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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ziryab! King of Carmelized Tomatoes! (and the joy and wonder which is Kimmy LaKim).

Today's posting is from my dear friend, Kimmy LaKim. Kimmy LaKim lives in a small town in Conneticut. She owns the infamous Kimmy LaKim Film and TV production company, Streetwise Pictures based in NYC and is a spirit of great love and generosity. I adore Kimmy LaKim.

See her here:

And I can't stop writing her name. Kimmy LaKim, Kimmy LaKim, Kimmy LaKim.

Kimmy LaKim is not her birth name. Her birth name is Kim Jackson (if you're nasty) but I feel, very strongly, she must change it to the aforementioned Kimmy LaKim.

She is my guest blogger today. Here is the wild, beautiful, sexy, amazing, sublime Goddess who is truly one of the best friends I could ever hope for in this life.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Kim Jackson's take on the famous Persian chef Ziryab's "Chicken with Caramelized Tomatoes"!

Take it away, Kimmy LaKim!

I know. She's fucking hot, right?

Here is Kim in her own words:

Ziryab's real name was Abu l-Hasan 'Ali Ibn Nafi'. He was a Persian man who lived from 789-857. It was said that he was given the name Ziryab because of his dark complexion, eloquence and melodious voice. Oooh, doesn't he sound yummy, a tall dark man with a voice like chocolate cream pie....

The eclectic nature of Ziryab’s accomplishments include music, fashion and cuisine. He was a truly a Persian renaissance man and was well versed in many areas of classical study such as astronomy, history, and geography.

He is also known to have invented an early toothpaste and under-arm deodorants and new short hairstyles leaving the neck, ears and eyebrows free, as well as shaving for men. Well, now we're talking...who doesn't love a clean shaven man?

So did this guy cook!??? Yes, not only did he cook but he introducing new fruit and vegetables such as asparagus, and introduced the three-course meal, insisting that meals should be served in three separate courses consisting of soup, the main course, and dessert.

He also introduced the use of crystal as a container for drinks, which was more effective than metal goblets. Prior to his arrival in al-Andalus in 822, there had been no style in food presentation since the Roman Empire. Food was served plainly on platters on bare tables, much as remains the "traditional" style in the middle east to this day. Barbarians!

Ziryab brought with him many dishes from Baghdad, (including the Chicken with Caramelized Tomatoes recipe), introduced fine tablecloths and glassware instead of metal goblets, and developed a new order of service for the table.

This "more elegant, better-bred and modern style" became established in al-Andalus, thence spread across the Pyrenees to Europe, and became the standard service we still use today.

Ziryab changed that....OK, only a gay man has that much passion! It God love Ziryab and thank you for all you did in the name of culture and cuisine.

Tell us more, Kim! How fascinating!

Chicken with Caramelized Tomatoes
Djej b-matisha

Serves 4

4 1/2 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 large chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic chopped
3 tbsp honey
8 tbsp butter
1 cup toasted blanched almonds
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. saffron
1 tsp. cinnamon powder

In a heavy pot, place the chicken, tomatoes, butter, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, ginger, saffron, and 1 cup of water. Cook over medium heat for 45 minutes.

Remove the pieces of chicken from the pot, as soon as they are cooked.

Caramelize the tomatoes by stirring them frequently and then add the honey and cinnamon, still stirring.

Place the chicken back in the pot for a few minutes, to give it the flavor of the sauce.

Arrange the chicken in an attractive serving dish, pour the sauce over it, and top with toasted almonds and sesame seeds.

So, I made this dish a few nights ago with all the tomatoes from our "garden" on the balcony of our fabulous beach pad that we fondly call the Pirates Den. I was specifically looking for a recipe for these tomatoes, because they've started going red and I can't keep up with them!!!

I did not use 4 pounds of tomatoes and also did not peel them (which I now recommend) because we have Roma tomatoes and they are smallish and if I seeded them and peeled them, there would be nothing left. But the sauce still came out good, but I'm looking forward to making this again using the right amount and type of tomatoes.

Now, the garlic was not in the ingredients list, but was listed in the first line of the directions (I love how precise they are), so I just added 2-3 cloves of garlic chopped, because I love garlic. It could not really be tasted because the saffron flavor was very strong...and can be overpowering, so I'd use this sparingly, to taste!

The sauce is very decadent, so I also made some brown rice and added chopped fresh prunes (another Persian favorite), basil and salt while it was boiling. You can make any kind of rice, but I do recommend some kind of side dish to soak up that fabulous sauce!

What I love about this recipe is that it's very easy and it feels so good to be cooking it. I felt very connected to ancient Persia and to this interestingly fearless man, Ziryab. I felt romantic and creative (even though it was someone else's recipe). What a simple pleasure. I love exploring Middle Eastern cuisine and learning more about the culture and origin of the people through their food!


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

5 Minute Chicken Persillade!

Some of my favorite food memories are of a trip my hubby and I took to Paris a few years ago. The food was as everyone said - magnifique! French cuisine is very simple and elegant. If you use a few very simple ingredients and you use them sparingly, you can have a wonderfully French tasting dish on the table in moments!

It is true a lot of French cooking involves butter and oil, but if it really were as fattening as American's belabor it as being, why are the French so much skinnier than American's? The answer is obvious!

They eat in much smaller amounts and don't gorge like we tend to do.

A small bit of Dijon mustard, one tablespoon of pure, creamy, unsalted European butter, one or two tablespoons of rich olive oil, just a few slivers of tangy Gruyère cheese is all one needs to have a splendid meal.

Julia Child and James Beard got this and clearly so does one of my idols, Jacques Pepin.

But using Gruyère cheese! Oh, my! It's so controversial!

The cow's milk cheese is named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland, and originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne. Before 2001, when Gruyère gained Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status as a Swiss cheese, there was controversy whether French cheeses of a similar nature could also be labeled Gruyère. (French Gruyère-style cheeses include Comté and Beaufort.)

French Gruyère-style cheeses must have holes according to French agricultural law, whereas Swiss Gruyère is a solid cheese with no holes.

Gruyère is sweet and has a delightful and nutty flavor. A bit salty. Very creamy when it's very young and as it ages, more assertive, earthy, and complex. Sounds like me!

This dish is an American version of Chicken Persillade, which is simply parsley chopped together with seasonings including garlic, herbs, oil, and vinegar.

The simplest and most common form is parsley and garlic and is often one part of a cooks mise en place, meaning 'everything in place' or the entire set up of a meal.

If added early in cooking, it becomes mellow; but when it is added at the end of cooking or as a garnish, it provides a smooth jolt, which is exactly what we are doing here.

Many cooks used this with only garlic and oil, but I like to add a tiny bit of butter and a large shallot to make it more of a simple dressing.

It literally takes 5 minutes and you are ready to eat! I can't stand to use the oven on hot days. It's barberic.

According to a simple search on the Internet, I am told it is is extensively used in French cuisine and Greek cuisine, as well as in Cajun cuisine, Louisiana Creole cuisine, and the cuisine of Quebec.

I have yet to cook Quebec cuisine but don't put it past me!



But a plump organic rotisserie chicken at the supermarket. If you can only get Perdue or some such, that's fine. Try to avoid one labeled barbecue or lemon seasoning. They have been brined to the point of no return and are much too salty!

I prefer a bird about 4 pounds for 4 meals; one pound of meat per person.

Now, you can simply cut it and put it over greens, but then you have the fatty skin which, while tasty, can be a bit heavy with the accompanying persillade.

I shred the meat off of the chicken and put it in a bowl. Don't throw out the plastic container the chicken came in. Those juices will come in handy later.

Over a head of Boston lettuce (wonderfully meaty, buttery and herb tasting green; try it instead of mixed greens or Romaine) spread over four plates, sprinkle the meat so it is evenly distributed.

Sliced up a handful of fresh, summer radishes and put them on the side of the plate.

Tear up one baguette into large, bite size pieces over the chicken over the four plates. Pepper everything lightly.

Dice up a few strips of Gruyère cheese over the mixture and then get ready to make the very quick, simple persillade.

Now add 3 tablespoons good-quality extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon unsalted European style butter to a small pan over medium heat until the butter stop bubbling (this tells you when its hot enough)...add one large shallot diced very small, one small head of garlic and cook for 30 seconds and then add 4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley and the juices from the container the bird came.

Immediately dribble the wonderfully aromatic mixture over the chicken, bread and greens mixture and serve. Add pepper as needed.

A delightful and tasty French meal for a hot August day!

Bon Appétit!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Great Midtown Indian Food - AGAIN!

Painting by Harish Johari showing Ram and Lakshman waiting in the forest at the arrival of a a fierce storm coming.

I'm not sure what the hell is going on with me and Indian food right now, but I'm absolutely MAD over it. I'm sure it's all being influenced by my daily meditation practice and obsessive reading on Buddhism as a way to understand my life. But Indian culture and cuisine feels so right to me.

Andrew and I had a sublime and inexpensive Indian feast yesterday in midtown I knew I had to blog about. The sublime restaurant is called:

It's called Minar and they have two locations. One in Midtown on 31st (where we went) and one on 45th.

Here is their link:

For under $20, Andy and I both had a great selection of three vegetarian dishes and a giant serving of rice with a side Snapple. The restaurant could use a major decor overall, my goodness it was a bit rundown, but the food was sublime! Where in Manhattan can you spend less than $20 for two people for a very filling and very, very tasty Indian meal filled with aromatic curry, jasmine, homemade Indian cheese, savory French yellow lentils and decedent chick peas marinated in cardamon and cinnamon?

Cinnamon is very common in Indian cuisine and so very good for you. It's s a valuable medicinal herb. As a circulatory tonic, cinnamon is the perfect flavor for winter to help warm cold hands and feet and get the blood flowing on chilly winter mornings. Studies have shown that the mere scent of cinnamon can increase alertness and mental function, helping to improve memory, coordination, recognition, and attention.

According to one study, using just 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help lower high blood cholesterol and glucose levels, minimizing your risk of type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Some research has shown that cinnamon protects against thrush and can be useful in preventing stomach ulcers.

In my minimal research, it seems Indian cuisine is also called "Ayurvedic Cooking." There is a great man who passed, Harish Johari, who talked much about the emotional and spiritual connection to food inherent in much of Indian's cuisine.

Read on. Pretty cool stuff:

"Harish Johari...

Food is the first essential part of our life, annamayi kosha. The first stage of realization of the nature of reality involves understanding our relationship with food.

Without food, prana (breath) will not work, nor manas (mind), nor jnana (intelligence). Psychic make-up depends upon body chemistry and body chemistry is directly influenced by food input. Food is not just fuel for our bodies - it is as much alive as we are.

Food is also a medium through which one person's feelings can be transferred to another. In our country we say that food prepared by one's mother can satisfy the child more than the same food prepared by another. Certain foods will create a particular consciousness and another's consciousness can be transferred through prepared food. The body has both the physiological side and the emotional side and food affects both.

If you eat saffron yoghurt for a few days you will feel happy. Whenever I have groups of 20 or 30 people in a workshop, I use fenugreek because it is a regenerator. It also gives inspiration and joy. I can prepare food of such type that upon taking it a man will run like a horse for sex (uh, no comment). Or I can cook food such that upon eating it one will feel calm and become quiet.

This is all a question of knowing the art of spicing. Some spices are hot, while some have a cooling effect upon the body. One must know how to mix them properly to cause different effects. Spices are very important. After all, if it weren't for spices, America might never have been discovered."

I can see why I'm attracted to Indian cuisine. The sensation of the curry and the cayenne and cinnamon is intoxicating. I am a meat eater born and raised in America but something happens to me when I eat Indian cuisine. I never, ever miss the meat because the spices are so filled with emotion and flavor, the meat actually detracts from the taste. Amazing, stuff.

In the coming weeks, more meatless Indian recipes to make you very happy.

Go to Miran if you are in town. You will love it.

Here is Andy at the start of our meal:

And here is my content Buddha afterwards:

Namiste to all!


Mikey - Your Food Therapist

Thursday, August 13, 2009

15-Minute Tasty Spanish Meal for Carnivors and Vegetarians alike!






This meal has plenty of cayenne pepper and paprika, two spices know for improving circulation and treating pain. Both also can help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some swear that it improves overall health, reducing arthritic pain, boosting immunity, and curing colds. Talk about a FOOD FOR MOOD food!

Also, almonds (like walnuts) are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a type of fat that's needed for brain cells and mood-lifting neurotransmitters to help life depression!

(thanks to my amazing sister for 'food for mood' scientific data!)


At least once a week, my hubby and I argue over the time it takes me to cook dinner. He wants it to be ready RIGHT NOW and I want to enjoy the process of cooking and subsequent blogging. I think a lot of it has to do with our incredible work load outside of our home life and how we get up every day @ 5:45AM for our daily morning workouts. The gym. God.

He was in Florida recently visiting his BFF. His BFF, a wonderful and truly sweet man also named Andrew, hates cooking. His idea of dinner is pre-cooked chicken tossed over a bag of lettuce with some microwaved vegetables. I always give him a bad time, as he does about my obsessive need to cook nearly every day.

Now, I DO get how wonderfully convenient his method of 'cooking' is. I do. No cooking, no clean-up, no fuss, no muss and...not taste. That really is the only reason I can't eat like that. We have to eat every_single_day, so why make the meal watery and bland? Food is not about feeding our body. It's feeding our SOUL. Eating is, in itself, an act of loving ourselves. We eat because we enjoy eating. We eat in moderation to take care of ourselves. We eat good tasting food because every moment is worthwhile, so why eat bland lettuce and rubbery chicken?

We need taste, we need sensation.

And we really, REALLY don't need microwaved vegetables. Oh_my_God. Are you fucking kidding me?

But I get how we are all in a hurry. I know I am. And when it's hot and sticky, turn the oven on and I'll throw you inside of it. Skillet meals are the way to go!

This meal is easy, tasty, spicy and simple, simple, simple. It really is only 15 minutes. You use spicy, pre-cooked sausage, add some fresh veggies, use a surprising twist with the almonds (or walnuts or cashews, whatever you have around), toss in some bread, cayenne pepper, pepper, NO SALT, serve up and DINNER IS SERVED. This is GREAT for left-overs as well.

Serving size: 4 servings

  • One package Chorzio sausage, (4 links for 2 meals for two people - one link per person)*
  • One large yellow Holland pepper
  • One large red Holland pepper
  • 2 large pounds asparagus, make sure the 'heads' are tight and full - look for any dark spots, trimmed of stalks**
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 cup dry roasted almonds, walnuts or cashews are great as well
  • 1/2 tablespoon very hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large, fresh, French white bread baguette, cut into 1/2 inch cubes for the saute and slices to serve with the meal
* Chorzio sausage is a cured meat. It is made by chopping or grinding the pork and “marinating” it in spices. Spanish paprika (sweet or spicy) is the spice which is gives Chorizo its characteristic flavor and distinguishes it from other sausages. In America, many people are familiar with the Mexican or Caribbean Chorizo, both of which are very different from the Spanish sausage in both taste and appearance, so look for SPANISH Chorzio with spicy paprika as the main marinade. It will say so on the package. You can easily make this vegeterian by substituting Tofu spicy dogs.

**Asparagus is finicky in the fridge. When you get it home, cut 1/4 an inch from the bottom and submerge the base in a big cup of water, cover it up with a tiny plastic bag and put in fridge until ready to use. It will dry out if you don't do this.

There are also many varied opinions on the cooking of asparagus stalks. I hate to say it, but I cut them off. I know...lazy and dull. But peeling each one is an option and I have done it, but prefer to trim the bottom 1/2 inch off, personally, or it's too tough.


Prep by getting all of your ingredients ready beforehand. This cooks very fast and you pretty much throw it all into the pan, so prep is essential.

Throw all of this into a big ass bowl:
  • Cut up your sausage into small, 1/2 inch discs. You can leave the pork casing on; it's fine to cook with.
  • Dice up your peppers into long, thin strips.
  • Dice up your asparagus into 2 inch strips.
  • Dice up the onion. Add the almonds, red pepper flakes and half of the baguette cut into 1/2 inch cubes (or torn, ala Jamie Oliver style if you wish).
  • Heat up the oil in a NON-STICK and NON-REACTIVE pan if you have it. Reason being it will make the food brown nicely.
  • When the oil just starts to smoke add all of the ingredients, cover with a tight fitting lid, and leave it alone, stirring every 2-3 minutes to make sure it doesn't burn.
  • After 12 -13 minutes, take off heat and serve with torn baguette pieces.
Salt and pepper - TASTY!!!

A toast to a great time of year - late August summer days.


Mikey Bryan

Your Food Therapist

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie/Julia VARIETY posting...very fun...

Crafty culinary work on 'Julia' set
Food presents unique challenges for crew

Food plays a major role in some films. It looks appetizing in pics like "Fried Green Tomatoes" and "Chocolat." In others, like "Fast Food Nation" and "Supersize Me," it is cast as a villain.

But in "Julie & Julia," food is a more complicated character. From the early scene of sole sizzling in butter that greets Julia Child in mid-20th century Paris to the dishes at the candle-lit dinner on Julie Powell's Queens rooftop near the film's end, food pleases palates, launches careers and strengthens the bonds of marriage.

For the craftspeople working on the film, shot mostly at Silvercup Studios in Queens, food's sheer importance presented unique challenges.

"The food had its own presence," says production designer Mark Ricker. "I had to provide a foundation for it. I designed the kitchens to be as usable as possible in order to support the food itself."

In researching the portions of "Julie & Julia" set in Paris, Ricker found detailed photos of the kitchens where Child, played by Meryl Streep, practiced her cooking. To re-create the Queens home of Powell, played by Amy Adams, Ricker visited Powell's old apartment.

Once he finished the sets for the aspiring chefs to work their magic, Ricker says he "stayed out of the way" and let other members of the crew do their thing.

Prop master Diana Burton, who was in charge of everything from Le Creuset pots to silverware, "was the glue that held it all together," says Ricker. "She made sure everything was right for the proper presentation of the food."

Other collaborators included consulting food stylist Susan Spungen, formerly food editor at Martha Stewart Living, and Colin Flynn, who has the unique film credit of executive chef.

Spungen helped the filmmakers achieve verisimilitude. "If it didn't look right when they sharpened a knife, I would say, 'hold it like this.'"

And the food itself had to meet standards of believability. "My job is not making food look good but making it look delicious," says Spungen. Julie was allowed to make mistakes. "She's a home cook, still learning. We didn't want things to look too good, and we did a lot of messing up in the kitchen to make it look real."

My sister has been bitten by the spicy NYC Indian Food Bug

You all MUST check out my sister's new blog posting on her wonderfully inspired blog, JOYFUL.

She has been bitten by the Indian food bug when I took her to the sublime Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights, NY (in glamorous Queens).

Check her out! She's cooking Indian ALL OF AUGUST! And so can you...follow her directions and she'll tell you how to make it and were to buy it.



Monday, August 10, 2009

My Sister, NYC and Food

"When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too."

"Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us."

Pema Chodron "When Things Fall Apart"

My sister from Maine was in town over the weekend. We had a wonderful time, and of course, much of the visit was about food and the various obstacles we both are facing in life. She is living a fairly uneventful day-to-day life right now.

Me? Not so much.

My therapist told me to read Pema Chodron's book "When Things Fall Apart". Ominous title, huh? My therapist is a Buddhist and a wonderful man. He and I think alike. Of course, I already have the book in my private library. On the train today, I was read the first three chapters and came across the quotes above.

The idea in the book is when we are faced with extreme situations, we need to celebrate and dive into these moments to find true enlightenment and awareness. As humans, we intuitively jump away from conflict or 'problems'. We want everything to be smooth and easy going. But when we do we deprive ourselves of valuable lessons.

I know I've had my share of avoidance. When life becomes painful or extremely difficult (as it has been of late), I wanna pour myself glass after glass of box wine on a Tuesday night and float away from the present moment and into a state of nothingness. I have to remind myself my shit will be there on Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night. I have a choice like all of us have a choice. I can live my life in the present, take action and keep moving forward despite how uncertain and shaky I feel, or I can join the millions of others and drink and smoke and Botox and buy my way into avoidance.

But I know that's not the answer. It really, really sucks when you are aware of what you need to do and it really, REALLY fucking sucks when you simply cannot allow yourself to behave the way you once did to avoid the great lessons which come from enduring and living through life's inevitable pain.

We can open up or we can shut down when we are brought to the edge in life. It's our choice. The key is to stay open, receptive and present during the most trying times of our lives, because there is where the truth of our lives lies.

Pain in the ass, but it's the the right way to live.

I'm turning 45 in 2 weeks. My life is, probably, half over. I'm at a mid-point and as a spiritual warrior, I am always on the hunt to understand life. The way to understand is to be open and present for this moment. It's all we've got.

Jesus - on the one hand I feel like I sound like a tripped out hippie from a bad Oliver Stone movie, but on the other I feel I make sense in some fucked up way.

I can just hear Dennis Hopper saying this line - "Life is a fucking trip, man, it's a fucking trip and all you can do sometimes is hang on. The wind will be blowin' through your fucking hair but all you can do is say, Hey man, I'm alive and that's pretty damn good, you know?"

Okay then!

Come with me, my spiritual warriors, as I detail the weekend of fantastic NYC food my sister and I experienced this weekend!


I took my sister to one of the best Indian restaurants in all of NYC - JACKSON DINER. Check out the Yelp link (no official web site):

Some of the reader online give negative reviews of this restaurant because, well, they're buttheads. It comes from living in such an egocentric city. They truly feel NYC is the center of the world. Very fucked up. Ignore their depressed and cynical attitude. This place is great. I've eaten here dozens of times and each and every time, it's fantastic. Worth a trip!

They are in the Jackson Heights section of Queens, considered by many to be the most culturally diverse area in all of NYC. Let me tell you - you step off the friggin' train and there are authentic Vietnamese restaurants to your right, amazing Chinese restaurants to your left, Ethiopian food behind you and the most wonderfully diverse and colorful strip of Little India anywhere in America.

For only $10.95 from Noon to 4PM Monday-Sunday you can partake of a wonderful variety of dishes. Fiery Chicken Tikki Masala, Murg Tikka, Lamb Korma, Murg Kadai (tasty and exotic chicken legs with spicy herbs) get a feel of how extensive their menu is, take a look:

It's a true taste sensation. They always offer goat curry along the Chili Chicken Curry in the buffet - I'm not a fan of the goat. Too gamey. But don't miss out on the homemade potato and curry chickpea flour crepes made in the corner by the buffet! Sublime.

Here is my sister plowing down on her SECOND plate:

And here is your Food Therapist on his third plate...don't judge me! The food is THAT good:

After we waddled out of Jackson Diner, we headed into town and stumbled upon a wonderful little treat!!

It's a tiny storefront in Soho called "Baked by Melissa." She's had a lot of press so I won't retread what may have been written, but suffice to say her tiny little, bite size cupcakes are a cute, novel idea which my sister LOVED.

We had the "S'mores", the "Cookies and Cream" and "Cookie Dough." Far and away, our favorite was the "S'mores." All of the tiny cupcakes are stuffed and very tender, but the "Cookies and Cream" was as bit dry and the "Cookie Dough" to sweet.

She has a cute website and nice fun little photo contest going on. She is also a young, successful business woman who is self made and such accomplishments ALWAYS deserve your food dollars.

Check her out:

While I like the attitude of Melissa and I adore how cute and quaint her site is, truly the best cupcakes right now in NYC can be found at Crumbs. No, not at Magnolia in the West Village. Magnolia has gone downhill since the owners divorced. Rumor has it the husband took all of the good recipes and started Crumbs. It shows. Crumbs is rock and roll cupcakes. Soft, dense and full of love, love, love. Magnolia could use some love. Their baked goods are very depressed. Check out crumbs:

We also tasted a fairly good Crabcake Sandwich at the infamous Dean and Deluca in Soho, as well as a very tasty Grilled Portobello and Vegetable Sandwich from Dean and Deluca. Despite the fact the food is WAY over-priced and the service staff a bit snooty, the food is, on the whole, good...but mostly for snobby, rich New Yorkers.

The next day was dinner at the house. We cooked up a French and Italian feast.

This was the menu:

  • Butter Beans, Dijon Mustard, Chives and Olive Oil Mixture on sliced baguette...
  • Tiny Crocque Monsieur sandwiches
  • Five Cheese Platter with cracked pepper crackers and toasted herb bread
Main meal:
  • Three cheese, homemade Italian-style Lasagna with Spicy Sausage and Sirloin Sauce.
The lasagna I've detailed before on the blog (do a search if you can't find it), so I won't go into the recipe again, but it did turn out quite well and feeds a crowd:

The appetizers were very cool. Very easy, very French and partially inspired by one my idols, Jacques Pepin. I always like to make one meatless appetizer which is lighter and a bit more elegant, and one a bit heavier and with meat. These two balance each other out very well, especially when I served them with a variety of French cheeses and crackers.

It's very simple. For the Beans, buy the best loaf of white French baguette you can find. Mix in a bowl one can of drained and rinsed Butter Beans (big, white, substantial beans in any supermarket), a few teaspoons of chopped chives, 2-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard (depending on taste), 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, cracked pepper to taste and no more than 1/2 teaspoon salad and top 20 pieces of 1/2 inch diced baguette slices. Do this 2-3 hours before the party so the bread soaks up the tasty juices.

The tiny Croque Monsieurs are a bit heavier, but everyone loved them. Buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farms Country White bread. You need thick bread for this and this is the best on the market. The next part is very simple. Get 1/2 pound of Gureye cheese (famous and amazing French cheese) from the butcher sliced so each slice fits evenly across a slice of bread. Get 1/4 pound of thinly sliced boiled ham, lower-sodium if they have it. Get out a jar of Dijon mustard. Put two slices on the cutting board. Spread a thin slice of mustard on one of the slices. Lay the cheese across this slice. Lay 2 slices of the ham. Cover with another piece of bread. Cheese again, as well as ham. Cover with a third piece of bread. Make three separate sandwiches. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Heat oven to 350 degrees and coat each side of the sandwiches with 1 teaspoon melted butter. Bake for 12 minutes, flipping half way through. Take out of the oven when they are browned, let cool, then cut into 18 pieces, 6 per sandwich. Serve with napkins or toothpicks, if desired.

I served this before the lasagna. The Croque Monsieur's were so heavy everyone had a small piece of lasagna and a bit of side salad and were very content.

Serve all of this with constant wine, and you'll have a winner every time. Remember - the present moment is all you have, so cook up with your family and friends now and have a fabulous night of food and love!

I'm Mikey Bryan, I'm your Food Therapist - Let's Cook!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I am the new GALLOPING GOURMET! I'm a star on Food Network! (maybe not)...

So, today I showed the finished promo for The Food Therapist to a TV executive (you know who you are) and here are a few tidbits:
  • "You have no drama, and therefore no hook and no show."
  • "People want to watch drama, and celebrating a friendship isn’t dramatic."
  • "There has to be an unresolved issue here that we’re trying to deal with through food. That needs to be made more explicit in the tape, and much earlier. We should get the show concept, then get the unresolved personal issue, then know what the dish is, and why this dish in particular / how it ties in to the story."
Not a fan.

My therapist told me today I have a keen ability to make any positive statement a negative. I am so accustomed to being on shaky emotional ground I am always having a hard time finding my true, deeper and stronger authentic self. Okay, I get that. BUT THESE KINDA NOTES AREN'T HELPING.

Why does everybody in entertainment always gives notes which are optimistically negative. You read that right. They tear into the negatives of the work with such zeal it's amazing creative types like myself aren't popping pills before showing them anything!

But let me ask you -- how exactly can I make THESE kinda comments positive? It's true, when I shot the promo I had zilch direction and now that the promo is done I have zilch in the way of communication from the producer who did not direct me. Despite the fact he's a lovely man with a lovely family, he's definitely NOT lovely on keeping in touch.

I can't use the excuse I have no money to shoot a new promo because there is ALWAYS a way. That excuse falls on deaf ears everywhere. I have no money for a new promo and if I did shoot a new promo, then I have to find a way to negotiate with said non-communicative producer for rights to this promo, the one that is pretty but flat.

What - Rachael Ray is an EXCITING SHOW? Dramatic? Give me a break. She's mean, she's a bully, she smokes like a chimney, she thinks ketchup is a spice and she is making America fat. But SHE deserves to be on TV? Have you seen her interview someone? Hello?!

And give me a friggin' break. Bobby Flay? Don't you just wanna smack that smirk off of his face? He reminds of me of Bruce Willis. No, not the young hot Bruce. He would say he doesn't smirk. He would say it's part of his act. I have a newsflash: most stars are assholes. It's true. 80% are cold, bitter and mean people. 20% - not so much. Do I think he's in the 20%? Not a chance. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. I've always been a little afraid and uncomfortable with that guy. But yet HE is on TV? What is his 'drama'? Oh my God, is he going to flip that porkchop now? Now? NOW?!

At least the mean-looking Susie Fogelson and the hottie Bob Tuschman made the right choice with Melissa d'Arabian. She is the new Food Network Star. She is sweet, down to earth, charming and works like a dog. I love her. And they're gonna work her to death. But don't think for a SECOND her win wasn't rigged way, way down the road. Reality TV my ass. Really take a look at who has won over the past few years and you'll see each person is an exact opposite from the other. Food Network corporate knows how to build a diversified brand. Trust me.

I can't fault Giada. Who could? She's sweet, charming, pretty as a picture and throws up after every meal. Guy is guy. What can I say? He's good for what he is. He's loud and sweet, so hard to find him annoying. I like big, loud guys (Emeril withstanding).

How about Ina? Oh, the drama on THAT show is amazing! When will Jeffrey walk into the kitchen now? Now? NOW?! Oh, what will she make him tonight?! Oh, Jeffrey, take me while I eat another and another and another piece of crumbcake!

I could go on and on about Sandra Lee and her drama (Oh my God! Blue icing on my little cakes or GREEN?!) and Sunny Anderson and her drama (Oh my God! How much fat will she shove into that chicken breast?!) or Tyler Florence (when will he take off his shirt? Now? NOW? NOW?!).

None of these have urgent drama and none of them are compelling to watch. At least MY show has a story to tell and at least I'm an OPENLY GAY TV COOK - Food Network seems a bit shy of the 'g' word. I'd make them a fortune.

I am the new GALLOPING GOURMET of TV!!

But make it dramatic! Make it TV! In your face! All the time!

Yuck. I'm exhausted just writing that.

A new promo may be coming soon...we'll have to see. Fuck me. More work ahead. They always say you only get one shot with a promo. If I blow this, I blow this idea in NYC for some time to come. But I like my sweet, compassionate and slightly lesbian promo. I think it'll sell. Maybe I'm destined to pitch to non-profit loving lesbians who have three kids and a brownstone in Park Slope...and work at PBS...and are gluten free...and eat hemp in the winter.

Time is ticking...I need this to happen and happen now.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The REAL Julie and Julia Project

"Julia Child began learning to cook when she was thirty-seven years old. She started because she wanted to feed her husband Paul. She started because though she’d fallen in love with great food late, when she did she’d fallen hard. She started because she was in Paris. She started because she didn’t know what else to do.

Who knows how it happens, how you come upon your essential gift? For
this was hers. Not the cooking itself so much – lots of people cook better than Julia. Not even the recipes – others can write recipes. What was Julia’s true gift, then? She certainly had enormous energy, and that was a sort of gift, if a genetic one – perhaps the one thing about her you can pin down on the luck of the draw. She was a great teacher, certainly – funny, and generous, and enthusiastic, with so much overbrimming confidence that she had nothing to do with the surplus but start doling it out to others. But she also had a great gift for learning. Perhaps that was the talent she discovered in herself at the age of 37, at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris – the thirst to keep finding out, the openness to experience that makes life worth living."

Friday, August 13, 2004
Original blog posting from Julia Powell on her blog via Salon:

The Julie/Julia Project


I've been reading the book "Julie and Julia" and have been very pleasantly surprised. I thought the author, Julie Powell, would be a serviceable author with a readable style and not much more. Boy, was I wrong. She can write. Her style is effortless and breezy. I see why people flocked to her blog. Her prose on the blog were solid and her basic hook of an idea fun and new. And she was very honest about her struggles.

After the first hundred pages of the book, I thought to myself, "My, this woman doesn't seem to have a care in the world. She's so damn UP. Maybe it's her Texas raising. They're born optimistic down there. I have a project similar to hers, I cook to feed my husband and now I'm striking out with a food project. I'm writing a blog in an attempt to understand my life by cooking, cooking, cooking. But I'm about to lose my mind. Why did SHE strike such an instant cord with such safe, yet articulate and well-written thoughts? And sound so damn happy in the process?!"

Then I scoured the web for her original blog postings and struck gold. Read the entry above. She wrote it on the day Julia Child died. It's articulate, emotional and her insights are universal but very personal. Entries before this one were angry, hurt, confused and wonderfully emotional. She was feeling sapped by her secretary jobs, she took on the Julie/Julia Project and was exhausted after cooking and writing until she was about to drop and was done. I see why people read her.

I love her wording 'essential gift.' I have spent my entire life looking for mine and I have yet to find it. Yet, perhaps, it is as Mrs. Powell writes - maybe it's welcoming the experience of life and staying open to what comes our way. I do believe we all have an essential gift. In cooking, mine has always been to feed my family first, and then to feed others so they feel loved and nurtured. Taking care of others and cooking for them is a way my essential gift is expressed.

I don't know what else to do as well. Cooking has fallen into my lap. I didn't ask for it; it arrived. True story: five years ago, a psychic entered my life and told me I'd have my own cooking show. She also told me one of my mentors in life was James Beard. James Beard? I asked her, "Who the hell is he?".

I had first been introduced to the works of James Beard from a former friend of mine. She lived at the time in Connecticut. She was a writer, married, and had raised two children. She hated living in Connecticut and when her kids when to college, moved to Roosevelt Island (across the water from Manhattan) and enrolled in an MFA program (one I introduced her to, but I'm not bitter, no, not at all).

She was a wildly smart woman who, in the end, stopped all communication with me. I suspect she felt I wasn't smart enough for her. Despite my raging insecurities in friendships, I'm shockingly intuitive about what other people think of me. I'm sure she considered me intellectually uninteresting. She wasn't a very warm and fuzzy person. Her kids were smart and distant (like her) and her husband always had a smile but, like his wife, his expression was a mix of silent judgment and pensiveness.

One afternoon I took the train from Manhattan to Stamford. She agreed to meet to discuss a screenplay I was writing. As with our other meetings, I felt stiff and uncomfortable around her. Like a pupil waiting to hear why his professor had given him a C-. She talked, taking on her role of the Smarter One while I nodded and listened. I can see my needy and uncertain former self lapping up her comments in hopes she would help me to write a script that would finally sell and delivery me from my daily secretarial grind. I wanted her approval and still do. Can't be a healthy way to think. She was a cold, distant woman who, in the end, showed she never really wanted to be my friend. Gosh - mother transference anyone?!

But one thing she did do is introduce me to James Beard. On the aforementioned Uncomfortable Afternoon, she handed me a dog-eared copy of the paperback "James Beard and Fish". I was appalled. I hated making fish (and am still not a fan), but took it from her, thinking there was some mystical reason she was giving it to me. I'm not sure why I gave her such power, but I saw her as so much better than me. In reality, she was an judgemental snob disguised as a bohemian renegade.

It was as I read the tiny, fragmented cook book on the way home I realized I was falling in love with world of James Beard. It wasn't so much the food or the menus. It was the way he wrote. There was a life to his prose I had never read in a cookbook before. An unmistakable joy. This guy really loved to cook and entertain.

I immediately got the only biography on him (a plodding and poorly written book, "The Solace of Food: The Life of James Beard" by Robert Clark) and found out he was a failed actor who turned to cooking as an attempt make sense of his life! Yes! It made such sense. He wrote like an artist in love with his muse.

I read most of his books after that and made many, many of his bread and meat dishes. I also made his pasta meals, which were fantastic. I have more in common with Mr. Beard than I do with Mrs. Childs. Mr. Beard could veer towards the melancholy at the drop of a hat. I am the same. I am wildly moody and so was he. The psychic told me five years ago Mr. Beard was standing beside me, urging me to follow a path of cooking and food. I have, but as of yet, nothing has materialized besides my keen ability to cut an onion very quickly.

So I will keep writing on this blog as long as it feels I must. And I'll think of Mrs. Powell out there, living the life I would like to live. And I'll think of the famous photos of Mrs. Childs and Mr. Beard, side by side, each honoring their gift in life and sharing it with the world.

Until next time...

Yours in food and whining -

Your Food Therapist

Monday, August 3, 2009

Change, Yu and Enthusiasm

Inga Schnekenburger, " - Enthusiasm - I Ching Nr. 16 ", 1996 Watercolor and Eggtempera on Wood, 130 cm x 130 cm

Last night I consulted the I-ching. The I-ching is a book of ancient Chinese symbols many people use as a sort of emotional barometer of where they are in life. The idea is you throw three pennies. The tails have a quantity of 2 and the heads, 3. You add the numbers up after a series of 6 throws and make a tiny graph based upon the book of translations you have, then you consult the I-ching.

The I-ching has a subtitle: The Book of Changes. It is meant to show where you are now and where you will be at a later date, i.e., 'changes'. The I-ching is considered a great book of wisdom in China and is the basis for the creation of Confucianism, so it's highly regarded and not considered a light fortune-telling device, but a text to be consulted when one needs insight.

My 'throw' of the pennies and the reading came up with this: "I-Ching #16 - Yu / Enthusiasm". Here is the English of the original Chinese text:

"The strong lines in the fourth place, that of the leading official, meets with the response of the obedience from all the other lines, which are all weak."


For over four and 1/2 years now, I've been trying to get my own cooking show off of the ground. Why a cooking show still escapes me. I'm a writer, an actor, a performer - I'm not a chef. I was to have written a best seller, written an Oscar rewarded movie, been an actor on Broadway - but a cooking on TV?

I didn't grow up cooking. I ate burgers at Wendy's with my father before we went to the matinee and my mother's idea of cuisine was stuffing green bell peppers with sirloin, not ground beef. She did make a mean pie and had the audacity to open a container of cottage cheese, shove a spoon in it's center and call it a '...side dish, kinda like a vegetable."

The show is no closer to being realized than when it was 4 and 1/2 years ago. Back then my dear friend, Kim Jackson, shot the first mini-pilot in Bayside, New York. It was directed by a lovey German gay man who disliked drag queens and kept himself at a clear distance from me. I think it's more a German thing than personality. Most Germans I know could really use a very long and very thorough colonic.

I kept the faith back then, worked as a secretary, plugging in long banker hours and tried to convince everyone the show idea (and myself!) were the best things since sliced bread.

I was 39 when we started the first shoot for The Food Therapist.

I'm about to turn 45.

Fast forward November of 2008.

I shot a new pilot with a new producer and new director. The finished disc arrived in my hands last month after nearly a year of work. I have to say, it looks great. It looks like a real TV show. But I am worried everything will think I'm fat in the promo, which I am a bit. I've lost weight since but it's a very sobering thing to see yourself on TV. Makes me wonder if people are right this is such a long shot.

I'm used to being patronized. I don't write that to solicit sympathy. It's simply the truth. I'm very loved by friends and family, but I'm not taken seriously (there is a reason I love the movie Legally Blonde and it's not because I'm super gay). I'm sure it's my own fault for not believing in myself for so long. I've had a very rough time building my self-confidence. Comes with the territory when you have a wacko family like mine. My family would make David Sedaris blush.

So why did the promo take so long to get done? Because my producer and I were literally relying on the kindness of strangers and their editor and camera friends. Except for feeding the crew on the day of the shoot and various food and cab expenses, the producer paid for almost all.

But I'm worried.

The cooking show is about cooking, but it's also heavily about me. I've said from the start I only know ordinary cooks, meaning, people who work all day long and have to cook at night to feed themselves and whatever constitutes their family (and no, cooking something in the microwave in a plastic bag doesn't count). I don't know a single person who has gone to Le Cordon Bleu. I applied but didn't enroll in three prestigious NYC cooking schools for fear I'd fail...and, we couldn't afford them.

What I am surrounded with are people who love food. I always ask them why they cook and their first answer (usually with a blank stare) is, "Um, because I have to eat?" So while the cooking show is about food, it's not a master lesson from Jacques Pepin on how to properly dice an onion or a debate on weather one should rinse or wipe clean crimini mushroom.

I find most cooking shows dull or annoying. The human interactions feel forced. The food may be fun to make, but I find it hard to emotionally connect to the shows.

Which brings me to The Food Therapist. Since the show is about food second and people first, the lead of the show is ME, which means I am the one people connect with and I am the one driving the show. Since I have set it up this way (foolish me), the onus is constantly on me to be present, funny, aware and involved. And let me tell you -- after almost 5 years of being this way in every single communication and interaction with anybody or anyone in any form involved with the show, I_am_tired.

People only see the end result of a great project. When you see a TV show on the air, the trajectory is similar to mine. How those people have kept the faith for so many years when everyone around them didn't is becoming beyond me.

This is what I have done for the past 5 years in preparation for my TV debut:
  • Cooked approximately 1, 400 meals spread over the 1,825 days. This does not include Christmas dinners, Thanksgiving meals, torts, cupcakes, pies, cookies, cakes, breads and endless varieties of breakfast foods.
  • Practiced cooking and talking into an imaginary camera while making the above meals. Fielded three calls from my neighbors who told the police they thought I might be schizophrenic.
  • Schlepped home numerous bags of groceries 5 days of the week for 5 years in dirty, smelly and very cold, wet, hot, windy and busy New York City via subways, cabs and even once, in a buggy carriage with a very hungry horse who kept eating fresh bread I had in a bag.
  • Washed an estimated 8,000 dishes since we have never had a dishwasher. It's NYC. Dishwashers for middle-class people don't exist.
  • Argued endlessly and lovingly with my hubby, Andy, when he said he would rather take his chances jumping off of the lip of the Empire State Building than agree to find a place for one more kitchen appliance.
In addition, there was the --.

Chopping of garlic, onions, red peppers, yellow peppers, scallions, potatoes (red, gold, purple and russet), pearl onions, shallots, endless amounts of broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, celery, celery root, leeks, ginger, ever Mexican pepper known to Western man, both dried and fresh...

As well as the dicing, chopping, grinding, yelling at, pulling apart, peppering, salting, buttering, oiling, butterflying, slicing, filleting, pounding, flouring, coating with egg, coating with Panko, stuffing with ham, stuffing with every French cheese available at my local market, sprinkling with fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic every kind of chicken one can possibly work with in America.

Don't get me started on the baked goods or the sausage or the ground meat or the many pie doughs and fresh strands of pasta we've had hanging around the apartment.

I've been seriously cooking for 10 years, but for the past 5 years I've cooked nearly every single day (much to my hubby's joy and pain). I work my secretary job, I go to the grocery store, buy food, go home, drink wine and cook, feed my wonderful hubby, then stay hunched over the sink washing the dishes, going to bed, getting up, doing it all again. Why? Because I love to cook but also because I prayed this would be also a chance to shine on a show, something I know I am meant to do.

But maybe not. Maybe not.

A bit of last night's I-Ching. Long, but worth the read:

"The time of ENTHUSIASM derives from the fact that there is at hand an eminent man who is in sympathy with the spirit of the people and acts in accord with it. To arouse enthusiasm it is necessary for a man to adjust himself and his ordinances to the character of those whom he has to lead. The inviolability of natural laws rests on this principle of movement along the line of least resistance. These laws are not forces external to things but represent the harmony of movement immanent in them. That is why the celestial bodies do not deviate from their orbits and why all events in nature occur with fixed regularity. it is the same with human society; one such laws as are rooted in popular sentiment can be enforces, while laws violating this sentiment merely arouse resentment."

So, I'm on the right path to have a show about PEOPLE, but I need to find within me a more natural and unfettered enthusiasm. Okay, but there is a problem.

It's hard to keep the faith when nothing happens. Nothing, except the making of the promo which I am thrilled about, but nothing in terms of the show coming to life.

Look, I know I've had a charmed life. I moved from Seattle to New York City. Not many people do that. I read once 45% of American's under the age of 35 want to move to New York, but only 3% do so. And of those 3%, only 1% stay longer than five years. I've been here 25 years and I've seen things other people dream about (dear God, I sound like Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner). So perhaps I have made it already and I don't know it. I work as an assistant to a famous man in TV. Not an easy job and hard to get. He and I work well together and except for a few blips over the years, I take great pride in how honest, trustworthy and kind I am. I'm a friggin' Saint compared to some people. But I have the job and I'm very very lucky and I do love it.

My hubby told me people don't want to read about me or my life. They just want to know about the recipes. I love my hubby, but I humbly disagree. I am drawn again and again to memoirs, particularly those about people who survived a huge life shift. I devour them, combing the words for some hidden, insightful gem about how to navigate my life. I crave insight. But I'm only one person in this world, writing on a blog no one reads, seeking answers. Who am I to share my thoughts? Am I a middle-aged gay man with deep thoughts or have I had too much sausage tonight and are the nitrates going to my head?

Julia Child started her cooking career @ 37. James Beard at 35. I'm about to turn 45.

Here is to Act II, Julie and James. May mine be as amazing as yours.

Mikey B.
Your Food Therapist