Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scallops and braised endive

I stayed at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando back in April and had a wonderful meal at the Old Hickory Steakhouse that involved scallops and a vegetable puree. I've been watching a lot of Gordon Ramsay lately and some of the simple dishes he pulls together look divine.

Darling Husband was at Field Day (an event I'll address later) this weekend so it was a prime weekend to experiment with my cooking so I decided to try my hand at the scallops and a Ramsay dish.
I did my shopping Saturday and ended up not making my experiment until tonight so it is a good thing it worked out since husband had to eat it!

Pan-Seared Scallops on Vegetable Puree' with caviar

Dozen Large Sea Scallops
Bag Broccoli and Cauliflower florets (10 oz or so)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Chicken bouillon
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
2-3 grinds fresh black pepper
salty caviar

Steam the vegetables in their bag in the microwave, put in blender or food processor with about a half teaspoon of bouillon and salt. Puree. This may take a few tries, add a little water if necessary to "move" the vegetables. Leave in the blender to stay warm.
Rinse scallops, pat dry and season both sides with oregano, salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp olive oil (use good oil) in a skillet over medium high heat. Add scallops when oil is hot enough to sizzle a drop of water.
While scallops cook, prepare braised endive,
Turn scallops over when you can see the sides become opaque, finish cooking.
Remove pan from heat to prepare plate.

Braised endive

3-4 heads of endive, washed and discolored outer leaves removes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Trim bottom of each endive head, slice length-wise in half and then quarters and then eighths. Some pieces will fall to the side, that's OK you'll cook them too.
Pour enough oil in a medium skillet to cover the bottom, heat on medium high. Add endive and a sprinkling of the sea salt. Cook the endive until crisp tender, don't over cook. It should still be a pretty green and white and hold its structural integrity.


Put about a tablespoon of puree for each scallop on the outer rim of a serving platter. Place each scallop on puree, garnish each with 1/2 tsp of caviar. Put endive in the center of the platter.

Serve with a green salad dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

When I had the scallops at the Old Hickory they clearly used expensive caviar and that flavor showed. I bought the cheap $8.99 caviar at Publix since if I failed with this dish I didn't want to have too much invested in it.
The flavor, when I ate a scallop with caviar on it at Hickory, was very reminiscent of lobster. The cheap caviar didn't give that same flavor. I think the main thing that gave it that richness was the saltiness and fishiness of the caviar so the next time I do this I am going to add anchovy fillets wrapped around capers to see how that shakes out.

The endive could not have been better even if Gordon himself had been in the kitchen - but I would not have kicked him out of the house!
La, a handsome man who can really cook - how lucky is Mrs. Ramsay, eh?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Smell of the Gulf, the smell of the sun

There were a few patches of shade today in the parking lot at the former motel restaurant I stopped for lunch. The old bay side hotel had been converted to housing for Visa workers who did house-keeping and other jobs at the beach side hotels the man owned.
He's a lot better than other resort owners who stack Eastern European workers in three bedroom rat-holes six to a room and charge them for the pleasure.
The parking lot is rumpled blacktop and I found a pinch of shade beneath a scrub oak.

Today was nice. It was only 91 and the breeze from the bay was steady so I never broke a sweat. As I crossed that lumpy asphalt the smell of salt water and someone's bait and a hint of Coppertone covered me for a few seconds and I wanted to be ten again.
I remember riding on the beach in the back of somebody's daddy's truck, feeling the effects of the sun on my shoulders and knowing my hair was a big tangle and looking into the rear-view mirror to see how bad it was.
I was beautiful. My pond-scum green eyes were full of fire; sparks of gold and bright green with the colors made bolder by the savage island child color of my face. My hair was a big tangle of white sand-colored strands mixed into the usual pine-straw red.
When I left the restaurant a skinny laughing woman in a floppy t-shirt and shorts passed me on her way in with her man. She looked like my youngest aunt for a second with long hair hanging over her shoulders like a girl on a 70's album cover.
I wanted to call my aunt and see if I could drive down right then to go to the beach and go crabbing with her and collect the best sunburn we could in a few hours.
I let that daydream tumble behind my eyes from the restaurant back to the office, never trying to work the logistics, just enjoying the vision.

I'll be going to spend the weekend with Mama soon so I have decided that we'll snag my aunt, a cooler, a net or 3 and some chicken necks and head to the beach. We'll get too much sun and wear our hair down so the wind can tangle it in knots and lighten it up. We'll smell like Coppertone and beach sand and I know my skin will nearly glow in the dark and feel warm even in the coldest air conditioning.

I'll be happy leaving footprints on the ancestral beach sand with these women who are so important to me. I've always looked at them as ethereal critters whose toes barely touch ground; faeries who dance across flower tops and hardly ruffle a petal, women who are so grounded and deep in what being a true woman is that they ascend the mundane world that I inhabit when I'm not looking.
One day, with much effort, I may be like them.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Changes in the Market - People Making their own Jobs

Avon has used national TV to advertize products and for representitives for a long time - but now they are really recruiting sales reps in a big way!
So are Amway and Mary Kay.
Why? Because although product sales are generally down, personal health and beauty products are not - and people are going to these other sources instead of the Department stores and specialty stores for their lip sticks, facial care, vitamins, etc.
The trick, apparently, is to select mid/low-range cost vehicles to sell. I doubt Arbonne and other high-dollar MLM businesses are doing well. I imagine that if Avon didn't have some lower price-point items that they'd be suffering, too.

Anyway, after being a failed Monavie operative, I am going to try something with similar effects that is lower cost and more eco-friendly. My husband has a friend who makes anywhere between a few hundred thousand to a million on MLM products that he believes in, so I am getting on board to see if I can make some "up" in this down market and maybe make some property investments before land prices increase again...I guess this time I should set myself some goals and really understand the compensation package and stop waiting for the stuff to sell itself as soon
as I buy the cute little shot glasses with the product logo etched on them (which this doesn't have, BTW).

I think that on some level I am lazy when it comes to me. I work my ass off for my regular job because it interests me, I want to make my boss happy, and my work makes peoples' lives better. This kind of work is basically just for me, requires me to step out of my comfort zone and do something that seems selfish.

When I was young and in college I worked part-time for a department store in the Bridal and Designer Fashions salons. I loved it. The store had just changed it's policies so part-time workers weren't eligible for commissions. Perfect. I sold the hell out of dresses because I liked doing it and liked helping people look nice - and got to do that without the pressure of needing to earn a commission.

I think if I knew my paycheck depended on a commission that I would have felt too guilty to sell the dresses. Weird, I know. My husband's friend says to not think of it as sales, but as telling people about something that I like, making referrals, like telling them about a restaurant that I love.

I am the world's worst network marketer so we'll see if I can do this. Or end up with cases of the crap gathering dust in my guest room:)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Baby, it's HOT Outside!

I live in Florida, pretty much always have and probably always will, so I get it - it gets hot here.

The last few days have been scorching, though, and unbearable I would think to people not genetically prepared to survive it. The lighted time and temp sign on the credit union read "+100" today when I drove past it. Panicky warnings are being issued by the TV news people to drink lots of water, stay in the shade, along with the tutorial on recognizing signs of heat stroke and what to do should it happen to you.

I hope you were paying attention to the phrase "genetically prepared."
As I stated in my introduction, my family has been here pretty much since dirt. In spite of my fair skin, light hair and eyes, the Florida heat is my friend. The air is rich with water, a humidity that my thirsty skin and lungs embrace, and sometimes I feel like I am walking through an invisible pool of warm Gulf water. Especially here, where I live close enough to the Gulf to smell the beloved scent of salt, sun, and sealife. Inland the thick air is a blanket that smells of grass, farm animals and growing crops.

Today, as the sun was cooking tourists on the beach, I was making my way across asphalt parking lots to secure items needed and wanted in the household. As others walked past me in the parking lots I noticed labored breathing, sweat-soaked faces and general discomfort.
Secure in my native superiority, I sailed across the black top into the air-conditioned comfort of the stores and accomplished my tasks with no more than a bit of a healthy pink glow added to my skin. It was a nice reminder of how lucky I am to have been raised in this atmosphere of wet heat, regular sun-showers and the breeze that cools the sweat on your brow just before you get grumpy.

Have you ever opened a 450 degree oven, got a little too close to the door and breathed in that air? That hot, hot, dry, arid air? That's the way the air feels in places without humidity. Santa Fe and Albuquerque, lovely places to visit as long as you can stay inside. A walk-about for me lasted ten minutes before I sought out the nearest watering hole.

So, tomorrow when you look out at your beautiful day, love it for what it is - and just deal with whatever kind of heat you have and be glad it isn't cold.

I'm going to go outside now and gulp a drink of air-water.

Friday, June 19, 2009


We are raising two sets of kittens; one set six weeks old, the other almost a month old.
My six- 6 week olds have been eating big food, trying to use the box (with mixed success, today was bad) and socializing happily with us humans.
The tiny ones are mothered by a kitty who really doesn't like humans and only tolerates us for food so it was important to get the babies away and petted.
I was worried about trying to do that since I felt that there was a toss-up: move the babies and have Stripey Butt reject them or move them so they can be adopted.
Stripey Butt solved this for me by beginning to ignore the babies. There were only three, two grey stripes and one orange kitten and after weeks of hiding them she allowed them to walk around the house by themselves.
She waited too late.
She managed to starve the runt of her litter before I could save him.
He was a striped gray and black kitty who looked far younger than his brothers.
I found him when we got home from dinner, doing baby-kitten stagger and mewing, while his mother flirted with one of our neutered males.
I scooped him up and set up my feeding station of water and cat milk. He wouldn't take the food and his mother wouldn't nurse him so I held him close to my skin. He slept a little and then stopped breathing. I did everything I knew to do but the tiny one was dead.
Stripey and Pinky are twins, yet Pink is the good mother with her brood of six while Stripey can't keep her 3 alive much less be nice to the food source.
I am putting her into a cat carrier and sending her to the shelter sooner than I had planned. Pinky can nurse Stripey's remaining babies (they've shared that duty in the past with Pinky doing most of the work). The shelter here is no-kill and I just can't have a cat that won't accept petting and who won't try to keep her babies alive.

I am very bitter because I held this kitten while he cried for food his mother wouldn't give (and apparantly had not for some time) and he wouldn't take from me. He is wrapped in a small towel now and will be buried in a secluded corner of the back yard

We'll fix Pinky and keep her and I hope to place all but one of the kittens. There is one little golden boy who wants nothing more than to climb my shoulders and hide in my hair. Have to love a baby with good taste!

I am not at my best now so this is probably shitty writing. I haven't lost a cat in many years and losing one, especially a baby, is very hard.
I keep looking at him and wondering if I could have done something, if I should have just taken him from Stripey Butt before things reached this point.
I haz a sad.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Kittens Discover Litter is Not Food

The kittens have been old enough to leave puddles and little poops around for us for about a week and a half now. I have grabbed them when they gave signs and rushed to the litter box only to be stymied by their conviction that Fresh Step is food. The tell-tale grumpy meows and pacing come to an end once their paws touch the scoopable and their bobble-heads fall forward in order to acquire a tongue-full of litter.

I don't know if it is the sparkly blue odor-killing crystals or the general belief that I wouldn't put them anywhere that wasn't food, but as soon as I placed the babies in the box they assume an eating position. And I would spend the next few minutes scooping the stuff out of their mouths, much to their dismay.

Tonight my furry darlings had milk and wet food, dry food made for babies and some water. After playing and napping a few got up from their nest on the couch with me and trotted to the place that litter boxes live, the laundry room.

I followed to be sure this wasn't going to be another "we wanted to go for a walk and you weren't there and we were lost YOWL" event. That happens due to the drama even the youngest kitten enjoys. It is fun to them (I gather) to scoot away from a known safe place and then scream for rescue. I fall for it every time.

My darlings didn't stop to cry for rescue, they went straight for the box, heaved their plump kitten bellies over the edge and assumed the position. Tee-tee accomplished and no litter eaten.
It was a good day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On Mandolines and realizing that there is sometimes a point

I've owned a mandoline for several years now and used it with the same impunity that I use serrated knives for tomatos and sharp paring knives for cucumbers. I cut towards myself because I am uncoordinated and cannot make a decent slice otherwise.
I've paid for this flaw as proven by the scars on my pinky fingers, forefingers, and the occasional loss of a finger nail. The mandoline has caused me the odd knuckle bruise or scrape, nothing serious. Until now.

I have never paid as dearly for my insolence towards sharp edges as I did Saturday slicing red potatoes for a new recipe.

See, the mandoline has a food-holder that is designed to protect your fingers from the very, very, very sharp blade that cuts the food. I simply never bought into the design of that food holder, especially for shorter foods like round red potatoes and figured I'd be slicing more food by hand than by machine if I used the holder.

As my first red potato became smaller I put the palm of my hand on it to guide the last bit through the slicer. Pinky finger first. I promptly lost an eighth of an inch of meat and skin from that little finger and began bleeding professionally. You know, like it was my job to pump out AB positive into a paper towel.

I still had the better part of three pounds of potatoes to slice and couldn't really use my right hand completely so I had to trust the food grabber of the mandoline. It worked perfectly. PERFECTLY.

I have the unfortunate habit of experiencing events before they happen - envisioning how tools should work on product, seeing the landing gear tuck up into the plane after becoming airborne, dissecting why cilantro and mango are Just Wrong, and deciding that mandoline food holders will waste food.

Sunday night I ate a mango salsa with scallops and it was good. My mandoline wound is on the mend. Although I will continue to picture landing gear sliding into its little place on every plane I travel in, I will also try to remember that other people MAY know what they are talking about.

More Party Food- Sliced Red Potato Salad

After some fruitless web searches I developed this myself!

I wanted a red-jacket potato salad with the potatoes in slices but not crumbly which to me meant no cooking before slicing. Slice first, boil quickly and ice down seemed to be the way. So, I did. My trusty mandoline did the slicing and my favorite pot was used for the boiling in three batches so the potato slices had plenty of room to circulate and cook without sticking together. After I took each batch up I put them into a large bowl with about two cups of ice cubes and 8 cups of water to stop the cooking process.
The potatoes should maintain their structural integrity after cooking which means that cooking must be monitored carefully and the potatoes taken up as soon as they are cooked but still firm and immersed into the cold water. Only allow them to stay in the water until they've cooled down, transfer to a colander to drain.

3 pounds red potatoes, prepared as above
3 sliced celery stalks
two tablespoons sweet pickle relish
3/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
1 8 oz can sliced black olives
1 12 ounce package good quality salsa (not the room temp stuff at the market, spring for the good refrigerated stuff!)

Mix the mayo, mustard, relish and salsa together. Put a layer of potatoes into the bowl, sprinkle with black olives and celery, add some dressing. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat until everything is in the serving bowl. Now, mix gently to be sure everything is coated with dressing. Add a little more mayo to taste if needed.
This is best if it can sit all night. I suggest tasting it for more needed salt or pepper. The salsa will add a lot of seasoning itself.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Grown-Up Birthday Party Food

We just had my darling husband's birthday party Saturday night and, true to form, he insisted that people only come equipped with hunger and thirst.

He is known for his baby-back ribs and top shelf bar, I am known for...being his adoring wife:)
Among other things...

I wanted to make sure that this year there were side dishes for people like me who only want a little meat. However, I wanted to make side dishes that weren't boring or crappy but that would hold up through hours of grazing.

I did it - three salads from scratch that held up and got eaten up. I made sliced red potato salad, Oriental Cole Slaw and my newest creation, Florida Girl's Italian shrimp salad. I'll start last first:

Florida Girl
8-10 ounce salad shrimp, thawed (this is one of the few things that tiny cocktail shrimp is good for)
3 lemons, juiced and zested
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 large cucumbers, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch chunks - seeding them is important!
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
2 cans salad sliced hearts of palm, drained
1 can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp Italian Herbs*

You can make this part* easy or hard. I go easy and buy the tube of Italian herbs in olive oil at Publix. Otherwise, chop a handful of flat-leaf parsley, a bunch of basil and bash up a couple of garlic cloves.
Make sure all water is drained off of everything before the next step.

Whisk herbs with olive oil, lemon zest and lemon juice and salt and pepper. Dump everything else into a bowl; I chop the artichoke hearts up a little to make it more fork friendly. Pour dressing over the salad and stir gently to coat. You may need a little more oil or lemon juice, just taste to see.
Let this sit refrigerated at least two hours, bring to room temp before serving.

So that's salad one. I don't make anything I won't eat and I loved this. My guests seemed happy too since they ate it all up:)

Perfect Rapport

A long, long time ago I had a boyfriend who was a concert promoter. In those pre-cell, pre-push to talk days, we needed less clunky ways to communicate with backstage and other workers so a shopping trip through Sharper Image found us the proud owners of very spiffy walkie-talkie sets with head sets.
I formed a company and leased the sets to his company and voila, Perfect Rapport was born.

Well, here some 27 years later that boyfriend and I have married other people and lost touch but Perfect Rapport is still mine and still means the same as it did then.
It is just an old fashioned way of saying "we grok." We have an understanding of one another, not a surface understanding but a deep compatibility.

It is my hope that if you've turned up here you'll reach a level of rapport with me that will make what I write, in some way, meaningful to you.
For me, this is an opportunity to write about fluffy things and escape a lot of the unpleasantness of our current realities.
I love food and drink and creating both, cats and flowers and raising both, and I want to write a few books one day so there is no telling what this blog may contain.
Welcome to my happy little place.