23 November 2009

Hill Country Vegetable Soup

Note: I like a lot of vegetables and a colorful soup. Don't fret about using everything on the list.

1              teaspoon olive or toasted sesame oil
1/2          pound beef or buffalo stew meat, cubed 3/4"
1/2          cup onions, diced
1/4          cup celery, sliced on the diagonal
1/2          cup carrots, jewel cut* or sliced in rounds
1              cup vegetable or beef stock
4              cups spring water
1/4          cup barley, rinsed
2              cloves garlic, minced
1              tablespoon dried roasted garlic slices (or 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder)
1 1/2       cups canned diced tomatoes
3/4          cup yukon gold potato, diced, or 3/4 cup of wheel-shaped pasta in keeping with theme
1              cup cooked white beans
1/2          cup yellow squash, 1/2-inch half moons
1/4          cup corn kernels
1/2          cup green beans, sliced 1"
1/2          cup shredded green cabbage
3              tablespoons mushrooms, sliced
                salt and pepper to taste
1/2          teaspoon herbes de provence
1/2          teaspoon marjoram
1/2          teaspoon smoked paprika

Heat oil and saute stew meat until it quits bleeding. Add onions, celery, carrots and pinch of salt, and stir until bright, adding stock if needed. Add rest of stock and water. Bring to boil. Skim meat foam if it appears.

Add barley, garlic, tomatoes, potato or pasta, beans, squash, corn, green beans, cabbage and mushrooms. Bring to simmer.

Add salt and pepper and simmer until barley is cooked, adding remaining seasonings partway through.

Makes 4 servings, more or less.

* Jewel cut: Slice carrot on the diagonal 1/2 inch from small end. Rotate 1/4 turn toward you and slice at the same angle. Keep rotating and slicing all the way down the carrot, making multi-faceted pieces that look like cut jewels.

30 August 2009

does writing about food = dancing about football?

About an hour into Julie & Julia, I realized that I was engaging with the action onscreen just like a football fan watching a game on TV. I'm not sure whether there's a foodie equivalent of "armchair quarterback," but that's what I was acting like.

(I write this in tribute to Julia. I'm leaving it unfinished in tribute to Julie, who finally finished something.)

26 July 2009

mmmmmm, mighty tasty crow

One of the stories on today's "This American Life" mentioned the infamous Van Halen contract-rider clause: must supply bowl of M&Ms backstage with all brown M&Ms removed.

For years, this has been cited as the ultimate rock-star indulgence, although while researching a feature I wrote for the Dallas Times Herald in 1984, I found several more that seemed to go way farther than adding a little extra labor to the task of pouring M&Ms into a bowl. Sammy Hagar's demand that each venue supply a bottle of expensive vintage wine -- not for after-show drinking but to add to his personal collection -- comes to mind.

The point of the radio mention was that, far from being indulgent, this was actually a very visible quality check for the band. In his autobiography, David Lee Roth wrote that when he arrived at the venue and saw either no M&Ms at all or a bowl complete with brown ones, he knew that someone on the management end either hadn't read the contract thoroughly or wasn't keen on detail. And with a production as extensive and complicated as Van Halen's, ignoring the specs about load-bearing stages and massive electrical requirements could prove disastrous or possibly even fatal.

So Van Halen, I stand corrected and I apologize for perpetuating the indulgence myth. But your apparent belief that incorrectly supplied M&Ms gave you license to trash the backstage turns that crow I'm eating from entree into tiny tapas.

Late-breaking rewrite aside, that was one fun article to put together. Every concert promoter and venue manager I talked with had some eye-rolling excess to brag about having to endure. (When I find the article I'll post some here.)

Among all of the foodstuffs, doggie perks and general silliness I heard about, the most touching came from Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers. Maybe he was a little more candid with me than he might have been with some other journalist -- after all, he was my first boyfriend, many years before -- or maybe he was, just for a moment, wanting to transcend the extremes of the Butthole Surfer image.

Paul told me that their contract had no special food-related requests beyond a vegetarian meal for one band member and no pork for another. Being a self-contained, seasoned touring group, the most important thing for them, he said, was six pairs of new cotton socks at each venue. Looking at my own overflowing basket of freshly washed laundry nearby, my heart ached for these itinerant boys. Clean laundry is hardly an indulgence, but in some circumstances it can seem like unattainable luxury.

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23 July 2009

Amazingly yummy quinoa

And now, a detour into the kitchen for your alternative grains. Serves 2-3ish.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup carrots, diced
1 cup kale, spines and leaves finely diced separately
3 cloves garlic, minced coarsely
3 tablespoons scallions, diced
3 dashes ume plum vinegar
3 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked and diced
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
6 ounces chicken breast, (smoked) diced
2 cups cooked quinoa
3 tablespoons mango, diced
1/2 ounce romano cheese, finely grated
2 tablespoons yogurt cheese or sour cream (optional)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions.

  2. Dice vegetables to about 1/4-inch cubes.

  3. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add carrots, kale spines, garlic and scallions, stir to coat with oil, and add ume vinegar. Stir until bright. (Do not overcook.)

  4. Add kale leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and chicken and blend in well with other ingredients. If using unsmoked chicken, add smoked paprika.

  5. When ingredients are heated through, stir in quinoa and mix well. Add another dash of ume vinegar if necessary. Gently stir in mango and romano cheese.

  6. Serve immediately, topped with sour cream or yogurt cheese (drained yogurt) dusted with smoked paprika, if desired.

26 March 2009

Memory dump 3: KLIF

Very early in my working life, I was Kelly Clarke, a disk jockey (ahem, radio announcer) at what had been the birthplace of Top 40 in years past, KLIF. As an AM station in a world where FM ruled music radio, we had to try harder to get attention, so we regularly appeared at onsite promotions. It was only natural that KLIF would sponsor the local premiere of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie (starring Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees!), and the promo dept announced that it would involve some "very special guests."

The premiere was scheduled for a multiplex in the Dallas suburb of Garland. (Garland was a major inspiration for the setting of the cartoon "King of the Hill," so try to imagine what kind of movie premieres there and what kind of "special guests" might actually show up.) We, the on-air talent, learned that WE would be the special guests, dressed up in colorful band jackets rented from a costume shop. Y'know, like on the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album, right?

So Allen Farmer, Steve Scott, Harry Nelson and I arrived at the premiere in a limo, but stayed inside hidden by the darkened windows, building what we were assured was a frenzy of anticipation and excitement, until the audience was seated in the theatre and ready for the movie to start. Then we walked in together under a spotlight -- like anyone would recognize our faces anyway since we worked in radio -- and the only reaction was "Hey, that isn't Frampton and the Bee Gees!" We had to sit there in our cordoned-off seats wearing smelly old band jackets through the entire awful movie (rated 3.4 out of 10 on imdb.com; the Zap2it.com description is "Sgt. Pepper's grandson and three other guys form a band and fight bad guys. Based on a Beatles album."). The promo guy wouldn't let us leave during the screening while the house lights were safely out. I hope he's shilling for the ghost of Enron now.

I recall discussing that evening with my fellow suffer-ees only once afterward, when we decided that the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati," while billed as a sitcom, was actually a documentary.

(NB: Possibly the most bizarre twist in this story was that my cousin, the late Terry Southern, also had a connection with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ... the original one. He was among the faces on the cover of the album -- wearing sunglasses, not a short red band jacket. Sigh.)