August 21, 2009

Inspiration can be found by vacating your life.

What will come of standing on a beach?
Greeting sunsets.
All from that watery point of view.
I'll go find out.

August 20, 2009

Latin Jazz

I simply love music, the song I'm singing, the sound someone else is making, the brashness of a new trumpet player slogging through the new-to-him notes, wafting in my window, all of it. I grew up surrounded by music and especially the music of parents singing with the HiFi or the radio. In the kitchen, from the bathroom, filling the car. Music. In that prehistoric pretape era, we were the car singers. Dad had long lists of songs that didn't require a radio and very often were followed with the slick segue, "And then I wrote..." standards, sea shanties. The challenge was, of course, to know each word, each note and to find a place in the harmony. Traditional American songs, the kind Dan Zanes, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen serve up with such generosity. Men knitting with the threads of the country and my family history. We listened to the jingle the rumble and the roar as the Wabash Cannonball, all verses, filled the station wagon or the Jag roadster. No matter the car, the soundtrack was fabulous.
Dad's dad, my mystical Gramps, drove a T-Bird and in drives back and forth to his house, opened the door to classical music for me. I sat at his side, in my bucket seat, listening to the different symphonies offered on the radio and was completely taken by the intricate dance of harmonies in Corelli's Christmas Concerto and Handel's Messiah.
When given the option of choosing a musical instrument to play, I jumped at the chance to play the strings. Which began a journey of unfolding sound that continues. Whilst majoring in music, I walked into a rehearsal hall with friends to listen to the Studio Jazz band rehearse. In that moment, Dad's Dixieland jazz became the music of foundation.
Which brings me to Latin Jazz. We are a family of iPod holders. Each one of us has their collection of songs we want to hear and love to play for each other. A battle can ensue over who gets to connect and control and when there's more of this business than I find enjoyable, we turn to the car radio and very often to jazz. Our particular jazz station, the only jazz station we have, seems to have a soft spot for Latin Jazz. I seem to too. Maybe its the rhythm of the timbales, the congas, vibes or the trumpet guys singing punctuations. It moves me. There is something inclusive that reaches through. It can be Arturo Sandoval or Antonio Carlos Jobim. The music never notices that I'm a classically trained violinist. It just floats in and asks me to join in the samba.
How beautiful. How lovely. And here, we're called to stop being where we are and move.

August 17, 2009

Melissa D'Arabian

A gal, new to my cooking world, has managed to influence my kitchen musings in short order. Melissa D'Arabian, a mom with 4 kids, a husband, a new TV show, and a new house in Seattle has lots to offer in the way of inspiration. Her show, $10 dinners, on Food Network, might be passable by name. $10 dinners sounds like I'll be saving money with cheaper cuts of meat, big box yields and storage considerations. Instead, I'm thrilled to be listening to stories about the time she lived in Paris and her French mother-in-law. This is about eating beautiful food with 3 other people and for me the price is, as it turns out, quite secondary. Melissa weaves tales of where she's been (Paris and Tunisia so far) as she recites her process and brings great interest to what she cooks and what she cooks with. I'd not thought of serving an African meat ball or adding soy sauce to my Dijon Vinaigrette, but taking it in, I'm ready to dive deeper. North African. Meatballs. With cilantro no less.
Ah, inventiveness.

Salmon and the grill

A big artist's palate of a piece of salmon came into my hands a couple of nights ago. It was huge and salmony orange-red in that salmon red way. While it sat on the blue glass dish with a thin coat of olive oil and a couple of lavender stalks waiting for the barbeque, the possibilities floated. With what?
This is where the kitchen seems to speak. Rice? Greens? How green? Fresh? Cooked? What's yellow? Where do we go? On this particular night, the salmon seemed to be calling out for some purple onion slabs on the grill. The yellow of pineapple and the green and green again of, well, mixed spring greens. In this case, color inspired. Color inspires.
So we dined on things from the grill: Salmon with just a touch of olive oil and sea salt, Bermuda Onions and pineapple rounds a good inch thick. Along side Wild Rice with scallions (and a smattering of grilled onions) from the stove, and a glorious Parisian green salad of mixed greens, julienne cut carrots and chunky croutons.
And whether the color or anticipated flavor, gave birth to the plate of flavors and textures, the sum was pleasure.
Eyes, stomachs and hearts, all full.

NB: Melissa D'Arabian, the newest Food Network Host, provided a lovely new turn on Dijon Vinaigrette with her Cafe Green Salad -

Wild Rice

Wild Rice is such a great side dish. It's actually a grass more than a grain. A grainy grass.
Trader Joe's has a Fully Cooked and ready-to-eat pack that serves well when you want to eat beautifully by compiling great ingredients but don't have the luxury of slow cooking. You won't find microwave instructions here either. Not on my radar.

Wild Rice And.
1 package Trader Joe's fully-cooked Wild Rice.
2 Tablespoons EV Olive Oil
1 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced scallions
Salt (your choice)
Fresh Ground Pepper
Lemon juice (optional, but yummy)

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium flame. Add red onion, cook until translucent. Toss in Trader Joe's Wild Rice. Cook on medium for about 10 minutes. Add scallions. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, to wilt the scallions. Salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze the juice of 1/4 lemon. Serve. 20 minutes max cooking time.

Variation inspiration:
- Add garlic salt
- Start with onion and minced garlic
- Without garlic and scallions add 1 cup chopped fresh or canned peaches
- Add chopped celery
- Add brown rice, butter, feta cheese, cilantro, fresh tomato, herbs, herbs, herbs
Inspiration is every where.


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