Monday, July 25, 2011

Truly The Best Ever Banana Cake

Truly The Best Ever Banana Cake

Every so often, I go trolling through cookbooks and the internet for a good banana cake recipe. Yesterday, my nose led me to a bunch of bananas I thought I had found a good place for in the kitchen, and then promptly forgot about. Time to look for that elusive wet cake recipe involving bananas.
It was my lucky day. A baker named Rhonda posted this recipe I'm sharing with you, with a few adaptations of my own.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I wonder if she fretted about it

By the side of my house, a little rose lives out her life's purpose absolutely unseen- till now!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Thought

Thanks to the plethora of information rolling at us, we have become accustomed to seeing the best, brightest and most flexible examples of artists in many mediums. :So You Think You Can Dance’ exposes us to dancers that inspire shock and awe in me. Gordon Ramsey’s cooking competition forces the chefs to be better than they knew they could be to meet Mr. Ramsey’s standards.  I wonder how many people who watch all the shows out there that make everything a high stakes competition get discouraged from self expression.

A Native American Tribe I heard of while traveling through North Dakota have a designated “Rotten Belly”. This is a tribesmember who takes on all the slothful, nasty behaviors of humankind and exhibit it everywhere they can. Whatever is inappropriate , they do. They serve as a repository of nastiness so that the rest of the tribe can be free of it. I can see how this could work. It would be like being sober in the presence of inebriation- its so unpleasant and boring and pointless to be around it re-enforces the rightness of sobriety.

I wonder if we allow  our  examples of human ability in the media to become our cultural “ Rotten Bellies”.  Do we stop dancing around our living rooms because we aren’t executing split jumps? Do we stop making the food we were given as children because its not haute so we settle for a branded product (fast food)? Are we content with watching somebody else do what is our ability as corporeal beings? While I can see placing all the negatives in us in one repository as being a cultural solution, I don’t think it serves us if we allow others to become our  experiential Avatars.

Wine enthusiasts talk about terroir, the soil that a grape comes from. The minerals, amount of rainfall, humidity, everything about the earth in a particular region can be tasted in the grape, and therefore gives the wine its unique characteristic. I think of my own terroir as everything I have brought with me- from childhood to present day- that makes me me. My DNA from my ancestors spins in a way that you can see when I dance or cook. But my terroir also includes the old woman who was my mother’s ex mother-in-law. We would sit in her kitchen above the railroad tracks  in the Bronx and watch her roll out her own filo dough to make tiropitas, amazed that someone so ancient and twisted in her body could produce such a delicate dough that it seemed laid out by fairies. I use bits and pieces I learned from her, despite being bored out of my mind at the time, in my daily cooking. My terroir is also the hot pretzels at the New York Zoo my parents treated me to every Sunday. That taste became a part of me and I often make them at home for my family. So it becomes their terroir as well. Madhur Jaffrey’s children went to the school I attended for 11 years  and would bring great pans of Indian food to the Autumn Fair.   I absorbed all that  as well.

Both my parents were professionals in the dance world, so its interesting that when we children danced after dinner it wasn’t tricks that made them laugh or cheer. When I look back at it critically, they responded to our dancing our truths. I was prideful and argumentative as a child, and when I dared to expose that, even make fun of myself by exaggerating it in my movements when I danced- mincing my steps or aggressively lunging at my audience of two, they would see and respond to the inside family knowledge that this was a part of me. This is also my terroir. As is the fact that I would see my mother dance and recognize her sensuality, and therefore not be afraid of my own. All the aspects of my life that make me unique, the good as well as the bad, and even painful, are expressed in how I live in my senses. A group of dancers executing a perfect split jump will all look the same to me, where as I can watch an older Greek man     dance with a napkin and see his terroir. And it thrills me. I find as I get older , that I am more impressed with being able to see where someone comes from than to see people’s training- in dance, in cooking, in life.

Don’t eat fast food today, make something you remember from your childhood and make it over and over until it pleases you and makes you cut your eyes with remembrance. Dance with abandon, with who you are, what you’re angry with, what you love. No rules- you can include them later- but get to your truth first. Let’s not let the experts we see everywhere take away our wildness and desire to revel in our terroir. Let’s not let them do and experience those gifts for us- they can’t.

When my mother was dying, she could no longer talk or move- except for her left hand. We children sang the songs she taught us in childhood as we sat by her hospital bed- I guess it was all we could think of to comfort and communicate with our Mama who was slowly disconnecting from this earth.

 Under the spreading Chestnut tree

 There we sat, just you and me

 Oh how happy we will be

 Under the spreading Chest   nut    tree !

As we sang, she danced with her left hand, with all the terroir of her 86 years. It was beautiful, and unrepeatable . And brave.

All these amazing top- of- their- field people we see, let them inspire us, but they are not our Avatars or “Rotten Bellies”. We all carry such uniqueness, lets share that with each other. Dance!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beautiful Faith

Fryman Canyon

In the middle of Los Angeles all the winged monkeys exercise

A steady line of people parking their cars as close as they can to the mouth of the hike

And grimly climbing.

 One woman cuts a huge psychic swath
as she drags her body and life up the incline

“............. IFF I feel GOOD I can!................................But what is me feeling good?”

Behind her doctors, perpetrators,
useless remedies
 and her nanny from when she was 6
hold tight to her shoulders and leave a trough of haze in the energy

The fragrance and damp from the green

Curry plant, salvia, pepper tree

 sweat , sweet

 like they’ve been struggling  with gravity too

But they endure with grace

Two women whose faces have frozen in self disgust go down as I go up

“.....flirtation and of course she ‘s  too young”

On her back sit her no prize of a husband,

a house thats too big and to someone else’s standards

and an indifferent teenager

complaining of being on a hike that’s not of

 His choosing.

She struggles under the weight of it all

But soldiers on-

dragging pretty young girls

whose attention is elsewhere

on long ropes

behind her


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Talba's Chile Rellanos


Comfort Food

    When I was 5 years old, my family and I spent the summer with Doris Duke in her Hollywood hills estate Falcon Lair. Doris was my mother's closest friend for over 25 years and was the ultimate Aunty Mame to my sister and I. There was a side to her that was definitely dark and troubled, but it was the crazy, fun part of her that I adored. I can still hear my mother's and Doris's infectious laughter wafting in from far off the coast as I clung to the rocks with my father, longing to be with them but too afraid of the depths they swam in. It wouldn't have done me much good, anyway, as their best gossip was always in French.

The memories I have of that hillside mansion were the terraced gardens where I played with my first daddy-long-legs, the rats that had  tunnels all through the hills, and Talba's chile rellenos.Tiny Talba took care of the kitchen and was renowned for her Mexican food. I remember my mother intently watching her every move as she cooked, as Talba spoke not one word of English and we , no Spanish. It was a relationship built on smiles, sign language, and food. I think she spoke eloquently through the latter, introducing us to her culture in Mexico and old old ways that were brand new to us.

I have a faint memory of watching her cook her chiles rellenos but a strong recollection of the crispy crust, melted smooth center, and the firm bite of the chiles. When I order them in restaurants, they never seem to have that voluptuous mouthfeel.  Here is how my family has recreated it for over 40 years.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Tradition

Yesterday morning, the tree became a New Year's tree- we took all the ornaments off and wrapped it with yards and yards of tuile and ribbon. Instead of waking up today with the whole huge job of taking down the tree , the hardest part was over and our tree was a shimmery reminder of last night's wonderful dinner party. Happy New Year dear friends!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Little Something For New Year's Eve

Luciano shares our Christmas breakfast - Pizzafrites

I've heard that many a cook will end a shift with a trip to a pizzeria- good plain deliciousness after a day of food fuss.  That makes me feel a little better about my very favorite dessert-

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Best Sugar Cookies

Every year I try another sugar cookie recipe, and each year seem to have to choose between taste and appearance. Finally, I'm happy to share with you a recipe I found on the web that is great to eat and to cut and decorate. Today I made this recipe for my friend Linda in Los Angeles. I baked and  decorated them and then stood in the very long line at the post office to make sure she got them before she and the family leave for Christmas vacation. There is something about the tradition of baking and decorating cookies at this time of year that I see as mandatory.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good -For -You Gingercake

Tis The Season For Gingercake

     A standard dessert growing up was my mother's gingerbread.  Soft, damp and slathered with my favorite chocolate icing, it was the smell  and texture of being at the kitchen table with the winds howling  around the apartment building.  The sweet strange smell of a gummy eraser, the  dark atmosphere of the entry way to Nightingale Bamford School for Girl's where I would wait to be picked up at 4 o'clock, the sudden cold shock of air as the doors opened and parents picked up their children-- and then home to a tea of gingerbread and milk.  Mama's opinion

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mona Lisa's Having A Baby

The beautiful Diana who bakes with me is very very close to meeting her baby. Last Saturday was her baby shower and since I was kneedeep in cooking for a Cubano dinner for twelve Kim and I were hosting that evening, I sent my love in the forms of ginger cakes, carrot cakes with candied carrot strips, red velvet cupcakes and these little Baby Cookies. Kim represented us at the party , and as we prepared for the dinner, she filled me in on how beautiful Mona Lisa looked and how sweet her family was.
Sending something that I hope charms or touches someone is sometimes a better representation of my intentions than I am, I think. I'ts certainly purer. Just love. And that's what I always mean.

These cookies are made with the linzer dough from the excellent Sherry Yard who adds Chinese five spice and orange rind to the traditional cookie. The potato starch pictures are edible, of course, and can be found on the Fancyflours website. A little tricky to work with but so worth it. Anything that can help me send the best part of me out to Mona Lisa and Matt and Baby is worth it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This Morning With Helen

a hawk just as the sun starts to rise
San Ysidro Church

Chris who hates his picture taken manning the coffee bar at Oasis, our local coffee house

the cemetery on Old Church Road

Sun's up

Monday, October 18, 2010

My guacomole recipe for Oz

Sunday Soup

I love the rotisserie chickens that seem to be in every store.  I think I probably don't want to know alot about the chicken's credentials , but they are so useful and delicious.  Sticky tender and well seasoned, I usually get at least two dinners out of them.  First, I might make a chicken pot pie or chicken with dumplings, then next round will be chicken enchiladas and then, with the bones, my favorite: soup.
I take the bones with any drippings from the container ,add onion, carrots,celery,bay leaf and lots of garlic, cover with water and maybe a glass of white wine for depth and bring it to a boil. I let it simmer till rich and strain out all the solids.  Last night I craved the  Greek soup Avgolemono