Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Bonus!! Vegetables in Velvety Dill Sauce

In Recipies on July 30, 2012 at 2:49 pm

#4 in my four-part series of quick and easy favorites. I hope you enjoyed them!

This is a fast and easy dairy side dish. I’ve used carrots, potatoes (young redskins), squash, and cauliflower…separately and combined. It’s definitely not a diet dish. But, it is a very, very rich accompaniment to a healthy fish supper.

1-1 ½ lb vegetables per person, thick slices

½ tsp sugar

2 C green onions, thinly sliced

1 TBS dried dill

1 C sour cream

3 TBS butter

salt and pepper

Use one or a combo of vegetables. If using potatoes, slice them at least 1” thick. Peel them if you like. Carrots should be at least 3/4” thick, squash about 1”, and cauliflower broken into large florets. Red skinned potatoes are best, as russets tend to be mealier. You want this dish to be velvety smooth.

Heat water in a deep skillet of pan (deep enough to cover your chosen vegetable). Add the sugar to he water. Add the vegetables and cook them until just tender (12 min for potatoes, 6 min for others). Drain the vegetables an put them aside in a bowl.

Heat the butter in the skillet and add the green onions. Cook until the color just pops and then stir in the dried dill. Remove from heat and add the sour cream and return the vegetables to the pan. Gently toss the vegetables to coat them in the dilled sour cream. Return the pan to low-medium heat to re-warm the vegetables . Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or hot.


Bonus!! Herbed Tuna ‘n’ Tomatoes

In Recipies on July 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm

#3 in my series of FOUR bonus “quick and easy” recipes.

This is a true Mediterranean special. It’s a fast-easy dish that can be made with all fresh ingredients, or you can use canned and frozen items. Tuna steaks are quite satisfying and a 4-5oz steak is plenty of fish for most people. Be careful not to overcook the tuna. Tuna should be slightly rare when served.

I’ve made this using fresh oregano, basil, or tarragon. You can used dried herbs, just use 1/3 of the fresh recipe amount.

1 tuna steak (4-5oz) per person

1 lb fresh tomatoes, or one can drained, diced

2 TBS lemon juice

2 TBS olive oil

2 TBS dried parsley

1 TBS fresh oregano OR basil OR tarragon, chopped

4 garlic cloves, smashed

In a small bowl, mix the oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and herbs. Pour into a non-reactive shallow dish that will hold the tuna in one layer. Pour half of the herb mixture into the bottom of the dish and place the tuna steaks on top. Sprinkle the tuna with a bit of salt and pepper. Pour the rest of the herb mixture over the tuna. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. Pre-heat an oven to 350F and transfer the tuna to an oven safe dish. Scatter the tomatoes around the tuna steaks. Bake the tuna for about 20 minutes and then turn it over. Bake for an additional 20 minutes (times are approximate). Serve over cooked pasta (We like rigatoni!), spooning the tomatoes on top.

For a bit of “zing”, add a tablespoon of rinsed capers before baking.

Bonus!! Fried Cauliflower…without the deep fryer

In Recipies on July 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

#2 of my bonus of FOUR quick and easy recipes!

This is a “slightly healthier” version of deep-fried cauliflower. It provides all of the crunch and less of the deep-fat fried flavor than traditional kabak maklee. It’s simple to make and the cleanup is much less intense than with the deep-fried version.

½ head cauliflower (per 2 persons), broken into large florets

½ tsp sugar

4 slices bread

5 TBS olive oil

4 garlic cloves, smashed

½ tsp cumin

salt and pepper

grated hard cheese (e.g. Pecorino Romano)

Heat a pan of water to boiling. Add the sugar to the water. Add the cauliflower and cook until the cauliflower is just getting tender. While the cauliflower cooks, place the bread in a toaster and toast to golden. (It works better to toast stale bread and then let the toast stand on a towel for an hour.) Crumble the toast in a plastic bag into crumbs. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Stir in the garlic and the drained cauliflower florets. Allow the cauliflower to brown a bit, then smash the florets. Do not mash them into a paste. Toss in the toast crumbs and stir until hot throughout. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with grated hard cheeses.

Bonus!! Israeli-style BBQ Chicken

In Recipies on July 30, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Today, I’m going to post FOUR fast and easy recipe favorites. That’s right, FOUR! Yes, some of them need to rest in the fridge whilst they marinate, but the time a cook spends working on them is very limited. I hope you enjoy them.

Israelis love to cook over an open fire or over hot coals. I’ve seen traffic in Tel Aviv become snarled (even more than normal) after a neighbor or two pulls a grill to the most open spot on the street (typically near an intersection) for an impromptu barbeque party.

Lamb, fish, and chicken dominate the Israeli grill and each kind of food can be prepared using similar herbs and spices. This recipe is one of my favorite ways to make chicken and its perfect for leisurely cooking in the hours before Shabbat.

To avoid grill flare-ups that can turn your chicken dinner in to scorched coals, simply remove the skin before marinating.

2 chicken quarters, jointed and skinned

6 garlic cloves, smashed

2-4 TBS ground cumin (I lean toward using 4 TBS)

1-2 tsp ground of one of these: allspice or cinnamon


1-2 tsp of a 50:50 mix of turmeric and cardamom

2-3 TBS olive oil

2 TBS lemon juice

1 tsp paprika (I use “sharp” paprika)

Mix the garlic, cumin, spices, olive oil, lemon juice, and paprika in a small bowl and pour half of the mixture into a non-reactive deep dish. Add the chicken and pour the remaining marinade over the top of the chicken. Turn the chicken several times to ensure that it is completely coated with marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge, at least, overnight. If possible turn the chicken once during marinating.

Start a charcoal or wood fire, keeping a small area for indirect cooking in case of flare-ups. Remove the chicken from the fridge and allow it to come nearly to room temperature. Place the chicken on the grill over the coals. Turn the chicken frequently to avoid burning. The chicken will be done when the internal temperature is 170F (about 45 minutes). Remove to a serving plate and allow the meat to rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Serve with fruit and a chopped Israeli-style salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion.

Something new is coming to Phyne Dyning

In General Information on July 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Remember the scene in the mid-90s movie “Tombstone” where Wyatt Earp visits a slowly dying Doc Holiday and they discuss their years of shared mayhem? Earp asks Holiday why he was so reliable whenever he (Earp) ran into problems that usually involved shootouts with a rival gang. Doc replies, “Because you are my friend.”

Earp retorts with a laugh, “Friend? Hell, I have lot’s of friends.”

Holiday looks at Earp without a trace of a smile on his face and says, “I don’t.”

I can count my friends on one (and a half) hands. “Friends” are friends, not of the phony Facebook kind. My minute number of friends are folks I could call at 2am, on any given day, and the person on the other end of the line would immediately come fully alert and ask (within ten seconds of picking up the phone), “How can I help?” My friends have a similar, reciprocal expectation. Neither side seeks to inject itself into the affairs of the other.

It is no small matter that six, of seven, of my friends are Marines. Aside from my years as a stooge for the State (Praetorian policeman), I never picked up a weapon for the empire. Quite the opposite. I deliberately evaded conscription by the empire by signing aboard a merchant freighter. My Marine friends don’t hold that against me.

Marines know friendship and loyalty. Those are part of their characters long before the empire turns them into imperial troopers. And, so yes, there are shitbirds among Marines. But I have been fortunate that my little “corps” of friends does not contain one.

One of my Marine friends introduced me to “Gunny”, a gentleman with an easy smile and a squint that can read a man better than a polygraph. Just standing a few feet from him, you can feel something intense about him.

The man is fiercely devoted to individual freedom. Not only that, he’s devoted to my (and your) freedom too…provided you have the backbone to stand up for a bit of it. If you’re lukewarm about such things, the man will scare the laundry off of you.

Scared people will make up all sorts of lies so they won’t have to admit that they’re scared. Scared people resort to weasel words or maligning that which frightens them.

Gunny has been called a racist, homophobe, and any number of contemporary pejoratives intended to silence and put the feared thing at bay…usually via a club wielded by the State.

My first direct interaction with Gunny came after I clicked on a link on his website that took me to material about Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel. I wrote to him and asked something on the order of, “How can you lead people to a known liar and a maggot of the first magnitude?” He wrote back, “Shouldn’t a maggot be allowed to speak, even if it is only in maggotese?”

There was no lecture. No attempt to sell Holocaust denial. He didn’t call me a spineless maggot. His gentle rebuke resonated with me. Popularity, now called “political correctness” should not determine whether someone should be allowed to speak. If I disagree with what is said, I am always free to stop listening.

That said, he and I do not agree. Gunny subscribes to anarcho-capitalism and I am a libertarian socialist. He knows more about both than do I…he holds a PhD in economics (Most of you have been conditioned to glaze over whenever someone utters “economics”. That was an intended part of your indoctrination.). But neither one of us has much use for trying to force each other into (my term) our respective communes. True libertarians (dare I say, “anarchists”) can live amicably ‘across the hollow’ from each other, they can trade with each other, and they can be friends…without getting pissy about the economic system they embrace.


Anarcho-capitalism is for “them”. So long as they don’t try to force it (capitalism) upon me (thereby negating the “anarcho” portion), we be friends. My little group can happily pool resources and accept new members who are willing to contribute to the shared pot (“From each, according to his ability. To each, according to how hard he worked.”). There will be peace so long as my socialist colleagues don’t try to force our economic system on them…no matter how much each side is convinced of the “superiority” of our respective systems.

So, what’s the news?

I hope to bring some of Gunny’s material to Phyne Dyning.Some readers will find it too frank, too honest, and too challenging to the sacred cows that live inside their heads.

I hope not. You’ve learned not to glaze over or shout derisively at me from the cheap seats when something I say doesn’t mix well with whatever notions you hold sacred and inviolable.

Enough with the sales pitch. You’ll like ‘im or you’ll hate ‘im.

As always, that’s your choice.

Now, let me see what I can get done with this!



Hypocrisy: Chik-fil-a versus Chi-ka-go ‘boychik’

In Editorial on July 26, 2012 at 9:52 am

Life can be somewhat confusing. Add religion and life becomes a bloody mystery.

CEO of Chik-fil-a, Dan Cathy, publicly presented his position on marriage. Cathy doesn’t like same-sex marriage and this is what he had to say about it:

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

I’m not a Christian because the religion confuses me.

On one hand, Christians follow a belief system based on what they refer to as, “The New Testament”. Doing so permits them to dismiss a lot of Jewish law found in Torah (“The Old Testament”).

Christians don’t keep kosher, they “round the corners of their beards”, mix wool and linen, and do not (as a group) keep the festivals and fast days mandated within Torah.

But they get all excited about Leviticus 18:22 and its prohibitions against homosexual practices.

[Interestingly, they take no note that there are no biblical prohibitions on lesbian relationships, aside from violating the commandment to “be fruitful”. Despite this, they cheerfully disdain lesbians in the name of G-d…while giving heterosexual couples who fail to procreate a pass.]

For a while, I took pride each morning during my prayers, in reciting…”Thank G-d for having made me a Jew.”

But then…

I remembered my friend, a Reform rabbi, who sincerely believes Torah was written by a bunch of men and that it was edited to today’s form by “The Redactor” (believed to be Ezra the Scribe). According to my friend, the Exodus never happened and there was nothing given at Mount Sinai. He dismisses Jewish traditional practices outlined in the Talmud.

Consequently, and unlike me, he doesn’t “lay tefillin”; those funny looking boxes some Jews affix to their heads and arms during weekday prayer. “That’s Talmud, not Torah”, he explains.

I asked why, then, does he have two lit candles at the front of his sanctuary every Friday night? Those come from Talmud and Torah says nothing about lighting two of anything on Friday night. The funny boxes, on the other hand, are mentioned.

It gets even more confusing!

Every time a Reform kid has a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, out comes the Torah scroll. There’s a lot of ceremonial hoopla that accompanies taking out the Jewish groundhog.

At one point, my Reform rabbi friend hoists the Torah high above his head and chants:

“V’zot ha-Torah asher sam Moshe lifnei b’nei Yisrael, al pi Adonai b’yad ha Moshe.” (“This is the Torah which Moses placed before Israel, G-d’s word through the hand of Moses.”)

I asked him how he can say things he doesn’t believe.

“Well, I don’t” he admitted honestly “Usually, I just mumble.”

It was puzzling.

Reform Judaism doesn’t mandate belief in anything or mandate against anything. The choice is left to the individual who makes an “informed decision”. Most Reform Jews follow the theory that Torah was written by a bunch of guys aligned with various schools of thought, G-d never enters into the deal. A few, (very few) are steadfast Torah believers.

It was puzzling.

“So why do you do it if you don’t believe it?” I asked.

“It’s meaningful to some people and I’m obligated to do what is meaningful to others”, he replied.

“So, if a member of a mixed marriage family wanted a picture of Jesus on the bimah (altar) for their kid’s bar mitzvah, you’d do it?”


It is puzzling.

Not to pick on the Reformniks, but the bokker boys over at the orthodox joint have a similar problem that ties to Dan Cathy.

Rahm Emanuel is the mayor of Chikago.

Rahm is an orthodox Jew who belongs to the oldest orthodox congregation in Chikago, Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel. The synagogue has an interesting history. It all started with a fight over a hat:

One hot day in the summer of 1870, Duber (Dov Ber) Ginsburg, an immigrant from Mariampol, Lithuania, appeared for services at the Bais Medrash Hagodol synagogue wearing a straw hat, but the leaders of the shul took exception to its frivolity, and threw him out. Offended, Mr. Ginsburg assembled a minyan from his old-country friends, and founded a competing shul called Ohave Sholom Mariampol, at Polk and Dearborn Streets.

Oy veh! But then, orthodox Jews seem to take a perverse delight in tossing out fellow Jews for this ‘infraction’ or that ‘infraction’…it’s a TRADITION! (Cue “Fiddler on the Roof” theme)


…As an orthodox Jew, Emanuel is supposed to see himself bound by all of the commandments of Torah and by the precepts set forth in the Talmud. This is to be unquestioning and solid obedience.

Including obedience to Leviticus 18:22!

Including obedience to Talmudic teachings that a person who permits (or encourages) another person to “sin”…he/she becomes accountable for the sin which another person commits.

[That someone tells someone it’s “okay” to do a forbidden act is no excuse: “Ayin sheliach l’devar aveirah” (“Sin has no messenger”). Our sins are ours alone.]

Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted Chik-fil-a’s leadership for their anti-gay stance.

“Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.”

The mayor and like-minded Chicago political-types took to blocking the firm’s planned expansion in the Chicago market.

The chicken peddlers never indicated a willingness to beat up gays and do not post “G-d Hates Fags” signs in the windows of their stores. Dan Cathy stated his personal opposition to gay marriage.

Mr. Cathy can hold that opinion as long as he doesn’t discriminate against the GLBT community. Mr. Cathy is not a public official and cannot ban gay marriages or mandate them.

I don’t have to eat a Chik-fil-a sandwich. There are no laws saying I must.

On the other hand, Rahm Emanuel is an elected official. He’s using his political might to keep Chik-fil-a out of Chikago.

The mayor claims to be Jewish, but his real religion is liberal, progressive politics. Otherwise, he would side with Cathy.

The mayor should say:

“I share Mr. Cathy’s beliefs because my religion shares those beliefs. However, my religion does not dictate the laws of the land. No religion can do that in America. I chose a political life in America. Doing so means that I must put aside my religious beliefs in favor of equal rights for every American. If I could not do that, I would be unfit to lead an American city. Therefore, against my religious beliefs, I must support the right of all Americans to marry whom they wish to marry. I believe I will be held accountable for my decision. That’s between me and G-d.”

Mayor Emanuel’s shul would not provide wedding services to a gay couple. But Mr. Emanuel wants to tell Mr. Cathy he must embrace gay marriage in his speech or his chicken shops need not come to Chikago. Should the City of Chikago, likewise, refuse to provide services (or permit expansion) to Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel?

If Chik-fil-a’s values are “not Chikago values, neither are the values over at the shul.

Yep…it’s confusing.

It’s cucumber season…try this!

In Tips and Hints on July 24, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Cucumber season is in full swing at my place. We put out a mere three pots of bush cukes and the harvest has begun in earnest. That means cucumbers are now a huge part of our dining experience. Fattoush and Israeli-style salads frequently stand “front and center” at mealtimes and we’re always looking for a new way to use cukes.

At about the same time as the arrival of cucumbers, my crop of basil begins to overflow its windowbox. The dehydrator runs 24/7 to keep up with the flow of mint, basil, oregano, and sage.

So, if you find yourself Blessed with an abundance of homegrown cukes and basil…here’s a great way to use it:

Dice up seeded cucumbers into a small dice. Mince a little onion and garlic into them. Add a diced tomato if you like and a bit of minced fresh chili or jalapeno for some zip. Now, drizzle your salad with mirin and rice vinegar to your taste. Mirin has a wonderfully sweet tone and the rice vinegar has its own salty-sweet flavors. Chop up a few leaves of fresh basil and add those. Toss gently and serve.

Who needs assault rifles, or government?

In Editorial on July 24, 2012 at 11:23 am

The bodies of victims from the Aurora, Colorado mass killing were not even cooled to room temperature before opportunistic politicians climbed atop their corpses to clamor for more gun control or, at least, “sensible” gun control.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, characteristically took the low ground by arrogantly marginalizing the grief being expressed across America by saying, “soothing words are nice” when he demanded that his fellow politicians “stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about” preventing mass shootings.

The sad news is: there is virtually nothing a free society can do to prevent people with solid, immovable intent to commit the crime of murder upon one, or more, of his/her fellow citizens.

At this writing, it is known that at least twelve people from the so-called “Batman Rises” assault have died. It is likely that more, who are now in hospital, will die (G-d forbid!).

In 1982, a poisoner used potassium cyanide in altered Tylenol capsules to kill seven people in the Chicago area.

The murderer was never caught.

Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, eluded capture for almost twenty years, had killed three and wounded at least twenty-three.

The Tylenol Murderer and the Unabomber were failures at killing. The shooter in Aurora, Colorado was also a dismal failure at mass murder. He was armed and munitioned to kill hundreds.

Here is a sampling of successful mass murderers:

Hitler: 11,000,000

Stalin: 20,000,000

Mao: 15,000,000

Pol Pot: 1,700,000

Each of these murderers was the lawful leader of a lawful government of his country.

Approximately 93,000,000 people died during the last century due to the actions of government.

If “assault weapons” in the hands of civilians are the root cause of mass killings in America; how much more so is government in the hands of politicians?

The reason there are no American names on the above tally?

America completed most of its own genocide a hundred years earlier as part of its “Manifest Destiny”. You know, “G-d wills it!”

Displacing America’s native people, by force and with murder, was declared “best” for all concerned?

Folks like Mayor Bloomberg always hold themselves out to know what is best.

Mayor Bloomberg outlawed trans fats. Mayor Bloomberg wants to outlaw super-sized soda pop.

“What need…” the Bloomberg-type demands “…do people have of trans fats, Big Gulps, high-capacity magazines, and scary black guns?”

The same need they have of over two hundred television channels, email everywhere, and automobiles capable of reaching speeds of over twenty miles-per-hour.

There is no need of such things and there certainly is no need, in a free society, for individuals to prove to a government that they have a need for those things.

Libertarians may believe they have no need for a “smart” phone, but do not seek to ban smart phones. We don’t see a “need” for television shows like Jersey Shore, but we have no inner drive to ban them “for the good of the people”. We do not demand that people show us a need to buy or consume some commodity.

Some libertarians have no need for Big Gulps or fast cars, nor do they seek to ban them for everyone else. It’s the people who seek to control others who typically ask, “Why do they need…?”

The people who truly see themselves as special go further than demanding others to state a need for something: These self-anointed ones declare, unilaterally, that there is no need for something and then ban that “something” based on their own dismissal of anyone’s need for it, even if the person wanting that “something” states a need for it.

The self-anointed Michael Bloombergs of the world deeply believe they are charged by Heaven to protect us, to guide us, and to control us. Therefore, they reason, we must provide our protectors with a “valid reason” to buy, drink, or use a product.

They fret endlessly over a dozen or so “senseless” deaths at the hands of an individual, but they shrug off millions of deaths at the hands of government.

Despite the disproportionate number of deaths, they never seriously address questions from libertarians who simply ask for a valid reason for government.

[There is a flipside to the question of need for government that libertarians must address: “Aren’t libertarians who suggest there is no need for government, exercising the same arrogance as those who state there is no need for Big Gulps or high-capacity rifle magazines?” I believe that is an excellent question and completely valid assertion. Which is why true, classic liberals do not assert anarchism is for everyone. We are more than happy for others to form governments if they believe they are incapable of self-regulation. We simply ask to be given the choice of whether or not we to be governed (told what to do and when to do it) by a government someone else needs. Reasonable people would be appalled if told they must join the Lions Club or Rotary. People have long-shunned being ordered to join houses of worship. Why then, is it insisted that a person make himself a member of a country and thereby become subservient to a government?]

 “We need government and we need laws to maintain society, reason, and mutual protection.”

No we don’t.

There is nothing magically protective in government. Statists direly warn of “chaos” and “rampant crime” if government did not exist. That’s simply nonsense.

Murder represents the most abominable of crimes. Yet, in the Holocaust, over 7.5 million human beings were murdered in complete accordance with German laws of the day. The law did nothing to protect the victims and did everything possible to enable the killing.

Laws merely provide justification and assuage the consciences of the perpetrators.

Stealing is wrong, unless (as in America) representatives of government (encouraged by a majority vote of co-conspirators) enact laws to tax (or wholly confiscate) someone’s income or property. Abduction and kidnapping for ransom is wrong, unless there are similarly enacted laws empowering government to ban certain activities on pain of being kidnapped (jailed) and/or forced to pay a ransom (fine) for his/her release.

If a war is unpopular, or if people cannot justify their being turned into cannon fodder for the state, laws enacting military conscription are enacted. Those who avoid conscription are jailed, despite the reason that tells us if the cause (for war) was just, there would be a surplus of people volunteering to fight in it.

Classical libertarianism says, “Let those who need such laws enact them and impose them upon themselves…

…and leave the rest of us alone.”

We don’t need them.

Use your garden surplus to make ratatouille!

In Recipies on July 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm

I’ve made ratatouille (Pronounced “ratta-TOO-we” for folks in Pella.) many times. Unfortunately, I always made it according to a cookbook instruction I’ve saved for years. The result was ‘okay’, but it just didn’t have any of the characteristics that ratatouille-lovers always carry on about when making the Provençal staple.

My ratatouille always seemed a bit bland and a bit mushy. I began to wonder if the dish was not for me. Some cooks bake their versions and some cook them on the stovetop. I tried both and got the same rather bland mush.

I was about to give up.

One of my cooking idols, Chef Jacques Pepin, insists on cooking its ingredients at the same time and I emulated his style. But, any number of ratatouille purists insist that individual cooking is best. So, I was bound to try it.

When a friend offered us a few spare zucchini (home gardeners are the most generous of people) and the fridge already had zucchini and eggplant in abundance, a skillet of ratatouille was in the best interest of the kitchen.

(Throwing away produce because you “don’t get around to using it” is a grave sin!)

I set off to make a memorable ratatouille and found the “individualists” (again) are right about ratatouille.

The old-style and traditional method of cooking each major ingredient separately before finishing the cooking in a stew pot makes a huge difference in the final dish.

So, what’s the difference? It appears that the oil in each, separate cooking enters the vegetable and prevents the moisture generated when finishing the dish from steaming the vegetables into a mush.

Sounds reasonable enough.

So let’s go!

But, first, some general ratatouille hints.

Start fresh and stay fresh. Make sure the veggies are as free of excess water as possible. I toss in a bit of white wine with the tomatoes. Wine helps the tomatoes stick to the veggies. A pinch of sugar will do the same. Pay attention as each vegetable is sautéd. Ratatouille isn’t something you can leave on the stove while you attend to the garden. You’ve got to remove each item just in time, or you’ll end up with mush. Don’t add salt until the end of cooking. Salt will pull water out of the vegetables and add to the much-making moisture level as the dish is cooked. I got the idea to add ground coriander from an old Frugal Gourmet recipe. It adds a nice, sweet (almost bread like) tone. Finally, top off your finished dish with some freshly grated pecorino Romano.

Eggplant: Pick a medium-sized eggplant. The larger ones have too many seeds and can be a bit mealy. Look for one with a deep purple skin and that also has a firm feel. If the eggplant is mushy before you start cooking, it will only get mushier in the pot. One of the best things you can do to an eggplant is to salt it and rinse it thoroughly before cooking to remove bitterness. For ratatouille, the eggplant is cut into one-inch cubes. The cubes are placed in a colander and a good two or three tablespoons of kosher salt are tossed into the cubes. The eggplant is allowed to “sweat” for at least 30 minutes and then it is rinsed well. Then, toss the eggplant cubes onto a dry towel and get as many water droplets off as you can.

Zucchini: Use two medium-sized courgettes that are just slightly over two inches across at their widest end. Don’t use those baseball bat-sized monstrosities some people grow. They’re just too full of seeds and they tend to be soft. Use those for zucchini fritters! After trimming the ends, cut them in half, lengthwise, and then cut them into one inch thick chunks.

Peppers: Use firm, green peppers. If you prefer, use long Italian peppers. Be sure to cut the ribs out, as they add a bitter flavor when cooked. Red peppers can add a festive touch to the dish. In my experience, the green peppers give just the right flavors.

Garlic: Use fresh, large cloves. Peel them and then smash them with the side of a knife or use a garlic press. Add the garlic toward the end of the cooking for each vegetable ingredient. Never allow garlic to scorch or it will add bitterness to your cooking.

Tomatoes: If you use fresh (Why not?), cut one pound of ripe tomatoes into a small dice. A 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes works equally well, since they will be cooked down into a thick sauce.

Onion: Yellow onions are perfect here. Add about 3-4 minced scallions, including the green parts

Basil: FRESH, FRESH, or FRESH! Never use dried basil. Add half during the last bit of cooking, or to the tomatoes as they cook. Then, keep some reserved to use as a garnish.

That’s it. Lets look at everything you’ll need:

1 medium eggplant cut into 1” cubes, salted and rinsed

2 medium zucchini halved and cut into 1” chunks

2 C coarsely chopped yellow onion

3-4 scallions, minced

1 ½ C green pepper in 1” squares

6-7 LARGE cloves of fresh garlic smashed or pressed (divided into thirds)

½ C (or so) good quality olive oil

1 tsp ground coriander

¼ C flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 lb fresh tomatoes, small diced OR 1 14.5oz can

1 C fresh basil (packed), chiffonade (divided)

2-3 TBS pecorino Romano cheese

¼ C white wine

kosher salt

fresh black pepper (lots)

Cut up and prepare vegetables. Salt and rinse the eggplant. Heat ¼ C of olive oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. (NOTE: Stir in a generous twist or two of black pepper during the cooking of each vegetable. Do not add salt.) Sauté the zucchini gently for five minutes. Then, remove the zucchini to a large bowl. Add a bit more oil, if needed, and sauté the onion and green pepper for fifteen minutes. The onion should NOT brown. Rather it should be very soft and “sweated”, without brown edges. During the last two minutes of cooking the onion, stir in 1/3 of the garlic. Remove the onion, green pepper, and garlic mixture to the bowl containing the partially cooked zucchini. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan. Toss in the eggplant and toss well to coat with oil. Sauté the eggplant over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring VERY gently. During the last 2-3 minutes, stir in another 1/3 of your garlic. Remove to the bowl containing the other vegetables.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan. Add the tomatoes and the rest of the garlic. Stir in the wine and the ground coriander. Cook over low-medium heat until the liquid thickens. When the liquid is thickened, stir in ½ of the basil. Then, add the cooked vegetables and toss GENTLY. Stir in the parsley. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Check frequently. If there is too much liquid cook uncovered. If there is not enough liquid, add water and wine (50:50) to avoid scorching. Remember this is cooked over low-medium heat. So scorching should not be an issue.

Turn off the heat and allow the ratatouille to “rest” for 5-10 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt and/or pepper as needed. Serve hot, warm, or cold. Spoon into deep bowls. Sprinkle generously with fresh basil and pecorino Romano. If serving cold, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the ratatouille and sprinkle chopped black Kalamata olives on top.

Serve with crusty bread (or rolls) and LOTS of white wine.

If you want great ratatouille, cook things in batches. We commented, again and again, that each bite was like taking a tour of a garden. Each vegetable is highlighted its own flavors while adding to the medley of flavors in the whole dish.

So…be an individualist!


Showdown on the High Trestle Trail

In Editorial on July 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

When I was a boy of about four or five and in the tow of my parents in an appliance store, a kindly salesman reached into a display freezer and handed me a popsicle.

It was delicious. My parents bought the appliance and we went about our way.

A few months later, we were in the same store when my parents decided to buy another appliance. I could barely contain myself as I immediately stationed myself next to the display freezer I knew contained the icy treats. The salesman walked by and I flashed my most sincere smile.

No popsicle.

After what seemed like an eternity and my parents had purchased their new appliance. They took my hand and led me, as I screamed loudly, out of the store. It was carefully explained (a-hem) to me that the salesman was most certainly not required to give me a popsicle each time we visited the store.

It was a valuable lesson.

A few weeks ago two bicyclists, Cathy Olson and Lisa Schaa, approached a marked trail stop on the High Trestle Trail in central Iowa. A Polk County Deputy, Dale Petersen, was near the trail crossing in his police cruiser.

The two women allege that they “thought” Petersen was going to “waive them through” the stop sign “because other motorists had done so”. Petersen did not waive them through and the women hauled back on their bikes in what Petersen called “an emergency stop”.

Let’s deal with as much of the story, thus far.

The two women were counting on getting a popsicle from Deputy Petersen. Other drivers had dispensed popsicles to them in the past and they assumed Petersen would magically turn their stop sign into their popsicle as well.

He did not. Let the screaming begin!

According to the women, Petersen called to them in a condescending tone and asked, “Do you girls know what a red octagon means?”

The two women became (properly) indignant. After all, would Petersen address a group of African-American men as “boys”?


“You ofay muther-f**cker. The next time you call someone boy there better gawdamn well be a boy present.”

According to Olson, the deputy appeared to be addressing Schaa and she (Olson) rode off; thinking Schaa was Petersen’s sole target and also that she feared saying something which would hurt her companion’s case. Petersen “tore” down the trail to apprehend her.

Olson made the wrong move.

The right move would have been for her to ask the deputy, “Am I under arrest, or am I free to go?”

Besides, had she stayed with her friend and quietly monitored the deputy’s encounter with her, she would have been a good friend and a good witness.

Nope. She took off, leaving Schaa to deal with Petersen on her own. Narcissism and self-protection won the day.

The end result was that both women got tickets.

Each of the women got tickets for failing to stop at the stop sign.

What? But that’s not what happened.

According to the published stories of everyone concerned, the women did stop. Petersen even admits it looked like an “emergency stop” (if the vehicle code contains such a term).

Face it, Mr. Petersen, they stopped. You may not have liked how they stopped and you may have assumed they were not going to stop. A judge should toss those tickets.

As for disobeying a peace officer’s orders?

Did Petersen order Olson to stay with her friend. Remember, for an arrest to be an arrest, the magic words “You’re under arrest” need not be uttered. However, detention must be obvious and understood by the detainee. Petersen, like the women, made an incorrect assumption that the women were detained and that they both understood that they were being detained.

Was Petersen in the act of writing the tickets when Olson peddled away?

Nope. At least not according to the stories from each of the participants.

Out goes the charge against Olson for disobeying a peace officer’s orders.

Later, Olson made a complaint about Petersen’s behavior (and the tickets) to Sgt. Rich Blaylock, a compadre of Petersen’s back at the sheriff’s stationhouse.

According to some reports, Blaylock alleged that Petersen had “signed statements from witnesses saying Olson had used the ‘F-word’ numerous times during the encounter”.

So what?

It’s not like cops don’t hear “f**k” at least a hundred times per shift and that seventy-five of those utterances are made by their fellow officers. Sheesh!

Petersen simply could not have arrested Olson for what really pissed him off: “Contempt of cop”, because the charge does not exist…

…Except in the minds of a few cops.

My guess is that Petersen knew his cojones would be in a wringer if the ladies made mention of his condescending address at the onset of the encounter. The ladies had relied on a juvenile popsicle assumption and Petersen would play the juvenile response in return…

…”Whaaaaaaa! Sure, I called them “girls”, but she used the really bad word that starts with ‘F’. Whaaaaaaa!”

The response is the close cousin to “But he started it!” defense used by misbehaving children.

Had Petersen been an ordinary mook in his car on that day, would Olson and Schaa have made an “emergency stop”? Or, would they have zipped happily across the road, child-confident in the magical protection of Lycra and Spandex? Did they only clamp on the binders because this particular mook (Petersen) wore a badge and was in a marked patrol car?

Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows?

Here’s what is certain. There should have been at least one adult present during the confrontation.

There was no adult present.

And that’s why attorneys make such a good living.

I’m certain the women would take issue with my referring to them as behaving like children.

But before their panties crawl into a bunch, I would remind them that Deputy Petersen had a greater duty to act like an adult. When you carry a gun, being an adult at all times is requisite.

The women behaved badly, like many citizens will in such a situation.

Petersen should be accustomed to that kind of behavior and he has been trained how to deal with it.

The greater obligation to society was upon Petersen and he failed in his obligation.

What is the proper outcome here?

I hope the women prevail against Petersen’s charges. I also hope the judge gives them a stern bicycle safety lecture from atop his bench. Ordinary motorists have no lawful authority to “waive” someone through a traffic control device on a whim. And, deputy sheriffs are not supposed to lecture, that’s the job of the judge.

The Polk County Sheriff should take a long, hard look at Petersen to see if he’s really fit to carry a badge or a gun.