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Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Do the right thing next Tuesday, stay home.

In Editorial, Lifestyle on October 31, 2012 at 12:29 pm

“Next year, I’ll vote early and avoid the crowds.”

“Never try to teach pigs to sing; It’s a waste of time and it annoys the pigs.”

There is less than a week to go until I am allowed to regain control over my telephone, doorbell, and mailbox. Each of them has been pestered to death by politicians eager to take their place passing out stolen loot in exchange for votes.

In some respects the nearly two-year long political theatre and orchestrations have been amusing.

For example, I recently got to watch the face of a young and eager Leonard Boswell worker screw into signs of intestinal discomfort when I told her I would not be voting for her chosen one, or anyone at all.

“You don’t vote? Why not?”

“I don’t vote and neither should you. It’s immoral. It’s giving permission to politicians to steal in your name and then pass out the stolen wealth to the people who voted for them.”

“Well, that’s how a democracy works.” She had uttered one of the holy words intended to cow the listener into doing the unconscionable act of appointing proxy thieves into office.

“A democracy is mob rule. You are African-American. Your vaunted democracy once issued edicts that you were not a human being. And, as a Jew, there are certain professions I am prohibited from engaging in. I cannot deal in human servitude. Yet, if I vote, I am voting for someone else to confiscate the labor of another person and convert it to my use. You don’t like the idea of slavery, do you?”

The young woman shifted nervously and her fingers played over the handful of literature clutched in them.

“Can I leave this literature in case you change your mind?”

“No. It is disturbing that you would hope I would abandon my conscience. In Buddhism, part of the Eightfold Path is ‘right livelihood’. It also prohibits dealing in arms, human servitude, or any occupation violating ‘right speech’ and ‘right action’. Even if you embrace no religion, the obligations and truths of Buddhism apply to us all. It is my hope that you’ll change your mind and not vote too. Not voting is the ethical and moral choice.”

“Well, I’d think about it. Won’t you think about voting?”

“I have. The answer remains ‘no’. And you?”

She smiled nervously. “I don’t completely understand your position.”

“But you’ll think about it?”

“Yeah. I guess. We’ll just have to agree to disagree for now.”

I smiled broadly, “There it is!”

The threat I received in my mailbox later that same day was not as reasonable as the youthful and eager campaign worker.

“VOTE HISTORY AUDIT ENCLOSED”

The Americans for Limited Government had ‘audited’ my voting record and, allegedly, those of my neighbors. The results were enclosed.

I proudly noted that I had not voted since about 2004. Neither had my spouse and at least one of my neighbors.

“Our American democracy is stronger because of civic-minded citizens like you.”

Why, thank you!

Ooops. I spoke too soon. The Americans for Limited Government are not for limited government. Why, they love government and the state…

…as long as ‘conservatives’ are running it.

The ‘audit’ promised to send an updated voting history to me and my neighbors after the “expected high turnout” for the upcoming (s)election. The audit was, in fact, a thinly veiled act of coercion for me to “continue your participation and exercise your right and responsibility (emphasis added)” to vote.

“We’re watching. We have appointed ourselves as guardians of democracy.” I was to be free in democratic America, so long as I participated in the organized looting of my neighbors.

Crusaders similarly led non-believers to the “loving arms of Christ” at the point of the sword.

I thought about contacting the Americans for Limited Government to point out their oxymoronic reasoning.

Then, I remembered a saying my father (z”l) was fond of: “Never try to teach pigs to sing; It’s a waste of time and it annoys the pigs.”

The ‘audit’ went into the bin, alongside the day’s takings of candidate mailings.

On Tuesday, do the moral and ethical thing…

…stay home.

Kasbah Cookery!

In Recipies on October 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

I’ve decided to experiment a bit with tagine (tajine, tajin, or (infreq.) tangine) cookery; particularly with dishes from Morocco and Tunisia.

It’s a bit surprising that Moroccan and Tunisian cooking isn’t as popular in America as it is in the United Kingdom. Americans are enamored with Mexican-style cooking and the herbs and spices used in it originated in North Africa. Its method often uses a tagine vessel, although it is not mandatory to do so in order to have a satisfactory result. If you have a perfectly serviceable Dutch oven, please don’t feel obligated to buy a tagine in order to try these styles of cooking.

People familiar with tagine cookery are most often familiar with the Moroccan variants. These tend to be stew-like combinations of meats, vegetables, or both. Tunisian tagines are more like the Italian fritatta, with eggs and/or pasta tying the ingredients together. Djaj, or chicken tagines, are beloved in Morocco and djaj biltoom may be familiar to readers who have visited Lebanon or northern Israel. This garlicky tagine is a favorite for celebrations there. In most other parts of Israel, the marinated chicken is barbecued over an open flame rather than prepared in a cooking vessel.

The first Moroccan variation we’ll try is djaj souiri. This dish is piquant and aromatic. As I am not a huge fan of saffron, I omitted the characteristic flavoring and substituted some smoked pepper flakes. The dish is also a bit unique since, although Moroccan, its ingredients are bound together with eggs in the Tunisian fashion. It is an easy recipe and it’s a great way to introduce tagine cooking.

You can cut up and use a whole chicken if you like. I used a bargain pack of 99-cents per pound chicken legs. The skin was carefully removed after the first cooking to cut back on the fat content of the meal.

You’ll need:

2-3 lb chicken pieces

2 TBS olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted

½ tsp crushed pepper flakes

 or pinch crushed saffron

1 tsp ground black pepper

pinch of kosher salt

water

4-6 fresh eggs

juice of one lemon

2 TBS chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a tagine, Dutch oven, or deep (covered) skillet. Snuggle the chicken pieces together in the pan. (NOTE: Some clay tagines are not suitable for stovetop use!) Sprinkle one teaspoon of cinnamon, a half teaspoon of the cumin, black pepper, and pepper flakes (or saffron) on top of the chicken. Add enough water to nearly cover the chicken and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Scatter the onion slices on top. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about one hour.

Remove the chicken to a platter and set aside. Stir in the lemon juice and chopped parsley. Reduce the liquid until it thickens. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the chicken. Return the chicken to the pan and scatter the sesame seeds over it. Whisk the parsley and the remaining cinnamon and cumin into the eggs. Pour the egg mixture over the chicken. Cover, and simmer until the eggs are just set. Serve immediately with couscous.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Ran-dumb thoughts…

In Editorial on October 24, 2012 at 11:41 am

I sat down to scrawl my weekly Phyne Dyning editorial and drew (another) blank. For a moment, I believed I had a coherent thought about one topic. It was only gas. As a result, my three readers will be treated to another “Random Thoughts” editorial. PD

 

The health care crisis sails on…

The other day, one of my coffee drinking wags quipped over his third cuppa of the morning, “People come (to the US) from all over the world to buy health care. Nobody comes here to buy health insurance.”

Naturally, the government solution is to force everyone to buy health insurance.

This is akin to White Star Lines selling more passenger tickets for the Titanic than fitting her out with more lifeboats.

Another at our table commented, “What would happen if automobile insurance operated like health insurance?”

–       Oil changes and all other preventative maintenance would be covered with a five-dollar co-pay.

–       If, when trying to run over a politician on the sidewalk, your front tire hits the curb and knocks the wheel alignment out, your auto insurance would pay to periodically replace the front tires, but would not pay to fix the alignment.

–       Your auto repair guy goes mute when you ask how much a repair costs before he does the work.

–       Auto parts stores would not have prices posted. You simply select your part and the greasy-handed clerk checks with your insurer to see if you are authorized to buy the part.

–       Every wrecked car would be repaired, no exceptions.

–       Monthly premiums would run into the thousands of dollars per vehicle.

Politicians (being the invertebrates they are) see it natural for them not to fix the broken system. It makes much more sense (to them) to force more people into it.

Relax. Let the poison work.

Only two more weeks until the Advance Auction of the Stolen Merchandise

As expected, the (un)news media is dutifully reporting that the polls indicate the presidential race is “too close to call”. Cue the bass drum!

America’s heavily orchestrated election theater is packed.

A few evenings ago, I had imbibed sufficient cheap vodka to allow me to sit through the third, and thank G-d, final debate between Frick and Frack.

The two men glared at each other. They quoted advertising taglines (called “platform planks”). They cited phony statistics. They sneered at each other.

And they said nothing.

Phyne Dyning has decided to endorse a presidential candidate…

…H.P. Lovecraft’s fanciful cosmic evil, Cthulhu.

Why?

I like his campaign slogan: “Why choose between lesser evils.”

Bullets? What bullets?

The alternative press is abuzz with wonderings about ammunition purchases by the Department of Homeland Security (Sieg Heil!).

The agency has purchased an estimated 1.2 billion rounds of .40cal and 5.56mm ammunition. DHS, who is accountable to nobody, has since shuffled the ammo to other federal agencies, including: The Social Security Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

What would the folks running America’s Ponzi scheme and state’s weather geeks want with small arms ammunition?

Nobody knows.

The purchase and transfer has since been declared “classified” by DHS (Sieg Heil!). Making anything “classified” only adds to curiosity. Consequently, conspiracy theories abound.

The theory being bantered about most is that the federal government is preparing for the coming American economic collapse where even Greece and Zimbabwe might look like economic havens for Americans.

Could be. It could also be preparation for when the reign of Cthulhu resumes.

“Occam’s Razor” states, “The most logical reason for a given phenomenon is the one involving the fewest steps.”

Mitt(ens) Romney babbled just enough about “protecting the rights of hunters” to put the NRA-ites back into their coma and the current Messiah in Chief briefly mentioned his desire to resuscitate the failed Assault Weapons Ban.

The professional parasites infesting D.C.’s Dome of Confusion have been quiet about “sensible gun control”. It is, after all, close to the final act in this round of election follies. A few weeks prior to their donning a cloak of silence about their plans for us, the usual suspects slithered out some test statements about the future of gun control. Boiled down, most of those plans come down to:

“Americans will be allowed to keep and bear arms in accordance with the US Constitution. They just won’t be able to buy bullets for them. Bwa-ha-HA!”

Right after the election curtain falls in November, watch for emerging legislation to:

–       Ban internet sales of ammunition.

–       Restrict or ban bulk purchases of ammunition.

–       Ban the sale of all imported ammunition.

Conspiracy theories aside, the feds are simply (oddly enough) engaging in the only economic principle they (periodically) understand, “buy low, sell high”.

When civilian ammunition purchases become limited to 50 rounds (or some other, arbitrarily determined amount) per month (or year), many ammunition manufacturers and sellers will simply fade away. A black market for ammunition will emerge and prices will skyrocket. Twenty rounds of 5.56mm will probably cost over a hundred bucks; more if the nutty plan to serial number ammunition comes to be a reality.

It worked for Prohibition and the “War on Drugs”.

The feds are simply buying what they can, while they can. It’s much more titillating to write about “Obama’s emerging, private army” than are the principles of supply and demand.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Now, with almonds!

Apple, just in time for the holy retail season, announced the launch of its smaller version of the iPad.

And you didn’t even know you wanted it. That’s the miracle of marketing.

Keeping to the menstruation humor theme that came with the launch of their iPad, watch for Apple taglines like, “The Mini-iPad, for those light information flow days.”

Hurry, folks are lining up outside of Apple stores near you!

Persian Game Hens

In Recipies on October 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm

People who appreciate food often give thought to a most terrible question: “What would you want for your last meal?”

Cornish game hen.

I love these little birds. Game hens are available ranging from 16oz to around 32oz. Since we eat very little meat, the 16oz hens are just right. They are very forgiving of novice cooks. Just put them in a 350F oven for about an hour, a little longer for bigger birds.

The hen has a mild flavor and texture that lends itself to a wide variety of flavors. You can stuff them, glaze them, or simply rub a spice/herb blend on them and bake. The dark meat is spare, moist, and buttery. The white meat is almost always juicy and tender.

Game hens are economical. A hen will cost between $2 and $3, depending on the weight. Buy them frozen. Fresh game hens are hard to find and, because of their small size, they don’t keep well unfrozen.

This is a “Persian” variation of mine. It’s only Persian because it uses a spice adored in ancient Persia, cardamom.

Let’s get cooking!

1 – 16-32oz game hen per person, thawed and rinsed

1 bay leaf per game hen

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 C mango juice (or orange juice)

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp cardamom

½ tsp allspice

1 TBS orange zest

1 TBS olive oil

¼ tsp garlic powder

 Pre-heat an oven to 350F. Lightly oil a small roasting pan with a bit of olive oil. Pour the remaining oil into your hands and thoroughly rub the hens with the oil to coat them. Place the hens, breast side up and sprinkle them sparingly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and bake for about 40-45 minutes. While the hens are baking, prepare the glaze.

In a small pan, place the mango juice, sugar, spices, garlic powder, and orange zest. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce by half. Remove from heat and reserve.

After about 40-45 minutes of cooking, remove the cover from the hens and generously baste each bird with the glaze. Return to the oven, uncovered. Every few minutes baste a bit more glaze on each bird. Continue baking and basting until the skin is glazed and crisp and the internal temperature (at the thickest part of the breast) reaches 155-160F. Remove the hens from the oven and allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes.

This version serves well with baked sweet potatoes and a wild rice pilaf.

War on (the) homeless and war on (the) hungry

In Editorial on October 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I had often wondered why suicide was made illegal. Don’t we own ourselves?

Nearly every major religion makes suicide taboo to its adherents. But here, in the USA, we are alleged to have separation between the state and religion. So, why is it a crime to take your own life?

For the same reason it is illegal, in many places, to feed the homeless.

Las Vegas and Orlando, among others, have made it illegal for kind-hearted people to feed the homeless. Those who dared to feed the hungry outside of the states official feeding stations have been fined and jailed. Why?

Prohibitions against feeding the down and out were justified via the universal trump card of the new, American state…

…”public health and safety”. (Readers will recall that ‘threats to public health and safety’ were the default reasons for the central state’s brutal suppression of Occupy demonstrations.)

It’s ‘unsafe’ to feed people in ‘unauthorized’ areas and it might even be ‘unhealthy’ too. Therefore, a police response is needed and persons putting the health and safety of the state at risk should be heavily fined or even caged.

Obviously, the state’s apologists never gave much thought to the idea that being hungry is a health hazard too.

But why would the state make compassion illegal?

Author Tom Rob Smith writes reality-based novels set in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. The protagonist in his book Child-44 and its sequel The Secret Speech is a former member of the MGB (Ministry of State Security until 1953) turned militia homicide investigator.

In Soviet Russia, police homicide bureaus were covert for the same reason it is illegal to kill yourself, feed the homeless, or protest the looting of the 99% by the 1% elites

Smith writes of a suicide in the opening pages of his book:

“The suicide of their father might end their careers and destroy their prospects. Suicide, attempted suicide, depression – even vocalizing the desire to end your life – all these things were interpreted as slanders against the State. Suicide, like murder, had no place in the evolution of a higher society.”

First, feeding the homeless is an admission of state failure and is a tangible representation of its failure to create a higher (utopian) society. Why would anyone be somewhat depressed, let alone suicidal, in an America.

Second, private charities purposed to feed the hungry underscores the failure of the welfare state. You just can’t have ordinary folks out there passing out food, fighting a War on Poverty, and turning the state’s victory into a public display of its defeat.

There should be no downcast faces and no hollow eyes of hunger. America is a paradise!

After all, you can (are expected to) buy any amusing do-dad you like? There is no housing crisis. The crash is over. All is well!

Those Occupiers?

They are nothing but “malcontents”, “freeloaders”, “living in their parent’s basements”, “unwashed hippies”, and people “unfit to hold a job”. The pejorative mantra was picked up across the entire state-worshiping political spectrum. From the left, came accusations that the movement harbored ‘neo-Nazis”. From the right, came charges that their ranks were filled with ‘mini-Marxists’.

The state successfully repurposed the movement into pariahs, despite the movement’s congruence across the American political spectrum from Communists to Tea Partiers.

People sucked up the lies fed to them by the puppet media. It was just too depressing not to. It was un-American to admit failure.

The evidence was out there during every rush hour. The Occupiers were wrong about everything!

The masses marched happily to their cubicles, contributed labor (or earnings) to the state as expected, and used the remainder of their paychecks to buy bric-a-brac and electronic do-dads from China. All is well.

Isn’t it?

Suicides, homeless people, and angry protesters belie that something is amiss in the kingdom. The serfs are unhappy.

How dare they show it!

Comfort Foods Part Two: Two-Way Pot Roast

In Recipies on October 15, 2012 at 11:29 am

This is the second in the Phyne Dyning two-part series on comfort foods. Yes, I know, it has meat in it. There’s nothing wrong with meat, we were designed to eat it. But, we were not designed to eat the massive portions to which many Americans have become accustomed.

There is nothing more emblematic of suburban, mid-sixties dining than the venerable pot roast. Cooked traditionally, this melt-in-your-mouth meat-treat is a favorite of almost everyone who eats meat.

There are two ways to cook a roast. One method gives you fork-tender meat bursting with the flavors of fresh vegetables and herbs. The other method gives you a dry, tasteless and chewy meat substitute. Variations in the amount of fat on the cooked meat, the temperature the meat is cooked in, and the amount of added salt and liquid means that the end result will often be inconsistent with many pot roasts.

Phyne Dyning solved the problem of consistency.

Roasting in a pot or crock-pot often means the meat will emerge grey and listless. As a cook aboard merchant freighters, I learned the “Navy Way” of cooking beef…boil the crap out of it. The meat will emerge as grey as the deck plates and as chewy as a canvas sea bag.

Adequately browning the meat before pot-roasting (or boiling) solves the problem of grey meat. A cast-iron Dutch oven (or large skillet) works well. Simply heat vegetable oil or canola oil over medium-high heat and brown the meat in the hot oil. You will know when the meat is adequately browned when it “releases” from the metal. So, don’t use non-stick materials for this stage of cooking.

Next, put all of the ingredients into a Dutch oven and bake them for about two hours at very low heat, around 200F. Then, remove everything and allow it to cool completely. Remove the excess fat and transfer everything to a crock-pot. Cover with the ‘jus’ and cook on high for two hours, low for two hours, and high for four more hours.

The result will be meat with an almost creamy or velvety texture, thoroughly married flavors, and potatoes to die for.

Yes, there are a lot of steps and a lot of handling to this recipe. One could simply plow everything into the crock-pot, but that wouldn’t give you nearly the quality of result. Or, you could simply continue to cook everything in the oven at low temperature, like prime rib. But, with many roasts, the amount of fat is variable and you risk getting a dry, chewy result.

Because of the amount of handling, this is an all-day recipe best suited for an occasion when you can spend a quiet day in the kitchen, interspaced with calm moments savoring the cooking aromas.

A pot of tea is suggested!

So, ‘tis late…let’s get cooking!

2 to 2 ½ lb chuck or pot roast

2 TBS vegetable or canola oil

½ large yellow onion, small dice

2 cloves garlic, smashed

3 stalks celery, small dice

3-6 large carrots, peeled and trimmed

1 to 1 1/2lb potatoes (thin skins), washed

pinch sweet paprika

1 tsp rubbed sage

2-3 rosemary sprigs

½ tsp liquid smoke

½ tsp fennel seeds, cracked

3 C beef stock, divided

2 TBS red wine vinegar

3 TBS flour, divided

salt and freshly ground black pepper

First! (VERY IMPORTANT) “Eyeball” measure your ingredients to fit inside your crock-pot cooker! The meat will shrink a bit, but you want to be sure everything will fit.

In a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable or canola oil over medium-high heat. Pat all of the surfaces of the meat dry with a paper towel. Do NOT salt the meat! When the oil just begins to smoke, begin browning the meat on all sides, turning with tongs instead of a fork. The meat will “release” from the cooking surface at just about the right time (about 4-6 minutes). You want to brown ALL cut surfaces of the meat to carmel-color. Remove the meat to a clean plate and set aside.

Pre-heat an oven to 200F. Do not drain the pan! Heat (re-heat) a Dutch oven over medium heat. Transfer the meat juices to the Dutch oven. If necessary, drizzle in a bit more oil. Do not use too much! Stir in the onion and celery and cook until the onion just begins to turn golden along its cut edges. Add the garlic and stir until it “blooms”. Lay the potatoes in the bottom of the Dutch oven, sprinkle them with the paprika, and place the meat on top. Scatter the remaining herbs, rosemary sprigs, and fennel seed on top of the meat. Don’t add salt yet. Just give it a twist or two of pepper. Cover and bake for 30 minutes per pound.

Remove the Dutch oven from the oven, remove the contents to a large platter and allow them to cool almost completely, about 30 minutes. Add the beef stock and red wine vinegar to the Dutch oven on the stovetop and re-heat the juices to a simmer. Make a slurry of half of the flour and a cup of warm water. Whisk the flour water mixture into the stock, adding just enough to slightly thicken the stock. Remove from heat.

Place the potatoes in the bottom of the slow-cooker. Put the carrots on top. Then, put the meat on top of the carrots. You may have to ‘break’ the meat for it to fit. That’s okay. Pour the stock mixture over everything. Cover and cook, on ‘high’ for two hours. Reduce the heat to ‘low’ for two hours. Finally, cook for another four hours on high. If the contents appear to be boiling too vigorously, just reduce the heat to ‘low’ for a half hour.

Remove the meat from the cooker and allow it to ‘rest’ for at least ten minutes. Place the potatoes on serving plates and ‘crack’ them gently. Place 5oz portions of meat (per person) next to the potatoes and set a carrot next to each piece of meat. You can thicken the juices and stock, if desired, or ladle them directly over the meat and potatoes.

This only looks like a lot of work. The result is beyond spectacular and the flavors are as traditional as a tweed jacket.

Enjoy!

Comfort Foods Part I: Chicken Cacciatore

In Recipies on October 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

Today, we begin a two-part series on comfort foods. The Phyne Dyner gets regular mail asking about his favorite recipes for classic family-style meals. In America, comfort food typically involves meat. So, despite Phyne Dyning’s devotion to nearly meatless dining, he presents two carnivore’s delights. The first presentation will be his version of Chicken Cacciatore…

 When I was a boy growing up in the then-profitable suburbs of Detroit, people considered foods to be exotic if they had exotic sounding names. It was the heyday of having the boss over for supper and a leisurely sipped pitcher of martinis before serving it.

Chicken cacciatore was a popular meal for those events because it was fairly inexpensive, elegant in its presentation, and it was deemed exotic enough to impress (if only because of its “funny” name).

The dish can be rustic, with lots of vegetables and herbs. Or, it can be as simple as skillet-browned chicken pieces, simmered in a jar of store-bought pasta (or marinara) sauce.

We’re going rustic. To give the dish a bit of Tuscan flair, we’re going to add a bit of fennel seed and mildly ‘warm’ Aleppo pepper flakes. Keeping well inside the non-boundaries of Phyne Dyning, we’re going to serve our main course with a side of quinoa and spinach instead of traditional pasta or rice.

For the chicken:

2 chicken quarters separated into legs and thighs

2 TBS canola or vegetable oil

1 tsp kosher salt

2 TBS brandy or congnac

2 TBS olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

2 large carrots, diced

2-3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 15oz can diced tomatoes (or 1 lb Roma in dice)

½ C red wine

½ tsp Aleppo pepper flakes

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced

2 TBS fresh oregano, minced

2 TBS fresh basil, minced

½ tsp fennel seeds, cracked

freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat and add the canola or vegetable oil. Heat until the oil is shimmering. Season the chicken with the salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper. Lay the chicken pieces (thighs skin down) into the hot oil. Fry the chicken for about 4-6 minutes per side, until well browned. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Pour off any chicken fat and excess oil from the pan. Allow the pan to cool slightly to medium. Immediately heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onion just begins to turn translucent, but well before it begins to brown. Stir in the garlic and cook until it “blooms” (becomes fragrant), but do not allow it to brown. There will be some tasty browned chicken bits stuck to the skillet. Deglaze the pan with the brandy or congnac. Stir in the tomatoes and the wine. Stir in the Aleppo pepper flakes. Add one-half of the herbs and all of the fennel seed and stir well. Return the chicken to the skillet and generously spoon the sauce over each piece. Return the skillet to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Cook for one hour without stirring. Check occasionally. If the pan appears dry, stir in a bit of water without disturbing the covered chicken.

For the quinoa-spinach side…

1 C quinoa

8oz fresh spinach, stems removed

2 C vegetable stock

2 TBS roasted pine nuts

1 clove minced garlic

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Carefully rinse the quinoa at least twice and drain it well in a fine strainer. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the rinsed quinoa and toast it until it begins to ‘pop’ and it turns a light golden brown. Add the garlic, stir, and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the broth is nearly fully absorbed. You’ll know when the quinoa is done when it forms little ‘tails’. Do not over-cook. Stir in the pine nuts and spinach. Remove from the heat and stir until the spinach wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the quinoa-spinach alongside the chicken cacciatore. It is a wonderful and surprising compliment.

No editorial? Just “random thoughts”…(mumble).

In Editorial on October 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm

 Whew! I already fired off a “lifestyle” piece and a dubious “hint and tip” column. My editorial hit late, so I’m a free man. That can only mean one thing…

 …random thoughts!

 

Visit to “The Doctor”

Nothing puts a physician into a better mood than being busted to the rank of “patient”. Through the miracles of modern bureaucracy, my old friend from medical school was replaced by a “PGY-1” (“Intern Physician – Year One”).

I was screwed.

At about the same time she was begging her mother for her first set of pierced earrings, I was finishing my surgical residency.

I shall resist the temptation to call her a “whipper-snapper”.

The visit was uneventful except for me reminding her that my hydrochlorothiazide diuretic was not in a “statin” class of drugs and, therefore, a liver function profile was not indicated. I think I shall send the clinic my bill for participating in the training of one of their newly-minted doctors.

 It took me less than an hour to convince her that all of the wonderful “tests” she was “ordering” would not be done. I reminded her, “Sit down, shut up. Let the patient tell you what is wrong.” An ECG (EKG) was unnecessary ($400) if she paid adequate attention to the physical diagnosis portion of her schooling and used the stethoscope hanging around her pretty little neck for its intended purpose.

I recall saying, “That thing hanging around your neck is not a badge of office. It was not purchased to impress the unwashed masses or to enable you to cut in line in the “all you can stand” hospital cafeteria. I suggest you use it for its intended purpose.”

Yep, it went that well.

She was a good sport and we parted as friends. And, yes, I will return to her “care”…

…if only to drive those thoughts of “Nothing can heal like surgical steel” out of her doctor’s repertoire.

The visit lasted forty-five minutes. Thirty of those minutes were spent watching her attempting to navigate the clinic’s new electronic medical records software. She looked like a lower primate with Parkinson’s playing a computer game with a broken mouse.

At the end of the visit, I apologized for being a pain in the tukkes. She laughed and said, “I’m even worse.”

I like her.

Poor Harley

Gosh, I love dogs.

Yesterday, the verdict came in for the police handler of “Harley”. A three-day suspension?

Harley died, forgotten, in the stifling heat of the police car he had the misfortune to be assigned to on a 95+ degree day when his handler, officer Brian Mathis, forgot him while he made telephone calls.

Sorry ‘bout that, Harley.

Harley represented a $4000 to $10,000 “equipment” investment. No restitution was ordered. “Officer Mathis is grieving too”, simpered the official mouthpiece for the blue-suited gang-bangers.

Who will be punished?

The taxpayers.

How?

The police are assuring the public that they will now purchase “alarms” for every canine-equipped patrol car to remind idiot officers that a living creature is under their care. The cost is expected to reach $19,000 per car.

Gosh, I love dogs.

This morning, I went out on one of the last truly warm days of the year to “sit”…to meditate. I took my greyhound, “Adi” with me to enjoy the morning sun.

For a while, she poked around in the garden. She sniffed for squirrels and panicked when a bug landed on her haunches.

I had just taken my last preparatory breath when…

“SQUEAK!”

“SQUEAK-SQUEAK-SQUEAK-SQUEAK-HONK-HONK-HONK” erupted at my elbow. A cold, wet nose poked furiously into the crook of my elbow.

“SQUEAK!” Baleful hound eyes gazed at me as the lithe canine form play-bowed at my seated mass.

I spent the next hour belly-laughing at my young hound as she chased her “squeaky-ball” and cavorted wildly in the (former) piles of brown leaves piled in the yard.

It was a great meditation.

Have a wonderful Shabbat and, G-d willing, a peaceful coming week.

Asparagus steamer re-purposed

In Tips and Hints on October 10, 2012 at 11:35 am

Between seasons for fresh asparagus, my asparagus steamer once sat on its shelf as a curiosity for my kitchen guests.

One day, as I pondered hard boiling some eggs, my eyes swept over the tall pot with its inner basket. Hard boiled eggs are not a culinary challenge:

Boiling water + eggs + time = success.

The inner basket of most asparagus steamers will hold 4-6 extra-large eggs and sufficient water to cover them. Simply fill the pot to a level 2-3 inches above the eggs and insert the basket with its eggs for cooking. When the eggs have cooked for the desired time, remove the basket and fill the pot with COLD water. Plunge the basket back into the cold water.

This last step keeps the hard yolks from discoloring.

Cooking time is reduced because you’re using less cooking water volume and cleanup is a breeze.

 

We are what we think!

In Lifestyle on October 10, 2012 at 11:23 am

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, says we must be thankful for our teachers. Adversity, he also says, is our greatest teacher. As an example he cites his thankfulness for Mao Zedong, the Chinese communist leader who took away his native Tibet.

When we experience losses, setbacks, or suffer in an illogical world we ask, “Why me?”

Like most Jews, I have been are encouraged to ask, “Why not you?” If not ‘you’, then who should be afflicted? If there is adversity or loss to go around, why do we believe our blood is redder than someone else’s? Who is the ‘someone else’ who should suffer in our stead?

“Shakata ga nai.” (“That which cannot be overcome must be endured.”)

It is not the same as “Que sera, sera.” (“What will be, will be.”)

The latter encourages us to accept misfortune without our response. The former demands that, to endure, we must choose our responses carefully.

Much of our disharmony comes from trying to control the things that we cannot control.

What can we control?

Our thoughts.

Therefore, we must always select our thoughts carefully.

Selecting our thoughts selects our responses. Consequently, we have much more control over our lives than we imagine.

If we choose properly, our mind will be at peace. If we choose poorly, there will be further consequences that will further disquiet our mind. Our goal is to have mindful peace.

No matter how dire things are in our worldly milieu, we can have peace in our mind and it behooves us to select thoughts that will take us down the most peaceful path, or Way.

In the book, Rich Brother, Rich Sister that she co-authored with her brother, Robert Kiyosaki, Emi Kiyosaki (Venerable Tenzin Kacho) describes how she battled cancer and came to reconcile her Buddhism with eventual financial security.

She did not fight the cancer solely with meditation and Buddhist prayer, although meditation played a very important part in her fight. One cannot ‘meditate away’ cancer. Nor, can we pray our way to adequate life resources.

One can meditate to facilitate right choices. We can meditate to quiet the mind or to awaken it to see all of the choices we might have.

Prayer? What about prayers to whatever, or whoever, we worship as a Deity?

What if the answer to our prayers is ‘no’? For millions, each day, the answer given in response to a given prayer is ‘no’. When the response is ‘no’, what then?

For some, there is a belief ‘no’ comes because of a ‘plan’ we do not comprehend or cannot see. For others, ‘no’ is justice dealt out as payment for transgressions.

If there is a ‘plan’ then there is no free will. What about the justice within ‘no’ when the person has earnestly repented for their transgressions?

What if ‘no’ is just…

…’no’?

A cornerstone of Buddhist thought is that all attachments come with the price of future loss. To ‘correct’ this, Buddhism does not teach us to avoid attachment.

It only teaches us to be honest about the consequences of attachment.

In most cases the happy, wiggling puppy we bring home will die of old age long before we are ready. Still, we bring home wiggling puppies.

We fall in love and marry in full knowledge that, eventually, one of us will leave the other standing at a gravesite. Still, we marry.

Businesses fail or succeed despite the owner’s shrewdness or skills. Still, we pursue our occupations and businesses.

A death of a beloved pet, the loss of a spouse, or a departure of our fortunes typically comes by forces beyond our control and this loss of control disquiets us greatly.

How we respond to the loss, or the force causing it, is entirely within our control.

We must always strive to select the right thoughts by controlling our thoughts carefully.

Selecting the right thoughts will help us down the right Way.

The right Way will guide us into the company of others who are also correctly pursuing their own right Way. Our right Way will steer us from destructive people and forces and, if it is our bad fortune to find ourselves among such people or forces, the right Way will guide our responses to them so we can continue our journey as peacefully as is possible.

Our truly peaceful journey begins (and ends!) with our careful selection of thoughts.

They are the only thing in the Universe that we can control.