Friday, August 31, 2007

The Nanny Diaries

I avoided this book assiduously when it came out, though I couldn't say exactly why; no doubt some deep, unexamined prejudice against chicklit. No, actually, probably a deep, unexamined envy of young twenty-somethings writing quick novels and getting filthy rich. In any case, no reason that did me any credit. But last night my spouse and I saw the movie (at my spouse's urging! I was agitating for "Balls of Fury") and I really, really liked it. Amidst all the hoopla over how sexy Scarlett Johansson is (and no argument from me on that) I forget how much I like her as an actress. And Laura Linney is terrific in a part that could easily have been a sort of live-action Cruella de Ville. The movie was directed by the team that did "American Splendor" so it is very stylishly and beautifully put together; also, Paul Giamatti is great as the unbelievably creepy asshole father. If I am honest, however, I must say that for me one of the movie's greatest pleasures was the clothes. Oh my god the clothes! I wanted, desperately, to own every dress Johansson or Linney put on--I nearly fainted at the lipstick red Dior Linney wears for her anniversary. It's true that the clothes are also the nexus of the movie's irritating corporate synergy; ScarJo the character notes that Linney is wearing Louis Vuitton shoes, while ScarJo the real person smiles out of every magazine on the stands as the new face of...Louis Vuitton. And who is that making a cameo as a TriBeCa fashionista? Why, it's Georgina Chapman, extremely hot designer and, totally coincidentally, girlfriend of Harvey Weinstein whose company backs Chapman and produced the movie. And on and on. Still though, I forgave all at the sight of Alicia Keys' Duro Olowu dress, or the bejewelled cream Prada (I think) Linney wears to a party. And the kid is very cute.

A side note: why was I able to see a movie about rich women neglecting their children? Because my own Precious was at home, being watched by someone paid to take her to gymnastics, feed her dinner, and put her to bed. I left the theater feeling like the worst. mom. in the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pork Chops

brown rice, green beans. All made by the spouse, all delicious.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Broiled Chicken Thighs

with brown rice and green beans. I had big plans to put tarragon under the chicken skin before broiling it, but when it came down to it it was just so much easier not to. I did manage to brine the chicken for about half an hour, though, which always makes it much tastier.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What Not to Eat

What you shouldn't do while pregnant and still only newly past the worst of your nausea is go to an Italian restaurant and eat, basically, a pile of melted cheese and meat. Ask me how I know.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Split Pea Soup

from a can, with quinoa. Also some carrots. Another spouse-less meal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Specifically, whole-wheat scungilli (I still can't tolerate white pasta—it converts immediately to sugar and begins to ferment on my tongue) with a sauce made of tomatoes and leftover sausage, tossed with parmesan and fresh arugula. A classic meal of necessity (no way was I driving to the store in 105 degree heat) that turned out scrumptious.

Chicken and Apple Sausage

with roasted cauliflower (drool) and brown rice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This n That

When the spouse is away dinner is pretty haphazard; a little tofu here, a sandwich there, popsicles for all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pork Loin

braised in milk, with summer squash and rice and quinoa.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lamb Chops

broiled, with green beans and quinoa.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Careful Use of Compliments: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel

Good heavens, am I ever behind on this blog. Let me begin to make amends by talking about my latest Alexander McCall Smith book, The Careful Use of Compliments. This is the fourth novel in his Isabel Dalhousie series. Isabel is a single, independently wealthy scholar and editor of ethical phiosophy living in Edinburgh. Like the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which takes place in Botswana, the novels are as much about places as they are about the people who live in them, so the manners, history, and mores of Scotland and Ediburgh are constantly under observaiton. When the series started the subtitle was "An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery," but McCall wisely acknowledged early on that the "mysteries" Isabel confronts are very mild affairs, and only the barest pretexts for the real action: Isabel's thoughts on the world. Isabel is always thinking, mostly about her ties and obligations to other people, real and imagined. Lots actually happens in the books, but it's kind of easy to miss because so much more happens as Isabel thinks about stuff. McCall seems to prefer female protagonists, and while he gives them full relationships with men, he is really interested in the interchanges between women: Isabel bounces of her niece Cat and her housekeeper Grace; Mma Ramotswe (No. 1 LDA) spends most of her time sparring with her employee Mma Makutsi. It would be hard to overstate how much I like these books. I forgive them any and all novelistic faults because it is just such a pleasure to spend time with McCall and his insatiable curiosity about and empathy for the lives of others.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Uge's Chicken and Rice

One of my oldest friends is Colombian and used to make me this dish from her childhood. In brief: brown a bunch of chicken (I remove the skin) in a Dutch oven, then remove it. In the vacated pot sautee a chopped up onion and a chopped up green pepper; put the chicken back in, along with a can of tomatoes, half a cup of white wine, salt to taste, and a half cup of slivered almonds. Cover and simmer for about an hour and a half, until the chicken falls from the bone, and serve over rice. Soooo scrummy.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pork Chops

with apple juice/mustard glaze, corn on the cob, green beans. The niftiest meat info I ever read (in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook) was that salting raw meat (or chicken or fish) ahead of time (as far ahead as you want) improves its flavor and texture significantly. Totally true! People are afraid it will dry the meat out, but it does the opposite; something in the chemical reaction makes meat retain moisture much better while it cooks, and the flavor, if the salt is applied more than a few hours before, is magically improved without tasting salty. (Not that I mind salty meat, not at all.) Neat!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


with broccoli, cauliflower, and bacon; brown rice; summer vegetable melange (zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplant). I couldn't even look at that last--vegetables are still very tricky for me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


grilled on a grill pan, with broccoli and brown rice. I thought the steak (a rib-eye, my steak soulmate) was delicious, but my spouse thought his tasted funny, so I guess the dinner was a success or a disappointment depending on which of us you ask.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Tom Ka Gai

or Thai chicken soup (with mac and cheese, which makes no sense, I know). In the spring I planted some Thai lemon grass on a whim, just to see what it would do. What it did was flourish, growing to about five feet tall. As I have watched it burgeon lo these many sick-to-my-stomach months, I had one thought: tom ka gai. Along with pad thai, this is my favorite thing about Thai food, and I have wanted to try it myself forever. And then, a while ago, Cook's Illustrated arrived with an article about it! The universe was obviously in favor of my making this soup, and last night, I did. Spec-tacular. Couldn't have been better. Lemon grass turns out to smell extraordinary--like fresh, cool lemons and ginger, and to be fun to harvest. Thai fish sauce, on the other hand, is something less of a joy. But together they make a soup for the ages. (If you are having trouble making out the photo, and if you care, you can double-click it to enlarge.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Lamb Chops

broiled, with roasted orange cauliflower (very pretty) and brown rice.

Flank Steak

broiled, with brown rice and broccoli. And brownies for dessert! What's better than a brownie? Nothing, that's what.