KING!

 

 

The other night I did something I rarely do. I went to an R&B show.

 

This wasn’t my first time seeing the vocal trio, KING. I heard them a few years ago at Rock Camp for Girls L.A., during one of our lunchtime concerts. So when my Rock Camp buddy, Betro, asked if I wanted to hit their Hollywood show, I was in.

 

KING is an R&B band in an old-school way. Their beautiful harmonies are tight and flowing, and their music is intelligent yet accessible. But while they have an old-school vibe, they are completely fresh in their approach and sound. The fact that all 3 of these ladies are super easy on the eyes doesn’t hurt either.

 

When all was said and done, I had a great time at the KING show, and I realized I should be going to more of their concerts and to other R&B shows as well. It’s pretty sweet to get one’s groove on. And KING are all about the groove, y’all.

 

Fried Green Tomato Stacks

 

 

I have a confession to make: I didn’t love fried green tomatoes as a kid. In fact, I didn’t love them at all until I was quite grown and had them in a gourmet establishment. I don’t remember being exposed to them a lot while growing up, but I do remember not liking them when I was exposed.

 

So what happened? Maturity? Skilled preparation? Probably yes and yes. But the reasons don’t matter. All that matters is that I’m in love with fried green tomatoes and I don’t care who knows!

 

Here’s what you’ll need for my version…

 

 

Green Tomatoes (Firm!), Burrata Cheese (or Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese), Balsamic Vinegar, Fresh Basil, A.P. Flour, Cornmeal, Salt, Pepper, Sugar, Olive Oil and Butter. Not shown: Salt, Pepper and Sugar. (Cayenne and Smoked Paprika aren’t shown either, but add a swank touch.)

 

 

Now, I’m not gonna lie, y’all. I kludged together photos from multiple cooking sessions. The photo immediately above shows full-sized green tomatoes and that is what you want! Don’t try to make the dish with little green tomatoes (as shown in the main ingredients photo). It will drive you crazy! Go full-sized. Trust me.

 

 

If using Burrata, drain carefully, making sure to keep the inner cream from oozing out, as it’s the good stuff. Set aside. When the time comes to assemble your stacks, use a knife and a spoon to incorporate the Burrata. If using buffalo mozzarella, place in a colander to drain for about 10 to 15 minutes…

 

 

…and then slice. Allow to keep draining (only if using buffalo mozzarella).

 

 

 

Place balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce the vinegar to thickened syrup. Once reduced, remove from heat. Keep an eye on it! Once it starts thickening, it goes pretty fast.

 

 

While the balsamic is reducing, cut the green tomatoes into fairly thick slices, about  1/3 to 1/2  inch. Set aside. On this point, please, please, please use green tomatoes. I have learned this through trial and culinary tribulation, y’all. If those to-mates are already turning, just let them be. You want green and firm for this recipe.

 

 

In a shallow pan or plate, combine the corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne and smoked paprika.

 

Spread wax paper on a baking sheet large enough to hold all the tomato slices.

 

 

Dredge each tomato slice in the corn meal mixture, being sure to really coat well.

 

 

Place each slice on the wax paper.

 

 

When all the tomato slices are coated, place the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.

 

Place as many prepared slices as will fit in the skillet. Don’t crowd them, as tomatoes – like people – enjoy a little elbow room.

 

Cook until lightly to medium-ly browned, and then gently turn to the other side. (Medium-ly should be a word, y’all.)

 

While the tomato slices are frying, chop some basil for sprinkling over your finished product.

 

Once the tomatoes are cooked on both sides, carefully remove to a plate. You may choose a paper-towel-lined plate, if you wish. I don’t do it this way, because the corn meal tends to stick to the paper. And y’all, I want every little bit of that fried corn meal.

 

This would be a good time for me to apologize for not having a single photo of the frying process (or the basil-chopping). I don’t know what happened. Through multiple cooking sessions, I failed to pick up the camera a single time while frying. Maybe I was engrossed in the skillet. I just don’t know. At any rate, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I endeavor to learn from my mistakes.

 

Prepare each stack. Place a slice of cheese – along with some of the inner Burrata cream – on one fried tomato slice, then top the cheese with another fried tomato slice. Repeat until all tomatoes are stacked. (Your “stacks” may be as many as 3 or 4 tomatoes high – it’s up to you.)

 

 

Drizzle the balsamic reduction over all the tomato stacks then sprinkle with the chopped, fresh basil. Have some ripe cherry tomatoes on hand? Slice them and toss a few on your plate. You know – for color. And if you’re feeling particularly decadent, you can serve this with some crisped pork belly – as I did – for a swanky dinner! Mister deemed this meal “restaurant-quality.” That’s his highest praise, y’all.

 

This is one of those dishes that, once eaten, explains all the fried green tomato hoopla. And while I’m sorry it took me so many years to finally appreciate this heavenly dish, I’m at least glad I made it to the Promised Land. Fried Green Tomato Stacks – hallelujah!

 

Let me reiterate: choose firm tomatoes for this dish. The tomatoes will soften during cooking and can become a big old mess. Firm, I tell you! Firm!

 

I’ve tried this with Burrata and I’ve tried it with Buffalo Mozzarella. Mozzarella is good. But my favorite remains Burrata. It’s so deliciously creamy!  But I’ll take what I can get, and Buffalo Mozzarella will do when Burrata is nowhere to be found.

 

Here’s the printable…

Fried Green Tomato Stacks
Author: 
Recipe type: Side or Main – Your Call
Cuisine: Southern!
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 2 – 4
 

This is one of those dishes that, once eaten, explains all the fried green tomato hoopla. And while I’m sorry it took me so many years to finally appreciate this heavenly dish, I’m at least glad I made it to the Promised Land. Fried Green Tomato Stacks – hallelujah!
Ingredients
  • 3 – 4 Firm Medium Green Tomatoes (Firm! Firm! Firm!)
  • 1 Burrata Cheese Ball (or 1 Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese Ball)
  • 1 c. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 small bunch Fresh Basil
  • ½ c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ c. Cornmeal
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ½ t. Pepper
  • 1 t. Sugar
  • ¼ t. Cayenne Pepper
  • ¼ t. Smoked Paprika
  • ¼ c. Olive Oil
  • ¼ c. (4 T.) Unsalted Butter

Instructions
  1. If using Burrata, drain carefully, making sure to keep the inner cream from oozing out, as it’s the good stuff. Set aside. When the time comes to assemble your stacks, use a knife and a spoon to incorporate the Burrata. (If using buffalo mozzarella, place in a colander to drain for about 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into ¼-inch thick slices and allow to keep draining.)
  2. Place balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and reduce the vinegar to thickened syrup. Once reduced, remove from heat. Keep an eye on it! Once it starts thickening, it goes pretty fast.
  3. While the balsamic is reducing, cut the green tomatoes into fairly thick slices, about ⅓ to ½ inch. Set aside. On this point, please, please, please use green tomatoes. I have learned this through trial and culinary tribulation, y’all. If those to-mates are already turning, just let them be. You want green and firm for this recipe.
  4. In a shallow pan or plate, combine the corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne and smoked paprika.
  5. Spread wax paper on a baking sheet large enough to hold all the tomato slices.
  6. Dredge each tomato slice in the corn meal mixture, being sure to really coat well. Place each slice on the wax paper.
  7. When all the tomato slices are coated, place the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
  8. Place as many prepared slices as will fit in the skillet. Don’t crowd them, as tomatoes – like people – enjoy a little elbow room.
  9. Cook until lightly to medium-ly browned, and then gently turn to the other side. (Medium-ly should be a word, y’all.)
  10. While the tomato slices are frying, chop some basil for sprinkling over your finished product.
  11. Once the tomatoes are cooked on both sides, carefully remove to a plate. You may choose a paper-towel-lined plate, if you wish. I don’t do it this way, because the corn meal tends to stick to the paper. And y’all, I want every little bit of that fried corn meal.
  12. Prepare each stack. Place a slice of cheese – along with some of the inner Burrata cream – on one fried tomato slice, then top the cheese with another fried tomato slice. Repeat until all tomatoes are stacked. (Your “stacks” may be as many as 3 or 4 tomatoes high – it’s up to you.)
  13. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over all the tomato stacks then sprinkle with the chopped, fresh basil. Have some ripe cherry tomatoes on hand? Slice them and toss a few on your plate. You know – for color.
  14. Serve!

 

 

 

Just Be Cool

 

 

Because I live in Los Angeles, driving is part of my reality. And while I do my best to maintain a certain level of calmness while behind the wheel, I have been known to cuss till the angels blush from time to time.

 

Well, this brand-new summer has found me trying something different. I’m endeavoring to chill out a little more when driving. I still get frustrated, mind you, but now I’m saying something else to the other drivers who can’t hear me, no matter how loud I may be. My new mantra is “Just be cool, fool.” It began with me calling everyone “fool.” (Actually, it began with me calling everyone “Dummy,” a la Fred G. Sanford. It then evolved.) So far, I’m staying calmer. I guess it’s working.

 

I can’t fight driving. It’s a necessary evil. And I can’t control bad drivers in the world. But I can control my reactions to them.

 

Hopefully.

Yes, Please

 

 

Having lived all over the United States, I’ve developed affinities for various foods and restaurants. Brunswick Stew in the south. Anything from Snuffer’s in Dallas. Lobster and Chowder in New England. Pizza in St. Louis. White Castle. Culpepper’s. Hardee’s. And about a jillion others I’m simply not remembering.

 

These days, the only way my food memories are brought to life is through travel. When I’m sticking close to home for long stretches of time (which is most of my life), thoughts of those satisfying meals from long ago remain filed away in my brain-hole. But every now and then I hear about a restaurant’s expansion and I get downright giddy.

 

Enter Steak ‘n Shake. The first L.A. outpost of the mid-western chain is coming to Santa Monica and I am super-excited! I don’t expect to hit that joint all the time, but you can bet your bippy I’ll be heading over once in a while.

 

Now, if only White Castle would put down roots on the left coast. Oh well, a girl can dream…

Well That Bites

 

 

Like many in the world, I am, shall we say, dismayed by the behavior of Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez. (For those who don’t know, Suarez has been caught biting an opponent during match play – this is his 3rd offense.) And here’s what I want to know: why do we allow grown bullies to behave like undisciplined 3-year-olds, just because they’re good at their jobs?

 

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of someone getting away with intolerable behavior. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed it up-close. I’ve seen heads of companies turn a blind eye, all for the bottom line. What I don’t get is how those in charge are so blind. How do they not see that condoning bully behavior will eventually result in loss?

 

The bottom line in the World Cup is clearly no different, as Suarez’s behavior is not being condemned by everyone. Some are calling it par for the course. Some are saying this is a non-issue. That camp holds mostly fans, granted, but why? Why is it okay for my guy to be a complete dill-hole, but not yours? Because don’t you just know if the tables were turned, those same “non-issue” people would be having full-blown hissy fits.

 

I am old. I know it and I own it. The Golden Rule was instilled in me and I thank the gods for it. I love operating with that old chestnut in mind. I love practicing empathy. Frankly, I love being able to sleep at night, knowing I’ve done my best during the day. And because I’m old, I also know I don’t want to spend my precious time with folks who don’t choose to do their best each day. Honestly, y’all, life’s just too danged short.

 

I heard a World Cup commentator saying he wondered how Suarez would explain his being banned from playing to his children. I wonder how he’ll explain being a jackass.

D-Squared T-Squared – Week 25

 

 

This week’s “project” ended up being an outing. Mister and I wrangled an invite to a gallery opening.

 

 

We are familiar with the work of Edward Walton Wilcox. We also know the artist (and his family). This dude is usually much darker, and that’s what we’ve come to know and love. So imagine our surprise when we beheld this exhibit’s pieces. They’re so full of light! It’s all clearly Wilcox’s work, mind you, so we didn’t feel any great disconnect. Our minds were just blown – in a good way.

 

 

 

In a smaller space, another artist’s work was being shown. We’d seen Todd Carpenter’s paintings before and the guy just kills us. He somehow manages to paint pieces that look like black and white photos. And the gallery owner told us he never uses brushes. He only uses palette knives and – no joke – credit cards. How he gets such detail out of those tools is beyond me.

 

 

Anyhoo, back to Edward Walton Wilcox. He is an amazing sculptor, as well as a talented painter. He did this little guy a few years ago. It’s about 18 inches tall…

 

 

It was interpreted by John Daniels. Daniels is a master chainsaw sculptor and he did this behemoth 9-foot version of Wilcox’s original…

 

 

Pretty cool, eh? We thought so, too.

 

By the end of the night, we had meet-ed and greeted loads of Hollywood art appreciators. We super-enjoyed the show and the various works of the artists. While this wasn’t a week of creating for us, we did our part to participate in a celebration of creativity. Some might say that doesn’t qualify as a D2T2 project. But it’s our call to make, and we’re saying it’s good. So there.

Wimbledon

 

 

I think I’ve written about my friend Carrie before, and how she’s a tennis judge. She’s worked her way up and down through the years, and is reaping some beautiful benefits.

 

Wimbledon. This is Carrie’s first time working this, the oldest tennis tournament on the planet, and she’s updating some of us as she goes. I just love getting her updates. They’re so full of her typical enthusiasm and positive attitude, as well as details of her time in the UK. Not only does she share tales of her sightseeing, she also gives insight into the job at hand. I don’t know squat about judging tennis. Carrie brings it to life and helps me feel her experience. That’s fun!

 

I have to admit, I mostly love thinking about my friend as she gets to do these wonderful things in life. I guess that’s part of cheering people on, and wanting the best for them. Each time I receive an update from Carrie, I start smiling before reading the first words. That’s called joy, friends, and it’s fabulous.

 

So if your fütbol viewing allows enough time for some tennis, enjoy Wimbledon. And remember this: those judges around the courts are regular folks, just like us. Ain’t that awesome!

Animal

 

 

This weekend Mister and I went out for a danged good meal. We’d heard about “Animal” a few years ago when it opened. Then, during the whole foie gras bullshit that was going on, I remember the restaurant’s owners being quite vocal on the subject (they were against the ban). Listening to those guys during interviews, I really learned a lot about the movement against foie and why the animal-rights folks were so ass-backwards on the subject. I respected those guys and decided I wanted to try their restaurant. Me being me, it only took me 2 years to get there.

 

I’m going to tell you now that I did not take any photos, other than the one above. This was by choice. I wanted to be fully present for the meal and Mister, and I’ve been trying to not dork out so much at restaurants. So far, I’m appreciating my choice.

 

Anyhoo, we didn’t have a rezzie so we were seated at the bar (next to Marc Maron, for those who are into celebrity sightings). Animal is a small plates joint, so we each chose a couple of dishes and ordered everything at once. We savored chicken liver toast, then a gorgeous green garlic caesar salad came out. (We chose that dish because we thought we should order at least one vegetable.) Best salad I’ve had in ages. Next there was a wagyu carpaccio, with slight Asian influences in the dressing and presentation. It was spectacular. The next dish was crispy pig head with rice, “bulldog sauce” and a soy-marinated egg. Just to clarify, it wasn’t an entire pig head. It was the cooked meat from a pig’s head, fried up and beautiful.

 

At that point, I was feeling pretty good. Sharing dishes had left me on the verge of being sated, and not at all stuffed. And that’s when the last dish was placed before us: poutine. For those who don’t know, poutine is basically french fries covered in some sort of gravy with cheese (or cheese curds, for purists). The dish originated in Canada in the 1950s, and yes, it did lead to chili-cheese fries. But make no mistake – these were no mere chili-cheese fries, y’all. This was the most mind-blowing dish of the night for me. In fact, after a single bite, I had to be still for a moment. I sort of zoned out and lost touch with where I was. When I was able to re-connect with my surroundings, I cussed out loud and realized Animal’s poutine would surely be my “last supper” request, should I ever find myself on death row. Mister and I continued to share the poutine and each time I took a bite, I cussed. Couldn’t help it. It was a stunningly impressive dish. Impressive enough to lead me to take the above photo.

 

Before I forget, I want to share something that happened earlier in the meal. To the left of us at the bar were 2 chicks who’d ordered different dishes than us. As they appeared to be food dorks (like us), we chatted about the menu. When those gals had reached their limits with the dishes they’d ordered, they offered their leftovers to us. Now, I have never once had complete strangers offer their food to me at a restaurant. Someone in my group? Sure. But strangers – no. I don’t know what to tell you, other than the truth. We took those leftovers and we ate the heck out of them. It was crazy and cool and weird and wonderful, all at once. Don’t ever think there aren’t amazing people in L.A., because we’ve got ‘em.

 

When all was said and done, Mister and I agreed we’d had a fantastic meal at Animal. Arriving at opening time took care of the lack of rezzie, and the bar was a great place to sit (full menu service there, too). I highly recommend it, and if you’re visiting, maybe plan ahead for this one.

 

And if you order the poutine, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s okay to cuss. It’s that good.

U-S-A!

 

 

I’ve been sharing the details of my World Cup Fever. Today will find me glued to the telly, watching the US team battling Portugal. And cheering.

 

It’s rather exhausting – following all the fütbol action. But Mister made an excellent point when he said how fun it is to be caught up in something along with the rest of the world. And he’s right. The World Cup reminds me I’m part of the global community, and not just the little space I inhabit in L.A.

 

Anyhoo, I’m busy today. So nobody call me.

Muscle Memory

 

 

The other day I needed to get some exercise and opted to tread water. I hadn’t done that in a while, so I set my timer for only 30 minutes. I knew the water would be cool (80 degrees). I braced for the shock and jumped in the deep end of the pool and stayed there. On purpose.

 

I didn’t turn on any music or anything, so it was pretty quiet. As I moved my body against the water’s resistance, my mind drifted back to about a jillion years ago, when I first began treading water for exercise. Mister and I were living in Dallas, near “Snuffer’s” on Lower Greenville. I had made friends with another apartment dweller, a gal named Mindy. She and I would tread water for an hour at a time, a few days a week. I don’t recall who came up with the idea, but it was probably Mindy, as she was always full of great ideas. At that time, Mister had a watch that could be programmed to go off every 5 minutes, for a predetermined duration. Mindy and I would set that watch for an hour, and then we’d switch our leg and arm patterns every 5 minutes. We talked and laughed throughout and before we knew it, the hour would be up. Exercise achieved.

 

After 2 years, Mister and I moved from Dallas to Boston and Mindy moved to west Texas. Mindy and I fell out of touch and I have no idea what her life looks like now, or where she’s planted. That happens, friends.

 

Anyhoo, as I wrapped up my treading session the other day, I smiled to think of Mindy and all she brought to my world. I do hope she’s happy. And if she ever finds herself treading water for exercise and memories of me cross her mind, well, I just hope she smiles. Good times.