Monthly Archives: August 2004

Cooking School Journal: Wanna Do Some ‘Shrooms?

It’s Saturday night. The kids are asleep. Joe’s asleep. The dogs are asleep. I can’t sleep.

I’m turning on the TV.

First stop: Roseanne… the domestic goddess. Funny, but no.

Second stop: Iron Chef. What’s the secret ingredient? The smoke is flowing on the stage. The majestic music crescendos. What could it be? Shark Fin? Sea Urchin? Oh. They went to commercial.

Wow. JC PENNEY is having a sale. Excedrin now has a medicine specifically for tension headaches. Great.  Oh. Richard Marx is coming out with a new CD. Available now. Swiffer Wet Jet now has a “scrubbing head”. I’ve got to write that down. Oh. I just did.

But, when you’re done you can just throw the pad away. Go to for more info.

Back to Iron Chef. What’s the ingredient????  Kaga says, “LLLLLAAAAAAAMMMMMBBBBB!!!!!!!!”


Ooh. Tavis Smiley. We love him.


Weather Channel.  It’s going to be hot here. Yup.

The Simpsons. Wow. Must be an old one. It’s grainy.

Good background for writing.

So, getting back to my midterm, my mushroom cups needed to be kicked up a notch (as Emeril would say). I was obsessing on it.

My first thought is always Bleu Cheese. So that’s the first thing I tasted. Bad pairing. The Bleu was Pt. Reyes Original Blue, my favorite. It’s from Farmstead Cheese Co. in Marin.

So good!

So good!

Try to find it and simply spread it on a piece of bread. You’ll cry. However, it was so powerful, it  just wiped away all trace of flavor from the mushrooms and Madeira. Not going to work.

I stared at the mushrooms almost begging them to tell me what they want.

Suddenly the spoke to me…

Well, actually, since mushrooms can’t talk, I decided on the only failsafe thing in the world of food.




Parmigiana Reggiano. If it helped the dates, maybe it would be kind to the mushrooms, too.

I pulled a wedge from the fridge and grabbed the OXO veggie peeler.

Marge and Homer are kissing and Mo is crying.

A crisp clean shave of Parm on top of a spoonful of the mushrooms. Was it going to be enough?

I took a taste.

Oh yeah! That is good.

0% Financing on a new Jetta. Wow. That’s a great deal.

Oh crap. Now it’s Drew Carey. I need to scan. Celebrity Justice. No. Will and Grace. Jesus! Can’t that show just go into cable syndication and leave us alone? How many fag hag jokes are there?

Oh. I found it. The Rockford Files.261528jpg

A show that makes us all want to live in a trailer in Malibu.

The parm/mushroom pairing was perfect, but it needed garnish. I was thinking some thyme from the garden might work.

Phyllo cups with wild mushrooms in a Madeira reduction garnished with Parmagiana  and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Perfect! I finally knew what I was going to present to the wine tasting class. I felt relieved and fell asleep.

The Big Day!

On Sunday morning, Mom came to babysit, and I headed to school. It was the big day!

Class, then meeting, then winetasting class with midterm presentations. Whew!

Class was fun.  The topic: pizza and designer pasta.

Pizzas… (one trick: don’t cook your sauce. It will cook on the crust raw, cook it ahead and  it will burn). My creation: shrimp, tomato sauce, goat cheese and basil. It was really good. Although the basil looked horrible after being in the hot oven.  Always add it after cooking.

Even the 17 year-old kid next to me, warned me. But I spent ten minutes arranging it decoratively anyway. Just as he said, it turned brown and shriveled up.  But I garnished it with so much chiffonade of fresh basil after the fact, that my mistake was almost hidden. It tasted so good to me. I was happy.bacon-shrimp-basil-pizzajpg

Chef didn’t like it.

What else is new?

Cameron was also taking this class today. I met him at the Wednesday class. He’s definitely gay, and so cute. He totally looks familiar. After we went through every possible connection and almost connection that we have, we figured out that we’re just one degree of separation from each other. I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll figur out where we know each other from eventually. In the meantime, he’s really fun. He and Lu, another gal in the class were cracking me up! It was a fun class. California pizza or not.wolfgang_puckjpg-wolfgang-upchuck-image-by-nipplequeen

After six other dishes and a bunch of clean up, I headed home to prep my hors d’oeuvres.

I only had twenty minutes to make it back before the meeting.

I drove home like a bat out of hell, ran in the house and darted for the kitchen. I ripped the phyllo from the fridge. I attempted to, with my pizza cutter, make perfect squares dredged in melted butter to tuck into my mini muffin pan, but the girls were climbing all over me. They thought I was home for the day. They couldn’t figure out why I was rushed, annoyed, freaking out and trying to get back out the door. The squares quickly turned into decahedrons.

They are “rustic”, I told myself.

I prepped them all, and draped a damp towel over them. I loaded the sheet pan of dates into the car.  I grabbed my full mini-muffin tin of rustic mushroom cups, a wedge of parm and my peeler. I ran to the garden and ripped the thyme from the ground, roots intact. I was ready to go.

I kissed the girls goodbye. They couldn’t figure out what was happening, and I felt really bad about leaving them again. And in a tremendous moment of great self-doubt, I ran back to the kitchen and grabbed the tiny 1/2 oz. bottle of white truffle oil.

More later…

Cooking School Journal: The Midterm

8/27/04 The Midterm

“We’re waiting with bated breath”, is how Ellen described (several weeks ago) how it felt to wait for the results of my midterm exam.  I’m sorry.  Things have been somewhat chaotic here.

It’s so funny. When you’re in the middle of spring and your kids are in elementary school, you can’t wait for summer to come. Oh the carefree days of summer, when you get to sleep in everyday.

You lounge by the pool before you decide to throw KC and the Sunshine Band into your car stereo and head for the beach. You frolic in the sand until sunset like Gidget, and then head home in time for a warm shower. You throw on a flattering sundress and gather at the patio furniture as your husband grills up a great steak.

Oh Those Summer Nights!

The reality is that your kids are home all day, “BORED”. And although you have to pry them out of bed on a school day, they somehow greet the sun every morning at 6:00 am with an enthusiastic smile in the summer.

The pool is too cold and really stressful because you’re trying to keep all of the kids, especially the two year-old from drowning.

The beach is too far. And it’s really crowded. It’s $10 a day to park at Zuma. We all end up sunburned.

Joe’s been traveling much of the last 6 weeks. But, Baja Fresh grills a good steak. Too bad that it is 4000 calories.

So, anyway. Blah blah blah. Excuses.

Here’s what happened on my midterm.

Our assignment was to show up to our midterm class which was also our wine tasting class, with two hors d’ouevres to be passed and graded. It was a special class scheduled for a Sunday evening. I was traveling to my sister’s the following week, so I opted to take the Sunday make-up class from 9 – 2, then attend our banquet/graduation planning meeting at 3, and then this midterm class at 5. I was happy that there would be wine involved.

The new schedule meant that the oysters just weren’t going to work. The logistics were tough. Keeping the oyster cold, prepped and ready to broil…I don’t know. Actually it probably would have been fine. But, it made me nervous.

I decided to go with the mushroom phyllo cups. They were not a favorite at my tasting, but I loved them. The look and the taste– I knew they had potential. I decided to take them up a notch.

Joe and I spent that Saturday night cooking, tasting and prepping. It was really fun. The iPod was cranking out tunes. The kids were dancing, Joe and I were sipping our wines, all the while sauteeing mushrooms and wrapping dates in bacon.  It was a really fun night.

Morels. Another tastes-better-than-it-looks treat.

Morels. Another tastes-better-than-it-looks treat.

When it was done, I had Button, Cremini, Porcini mushrooms and Morels glazed in a Madeira (not the cooking Madeira, but a beautiful Madeira that Ellen gave me for my birthday) reduction in a Tupperware in the fridge.

What the hell was I going to do with those mushrooms, although delicious on their own, to take it up a notch?

It needed to be good. I bought some Truffle Oil the day before, hoping to be inspired. But, I was still lost.

I decided (well the wine decided) that I should “sleep on it”.

Cooking School Journal: Tahoe and Bad News

I brought my laptop to Tahoe. For six days it sat on the counter, and I’ve been trying to remember why I brought it. There’s no internet access here on the north shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. What the hell did I lug this thing up here for? I think it was to catch up on all of the posts that are piling up in my Drafts file. What else would I do on my vacation?

We’ve biked, boated, swam, made sand castles, and lost the key to our rental car in the Truckee River.

Yeah. You know. Vacation.

The laptop has sat here so bored that I think I actually caught it trying to pour itself a drink.

It’s been a great vacation. We’ve spent some really great times together. That’s something Joe and I have both needed and the girls craved too.

But, we got bad news.

Arthur is sick.

He is like my second father.

He has been my true North much of the last thirty years. Granted his compass usually is pointed  Southwest.

He told me to go to USF. He even came to Parent’s Weekend. He sat patiently as I asked him, “Is San Francisco an island? Everywhere I go there is water.” (These are the words of a twenty year-old that  never strayed far from Santa Monica, where the shore was always to the West.)

I’m sure he thought I was an idiot. But he calmly explained that San Francisco was the tip of a peninsula.

In the following few years I lived there he took me and various random boyfriends, and then eventually Joe and me, to the best places in the city. He taught us the city. And what an amazing subject to learn.

He sat in the first row as we were married. He sat next to our  priest at the rehearsal dinner.

He held Lilly for two hours in my living room after her baptism, as I tried to make brunch for forty people. He showed Lucy the Statue of Liberty from the balcony of his apartment in Chelsea.

He has been my muse for these incessant e-mails.

He laughed so hard at the first that I felt inspired to continue. His encouragement keeps me writing.

He coined the term “Not Gay Lance”, in the way only a good queen could. Oh yeah…and there were a million questions to boot. “What does he look like? What color is his hair? Does he have hair?”

The best gift for an aspiring writer is to find an audience, and sometimes it needs only to be audience of one.

He has encouraged me to do this food thing. To write about this food thing.

And ironically, he is laying in ICU at Baltimore General.  The cause?

Apparently, food poisoning.

It figures.

He’s been intubated for a week… but the tube will come out tomorrow. He’s expected to recover fully. Mom is there. I want to be there, but I know he would just be mad. He would want me to be taking care of my kids, taking my classes and writing dumb missives about it.

And doing what I am doing now. Staring into the glow of my laptop and overhearing Joe and Lilly and Lucy sitting on the deck, watching the reflection of the moonlight on the lake. Joe’s trying to explain to them the difference between a planet and a star and even perhaps the difference between a peninsula and an island.

Cooking School Journal: Intense but Full.

Wow. The last month has been intense. I have three saved drafts in my e-mail folder that either suck, or I just couldn’t finish because I was too busy. This may be number four since the girls are in the den calling each other names. Nothing says ‘let’s talk about food’ like the ambient noise of a five year-old calling her sister a “big giant dog poop”. Nice.

Obviously, I am a great mom.

The last month has been tiring but great.

July 19 –Appetizers

Fun class. We prepared several appetizer recipes from our textbooks.

Smoked Salmon Mousse in Cucumber Cups topped with caviar-My big faux pas… “Do you have to put the caviar on at the very end so that it doesn’t bleed?” sounding so official. “This caviar will not bleed. Only cheap caviar bleeds because it is dyed black.”  (Imagine scowling gaze now).  I ate three.

Shrimp toasts-those yummy things you have at dim sum. Shrimp, ginger, onion, egg white to bind, put on white bread… dipped in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. I ate about four hundred of these. Each one bathed lavishly in a pineapple sweet and sour sauce.  I had to unbutton my XL cargo pants. Nice.


Southwestern quiche-I know. She originally called this creation “Taquitos”, but the name change allowed her to charge twice as much per bite. Personally, I think she could change the name of this appetizer to “George” and still make money. They are basically custard…egg, heavy cream, Monterey jack and chiles baked in crispy tortilla cups… topped with a dollop of guac or salsa or sour cream. Oh my GOD! They were amazing.  I want to do one with crab, corn, jack and green chiles. I could top it with anything… you’ll die. They made them with smoked chicken and roasted pepper topped with guac. Even though I’m not a fan of smoked chicken, they were really amazing.  I wish I was in that group. I ate 22.

Blinis-those little Russian pancakes. They are usually topped with caviar. Home-schooler made them and somehow she messed  the whole thing up. *hee hee*. They were like little flattened lead balloons topped with caviar and creme fraiche. Bummer. But since my pants were already unbuttoned, I had 47.

Alice and I made spring rolls and shu mai.

Shu Mai

Shu Mai

Most of you know how passionate I am about my shu mai. These were great. Chef even praised my assembly. Yeah, I know, stop the presses. I ate 20 of each.

The weird extra recipe from the book was the “Mini Reuben”. Sauerkraut, Russian dressing and corned beef on Rye grilled in butter (of course) and cut into bite sizes speared with toothpicks.  As Lance and John grilled and plated them, I glanced over and laughed to myself arrogantly. They looked so “home-style”, not at all fussy like the rest of our bites.

I ate 12 of them.

Jesus! They were the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

When I came home… pants now unbuttoned and unzipped (luckily I wasn’t pulled over), I felt so disgusting.  Mom and Joe feasted on the leftovers (less than a dozen bites between them). I glared at them.  How could they eat so much?

All of my calories for 2004 were consumed that night, so I swore I would never eat again.

Well, at least until breakfast.


Cooking School Journal: Julia

What a day. I spent last night trying to convince my brother-in-law to flee Tampa and head inland to Orlando. He was steadfast in his resolve to ride out Hurricane Charley in Tampa. I awoke to the horror of Charley being upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. All I could see were the ruins left behind from Andrew. I was terrified for him.

Staring at the news, the anchor broke away from the storm coverage to announce breaking news. “Julia Child has died in her sleep at her home in Santa Barbara. She was 91.”

Oh my God.

My heart sank to the floor.

She’s one of my greatest heroes. And what a hero she was.

She brought the art of French cooking to an America that was busy making Jell-o molds and lunching at McDonalds.

There is a young writer who has on the web documented her own self-study of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. She has carefully studied and tested each recipe, page by page, in her home kitchen. A noble pursuit that we should all undertake.

But more than that, the noble pursuit we should all undertake is trying to live our lives like Julia lived hers.

Another pat of butter, a good cheeseburger, another glass of wine. All with a smile, knowing that we have worked hard to give America back its greatest cultural asset… the dinner table.

Growing up in a generation that has become afraid of its food, afraid of its wine and too busy to sit together at the dinner table, I’ve tried so hard to bring her philosophy into my home.

She was an amazing woman. She didn’t even take her first cooking course until she was 37. It took her and her co-authors more than 10 years to publish that first book. That’s quite amazing to me. My generation is convinced that if you’re not an executive by 30, you’re not a true success. An idea, by the way, that leaves most women who choose to spend their twenties changing diapers, feeling quite discouraged and depressed. A-hem.

She transcended all of those ideas. Whether she was standing tall at 6’2″ on her first cooking series, or hunched over laughing with Jacques Pepin 30 years later she showed Americans what it truly means to follow your dreams. Live your life. Do what you are meant to do. And absolutely enjoy it all.

Rich is fine. He made the right choice to hunker down. Charley turned a quick right into Ft. Meyers and missed Tampa, and descended hard on Orlando.

Thank God he’s okay.

Let’s all hope Julia is okay too. I’m sure she’s toasting all of us with a generous pour of wine and a wonderful cheeseburger.


1912 - 2004

1912 - 2004

Cooking School Journal: Reality


I feel like I am so far behind. And the truth is, I am. Not just in my cooking school journal, my class assignments, my own recipe-testing but in my life.  You should see the laundry pile, and Hannah’s closet, and my fridge, and my pantry, and the half-demolished guest bathroom and the list that the CPA made for me. It detailed all the of the things that I need to get to him by tomorrow to file our personal taxes… which are already 4 months overdue.

Meanwhile, my living room is perfect. Like a museum. The front of the house is perfectly manicured. Just in case anyone should show up at my door unannounced. The deliverymen are always impressed. However, behind the facade is my reality.

Mommy where are my water wings? Mommy I want some juice.  Mommy I’m hungry. Mommy I need some glue. Mommy where’s the glue? Mommy, Hannah dumped the glue all over the sofa. It wasn’t me. Mommy I’m bored. Mommy can I go on-line to Mommy I think you and I need to talk about my schedule next Fall. Mommy? I need some toilet paper. Mommy I don’t like Parano cheese. Is there any Parmesan? Mommy. Lilly’s bugging me. She keeps saying things too loudly. Mommy? Lucy never answers me. Mommy? Can you come here? Mommy… my hand hurts. I think I broke it on the “whack a mole” at Chuck E. Cheese. Mommy? How many tickets did we win?  Why is it never enough to get the good prizes? Mommy? I’m really thirsty. I’m so thirsty. Mom I’m so thirsty I think I’m going to die. Owww! Hannah bit me! Mom??????? Where are we?  When ARE WE GOING TO BE HOME? I’m so thirsty. I’m so thirsty too. I think I’m going to die. Mom I want to take Hip Hop. Can I Take Hip Hop? I want to take Jazz. Can I take Jazz? I’m hungry. Lilly keeps touching me. Mommy Hannah has gum in her hair, and I didn’t have anything to do with it. Oh mom, it’s bad. I’m sorry. Wow. I’m glad it wasn’t me. I think you’re gonna have to cut it out. Wow.

And that was just the last 90 minutes of my life… the charmed life of a stay-at-home mom.

You can’t even think, however, you’re in charge of the survival and well-being of yourself and three people who go out of their way to put themselves in the path of every danger they can find.

Why are you talking to that stranger? What are you nuts? He could take you, dye your hair and be over the border before sunset!

Don’t play hide and seek here! We’re at the Farmer’s Market. There are homeless people everywhere. Are you nuts?

Grab my hand! We always grab hands before crossing Fairfax! What are you nuts?

Don’t touch that knife!

Put down that vase!

Don’t suck on that plug!!!!!!!!!

Give the cleaver to mommy.