Mmmangga’t Bagoong

I was going to post a picture and leave it at that, but realize that some of you don’t speak the Filipino.

Mangga is Tagalog for mango, and in this case it should mouth-puckering green.

Bagoong is the Filipino’s version of that Southeast Asian goodie, fermented shrimp paste. What makes it Filipino is the sauteeing in garlic, onions, and sometimes ginger before being potted in little jars to satisfy Pinoys everywhere. Salty, as expected, but also surprisingly a little sweet, with a touch of heat from bird’s eye chilis (siling labuyo).

Together, the epitome of Filipino street food, stimulating all your flavor centers at once: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.

Not. For. Amateurs.


My kitchen is literally the size of an ironing board. When out of town, one of the things I relish most is being able to spread out, bring out the BIG bowls, roll out the dough to 9 by 13 as directed, roast somehing bigger than a cornish hen, and bake cookies more than 6 at a time.

Today I decided to tackle homemade pasta. The recipe is simple and straightforward, but so flavorful…nay, delicious. I’d tried making pasta by hand once before to a froufrou recipe with disastrous, concrete-like results. Turns out, except in the case of kitchen size, less is more.

Strozzapretti with Roasted Tomatoes

2 eggs
1 cup of flour
(That’s it! Whaa??)

Pint of cherry or grape tomatoes
Blue cheese
Handful of basil

Mound the flour on top of your enormous marble counter and make a well in the middle with your fingers. Break the eggs into the well and beat them with your fingers, thoroughly breaking the yolk and incorporating flour little by little from the walls of the well until a moist, but not sticky, dough is formed. Knead slightly to form a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Halve the cherry tomatoes. Toss in a sheet pan with 4 minced cloves of garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 300 for about 45 mins, or until they have softened and collapsed.

While the tomatoes are cooking, pulse together 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 3T of blue cheese with a big handful of basil and one garlic clove until crumb-like.

Roll out the dough as thin as you can and cut into 1in by 3in strips. Wrap them vertically around a skewer and cook in boiling salted water until a couple of minutes after they float (about 5-7 mins total).

Bring out the sizzling hot, garlicky tomatoes and spread the cheese-basil mixture on top, smooshing it in so itelts from the residual heat.

Toss the tomatoes with the pasta, crack a little black pepper across the top, and mangia!

Pluie in Poughkeepsie

When I go out of town on a gig, I have a list of staple groceries from which I can cobble together a meal that sates my inner gourmand without exhausting my outer sloth: olive oil, butter, stock, frozen spinach, pasta, spaghetti sauce, sausage, etc, etc.
One of the first things I do is prepare a soup or stew that I can eat intermittently over the next 3 weeks, and when it’s cold and rainy, this is my go to recipe. It’s hearty, flavorful and,most important on an LOA, cheap!


4 chorizos
1 bunch of kale, stems removed
2 potatoes
1 can of canellini beans
1 onion
1 can of diced tomatoes

Slice the chorizo into coins and brown in a soup pot over medium heat. Once its fat has rendered out and is crispy around the edges, dice the onions and sauté until soft and translucent.

Slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch pieces and add to the pot, sauteeing until lightly browned.

Add the kale, tomatoes and beans. Salt and pepper to taste, add red chili flakes if you like it a little spicy. Cover and simmer for 30 mins, adding water to maintain the desired consistency.

When the potatoes are tender, it’s ready to serve! A nice crusty bread and maybe even some Parmesan shaved across the top makes for a great rainy day meal.


A Little Digression.

I am a singer.  A pretty healthy one, at that.  I don’t call out of a show very often..the one time I did, I think I had twisted my ankle at curtain call.

I don’t follow any “routines” or curtail my lifestyle to “protect the voce”. Sometimes, it does catch up with me– the fatigue, the stress– and I find myself at less than my best.  In these cases, it was always easy to run to the EENT and get “scoped”, take a couple of anti-inflammatories or, worst case scenario, get a course of steroids to get me up and running.

This past weekend, however, life interefered with art when an intense crying jag coupled with loss of sleep caused me to wake up on the morning of a two-show day barely able to speak.  In a show with no understudies, I had no choice but to go on.  A ROCK show with no understudies. Dear Lord, that’s a story for another day. Rockin' Out

Needless to say I went balls to the wall on those two shows and woke up on the day off with absolutely nothing.  No voice and, more importantly, no health insurance (it had run out on me last June and wouldn’t be reinstated until January).  A call to the doctor connected me to a very sympathetic young man in the finance department who graciously offered to lower the self-pay fee from $1400 to $600–still much more than I could afford on an Off-Broadway Mini-Contract.

Self-medication it is, then.

I had 3 days to get back in shape before auditions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday plus rockout shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In the interest of helping those like myself who spent hours googling and perhaps putting out cries for help on Facebook, here is what I did:

  • Boil up a big pot of water with about a quarter cup of chopped ginger and 4 cloves of chopped garlic.  Simmer at low heat for about 15 mins.  Pour into a cup and sweeten with some organic maple syrup. Add a splash of lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper. The ginger and garlic are well-known antiseptics and anti-inflammatories. The warmth will soothe your throat and the cayenne pepper’s heat will bring much needed white blood cells to the area to help you heal faster. The maple syrup supposedly has helpful minerals, but mostly it’s just yummy. Drink this constantly throughout the day.
  • Take a teaspoonful of honey for its antiseptic properties every 4 hours. I took pine honey which is milked from the glands of aphids that infest pine trees in the Alsace region. Yum.  Eat it slowly, let it coat your throatmiel sapin
  • Steam! I harvested some thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage from my window box and put it in a bowl.  I boiled up some water and poured it over the herbs. Tented myself with a large towel and inhaled the steam until it was gone, about 20-30 mins. Thyme and sage are broncho-dilators and will help you breathe easier.  Oregano and rosemary have antiviral, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. If you don’t have fresh herbs, a handful of Italian Seasoning will do just fine.
  • Neti-pot and salt gargle. I wasn’t sure that it would help my throat seeing as it was a stress symptom and not a sinus symptom, but better safe than sorry.  I boiled up 4 cups of water and to that added 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and a teaspoon of baking soda.  Some people fid the neti pot gross, but I find it comforting, cleansing and invigorating.
  • Advil. I took one in the morning and one at night. Some people prefer not to go chemical, but I only had 3 days and wanted to cover all my bases.
  • Sleep. I tried to get as much sleep as I could, which is not so easy when you have houseguests that you haven’t seen in a long time and want to spend time with.  I also have trouble falling asleep because I get distracted by myriad things so, yes, I popped a pill. Two, actually, of Simply Sleep: Tylenol PM without the Tylenol. Just so you know, each pill is 25 mg of diphenhydramine Hcl..same thing in Benadryl and in the store brand of allergy medicine. Get that instead of these “sleep aids”, it’s cheaper!
  • And, in case it wasn’t obvious: NO TALKING! I walked around with pen and paper to have only the most necessary of conversations.  If I found myself without it, I moved my mouth and pronounced the plosive consonants like T or K or P.  I couldn’t call for delivery, so I walked to the restaurant across the street and pointed at what I wanted. What was really interesting to me was the effort that people took to really understand you and that I realized, when I didn’t speak, people actually listened to me.

I tested the voice out a couple of hours ago and I think it’s back! I’m going to keep on vocal rest another 12 hours, then wake up tomorrow and warm up for my first audition of the week. Fingers crossed!

I Have No Pictures.

It was bound to happen. Actually, it had happened many times already: a gorgeous meal presents itself to me and I am without a device with which to record its ephemeral beauty. Or, in this case, it was way too dark.

This weekend saw me taking full advantage of the grill so kindly installed by a beautiful, generous, ladybug-loving neighbor on the roof. The first meal was cobbled together as The Frenchman and I reunited for the first time in 3 weeks. (Yes, I know he brought the camera back with him; I was otherwise occupied.) At the local Kmart on a quest for– I don’t remember what, exactly– we decided we were going to have a barbecue and so bought the charcoal and the charcoal chimney, but kind of punked out on the actual grocery shopping.  So we got home and tried to put together a decent reunion meal with what was already languishing in the fridge.

Charcoal Chimney Magic

A little side trip to that charcoal chimney, so cavalierly mentioned in passing. It may be the greatest invention in the history of grilling. Seriously. A kind of giant stainless steel mug, one stuffs the bottom of the mug with a donut of rolled up newspapers, fills up the top with charcoal, lights the paper and, in ten minutes, blazingly hot coals are ready for the grilling.  I don’t know why anybody would bother with lighter fluid.  A great video on using the charcoal chimney is here.

Anyway, with a  6 month old frozen Costco steak, some vegetables and alcohol, we came up with a pretty good meal.  The steak was marinated in a mixture of bourbon, mustard, Worshurshurshurshur sauce, salt and pepper for the time it took for the coals to heat up.  I soaked some couscous in boiling water (fastest side dish ever) and took it up to the roof.

Once there, I placed a zucchini and a red onion, halved, on the edges of the grill where the heat isn’t quite as high. When they were tender and caramelized with lovely grill marks, I sliced them thinly and tossed them into the couscous. A leftover half an avocado, cubed, followed in after them as well as a generous glug of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and lots of pepper.

The steak went on the grill and immediately the booze sent up a mini nuclear explosion. Once beautifully charred to a medium-rare, about 10 minutes, the steak came off and onto our plates where it oozed a smoky, earthy juice from the bourbon, spiked by the vinegar and heat from the mustard.

We ate our Costco ribeye and drank our Two-Buck Chuck with our scavenger’s couscous in the quiet city that seemed to exist for us alone on a Saturday night, then danced to Ella until the rain sent us scurrying inside for warmth and shelter.


Charcoal Chimney Magic

My good friend and incredible cook Erin Crosby over at Brooklyn Cookin’ has a great Chickpea Salad Recipe that I first tasted on a beautiful summer day in her backyard as we celebrated the impending arrival of Bailey Elise Evans whose mother now apparently only makes Knife-Free Meals.

Chickpea Salad

Chickpea Salad

It’s the simplest recipe with the cleanest flavors:chickpeas, red onion, celery, salt, pepper and parsley.  Every time I make it, it’s a hit. Which is why, for 4th of July, I made a HUGE batch. I didn’t want it to run out. Long story short, I overcompensated and I ended up with about 2 lbs of leftover chickpea salad.

As good as it is, one simply cannot find the strength to consume 2 lbs of leftover chickpea salad…or two lbs of anything, really.  I had to find a way to use it all up.

Mark Bittman to the rescue! Just this morning, he published an article about how “if you substitute “thick purée” for “dip,” the options are limitless.  A friend takes last night’s vegetable dish, purées it with whatever it takes to get his food processor working — oil, lemon juice, water — adds other flavorings if necessary, and serves it to guests with crackers or crudités.”

EUREKA!  Puree the chickpea salad with some additional olive oil, some salt and pepper and a dash of paprika and, voila, salad reborn! Serve with pita chips, celery, carrots and cucumber sticks.  All gastrointestinal effects remain the same. But boy, is it yummy.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Chickpea Salad Three Ways!

Lazarus Dip

Lazarus Dip

Edit: The Frenchman, who, as you all know went to Indonesia without me and took the camera, looked at my blog for the first time in two weeks and said, “Ew, your pictures are so grainy”.  I wonder if I can turn him into a thick puree.

The incredibly talented Erik Liberman who is on a Hawaiian break from Fiddling on the Roof with Topol can do no wrong…onstage. But on Facebook, when he said that he “thinks that, sometimes, East should not meet West… Case in point: Spam in Nori roll, just spotted at truck stop!” The resulting “Eeeeewwwwws” that followed got me up in arms…Ooooh, a girl gotta step up and defend! Or at the very least, console herself with said Spam in Nori Roll, known in elite circles that include Barack Obama and myself as Spam Musubi.


Bawrap Ospama

Ok, I admit, I was wary at first of the big pink and green roll. But I had the guidance of a real Japanese-Filipino-Irish Hawaiian (as authentic as it gets) encouraging me to try one at the Huki-Lau in San Jose. I fell in love.  Eight cubic inches of umami, the recently identified fifth taste I can only describe as “nyumnyumnyumnyumnyum”.  It’s a very popular snack in Hawaii, cribbed from the Japanese rice balls called Onigiri, which are normally stuffed with salmon or tuna, shaped into triangles and wrapped with nori.  Hawaii loves its Spam and so naturally the Spam Musubi was born.

I was waiting for my Fourth of July guests to arrive. I’d finished roasting the 7-lb pork shoulder and preparing the chickpea salad way faster than I anticipated and sat in the kitchen twiddling my thumbs.  I realized I had just enough time to sop up the drooling Erik had incited in me with a bit of Spam.

The Frenchman took the camera with him to Indonesia on a surfing trip without me (not that I mind. No, really.) so the pictures accompanying this post are crappy, but I assure you the actual product was anything but.

First, prepare 3 cups of uncooked sushi rice.  You have a rice cooker, right? Everyone does! Pour it in there with 4 cups of water, flip the switch and go lug tables and folding chairs up the stairs to the roof of your 6 floor walkup.

When the rice is cooked, you can start with the Spam. Open up the can and cut the block of salty synthesis into 10 slices.

Spam, Glorious Spam

Spam, Glorious Spam

Mix up 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of mirin (sweet rice wine). Set aside.

Heat up some oil in a frying pan. I used olive, but honestly, with all the tastes going on, the oil you use just won’t matter.  Lay down the slices of spam to fry. After a minute or two, when the spam has had the chance to get a little golden crust on it, pour the soy sauce mixture over the top. Flip the spam to coat and cook until the edges of the slices are crisp and caramelized.

Ooey-Gooey Salty Sweet

Ooey-Gooey Salty Sweet

And now, the fun part.  Take your musubi mold…well of COURSE you have one, don’t everybody? Ok fine, if you must, cut out the bottom of the can o’ spam. It does a fine job as a musubi mold as well. I, for one, have this handy-dandy one I got for $4 at Mitsuwa, Japanese Wonderland:

Your General All-Purpose Musubi Mold

Your General All-Purpose Musubi Mold

Moisten the mold with water to prevent sticking and place it on top of a nori sheet that you have cut in half to, oh my golly, is it..can it be..the exact width of a slice of Spam?? It’s as if they were MADE for each other!

Fill the mold with about 3 T of rice and press down with the, uh, rice presser.  Use a spoon if you are going the Spam can way.  At this point you can sprinkle in some sesame seeds, furikake, or maybe a smear of wasabi.  Layer in a slice of teriyaki’d Spam. Put 3 more T of rice in the mold and press down rather firmly. You want the rice to hold together.

With revolutionary cut-away view!

With revolutionary cut-away view!

Swaddle your bundle of rice with the nori and there you have it!  To appease the queasy yet adventurous, I cut them in half to serve.  They are great when warm and just wrapped with crispy nori, but just as good a couple of hours later cold on the roof!

Spam for the Taking

Spam for the Taking

You might be just as wary as I was the first time I tried it, but as I told Erik: put it in your mouth, then get back to me.