Sunday, August 28, 2011

You Can Tune A Piano but.... can't tuna fish - ar, ar.

We grilled our first tuna steaks in years tonight. I say "we," but Charlie is the Grill Master and I season (sometimes) and marinate and talk about times before turning.
Our first tuna steak from the grill was an expensive mistake. Tonight was near perfection, and since Publix had frozen tuna steak on sale it wasn't expensive.

We used the Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa approach of Less Is More with the tuna. A brush of good olive oil, sea salt, pepper and a hot gril for 2 minutes per side and the tuna was done.
I also cooked some shelled edamame in water with about half a cup of chicken stock with my favorite seasonings. I cooked them longer that I usually do because Charlie asked for them to be more tender. A fresh salad of green lettuce, cucumber, tomato and red onion with a few orange slices and balsamic vinegar rounded out the meal. I don't know why people say "fresh salad," but I did to indicate that I cleaned the ingredients minutes before serving. No bagged nuffin' here:)

I was pretty pleased with this meal because there were no animals treated inhumanely in the process - the tuna were wild harvested, chicken stock organic. Best of all, everything my darling ate tonight was healthy for him.
Yes, I just watched "Julie and Julia" and am full of the love Julia Child (JC - any coincidence?) had for her husband and for food. I am regenerated and ready to do more elegant cooking after a summer of cooking to the least common denominator - the tastebuds of a ten year old.....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"They're Outrageous"

In 1972 I was an 11 year old dreamer with a record player and a firm belief that (a) there were aliens from space and they were smarter than humans and (b) I was a lost alien.
I was beginning to define myself musically and culturally through what I liked to hear, read and wear. In about a year I convinced my parents to let me stay home from church and fry the chicken for lunch. I read anything I could get my hands on (my mom was SO cool - I read Erica Jong!) and wore my cool aunt's sandals and jeans when I was 13.
The album was "Can't Buy a Thrill" and the hit was "Reeling in The Years."
I learned the album by heart, and did the same for all subsequent Dan releases.
There was something subversive in the lyrics that appealed to my off-center sense of humor and the word choices the boys made, the imagery they created, built the world in which I was supposed to live.
I am/was a slinky shadow haunting alleys of rain-dark glass, the female version of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti western no-name loner. When I had a name, I was Josie (Aja, 1977), the raw flame/the live wire; drinking my big black cow and dime dancing with plans for a nap later under some banyan trees.
So for years seeing Donald Fagen and Walter Becker play live was something I desperately wanted to do. And for years they flat would not tour. They didn't like it. Then they broke up. And I listened to their solo stuff and waited.
The 90's saw them together again and they continued to be the soundtrack to my inner self.
And they started touring again. Just the northeast to start, then they stretched out, and in 2011 they played the Wharf Ampitheatre in Orange Beach, AL.

That's Orange Beach. I took that photo behind the famous Flora-Bama bar. The Ampitheatre at the Wharf is seriously in the middle of a stand of pines - you get there by walking across elevated wooden ramps. They span what might be a swamp or mayhap just some low ground that probably has snakes in it but at least we're ten feet above it. I am getting ahead of myself - let me back up.
In April we learn the Dan will be on tour in the South and Orange Beach is the closest spot. My darling husband gets tix and I start dreaming. We left for OB Saturday before the show, had dinner, watched tv and sacked out.
Sunday we had brunch at Cobalt, highly reccomended.
The decor is light, bright, and a little funky. Loved the mermaid!

After brunch we went to the Flora-Bama bar on the Florida-Alabama line. The bar is famous and odd and about half-built. We loved it.
A bolt was loose in the second floor roof piling so Charlie HAD to play with it. I had a cartoon vision of him pulling that one bolt free and the whole place falling down around us. The two of us are seen after the dust clears standing with drinks in hand atop the wreckage, exchanging a glance and shrugging, taking a sip and sauntering off down the beach.

These posters were in nearly every window of the shops at the Wharf. I was so excited that I could hardly stand myself so I can imagine how Charlie felt, walking in the near drizzle with an adult woman who periodically screeched "EEEEEE!"
We very sensibly bought rain ponchos that could have doubled as garbage can liners from a sunglasses store and walked to the venue. My hair began to absorb water and make the ambient humidity in my bubble rise so I put it up in a twist and kept smiling. It was raining, I was in a stand of planted pines in Alabama on a rusted folding chair. BUT Steely Dan would be taking the stage soon and the place sold booze - expensive and limited, but booze.
Then the guys hit the stage - and life was good. They played a lot of old stuff, a lot of my favorites and one of my newer favorites ('Godwhacker,' which appeals to the Roger Zelazny fan in me) and all around us were people as happy to be there as I was. I sang along and noticed that there was a lot of that going on - EVERYONE knew the lyrics. Suddenly I was a loner in a crowd of them - and we were all happy, non-brooding types singing "Boddhisatva - Gonna sell my house in town!"
'Deacon Blues' got a lot from the crowd because of the lyrical reference to Alabama's legendary Crimson Tide football team.
Thirty-nine years after my ears first heard the complexity of Steely Dan I got to see them live surrounded by other people who were as full of Dan-love as I am.
Although this could have happened without him, it would not have been as wonderful, memorable, or happy without my Charlie.
His eyes are the color of Gulf water and he can take the world apart and reassemble it even better if someone would just hand him the correct screwdriver.
And we lived happily ever after:)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Not Too Late!

I am so happy that all of the fresh vegetables of summer have not come and gone before I could cook some of them from fresh!
I went to my favorite produce stand today in hopes of getting SOMEthing, even if it was just green peanuts. Imagine my delight to find fresh corn, cream 12 peas and okra.
Tomorrow night I am going to roast a fat duck and serve it with creamed corn, field peas and fried okra. The peas are easy enough - rinse them, put them in enought water to cover plus an inch and a half, pop in a ham hock and some ham base and cook til good. Fried okra and creamed corn are a different kettle of fish. People make it too hard for themselves and ruin the fresh goodness in the process. Easiest recipe first - Creamed Corn!

5-6 ears fresh corn, husked and silked
1/2 tsp bacon grease
1 tbl water
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the nibletss from the corn and be sure to squeeze the "milk" from the cobs. Ihave a corn stripper but you can do this with a paring knife. I like to conduct this part of the prep over a glass pie plate because you can scrape the milk and niblets out more easily.
In a non-stick pan melt the bacon grease (optional, but makes it better. If you've cooked bacon for breakfast, just scrape the plate it drained on and you should have enough) and add the corn niblets and milk, heat on medium low. The corn should thicken - add a little salt and pepper. The cooking process doesn't take long, maybe five minutes or so, because you don't want to make glue of the corn or completely cook away the crispness. Taste it and stop cooking when it tastes good to you. Add little bits of water as needed to keep the corn the proper consistency.

Fried Okra
This is my favorite thing to share when it comes to country vegetable cooking tips. Okra shouldn't be dunked in breading and fried like a popper.
2 pounds fresh okra, rinsed, topped and tailed and cut into quarter to half inch pieces
corn meal
Bacon grease:)
Canola Oil
salt and pepper

Scatter about a half cup of the cornmeal (I use buttermilk cornmeal mix) over the okra cuts, toss til the okra pieces are well covered. The meal should stick to the okra pretty well. After you've rinsed it, go straight to the cutting so you don't lose any liquid. Add a little salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of bacon grease and a tablespoon of canola oil to a non-stick or cast iron skillet and melt it over medium high heat. Toss the okra a bit to shake loose the meal that isn't coating the vegetable.
When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, add the okra and let it cook a few moments, move the okra around the pan with a spatula and try to let as many surfaces receive a crisping as possible. Reduce heat to medium and continue to stir around; okra should be tender in fifteen minutes. You can remove it from heat and let it sit while other dishes cook and then pop it back on a burner on high for  minute or so to reheat.