smoky fish chowder

Terry doesn’t always pay attention when I’m watching one of my DVR’d cooking shows, but when I was watching Sara’s Weeknight Meals, Sara Moulton’s recipe for Smoky Fish Chowder caught her attention. In fact she even made a trip thirty minutes south to get the required smoked trout at Trader Joe’s.

smoky fish chowderOf course I deviated from the recipe as I usually do. I excluded the onions as Terry is allergic. I chopped the celery and potatoes and put them in the saucepan, then covered them with the liquids, rather than the other way around as Sara did. I added granulated onion. I used regular bacon (of the applewood variety) as opposed to Canadian Bacon because I failed to get Canadian Bacon at the store even though it was on my shopping list. I thought the applewood gave the soup a nice taste, though perhaps it fought with the smoked trout for precedence in a way that Canadian Bacon would not have. My version turned out a lot thicker and chunkier than Sara intended, I believe.

I topped my chowder with green onions from Terry’s container garden and I added garlic cheese bread on the side for both of us, not part of Sara’s recipe.

The bottom line, however, is that Terry loved it. That’s what really counts.

the correct priorities

I enjoy the “By the Book” author interviews in the New York Times Book Review. In a recent column writer Ali Smith was asked the following question: “What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?” Her answer:

quoteA first edition of Plath’s (or Victoria Lucas’s) “The Bell Jar.” It’s been well loved in its life, it’s fairly barreled and slopy, and there are the remnants of what looks like Chinese takeaway on some of the pages. But opening that package and finding it there was the closest I suspect I’ll ever come to being given a sports car or a pony.

I really appreciate “finding it there was the closest I suspect I’ll ever come to being given a sports car or a pony.” I might not feel that way about that specific title but there are books about which I might have such a reaction.

I think Ali has her priorities straight.

Sacred Music Friday: We’ve Come This Far By Faith

I’ve shared this before, but it is a favorite.

an old favorite

chicken and nice riceI have been making this dish for many decades. My first wife Ruth, who died suddenly in 1989, introduced me to the basic concept. In fact, I think that I requested she make it so often that it sometimes irked her. But she made it anyway. How closely what she made resembled what I make today I can’t really say after all these years. But her dish was the basis of and inspiration for my current version. I make this dish on a regular basis, varying the spices and the form of bread crumbs that I use. Whatever the variation, Terry always seems to enjoy it.

Fried Breaded Chicken Breast


  • boneless chicken breasts
  • wheat germ
  • bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • spices: granulated onion, granulated garlic, cayenne or chili powder, Italian herbs, freshly ground black pepper


  1. If the chicken breasts are thick, slice horizontally and pound thin. Or buy thin chicken breasts.
  2. Mix the wheat germ and bread crumbs in a large plastic bag. If I have an old loaf of sourdough I like to dry out a slice and granulate it.
  3. Add the spices to the mixture and mix well.
  4. Add the chicken. Shake and coat.
  5. Add olive oil to a frying pan and heat.
  6. Cook the chicken on both sides until done.

Serve with Nice Rice (aka Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild, original recipe).

habits that stick with us

shopping listI was looking at my shopping list the other day and I thought about how habits we acquired long ago continue to stick with us. In particular, I noticed the cross-hatch on my z’s. I thought about where that habit came from.

It came from seventh grade math. Mrs. Proctor was the teacher. We were doing some basic algebra and so our problems included letters as well as numbers. She asked us to cross-hatch our letter z so as to clearly distinguish it from the number 2. I’ve been doing it ever since.

It’s interesting where we pick up these things.

pressure cooker pot roast

pressure cooker pot roastTerry and I enjoy having pot roast on a Sunday every once in a while, as it brings back pleasant childhood memories for both of us. While we grew up with pot roast in the oven, making pot roast in the pressure cooker is simple and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.

Everyone who belongs to Pressure Cooker Recipes on Yahoo! Groups knows about group owner Ray Knapp’s 3 Envelope Pot Roast recipe. It involves 1 packet each of Italian salad dressing mix, ranch salad dressing mix, and brown gravy mix. That combination kicks the sodium level up pretty high, but Ray’s instructions for liquid and timing are spot on. My version follows those instructions.


  • 2 ½ (or so) pound chuck roast
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cooking port or red wine
  • Your favorite meat rub


  1. Cut the roast if necessary to fit into the pressure cooker.
  2. Rub the roast with the meat rub.
  3. Place the rack in the pressure cooker.
  4. Add the water and port or red wine.
  5. Put the roast in the pressure cooker allowing ample room for the steam to rise.
  6. Seal the pressure cooker and set to High for 70 minutes.
  7. Use natural pressure release and serve.

There are dozens of meat rubs out there, and I use different ones at different times. I especially enjoy Jeff Mauro’s Mega Meat Rub, though I tend to dial back on the salt on this one.


The Marriage Plot

Marriage Plot coverThe Marriage Plot: A Novel
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 11, 2011), 417 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $10.62

I am a sucker for college novels, and I loved this one.

The story takes place in the 1980’s, and for the most part is set on the East Coast. The three main characters are students at Brown University. Madeleine is an English major. Mitchell is a religious studies student. Leonard studies philosophy. Mitchell is the good guy who goes on a Razor’s Edge sort of quest after graduation. Leonard is the bad boy, neurotic or perhaps psychotic, and is medicated with Lithium by his doctors.

The novel opens with Madeleine’s father logically laying out the options for him and Madeleine’s mother to attend her graduation ceremony. Close to the end he logically presents presents Madeleine with her options regarding her apparently failed marriage to Leonard. In between the author writes in the third person but gives us the perspectives of each of the three main characters. He jumps backward and forward in time, but in a manner that is engaging and not distracting.

The ending is not a “happily ever after” one but one which makes perfect sense in the context of the novel.

A good read to be sure.

Sacred Music Friday: Lift Every Voice and Sing

The Metropolitan Baptist Church morning hymn on 18 January 2009 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Jason Powell, organ and Steven Allen, piano.

my new fern

I’ve long had a houseplant on the file cabinet between my desk and computer table. Last fall, the old plant we brought down from Gilroy was pretty much on its last legs. There wasn’t much green and it wasn’t growing. We replaced it with a nice full green plant. I really liked it, but this winter we have had an influx of annoying little gnats. The gnats liked the plant and the water in the catch tray at the base of the pot. I hated to exile my plant to the back patio, but it seemed to be a necessity.

fernI asked Terry to get me an artificial fern at Michael’s. I don’t make a habit of sending Terry on my errands, but she is much better at craft things than I am. She came home with a basket, an artificial fern, some additional fern fronds, and a Styrofoam block. She said that she was frustrated and almost gave up, but I told her that she got me exactly what I wanted. Which she did. It needed a little finishing off, so I went back to Michael’s and got some more fern fronds and some artificial moss. The moss made a terrible mess, but once cleaned up I was delighted with the end result.

I’ve always liked ferns and won’t have to worry about keeping this one alive.

appreciating my stove-top pressure cooker

I have two pressure cookers. I have a stove-top Presto which I have had for more than thirty years and a Cuisinart electronic pressure cooker that I have had for a number of years. I use the Cuisinart for meals and the Presto to cook beans for tostadas.

stove top pressure cookerOne day recently I pulled out the Presto to make tostada beans. I couldn’t get it to seal and latch. This distressed me a great deal since I’ve had it for so long. But I needed to get dinner made, so I put the beans in the Cuisinart. The beans turned out fine, and Terry discovered that my Presto was fine. I was simply having a senior moment. I had the lid to the left of the handle and was turning right. I needed to be to the right of the handle and turn left.

I’m glad the Presto is fine. As Terry has said, the jiggle of the weight on the release valve while the cooker is up to pressure is a comforting, reassuring sound.

I guess I need to pull out the Presto more.