Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fried Chicken Forever- Sunday Savoring

Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.

Thomas Fuller

Growing up in the '60's meant walking home from church to find mother standing in front of the alter of our home: a four burner white O'Keefe &; Merritt stove. Mom would be dressed as if she was going on a nice date.Mom looked like a movie star then. Her Donna Reed dress played up her hour glass figure. Nylons hugged her legs, practical pump elongated them. Her curly hair was lacquered in place with Aqua Net hairspray. Her face was powdered, her cheeks rouged in the same fire engine red as her lips. Only the apron, crisply pressed and starched,  gave away that she would not be going out.

Over the rings of dancing blue flames, 2 large skillets of hot Crisco oil bubbled with chicken frying.  The thought of how my mother's chicken scented the air makes me nostalgic for a time which really is better in my memory than it was in real life.

Cut up, rinse, then trim a plump fresh chicken of excess fat.
Prepare the brine by combining in a large bowl

1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
1 rounded tsp. Salt
2 good splashes Tabasco Sauce
1 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 Tbsp Pepper
1 tsp Paprika
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper.

Turn the chicken pieces to individually coat. Cover and soak in the refrigerator 4 hours to overnight.

Prepare the dredging

1- 3/4 cups Biscuit Mix
1/4 cup Rice Flour
1 Tbsp Pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning.
About an hour before you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400° F .
Heat enough quality oil in a deep skillet to come up more than half way on the fattest chicken piece. When the oil reaches between 350- 375° F - a drop of water instantly sizzles.

While the oil  comes to temp- Pull the chicken pieces through the flour mixture to coat all sides.
Starting with the largest pieces and avoiding crowding the pan, carefully lay the chicken in the hot oil .

 In 3-4 minutes- a crispy crust will form- turn carefully. As each piece becomes encrusted in an amber brown, place on a raised rack set atop a roasting pan. 

Repeat with the rest of chicken pieces. Slide the pan into the oven to finish cooking.  Check in 15 minutes- pull the pieces out as they reach an internal temperature of 160 ° F on an instant read thermometer. As a rule of thumb- 15 minutes for the wings- 20 minutes for the legs and thighs. The breasts might need another 15 -20 minutes- like a bra- it all depends on how buxom the breasts you started with.

The current Cook's Illustrated (Sept.- Oct. 2010) is much like my own- crisping cut up chicken marinated in a buttermilk brine, then finishing in the oven. If you want to know WHY all this works- get a copy.
What we do today should be worthy of a memory. My window is inching towards completion.. By the next Sabbath it should be ready for framing. My husband is experimenting with a technique for his part in our collaboration.

This Sunday- I wish you beautiful sunsets and a life creating memories. May today's gift be future memories  which will be remembered as  past perfect.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paradise on Earth- Friday Philosophy

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
-Dale Carnegie

In the mornings, the blowzy bower is full full of all manner of butterflies and birds. Between the flowers and feeding stations- its as crowded as Disneyland during school vacation. I do not know how the little wild winged ones flutter about safely without air traffic control. 

All these roses do not make for  the most practical garden on the block. When I set out to have a garden, I didn't ask, "What is the most practical garden to have?" any more than I asked," Is Gerry the most practical man to marry?"

I have known couples whose union was formed  like a corporate merger, complete with listed assets. Time is not a friend to these unions. One or both partners exist for long spells between short bursts of excitement. Not always with each other.

While practical considerations need to be asked before planning for anything as important as a garden or a wedding, there is one question which must be asked, "Is this what I want to wake up every morning to?"

If you answer that you want to wake up to air scented by dew decanted with rose petals; edge your garden with roses. Then wake up to the delightful surprises you didn't know to anticipate. Such as while sipping that first cup of coffee as the sun rises- you learn to identify birds by their languages. Some sing, some chatter and some tisk-tisk tattle. For us defiant romantics,  an abundant garden is perfect. I need the garden as much as it needs me. It  makes it possible to be at work and on vacation on the same days. 

Summer is at its height. Some orioles still straggle about. When they are gone for the season- the joy they bring will be with us year-round- celebrated in this last section of the window. Soon to be finished and up.

How do you make your vision of paradise come true?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Things We Do For Love -

It can also be our hardest times."
-Angie to Lauren in The Things We Do For Love

103.1°F at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The bright blue skies of August some times are best enjoyed inside. Reading. Toasting the King of Cool, Willis Haviland Carrier the inventor of modern air conditioning.

The Things We Do For Love runs deeper than a catchy title.To open and turn the pages of Kristin Hannah's novel  is to be addicted. To love. Which shares  chocolate's flavor-range- from sweet to bittersweet to darkly delicious.

The plot begins shortly after the Patriarch of a large Italian family- DeSaria- dies. The recently divorced daughter, Angela, at first in denial that she still loves her now ex-husband. The family restaurant is in trouble and she quits her fast-track career to leave the big city to help revive the family restaurant restaurant in a town  on the Washington coast that smells of salt and pine. 

Angela's story of regret is expertly woven with that of a poor-but-proud girl on scholarship to the local private high school and her rich high school boyfriend quarterback.

The characters draw you in, keep you turning the page. Just like life, the actions and emotions are believable, if not always predictable.  From giving in to staying away; love pulls and pushes, making one question God. Why, if You want us to do the right thing- Why is the right thing so often not the easy thing to do?
Confession. My inner imp- when Nancy Pelosi used the phrase last week"ginning up"- I thought about segueing into a cocktail made with gin. Maybe something about gin rummy. Or the historical importance of the cotton gin. However, there is enough salt on enough wounds leading to this coming anniversary of  September 11th.

Instead- In honor of the fictional DeSaria's restaurant in this week's book- punch in to irrepressible Oregon Sue 's Aug 19th post to learn how to make a batch of fresh pesto. 

A summer special on our patio here is to shoo the bees from the basil bushes long enough to harvest a basketful to whir up some fresh pesto.

Guests are wowed when a green salad and a glass of wine is paired with pesto tossed over fettuccine studded with black olives, chunks of freshly grilled chicken breast and red pepper strips.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Philosophy- God's Handwriting

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do you suppose God is saying with the bounty of beauty bestowed? That he loves us? That  His love is boundless in expression? That He wants to communicate?

My garden is my thank you note back. A sign of respect.

How does it feel to work hard, knowing my greatest achievement will never match his humblest offering?  Realizing the greatest teacher is always at my side, encouraging.

Look at the tiny bee. What is the lesson?  He wants us to read in the blank spaces created by the great bee disappearing act? Perhaps He is challenging us to active patience.

Flowers bloom here year round. Labor intensive abandon isn't to every taste. Or schedule. Or budget. No matter- writing style  is not limited to flowers associated with bouquets. Fruits, vegetables; many start their lives as blossoms as sure as we started as babies. Think of them as words we eat.

God doesn't tell so much as He shows. In 33 years of keeping hillside gardens, we've never suffered a bee shortage.

Now, go out and send a note written in flowers on the pad of your garden, be it acreage or a pot. Be patient. Faithful in your resolve and expectation that in His time, He will write back: sending bees to continue the conversation. In all endeavors, doing our part requires action. Even on days like today, when the temperature flirts with triple digits- making the writing slow.

Image by Gene Sasse. Used with permission

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Savoring Sunday Memories


What excitement we had at home last week with 4 forever puppies At times it was like being Mother Goose with the gaggle following closely. While our 2 "grand puppy" house guests were here for their extended play date with our own brood, there was not shortage of health- giving laughter. Of course, there were brief bursts where little Quila was the fuse to the "3 sticks of dynamite" ):-. Always, it was refreshing. A good summer memory.

The summer sun makes me appreciate succulents anew. With a drip line connected to the topiary "tree" - after languishing so long-  the foliage now is quickly coming to need a trim.
  In planning the summer suppers- like wardrobe- the goal should be to keep things light. 

Years ago, a food broker raised awareness that the rice I normally whipped side dishes from was common cloth. Good; but not great. There is a whole world of grains out there which deserve a place at the table. Basmati rice is an instant improvement to most recipes calling for white rice. 

Lime-Cilantro White Rice is quite simple and sublime. One of those uncommon dishes to satisfied innocent children through sophisticated gourmets. 

Begin with your standard pattern for white rice. Insist on Basmati.

Over a gentle fire, pour the grains into our favorite saucepan, which you coated ever so lightly with olive oil and butter, barely melted. 
 Stir long enough to coat and add just a touch of toastiness. 
When you add the water, also add the juice squeezed from a lime from which you have set aside the  zest.
When your recipe suggests the rice will be done- lift the lid long enough to fluff and add not quite enough  real butter to clog the arteries):- 
The lid back on will hold the heat: finish whatever else you plan to serve. 
When ready, stir one last time to even the buttery goodness throughout.
Mound on a platter. Sprinkle with the lime zest.
The Pièce de résistance- shower shavings of deep green cilantro leaves across the white mountain.

It wouldn't be the Sunday Sabbath without words of wisdom. Coming of Age in the cusp of the '60's and 70's- my generation needed to have children to grasp the lesson. From this perch in life- I hope this is a battle the culture war fights, the winning side, be it the State of  Grace. I leave you with these pearls strung by Paul

"Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not grieve God's Holy Spirit by the way you live . . . Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
"Ephesians 4:29–32.

Quila is an awesome Chihuahua. True story- she hailed from Beverly Hills.  Not quite like that movie. But "mom "works there and I swear that dog's wardrobe comes in bags better than my clothing!

The succulents were born in Pasadena. Where the cross, at time of writing, resides at the  California Cactus Center.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Consider the Hummingbird

“Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem and turned it into an opportunity.”
Joseph Sugarman

The average hummingbird lives only 5 years- if he is one of less than half that make it through the first year.

Some of the world's smallest birds will fly non-stop 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico for 20 hours during migration.  Hummingbirds have no sense of smell- but still need to find 1,000 flowers for nectar and numerous bugs (for protein) to feed on- needing to consume up to 8 times its weight every day in order to power its hover 'round.

Whatever your problems are; compared with what a hummingbird has to do to just to stay aloft, aren't they really concerns awaiting a plan needing follow through?

When I was young, I was very restless. I panicked too easily at the thought of being left behind. It was easier to be afraid than patient.

Fortunately God sent his lesson to me on the wings of what Spanish discovered in the summer gardens of America -Joyas voladoras - flying jewels- hummingbirds.  Just because the journey to a flower isn't straight on, that doesn't deter their arriving at their goal. They may wait in the limbs of the lemon tree for a clear opportunity. They may fly in with the skill of the Navy Blue Angels; turning and rolling over midway before breaking the formation apart and zooming off..

What hummingbirds teach is to spend some time outside. Act boldy and with purpose.Skill is more important than size. When at first you don't succeed- try a different approach. Do your job with joy. It will multiply with everyone who watches.

Now, go plant a flower.   Give a hummingbird an opportunity.

Image by Gene Sasse. This week's edition of his newsletter is a seamless example of going with the flow. This week his writer (me) was unavailable. He went ahead with a collection of   Garden Quotes with Images. PERFECT for summer. Open the link and believe.  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Savoring Sunday- 1

Summer in southern California. Mornings cooled by onshore breezes.  With handkerchief clouds waving across the sky, daylight cusps just shy of definitely hot. Evenings are cool; perfect for dinner on the patio. Such is a my heaven, just a half-hour inland drive from the Pacific.

Work last week was marvelous. Much of it was invested studying how the Scottsdale based  Linthicum, learning how they make dreams real through building. Assigned by Western Art and Architecture to profile the firm, I lived the literary equivalent of rafting the Clark River in Montana. With discovery at every turn of a portfolio of remarkable range, my soul swirled in their collection's  depth and impeccable detail,  I was washed in waves of  awe and exhilaration.

My favorite approach to writing is like tasting wine; absent rush. Allow the story to decant. The first puppy-pant sip gives a first impression, not a total one. A break, followed by a savored swallows; such technique better involves the senses. When the rendering of the builder is finished, the resplendent layering of flavors will have revealed themselves. 

Time is a luxury in the business of writing. It must be by the Grace of  God that it appears just when it is most desirable. 

Last night was a break. Time to release the inner child. Fortuitous timing for  Gene Sasse's annual summer garden party.

 With so many garden flavor's at their peak, now  is the season for chopping and blending up tasty batches of everything. When the need is to prepare just adds to a couple cups ,the Cuisinart® 3-Cup Mini-Prep Plus Food Processor, nicknamed "Baby Cuisinart" is called to kitchen duty.

With a very full week behind and ahead, my offerings for the potluck were simple. A bottle of carbonated peach juice and celery stuffed two ways. One a cream cheese and olive concoction, seasoned like ranch dressing. The other, the childhood favorite peanut butter sweetened with lavender honey.

I never know who will show up at one of Gene's parties. Just that they will be artistic and endlessly interesting. During a chat with proessional story-teller Jim Cagan- his long-ago duties in the forest service at Yosemite- he worked with my husband's cousin Sid, long of Louisiana. Viva la "It's a Small Word."

I do not know whom to thank for having supplied the Filippi White Grenache blush wine. However- my eyes lit up at the sublime partnering of flavor with peanut butter stuffed celery. The taste made me, at age 55, all at once, woman and child.

Next Saturday, August 14th, historic Joseph Filippi Winery hosts a special opportunity to take part in a  Winery Tour and Grape Stomping

Outdoor images by Gene Sasse. Used with permission.

The prep device is available in party colors. Purchase on-line at Sur la Table.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Friday Philosophy 3

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Whatever you do in life, strive for excellence. There is more joy and satisfaction in uncompromising effort performing the most menial tasks than there will ever be with "easy money".

Be thankful for a job.  If you are fortunate enough to volunteer or give to your community- be thankful to be in a position to help. Express your gratitude by doing the job well.

Pray to God that every day you will be just a bit better at what you do than you were the day before. Then help him out by doing your best.

Not every project will be fine art. Some will be craft. Whatever it is, be appropriate for the occasion.

Image of slot canyon by Gene Sasse. Used with permission

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Writer's Life

Welcome to a typical day.

One thought leads to another. Studying images of fine masonry work, the outlines of  pyramids wanders into my mind, which quickly detoured to thoughts of  Cecil  B. deMille movies of Egyptian highness es being fed grapes.
Juicy, sweet grapes. Like the ones in the colander? No. Seedless grapes (says a cursory slide through the Internet) are a modern invention. 

Immediately we have 2 things to be thankful for.

1)  To Hollywood  for editing out scenes of Cleopatra spitting out seeds.

2)  For hybridizers who developed these darling seedless varieties.

Writer's block is nothing more than unfulfilled intention. Some times the best thing to break the dreaded "Silence of the Keyboard"- you know, where letters are not tap-dancing their way into being- is to stand up. Move around. Stretch. Put all your attention on some unrelated project. Besides my garden- my glass work takes my mind away from where it got stuck.
To keeping creative juices flowing, relaxation is necessary  Even on deadline. However a writer needs exercise caution- including as regards alcohol- other people depend on our part in their commerce.  Because a bottle of champagne is opened doesn't mean it has to be drunk to be put to use.

There was still fizz when the stopper was pulled out- but writing requires diligence- there is a thing as too relaxed. What to do? There was a bit of the Basic citrus marinade left. Okay. Repeat after me:
Put on the surgical gloves.
 Carefully open some slits under the skin of a prepared roasting chicken.
Side some of the rosemary laced  potion  into the cavities. Lay the chicken in a casserole dish like it is going to take a bath- in champagne. Let it luxuriate there.

Try not to envy the chicken too much. She's about to be speared and trussed and rotisseried until she reaches 160 degrees. At which time she's going to need a bit of rest  before that first taste when we have a 3rd  thing to be thankful for. Or at least I do. I am not a vegetarian.

There you have the basic push and pull of a day in the life of a writer. Struggling to stay creative while diligently stressing discipline.