Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hanger Steak Dinner

The holiday weekend inspired us to invite a few friends over for a barbecue. My meat supplier has hooked me up with some beautiful hanger steaks so we decided to give them a go.

Weekend Barbecue Dinner
Assorted cheeses, fig spread, with crackers and bread
Black beans, grilled corn cut from the cob, roasted red peppers, and teardrop tomatoes
in a Blood Orange Dressing
Roasted Lemony Potatoes
Grilled hanger steaks with balsamic chimmi churri sauce
Assorted berry crisp with oatmeal topping served with vanilla ice cream
The black bean salad was really nice. I made the dressing with the juice of one blood orange, Canola and Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. It was tangy but boring. I wanted creamy. I added some mayo until it had a creamy edge over the tang. It was a bit salty, but over all the vegetables it was magic.
The baby yukon potatoes were microwaved and then quartered lengthwise and put on a roasting pan. I combined a little lemon juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few shakes of some greek seasoning. This mixture was brushed on the potatoes. There were then put in a 400F oven for about 20 minutes until browned at the tips.
I bought a cheap bottle of Balsamic vinegar and then reduced it down to about 1/2 C of liquid. A little of this was used as the base for the chimmi churri. Chopped parsely, minced garlic, salt, fresh ground black pepper and a pinch of red chile flakes were also added. It was dark and glossy.
The steaks were marinated for about an hour in some Worchestershire, soy sauce and chopped garlic.
The guests brought the crisp and it was fabulous. I'm still eating the leftovers!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Menu for a Country BBQ (or Cole's Bday Lunch)

For those who are interested, and I believe there actually are a few, here is the menu and a few links to recipes from the Country BBQ lunch we had last weekend for our little boy - Cole.

  • Homemade Lemonade
    WOW - was that tart. Next time, taste and add more sugar!
  • Watermelon Wedges
    Make sure they are cold, best on ice.
  • Quick Pickles - assorted vegetables
    No recipe, looked online at a few recipes and winged it. Good stuff!
  • Pat's Cole Slaw
    Best basic and addictive slaw - ever! 1/3 each, sugar, mayo and vinegar
  • Corn on the Cob
    Basic, boiled and buttered.
  • Creamy Tarragon Potato Salad
    No recipes, only a craving for creamy tarragon dressing.
    It could have used more salt.
    New potatoes, celery, mayonnaise, tarragon, sour cream
  • Baked Maple Beans
    These were cooked over 12 hours. I used navy beans.
    I'd do these again anytime. I trust Bobby Flay's American fare recipes, always hearty, always tasty.
  • Grilled Lemon Chicken
    This was the best grilled chicken I've ever had.
    We used two techniques, brining and basting.
    We found this Chez Panisse brine and decided to try it.
    I wanted an award winning grilled chicken and I found this
    garlicy basting recipe from Oregon. Fabulous, but a bit salty.
    I need to weigh or measure somehow the amount of ice I add to the brine
    in the cooler to make sure the amount is correct according to the recipe.
  • Pat's 4 Bean Salad
    I don't have her recipe - this and the cake were the only things I didn't cook!

There you have it, a feast fit for a crowd of four or forty year olds!

Monday, May 7, 2007

New York Image III - Buddha's Hand Citrus

This is a Buddha's Hand citrus that we saw at a market in SoHo during our trip to New York.
Good food porn for us hybrid citrus fans!

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New York Image II - Daniel Birthday Plate

This was my birthday dessert course at Daniel.
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New York Image I - Sopranos at Aqueduct

Here is Bruce at Aqueduct with Gandolfini (Tony) in the background. Tony was taking pictures of his children who were posing at a table nearby.
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Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Millionaire and the Indian - a classic Vixen tale

A quick note: I wrote this piece over fifteen years ago. Recently Bruce and I tried to explain this evening to someone... here's the true tale.

As originally published on

The Millionaire and the Indian

Why does a millionaire continue to work fifty-hour work weeks? This was the burning question my husband had for Rod, the young, good looking, executive he'd been working with for several years. Rod had decided to leave the company and Bruce, my husband, decided that this was the perfect time to invite Rod over for dinner to discuss the big question.

Once Rod was invited, we remembered that he had some food allergies and a few quirky dislikes. I had Bruce ask Rod to let us know his food guidelines and he shot back a quick answer: "No wheat, no dairy, no cold meats, eggs are okay".

"Okay, I can do this", I thought. It took a few days to shake off the fear and to realize that there was a lot left to serve. Vegetables, rice, hot meats and fish came to mind. I began working on a menu and sent Bruce back to ask Rod if he could handle spicy foods. Thank God the answer was yes! Bruce and I love spicy foods and I couldn't imagine how I was going to make the food shine without using some chile heat.

The menu came together as: Crudites with dilled white bean dip; Blackened red snapper; Parsleyed rice and berries with sabayon for dessert. I kept it simple but tasty. I didn't want a failure on my hands.

The day of the dinner arrived. I spent the afternoon slicing vegetables, cleaning berries, and making the spice mixture for the fish. Rod was due to arrive at 7:00pm.

At about 5:30 pm we received a phone call. It was Bruce's sister, Lenae. We hadn't heard from her in at least a year. This call was a very mixed blessing. At the time, she had a drug problem. Spending time with Lenae was stressful to say the least. "Don't you live in Culver City?", she asked. "Yes", Bruce replied. Lenae then proposed, "Let me come over and show you my Indian." Well, the conversation just deteriorated from there. We really had little choice but to have her over. We truly missed her, wanted to see how she was doing and were curious about this Indian thing. We let her know about Rod coming over and asked that she make it a very short visit. She complied.

About ten minutes later, true to her word, she arrived, with an Indian. His name was Russ, or Red Feather, or The Indian, whichever you prefer. He was dressed in black leather with silver studs from head to toe. He had at least one ring on each finger and about fifteen necklaces around his neck. He looked tough, but had a friendly smile. Lenae looked her old self, tired, run down, your typical speed freak. We sat and chatted for a while. This was in 1992, just after the riots in South Central Los Angeles. The Indian told stories of his looting exploits during the pandemonium. People just started handing him stuff, he assured us.

Time was running short. We reminded them of our previous commitment and began showing them to the door. Then our phone rang. It was Rod, he was downstairs waiting to be buzzed into our building.

We quickly said our good-byes. Bruce and I walked them down the hallway towards the entrance of the building. As we approached the door at the end of the hall, it opened and Rod walked toward us.

It was a tense and odd moment. Should we introduce the millionaire to the druggy sister and her Indian? We opted not to. They passed each other in the hallway with only a hint of amusement passing across Rod's face. Bruce and I didn't have time to digest this bizarre moment.

Back in the apartment things started off well. The appetizers were received with compliments. Bruce and Rod began to discuss the issue at hand. I began heating up the frying pan for the blackened fish.

I had made the recipe before. I made sure to turn the stove's exhaust fan on, open a few windows and to heat the pan until it was white hot. I carefully added the seasoned fish fillets.

The small apartment quickly filled with spicy, burning, smoke. The fire alarm began wailing. Bruce opened the door to the apartment to help create a cross breeze. I attacked the smoke alarm, tearing the batteries out as quickly as I could.

Rod began wheezing, then coughing. He quickly found his inhaler. Bruce led him to our tiny balcony where the air was clear. Rod sucked on his inhaler hungrily as he tried to clear his lungs.

There wasn't time for me to panic. I had to finish cooking the fish. I knew that the smoke would stop once the fish was out of the pan. I did what I could to quickly finish preparing the meal.

The smoke hazard was over in less than ten minutes. Bruce and Rod stayed outside for at least twenty. They came to the table as the last of the smoke was clearing from the apartment.

The rest of the evening went smoothly. The fish was perfectly cooked and had the distinctive red-hot taste of the blackened spices. The sabayon turned out rich and creamy. Rod could eat everything we served and was lavish with his praise for the food.

Rod did try to answer Bruce's question. It seems that some people are willing to work hard not just for money, but for the desire to succeed. Rod wouldn't speak for himself, only others he knew, who did exactly that. Whether for power, greed or in competition (with themselves or others), some people never cease to work tirelessly.

Hmm, like me in the kitchen, always striving to reach new heights? Perhaps.

Bruce-a-lot (New York Part V)

We awoke to a cold morning and cigar breath. We washed away the remnants of the night before and bundled up for a new adventure. We decided to go back to The Cupping Room for breakfast. It was a Sunday morning and the place was packed. Young couples, old friends, and families with children in tow were lined up in the bar awaiting a table. We lucked out and were seated at the last table for two. We ate quickly and then caught a cab up to Central Park. I had decided that I couldn't go to New York City and not visit the park. On our first night in the city we could see one corner of the park, while we dined at PerSe. But I wanted the real experience, a walk in the park.
It was still cold when we started our walk and we kept our jackets closed and walked quickly through the mostly deserted park. We passed many of the famous landmarks of the park. Each new scene we came upon made me think of all the movies and television shows I had seen with these vistas as the backdrop. Similar to places in Los Angeles, these were landmarks that the world recognizes, but these places truly are familiar and part of home to some. And here we are soaking in it; New York City, breathing it in.
We wander over to Rockefeller Plaza towards the Theater District. We had tickets for the afternoon matinee of Monty Python's Spamalot at the Schubert Theater. Rockefeller Plaza was in the midst of being decorated for the coming Christmas season. The tree was erected and had scaffolding surrounding it and going up... what seemed like 100 feet high. There was a Santa Clause in the FAO Schwartz building, looking out on the scene and waving at the crowds below. People idly ice skated about below and we decided we'd had enough of this scene. We walked on towards the Schubert in hopes of finding some food before the show started. We came upon Sardi's and had to take the opportunity to check it out. Sardi's is an institution in the Theater District. It's where theater people have eaten for generations. There are caricatures all over the walls boasting the long tradition of theater. Well, the place was a mad house, crazy busy. They were quick to seat us, but then we were ignored in our little corner table. Ten minutes clicked by and we were never seen by a waiter. We spent our time laughing at the out dated menu and ridiculous prices and just about crying for the sad people who had saved their money, come to New York to see something on Broadway and someone tells them that this is the place to get the best true theater dining experience. The over worked waiters and tattered room make the place just seem sad and shabby. We walked out. We decided to do the real NY thing and eat a hot dog off the cart down at the corner. The hot dog was perfect... well the idea of the hot dog was perfect, the dog itself was bland and not Kosher beef, which I prefer.
Bruce and I are not into musicals. As a young musician in a youth orchestra he was often called upon to play all the Broadway favorites. He knows his Music Man from his South Pacific and he hates them all with a passion. Their simplistic melodies and repetitive nature are enough to drive a young mind to join a Punk band.
I however found musicals very entertaining, when I was 12 years old. That was when I tired of them as well. My mother subscribed to the local civic light opera and dutifully took her daughters to see all their productions. I think of musicals as entertainment, for children.
So Spam-a-lot might not seem the obvious choice of things for us to do during our trip to NY, but we are both big Monty Python fans and I thought it would be cool to see it in NY before it was sent around the country (the deal for which had not been announced at the time of our trip).
I bought great tickets from an online broker. We were right up front to the right in about the 3rd row. The play was very funny and well done. I even loved the costumes, beautiful dresses are one of my weaknesses.
Near the end of the play, at just about the climax of the show, a large artifact is unveiled on the stage and needs to be interpreted. I stared at that thing as the cast bantered back and forth "CIOI? C101? Chaio?" "what does it mean?"
I leaned over to Bruce, "That is your seat number."
Bruce just has a chance to feel under his seat to see if there is something there, when...
At that moment one of the cast members jumps down into the audience, pulls Bruce from his seat, dumps the holy grail into the seat and proclaims Bruce to be the "Best Peasant". Bruce is pulled up on stage, the cast sings a song to him, a picture is taken, an award and certificate are given to him.
I am in shock. I can't even take a picture, Bruce had the camera in his pocket. A nice lady sitting next to me in the audience took a picture and my address (she really did send us the snap shots too!).
Bruce returns to the seat, and he's in shock too. Wow.
After the show ends, the cast is selling items as a charitable fund-raiser. We buy the poster signed by the cast and while we're standing at the booth buying it, Bruce was asked to sign another person's poster, so that it has the "whole cast".
We wander out and catch a cab back to the hotel. Wow, this has become an incomparable city adventure.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Tiffany and The Sopranos (New York Part IV)

We awoke groggily with Champagne hang overs and vague memories of making plans to go to a racetrack. Our friend called to arrange a time for us to meet them at the owner's boxes. We looked up Aqueduct online and found it located roughly between Queens and Brooklyn out near JFK in an area described as Jamaica, Queens. It looked like an adventure.
We were hungry to start the day and had heard many good things about Balthazar and decided to walk by and see if we could get in for breakfast. It was packed, people pouring out the door. We continued our walk through SoHo and then slowly north and ended up at a place called NoHo Star and it was great. Clean, great creative menu, hot tasty food, what's not to like? But it was getting close to lunch time by now and we needed to do a little shopping before hitting the track.
Bruce had promised me a little Tiffany gold for my 40th birthday gift. We also needed to pick up a sport jacket for him to appease the turf club's jacket-required dress code. So we hopped in a taxi up to the big Tiffany & Co. store on Fifth Ave. and speed shopped for some beautiful gold jewelry. We found what I wanted rather quickly and then wandered around the store diamond and people watching. We loved looking at the over the top super duper pieces and even asked one of the workers to hold up a piece (similar to this one) to let us see if it makes tinkling noises when the chains bump into each other (no real tinkling was detected). Finally, our pieces had been placed in cloth pouches and the pouches into hard hinged jewelry boxes and the boxes put into Tiffany blue cardboard boxes and wrapped with white satin ribbon and wrapped into tissue and put into a bright blue Tiffany & Co. shiny paper shopping bag. Whew, thank you, beautiful, let's get out of here. Over to...
Hugo Boss, speed shopping now, we only have 1 hour to get out to the track. We wander up and down through the store and eventually find something that will work fine. We go to pay and now our fine financial institution has decided that this isn't a normal day of shopping for B&V and wants us to jump through a few maiden name hoops before allowing us to pay for the jacket, remove the tags from it and put the Tiffany jewelry on before jumping into a cab and heading towards Queens.
There is traffic, tons of traffic. It takes forever. Our friend calls to make sure we are okay. We eventually get dropped off by the cab on the wrong side of the track. The entrance is closed, but Bruce uses the information we have and inquires through the cheap bourbon fumes wafting out of the booth "It's Bruce and Vickie, we were told you'd know us and that we shouldn't pay the $2.00 fee?" The guy looked at Bruce like he was nuts and pointed at the old yellow school bus turning around just in front of the booth in the parking lot. We got aboard and it took us around to the main entrance and we found the turf club entrance. They DID know who we were and didn't even ask for the fee, just rushed us upstairs to meet our friends, but not before asking if we were with the Soprano party. Baffled, we rushed upstairs and to the restroom before asking the host to seat us. He promptly asked if we were with the Sopranos. We said no and thought it a bit strange that now two people had asked this same mysterious question. We followed the host to our table... just past, oh my god, it's them, Tony, Paulie and the guys - the four tables behind us filled with the cast of the Sopranos show on HBO. They were there celebrating a birthday. We did our best not to stare but did manage to get a few pictures of each other with Tony in the background. The races whizzed by and neither Bruce nor I won much if any money. We did have the opportunity to meet and become acquainted with the trainer for our horse. He is from France and travels around the world with his horses, visiting some of the richest places on earth and flying on specially configured airplanes. When it was time for the big race of the day we moved down to the paddock so we could watch the race from ground level. We met the jockey and the horse. The Soprano's horse was running against ours and so the guys were all down at the track rubbing shoulders with us. I'm sure it gave them a thrill. Luckily our horse did NOT win, but neither did the Soprano's horse, so we all left the area without incident.
Bruce and I did our best to get out out of there fast in order to get back into the city for a dinner reservation at Daniel. But when we take the school bus to where we think a subway station should be, we are encouraged, by the policemen attending the exit, to return to the club house to call a cab. So we board the bus again and when we get to club house we run into our friends from the owners table. They board the bus with an adventurous attitude toward the subway station and we follow like good little tourists.
One of the friends is a NYC native. She calls the port authority to ask when we should expect a train and where would be a safe place to change trains on our way back to MidTown Manhattan. I remove my Tiffany jewelry and put it in my purse, but I'm still holding my bright blue bag which seems to at this point be glowing and pulsating. Our train arrives and the cast of characters couldn't have been better. All colors, all shapes, all sizes, hair nets, tattoos, piercings, but my favorite is a guy with a golden bicycle. Bruce offers up his seat to a few people and gets a few takers - what a nice guy!
We emerge, three trains and 50 minutes later, three blocks from our dinner reservation at Daniel. I stop outside the door to put my Tiffany gold back on, smooth down my hair. We enter a jewel box of calm sophistication. They bring us to a corner table which is in a beautifully colorful tent. It's luxe in every way. They bring a small plush seat for my purse and I try to remember where I have dined that has done this before (I still can't remember). They make Bruce keep his jacket on, house rules, even though he is over-heated from the quick walk to the restaurant. They treat us like kings and we indulge in a wonderful meal. The wait staff takes a liking to us and recommends a place called Lexington Bar and Books for an after dinner drink and a cigar. Ah, what a great suggestion.
We waddle out of the restaurant and up to the bar. We are buzzed in and seated at a cozy table. We indulge in cognac, single-malt Scotch and a cigar each. Wow, what a day. Wow, New York City!