Monday, June 28, 2010

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

I wanted to share a recipe I prepared yesterday for a summer picnic dinner party, as a few people asked me how you make "grilled" ratatouille. It's really tasty and has earned its place our favorite summer company dish. Don't be too worried about over-grilling. Deeply browned veggies make for a very rich, smoky flavor. This pairs well with a hearty red country French wine like Clos La Coutale Cahors. Bon Appetit!

Grilled Ratatouille Salad

Adapted from Vegetarian Celebrations by Nava Atlas
(6 to 8 servings)

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)

2 medium onions

1 medium or 2 small zucchini (1/2 pound total)

1 large red pepper

Olive Oil-Lemon Marinade (see below)

1 large ripe tomato, diced

1/4 cup chopped black olives

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

About 2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 lb. crumbly goat cheese such as Bucheron

Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices. Salt the slices and place in a colander for 30 minutes, then rinse and drain. Peel the onions and cut in half; pierce with a skewer or toothpicks if they’re falling apart. Steam or microwave until just tender. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise.

Prepare grill. Brush the vegetables lightly with Olive Oil-Lemon Marinade. Grill the eggplant on both sides until nicely browned and quite tender, about 15 minutes total. Grill the onions and zucchini on both sides until marked with brown and tender, about 10 to 15 minutes total. Place the bell pepper directly on the grill and turn frequently, allowing all sides to get charred. Remove and place in a paper bag to steam.

When all the vegetables are cool enough to handle, chop into fairly large chunks and combine in a serving bowl. Slip the skin off the pepper, then remove the core and seeds. Cut into small squares.
Stir in the tomato, olives, and herbs. Add just enough olive oil to make the salad glisten. Add the vinegar and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, sprinkle the top with crumbled goat cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Olive Oil-Lemon Marinade

1/3 cup of olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon dried lemon thyme or regular thyme or better still some chopped fresh

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in a small container. When brushing on the vegetables, swirl the mixture around with the brush often to keep the oil and lemon combined.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Conversing with Your Hips

Life slows down in the summer, but this month has been pretty hot on the short story front. Some new ones written, some finished ones accepted for publication, and the sweetest treat of all, a few old favorites released to a wider audience online. Today my story "Yes, Master" appears at The Erotic Woman, a fantastic erotica site that frequently publishes all my favorite writers like Craig Sorensen, Emerald, Heidi Champa, Jeremy Edwards, Susan DiPlacido, and more, baby.

"Yes, Master" originally appeared in print in Pleasure Bound, edited by Alison Tyler, and I spoke a bit about the allure of genie power when the story made its debut. Today I wanted to share an excerpt that contains my secret favorite part of the story. I always have a special little sensitive spot in each story that is not the most sexually explicit area (usually), but that nonetheless expresses a truth about my experience. In this story, the truth has to do with missionary position sex, more specifically, how I came to appreciate the potential of this symbolically fraught variation of amour.

Hmm, maybe this is too much information, but back in my dewy youth, woman-on-top sex was an immediate favorite with me because I could control things: the angle, the pace, well, everything. When I was on the bottom, the parts didn't naturally fit together as well and so I came to think of it as a "for him" part of the experience. I didn't even really try to make it work for me. But then, one day--or was it a night?--during a slow, leisurely, summer-style encounter, I started working it from the bottom the way I liked it. My partner (you can probably guess who that is, but I'm trying to be discreet here) responded in kind and it became a kind of conversation, just as I describe below. When you talk and listen with sensitivity--with ears, lips, and other parts of the body, too--you can learn some very interesting things.

So here's my secret favorite part of the story--but please don't tell anyone! And you can check out the rest of the conversation at The Erotic Woman (vote and comment, if you're so inspired!)

An Excerpt from "Yes, Master":

It might look like I fucked Tony Rossi from Product Development on our first date, but it was more complicated than that. We’d been having lunch together for months and flirted pretty heavily through several happy hours when he finally asked me out on an “official” date to see a play in late October. We had such a good time we ended the evening naked in his bed—no surprise for two people who’ve been attracted to each other for some time. Except for one thing.

After we were both hot and ready, Tony rolled on top of me, and I thought, okay, I’ll endure this for a while and then show him how I can actually get off. But as he started moving this way and that, it actually started to feel…good. Very good. It’s as if we were having this little conversation with our hips. He’d ask a question, slowly, teasingly. I’d reply with all the right answers, and damn if it wasn’t feeling better and better as our lower regions discovered all sorts of things about each other. Until, surprise of all surprises, I was coming, just from old-fashioned missionary-style fucking alone.

I had to see if it was a one-time fluke, so after a reasonable breather, I pulled Tony on top of me again.

Ten condoms and a half-dozen positions later, it was Sunday afternoon and we still hadn’t gotten out of bed except to make some coffee and pay the pizza delivery guy. Tony seemed as enchanted as I was.

Unfortunately, reality intervened and he told me he had an early flight on Monday and would be in Pasadena all week on business. However he was anxious to know if I was free the following Saturday.

“Sorry, I’m going to Dana’s Halloween party. You know Dana in Marketing, right?” Smitten as I was, I had a strict policy not to stiff my women friends for any guy.

“I was invited, but I was going to blow it off.” He smiled. “Do you have your costume yet?"

“I’m going as Jeannie, you know, from that old TV show.” I sat up, folded my arms and did my best imitation of a Jeannie nod. “Yes, Master, you called?” I gave Tony a look that promised everything. “Sure you can’t make it?”

His eyes twinkled. “I’ll be there.”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

18 and Naked

Today at F-Stop, Kirsty Logan takes on the writer's--no, really our human--urge for attention, the desire to be seen and appreciated. At 18, Kirsty posed nude for a series of amateur photographers. At 26, she looks back on those days, her motivations and her decision to reveal the fact that because of these images floating around in the ether, an educated, articulate writer is literally "naked on the Internet." It's thought-provoking, poignantly familiar, and ultimately inspiring--the perfect read for a Sunday morning. I highly recommend her very moving essay at The Rumpus as well, the perfect companion piece (and a big splash of cold water if you've ever romanticized the job of artist's model). Oh, and great tattoos--wings to fly!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Chemistry of Collaboration

Bare naked fiction and nonfiction writing, editing a hot anthology, making a sexy book trailer, posing for a luscious boudoir session--today at F-stop we'll get a peek at the secrets of all of these creative endeavors as noted writer, editor and blogger Rachel Kramer Bussel stops by for a revealing interview. I know I keep saying this, but those gorgeous boudoir photos make me want to hop the next Jet Blue flight to New York for a session with Laura Boyd. Or maybe I just need a new black satin corset for my collection? Too bad my birthday is six months away.... But don't take my word for it, head on over to F-Stop on this soft summer Sunday and give your eyes a treat!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The "Red Dress" Anniversary

Herr Doktor and I celebrated our twenty-third wedding anniversary on Sunday, and while our wedding was truly a fantastically fun weekend-long party, so many years later we had a very fine time just hanging out and going out to dinner. We went to a place called Bay Wolf (yep, a cute literary pun), one of the earliest temples to California cuisine that is still going strong.

Since this blog is about food, too, it's time for some menu porn. I started with roasted beet salad with feta and almonds and Herr Doktor had the fresh pea soup with mint, both quite toothsome. We both chose the same main course--gnocchi with mushrooms, peas and tarragon--and that was even better, especially with a nice glass of Gigondas. I'm always surprised how meaty and complex a sauteed mushroom can be, the essence of the fifth important taste "umami" (a Japanese word meaning delicious, but the scientific sense of the word is a kind of protein-rich full-bodied flavor). The gnocchi were almost fluffy and the sauce--well, you just wanted to mop it up with your baguette, it was that good. Just when I was expecting it couldn't get any better, out came the dessert course and this, naturally, deserves its very own paragraph.

Being a chocolate lover, Herr Doktor could not resist the chocolate souffle cake, while I gave in to the seductive call of the sticky toffee pudding with caramel ice cream. Can you say decadent? As good as they sounded on paper, the reality induced soft, restrained moans of delight. The chocolate cake looked like one of those flourless torte things that are so ubiquitous as to be passe, but the texture was truly heavenly in its lightness and the flavor so rich and well, chocolaty. I would have been jealous, but my sticky toffee pudding (doesn't that just sound kinda kinky?) was so amazingly complex and transcendental. The presentation was imposing--a small dome-shaped cake with caramel sauce and a scoop of golden ice cream--and I momentarily regretted my decision because it looked like such a heavy dessert. But one bit of the cake and I was in heaven. The texture was airy, not steamed-pudding dense as I expected, and the flavors blossomed into a symphony of brown sugar, butter and subtle spice. So, like our marriage, the meal just got better and better.

One question remains, however. (And yes, as you see in this photo, my house is a total mess!) If the first anniversary is paper, the twenty-fifth silver and the fiftieth gold, what is the twenty-third anniversary? Officially probably something like "teak ware" for traditionalists or "software updates" for the modern crowd, but since I got to wear my new red dress again, I'm calling it the "Red Dress" anniversary, a bit of a pun, too, in that after such a long stretch there may be a bit of redressing to be done in any couple's relationship, but the result, so silky, smooth and sweet, makes it all worthwhile.

Hope you all had a relaxing "door into summer" holiday!