Monday, September 26, 2011


DANCING WITH THE STARS has been my guilty pleasure for many of its twice-yearly 13 installments. I'm not a reality TV person, but this show has always grabbed me, for the cheesy costumes, the good and bad dancing, the whole ballroom circus atmosphere, and its sheer glitz.  Since Sarah Palin's daughter upset the format two series ago, the show has settled down and stopped pissing people off with bad stunt casting. Last season was my very favorite. Kirstie Alley injected a lot of heart into the show. You could argue that Chaz Bono is stunt casting, but then you watch him dance, and realize, he is serious. So it is always with anticipation that I look forward to its return.  The fall season got off to a fine start with twelve new dancers and me and water-cooler posse will have much to discuss.  So far I'm liking actor, David Arquette, Carson Kressley (of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame), soccer champ, Hope Solo, actor J.R. Martinez, actress and Kristin Cavallari.  Chaz Bono, Chynna Philips, Rob Kardashian, Ricki Lake, and Elisabetta Canalis, all have charming personalties, and might go some way, but none of them displayed the kind of dancing skills one needs to go the distance on this show.  NBA champ, Ron Artest was rightfully voted off last week, and I expect Nancy Grace to get the boot this week.  She seems uncomfortable and never seems to smile. It is as though she's on guard all the time.  I've gone on enough about this.

And if there's a better drama on network TV than THE GOOD WIFE, I've yet to see it.  Compellingly plotted, strong scripts, and sharp performances, make this show a must-see of the new TV season.  

The tree on the left is a Pluot, and the other is a multi-grafted Pear with five different varieties. Both are dwarf trees, and they are not supposed to grow all that much.  

Finally got two fruit trees planted on Saturday--a pear and pluot that I bought early spring before last, have been getting root-bound in pots on my patio.  They are in the ground not a moment too soon.  The rains returned yesterday and it looks as though we've had the shortest summer in memory.  All my cherry tomatoes are ready to ripen and there are dozens and dozens on the cusp of being picked.  I'm told the rains will go away by the end of the book, which means, wet, wet, wet for five days in a row. 

I'm determined to get my garden prepared for winter, unlike last year, where it snuck up on me.  I still have plants to get into the ground, and it's time to get it done.  A poorly prepared winter garden means a bigger mess in the spring.  I've got more tulip bulbs that need to be planted. All the hostas and much of the green plants will have to be trimmed off, their leaves discarded for the winter. I loved the hot weather an it seems too soon to have it be cold and rainy again.  

I think I'm the last person to see BRIDESMAIDS, which is a funny, if tasteless girl buddy movie. It show the women are prepared to go toe-to-toe with men in gross-out situations, though I suspect men have a more natural ability to sink to that level than women do. Still, I thought this was a hilarious movie. 

Been cooking at home.  My friend John Baker doesn't like to cook, and he insisted on setting up this situation where I cook meals here (usually on Saturdays or Sundays.  We also go out a lot, and he insists on picking up the tabs for those nights out. Sunday I found some nice pork cutlets at New Seasons market, and as my herb garden has a large area of sage, I decided to adapt Veal Saltimbocca using the pork cutlets. The inspiration comes from Frank Crispo, owner/chef of his own fabulous Italian restaurant on 14th Street in New York.  Frank uses veal, of course in the classic Roman manner, but he cuts the veal from the leg in thicker slices, and I think the dish is better for it.  Pork has far more flavor than veal, which requires everything around it for flavor.  I didn't bother pounding them, simply affixed sage leaves and prosciutto to each cutlet, dredged them in flour, with salt and pepper, and sauteed them for a few minutes on each side.  I deglazed the pan with white wine, added a pat of butter and poured it over the meat.  Delicious.  

Greek-style lamb burger with tzadziki sauce, and a thick slice of summer tomato.  The corn saute has 
red pepper, scallions and basil in it.  

These days with the cost of lamb and beef through the roof, I indulge in more pork, chicken and fish. Salmon is very abundant here.  I bought some ground lamb recently for a Greek-style burger with feta cheese, but even ground lamb is one cent shy of $7 a pound! Ditto ground veal.  I don't see much veal in the markets these days. Flank steak is $13 a pound; skirt steak is $12! So I buy beef only on sale. In any event, a solo Saturday dinner included this handsome lamb burger with saute of summer-fresh corn with scallions and basil.  

An inspired salad, made at home. 

Another good use for pork is this salad of sliced grilled pork tenderloin, potatoes, avocado, cherry tomatoes (from my garden), cucumber and butter lettuce.  It's an adaptation of a recipe that had only the pork and potatoes in it with some arugula, and a really bad salad dressing that was too sweet.  I jettisoned the bad dressing and used my own mustard vinaigrette. Instead of boiling or steaming the potatoes, I roasted them. Much better. This is a salad for company.  

I'm reading Claudia Roden's brand-new THE FOOD OF SPAIN (Ecco), and I think hands down, it is the best cookbook of the year. I love her work, but this book may be the peak of her long and very distinguished career.  This is the big over-view of Spanish cooking that we've long been seeking. It doesn't displace THE FOODS & WINES OF SPAIN, Penelope Casas's fine 1982 work, or Anya von Bremzen's more recent THE NEW SPANISH TABLE.  This new book is a far bigger work.  It too branches all over the country by region. The photographs are beautiful. The history is fascinating and the recipes feature Roden's fine detail and eye.  

I don't suppose there will be much competition in the Democratic ranks for the next election. I guess President Obama thinks he can win it.  Meanwhile over on the right, I'm beginning to see that the extremism amongst the Repug candidates is telling me that maybe Mitt Romney has a chance--not that I'll vote for him.  If President Obama is the party's choice, I'll fall in line, but I'm pretty disappointed in his inability to connect with the middle class that put him in office.  And the Repug alternatives are unthinkable.  As the country slips further and further into a kind of Third World oligarchy mindset, I'm finding all politicians on both sides of the aisle as unappealing and anger-inducing as they ever were and there's no end to the political insanity that has overtaken us.  Obama's inability to execute the vision he promised in the last election just seems a more bitter pill to swallow. 

My mother at 80 is finally on the Internet.  She has an email account.  Never thought I'd see that!

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