Monthly Archives: January 2013

after-meal entertainment (avert your eyes if you don’t like dressing up doggies)

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Oscar in his furry lined all-weather coat, red leash.....

i'm on team "little buddy" (read my t-shirt)

little man-dog Jake in his fleece-lined suede “bob dylan” jacket

my little lambchop in her "sound of music" Austrian felt cape

Since I am loathe to end the delight of dinner, I don’t plan after-meal entertainment; you’ll never hear me say: “Eat up so we can have FUN”! On the other hand, I can’t say that unplanned post-meal entertainments chez moi NEVER happen– ABBA sing-alongs, re-enacting broadway musicals, or the occasional conga line that winds its way around my table, out the door, then through the neighborhood.

So today, when Nigel and Graham came to lunch, it wasn’t as if I had planned a doggy fashion show–what I planned was a delicious menu. Still, once the lightbulb went off in my mind, mid-meal, there was no stopping me.

We sipped Champagne and noshed crisp grissini wrapped with in thinly sliced salami, eggplant roasted with tomatoes and fresh basil was slicked with olive oil, reeking deliciously of garlic. Spears of red endive spears held tarragon chicken salad, cucumber slices were topped with goats cheese and a leaf of fresh mint, and because I can’t entertain without olives, ever, we had a bowl of oil cured black ones.

Taking a Mediterranean turn, i stirred up creamy soupy risotto, with lashings of gorgonzola and handfuls of aromatic Thai basil. So happily unexpected, captivating. Next I brought out a ceramic casserole of tandoori-ish lamb, on a bed of onions, surrounded by spicy meatballs–thats kofta to you and I, and a little a plate of east-west salad leaves lavished with lemon vinaigrette, to brighten up the richness.

Dessert was a frolic of flavor, an array of tiny sweet things: pureed chestnut mousse in espresso cups, mini “Marlena-messes”:broken meringues with whipped cream, frozen blackberries (which i had foraged in the summer and stashed in the deep freeze),with a dusting of lavender sugar. There were teeny baby-scoops sundaes topped with candied ginger and its syrup, and deliciously bitter chocolates to go with the coffee.

But wait: I haven’t yet introduced you to my dogs:Jake, Oscar and Lambchop–three Jack Russells. Jake is my chunky little man of a dog; small but solid–pick him up and he feels like a sack of potatoes. He’d like to get under the right weight for riding in the passenger part of the airplane, but he loves his grub too much. Lambchop, his daughter, is small and wiry: somewhere on her family tree is a Yorkie or chihuahua. A little child admired her recently, saying: “She has girly eyes”: rimmed with black as if eyeliner, dark lashes that frame big brown eyes to melt your heart. Sadly, our Lambchop is resolutely a member of “the bad girls’ club”, taking on the biggest ferocious dogs, growling like a possessed gremlin if anyone tries to take her bone, or refusing to move regardless of coaxing. At puppy class graduation it was recommended that “she could benefit from further training”. Then there is Oscar, a good ol’ boy, at least 16 years old, who we rehomed/rescued last year and are so happy he’s part of our home.

Nigel and Graham were smitten. Somewhere inbetween dessert and the coffee, I thought: “Wow, I wonder……” Then I asked a question that  I never dreamt I’d ask another adult: “Would you like to see Lambchop’s little pink polkadot Barbie bikini, Oscar’s winter cape, and Jakes tiny bomber jacket?” There are those of you who might frown; I worry that I’ll tumble in your esteem. And I can’t imagine that Cesar Millan will approve. But here it is: we had a doggy fashion show.

lambchop all in pink

houndstooth is always so elegrant on a hound!

From the cupboard I shlepped my carrier bag of doggy sweaters, frocks, jackets. Their wardrobe collection began innocently enough when I noticed them shivering. Jakes first sweater I stitched myself, piecing together bits of my husbands cast-offs. It took more time and attention than I cared to lavish, and the fittings weren’t pleasant, involving as they did growling and nipping. The final result may have been warm, but I’m not sure my fellow dog owners (and their dogs!) weren’t laughing at little Jake behind his back.

Searching better-fitting dog gear opened up a Pandora’s box of doggy fashion possibilities. I found fabulous designer doggy duds, at prices that could clear my sinuses; then I discovered that, as with myself, discount shops sell last-seasons styles for a pittance. Even the dollar stores had occasional offerings,and second hand shops proved to be a gold mine.

Like so many things in life, the slippery slope sneaks up–it wasn’t until I found myself carrying a tutu home in a chic little shopping bag– a small pink tutu with a hole for a tail–that I was aware of anything that might be considered….problematic. Soon I was toting home matching faux fur coats, little yellow slickers and rain booties, and tee-shirts emblazed with sports teams. I’ve discovered the worldwide web of canine clothing for outfits such as member of the wedding, santa hats and little black and yellow-striped bee costume for halloween; I decided that owning a red tartan skirt to match your doggies jackets is nothing to be ashamed of.

We sat back, had coffee, and watched our pups redefine the term “catwalk”. In their matching black and white houndstooth vests, parading around the room, changing into the little pink number, the wooley jumper, and the tiny SF Giants tee-shirts.

It all ended in tears, of course. The puppies got overtired and started fighting over frocks, growling, nipping just for the hell of it; I packed up leftovers for Nigel and Graham and sent them on their way. I firmly sent the pups to bed.

Then I put my feet up, and–basking in the post-meal glow–started thinking about my next party: both the menu, and what the dogs were going to wear.

and because the doggies really did, mostly, behave themselves, that is, no lasting damage, i whipped them up a pan of their favourite chicken liver treats. If you add seasoning: salt and pepper, as well as fresh rosemary, they are tasty enough for people to enjoy as well.

Doggy Livercake (with these treats you can get your dog to do ANYTHING, even wear embarassing, cute little outfits).

Yields: several weeks worth of treats

12 oz  chicken livers

1 egg

1/4 -1/2 garlic clove, chopped (i ran it past a veterinarian and dog trainer who approved of this small amount of garlic)

Whole grain flour–I like rye, or buckwheat, or whatever good grain I have on hand–as needed

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a blender or food processor puree the liver until its gooshy, along with the egg and garlic. Slowly add the flour and whirl until it forms a batter-like consistency.

Pour the oil into a baking pan, then add the batter and smooth it evenly. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes–or until the liver is no longer soft and liquidy, ie, it firms up.

Remove from oven; cut into bite size morsels and leave to cool.

Parcel up into freezer bags and stash for treats and training. Once defrosted, a bag will stay good for up to a week according to the dog trainer, but i like to serve them as fresh as i can.

we all have matching tartan coats for walkies,including marlena!

Pickles, but not pickles, yet pickles! redux….

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spicy pickles celery with shreds of tree ear fungus

One of the things i loved most in Taiwan was something i also loved in Beijing, and Japan, and at Danny Bowein’s Mission Chinese Food (sf)…….vegetable pickles! When i came back from japan i brought with me a whole book on japanese pickles as well as a whole suitcase filled with vacuum packed pickles!

To be honest I love pickles everywhere: in Germany I’m the child of sauerkraut, in Poland I was on national television holding a jar of dill pickles saying, i hope fetchingly, “ogorky kishonie” salt-cured pickles, the great grandfather of new york kosher dills!
but anyhow, getting back to asian pickles, because i am in a bit of an asian pickle phase, yet again, one triggered by each time i go to asia….i’m pickling all the time. but little pickles. short lightly brined vegetables, more than long fermented pickles.
Here is last nights pickle of choice, chosen because i got a HUGE bargain on celery heads at the market on New Years Eve and wanted to figure out a way to use it up before it went sad and soggy.

I loved my Taipei inspired pickles last night, so much, that i ate leftovers this morning for brekkie, and tonight am bringnig a jar to friends for dinner. and that means only ONE thing: i’ll have to make another batch which is so easy, no problem. and i’m still the posessor of a large quantity of bargain celery. (Note: its good without the cloud ear fungus, too: i love the fungus’ texture and i had some on hand; if you don’t, omit. the spicy pickled celery is brilliant without, too). (Cloud ear or tree fungus is available in Chinese grocers/food shops; but it dried, whole or already cut in strips.)

Spicy Pickled Celery and Cloud Ear Fungus
Makes quite a bit; lasts prob up to a week in the fridge, leftovers good with everything!

1 big bunch celery, trimmed and cut into diagonal slices
2-3 teaspoons sea salt
2-3 teaspoons sugar
Several big pinches cloud ear/tree fungus strips
1/2-2/3 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon or to taste, chile bean sauce

1. Combine celery with salt and sugar and leave to marinate for 1-2 hours.
2. meanwhile: combine dried cloud ear fungus with warm water to cover. Leave to sit and when soft but still chewy crunchy, drain; about 30 minutes.
3. Pour off and discard the liquid that has accumulated from the celery; combine celery with the vinegar, chile bean paste, and rehydrated fungus. Leave to sit covered in the refridgerator until ready to eat. If it is too sour, add a little water; too bland add a little more vinegar, salt, sugar, or chile bean paste: getting the balance is up to you. When you have it right, you’ll recognize that happy sigh that comes out of your pickle-loving soul.

me in Polish TV saying: ogorkie kishonie!