The secret to the source of good humor is not joy, but sorrow.
~Mark Twain

It is revealing that Abraham Lincoln bequeathed to Barack Obama his comic flair and inspiration, as Abe did his best to hold the country together during its darkest times through humor. Now, we have the alt-right with their youthful white collar supremacist leader, Richard B. Spencer, a former student from Duke, a suit and tie version of yore. A khaki suit donned by a kid who sports a “fashy” and repeatedly spews quotes from Nazi propaganda — alt-right, a term for a motley, internet based conservative radicals under a stratum known as the “manosphere.” When an overly serious Mr. Spencer shouted, “Hail, Trump! Hail, our people! Hail, victory!” a sprinkled mob of men stood and raised their arms in Nazi salutes…just ponder about “the Donald’s” stunted hands so posed in Hitlerian mannerisms as he shamelessly exploited his hosts. As such, he poses a complication (or not, for him) for the incoming president.

But, do not forget readers and “the Donald” and his followers of the Emolument Clause in the United States Constitution which reads unequivocally:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Get the nationalistic picture, brothas and sistas? White supremacy and nationality. It is, pure and simple — the entitled, rich, privileged, white, bald men who run Wall Street or come out of the Washington power he supposedly fought against.

But, then again, people fall for this governmental laxity due in part to strangely having held false historical perspectives. As if this type of furious white supremacy should be truly mainstream in America — tariff threats to “bring back” American workers, policer of Mexican and African American communities, immigration control, deporting illegals, women, Muslims, handicappeds, disableds, gays, transgenders, and fear-mongering coupled with the overall notion that American ideals have been somehow threatened.

Really? Words do matter, believe you me. Well over his orange con head.

In many respects, it is not in the least humorous to the very most of us. As a nation, we are a couple of steps away from oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy and/or dictatorship. His “transitional team” that he announced is a hoot, if if were not so laughable. These antagonistic figures that disconnect come from the top, from a man who decided to build a wall in Scotland, then bilked locals (likely because he could not pay the bill despite his supposed claims of wealth) — a guy who lost the majority by many more voters than in several decades. A true mandate?  No, the words of a tangled loser, as have been the views of so many foreign diplomats. As has been been poorly teethed by Kellyann Conway (sp?)

It is a coming storm, not to be abated. We are now led by an orange faced and haired bug-wit, demagogue, haranger, narcissist, racist, xenophobe, fascist, misogynist, bully, and silly cyberbully, martinet, religious hater, diplomatic blunderer, fact avoider, disunioner, and the like.

Were you even aware that he admittedly did not know what the 13 stripes meant in the American flag despite his “attempt” to force flag burners to leave the country, and his wearing an American flag on his lapel? What a phony.

I have a sometimes quirky friend in Southern Cal with whom we grew up together. Even though she savored Italian fare at home, she detests squid, sushi and some other things — a sometimes picky eater, even as an adult. But, she still remains a very good friend. Her taste buds have to do with food textures, which is totally cool. Fortunately or unfortunately, I like most all food, an omnivore of sorts.

As opposed to the usual ramen, this recipe calls for squid as the noodles. Little doubt that “the Donald” and his cabinet have never tasted such a delicacy. In case you did not know, the words derive from shin ramyun, “shin” meaning “spicy” and “ramyun” denoting the Korean word for ramen, a Japanese word. Just thought you may need a little edification as no doubt you will be in dire need of for the job ahead, should you have one.

SQUID AS NOODLES (WITH HERBS, STOCK & EGG)

3 lbs squid, cut into noodles
4 C homemade chicken stock, heated to a bare simmer

Herbs, roughly chopped, such as thyme, tarragon, rosemary, sage, basil
1 T fennel seeds, ground
1/2 t allspice, ground

1 T shoyu
1 t sesame oil

1/2 jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded and sliced

1-2 eggs softly boiled (less than 6 minutes)

Cut 3 lbs squid,thinly into noodles with a sharp knife
Heat 4 C homemade chicken stock over heavy pot and medium heat, until to barely a simmer and put in squid until cooked.

Herbs, roughly chopped with knife
1 T fennel seeds, heated and freshly ground
1/2 t allspice, heated and freshly ground
1/2 t nutmeg
All mixed well and placed in a glass bowl.

Add and stir 1 T shoyu sauce & 1 t sesame oil, then add by stirring to broth which contains squid and stock.

Place 2 eggs, softly boiled briefly in heavy pot

Serve in deep bowls with “noodles” in chicken stock, then add herbs, fennel, allspice, and nutmeg followed by splashes of shoyu, sesame oil, eggs and jalapenos.

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You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
~Phineas T. Barnum

Dear Groupon,

I felt compelled to write about your troubling Superbowl XLV ad which used the plight of Tibetans to convince consumers to buy Groupon certificates. In case you missed the airing, actor Timothy Hutton ended his somber monologue about how Tibet’s “very culture is in jeopardy.” He then suddenly chirped in that Tibetans “still whip up an amazing fish curry,” touting how his friends and he thankfully saved money at a Chicago Himalayan restaurant via Groupon. As you may know, Tibet has been threatened with societal extinction at the hands of an oppressive Chinese government. So, peddling your product at the expense of tyrranized victims of a revered culture seemed, at best, perversely odd.

Your multimillion dollar half minute was undeniably directed at furthering Groupon’s brand and generating Groupon profits and not aimed at altruism. An attempt to garner marketing attention and revenue from a beleaguered people’s struggle seems exploitative—a disrespectful quip demeaning the gravity of Tibetan misery.

I embrace humour noir, but this was over the line. Genocide is no joke.

While it appears that empathy rarely emanates from your Chicago Ave boardroom, it has seemed reasonable to expect some remorse. But, no genuine apologies are in the offing. The only words uttered were a feckless, fork-tongued defense (a/k/a publicity statement). And nowhere to be found is a solitary “I’m sorry” from corporate. Just self-justifying tripe focused on quelling Groupon losses.

No matter how and when spun, making light of cultural, religious and ethnic persecution for gain is both chilling and disgraceful. Equally deplorable were Groupon’s lame, hastily organized post airing efforts to contort this crass “show me the money” profiteering into donating to a mission-driven cause. You padded a hasty retreat driven solely by the palpable fear of losing customers. Nice try, Andrew.

On to the culinary content of the Tibetan fish curry ad which was likewise thoughtless. FYI, Tibetans do not eat fish for the most part. To many locals, eating fish is as abhorrent as pork is to Muslims and beef is to Hindus. Besides the obvious fact that Tibet is a mountainous, landlocked country, the absence of fish on tables there exists for several reasons. Some Tibetans practice water burial in lakes, and so eating fish is considered synonymous with dining on the dead. Fish are also regarded as the incarnation of the revered god of water and thus remain sacred. Tibetans detest gossip, and as fish do not have noticeable tongues, they cannot gossip. So, fish are rewarded for their silence by not becoming part of the Tibetan diet.

The disdain for Groupon’s brand name that resulted from your ads seems predictable. The negative online aftermath urging a mass “unsubscription” also comes as no surprise. Who knows how conscientious shop owners may respond.

Sincerely,

A Lay Cook

P.S. Groupon’s after the fact public ploy to show social conscience through savethemoney.org has already ceased. That non-profit “humanistic” site has already closed and now simply redirects to Groupon’s profit making center. A vital effort to save Groupon’s most precious natural resource: money.

CALAMARI WITH RED CURRY & COCONUT MILK

3 T peanut oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 T peeled and grated fresh ginger
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 1/2 T red curry paste
2 t ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper

1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T light brown sugar
1 T fresh lime juice
Pinch of sea salt

2 lbs calamari, (bodies and tentacles), cleaned, bodies cut into 1″ slices

Freshly grated lime zest
Fresh mint leaves, chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeño pepper, ginger, garlic, curry paste, coriander and pepper and cook over medium heat another 3-4 minutes. Then, add coconut milk, broth, brown sugar, lime juice, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

Add calamari to curry sauce, and cook over medium high heat until calamari is opaque, about 2 minutes. Plate and garnish with lime zest, mint and cilantro.

Squid & Heirlooms

July 24, 2010

A hundreth knyghtes mo… and four hundreth to bote, squieres of gode aray.
~Robert Manning of Brunne, Langtoft’s Chronicle (1330)

Said to be the ancestor of all cultivated tomatoes, they are the smaller garden varieties of these exquisite fruits. Pop(s) a shots, of sorts. The varieties abound: black, red & yellow plum, black cherry, red & yellow pears, coyote, green grapes, Isis Candy, Cuban yellow grapes.

For me, I adore that audacious rainbow coalition…differing hues, shades—vivid yellows, pinks, reds, purples, oranges, golds, and even bicolors to boot. A chromatic scheme that naturally creates harmony. And then the shapes. From precisely spherical to slightly oblong to grape or pear like. Artful imperfection, everytime I look at you.

SAUTEED SQUID WITH HEIRLOOM CHERRY TOMATOES & TARRAGON

1 lb squid. cleaned, rinsed and patted dry
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb mutlicolored heirlooom “cherry” tomatoes

2-3 T fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

Cut the squid body into ringlets and leave the tentacles intact. In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil to medium and add the garlic. When the garlic sizzles (but does not brown), add the squid, then salt and pepper. Stir and raise the heat to medium high until the squid runs from opaque to white in “color.” Add the tomatoes and cook until just heated through, yet not broken. Make double sure the squid is cooked briefly, or rubber will ensue. Stir in the tarragon and serve.

Squid Triad

February 2, 2009

The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure not a slight pleasure.
~Michel De Montaigne

Squid belong to the class Cephalopoda, which means “head foot.” They are mollusks and related to octopi and some other culinary delights, such as bivalves (scallops, oysters, clams) and gastropods (snails). Cephalopods are thought to be the Einsteins of invertebrates, with highly developed senses and large brains…they even have three hearts that pump blue blood throughout.

Squid grow rapidly, reaching maturity within a year, and reproduce in large numbers. These characteristics help keep populations robust even when they are heavily fished; so they are a scrupulous, sustainable seafood choice. Squid are relatively inexpensive, are quite versatile and also make simply wonderful eats. Try serving them with aioli (garlic mayonnaise) or rouille (saffron & red pepper mayonnaise).

To clean squid, first separate the head from the body (mantle), cut free and retain the tentacles, trim off the eyes and hard beak which it uses to consume prey. With fingers or the back of a small knife, push out and discard the insides and the translucent cuttlebone or quill. Rinse, then dry thoroughly.

Squid must be cooked either quickly for a couple of minutes or slowly braised for about an hour—any time in between will result in one tough critter. Three variations on the squid theme (braised, fried and sautéed) follow:

CALAMAR AU VIN

3 T extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves peeled garlic, gently crushed
1 shallot, diced
1 clove peeled garlic, finely minced and crushed to a paste
1 C red wine
2 pounds squid, cleaned
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet with a lid, and turn the heat to medium high. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, then remove. Add the shallot and and garlic paste and saute over medium heat until shallots are tender. Add the squid and stir, then lower the heat, and add the wine. Stir, add the thyme and bay leaf, then cover.

Braise covered at a slow simmer until the squid is tender, about 1 hour. Uncover, season with salt and pepper to taste, raise the heat, and cook until most but not all of the liquid is evaporated. Stir in the remaining olive oil, and garnish with parsley.

CALAMARI FRITTI

1 lb fresh squid, cleaned
1 cup fine flour, such as semolina, rice or Wondra
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
6 C of peanut, sunflower or canola oil
Lemon quarters

Preheat the oven to 200.

Slice the squid bodies into 1/4 inch rings, and depending on the size, cut the tentacles in half lengthwise.

In a bag or an open bowl, combine the flour, 2 t salt.

Pour the into a heavy sauce pan or use a deep fryer. The oil should be at least 2 inches deep and should be heated to 375.

Dip a handful of squid into the bag or bowl of flour and shake to coat. Transfer the squid to a fine mesh sieve and shake to remove excess flour. Gently drop the squid in small amounts into the hot oil and cook until slightly brown—1 to 2 minutes. Do not crowd them. With a wire spider skimmer, scoop the squid from the oil and season immediately with salt and pepper. Then place in the warm oven with the door ajar as you continue frying the remaining squid.

Serve, garnished with lemon wedges.

SQUID WITH GARLIC, HERBS & TOMATOES

1 lb squid, cleaned bodies and tentacles separated but kept intact
6 T extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh plump garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (1 1/2-inch) serrano chile, halved lengthwise
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 C dry white wine
1/4 C drained bottled capers, rinsed & dried

1/2 cup loosely packed roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 T lemon zest
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

If squid are large, halve ring of tentacles, then cut longer tentacles crosswise into 3″ long pieces. Cut bodies crosswise into 1/4″ thick rings. Rinse and thoroughly pat squid dry.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic and chili, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add squid and sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Add tomatoes and wine and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes. Add capers and simmer, stirring, 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Remove from heat and stir in basil, pine nuts, zest, and salt and pepper to taste.

Sustainable Seafood

January 31, 2009

Sorry, another screed from the bully pulpit…

Fish is a high-protein, low fat food that provides a range of health benefits. In particular, white-flesh fish is lower in fat than any other source of animal protein, and oilier fish contain substantial quantities of omega-3, or the “good” fat in the human diet. A growing body of evidence indicates that omega-3 fatty acids help maintain cardiovascular health by playing a role in the regulation of blood clotting and vessel constriction.

In addition, fish does not contain those “naughty” omega-6 fatty acids lurking in red meat.

Despite their nutritional value, fish can pose considerable health risks when contaminated with substances such as metals—the most commonly discussed being mercury. Once mercury enters a waterway, naturally occurring bacteria absorb it and convert it to a form called methyl mercury. Unfortunately, humans absorb methyl mercury readily and are especially vulnerable to its effects. Because the poison is odorless, colorless and accumulates in the meat of the fish, it is not easy to detect and cannot be avoided by trimming off specific parts. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of manufactured organic chemicals that contain 209 individual chlorinated chemicals, known as congeners. Eating fish contaminated with mercury or PCBs, can adversely affect the brain and nervous system, causing serious health problems, especially for young children and pregnant women.

How do you select a fish?

Rule: Know thy local fishmonger or butcher. There is no excuse for timidity—his job (the one he is paid to do) is to serve you fresh fish, fowl and meat. Probing inquiry about his product is completely de rigeur, if not mandated; and a fishmonger or butcher who does not openly share his intimate knowledge with you is one to avoid. (I knew one.)

(1) “Flat” fish:
The shorter the “boat to plate time” the better; firm, shiny, bright colored flesh; fresh, mild, open ocean-sea breeze scent, not “fishy” or ammoniac; scales intact & even; clear, not cloudy eyes (except for deeper fish, e.g., grouper); bright pink or red gills, not slimy, dry or mucous covered; fillets & steaks should be moist and without discoloration.

(2) Shell fish (crustaceans & mollusks):
“Boat to plate time” again rules; mild, open ocean-sea breeze scent; Lobsters and crabs should be purchased live and as close to the time of cooking as possible. Both should actively move their claws; lobsters should flap their tails tightly against their chests or, when picked up, curl their tails under their shells. Shrimp should have uniform color and feel firm to the touch. Hard-shell clams, mussels, and oysters, purchased live in their shells, should have tightly closed shells or snap tightly closed when tapped. If they do not close when tapped, they are dead and should be discarded. Soft-shell clams are unable to close their shells completely. To determine if they are alive, gently touch the protruding neck of each clam to see if it will retract. If the neck does not retract slightly, discard the clam. Discard any clams, mussels, or oysters that have cracked or broken shells. Freshly shucked clams, sold in their liquor, should be plump, moist, and shiny. Freshly shucked oysters should be surrounded by a clear, slightly milky, white or light gray liquid. Freshly shucked scallops vary in color from creamy white to tan to a light pink color. Squid should have cream-colored skin with pinkish patches.

Rule: Keep in mind how the fish in our precious oceans are preciptiously vanishing…the numbers from studies are staggering. For instance, since 1950, the harvests from about one third of the world’s fisheries have collapsed to less than 10% of their historical highs. Among the culprits are overfishing, habitat damage, climate change, oxygen depletion and bycatch. So, solemnly chose a species which is relatively abundant, and whose fishing/farming methods are friendly to the seas and rivers. The fish should also be one which is commonly free of known toxins or contaminants…that is, not found in troubled waters.

Because of the number of fish involved and the ever changing populations, a well researched, almost indispensable, site which rates current seafood choices is the Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch . Another equally informative site is Blue Ocean Institute, offering assessments and suggested better alternatives to fish in significant environmental danger. Both sources also offer seafood and sushi pocket guides to assure your restaurant choices include sustainable fish.

Finally, a new book entitled Sustainable Sushi: A Guide to Saving The Oceans One Bite At A Time was released for publication last month which provides a comprehensive guide for conscientious sushi diners.