go too authentic and you'll leave your clientele wondering why they didn't just keep walking up Eddy Street for the same thing at a Formica table for half the price; go too Western and you miss the point. At Ponzu, though, the Bangkok melon salad (originated by former executive chef John Beardsley, now at Le Colonial) is something I'd eat all summer long. At a dinner with a friend a couple of years ago, we ordered one as an appetizer, and then, at the end of the meal, another one as dessert: full circle, as round as a melon, and both times we ate the whole thing.

Bangkok Melon Salad

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped

2 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (or grated zest of 1 lime)

1/2 cup each lemon juice, lime juice, and Vietnamese fish sauce

1 fresh red chile, minced

1 lb each cantaloupe and honeydew, peeled and cubed

1/2 a small watermelon, peeled and diced

1/2 bunch Thai basil leaves

grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup toasted, chopped peanuts

Combine water, sugar, ginger, lemongrass, and lime leaves or zest in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding solids. Add juices, fish sauce, and chile and chill. Toss cubed melons with basil leaves and lemon zest. Add dressing to taste*. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts just before serving. You could also add mint and cilantro just before serving, too.

*This recipe sounds like it will make a whole lot of dressing. Not that this should be a problem--it sounds like something you could pour over anything--cold noodles, salad, your bare hands--and be thrilled with.

under the waterfalls

Far from Brooklyn, in lovely Watkins Glen, NY. Waterfalls galore...and farm stands everywhere along the shores of Seneca Lake, with little slots for the money and coffee cans full of DIY change. Came home with a quart of fat ripe tomatoes and a canteloupe whose insistent sweetness perfumed the whole bus. Walking along the water in Sacketts Harbor on a wind-whipped morning, I kept pointing out all the fruit growing in tangles alongside the old battlefields--tiny gnarled apples, shiny bitter crabapples, wild Concord grapes.

And speaking of harvests, Thanksgiving may be months away, but the birds are fattening up at Stone Barns. Put your order in now for one of their farm-raised, heritage-breed turkeys, who will have had a short but happy life scratching around in the dirt eating bugs and enjoying nature the Rockefeller way up in the Hudson River valley. They're also having a big Harvest Festival, with the requisite bluegrass band and hayrides, on Sat., Oct. 1st. Best of all, there's a pie baking contest! Sweet or savory, local fruit & veggies only, please.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Brooklyn Pie Socialists, Unite!

If you've hung around my kitchen for any length of time, you've probably heard about the mad fun that was last year's Brooklyn Pie Social. Well, now you too can be a Pie Socialist, feeding the multitudes, garnering kudos, and baking for a good cause! Last year's social raised four grand for the lovely Brooklyn Bridge Park (home of mulberry trees, double-bridge views, and outdoor movies) and the nice folks at Bubby's and the B-B Park Conservancy have high hopes of hauling in even more dough this time around.

Personally, I love the chance to check out how other people bake pies. My pies will always look like me; they're as easy for me to pick out in a crowd as my own shoes. But how do you make your pies? It's like finding out how a stranger kisses.

And little did I know until today that I am, indeed, the BROOKLYN PIE SOCIAL POSTER GIRL! Must have been the gingham apron....you can check out what I did for the Pie Effort here.

Here's how it works: You bake a pie (or two). You put on a cute outfit and a big smile and bring your pies down to the cobblestone streets in front of the park (Main and Plymouth Sts). Then you stand there for a couple of hours and hand out slices of your pie to the hungry hordes. In return, you get a handful of tickets enabling you to wander round and taste the pies of your friends and neighbors. No restaurant or bakery pies--this is strictly a home-kitchen operation, which makes it really sweet and bizarrely down-home for the big city. There will be live music, balloons and face-painting for the kiddies, coffee and lemonade, gorgeous views, and LOTS OF PIE!!!

Just want to EAT PIE? Then come on down that afternoon (earlier is better, before the good pies all get eaten) and buy your pie-eating tickets--one ticket, one slice.

Here's all the info, courtesy of Bubby's:

Date: September 17, 2005

Your entry fee and homemade pie entitle you to 5 free tasting tickets (you can share them) and a big blue ribbon.

Entry fees: One pie, $10; two pies, $5 (if you register by 9/10--after that, the fees go up)

Bakers report at 10:30 for check-in and free coffee. We recommend bringing pies that do not need refrigeration (no cream, ice cream, or custard pies, since they're likely to melt and/or spoil sitting out in the sun for several hours).

We are encouraging savory pies as a good counterpoint to all of the dessert pies. We are also encouraging a strong turnout from our youngest bakers.

To get an application for the 2005 pie social stop by Bubby's in dumbo or tribeca, or go to bubby's website or the brooklyn bridge park conservancy's website.

Of course, as the Pie Queen, I will be there, tiara, big blue ribbon and gingham apron at the ready (and, of course, last year's nifty "Pie Socialists" red T-shirt...) Learning from last year, I'm going to make something bright and shiny with visible (and summery) fruit, like an open-faced tart. (Faced with much competition, people do not want a beige dessert. I had to hustle hard to sell off my apple pie last year. Here in NYC, people want glamour, baby. If you could eat glitter, it would sell.) And then perhaps something NOT sweet, since people get a little sugar crazy and start licking their own arms for salt about an hour into the deal. Suggestions? Bring the kids and hope to see you there! Bake pies!

And while we're talking about baking, a big shout-out to Chestnut on Smith St again, this time for their so-fab chocolate-chunk scones and plump popovers. We were the first ones in the door at 11am for Sunday brunch, so we won the pastry prize--a free plate of Matt's hot-from-the-oven goodies, including those scones, those popovers, and two bite-sized little biscuits. And the heirloom-tomato frittata was big as a plate and enough for brunch and lunch the next day. They'll be closed for a couple of weeks of vacation starting soon, so be sure to call before you go, or just wait til Sept.

Best things, Sunday night:
Getting caught--twice!--in the warm rain without an umbrella, listening to the thunder and taking cover under the awnings of all the Italian restaurants on Bleeker Street after a 6pm showing of Junebug at the Angelika, swiping a chocolate-chip cookie from the thank-you plate by the door of Home restaurant on Cornelia St, waiting for a bubbling-hot slice from Joe's Pizza, and getting caught in a torrential downpour yet again, just outside my house.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Figs are sexy

...and here's the photo to prove it. Click on the pic to get the really juicy up-close-and-personal view...Thanks to James Ormsby, chef at Plumpjack Cafe in SF, for this lickworthy picture.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Can't see the meteor shower but the tomatoes look good

Last night....

Tiny spatters of rain on my shoulders...not enough to cool off, but better than air-conditioner drips from above...

Sitting at the bar at Chestnut, drinking French rose and eating their fab "BLT" tomato salad--a steak-sized slab of lime-colored evergreen tomato, surrounded by cubes of heirloom tomatoes and smoky-chewy slab bacon, all drizzled with buttermilk dressing and a tumble of lettuces.

The Philomel Project, a stunning opener to downtown's Fringe Festival. Miss it at your peril.

Holding up the broken strap of my dress all the way home, to avoid having a Tara Reid moment on the midnight F train.

And back home, lying naked in front of both fans with a glass of ice water on my stomach...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

brownies and movies

Hot, hot, hot, and now it's hotter because I just made Bakerina's brownies to take over to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the outdoor movie (tonight they're showing Chinatown). As I've stated here before, normally I can't make brownies for love or money*, but Bakerina's charm convinced me to try her recipe, starting with two trips to the store--first for butter and chocolate, then for vanilla and more sugar. As I was reluctantly leaving the very cold aisles, an old guy, seeing me clutching a box of sugar and a bottle of vanilla, said, "Oh, making cookies this afternoon?" He was just happy, it seemed, happy to think of someone baking, even on such a steamy afternoon. I could have said, "No, I make good cookies, but this time I'm going to make, yet again, something that never comes out the way I want it to, ever," but I didn't. I just said "No, brownies!" and walked out smiling.

Picnic Brownies

1 stick (4 oz/8TB) butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 TB strong coffee (i.e. that little bit of cold coffee sludge left in your cup from breakfast)
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 375. In a double boiler, melt butter and chocolate together. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp (very important!). Beat eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and coffee together. Stir in cooled chocolate mixture. Add flour and stir gently until just mixed. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 20 minutes. Makes a lot, and they taste like mix brownies, only without that too-sweet metallic edge.

I remember one brownie recipe where the brownies were sent straight from the oven into the freezer, which condensed them down and made them super-fudgy. I think I'd let the pan cool for at least 5 or 10 minutes on the counter first though, just to keep the ice cream from turning to soup next to the hot pan.

OK, see you in the park! I'll be the one hovering over the brownie plate, sure that everyone who takes one is just being polite.

*Actually, the one brownie recipe that never failed me was the one on the back of the Droste cocoa box, circa 1982 or so. The only thing was that the brownies turned into concrete if you left them in the pan, so you had to spatula them out as soon as they were cool enough to hold together. Alas, this recipe is now lost in the mists of time. I know cocoa, eggs, and melted butter were involved--anyone else remember that recipe?

Cold comfort

Another revival, to inspire you to actually cook. Me, I'm eating melon and Grape Nuts. But you should be grilling.

IS THERE ANYTHING more domestically satisfying than cold steak in the fridge? Sizzling, just-grilled meat is a wonderful thing, the pinnacle of the summer cookout, needing only a plate of sliced ripe tomatoes and a stack of butter-dripping corn on the cob. But the true pleasure comes from peeling back the foil over the plates as you lean down into the refrigerator the next day. It's better than money in the bank: it's like free money in the bank. If you've ever wanted to feel like a rock star with a personal chef, cold steak will do it for you.

And few things are as succulent and appetite-gripping as cold steak. There's a certain grandeur to cooking meat at home. I like tofu skewersand puttanesca sauce just fine, but after a while, even the most scintillating conversation pales over the same old plate of pasta and salad. The first batch of fresh summer pesto is thrilling. By now, we're taking those huge floppy bunches of basil for granted. Familiarity, in this case, breeds not contempt – who can be contemptuous of such a charmer? – but a certain amount of ennui. By mid August, there's no drama to pesto.

Meat, which used to be the default entrée for every celebration, now evokes something close to a double take. Determined to add a grown-up note to a dinner party back in school, I brought out a platter of two massive roasted chickens, to the visible surprise of the guests. It was like uncorking a bottle of champagne for no reason, or serving a massive layer cake instead the usual Häagen-Dazs.

"It's so nice to have a roast," Alistair from Sydney said, giving the term its full Anglo-Australian, Sunday-lunch emphasis. And even with a table full of hungry grad students, we had enough leftovers for at least three meals. Cold chicken sandwiches, curried chicken salad, hot chicken cacciatore: every time I opened the fridge, there was something to pick at.

But for sheer glamour and chewing satisfaction, nothing beats meat. Flank steak, skirt steak, hanger steak, London broil: Straightforward meat like this doesn't need a lot of marinating or fussing around; the most important addition is a liberal scatter of crunchy, grainy sea salt and a good grinding of fresh black pepper at the table. About 10 to 12 minutes, turning once, will cook your steak, whether you're using a grill, broiler, or grill pan. After cooking, let the steak rest, uncut, on a platter for five minutes or so. This will relax it and let the juices sink from the hot surface of the meat back into its fibers.

If you're grilling, throw a few red onions cut in half crosswise onto the grill. They'll char and sweeten as the meat cooks. While the meat's resting, peel and slice the onions into chunks and serve alongside. Or grill some olive-oiled red peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes too, and make escalivada, the slippery, luscious Spanish salad of grilled vegetables. Separated from their blackened skins, tossed with a handful of chopped parsley, and drizzled with a vinaigrette of mashed garlic, sherry vinegar, and olive oil, the vegetables are delicious warm and almost better cold the next day.

One of my favorite ways to eat cold beef doesn't even need leftovers. You can make it with deli roast beef cut a little thicker than usual. During our last week in Bologna in mid June, the heat wave that has been baking Europe all summer was just settling in. The city was nearly deserted during the day, the shaded porticoes over the sidewalks the only respite from the relentless heat.

We couldn't even think of eating anything more than gelato until the sun faded into a warm indigo twilight around 9 p.m. The trattorias kept to their weighty, traditional tortellini and ragus, with one grateful exception: a cold salad of beef sliced like proscuitto, banked in gorgeous pink sheets over pungent arugula, glossed with olive oil, spritzed with lemon juice, and showered with long salt-grained shards of parmesan cheese, flaked off a huge wheel on the counter. This, followed by runny cups of puckery, almost-melted lemon granita, sustained us and made those summer evenings seem, for the moment, just about perfect.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gimme a whisky, ginger ale on the side, and don't be stingy, baby

Sometimes we're baking pies here over in PQ Castle, sometimes we're fleeing into the city for strong drink and pulp fiction.

Bucky and I were on our way out for AC, bocce, and beer at Floyd a few nights ago when, a black dress and an ironed shirt later, we were leaning back in the November-chilled swank of Tribeca's Brandy Library. True to its name, the decor is head-to-toe in whiskey-and-cognac tones, from the square rum-colored leather chairs to the slinky Calvados satin dresses on the cocktail waitresses. Having bicycled all over Scotland in search of a wee dram, my old pal was in peat-smoke heaven. A 20 year Port Ellen? A 15-year Talisker? Nope, a 12 year Caol Ila, from Islay: a nose like seaweed-damp wool drying by a peat fire, and a richness on the tongue like being inside a hissing coal of that very fire. For me, the concentrated silky sunshine of Germain-Robin'sXO brandy, made in Ukiah, of all places. To snack on: the fabulously named Figs & Pigs, aka quarters of fresh fig wrapped in strips of serrano ham and scattered with slivers of fresh mint and dribbled with a port reduction. All it needed was for the figs to be lightly broiled first, so they'd be sweet and sticky and yielding under your tongue.

This morning: the first tomato harvest!

And while we're thinking of drinking, let's go hear the hard-luck stories spread around by the boys (and girl) of Contemporary Press, the tough-talking, two-fisted nice guys of the indies. Here's what they have to say for themselves:

McNally Robinson Bookstore
50 Prince St. (between Lafayette and Mulberry)
Wednesday, August 10
7:00 sharp

Jeffrey Dinsmore will be reading from his October release I, An Actress, a Sunset-Boulevard-meets-Spinal-Tap-except-it's-a-book autobiography of Karen Jamey, Hollywood's Original Forgotten Golden Age diva. Mike Segretto will be reading from HIS upcoming release The Bride of Trash a twisted book of terror that makes Tales from the Crypt look like Tuesdays with Morrie. And finally, Jess Dukes, famed recluse Roman Bojanski and gentleman-about-town Todd Robinson will be reading from CP's latest release, Danger City (buy it here), a old-school compilation of new wave pulp fiction.

And if you're bicoastal, or West Coastal, see them in LA...

Saturday, August 27 7 - 9
Boardners of Hollywood
1652 N. Cherokee Ave
FREE (until 8. If you want to stay after the reading then it's $10 in leather/fetish gear, $15 without)

It's not only the World Premiere of Dinsmore's I, An Actress (well, if you didn't hear him read from it previously), it's also the Bar Sinister party immediately following. So, come for the satirical look at the classic Hollywood of the 30's and 40's at this great bar and stay for the Mistresses of the Night.

Aug 28th:
The gracious people at LA's 826LA Writing Lab are laying down their high-minded decency for the evening to host a discussion between publishers, writers and their groupies to talk about the glamourous, lucrative world of independent publishing � and how you too could benefit from starting your own press!

826LA Writing Lab
685 Venice Blvd
Venice, CA
6-9 PM

PQ question of the day: Who first said today's title, and why's it famous?

al di ooh la la

My old friend Bucky (to use his old SFBG restaurant-review-pal name, just for you fans) arrived from SF, ready to eat real bagels, crash on the Aerobed in the living room ( the poor girl's guest room!) and wallow in the summer humidity. Best of all, he came in hungry, so we whisked over to Park Slope's al di la, which matches Delfina in my East Coast/West Coast Italian-restaurant pantheon. Oh, al di la! Kisses all over them. Since it was late when we got there, we breezed in and got a table right away. Heaven-puffed sheep's milk ricotta and lemon ravioli with chopped fresh tomato and a (slightly oversalted) green salad, fantastic, charred-and-pink hanger steak with arugula, moist grilled whole orata with olives and oregano, and of course, the irresistable pear-chocolate cake. Mmmmmm.

If I can bear to turn on my oven (still no AC!), a fresh peach cake might happen tomorrow morning. Otherwise, it's just a countdown til the rain comes down, hopefully sooner than later. Rain rain rain...and thunder!

Al di la, 5th Ave and Carroll St, Park Slope. No reservations, so just show up.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Stars Come Out and Fall Down

Too hot to breathe, almost. Got a lemon ice from the Court Pastry shop and it was melting into sticky water almost faster than I could slurp it down. The tomatoes are finally starting to redden, the morning glory vine has greeted each morning with a new purple flower, and there's basil, basil everywhere. Good things to look forward to:

The Perseid meteor shower, next Friday. I want to go back to Lillie's and stay out late and then sit out by the piers and watch the little splashes of light plummeting down from the dark sky. I mean, it would be nice to be out on the beach, too, but I'd settle for Red Hook. Chipper explanation from your friends at NASA, here.

Chinatown showing at the outdoor movie series in Brooklyn Bridge Park, next Thursday. Rounding up a posse to lie out on blankets and eat popcorn and watch bad, bad things happen to Faye Dunaway and the Owens River Valley. come and join us! Where and when, here.

More late-night Mostly Mozart concerts, this week and next. Couldn't stand being in my soggy bowl-of-soup house one more minute, so I fled to the icy subway (OK, the platform was hellish, but the train was meat-locker-cold) to wheedle a ticket to the sold-out show. Emmanuel Ax, the listed pianist, was out with a broken rib (which begs the question--what was he doing? Bungee jumping? Pole dancing?) so the young Jeremy Denk took his place. But the star was saucy Brit soprano Emma Bell, who made the whole audience melt to Debussy's En Sourtine. The singing thrilled me much more than the solo Bach piano, which was fine, except that I have to agree with Cassandra, the narrator of Dodie Smith's novel I Capture the Castle when she admits "The only Bach I've heard made me feel like I was being hit repeatedly on the head with a teaspoon." A genius and all that, I know, especially if you're mathmatically inclined, but give me a little Romantic swoon or spiky Russian modernism any day. But the concert was fun, up in the sparkly 10th floor penthouse, with free little plastic glasses of wine and cocktail-table seating.

Now, packing up the caponata and the peaches to go see Rufus Wainwright in Prospect Park. We may be sweaty, but we're cultured.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Sex and food--what else is there to think about in the summer? Eggplant slices are sweating on my kitchen table, in preparation for being turning into caponata, with onions, garlic, peppers, celery, and three kinds of salty: capers, olives, and anchovies, plus sherry vinegar and plumped-up currants. The sweet-salty-tart-savory combo is very Sicilian, and perfect in so many ways--mixed with parsley and feta in a pita sandwich, tossed with hot fusilli and ricotta salata, eaten cold standing naked in front of the fridge. Dill is drying for making pickled green beans (those bloody-mary-ready 'dilly beans'), mint is drying for tea, and three jars of apricot jam just went into the jam cupboard.

But what I'm really doing is watching Phyllis Christopher's amazing DVD Sextrospective, a 300+ photo retrospective though Christopher's nearly 2 decades behind the camera in SF. Since 1988, she's transformed so many different scenes into spectacles of glamour and passion, raw heat and humour. Posing for Phyllis is a ridiculous amount of fun, and I've been lucky enough to model for her a bunch of times over the years--in plaid flannel, in red lace and gingham on her stove, in a bikini and a rabbit-fur coat on chilly autumn beach, in a piled-high beehive wig and pearls and a bathtub full of bubbles... Fire-eating strippers, activists in bustiers, butch, boi,drag king, top, bottom, high femme and everything in between. You can get your own copy, and see some of her images, at The Sexy Stuff. And if you're in publishing, you should jump at the chance to make this into a book.

OK, now back to the eggplant....