These Old Shoes

 Chef shoes

 Little umbrellas for feet

Stronger than plastic wrap

Tougher than burlap.

Made for the kitchen, no good for sitting

Run a mile round and round,

 In the cooler, climb up, then down.

Spray them with Armor All

Protects like a coverall

More lustrous than a Cadillac

Or truffle duck fat fries

For a Scooby snack.

Skechers, clogs, Birkenstocks

 find a shoe that fits your price

 Rubber molds for your feet

 Cushioned insoles to absorb the heat

A pit bull’s grip – they never slip

Like a feather in Hercules’ grip.

We love these shoes, but cannot lie:

A barefoot chef is happiest.

 

 

No Cooks for Christmas

Imagine if all the cooks in every restaurant kitchen disappeared on Christmas Eve. What if Santa finally granted our truest wish?

No alarms would ring. No flashing yellow lights.

A puff of air.  A whispering wind.

Walk a mile in our shoes on Christmas night and taste regret.

A rough night for cooks and servers: two hundred confirmed reservations, all here to celebrate and share the holiday with family and friends. The dining room is filled with a mélange of well-dressed socialites with deep pockets and a thirst for fine champagne.

The adrenaline level is high as the house band competes with the clatter of sauce pans and the rattle of plates rapidly filling the pass. The kitchen is humid and our jackets soak up the sweat.

Try to keep up with the constant chirping of the ticket printer.

It’s approaching midnight, and tempers flare as tired knees and elbows ready for the final push.

Our chef, expediting all night, struggles to remain calm.

Frantic servers try to squeeze by at the pass.

Ok, guys… fire the ten top, I want three amuse bouches for table 52, make that six all day.”

“I need a mushroom risotto to sell this deuce on 60, gimme that risotto now!”

What goes through the mind of a cook when the chef is screaming?

Mangoes, apples, pears…. Are they pleasant thoughts?

 

The sauté cook seeks frantically for the pan with extra risotto from a previous ticket.

He shoves another pan to the back, cranks the heat up, zaps with chicken stock and parm.

A little more salt and truffle butter, and the plate hits the pass.

Christmas for line cooks…  Every one is  tired.

But this year, a wish was granted and a prayer was answered.

This Christmas Eve, the fire in the grill will remain unlit.

Whisks will fall and stay where they lay. Nothing will be prepped, the door will be shut.

A puff of air.  A whispering wind.

There will be no cooks for Christmas, if only for this year.

A happy day, a joyous day,  a family day…

We would all be home instead.

 

The Dance

The Dance

It’s called the line, and each night we dance:

Bend, twist, lift, swing –

A ghostly symphony that waits and plays by ear.

 

 An orchestra:

Pots, pans, oil sputters, the Garland burner roars,

Refrigerators hum, a freezer’s occasional chime.

 

Pivot right, turn left, the MICROS begins to sing,

The rhythm crests, pulses.

Entrees hot and salads cold.

 

We dance our dance, a performance never seen

Receives the standing ovation it deserves.

 

We know our parts, and wait expectantly.

The MICROS sings, the rush begins:

Focus, push – the line moves as one.

 

Cooks, shoulder-to-shoulder:

Adrenaline rush, purpose,

Entrees hot and salads cold.

 

We dance our dance, a performance never seen

Receives the standing ovation it deserves.

 

Foxtrot lively, brisk, quick,

Nicoise, Waldorf, Cobb, Caesar,

Salsa picante, moves meringue – sweat, pivot, timing.

 

Seared halibut, glazed spring vegetables,

Well-done rib eye, tempura onion rings, peppercorn,

Sweet symphony, graceful, finesse.

 

Tiramisu, sorbet, cobbler,

Macaroon, red velvet,

Entrees hot and salads cold.

 

 

We dance our dance, a performance never seen

Receives the standing ovation it deserves

 

We special few cook with hand, heart, and mind,

Converting more than recipes from books,

A mirepoix of memories and tradition.

 

 

The bounty of the earth:

So, night after night we gather –

Hot kitchen, cold kitchen.

 

 

Begin the dance.

The chorus sings:

Entrees hot and salads cold!

 

We dance our dance, a performance never seen

Receives the standing ovation it deserves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Once Upon A Mango 2” – Juicy Poetry & Recipes from Sunny Jamaica

Mango Lady

Her pushcart was parked on the sidewalk,

and she read a book while patiently waiting for customers.

She had a large orange parasol

to protect her precious mangoes from the mid-day heat.

Call it a mobile fruit stand with wares just hours picked from the tree.

A fleeting glance at all those mangoes made me pause;

but it was her smile that made me stop:

There were oranges for sale in a red cooler,

complete with a little machine to peel them as you waited –

A few hands of ripe bananas:

yes I saw those too, all different shades of yellow –

But set just so a hundred mangoes to catch the light.

I asked their names and she laughed as she pointed:

Julie, Bombay, Blackie, Stringy, Long Mango.

One hundred for Julie, fifty for Bombay, everything else hundred per dozen.

We spoke for a while and I made my selection;

she looked at my face and in my eyes:

A few extra mangos, for you to enjoy,

and flashed another beautiful smile.

I look at these pictures, a moment in time:

The mango lady and her cart of sunshine

This wonderful recipe by Barbara Walter was taken from The Hotel Mockingbird Hill blog. The eco-boutique hotel  overlooks the picturesque town of Port Antonio on the northeastern side of the island. I find Barbara’s blog a constant source of inspiration.

Mango Gazpacho with Pickled Shrimps

2 ½ cups water

½ cup vinegar

1 ½ tbs pickling spice ( we use our own homemade jerk spice)

1 tbs minced lemongrass

1 ½ tbs salt

Boil ingredients together. Remove from heat.

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup chopped green salad onions

1 ½ tsp minced jalapeño chili (bird peppers)

12 uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined

Stir into the chilled water the parsley, onions and pepper and shrimp, chill and then cover overnight in glass container.

2 large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted

1 small green apple, peeled, chopped

1 small celery stalk, chopped

3/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber

1 tbs fresh lime juice

2 tsp chopped peeled fresh ginger

1 large jalapeño chili, seeded, minced

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Puree all these ingredients together. Chill for at least 2 hours. Ladle soup into 4 bowls and top with 3 shrimp each and garnish with parsley. The recipe below, also by Barbara Walker from her Hotel Mockingbird Hill blog, is equally delicious and just as easy to prepare.

Mango Gazpacho 

2 mangoes peeled and pitted (just under 1 kg total)

2 cucumbers, de-seeded

3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice or to taste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Finely chop 1 mango and 1 cucumber and set aside. Coarsely chop remaining mango and cucumber and puree with ¼ cup of water in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in finely chopped mango, cucumber, onion and lime juice and 2 cups of cold water. Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours. Stir in cilantro just before serving, along with 1 teaspoon of salt.

Once Upon A Mango

IMG_4509 copyOnce Upon A Mango

Always thank Mrs. Mango Seed

You enjoyed it

 She can tell

Children dance round big mango tree

 Sound of laughter

 Clear and free

Eat ripe mango

 One to ten

 School is out

Barefoot then

Climb and pick or use a stick

Search the ground

Look round and round

Ripe ripe Julie sweet and juicy

June July Big Bombay full

Mango blossom caressed by breeze

Perfect food for worker bees

Share a mango

Make a friend

 Give a smile

Mango zen

Sweetest candy on a tree

Share God’s gift

With feet and wings

Crawly things

He is wise

He knew so well

Ripe mango sweeter

Than a dinner bell

Feeding the Wolf – Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp, Broccoli & Lots of Garlic

The wolf is gray

The wolf is hunger

The wolf is primal

Feed the wolf!

IMG_5638 copyThe question of the wolf has been on my mind for quite some time. I’ve been struggling to explain what the concept of the wolf means to a cook. Obviously, it’s not a literal description of an animal with hair, fur, claws, and teeth. In my mind, the wolf is figurative; he resides in a deeper, darker place. I like to think of the wolf as hunger. Our desire to eat and feed lets the wolf loose; it hunts and does what it will.

In pursuit of food, we’re all reduced to our basest instincts. Cooks deal with this transformation every day; we are professionally trained to feed the wolves. In exposing this truth, it bears well to remember that the wolf resides in all of us. Even cooks succumb to the gut-wrenching pangs of hunger. We cook for the hungry and in turn are fed.

Wolves can be particular creatures and hard to please. They roam far and wide in search of a meal, and there’s no telling where a wolf may choose to feed from one day to the next. In fact, it’s the wolf’s discerning palate that keeps people like me employed.

My own wolf likes to roam the tiny kitchen in my apartment. He particularly likes to rummage through the pantry, opening one door and another, touching a can here, looking at a jar there. Sometimes I’ll come home late at night and find the wolf staring longingly into the refrigerator. The light casts shadows around me and I feel his presence in the shadows. I’m quiet in this moment, somehow caught in the reverie of longing. His eyes look up and meet mine. I hear a plaintive whine and I know the wolf is hungry.

In moments such as this, when haste is expedient, cook it fast and serve it hot. Here’s a recipe that I’ve used many times to keep the wolf sated and content.

 

Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp,

Broccoli & lots of Garlic

2 qts of water

1 tsp salt

8 ozs fettuccine pasta

1 head of fresh broccoli cut into small florets (about 2 cups)

 

IMG_5640

1)  Bring the water to a boil. Don’t add the pasta yet; I like to blanch my broccoli first. It saves a step and reduces the amount of time and pots to clean.

2)   Cook the broccoli in boiling water for about two minutes then use a slotted spoon to chill the broccoli in a bowl with water and ice cubes.

3)  Drain the broccoli and set aside.

 

4)  Time for the fettuccine pasta. Add 2 tsp. of vegetable oil to the boiling water. Add the fettuccine and stir every two to three minutes to keep pasta from sticking. It should take about 11-12 minutes to cook al dente.

 

SHRIMP ALFREDO SAUCE

IMG_5658

 ½ lb. of shrimp, peeled and deveined

 5 cloves garlic, minced

Fresh basil (8 -10 leaves), julienned

3 tbsp. of vegetable oil

1 lemon

Pinch of salt and black pepper

16 oz. of heavy cream

¾ cup of Parmesan cheese

IMG_5650

 5) Marinate the shrimp with the garlic, oil, salt and pepper and a small amount of basil. Keep most of the basil to add at the end just before serving.

6) In a small saucepan heat the heavy cream and reduce by half. This is important: the cream should be reduced until it is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Whisk in ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Remember, Parmesan cheese is salty, so be careful with seasoning.

7) Drain the shrimp thoroughly. This is important. Make sure to get a large saute pan extremely hot and add the marinated shrimp. Stir quickly for a minute before adding the cheese sauce.

8) Add the broccoli and stir well

9) Add the cooked fettuccine pasta and the rest of the fresh basil; stir to coat the pasta in sauce.

10) Sprinkle the rest of Parmesan cheese on each portion before serving.

 

And if you feel as I do, howl at the moon.

IMG_5663

Recipe for Temptation

Just in time for Valentine’s Day… or anytime you want to put some sizzle back into your life.

MISS NEW YORK STRIP!!!

Methodically covering your body with kosher salt and pepper, my fingers caress you.

Enjoy this medium-rare feeling like a sauna, a hot grill get your juices flowing;

never cook you to death, you sexy young thing.

Always a tease with your racy grill marks, so seductive in my mouth, succulent between my lips

Together against all odds – I don’t care what people say – I’m your baked potato to my last breath.

Miss New York Strip, 16-ounce red vixen, inch-and-a-half thick, tantalizing sizzle

Even better than southern swine, dressed up with a glass of red wine

Aphrodite in the flesh, naughty girl, slathered in butter, smoking hot, so tempting, delicious sin

To find a knife and fork my only desire.

  ♥

A String of Fish

I was passing by in a friend’s car,

on our way to Doctor’s Cave beach.

We were friends reminiscing, talking,

looking forward to a lazy, idyllic day.

It was beautiful outside, the way the sky mirrored the sea,

a striking depth of blue frosted with clouds.

Looking out the passenger window,

I motioned Rick to pull over.

Hanging from a crooked stick beside the road

Was a string of fish.

All I wanted was a picture,

to capture a spear fisherman’s bounty from the sea.

These fish must have swum in a school,

 close to each other,

Darting in and out the coral rock.

They looked like friends,

uniform in size,

oblivious to the menace above.

I could imagine him, floating, suspended,

the sun glistening on his back.

The furrow of his brow, inhaling deeply,

 as he pulled the rubber taut on his spear.

Silent, deadly as a mako shark, shooting them one-by-one.

The spurt of blood in the water as he attached each fish to a string,

then tied it to his waist.

He barely cast a shadow, soundlessly hunting with grim purpose.

Flippers moving in unison,

glass mask protecting his eyes.

I’m sure he thought about their worth in dollar bills.

A line of fish tied with a length of string.

Their scales glistened brightly in the afternoon sun,

hues of red and green like tiny crystals on a hanging chandelier.

You could tell he had just caught them;

standing close my nose smelled the sea.

I thought about cooking.

Scaling each one over an opened sheet of old newspaper.

Using my knife to slice the belly, removing  the entrails, then the gills.

A cascade of coarse ground salt and pepper for seasoning.

A string of fish,

Swaying slightly as a truck thundered past, inanimate, perfect for frying.

I thought about their white flesh,

hot and flaky and the crunch from crispy skin.

I used my fork to remove the bones,

pointed like needles both big and small.

And when I was done,

and ready to leave.

I looked at this string of fish;

their eyes staring back at water so close.

Eyes larger than mine,

unblinking and somber.IMG_6610IMG_6611IMG_6612IMG_6609

So What If You Don’t Like My Mac & Cheese

Not in a box, on a shelf, made it all

 By myself

Elbow pasta, not that Krafta, stir the pot

Cooks it faster

Drain it, strain it, add some oil

To maintain it

Let it cool, there’s no rush, should be firm to tha touch

Start that sauce, lots of butter

add tha flour

Clickety clack, wooden spoon

 forth and back

Call it roux, looks like goo

Pour some cream, steady stream

Stir and stir, end in sight, almost done

 time it right

Shred that cheddar, more is better, cheese and sauce

melt together

Razzle, dazzle, bubble, pop,

Just like magic, Roger rabbit

Bake, bake, bake, cheese on top

350, tick tick tock

 golden crust, cheesy bruises

Love the smell as it oozes

Mac & Cheese so devine, go make yours

 I’m eating mine!

Flower Power :)

Mother Nature shares her smile by giving us FLOWERS

I found these Zinnias growing at the Dekalb High Community Garden

It’s a small urban garden cared for by school children

Red, Yellow, Pink and Orange

Imagine their excitement as they watched the seeds grow

Now the season is changing and these flowers are a reminder, in times of uncertainty

Life is still beautiful

Never forget, opportunity comes in many different

Shapes

Colors

Textures

Often we are so busy cooking in Lifes’ kitchen

we pay no attention when  oppurtunity knocks at the door

It starts with small details 

 Things we often ignore

Pennies, matching socks, roots, leaves, stems

Hugs and Kisses for Loved Ones galore 

 Honey Bees share Marigolds with Butterflies

That’s Insect Peace and Love 

 Flower Power 🙂

Smile your troubles away

Today is a brighter day

Remember, even clouds need a holiday

Together we can plant and nurture

Our own beautiful garden

And water it with joy and happiness

Watch it grow

 The seeds unfurl

Leaves kissed by the morning sun

Petals that sway

Gently in the breeze

All this can be done, though it may take some time

But nature has shown us and we can see 

All that’s needed

is you and me