Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Hipstamatic in Cancun

I will have to make do this week. 
I am away from home and forgot the do-hickey to download from my camera. 
So these are taken from my iPad. 
Then I decided to go all hipstamatic too, which I never use...


...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Musing Monday...Pool or Beach? Oh MY!!

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week… 
 • Describe one of your reading habits. 
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

We will discuss what I am reading right now..
and what I recently bought..
and one of my reading habits, at least when I am on vacation.
Did someone say VACATION?

I am a bit late posting this morning.
You will forgive me, since, yes, I am on vacation.
Yes, again.
This time I am in Cancun, the first time I have been to Mexico. And I just came back from a walk on the beach, watching the sun rise and the birds diving in the water looking for a bite to eat.

I am not really a hot weather person. In fact, I am a wee bit upset to be missing the cold weather and SNOW we seem to have back home. But I will soldier on! :-)

Now, you may also remember that I usually do not read much, if at all, when I am on vacation. But this vacation is different.

You get up in the morning, have breakfast and go to lay by the pool on the comfy recliner prepared with towels and a pillow by the pool boys/girls.
Float in the water until my fingers prune up.
Dodge the kids playing with all sorts of floating things.
Get out..read my book.
Nap. Back in the pool.
Read my book.
Oh, time for a lunch time snack.

Maybe out to the beach now.
People come running to prepare my beach chair again.
Dip in the water.
 "Una margarita por favor!!"
Watch the pelicans diving for lunch.
Decisions to be made!! Go out for dinner or eat in?
Then sit on the balcony.
Stare at the rising moon.
Look at the stars.
Go to sleep.
Do it again!

So, what have I been reading this week?
Well, I think it was last year I got a review copy of the latest Peter Robinson Inspector Banks books, Watching The Dark, the 20th in the series. I prefer not to jump into a series like that, but it was not an issue, I thought, so I decided to read another.
Then I forgot about the series until recently.
So I downloaded another,
And another.

I am working my way backward through the series.
So, for this trip I loaded up the Nookbooks.
I am back to the 12th now, Aftermath, with 10 and 11 still on the Nook to read.
Of course, if need be, I can download 9...and 8...and 7...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Giant Fat Cat Sunday!

It has been awhile since I have shared a picture of My Giant Fat Cat Larry. 

I am away, so while he has daily maid service in my absence, feeding, head kissing, litter sifting, and treat dispensing and such, no doubt he will be deeply upset. 

If he notices I am gone that is. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Weekend Cooking...99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall..

Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, Ninety-nine bottles of beer.
Take one down, pass it around, Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall.

I have always, yes always, had a certain fondness for beer.

Yet me share a story told in my family about wee Caite and beer.
I can tell it now, since it is too late to call Child Protective Services.

My father used to come home from work, and like many fathers of that time, pour themselves a before-dinner drink. In his case, the beverage of choice was beer.
He would pour his beer in a glass, sit down in his favorite chair, place his beer on the floor and open his newspaper. On this particular occasion, after a few minutes, he reaches down for his beer to find an empty glass.
What could have happened to it?
Wee Caite, about 3 or 4 years of age, had drunk it!
For some reason my mother found that story very funny although I doubt she found it too amusing at the time.

Worry not.
There appears to have been no damage.
I grew up to be a very, very moderate drinker.
But I still like beer. Wine is fine, but beer is better!
I mean real beer. Not the watery swill that many Americans favor. No, no Bud or Miller for me and do not even mention the word Lite next to beer. Just go all out and throw some ice cubes in there so you can serve it so cold that you can't taste it anyway.
Oh, don't get me started!!

So when I read about this book,  The World Atlas of Beer: The Essential Guide to the Beers of the World by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of it.
And I am very happy that I did.
If you are a fan of beer, or know someone who appreciates beer in all its many varieties, this is a book that will be enjoyed. 256 pages, 450 photos, 28 maps and lots and lots of beer fun await you in these pages.

The authors start with a short discussion of what beer is, how it is made and the wide, wide variety of the styles of beer. From which I learned that most attempts to classify a beer by variety is almost impossible, there are so many variations.

Then they go on to the heart of the book, a region by region, country by country, exploration of    beers. There are maps, with breweries marked, beautiful photographs, and descriptions of hundreds of beers. I am considering moving to Belgium because there is no other way to try all the beers of that country. The history of many beers is fascinating, as is the discussions of the rising role of the small craft breweries, helping to keeping the Mega-breweries at bay and the more unusual styles of beer available for the average beer drinker to try.

They throw in many fun beer facts too. There is a very detailed explanation, with photos, of how to pour beer, what glass to use with which beer, a short beer/food pair up suggestions and a list of some of the best beer festivals worldwide, just in case you are planning a beer based vacation trip. Do you know beer should always be stored upright, even bottles with corks, because it seems once again beer get shorted, with lesser quality corks that  may damage the taste of the beer.
Well, I could go on and one because there is an amazing amount of beer information in this book.

And did I mention that this is a beautiful book? Yes, I did, but it bears repeating. This is a very attractive book that will take you on a tour of the world, granted from a beer lovers point of view.

a few bottles of beer at my local store..there is another whole aisle.

..and some chilled if you just can not wait.
Still, even if your beer purchases go on further than the local liquor store you will find this book helpful. Gone are the days when they carried only a few major brands and maybe a local favorite. I suspect my local story in not unusual, with several aisles and many coolers filled beers from around the world.

Which lead me to my only issue with this book.
A major flaw.
My favorite major brewery beer (as opposed to a craft beer) is one brewed in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, quite near the small coal mining town my maternal grandparents were from. The beer is Yuengling, brewed in Pottsville, PA and their traditional lager is a quite nice beer. And let  Yuengling, a very popular beer here in South Jersey, get only one sentence in the book and they misspell the name in that one.

Yuengling is a fine beer, brewed in the oldest brewery in the United States, family owned and operated by the fifth generation, recently became the 20th most popular beer in the US and has surpassed Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Co. as the largest domestically owned beer brewer in the country.
And they get only one misspelled sentence in this book??

Still, nothing, even an excellent book about beer, is perfect.
But this one is very good, so I will forgive them.
However, if there is a second edition......

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, January 25, 2013

...down Mexico way!

South of the border, down Mexico way.
That's where I fell in love where stars above, came out to play.
And now as I wonder, my thoughts ever stray.
South of the border, down Mexico way.

If you are a careful reader, you might have read my mention that I was off on a little trip.
Yes, today I am jetting down to Cancun.
Tropical drinks, sandy beaches, a very nice hotel...and nothing to do.

Ok, maybe some reading.
Maybe a bite to eat.
Maybe an adult beverage.
Or two.
Hopefully I will drop in, maybe post a photo or two.

And I will be back next week!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...the US Capitol

There is much to see in Washington, but, without question, the Capitol building is one of the highlights!
Let's check it out.




The Capitol Rotunda Ceiling

The Crypt

the Hawaii State statue

the Original Supreme Court Chamber


...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Review of "The Lost Art of Mixing"

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
Putnam Adult, ISBN  978-0399162114
January 24, 2013, 288 pages

In this sequel to the author's best selling The School of Essential Ingredients, all our favorite characters are back, along with a number of new folks.
There is Lillian, restaurant owner and cooking school teacher, along with her now boyfriend, the widower Tom. And once again, Lillian and her restaurant are at the heart of the story, although this time around her personal life is about to take a turn that she never expected.
Then there is young Chloe, formerly a server, now training as a chef and the new arrived Finnegan, very tall and very quiet..and as steady as a tree, that in some ways he resembles. We also have Al, Lillian's accountant, a man not very happy with his lot in life and his wife Louise, who may have a lot more going on under her calm exterior than anyone knows. And finally there is Isabelle, who even as her mind is starting to slip away from her, still has some wisdom to impart, including to her own very stressed out doctor daughter Abbey.

Their stories, as they unfold, will intertwine, touch each other and bounce off again on their own, become bound together and become unbound...

I love Bauermeister's first book The School of Essential Ingredients.
Loved it.
I though it was a lovely book, almost magical in the way it presented the character's lives unfolding against a totally delicious background of Lillian's restaurant and food.
That is a very, very hard act to follow and, for me, The Lost Art of Mixing did not succeed.

Don't get me wrong. It is a pretty good book, fairly enjoyable.
But if you read the first one...and I think you should before you read this one...in my opinion you will be a little disappointed. In comparison, it is a nice story, but maybe missing the magic.

I did not find the characters and their stories nearly as engaging, and is it just me, or are several of them rather unlikeable? For me, reference to an abortion that seemed to have little impact except that it was a secret two sisters kept from their mom or the discussion of suicide as just a logical solution to a problem, left me more than a little cold. No, no warm and cozy feelings for me in this book.
For some reason, maybe a more disjointed presentation of the individual stories than I remember in the first, I also found the characters harder to connect with this time around.

And then there is the food, another big strength in the first. The creation of wonderful dishes, the aromas, the textures, the flavors all blending together, can be lovely and in TSoEI, Bauermeister was a master at describing them, as using them as a background for the unfolding stories.
This time around it seems to take a much more minor role in the story, even if the kitchen is a major setting, and that is not a good thing.

I have a feeling that mine may well be a minority opinion when this book comes out in a day or two, but so be it.
Sadly, this one left me a little cold.
If you have not read The School of Essential Ingredients, run out and grab it. I think you will love it.
The sequel, I can not so heartfully recommend.

My thanks to the publisher and Library Thing's Early Reviewers for providing a copy for review.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Southwestern Antifreeze

When it gets cold, my mind turns toward soup.
Hot, tasty soup.
Maybe with a grilled cheese sandwich. Hmmmmm...

So when I saw this recipe on Blue Kitchen, I was off to hunt down some ham hocks.
It was really an easy soup. While the stock, ham hocks, water and bay leafs were bubbling away, I chopped and sauteed the veggies.
When the stock was done, add the beans (See below and my bean change), add the veggies and simmer away for awhile. I used a stick blender to puree it a bit and thicken it up, a little lime, a little sour cream, some cilantro and we are good to go!!

Black Bean Soup with Ham Hocks

  • 1 pound dried black beans, soaked (or three cans black beans)
  • 1 smoked ham hock, 3/4 to 1 pound 
  • 5 cups water 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • oil 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, finely chopped   
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced 
  • 2 ribs celery, peeled and diced 
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin 
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained 
  • freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons 
  • fresh lime juice (see Kitchen Notes) 
  • salt 
  • sour cream 
  • chopped cilantro for garnish 

Place soaked beans and ham hock in large, heavy stock pot or Dutch oven. Add water and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan or skillet. Add onion, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, carrots and celery. Toss to coat with oil and sweat vegetables for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Clear a space in center of pan, drizzling in extra oil if needed, and add garlic and cumin. Cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and toss vegetables to combine.
Set aside.

Using tongs, transfer ham hock to shallow bowl and set aside. Remove and discard bay leaves; add vegetable mixture and tomatoes to pot. Season generously with fresh ground black pepper, but don’t add any salt at this point.

Transfer 4 cups of soup to food processor and carefully purée.
Return to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1/2 hour or more. Meanwhile, when ham hock has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin, fat and bones and chop the meat into small pieces. Return to pot.
As the soup simmers, you may get a bit of foam on the top. If so, skim it off and discard.
Add lime juice and adjust seasoning with salt, if needed—the ham hock will provide plenty of saltiness, so you probably won’t need much.
Top with a dollop of sour cream, if using, and garnish with cilantro. Serve. 

Of course, I made my usual amount of changes. Number one was I used canned black beans, 3 cans. I just did not have the time to do that soaking and simmering and really, I don't see that much of a difference. But you feel free to follow the recipe and cook those beans with the hocks. Also, I used two 10 oz. cans of Rotel tomatoes with the chilies already in them, rather than add a jalapeño. Just because I had them in the pantry. Gotta rotate that stock! And I cut the water from 8 to 5 cups. 8 just seemed like too much.
 Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe.

Oh, and you might notice that does not look like sour cream.
I forgot the sour cream so I looked in the fridge and saw that Mexican cheese from last week. Crumbled a bit on top and was very happy with the change!
There is always time for cheese!!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Reviews of "Unleashed" and "Death in the Dark" [4-5]

Unleashed: A Sydney Rye Novel by Emily Kimelman
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform,
ISBN 978-1463581978
September 26, 2011, 340 pages

Once again, Joy Humbolt finds herself losing a boyfriend and out of a job, unsure what direction her life should take. That is sort of the way Joy rolls...
So when a neighbor tells her about a dog walking business that is up for sale, she jumps on the opportunity. Minimal contact with her employers, no co-workers to get along with, well, except the canine ones. But things get off to a very rocky start, when the husband of one of her clients turns up dead and Joy is the one that finds his body.
Then it gets even worse when Charlene Miller, the woman she bought the business from, disappears and shortly thereafter becomes suspect number one. But worse, much worse is just around the corner.

Joy starts to look into things, at first just out of curiosity and having a bit too much time on her hands, but very quickly things turn very dangerous and she is sucked into something she never saw coming. It seems that the people in the dead man's circle, some of the elite of Manhattan's rich, famous and powerful, do not want their secrets uncovered..and will not stop at killing to accomplish it.

Which explains why Joy Humbolt must disappear and Sydney Rye is born. But at least she will not be alone. No, she now has her giant rescued dog, Blue and the unlikely help of the rather crusty Detective Mulberry.

Death in the Dark: A Sydney Rye Novella by Emily Kimelman
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform,
ISBN 978-1480177680
November 29, 2012, 104 pages

This is the second book in the series, taking up when Sydney/Joy and her new partner in crime..crime investigation that is...Mulberry, flee NYC and make off for Mexico. With Blue too of course!
It seems that Sydney has plans to become a private investigator but in Mulberry's opinion she has a lot of work to do to get ready first. Enter one very interesting expert trainer, an old friend of Mulberry, and a man with an interesting past and present.

But Sydney get more than a little distracted when the sister of a new friend is killed and is determined that those responsible must be found and made to pay. Sydney is more than a little bit about the vengeance since what happened to her in the Big Apple..no spoilers...and may well be getting herself into something she is not yet quite up to handling. Thank goodness for friends!!

Quite honestly, I rarely accept books that are offered directly from an author, an author I do not know. I have had more than one bad experience that way.
But these had a dog walker...and a dog as one of the main characters! They must be good!
Happily they are!

They are very well written, well plotted and have some good characters. Perhaps Blue, yes, the dog, is my favorite, with Mulberry close behind. I will hold off a bit on my opinion of Sydney. I started by liking her a lot. She is a bit aimless, drinks a bit too much and has a bad attitude. Perfect!
But when things so badly..and they do...and she gets very angry...rightfully so...but she also does something that breaks one of my cardinal rules. She starts to do some stupid things. And I hate stupid.

But as I said, I will hold off on making up my mind quite yet. Sydney is a work in progress, so I will cut her a little slack and see how things develop in the next book, that was published in December.
As I have said before, the fact that I am interested in reading the next one gives away my opinion of the series so far. If I did not like the first two, I would not be looking forward to the next! And I am.
Entertaining stories, well done, with some good characters...a reader can't ask for more.

Well, maybe except for better covers.
Sorry, don't like those covers.
But not a deal breaker..lol

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review of "Saturday Night Widows" [3]

Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman 
Crown, ISBN 978-0307590435
352 pages, January 22, 2013

When Becky Aikman found herself a widow when still a young woman in her forties, the experience was more than a little overwhelming. Not only had she lost the love of her life but she, and those around her, were unsure of how to deal with her grief. The scene where she gets thrown out of a widows support group...the more elderly widows are actively hostile...is one of the most interesting and oddly amusing of the book.
So Aikman, a newspaper writer at Long Island's Newsday at the time, sets out to do her own study of grief. She reads the studies, she talks to the experts and she starts her own support group of widows.
"Meet the Saturday Night Widows: ringleader Becky, an unsentimental journalist who lost her husband to cancer; Tara, a polished mother of two, whose husband died in the throes of alcoholism after she filed for divorce; Denise, a widow of just five months, now struggling to get by; Marcia, a hard-driving corporate lawyer; Dawn, an alluring self-made entrepreneur whose husband was killed in a sporting accident, leaving two small children behind; and Lesley, a housewife who returned home one day to find that her husband had committed suicide."
We meet them, we heard their stories, we watch as they interact, support each other, cope well and not so well and try to help each other deal with their loss.
That is the good part.
The part of the book that deals with what she learns from the experts was particularly interesting and a bit surprising. In fact, I wish the book had dealt more with that aspect of the story. Forget those Elisabeth Kübler- Ross 5 Stage of Grief that, it seems, were meant as a guide for the dying, not those felt behind.
And the stories of the five..or 6 if you include the author...are interesting and at times rather compelling. Examples of how they were able to help each other were at time moving.

But...there are other aspects of the book that I had a problem with and that ultimately spoiled the book for me.

The group was in no way a naturally formed group. No, Aikman picked and carefully interviewed the members before she invited them to join. She was looking for a very specific type and did not want to include anyone who was not coping well. I think, for me, things started to go downhill when she told how she had interview and rejected one woman because she was still too grief stricken, still surrounding herself with her dead husband's stuff and not dealing very well with the loss. So we want people that are dealing with grief, but too much and not doing too badly.
Talk about a stacked deck.
It is easy to have a good outcome if you start with people who are already doing well in large part.

Another thing these women had in common was that largely money was not an issue for them, something I think is often not true when a spouse is lost. No fear of making the mortgage payments, of losing their house, or having to make ends meet. Yes, I think one woman spoke of selling their summer home, another of moving to a smaller place..but that is not quite the same as the very real experience many spouses have of worrying about making ends meet, of putting food on the table. Meeting for a weekend at an exclusive spa, a group trip to Morocco with a private guide..not I think the experience of the average widow. And while most of them have children, the loss the children were experiencing and how they, as mothers, dealt with this, was barely touch upon.

But most of all what rubbed me wrong was Aikman herself.
When she started this group, her first husband was dead four years. The grief was hardly fresh.
Her first husband, because by the time she formed the group she had met a new man, fallen in love and got married again.
...and she is the one 'running' this widow group.

It was apparent that this group, while they may have some experiences about grief to share, was a very artificial and non typical creation. Created and led by someone who was planning to write a book and set up things...like that Morocco trip...for maximum visuals.
I will say there were parts of the book that were very interesting and I can not deny that the group seems to have a positive effect on the members, some real and helpful friendships formed.
But the very artificial, set-up nature of the group left me feeling at times, that I was watching a reality TV show.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wordless Wednesday....National Museum of the American Indian

My first visit, but it is now one of my favorite D.C. museums
the National Museum of the American Indian






...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Musing Monday..Just Say NO!

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week… 
 • Describe one of your reading habits. 
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s). 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.

So, here we are again, discussing the books I bought this week.
We should NOT be doing that.
Like many of you, I have no need to buy any books.
I have many..hundreds..unread and on hand. And if I want another specific book, there is the local public library, which I am already paying for with my inflated property taxes.
And yet I bought four books this weeks.

I blame the Evil R-Reader again.
And my total lack of self control.

See, long ago, I bought a used copy of Donna Leon's first book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series, Death at La Fenice. I had read great things about this series but never went any further that buying that first book. But this week I picked it up by accident.
I thought it was my copy of The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister, that I meant to be reading. They have very similar colored covers. Well, the seemed close as I was rushing out the door on the way to work.

So I read it.
I liked it a lot, I must admit in no small part because I love Venice and it is set in Venice.
So when I finished it, I went online (darn Evil E-Reader...) and bought the second in the series.
OK, I did not like it nearly as much as the first. A rather cynical, angry book...so I had to buy the third to see if it was a fluke.
And I read it.
And then I bought the fourth just to be sure.
And I read it.
Four Leons this week, bought and read.
And then I bought the fifth so I would have one, still unread, on my Evil E-Reader to take on vacation next week.

Maybe I need just one more to take along.
Or maybe not.
Because, you know, I only have about 30 or 40 books unread on my Evil E-Reader.
And, of course, that still unread copy of The Lost Art of Mixing to start.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Say Cheese!

We are not done with that Mexican Christmas dinner yet.
No, I have a recipe or two to share with you still.
And this was one that I particularly liked, Esquites, Mexican Corn Salad.

But first, let's take a little look at Mexican cheeses, one of which is used in this recipe. I have had that crumbled white cheese in Mexican restaurant on top of various dishes, but was not sure what it was.
I did know it was not available in my local supermarket, so it was time for a field trip!! Off to the Mexican Supermarket..which is located not that far from the Asian Supermarket I visited awhile ago. I went just before Christmas..Christmas Eve in fact...and the place was packed, with both people and interesting stuff. Like these...

ok, I made them look a little more friendly...

Oh, stop making those noises. No screams!
Yes, they are pig heads. Not sure what you do with them, so no recipe here.
No, we are heading to the dairy section to check out the cheese. CHEESE!!

Here are two very common ones, queseo fresco, "This is a white spongy cheese whose origins can be traced back to Burgos, Spain and used primarily to crumble over dishes. This cheese is made in just about all parts of Mexico with little variation." And then there is queseo blanco, "is a creamy white cheese made with skimmed cows’ milk, and has been described as being a cross between mozzarella and cottage cheese."

OK, we will grab one of those, but we are also looking for another one for a recipe I found online, a cheese called Cotija, which has a strong flavor, similar to Italian Parmesan. Which I guess would make a good substitute if you can't find the cotija. Or maybe feta, as the recipe suggests.

But I found it,  so that goes in the cart too!

And then there is the corn.

The recipe calls for fresh corn and explains how to toast it in a pan. But reading some comments online, I went to Trader Joe and got a bag of their Roasted Corn. Very roasted taste and smell and I am all for saving a step. Especially since it is not fresh corn season and frozen is excellent. Now if this was the middle of summer and corn was as high as an elephant's eye...

So, on to the recipe.
This is based on a Mexican street food..or so I am told, haven't been to Mexico.

Vendors grill ears of corn, then slathered them with mayonnaise, (yes, mayo), a squeeze of lime, Cotija cheese and sprinkled with chili powder. So, here is a little more dinner friendly version, this one borrowed from Serious Eats..

Mexican Street Corn Salad
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked, (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 ounces feta or cotija cheese, finely crumbled
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced scallion greens
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced on a microplane grater
  • 1 tablespoon fresh juice
  • Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels, season to taste with salt, toss once or twice, and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. 
Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, about 2 minutes longer. Continue tossing and charring until well charred all over, about 10 minutes total. 

Transfer to a large bowl. Add mayonnaise, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, and chili powder and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more chili powder to taste. Serve immediately. 

Of course, just buy a bag of the TJ corn, nuke it, and skip the whole first part!
And yes, I ran out of lime, so that is lemon in the pic.
But you go get a lime. :-)
Either way, very tasty!


This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review of "Beautiful Ruins" [2]

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Harper, ISBN 978-0061928123
June 12, 2012, 352 pages

How did I miss all the reviews of this one when it came out months ago? But finally it appeared in my radar. Honestly, the cover alone is enough to make me buy it. And I am happy that I did, because it is, in my opinion, a lovely book.

So, what is it about?
The story begins in a tiny little fishing town on the Italian coast, when the young inn keeper..who seems to have very, very few customers...watches the arrival by boat of a vision, a beautiful young American actress, who wishes to stay at his little hotel. A dying, beautiful young American actress whose stay in this little town will set off a series of events that we will follow in this book, in fits and starts, five decades into the future, to the present day. That is when Pasquale, now an old man, turns up in LA trying to wrap up a few loose ends from those many years ago. It was love at first sight for young Pasquale, a love that has haunted him every day since and he is out to finally solve the mystery of the life of the beautiful Dee Moray.

The chapters set in the 60's have a certain sort of magic, recreating a view of the Golden Age of Hollywood, that Mediterranean sun reflecting on the water, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton...who pays a key role in this story...filming Cleopatra in nearby Roma, all Trevi Fountain and Vespas. OK, yes, maybe also a lot of drinking and a lot of infidelity too.

But then, before you know it, we are dragged into the present day, where a once famous producer named Michael Deane, whose first big break was working on Cleopatra,  can now make more money with a creepy sounding reality show, HookBook,  than by actually making movies. Oh, what a strange man he is...
“The first impression one gets of Michael Deane is of a man constructed of wax, or perhaps prematurely embalmed. It may be impossible to trace the sequence of facials, spa treatments, mud baths, cosmetic procedures, lifts and staples, collagen implants, outpatient touch-ups, tannings, Botox injections, cyst and growth removals and stem-cell injections that have caused a 72-year-old man to have the face of a 9-year-old Filipino girl.”
But he is not the only 'interesting' character. Take, for example, the fledgling screenwriter Shane Wheeler, who arrives to pitch a movie idea based on the Donner party, a pitch we get to read all about in a chapter called “Eating Human Flesh.” Boy, that sounds like a great date movies, or one to take the kids to, doesn't it?
Then there is Deane's assistant Claire Silver who has become so disillusioned with her pointless job and her porn addicted boyfriend that she is considering taking a job running a Scientology museum. They are an interesting bunch and the story that slowly unfolds, both past and present, is fun and funny, interesting and moving and finally, against what seems to be going on, more than a little uplifting. Bottom line, it is just a great story, well told, with a message that will sneak up on you, right up until it hit you in the face.

Now don't let what I am going to tell you scare you off!
Because ultimately Beautiful Ruins is a bit of a morality tale, questioning how we balance what we want to do, with doing what we know is right. As Pasquale's mother once told him, "what we want to do and what we must do are not the same ... Pasquo, the smaller the place between your desire and what is right, the happier you'll be."
And it is a delightful ride finding out if happiness will be the final story for any of these people we have met along the way as the story comes to an end. I won't give away what happens, but I must say I was delighted that Mr. Walter's was able to wrap things up in so many interesting and appealing ways.
I am not one who usually re-reads books. So many books, so little time and all, but this is one that I know that I will be revisiting.
Well done...and highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...D.C as the Sun Goes Down

Let's start a new trip this week, 
a bit closer to home.. 

Let's hop the Metro..

..the sun is going down.



...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.