Saturday, December 17, 2016

Black Bean Chili

3 12 oz. bags of frozen mixed colored bell peppers and onions

4 15 oz. cans of black beans

2 15 oz cans of red beans*

2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes

1 6 oz can of tomato paste

2 Tbs. of chili powder†

cooking oil.

1. Open the cans of beans dump them into a colander and rinse the goo from the can off of them. The goo contains calcium chloride and is there to keep the beans from turning to mush.

2. Cover the bottom of the pot with the cooking oil. Saute the pepper and onion mix until the onions are cooked and most of the water has evaporated.

3. Add the chili powder to the cooked pepper and onions mix, and stir and cook a bit until the chili powder has dispersed and dissolved a bit. This should only take a minute or two, but you do not want the powder to lump up.

4. Add the diced tomatoes to the pot and stir. Cook until they the ingredients start to simmer.

5. Add the beans and bring to a boil.

6. Add the tomato paste.

7. Bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to simmer for at little while.

Makes about 3 quarts.

*Yes, I know, it says black bean chili. But, it is my recipe. I detest the very existence of kidney beans and would never put them in a dish I prepared. If I could not use red beans, I would go with white beans, or maybe pintos.

†I use the Regular Chili Powder from Penzeys. I have also used Spice Islands. If you want to use hotter mixes, or you want to add cayenne, Tabasco, or Sriracha, go for it.

Baked Salmon with Sauce

I should begin by stating that I really don't like fish very much. If I had my druthers, it would seldom be on my menu.

One of the problems of eating fish these days, is the limited assortment of fish species available in most stores and restaurants. I assume, but do not know, that this is a consequence of the growth of the population and the simultaneous decline of world wide fisheries. Particularly where I live, far from a large body of water, most of the available fish is farmed.

One of the few farmed species that we find acceptable, and which can be cooked without large quantities of additional fat (which is always an issue in this house) is Atlantic salmon. Please note that Atlantic and Pacific salmon are different species of fish, that differ quite a bit in taste and texture. Both of us find the pacific salmon to be hard and more strongly flavored than we like.

We prepare the salmon by marinating 8 oz fillets in Kikkoman teriyaki sauce for an hour. I only use the original variety of Kikkoman Teriyaki sauce. I once tried the "Less Sodium" variety and found it to be vile. I have not tried any of the other variants.

I then drain and bake the fillets in an open pan in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.

For a sauce, I mix the following:

6 oz. plain yogurt*

an equal quantity of mayonnaise†

a palmful of dried cilantro‡ rubbed between the hands to crumble it and release the flavor

a heaping teaspoon of ground cumin seed

*The exact type of yogurt is up to you. A regular yogurt will produce a thinner sauce, A Greek style yogurt will produce a thicker sauce. I recently discovered a 6% Plain Yogurt from Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy Ohio which contains 6% butterfat. It is creamy and wonderful. It appears have some distribution outside of its native turf in Southeastern Ohio.

†Go ahead and make your own if you wish. I use Hellmann's (Best Foods West of the Rockies) Real Mayonnaise. People who use Kraft are on their own. People who use Miracle Whip are beyond hope.

‡I have also used dill.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Spaghetti Sauce


2 6 oz can of Contadina Tomato Paste. It is pure tomato, skinned, seeded, pureed and concentrated. If you look at the ingredient list of any commercial tomato sauce, the first two ingredients are tomato paste and water. I buy Contadina because the only ingredient it uses is tomatoes. Most other brands in grocery stores include other ingredients such as onion, salt, and spices. Not necessarily bad, but not necessarily what you want. Buy Contadina, use your own herbs and spices.

16 oz of liquid. I read on the inter-tubes that you need to cut tomato paste with liquid in the ratio of 4::3 to use it as a sauce base. Today I used 12 oz of beef broth and 4 oz of sweet red vermouth. They were both just sitting around. YMMV.

About 2 medium onions diced. Actually I use frozen chopped, and I cook big batches of them, which I then freeze. It saves a lot of effort. A medium onion is a cup of diced onion is about 1/3rd cup of cooked chopped onion.

4 cloves of garlic.

palm of oregano. I don't measure I pour a bunch into my palm and rub it to break up the dried leaves.

bigger palm of basil.

24 oz mild Italian chicken sausage. I cut it up into little disks. You could use any kind meat or sausage you like or substitute mushrooms.

olive oil

2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes. I try to buy ones with minimal added salt and ingredients.


I poured the oil into my 6 qt Le Creuset pot, and put it on low heat. I added the sausage in batches and cooked them until they were nice and crispy. (The sausages were pre-cooked, but browning them doesn't hurt.). I took them out of the pot and reserved them.

I drained most of the oil, and put the onions in the pot on low heat, and crushed the garlic into the onions, so it could mellow a bit. It would take longer if you started with uncooked onions.

I added a little liquid and stirred, then the herbs, and let it cook for a couple of minutes.

I added the rest of the liquid and waited until it came to a boil.

I added the tomato paste, and stirred it into the liquid. I let that come to a boil.

I added the 2 cans of diced tomatoes, stirred, and let that come to a boil.

I added the cooked sausage, and let the sauce come to a boil.

I reduced the heat to simmer, put the lid on the pot and let it go for a while.

Makes enough sauce for two or three packages of spaghetti. (actually, I use linguini which I like better than spaghetti because it is easier to cook to al dente.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Leonard Cohen ZT"L

Leonard Cohen died two weeks ago. Those of us who knew his work mourn. The initials in the title of this post ZT"L signify zekher tzadik livrakha,  a Hebrew phrase meaning "may the memory of
the righteous be a blessing". They reflect my estimate of Leonard's importance as a spiritual figure in our time.

My daughter, who used to work in the music industry, had the privileged of working with Leonard within recent years. She worked with a lot of pop stars, and has very little use for most of them. She loved Leonard, whom she said was a better human being than he was an artist.

Many of Leonard's fans thought that he deserved the Nobel prize over Bob Dylan. I don't have a strong view on that. I love Bob's music too. And it was Bob who pioneered the use of popular music as the vehicle for lyric poetry in the modern age. Leonard, who was older than Bob, and who had embarked on a literary career before Bob burst on the scene, followed Bob.

On the other hand, Leonard's lyrics are to me profound and moving, more poetic than musical, but ultimately they are rewarding and will endure for many years.

The following is a list of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs, with links to YouTube video's of them and a brief comment  that reflects nothing more than my naive view. I urge to try some of them, you will be glad you did.

Leonard's first hit, which he first published as a poem, and later set it to music. It was recorded by Judy Collins and became a hit for her in 1967:
And the sun pours down like honey on our lady of the harbor
And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever

Leonard Cohen early recording:
The truth is that Leonard couldn't sing. In later years he got better at hiding behind his back-up
Leonard knew it:
"Tower of Song"
 (Live in London) --
I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond
They tied me to this table right here in the Tower of Song

"A Thousand Kisses Deep"
Leonard Cohen:

Leonard had an many loves

"In My Secret Life"

Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson:

Leonard struggled with Eros.

"Everybody Knows"
Leonard Cohen:
You did not want to be one of his ex girlfriends:
Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

"Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodby"
Except sometimes
Roberta Flack's cover is killer:


Speaking of Covers
Willie Nelson covers one of Leonard's first songs so well, you might think Willie wrote it.
"Bird on a Wire"


"Sisters of Mercy"
Leonard Cohen:

One of his first songs, but best sung by him at age 73 in 2008.

 "First We Take Manhattan (Then We Take Berlin)"
Leonard Cohen:

Kind of funny, but it has a good beat and you can dance to it.

 "Dance Me to the End of Love"
Leonard Cohen:
For your wedding and your fiftieth anniversary
The video will make you cry.
David and Bathsheba, with a touch of Samson and Delilah, and Leonard and one of his ex girlfriends.
Studio version by Leonard Cohen:
Leonard's London, UK concert:
Best Cover by Jeff Buckley:
"Here It Is"
Leonard Cohen:

Leonard flips the script and identifies with a King

"If It Be Your Will"
Leonard Cohen (with Jennifer Warnes):
A prayer. See Ps 98:8


Leonard Cohen:
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in

Based on the Kabbalah of Rabbi Issac Luria (1534-72) and the "Zohar" (Book of Splendor, a medieval mystical commentary on the Torah).
"The Future"
Leonard Cohen:
Leonard's dire prophecy:

You don't know me from the wind you never will, you never did.
I'm the little Jew who wrote the Bible.
I've seen the nations rise and fall.
I've heard their stories, heard them all, but love's the only engine of survival.
Your servant here, he has been told to say it clear, to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going any further.
And now the wheels of heaven stop, you feel the devil's riding crop.
Get ready for the future -- it is murder.
Things are going to slide, slide in all directions.
There won't be nothing you can measure anymore.
The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and has overturned the order of the soul.
When they said repent, I wonder what they meant.
"Who by Fire"
Leonard Cohen:
Great instrumental work on this version:
Leonard answers his own question from "The Future" in this song. It is from the liturgy of the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah new year and Yom Kippur day of repentance). The section called Unetanneh Tokef, says:

On Rosh Hashanah the Book of Life is written,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed,
Who shall live and who shall die
Who at the measure of days and who before
Who by fire ...
The song uses some of the traditional wording, and adds a couple:
And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt
Who by avalanche, who by powder
But, to me, the brilliant addition that makes the prayer much more immediate is the repeated line:

"And who shall I say is calling?"

The prayer, but not the song, ends with the refrain: "Repentance, prayer, and charity temper the stern decree"
"By the Rivers Dark"
Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson:
Leonard strives with God.
Gen 32:28 Then he said, "Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."
Leonard Cohen:

Leonard mocks old age
"Going Home"
Leonard Cohen:

God and Leonard discuss the end of life
"You Want It Darker"
Leonard Cohen"
The song was released on September 21, 2016. Leonard died on November 7. The song is very clearly his his vidui (confession) and valedictory. It features Cantor Gideon Zelermyer and the men’s choir of Montreal synagogue Congregation Shaar Hashomayim (Gates of Heaven), where Cohen grew up, and where he was buried.
The first refrain is:
Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name This is the beginning of Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for Mourners
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame A reference to Jesus, or perhaps
A million candles burning for the love that never came The Holocaust
The second refrain is:
Hineni, hineni, I'm ready, my Lord

Hinneni is a Hebrew word used in the Bible: “Here I am!” (Abraham to God, Genesis 22:1); an by God: “I promised and am now at hand (hinneni)” (Isaiah 52:6).
It is the essence of the song.

The song is very difficult for me to listen to. It is somber, sad, frightening, and very beautiful.

Curried Carrot Soup

Continuing my recipe series from last weekend:

This recipe based on a recipe in a Penzey's Catalog*


1 lb. carrots peeled, trimmed†, and rough chopped.‡

1lb. potatoes peeled (4 or 5 medium size red or golden potatoes, although I do not think the type of potato is important), and rough chopped‡

1 onion**

1 garlic clove (more is better)

Cooking oil.

2 TB. Curry Powder (sweet or spicy, your choice)

5 Cups chicken or vegetable broth


Coat the carrots and potatoes with oil and roast them in a medium oven for 30 minutes. They should be cooked but not browned.

Heat oil in a large pot. Saute the onions and garlic.

Add the curry powder, and let it dissolve in the cooking oil. Adding the curry powder to the broth runs the risk of having the curry powder lump up.
Add the carrots, potatoes, salt, pepper, and broth to the pot.

Bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat, and let it simmer for 45-60 minutes.

Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree  the soup.

Return to the pureed soup to low heat to allow it to warm.

Salt and pepper
to taste.
*Penzys has stores in many metros. They have a very wide selection of dried and spices. They also have a web site and a catalog. Generally, I like Spice Islands brand herbs and spices best, but they are not widely distributed, and they do not sell many things you might want, e.g. whole coriander seeds.

†probably 1.25 lbs. or more before peeling and trimming the gnarly bits at the ends. I bought a 48 oz bag (3 lbs.) and got 2.5 lbs of peeled trimmed out of it.

BTW Digital scales are cheap and accurate. Buy one.

A "rough" chop is a culinary term that explains to the cook that the appearance of the chopped food isn't an important part of the recipe, whereas if the recipe were to request a precise cut, such as large dice, or "chop into a small dice," it means that the size of the food chopped into equal cubes is important for the outcome of the recipe. URL I assume that running them through the Cuisinart on the thick slicer disk will do the job.

** equals 1 cup of frozen chopped onions. I buy 6 12 oz bags and cook them all at once. I freeze the cooked onions in small containers. About 1/3rd cup of frozen cooked chopped equals 1 cup of uncooked frozen chopped. You can defrost a container use part of it, and refreeze the rest. It can make preparing all kinds of dishes more expeditious. 

Never believe anything you see on TV

I don't watch cooking shows on television. Indeed, I watch very little television other than sports. But, I had seen and heard of Guy Fieri and his Food Network show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives ". I figured he was a man after my own heart. Wrong again:
TV's Guy Fieri says he's hooked on greens
By Associated Press  • 

Of all the celebrity chefs out there, there's one you'd least expect to sing the praises of spinach, kale and Brussels sprouts: Guy Fieri. The spiky-haired champion of American comfort food is more associated with greasy chili dogs than salad, the fryer over the fig. But that's not where his food passions lie.

"I'm a big greens fan. I'm a big vegetable fan. I'm a big whole-grains fan. And I exercise alot. That's how I keep this petite dancer's figure," he said, laughing. "A lot of people misinterpret what I do."

Fieri has built a food career on a certain amount of flash with a rock-star image complete with tattoos and jewelry, a fleet of yellow muscle cars and high-octane dishes including Bacon Mac 'n' Cheese Burgers. But he's also raised a family in the same northern California house for the past 20 years, eats a burger maybe once a month, considers culinary innovator Jose Andres a hero, and says things such as "I cannot get enough farro."

Both sides of the chef are featured in his new cookbook, "Guy Fieri Family Food," ...
Another TV image turns out to be tinsel. I am too old be very disappointed, but sheesss.

Split Pea Soup

 This blog has been about politics and culture. I like to cook, and I try to write down my successful recipes for my family, so why not post them.

This past weekend I spent a lot of time cooking. My wife, who is a wizard, went out of town to confer, converse, and otherwise hob-nob with her sister wizards. And the beautiful fall weather we had been having, turned into typical November, cold, gray, and rainy. In the summer, we tend to grill a lot of stuff (chicken, meat, and fish) for dinner. In the colder months we switch to heartier fare.

Here is the split pea soup I made Sunday. It requires some forethought, but the prep time is not much:


1 16 oz bag of green split peas. The Goya brand* is very nice clean peas.

2 medium onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 lbs. carrots

6 cups of light broth. Chicken, Turkey, Veal, Vegetable -- what ever you like

2 cups of meat cut into small cubes. (optional)

The day before:
Wash the peas and inspect for stones and other contamination. Then put the peas in a container (at least 1½ Qt.) and add the broth cold.

Put the container in the fridge, and allow the peas to soak in the broth over night. They will swell up quite a bit.
The day of:
Strain the peas from the broth and reserve the broth.

Peel and chop the carrots.

Put the broth in a pot, bring it to a boil†. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes.

Strain the carrots from the broth and reserve the broth.

Cut the onion and garlic into little pieces.

In a large (5 Qt. or more) pot, cover the bottom with cooking oil or other grease, and heat the pot

Put the onions and garlic into the heated pot and saute until the onions are clear.

Add the broth to the pot with the cooked onions and garlic, add extra broth to make up 6 cups of liquid, and add the peas.

Simmer the peas, onions, and garlic in the broth.

When the peas have gotten kind of shapeless, puree the mixture with an immersion blender until it is the desired consistency.

Add the Carrots.

Serve with bits of meat to put into the soup, garnish with Parmesan cheese. Salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Ham to use as a garnish:

Day before:

Buy or cut up at least 1/2 lbs. of ham into cubes.

make a mixture of brown sugar, ground black pepper, ground cloves, and dried ground ginger.

Coat ham with mixture. Cover and store in fridge overnight.

Day of:

Wash mixture off ham cubes.

Coat with oil. bake at least 1/2hr in medium oven.

*I will name names. It helps you. They aren't paying me -- yet. I promise never to hype anything I do not use and like.

†Careful here. The broth picks up sugars and proteins from the peas. They will cause the broth to foam up when it is brought to a boil. The foam is harmless, but it may boil over and make a mess.

‡I use a "Cuisinart CSB-80 Smart Stick Power Trio High Torque Hand Blender" that I bought from Amazon. It is very powerful, so much so that you should really hold it with both hands while running it. It makes short work of pureeing peas.

And Then It Gets Funner*

So yesterday, I posted an Article about Morgan Spulock going into the fast food business, which sounded pretty humorous to me. Today we found out that he may be pranking us, or somebody, or something like that.
Holy Chicken? Holy Cow! Was it all a stunt by 'Super Size Me' filmmaker?
By ThisWeek News  • 

For Morgan Spurlock’s most recent act, the filmmaker tricked most of central Ohio. Spurlock, best known for his documentaries and especially the Academy-Award nominated "SuperSize Me," has recently told anyone who would listen that his focus has changed. Instead of continuing to rail against the fast-food industry that he worked to expose — his"Super Size Me" showed what happened after he ate nothing but food from McDonald's for 30 days — he recently announced that he would bring a "pop-up" chicken restaurant to the Columbus area.

In a Dispatch article that ran on the front of the Business section in Saturday's paper, Spurlock said his new Holy Chicken on Schrock Road in Westerville would be a healthier alternative to other chicken restaurants. And he said he would open it for only four days to get feedback from customers before a permanent location was opened. Spurlock promised a new "chicken experience" and "fast-food made with integrity," saying Holy Chicken would use "100 percent natural free-range chickens."

So when Spurlock opened on Saturday at the 2405 Schrock Road location, it was with fanfare.Mayor Andrew J. Ginther's office was there for a ribbon cutting, as were representatives from the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Connects Columbus and Experience Columbus. The state House of Representatives sent an official proclamation.

“We want people to be able to eat food that’s good for them and healthy, so we’re very excited about the energy you’re bringing to our city,” Ginther spokeswoman Robin Davis said to Spurlock at the grand opening. At one point, hundreds of people in a line wrapped around the building awaiting the healthier chicken sandwiches.

But as Spurlock cut the ribbon and guests munched on the food, cards on the tables told a different story. The chickens used at the restaurant were raised “pretty much the same as all industrial chickens,” the cards said.“Every year these chains continue to sell us the same tired food that they always have, but now with improved marketing and spin,” Spurlock said. He pointed out that, by a restaurant using certain colors, certain signs and certain words, customers feel as though they are doing better and eating healthier, when perhaps they aren't.

* * *
Few customers, however, seemed to realize what was going on, as they continued to buy the $7.50 chicken sandwiches that a Tweet later said sold out by 3 p.m.

†, however, was paying attention. The Westerville resident said she took her daughters to Holy Chicken because she supports animal rights. But when she read the cards on the tables and the writing on the wall, she left “disgusted.”

Spurlock wouldn't say whether this stunt was all part of perhaps another documentary. He did, however, have people coming into the restaurant sign waivers to be filmed. Spurlock said only that the "shoots everything," and said it still might have something to do with really opening a restaurant. "We'll go back, we’ll use a lot of this material to talk to investors to say, ‘Here’s what we have. Here’s the reaction from people,’” he said.

†name redacted to protect the poor woman from well deserved ridicule
Maybe he wants to go into the fast food business, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he wants make a "documentary" that will show how smart he is and hip to marketing strategies he is and how godawful stupid the people who bought a sandwich from him are.

I doubt that his stunt proves any of that. People are curious and will show up at a new restaurant to try the food. The real trick in the restaurant business is to get them to come back. To abuse their curiosity as Spurlock appears to have done, is simply proving that Spurlock is a jerk.

*When my kids were in middle school, they had this little joke: "It's all fun and games until somebody gets an eye poked out, and then it gets funner, if funner is a word." Spurlock seems to be at a middle school level of humor. Undoubtedly the NYTimes‡ will love the "documentary".

‡Style note. The newspaper called The Times is published in London, England. It is the platonic form of a newspaper that all other newspapers that have taken the name  "Times", wish to be earthly instantiations of. All newspapers other than The Times, must be referred to with their place of publication to distinguish them from the real thing, e.g. The New York Times (a/k/a NYTimes), The Los Angeles Times (a/k/a LATimes), etc.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Irony is not a strong enough word

Satire is, of course, no longer possible. And the only news source that is not fake is The Onion. I present the following FWIW:

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock opens pop-up chicken spot here 

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 

The man who made “Super Size Me,” the Academy-Award nominated expose of the fast food industry, is getting into the business he helped to vilify. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has opened a pop-up restaurant, Holy Chicken, at 2405 Schrock Road,which is scheduled to be in operation through Tuesday. If the test run goes well, the location will become the first permanent home for thechicken-sandwich restaurant in 2017.

At the centerpiece of Holy Chicken’s menu will be a Grilled Crispy Chicken Sandwich, topped with slaw and pickles and served with a choice of two sauces: mustard or spicy. There also will be Lil’ Cluckers Chicken Tenders as part of the kid’s menu.

What sets the chicken apart, Spurlock said, is the humane manner in which it was raised. Last spring, Spurlock and two partners purchased an Alabama chicken farm where they are raisingtheir own free-range birds, free of hormones and antibiotics. The chickens are given a probiotic feed specially formulated with the help of a food scientist.

* * *

While his company is still waiting for final nutritional calculations for the signaturesandwich, Spurlock said it is expected to contain between 750 and 800 calories.

“It’s a big sandwich,” he said.

When asked about the high calorie count, which exceeds the 563 calories of a McDonald’s Big Mac,Spurlock replied: “Well, maybe you shouldn’t eat it every day. I learned that lesson.”

At Holy Chicken, there will be no super-size option.
If you believe that the chicken is raised in luxury condominiums overlooking the ocean, and is then killed with kindness, please contact me to discuss your interest in buying a bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan.