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Archive for December, 2011|Monthly archive page

Ron Paul: The (non) anti-Semite

In Editorial on December 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” (Gandhi)

The corporate-controlled media is doing its best to smear presidential candidate Ron Paul as a racist and anti-Semite. To some measure, among the hopeful-gullible, they have succeeded.

Do some anti-Semites and racists support Ron Paul? Yes, without a doubt. Does Ron Paul support his supporters holding racist or anti-Semitic views?

No. Despite years of hopeful digging, the corporate media cannot produce one direct quote from Paul that would betray racist or anti-Semitic tendencies.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright supported Barack Obama and Obama properly distanced himself from Wright. Sure, the neocon radio hosts had a field day trying to link Obama the candidate to Wright’s bigoted philosophies. But, for the most part, the corporate media downplayed the episode.

Obama bore the “corporate-approved” seal. Paul does not.

Unlike many candidates, the corporate media cannot pin lies to Paul’s jacket. In a day when small-time candidates lie about their education credentials and big-time candidates lie about mistresses, Paul is the exception.

Ron Paul got much further than our corporate masters ever dreamed he would. Their worst nightmares are upon them…

…there is consolidation of disdain for the status quo and the revolution has begun in earnest.

Old guard TEA Partiers (much of the current “TEA” Party has sadly been co-opted by evangelical neocons), defecting Democrats, defecting Republicans, and members of the Occupy movement have rallied behind Paul. They are putting aside their many differences over small issues in favor of slaying the beast that has become the American corporate empire.

Only a few people have asked, “If Ron Paul is an anti-Semite, why does he enjoy support from Jews?”

Merav Yaakov, a 43-year-old New Hampshire voter who grew up in Israel, is now a volunteer with Paul’s campaign. Yaakov believes Paul’s policies would help Israel, by denying aid to both Israel and its Arab neighbors, allowing Israel to confront its neighbors on its own terms and ultimately end the conflict. “I’m disappointed the American Jews would not entertain a possibility for a peaceful solution to the area,” Yaakov said. “I’m disappointed they want Israel to be dependent on the US. They don’t see the benefit of Israel becoming more independent and controlling its own destiny. I think they’re making a big mistake.”  (Boston Globe November 5, 2011)

Oh, but that’s hardly ‘Jewish’ support!

Well, would you accept Ron Paul support from an Israeli [LINK HERE!] newspaper?

Hmmmmmm…

The Republican Jewish Coalition (Likud-America) has a problem with Paul’s plan to permit Israel to slip loose from its bonds of being an American puppet-state. They do not object to Paul from Tel Aviv, Haifa, or any other Israeli city. They do so from the relative safety of Boro Park, Boca Raton, and other hubs of American Jewry.

There is a solution for the RJC. Support Israel as Israelis living in Israel, or move to admit Israel as a state in the United States where it will receive federal protection in accordance with the US Constitution.

The federal flag needs a six-pointed star!

Supporting Israeli independence or full American statehood for the Jewish nation would take a lot more work than trying to smear Ron Paul with feces from a very short stick. Like the other useful idiots parroting corporate lies as “news”, feces-smearers (schmearers?) shun heavy lifting.

A recipe for the Un-Cook – Greek-style Crock Pot Chicken

In Recipies on December 22, 2011 at 10:16 am

I dug this recipe out after one of last night’s Latke Night Fever guests asked me, “Do you ever have days where you just don’t feel like cooking. And, what do you cook then?”

Happens all the time.

Usually I get the cooking blahs after Shabbat or after any Jewish holiday where the theme is, “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”…which is the theme of every Jewish holiday. Usually, I will settle for something “egg”, a salad, or just something simple like fruit and cheese. But what about those times when I have committed to making another “fancy” meal right after Shabbat or Yom Tov?

Do you remember Crock Pots? No, not Lyndon LaRouche…a Slow Cooker.

These things were all the rage back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We still have one, painted in garish “harvest gold” with a cutesy cornucopia graphic on the front. My dearest mother-in-law gave it to us on our first wedding anniversary, well over 32 years ago. I have another one, in a more sober and traditional black finish that we haul out when “nice people” come over.

This is a recipe that fits well for any occasion, takes a minimum of prep-work, tastes great, and looks like you spent all day making it…which you did.

A few words about crock cooking.

I know, it is one of the crock cooker’s best features…to fill it, plug it in, and come home to a cooked supper.

Please do not do that.

Fire is probably a low risk threat, but food poisoning is not. If the power goes out your meal sits in the perfect bacterial incubator. Even if the black cat clock (with the swishing tail pendulum) that is plugged into the same outlet suggests the power was out for “only a little while”, toss out the food (I hate doing it too.). If the power went off in the early part of cooking, you had practically raw food sitting in a warm container long enough to make you sick.

Sermon…over.

When you use dry herbs in crock cookery, add half the called-for amount at the beginning of cooking and the rest about an hour or two before the meal is finished. Remember, herb flavorings tend to intensify in crock cookery. So, use about half the amount you would use for other cooking methods.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 whole roasting chicken

1 large onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 sweet, red pepper, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

juice of two lemons – reserve the rinds

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried rosemary

8oz bag dried apricots

salt and freshly ground pepper

Carefully rinse out the bird, removing the neck and other parts usually stuck inside. The bird must be entirely thawed before cooking! Lightly salt and pepper the inside and outside of the bird. Stuff the cavity with the apricots, half of the peppers and onions, and the lemon rinds. Stick the bird into the crock. Pour the lemon juice over the bird and sprinkle with half of the herbs. Stuff the rest of the peppers, onion, and garlic around the chicken. Cover and turn on “high”.  Cook for 6 hours. The meat and veggies should provide enough cooking liquid, so do not add any. After six hours, add the remaining herbs. Continue cooking another hour (or two, depending on the size of the chicken). Don’t worry about the internal temperature of the meat to determine “doneness”. When the meat just about falls from the bone, the meal is done.

Your house will smell wonderful while this cooks and your guests will swear you spent all day in the kitchen making it. Well, you sorta did.

Late-breaking latke news…

In Recipies on December 22, 2011 at 9:39 am

After a bit more experimenting with spinning latke-bound potatoes (see here), I have news…

…the spinning process works nicely if the potatoes are peeled.

The Phyne Dyner has always made his latkes au naturale (potatoes are shredded with the skins left on). The skin imparts a brownish color to the potato flesh and this “bleeds” further as the shredded stuff sits, even for a few minutes. If the skins are left on, they tend to inhibit the effectiveness of the spinning process.

Last night, while six pairs of hungry eyes peered at me from the table, I conducted a series of latke experiments. Nearly twenty years of university life would be called into action to solve this mystery.

There were discussions about the possibility that my salad spinner did not generate enough speed. This prompted proposals, which were firmly vetoed by Mrs. Phyne Dyner, involving a Tim the Toolman-esque plan to motorize the spinner. What could possibly go wrong? There were discussions about trying other types of potatoes. This was vetoed by the amount of pre-latke vodka we and our guests had already consumed.

I ended up going back to the source article (here). The author did not peel her (russet) potatoes.

Arrgghhh!

Well, I did. The result was a nice, dry potato mixture that did not discolor. At that point, the experiments ceased because we could no longer hear each other over the banging of forks on the dining room table. I walked away, still muttering to myself.

In the name of experimentation, a few old tricks and a new one emerged for tasty latkes.

Add some carrots…

I never have understood adults who whimper like children if a carrot falls on their plate or if a bowl of salad is set in front of them with a mushroom or two on top. Thankfully, I have not (yet) heard a grown man or woman suddenly cry out, “The food, it’s touching!”

One of last night’s latke variations included a couple of grated carrots in the mix. It is not a new idea, but it adds a lot of (needed) color to latkes and also adds a nice caramel-like flavor.

Next…”falafkes”

My go-to recipe for latkes uses 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of matzo meal as a binder. Last night, I played “what if” by adding 4 tablespoons of commercial falafel mix instead.

Whoa, BABY!

Okay, part of the learning curve on this variation is to leave a bit more moisture in the potato mix and allow it to stand for about 10 minutes. Otherwise, the falafel mix is more “gritty” than “great”.

What a great combo! I dug out a jar of tahini and slathered some on these…thereby quadrupling their caloric content. What the heck, it’s Hanukkah! A bit of old-fashioned Israeli-style salad on the side made this a splendid variation.

By all means, try it.

With added features, it may be day six or seven before the latke blues set in!

Have a splendid…whatever!

In Lifestyle on December 20, 2011 at 10:07 am

Tonight, begins the annual Jewish festival of cholesterol…Hanukkah. No, it is not Jewish Christmas.

The holiday celebrates a military victory and the subsequent miracle of long-lasting oil. Because of the miracle of the oil, foods fried in oil are part of the tradition.

In the realm of things Jewish, Hanukkah is not a major holiday. In fact, it is a bit peculiar that my fellow Reform Jews celebrate it at all. The whole bru-ha-ha was originally over the issue of assimilation of Jews into Greek culture and Reform Jews see “fitting in” as a Jewish strength. On the other hand, the issue of the day was not invited assimilation…rather, it was mandatory assimilation.

No matter what the history of Hanukkah may be, I always take delight in its difference from Christmas.

Nobody has co-opted a Hanukkah song into an advertising jingle…

“Oh Hanukkah, oh Hanukkah, come light the menorah.

  After it burns out, come to the tire store-ah.”

Nope, nobody dressed up like a Maccabean freedom fighter screaming from the tee-vee, “There’s no better time to buy a Toyota!”

And then, there is Kwanzaa

Tighty-righties always hoot about the “made up” nature of Kwanzaa. Admittedly, the holiday had some initial public relations problems when it’s creator, Maulana Karenga, said Christmas was “the white man’s holiday” and that “Jesus was a psychotic”. But, its contemporary observance is more about community values than theological dogma.

It is really uncertain how many African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa. Here in Des Moines, America’s Ukraine, I doubt many people keep Kwanzaa.

I tested Kwanzaa observance by greeting African-Americans with the traditional daily Kwanzaa greeting: “Habari gani?”, Swahili for “What’s the news?

Most of the folks I tried this on, backed away slightly and cocked their heads. The Swahili version of “S’up?” has not made it to Des Moines.

On Hanukkah, Jews could adopt a similar greeting…like “Mah koreh?” (“What’s happening?”). That would be WAY cool!

Despite what the white pundits say, Kwanzaa is as genuine as Hanukkah as a day of cultural pride.

“Merry Christmas”

I like it when a Christian greets me with those words. Translated, the words mean: “I wish you peace, health, prosperity, charity, and faith.” What could possibly be offensive in those words? I live in a neighborhood with orthodox Jews, Reform Jews, Muslims, and an overwhelming majority of Christians. I never know what kind of friendly December greeting is in store for me when I walk out of my door.

Actually, it makes me a bit sad for my Christian friends to see one of their holiest days turned into a two-month festival of commercialism and consumerism. I wonder what the historical Jesus (the dude the holiday is supposed to be about) would say about “Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday”, and “Super Saturday”. On Christmas Eve, the churches are empty and the malls are full.

The whole gift-giving schtick was not really big prior to WWII. At best, it meant some candy or fresh fruits…along with new underwear. In the 1950s and 60s, the holiday exploded into a celebration of avarice. In the 1970s, a kid who did not get at least $500 worth of loot for the holiday was portrayed to be only slightly better off than the kids peering wistfully from the sides of milk cartons. Today, the sky is the limit when it comes to expected gifts.

Hanukkah, as a sidebar to Christmas greed, has been turned into eight nights of gift-giving extravaganzas…so Jewish kids would not feel “left out”…with just a spinning top, Chinese food, and a movie.

One Christmas tradition that has not (thankfully!) crossed over into Hanukkah is the “Christmas letter”…those annual boast-fests sent out in multi-page versions of Facebook brags. I had only begun to hope that the late-night television hosts had lampooned and parodied Christmas letters into oblivion when one arrived in the Phyne Dyner’s mailbox.

It was like gouging my eyes with a frozen parsnip.

One can only imagine the pain that a Jewish-authored “Hanukkah Letter” might unleash upon an unlucky recipient. “Gittel has graduated from medical school (Second in her class, behind her sister, Chaya!) and Herschel was just made full partner in a medical malpractice firm…after successfully suggesting late-night advertising related to prescription side-effects…”.

But, no matter what day (or days) you claim as yours to keep and observe, Phyne Dyning wishes you the most Splendid Whatever!

Latke hints and tips

In Recipies on December 20, 2011 at 8:52 am

Everyone has their favorite latke recipe and everyone knows their latkes are best. Face it, there are only a few ways to fry up shredded potatoes and onions.  Now, some folks love soggy latkes. You know, the “mushy kind”. But to turn out latkes that are crisp and crunchy without being burned to a cinder at the edges takes some planning.

One of the biggest secrets to avoiding the mush is to remove as much water as possible from the potatoes before they are cooked. Layer the shredded potatoes in a colander with a generous sprinkling of kosher salt between each layer. Now, place a heavy weight on top and allow the potatoes to stand for at least thirty minutes. And, yes, you can mix the shredded (or finely chopped) onion with the potatoes for this step. Next, use your hands to wring out as much water from the mixture as possible. Work in small batches, just sufficient to handle the added egg and flour, and use a slotted spoon to pull the mix from the bowl. Remember, the goal is to leave moisture behind. A few home chefs use dried onion flakes instead of fresh onion. It is just my opinion that the moisture added is a better trade than using the flakes.

Using the salt to remove water means you should not add any more as seasoning. But do be sure to give the mixture a couple of generous twists of freshly ground black pepper.

An electric skillet is best for cooking latkes, simply because the heat can be carefully controlled.  There are two possible cooking methods.

If you will be serving the latkes immediately, cook them in oil heated to about 375F until they are crisp and golden. Latkes fried in this way tend to get soggy if they stand long enough to get “cold”. Also, when frying in the one-step method, higher heat tends only to burn the edges and leaves the centers a bit doughy.

I prefer the two-step frying method if I am not feeding an army of hungry Hanukkah celebrants. But, the two-step method can also be used if another electric skillet is available…just remember “fuse load”…lest you be tripping circuit breakers.

In the two-step method, the potatoes are cooked at a lower temperature (around 350F) for about 5-6 minutes, or until the potatoes are well “set” and just beginning to turn golden. Then they are removed and drained on paper towels and allowed to cool a bit. Then, the latkes are re-cooked at a higher temperature (385-400F) until they are nicely browned. The first cooking drives out a good deal of water and allowing them to cool also lets more water evaporate. The second cooking finishes them off and gives them that wonderful crispy-crunchy texture. By the way, two-step frying is the professional chef’s secret to making great home fries or pan-fried potatoes.

Sure, applesauce and sour cream are the traditional dressings for latkes. For a bit of variety, spread some hommus or mayonnaise on them. What the heck, latkes are not diet foods. So enjoy!

When the “latke blues” set in try: Kabak mucveri

Incidentally, these little zucchini fritters freeze magnificently. Just spread the fried patties on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Then, immediately put them in a zipper storage bag and return them to the freezer for storage. Pre-freezing them keeps them from sticking together and breaking up later. To re-heat, simply spread on a cookie sheet and place in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes…or until hot. I make several batches in the summer, when zucchini is cheap and plentiful. Then, just in time for Hanukkah, I can re-heat their fried goodness without dragging out a lot of cooking equipment.

LATE-BREAKING LATKE NEWS!

A fellow food blogger suggests using a salad spinner to remove excess water from shredded potatoes and onions destined to become latkes. The blogger at Eat, Sylvia. Eat!” says the process removes a nearly all of the water (Just look at the photo in the link!) and avoids the problem of darkened potato flesh that often results when allowing potatoes to drain in a colander.

I love my salad spinner for its intended use and for removing water from freshly washed herbs from the garden. The suggestion had me “itching” to try it.

I tried the suggestion with mixed results. I took the shredded potato-onion mix right out of my Cuisinart 12-cup food processor and put it in the spinner.

The process works quite well with small batches of shredded potatoes, like a little more than two cups, in my Oxo spinner. Much more, and the spinner bogs down. It is also pretty (okay, imperative) important to spread the potatoes evenly so the spinner is balanced. I spun the mixture until just a few spatters of liquid emerged. The potatoes do come out for cooking looking a bit whiter…and then promptly begin to brown while I am spinning the next batch and mixing the first batch with my eggs, matzo meal, and flour for cooking. The spun mixture also spattered more than the colander mixture; this being an indication that the spun mixture contained more water than the colander-treated mix.

So, for small batches of latkes, the process works nicely. But in my house, where latkes are made by the platter-full, the method still resulted in dark potato flesh and quite a bit of spattering. I, unscientifically, deduced that my colander-prepped potatoes were a bit drier because I use a very heavy weight to press them as they drain, rather than simply dumping them into the colander.

Despite my mixed results, I think you should give her method your own trial. I’m going to repeat my test-run tonight…YUM!

Phyne Dyning learns…dissing Iowa was not Bloom’s real crime.

In General Information on December 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm

This morning’s email inbox contained something special. After sorting through its usual offerings for cheap Viagra and Nigerian lottery winnings, my eyes fell on a familiar name. I only hear from him infrequently and, when I do, I always hope for his message to contain three magic words.

 

“Happy Hanukkah, you old bast—d!”

 No, that’s five. And I’m only four or five years older than him.

 “Him” is a much-loved friend. I met him when we were both undergrads and well before he began making a fair amount of money by stringing words together and selling them. For a peculiar reason known only to him, he took me under his ink-stained wing and I became his very first fledgling writer charity case.

 He subsequently used me as an example in a job interview, years ago, when he was asked, “Can you give us an example where you used bad judgment?”

 Oh yes, his three words I covet?

 “Send me something”.

 One of his conditions of friendship has always been that I never send him unsolicited anything.

 I sent him him the ‘.doc’ file for “Oh Baby, It’s SO big!” It was timely and I knew it would cover a subject with which he was familiar.

 The phone rang. I recognized the voice.

“You’ve come a long way.”

 “Thanks, I…”

“That wasn’t a compliment. That was some real crap.”

 The smile slid off of my face and the room began to fade. The voice on the phone was sincere. This was not going to be a lecture on my shoddy writing mechanics. Those issues were addressed in full when he sent me a (signed by him) copy of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”. Under his chop on the inside cover he wrote, “Everybody stinks when it comes to mechanics. That’s what editors are for.”

You called politicians whores. That’s as shattering as an announcement that the sky is blue. Everyone knows they’re whores, even them. You missed by a mile.”

Conversations with my friend are typically one-sided, coach-to-player affairs.

“What’s the first question a candidate asks of his lawyer after he’s been caught in bed with a naked fourteen year-old boy? ‘Did the newspaper spell my name right?’ Calling ‘em whores is nothing.”

 My palm hit the center of my forehead with a smack.

“Look, Bloom pretty much called Iowans out for being provincial. Are they provincial? And, can you name a place where the locals aren’t provincial? This whole non-story has nothing to do with the honor of Iowans and everything to do with money. I’m really disappointed that you missed it.”

 That hurt!

“What’s Iowa’s main industry when it comes to peddling newspapers and putting stuff on the tee-vee?”

I started to form a word, but thought better of it.

“Without the election cycle, what would your Des Moines Register write about? High school football? More snow? Corn is two inches taller this year? Would people buy advertising? Do farmers buy a lot of advertising? Do you think Diane Freakin’-Sawyer would otherwise set foot in Des Moines unless her plane was shot down over it?”

Listen and learn…

“Newspapers do not entertain and inform and have not done so since Guttenberg. Newspapers exist for one purpose only…to sell advertising and to get the sold advertising seen. Your little whore analogy was, at best, cute. But you left out the real player. Who beats the s—t out of you if you don’t pay the whore? That’s right, the pimp.”

Another whack to the forehead.

“Who the hell do you think is out for this Bloom-guy’s butt? His fellow tradesmen. Who’s throwing kerosene on the flames? Iowa newspapers! There’s already a rumble to replace Iowa as one of the firsts in national elections. This guy, a fellow Iowa journalist, goes to the coast and starts making an argument for just that. This is not about Iowa’s honor, Iowa’s pride, or any other such horses—t. It’s about money and it’s always about money. Jeez, he doesn’t have to worry about skinheads burning him out, he needs to worry about his fellow journalists. They’re the pimps. Elections are their gravy and Bloom took a mule-sized dump in their gravy boat. They’ll not just want him fired if the advertising dollars go down the road. They’ll have his head on a pole and his dog sodomized. Pimps have no sense of humor when it comes to their money.”

Silence.

“Look, you missed it by a mile. But if this s—t was easy, everybody would get paid for writing.”

There were a few more exchanged pleasantries and my friend announced that he had finished his “sammich” and it was time to get back to work.

I sat, staring at the monitor and my email inbox. Nothing. Those three magic words would not come anytime soon.

Oh baby! It’s SO big!

In Editorial on December 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I was going to write a snark-piece addressing the observations of Professor Stephen Bloom and the predictable responses many Iowans had to his article, published in The Atlantic. After reading Bloom’s entire piece, I came away with the conviction that his take on Iowa, and the response to it, deserved a much more sober treatment than I initially planned.

Nice versus Polite

One of the more common rebuttals to Bloom’s assertions is, “Iowans are nice, we’re nothing like he says.” I think it is time to specifically point out, by example, the dichotomy that exists between “nice” and “polite”.

Nice“Dr. Bloom made some pretty harsh statements about Iowa and Iowans. I will remain respectful of Bloom’s opinions while I specifically refute them with facts as I understand them.”

Polite“Okay! May I have your attention? Please keep the shouting down so people in the back holding torches can hear. All those in favor of burning Bloom’s house, raise your hand. Thank you. Those in favor of petitioning the University of Iowa to dismiss Bloom and to wreak economic hardship on him, raise your hand. Thank you.”

See the difference? Nice people are polite by nature. Polite people are not necessarily nice. From statements posted on the comment boards of the majority of Iowa newspapers reporting on Bloom’s work, it would be accurate to say, “A lot of Iowans are very polite.”

There was, for example, the intemperate comment, “We should strip him (Bloom) naked, and glue some antlers to his head…”

There have been worse.

Such comments only serve to underscore Bloom’s characterizations, rather than contradict them.

More to the point, Why are “well-educated” and “fair-minded” Iowans moved to make comments that only tend to support Bloom’s assertions?

“Ohhhh, baby…your d—k is so huge!”

Every hooker knows that verbal encouragement is necessary to facilitate, errrr, fast customer turnover. The sooner a whore can be back on the street, the sooner another john can be hooked and fleeced. Consequently, hookers do not make “cuddly talk” during sex-for-pay.

What the @#%$% do whores have to do with Bloom’s article and Iowa?

Every few years, or on an ongoing basis, whores from Washington DC and from Des Moines travel into the hamlets Bloom talks about in his article. At the “chew and chats”, the whores begin their sex-talk: “Iowa is the home of common sense values. The clean and wholesome Iowa lifestyle. Iowa, the economic powerhouse of the Midwest.”

Locals buy into the politician’s sex talk and ignore the boarded up storefronts, the loaded U-Haul trucks leaving town, or the bundles of mail at the post office coming from the last crop of university graduates who fled Spyderwort, Iowa to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Local political whores suck it (pardon the pun) all up.  Every politician knows that it is far better to rule in Hell, than to serve in Heaven. Consequently, these lesser, local whores are the first to incite the now flaccid local johns when a critic like Bloom pops up.

Bloom’s offense was pointing out, “Hey, I shower with you guys and, in spite of what the hooker told you, you’re no better endowed than anyone else.”

My friend, a veteran gynecologist of great wisdom, points out to younger doctors that it is a practice volume killer for any gynecologist to tell their patients they “need to lose a few pounds”…even if each of her legs needs to be weighed separately.

Nobody likes honest criticism.

Hell…it’s everywhere you want to be…

My shadow has not fallen on a Detroit sidewalk for about 33 years. In its heyday, Detroit boasted 100% employment in good jobs and there was almost 80% home ownership, even among the most humble blue-collar workers. Today, it is unsafe to walk down a Detroit street without being accompanied by a Marine rifle company. The venerable Michigan Theatre is now (literally) a gilded parking garage.

Across the river, in Illinois, river towns there struggle with the same blight as their Iowa counterparts…and they are every bit as outraged when “some idiot” points it out to them.

There are a lot of places in America that can best be described as Hell’s Waiting Room.

Ask any Iowan…Texas is full of gap-toothed rednecks driving pickups with “Honk, if you love Jesus” bumper stickers…adjacent to the rope pulling an African-American by the neck.

The fact is; there are places in Texas, where one is more likely to spot merino-wool socks under Birkenstock sandals…than cowboy boots. And there are colonias in West Texas where the city water supply is a dirty stock tank in the back of a rusty pickup truck.

When the political whores go to either place in Texas, they tell the respective residents how “smart”, “independent”, and “friendly” they are too.

It keeps the locals from asking too many hard questions.

Prostitutes are the same everywhere.

Bloom is not the problem…

The ire directed at Dr. Bloom is only a distraction. Local political whores live in symbiosis with the whores from Des Moines and Washington. Local politicians know, if they can redirect resident anger to “elitist outsiders from Joisy”, they can successfully continue their reign in Hell for one more term. Or, if they walk under a lucky star, they can eventually move to Des Moines or Washington…where the real political perks are found

Happy, content, and fully employed people do not use meth. So, when a political whore, or the sycophant advertising and media types hoot derisively at critics pointing out Wal Mart blighted towns and the despair within them…you can be assured that the real problem is not the critic.

Truth said, Iowa is no smarter, richer, or fair-minded than many other places in America.  Conversely, Iowa is no less intelligent, poorer, or more bigoted than many other places in America.

Bloom simply told the truth in an unflattering manner. Bloom is analogous to the battered girlfriend of a john whose “provocation” for her beating was in her honestly pointing out that his organ is “just average” in size.

Lentil soup: Check your pulse!

In Recipies on December 13, 2011 at 10:22 am

Lentils are a true food from antiquity and have been part of the human diet of the Near East and Mediterranean regions from 13,000 to 9,500 years ago. The Bible tells how Esau delighted in “the red stuff” and that a bowl of it was the price of his birthright.

They are pulses, a crop harvested exclusively for its dry seed, and are part of the legume family. Known as adz in Egypt and as ad’s in Arabic, these lens-shaped seeds are often part of the daily diet in those cultures. Lentil dishes are also favored by Jews of the region and are a symbolic food in Jewish mourning (they are round and symbolize the “life cycle”).

Nutritionally speaking, lentils are among the “super foods”. They are almost 33% nutritional protein and are a fiber-rich food (red lentils are a bit lower in fiber).  Because lentils are low in methionine and cysteine, they lack many of the disulfide bridges which the body breaks down during digestion. Consequently, lentils are “less gassy” than bean dishes!

Lentil dishes lend themselves to cumin and turmeric, same as other legume-based meals of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. As a result, lentil soups and stews often seem to have a uniform flavor, no matter where the dish originates.

Today’s lentil soup breaks from the cumin and turmeric herd because it gets most of its flavor from onion, garlic, and oregano. This soup also starts with a hefty amount of olive oil (3/4 cup!) and this gives the soup a hearty substance, despite the fact there is no meat or broth used to make it.

A quick word of caution is in order. Like all legumes, salt added early to a lentil dish will keep the lentils from softening. Hard beans and lentils are a huge turn-off factor for a lot of people and you will do much in the way of promoting lentils by keeping salt out until the end of cooking.

There are also a couple of great variations possible with this soup. Regular tomatoes are the standard, but an interesting variation can be had using Ro-Tel brand or by adding your own chopped chilies, or a well-drained small can of them with the tomatoes.

The soup can also be made with a bit of rice or orzo. If you choose to use rice, add an extra ½ cup of liquid for each ¼ cup of rice. When using orzo, no adjustment to the liquid is needed.

One final caution: Be sure to carefully sort and rinse lentils before cooking them. It is amazing how many stones look just like lentils and are just waiting to smash expensive dental work.

Let’s make lentil soup!

¾ C olive oil

1 large onion, sliced (about 2 C)

1 ½ TBS minced garlic

2 carrots, peeled and “pyramid cut” (see notes)

1 handful fresh oregano leaves (or 2 tsp dried)

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped (or 1 14oz can diced)

2 TBS tomato paste (or 4oz tomato sauce)

½ C orzo or ¼ C long grain rice

1 ½ C red (or green) lentils

4 C warm water

2 TBS dried parsley (divided)

1 TBS cider vinegar, plus 1 TBS balsamic vinegar

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Greek yogurt (or sour cream) for serving

Carefully sort and rinse the lentils and place them in a large pot with enough water to cover them completely. Bring the lentils to a rolling boil and gently boil them for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the lentils to cool a bit before draining all of the cooking liquid. Add a cup or two of cold water and swish the lentils gently to remove any clinging “scum”. Drain and reserve the lentils on the side.

Carefully dry the pot to avoid spattering oil! Heat the oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions to the pot and “sweat” them until they are translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute, being careful not to allow the garlic to burn. Return the lentils to the pot and stir them well to coat them with oil.

[NOTE: “Pyramid cut” the peeled carrots by making a diagonal cut and then rolling the carrot 180 degrees and making the same diagonal cut. Or, simply slice the carrot into disks.]

Add the carrots and tomatoes. Stir in the water and add the tomato paste, half of the parsley, all of the oregano, and a few twists of black pepper. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. If you are using rice, add the rice at 30 minutes of cooking and be sure to adjust the water upward by twice the volume of the rice. If you are using orzo, allow 9-10 minutes for it to cook. Stir in the remaining parsley. Mix the vinegars and add to the soup, or just use lemon juice instead. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve in large bowls, garnished with parsley and put a dollop of Greek yogurt (or sour cream) in the center. Serve with toasted, or grilled, pita.

Baked Spinach-Mostaccioli

In Recipies on December 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Not every good Mediterranean-style dish has tomatoes in it.

Whenever I make lasagna, the stuff at the corners and edges of the pan become hotly contested and are pursued with vigor. Of course, the center is “good”, but the edges and corners have a crisp top and an al dente firmness that we find “great”.

I solved the great dispute over the best parts by using mostaccioli instead of lasagna noodles.

One of the more challenging aspects of cooking for home chefs and pros alike, is solving the “What do I do with…” question of food on hand. There is always a “bit of this” and a “bit of that” in the corners of the pantry and fridge and making something out of it is 100% necessary if you are cooking on a budget.

A few weeks ago, I opened the pantry and found about a pound of mostaccioli. In the fridge, I found the last few ounces of my “Bargain Bag” of organic spinach, about a pound of cottage cheese, and two carrots.

What to do?

Here is what I did:

1 lb uncooked mostaccioli

2 carrots, peeled and thick sliced

½ C onion, finely chopped

10-12oz fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried

2 tsp garlic, minced

2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, minced

1 TBS olive oil

2 eggs

3 C cottage cheese

½ C pecorino Romano (divided)

2 TBS dried parsley flakes (divided)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 chicken breast (optional), poached and shredded

 Cook the carrots in a pot of water large enough to accommodate the pasta.  Cook the carrots about 5 minutes, leaving them firm to the bite. Remove them and set them aside.  Cook the mostaccioli in the large pot of boiling (carrot) water to which you have added 1 TBS kosher salt to al dente (about nine minutes).

While the cooked items (including the chicken breast if using) are cooling, mix the onion, garlic, oregano leaves, eggs, cottage cheese, half of the Romano, and half of the parsley flakes in a large bowl. Toss the pasta into the mixture and then the carrots. Give a couple of twists of freshly ground pepper. Toss well to combine.

Pre-heat the oven to 375F.  Lightly oil a covered casserole with the olive oil. Gently, spoon in half of the pasta-cheese mixture, covering the bottom of the casserole thoroughly. Spread the spinach leaves, in a smooth layer, on top of the pasta-cheese mixture and give the whole deal a couple of light twists of pepper. Now, spoon the remaining pasta-cheese mixture over the spinach. Sprinkle the remaining Romano on top and then sprinkle with the rest of the dried parsley flakes. Gently dust with a bit of salt and another couple of twists of pepper.  Cover, and bake, for 45-55 minutes…or until the top just begins to turn golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-12 minutes before serving.  Serve with hot, crusty bread and a chilled crisp, white wine.

It just does not get much easier!

December 8, 2011…10:01pm

In Editorial on December 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.” – Sir William Gladstone

My frequent musings concern things like, “At what precise moment in history did Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, etc. slip from humanity and into barbarism.”  Last night, December 8, 2011 at 10:01pm, I felt the United States of America take its own tumble.

That was the precise time, the first time, I had heard that the remains of potentially 274 US service personnel killed in Americas current war(s) had been consigned to a landfill.

The Pentagon quickly points out that the “remains” were not intact bodies.  Rather, they were “unidentifiable fragments” and “body parts” that were cremated and then sent to the local dump.

Does it matter?

Earlier this year, surviving family members of those killed in the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks voiced their concerns about city plans to move unidentifiable human remains from the attack to a planned museum having a $20 admission fee.  Their concerns, while entirely valid, pale when compared to the dumping of the remains of fallen military personnel into a landfill with the day’s garbage.

The Pentagon now assures us that similar remains will be cremated and “buried at sea”.

Why?

Is the Tomb of the Unknowns full?

The cremated remains of 274 intact adults would occupy about 32 cubic feet of volume.  Remember, Pentagon officials assured us that this matter involved “unidentifiable fragments” and “body parts”.  Therefore, the resulting volume of cremated remains, in these cases, would be expected to be much less.

According to the Pentagon, not all of the remains belong to “the unknown”, since DNA testing has all but eliminated any doubt about the identity of a deceased.  Some of the remains were “unwanted” by surviving relatives.  Some of the remains could also be classified dispassionately as “medical waste”.  Some fragments were in such poor condition that DNA testing would not be possible.

Again, does it matter?

Is the land these people allegedly died for so precious and rare that a small corner of a military cemetery could not be set aside for their dignified interment?  And, in many cases, surviving family members declining the return of some remains merely asked that the remains be “respectfully disposed of”.

Tossing them in with the garbage is not “respectful”…anywhere…anytime.

Air Force officials at Dover AFB and Pentagon staffers quickly pointed out that no laws were broken by mortuary staff.

That is, perhaps, the saddest part of this story.

The other night, as I left my local mass food retailer, I noticed a sign near the store’s entrance, “Don’t buy tobacco for minors.  It’s not just wrong.  It’s illegal.”

I turned to Mrs. Phyne Dyner and quipped, “I guess just because something is wrong isn’t enough to dissuade people from wrong behavior.  It isn’t really wrong, unless it’s illegal?

How barbarous!  How terribly sad.