Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Catch it if you can

I just got back from seeing a powerful, harrowing, and brilliantly acted play, Groundswell--you should see it, too, if you can. It's a political and psychological thriller set in the new South Africa, involving a black gardener who's the temporary manager of a seaside guesthouse; his unlikely friend, a former policeman of Afrikaner descent; and a white businessman of British descent who's spending the night in the guesthouse.

It closes Saturday, June 27. You can probably get discount tickets through TDF.

New Group, 410 W. 42 St.
tickets: 212/279-4200 or

Monday, June 22, 2009

Messing with a Classic, Part I

I grew up eating Hellman's mayonnaise in or on many things--it was my family's dressing of choice for artichokes and asparagus. Recently Jim bought a jar of Hellman's that boasted olive oil as an ingredient. Oh, goody, I thought--it'll be even better. Boy, was I wrong!

Unfortunately, besides olive oil, this new Hellman's contains, of all things, sugar. Sugar in mayonnaise??? Sure, if you like it in scrambled eggs or you're a fan of Miracle Whip.

I'm now wondering whether the original Hellman's exists anymore. Luckily the Trader Joe's organic mayonnaise I bought recently is a good subsitute. No olive oil, but no sugar either. I'm about to eat some on broccoli.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to gain weight on a 50 mile bike ride

Actually, I can't prove I did--don't have a scale and didn't weigh myself before or after the North Fork Century last weekend. But I feel heavier, maybe by a pound or two, or at least by the weight of two slices of pie.

Briermere Farms of Riverhead provided pies at the second rest stop of the metric century route, where I ate those slices--first a huge piece of blackberry with a modest amount of whipped cream, and then raspberry, almost as big. The crusts were thin, dark, and crisp; the fillings fragrant, delicious, and not too sweet.

Before Pie: Christine and Kathryn
(photo by Jim

After polishing off the raspberry, I was tempted to taste yet another--apple, raspberry-cherry, strawberry, blueberry--but contented myself instead with fantasizing about pie-eating contests. After all, I'd just eaten a third of a large pie, and it wasn't even Thanksgiving.

What I'd already had that day: for breakfast: a small slice of coffee cake, small pastry, half a bagel with cream cheese, coffee; at the first rest stop at the Harbes vineyard: a half-piece of pita with humus, a cupful of mixed nuts, good handfuls of strawberries and cherries, a small handful of blueberries, a miniature Larabar, a couple of pieces of candy, and probably more I've forgotten.

At the end of the ride, I had a hot dog, a veggie burger, an ear of corn, a can of Sprite, and a vanilla chocolate-dipped cone from the Mister Softee truck. Back home that evening, Jim and I ate some taramosalata with Afghan bread, cheese, and leftover greens and drank white wine we'd bought at a North Shore vineyard the day before the ride.

So maybe it wasn't just the pie that added the ounces. And maybe if I'd actually finished the metric century I'd planned to (Jim was the only one of the four of us who actually did), I'd have at least the illusion that I'd lost weight--unless I'd eaten too much of the foccaccia that Jim enjoyed at the tasting of Harbes wines at the final rest stop.

After Pie: Mitch, Christine, and Kathryn (photo by Jim)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Main Soup

Years later, I can't remember where I got The Black African Cookbook-- flea market, used book store?--but one Christmas or summer visit, I gave it to my sister Kristine and brother-in-law, John.

After thumbing through it, we decided to try a couple of recipes--injera and Sambhar Soup. They were both terrific, and the soup soon became one of my staples. It's the soup I've cooked most often ever since, and one of the few recipes I actually copied into the little loose leaf recipe book my other sister, Joanne, gave me. Its page has long been covered with soup stains, but by now I know it by heart:

Sambhar Soup

1 c lentils or split peas
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 bell pepper chopped (I often use poblanos)
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 qts water
3 tsps curry powder (I'm guessing they call for tsps rather than 1 tb because a teaspoon will fit more easily into the typical spice jar)
1/2 c tomato sauce (I sometimes use tomatoes or just omit; last time I made it, I added the tomato juice I'd drained from a can of Italian plum tomatoes when making puttanesca sauce)
3 tsp salt (I usually don't salt it)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp dry mustard
juice of 2 lemons (most of the time I just use 1)
coriander chopped (I usually omit)

Drain lentils. Put lentils, onions, pepper, potatoes,
and water into deep soup pot and bring to a boil. Stir
well. Turn down heat, cover, and simmer till vegetables are

Put through a strainer or food-mill (I've never done this; the first time we made it, we looked, tasted, and agreed it was just fine as is), then back into pot.

Add tomato, spices, and lemon. Simmer for 10 minutes.

If you'd like to get the lovely little cookbook this comes from, good luck. And let me know if you find it. I've tried Amazon, Powell's, and Google--long out of print, I'm guessing.

Searching for the soup online, I learned that it's actually South Indian--but then there are many South Africans with roots there.