Monday, October 3, 2016

best friends. torch passing. what Vertamae said...

Monday, October 3, 2016

'In Paris I could make the best quiche on Rue des Ursulines but when Charles came into my kitchen that day & I was making Lorraine, I made another kind of quiche. Delicious.'

- preamble to the recipe for Quiche Lloyd from Vibration Cooking, Vertamae Smart Grosvenor

the evening was filled w/felicity:

"you're my best friend! you're likin angel!" read the card. it was pale blue paper, w/a watermelon drawn in dark blue marker on the front. "Did you help her w/the card?" i asked the lovely young woman who was kindly watching Nashira's creation unfold, & handing her supplies. "no", she replied, a twinkle in her eye. "she just asked me for a marker & some paper." supplies were few, hence the blue marker.

from what i am told, Nashira had no idea that Vertamae loved watermelons the way she did.


Yoruba legend has it that the preternaturally refreshing, seedy fruit is sacred to Orisha Yeye-Omo-Eja, beloved Ocean Goddess, Mother-of-all-fishes. Yemaya rules, (among an ocean's expanse of other things) matrilineal tribes, relationships between mothers & daughters, sisters, friends.

Vertamae & my daughter had become fast friends @ her 78th birthday party, which her glowing daughter Chandra had asked me to cater @ the last minute, & which i did, happily from the bottom of my whole soul. i had followed Ms. Vertamae's witty recipe to the letter:

Quiche Lloyd:

1 cup grated Swiss cheese
4 eggs
pinch salt
pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup thin cream
pinch cayenne

pour cheese into a cream cheese pie crust & add the rest of the stuff (all mixed together). Bake for 40 minutes. Attention: Do not overbake. Stick a silver knife in the center & if it comes out clean, Voila! you got it.

hanging around the fringes of the party, only approaching Ms. Grosvenor when there was food to be served, i knew in my heart that i was an embarrassment to my daughter, who sensed how bitch-assed i was, & walked on over to Ms. Vertamae her-damn-self, somehow knowing she would be noticed ( i should have known when she was adamantly selecting her outfit - the loudest - 3 musketeer collared shirt, layered w/a psychedelic blue theme dress & metallic shoes of some type). once eye contact was made, she fearlessly sauntered on over to give her a hug.

"Who is THIS???" the Queen of Anthropological Food Knowledge crowed, providing the perfect opportunity for me to untie my tongue & worm my way through her admirers to, @ long last, introduce myself:

"this is my daughter, Nashira. I am Stefanie Kelly, & i just love your work, Ms. Vertamae. I really really do..." i quavered @ a loss for words, as i delivered my riff on Quiche Lloyd, from her seminal cookbook, Vibration Cooking. Quiche Smiche though - she & Nashira were already on to other things... comparing similarities in their outfits, sussing out favorite colors, hobbies & places in the world... my tears be damned.
the immediate connection was downright eerie. it wasn't like their first time meeting. it was as if they had not seen each other for a very long time. &... my daughter, while a natural charmer, doesn't necessarily just claim best friends like that, whether within or outside of her peer group. so it was only a continuation of a theme, when she presented her w/the card. no one knew the bizarre details until Mother's Day.

photo by imani uzuri

how did i end up in the temple of The Queen, you ask?

a few years ago, while catering a book festival thrown by my grrrrrrl, the epic Malaika, i met a gorgeous, lanky sis, Chandra. we were shooting the breeze on things culinary & such, & she was kind enough to hear out some of my food philosophy. just as i got to the part about how ancestral food moves souls from place to place, she sneered lovingly, "oh christ. another food freak. you're a real weirdo. you're just like my mom." "well, what does your mom do?" i queried, praying the woman wasn't like, an accountant who cooks for fun on the weekends, then crows about the recipes for months afterward. her slow sideways smile revealed itself. she said, "Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor. that's my mom."

i. died

About her: simple genius. anyone who knows me as a chef/writer knows what an impact Vertamae has had on my career/philosophy around cooking. there are many stars of my culinary constellation; many of whom i have mentioned before: Alice Waters/Nancy Silverton/Craig Claiborne/Edna Lewis/Patrick Clark/Marcella Hazan - i could go on. Vertamae, though, her madcap incandescent brilliance stands out & always has. she cooked for elite intelligentsia/charismatic celebrities before the term "Private Chef" was ever known to the masses. I first read her in the obsessive cookbook phase of my life. i schlepped the fuckers around like a kangaroo hoists her cubs into her pouch, as if i was waiting until they were of age to take their own leaps. i was 22 when i cut the umbilical cord & began writing my own recipes in cuisine as far flung as Japan/Italy/Senegal/Morocco/India/Spain...

photo by imani uzuri

Vertamae had said it was a matter of collecting the pantry. once assembled (mis-en-place), i began to feel that i could afford to make some educated guesses as to where i could tweak the ingredients & make them become the stuff of any good chef or better homemaker in that region. she has a way of talking in the vernacular about food and what does "season to taste" mean...
Vertamae gave me culinary wings.

a taste of freedom.

Mother's Day was something else altogether. i had accepted that there was something of a parallel or @ least extremely compatible nature taking place between us. Vertamae had laid it down as a Black Beat era artist. i was a child of the SNCC/CORE/Panther/Free Jazz era, w/my parents acting as ambassadors of each movement respectively. she was an altogether free renaissance woman who'd made her mark on the town she'd left in South Carolina, Paris (the emblematic Beat Hotel) & the LES. i had left New York to follow my heart/ex-husband, & had found my real love: pro cooking in the female led continental american driven kitchens of the west coast. we had both married in our extreme youths, white men who were established members of the counter culture. She, a young wife of a card carrying Beat Hipster. Me? my ex ran w/Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers, loose affiliates of the Weathermen. heady days for both of us, in starkly different eras w/equally stark similarities. She'd danced w/Sun Ra, etc. cooked for the luminaries of the Black Arts movement, as well as for household name type Behemoth living myths like Muhammad Ali. i had cooked, both in restaurants & in the homes of Heads of state, various films, subjects of various trials of the century, Black Rock Coalition, specifically been the green room caterer to Burnt Sugar Arkestra, headed up by our own Sun Ra, the illustrious GT. & obviously signed more than one non disclosure, having recently completed the US/European tour as personal chef to one D'Angelo, for his Black Messiah run. She had hosted a number of cooking shows, authored more than one well thought of tome on the subject of the cuisine specific to Black Diaspora worldwide. i had recently found one of my dreams realized: a group of excellent kooks had decided that my lead question: what does soul food mean to you? was worthy of an intimate web based show. i had like 3 fans, & was still ecstatic to shoot every episode, highlighting the lives, creativity & favorite foods of some of my dearest friends. She had been the recipient of the Craig Claiborne award. Craig Claiborne's work was a sort of guardian angel to me in my early career, his succinct accurate recipes opening the world of cuisine to me as a young chef.

i wanted to ask her about these crossed roads of ours. but of course we ended up in a conversation that meandered wherever, & i found out through some pics that she shared that while she was tight w/everyone's favorite author/poet laureate, Maya Angelou, she was especially close w/the queen of soul, Miss Nina Simone. "Me & Nina were like this," she indicated her intertwined pointer & middle fingers. "Sometimes, we would just fight to remind one another that we were best friends." laughingly regarding the wealth of images spread out before me, I mentioned offhand, "people really do reincarnate in groups! no mistake that Nashira & Miss Simone have the same birthday."

@ this point the room froze.

Chandra, Kali & Vertamae all regarded each other, Nashira, then me strangely. Chandra's face got tight. Kali's got puffy. Kali, or Chandra whispered, "the Baby & Nina got the same birthday???" & Chandra, or Kali echoed the first. Vertamae was the only one to take this in stride. "see? I told you she was my best friend!" she chortled as we all pulled ourselves together. weird. really really weird

i wanted her to feel honored on this day. we were, for the 3rd or 4th time, visiting w/her. i had decided that every time i saw her, i would include in my offerings to her either one of her favorites, or something from one of her books. i literally could not stand the epicness.

As usual, i stood by while Nashira presented & politicked...
"where did you come from?!? Ms. Vertamae crooned @ Nashira, continuing their earth shattering romance. "when i get outta here/get back on my feet, i'mma get someone to get me some money. then you & me gonna go around the world so i can figure out where you came from. read that again, what it say now? thank you -"

" - for being you!" lots of squeals/hugs here. we presented our gifts: curry chicken, no basmati. i was feeling straight up converted american here: Uncle Tom's Ben's rice - Indo-American comfort food. here again, in her presence Vertamae's magic was working overtime. i'd felt a strong intuitive pull, standing in the middle of TJ's bereft of what to feed her. the situation was radically different than when i would panic without a book. i didn't even have a plan. & i work on suggestion - it had to be soft, yet exciting - i followed my intuition to eggplant parmesan. upon delivery, Vertamae had scowled playfully @ her daughter Chandra & said, "you talked to her?" Chandra shook her head all saucer eyes. "Nope! she came up w/that on her own!!!" she gasped. Vertamae looking @ me sideways, & me, petrified that she was allergic or some shit. "Well?!?!" i finally barked, "is this bad news or good???" i am type A.... really don't like suspense all that much... Vertamae busying herself w/the unwrapping, Chandra bustling around & returning w/plates & forks from home & grinning - "It's her favorite! how did you know?"

not wanting to sound all Stevie Nicks about it, yet having no other choice i told them the truth: "i went to the market w/no ideas. & then it just came to me. & became the thing i wanted to make for Vertamae." Stares between Mother & daughter... & when Miss Vertamae took that 1st bite & rolled her eyes... you couldn't tell me shit. she liked it. she was happy w/something i had made.



sautee together
olive oil
garlic &
whole peeled tomatoes
fresh oregano

simmer til onions fall apart.
slice thick circles of eggplant, like ½–¾ inch thick. Spread the slices out in a single layer and sprinkle them with salt. This helps draw the water out of the eggplant and helps maintain a meaty consistency during and after frying.
fry in olive oil in a cast iron pan egg-wash-and-breadcrumb combo After frying, drain the eggplant on paper towels.

in a rectangular baking dish, like a 9 x 13, ladle some sauce on the bottom, a layer of eggplant, some freshly grated mozzarella cheese & grated parmesan. Season with salt and pepper then add another layer of sauce. Repeat until you’re out of space or eggplant. fresh mozzarella grated in between the layers & fresh mozzarella on top for melting and browning.
bake at 375˚ for about 45 minutes - & broil the top till brown & bubbling.

Curry Chicken

3 3# fryers, cut into pieces or 9# wings
marinate in:
6 TBSP crushed garlic
1 jar patak's curry paste
6 TBSP curry powder
3 TBSP garam masala
1 qut buttermilk
6 curry leaves
2 TBSP ginger, pulverized

sautee in a large pot:
6 cloves sliced garlic
2 curry leaves
1 bay leaf
2 sliced onions
3 sliced green peppers
(optional - black cardamom, extra ground cumin, or coriander, or turmeric - go by taste
even mushroom paste, if you have any shrooms on hand that you want to use up are perfect other add ons can be scallions, shallots, or chives - & these are to color the curry to your palate - but the straight recipe is a satisfying experience on its own)

add the chicken & its marinade, + 1 quart chicken stock. simmer for 45 min - 1 hr on a medium flame.

even our contrasts were directives: since Vertamae refused to give up the info on such things as aphrodisiacs in Vibration Cooking - she said something like, '& i won't even get into those secret ingredients; either they won't work & y'all will be mad, or i'll end up on the list of house un-american activities...' i made it my business to investigate them resulting in kundalini cooking, appealing to each chakra vibrationally, & resulting in sex chakra stimulating food, AKA, aphrodisiac foods.

She had left her hometown, South Carolina for New York/Paris/the world. had resided @/come into her own as a weirdo @ Beat Hotel in Paris' Latin Quarter. Had palled around w/her peers, all the greats including Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka, had become a master/writer/movie muse/hostess of her own show.
I had left my NY hometown for LA. had cooked all over the country in some fine restaurants/for film/for fabulous brilliant people of note. we had both cooked for/loved/been loved by our respective generation's Niggeratti, the best & Blackest to ever do it. She was/is my culinary Fairy Godmother. Cooking had been a past life/shapeshifting adventure for both of us.

on torch passing: many of you know all about Vertamae's travels. she has been around the world @ least thrice. Beloved Vertamae died this past September. Who knew that Nashira & i would end up invited to then flown to Paris for my dear runway walking sis's rockstar wedding to French royalty? can't make this stuff up. Going to the Beat Hotel was a foregone conclusion. as was getting all caught up in the Latin Quarter, lingering @ Shakespeare & Co. & missing our flight. but apparently sentimental tears were not. as Nashira so compassionately put it, "I don't care if you're happy or not. no crying Mommy." I tried to keep it together. but we had made it. to the heyday of Ms. Smart-Grosvenor's Genius youth; to The Beat Hotel. I feel in my bones that this was Miss Grosvenor's special good bye to me. well Actually to Nashira. her real best friend.

please enjoy the recipes.
thank you for reading.

Ibaye, Miss Vertamae.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

food column: uptown juice bar

any of my dear friends who have already read my blog (all 3 of them) already know that i am an



w/a special dedication to meat eating. almost nothing is too gory for the teeth: the rawest/strangest/most odd textures of fish/meat in either sushi or sashimi/kitfo/sweetbreads/squid - any form!!! can come to mama. i got you. get in me belly. for always & forever. not one to suffer from whatever plagues that remote, noble East Indian tribe of 'airitarians' who refuse to disturb the life force of - anything - in order to eat. nope! not one of those. as i have explored @ length in my blog (post link) the circle is painfully poignant: we eat everyone, those of us @ the top of the food chain. & in the end, everything eats us. simple & tear inducingly cyclical. the way life goes. as much of a carnivore as i am, i am also a dyed in the wool hedonist. if it's good, well then it's all grits & gravy. the feeling of a vegan meal in the mouth, all karmically clean is a soul nourishing one, but sorry friends, only if it's actually a taste bud slayer. a hedonist cannot fake delight. which is how i found myself led, all 'Walking Dead'-like to Uptown Juice Bar, a bastion of Ital Vegan in Harlem.

The loss of Raw Soul near the top of Sugar Hill was a crushing blow to my uptown sistren. & they came & tragically went while i was patriotically availing myself of all the thiebou djen that Brooklyn Senegalese had to offer. when i recently relocated uptown, my prayer was that Uptown Juice bar was still in existence. it was, by the skin of its Harlem Commercial Rent, just a few doors down from the last place it moved. now btwn Mad & park as opposed to mad & 5th. a small deterrent to foot traffic, but thankfully, there has been a line there every time i have been back. this Ital titan, open since 1995, has possibly inspired (& definitely predated) all of them: Veggie Castle in Bed Stuy, the aforementioned Raw Soul & the much newer Seasoned Vegan further south in Harlem. but that grand influence has not kept itself within the 5 boros. Uptown Juice bar has captured the hearts & minds of vegan chefs all the way into Nyack, the last time i checked (welp last weekend, if you insist): Main Essentials in Nyack w/its soffrito flecked vegan ropa viejo & arroz con gandules & fine peanut punch is a Jamaican/Latino influenced vegan spot whose chef/owner speaks lovingly of Uptown Juice Bar.

& how are they now? i wondered. still as fabulous as i remember?

who knew that they could be even better???

ahhh sookie.

the atmosphere is smaller, yet cozier than when they expanded - @ a whole other location - in 2010. interesting that their cultlike following manages to keep abreast of whatever their location is. no matter what. & while the outside sidewalk entrance no longer bears the beloved Ghanaian Adinkra symbolizing the omnipotence of God, the reverence for the art of plant based foods remains alive within.

i made a pure ass of myself on no less than 3 occasions:

the curry potatoes are sublime. subtle fully flavored well seasoned w/neither too much nor too little cooked curry.

the stewed eggplant: everything you want it to be... unctuous, toothsome, w/a rich roasted flavor that beckoned my taste buds on the regular, this one became a staple

the stir fried shrimp's texture is eerily close to the real crustacean, & it is my humble opinion that these interesting morsels would do better fried. they would then be indistinguishable from fresh shrimp.

any of the veg of the day are brightly colored & fresh tasting, be they steamed or roast broccoli, carrots, corn on the cob & some sauteed spinach that instigated a single tear of joy. #sogood!

& the stuff that wakes me up @ night?

the truly bizarrely chicken like mock chicken legs on skewers for chrissakes - SO cute, omg. the 'skin' is tofu skin. & something about that detail - the desire to come so close to the foods that most vegans (& really non vegans) love, is so sweet that i swear the good intent can be tasted. & not to let the collective kuumbaya of a well fed stomach confuse matters. these MFs are skilled. which brings us to another of EVERYONE'S favorites: the veggie stir fry... which makes me wax poetic: it is everything a vegan stirfry should be - savory/salty w/a hint of sweetness. perfectly stir fried veg, & w/their rice & peas it ain't nothin nice.

let's have a baked goods moment. in the US/Europe, baked goods should be light/airy. in the caribbean, the should be dense/toothsome. roti should be glutinously buff enough to withstand wrapping/sauces. cornbread should stick to the ribs as should poolourie (dumpling fritters) & so should banana bread, coconut corn bread or any of their specials.

i would be punishingly remiss not to mention the juice bar itself, w/it's winning combos (sold a la carte & made while you wait) - & SUPERLATIVE peanut punch, ginger beer, soursop & sorrel - all impressively made/packaged on site.

i guess it could be said that i kinda like this place, lol.

stop by, & that sentiment will be a humorous understatement for you as well.

enjoy all the best, in the best of health my friends!

uptown Juice bar

52 East 125th NY NY 10035

open daily 8AM - 10 PM

(212) 987-2660

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

chef, interrupted... bringing it all back home; legends... & what does soul food mean to you?

"we eat everything. & everything eats us," i solemnly intoned while my grrrrrl the Siren squealed in pure disgust.

let's ask @ this point: how far can i go w/this? this is a food blog, albeit, in this post, one that deals w/among other things, essential oils/tinctures etc. in food... & so the point being made was, indeed, disgusting - ok let's just spit out the whole gross point then. i see i have no choice:

so you like meat, huh? well guess what? you actually like meat, interrupted. you don't kill or cook your meat. so what you want is for it to taste as civilized as possible. & let's forget about how abused the animal may or may not be - let's take that off the table. b/c @ the end of the day, meat is gross. all that nasty sinew, bones, muscle organ - yuck. i mean i myself have visibly gagged when presented w/a lingue - beef tongue @ the market. does this mean i haven't clawed my way through more than one lamb leg/rib/chop, picking out the stringy sinew as i went? no. it does not mean that. gross as it is, i have done this.

oh, wait. really? apologies. i didn't realize that you were pescaterian... right. so clean, the ocean, right? i mean all that fish poop. & these gross assed fishes in there, chomping through all that Cousteau-offal, 24 hours a day since eternity. yumm! hurry up & get me some.

Jeez, how could i be such an idiot? - you're vegan. of course. & i suppose that all the time you've spent in restaurants absolutely fucking torturing chefs w/your overwrought madness has overshot the fact that, while you spent time ordering sauces on the side & scorning/eschewing any animal fats even rubbing up against your vegetables, that the very dirt candy you hold to be untouchable was, in fact grown in dead bodies. & all that this entails. & let's not even broach the subject of GMOs.

the world's eaters range from tribes of indigenous vegetarians who refuse to eat root vegetables for fear of harming any bugs within the soil, to rabid A-1 drinking damn near cannibals out in the street trying to gnaw on one another's legs/limbs. & the sad thing is that there is no understanding or compassion between them.

in actual fact the ugly truth is that if you as a human being want to eat, then you will have to cut something off from its life force.

"& the curse of this, for those of us @ either the top or bottom of the food chain (however you want to qualify humans), is guilt attendant to this. but there is no guilt involved, friends. b/c @ the end of the day, we eat everything. & when we die, everything eats us!"

the Siren was still panting.... "bring it all back home. bring it all back home! preach!!!" she belted. "i can't. OMG..." she cringed. she is always so supportive. what a melodic cutie. a melodic cutie whose gentle sensibilities were understandably horrified. We had been discussing how hard it can be on the self & others when a specialized diet is necessary. the Siren has been working a self-designed healing/grain free/intermittently vegan construct, figuring out through fasting/elimination/observation of the body's cycles what works for her. For awhile, i have been reading her lovely food posts, admiring the vivid colors/heartfelt descriptions of her juices & grain free vegan feasts, & feeling that a change was in the air. i could literally smell it. & why was that air not filled w/the smells of food simmering, you ask? b/c in this, the thick of the gut renovation of my apartment, my kitchen is out of commission. no storage & the oven needs to be replaced since it refuses to emit even gas any longer. so since i am in the market for a new oven, & have decided to wait until the new year to get a new one (renovation costs have nearly swallowed me whole) the whole question of cooking was... anathema.

a bitch became chef... interrupted over the last year or so while i pounded out @ least 6 blog posts & was way too depressed to publish them. ps! my best kitchen brother got married to his gorgeous/gentle/powerhouse soulmate (#yesyesy'all) had my STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL NEPHEW/GODSON (can it get any better???) the moved to Hawaii by way of Dallas (#whatinthemotherfuck???) what reason was there to cook anymore??? i mean simple kid foods for the babyrexic one were stressful/terrifying enough (no one wants the scorn of their own child) but this? oh fuck that. Flor de mayo menu in hand, i muddled through a few more months.

you know what kitchen? eat a dick. i never needed you anyway.

i began making perfume/herbal tinctures. i missed food, but it had all just become, le sigh, too heartbreaking. too many memories.

& then out of nowhere in march, one of my epic road-dog, SEK-C a magickal broad (about whom i have always said: this one shakes her magic wand in Jersey & there is a tidal wave in Bali) who traffics in manifestation w/a side of hope, decided that she wanted to start a web based lifestyle channel. So she picked up my cooking show. produced/directed/brainstormed it. co-birthed it. money involved? NO! a chance to sit down w/some of the MOST talented intriguing people & cook & ki-ki w/them???/fun as fuck/a dream come true? YES! a show that could pull all of my interests together & get them together on vlog... huh!

talk about bringing it all back home...

still, every time i sat down to publish a blog, either i had so much to say that the blog would have to be book length & who wants that? or there was so much to tell that i didn't know where to start. a conundrum. so i decided to do an update w/a few of the recipes that we shot for the last segment. friends, it was a feast fit for a king, served to one of the most elegant to ever grace the game:

beer battered shrimp:

2 - 3# shrimp 10/20 preferable tossed w/lemon juice sea salt & fresh black pepper
3 cups flour, 2 wheat & 1 cornmeal reserve 1 cup of wheat flour
seasoning salts of your choice
beer (something exciting/seasonal & microbrewery-ish) 2 12 oz. bottles
grapeseed or rice bran oil heated to popping

mix together the 1 reserved cup of wheat flour & the beer
let rest for @ least an hour in the fridge
mix together the cornmeal, flour & the seasoning salts
1st dip fish/shrimp in beer batter, then dredge fish/shrimp in dry mix. fry till crispy/golden/floating
drain on paper towels

freedome greens:

Freedom Greens: (vegetarian, pure brilliance - intead of any smoked meat, sesame oil - the BOMB, & not my invention, the invention of my soul brother, F)
4 bunches collards, washed 2X, by immersing them into a sink full of ice-cold water, then pulling them out, & once more, refilling the sink, & torn roughly, removing most stems & discarding
8 - 10 TBPS sliced garlic
2 shallots, diced
2 green peppers, diced
1 red pepper diced
1 orange or yellow pepper diced
2 jalapenos diced
1 or more kitchen spoons soy sauce
1 kitchen spoon sesame oil
a touch lem j
2 TBSP vinegar preferably live apple cider
1 bay leaf
fresh rosemary
fresh thyme to taste

saute all veg - garlic, too, except collards when fragrance starts to come off the garlic, & the oil is popping hot again, add the collards, & all remaining liquid. simmer to preferred doneness.

potato salad w/aioli & black garlic:

1 2# bag lovely baby potatoes: idaho, yukon gold, redskin.
2 - 3 TBSP. aioli (found in this blog) or lemon mayonnaise
3 sticks celery, w/leaves fine diced
6 cloves black garlic fine diced & blended w/mayonnaise
1/2 tsp chopped parsley
2 shallots, fine diced
1/4 tsp. dried mustard
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp. celery seed
seasoning salt - old bay, borsari, camp. etc.
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

make a cross @ either end of the potatoes & drop into salted, boiling water.
when a fork pierces each easily, remove & chop in half cubes
boil potatoes till soft, & rough chop, tossing the excess skin, & retaining just enough to keep the potato salad comfortably toothsome. add in rest of ingredients & mix lightly, till all are combined.

preheat oven to 375

1 cup whole wheat, white, or a mixture of the flours
1 cup indian head cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 TBSP. coconut syrup (easy on the glycemic index - no processed sugar spikes) or granulated coconut sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 - 4 oz melted ghee. butter or virgin coconut oil
1 - 1 & 1/2 cup buttermilk

mix baking soda w/buttermilk, set aside. sift together the baking powder, & if using granulated sugar, add to dry ingredients. add the melted oil/butter or ghee to the buttermilk mixture. if using coconut syrup, add this to the buttermilk mixture as well. mix dry into wet ingredients till just combined. pour or spread into a buttered dish about 9"X 9". bake for 35 - 45 min or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean

whole fried bluefish or porgy:

2 whole small bluefish (or porgy) each weighing no more than 2# each. ask the fishmonger to please thoroughly scale clean & gut the fishes, then rinse once more when you unwrap them @ your kitchen


shio koji (fermented rice for umami. found in Japanese markets &... superlative)
mixed seasoning salts (such as borsari & old bay or to taste) 2 tsp. turmeric
lemon juice
chopped garlic
freshly ground black & white pepper
2 tsp turmeric tincture
1 sheet kombu, soaked in water for 10 min or till pliable to the touch
mix together 1 cup flour & the seasoning salts to taste
let fish rest in this mixture for 1 hour or overnight.
lightly dredge in seasoned flour.

oil to fry preferably brown rice oil or grapeseed

heat oil to popping. add fish gently so that it does not spatter. fry 5 - 7 min on each side till fish is golden brown. remove w/tongs a spatula or a slotted spoon & drain on paper towels.

it began to occur to me that the theme was... death/endings/transformation. my career to date - a whole lotta hash slangin - was molting/mourning/@ a standstill. i literally had no will to cook anymore. why cook? i have to PRETTY MUCH AUTHOR A GRADUATE THESIS TO GO SHOPPING. staying informed about which one of the crunchy/nappy/granola companies i once loved (yes, i am talking to you, TOM'S of MAINE) sold out to colgate had me in a state of... burnout/exhaustion/the purest disgust. & as my grrrrrl - a chef who takes no prisoners - the Legendary LP commented during my interview w/her in words that wrote themselves on my soul forever:

"i had to stop. remember. i had to think back to why i got in the game... "

i knew exactly what she was saying. & even though we have a long overdue open air market date that has yet to be fulfilled, i credit her, my sis my sis w/my 1st steps back from mourning/burnout. ironically when we shot her segment, she was fasting & i was able to tap into

Turmeric chai w/coconut or nut milk

2 cups either almond, goat. cow or coconut milks
1 tsp grated fresh turmeric
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 cardamom pod or 1/8 tsp. ground
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper or 2 cloves whole
1 - 2 tsp coconut sugar in any form (optional)

simmer above ingredients together for @ least 20 min & up to an hour. if it is too spicy, then simply add more milk. enjoy in good health

yes, w/the legend/big poppa of poetry/art guardian angel/unforgettable writer, Danny Simmons (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) the honor was deep. the honor was DEEP! ok:

following the shoots, i am @ a new frontier. it occurs that any change, even one for the better comes accompanied by some sort of mourning/paralyzing anxiety. i had always cooked away the blues. but what happens if the thing you love best needs to take a rest? i don't know! what are you looking over here for??? what you thought i had a clue? oh well. still, something does seem to be evolving;

& i have always fantasized about food writing/criticism.

in any case, please enjoy this sampling of The People's Kitchen Convos!

love y'all

urban tiger/ghetto dragon; on diving deep & resurfacing, & medicine as food. wood shedding.

January 4/14
...long time.

our time apart has NOT been wasted, my people my people. my food loving people.

let's talk about restaurants. i am sure that, if you have read this blog before, then you have come up against my far from ideal relationship with them. but it's really just like crack cocaine, to be honest. i am after the ringing of bells/heart stopping adrenaline rush (even though from what i understand, every hit of crack is actually a mini-stroke) that attends the pressure of the kitchen. & i get it every time i cross - willingly cross a restaurant's threshold. so what's the problem? why am i still bitching? why am i always complaining that the business of food is just like a meth addled lover: the worst thing for you. yet you cannot stay away.

all this to say that after my most recent sojourn through the culinary woods of NYC, the nugget of wisdom that accompanies me on the journey back to (teetering) sanity is this:

get you a dunkin hines cake mix. if you really want to be gangster, get ghiradhelli.
now jazz it on up. add lemon zest. add herbs, elegant ones that you have seen in bride's magazine.
get you your frosting. in what? a box. again, get "creative". add fancy liquors that tickle your fancy. spices that are possibly off the beaten path that titillate your schmancy. extra cream cheese or some shit. add color. get all unnecessary.

this is your dessert. & b/c nothing is as it should be, go ahead & now get started on your entree:

got a can of coke? get one. get some beef shortribs, yes from pathmark/costco, & pour the coke & 2 boxes of MSG over this, then cook it to death. while you're @ pathmark, i am sure that your guests (ALTHOUGH IF THIS IS YOUR IDEA OF FOOD, THEN FRIENDS MIGHT BE SCARCE) will want more than one meat option - go ahead & pick up some of that delicious pre-fried chicken from pathmark.

what's wrong w/you? you so high-seddity that you can't get w/good ol' takeout chicken?

also, definitely pick up some tilapia: who cares where it's from/how it was farmed??? it's fish, ain't it? burn it in a pan w/some over salty spices, & let's call that blackened. go ahead & cut some painfully unripe mangoes into a pre-made chicken (mmmm! LOTS of mayonnaise that came from goddess-knows-where) salad & once you hit that w/some jetro's curry powder, then you are DOIN the got-damn ting.

asia should be dying, according to all the allergen consciousness around MSG. but look! in fact asians have a longer life expectancy/minimal cancer/diabetes ...

vegetables? how about a salad? got any hudson valley ranch? packets or in the bottle? well let's get it poppin!

finish everything off & hold it aside till your victims patrons arrive. then please! feel free to nuke each & every plate on its way to the table.


i just quit a couple of jobs.

the irony is, that @ one of them, i was asked to sign a non disclosure. (i assumed that this meant that the owner, about whom i will disclose NO details, was on to something really exciting. & friends, i was SERIOUSLY in need of some funds.) "yes!" i thought. this is going to be fun - i can watch & learn how this cute, small cafe in a developing neighborhood is attracting both big ticket clients (lots of record industry types) & a loyal following from the immediate area.

but it wasn't about the cleverness of the ostensibly old fashioned recipes. not @ this joint. b/c as i remember it, i got into this game to do things that it is not easy to do @ home. not to do things that i would never tolerate in my home.

nope. not the point.

my favorite establishments are the ones where the owner lightheartedly thought, oh, yeah! i know what i'll do! open a restaurant! sounds fun, how hard can it be? just hire some friends/family, throw them some recipes i collected online or from a bunch of magazines w/no cohesive point, & open! it'll be a great place to entertain guests, & i'll always have lots of delicious food around. perfect!


it is not my aim to call anyone out specifically, b/c this is pervasive. it is why i hate the business, & why i shed a single tear for black restaurants/restauranteurs. b/c no one on earth will take you seriously, if you don't. & that is all.

we, here in NYC, have utterly lost our way. this kind of crap is ubiquitous. & if you are not doing it this way, then you are quixotic/impractical/an out of touch food snob.

well then so be it. uppity negroes/negresses please unite. as the health industry is discovering, 30 years after the movement, the hippies were right. & all the "hippy-dippy" perjoratives were held up to the clear light of day when, years later, science finally kind of caught up w/what should be common sense (which just, sigh, ain't common @ all): food, grown cared for in the ways it has been since the beginning of time, is healthier for you. the closer you can keep it to its natural state, the better. it should not be toxic/grafted. local/seasonal is best for the planet/our bodies.

what's the fucking confusion?

three days before i quit one of the jobs, i brought the items i was testing for the new menu to the owner's house. an associate of hers - one of the managers, in fact, who was apparently supposed to be tasting the food i brought, stood there, eating pathmark chicken out of the pathmark bag. he ate not one bite of the greens (freedome greens, BTW found in this blog) that i'd brought. once i concluded my presentation, he took his final bite of his pathmark chicken & said, "delicious.'

long after the bitter end after my sis the Siren barked me through my overdue resignation letter, she was still chiding "fuck that! you betta get that heifer to sign a non-disclosure to the fact that you ever worked there!' lmbao. love her.

moral of the story? honestly still figuring, a lot of confusionment. why would goddess ever put ME of all people in these respective (i want to say so many things)... situations?
i believe that in love, we must kiss some toads. this is no accident. those warty mfs must be kissed, b/c although Goddess WILL ultimately get you what is best for you, you have to be as clear about what you want, as you do about what you don't. is this true of career dreams, too?

This week's nugget of wisdom: according to my mother, The Sam Jackson of relationships, fathers are, by definition, motherfuckers...

@ any rate, all this toxicity leads me to fast/cleanse/the wisdom of Dr. singha, creator of the mustard bath for detox, & of this Ayurvedic cold syrup that I intend to use as a further shield for the princess & I from the flu shot for the 3rd year in a row:

Dr. Singha’s Cough Syrup Recipe

1 – 2 small red onions, finely chopped
Equal volume of organic raw liquid honey
½ to 1 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
½ to 1 teaspoon fresh ground cloves
If the cough is chronic, add:
½ to 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
½ to 1 teaspoon fresh grated garlic
Finely chop onions. Place in a non-metallic bowl. Add an equal part of organic raw liquid honey. Add the cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and garlic. Mix with wooden spoon. Cover.

Let the mixture stand for 24 – 36 hours at room temperature. The honey will draw out liquid from the solid ingredients. Strain the mixture and pour in glass jars with lids. Refrigerate.

Dr. Singha suggested use: 1 teaspoon of this mixture can be taken as needed.

Please note: It is essential that no water come in contact with this mixture at any time during its preparation. The addition of freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice can be most beneficial. You may choose to keep one jar of the original recipe, and a second jar mixed with citrus juice.

Please also refer to my chicken soup recipe in the immunity chapter of this blog from Feb. 2012.

According to the Celts, winter is a cosmic sleep. A time to gestate. Cleanse. Rest. Heal. To dive deep, & resurface. & if you are an urban tiger ghetto (fabulous) dragon like me, then you are probably in need of some regenerative recipes for your demanding schedule:

There is no reason to drink anything other that lemon ginger iced tea during this season, preferably sweetened w/buckwheat honey. All honeys are homeopathic. They heal you w/the pollen, protecting you from hay fever & a broad spectrum of other allergens. Raw honey is full of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and powerful antioxidants. It has mad anti-bacterial, anti-viral & anti-fungal properties.

In addition it:

Helps digestion
Strengthens immune system
Eliminates allergies
Stabilizes blood pressure
Balances blood sugar
Calms nerves
Relieves pain
Treats ulcers
Sore throats
Indigestion Buckwheat honey specifically addresses bronchial problems, ridding the lungs of any excess fluid & is commonly prescribed by naturopaths to children under 6 as a safer & more effective cough suppressant than those found either prescribed or over the counter.

Lemon Ginger Iced Tea:

a large - approx 6 - inch to 1 foot of ginger sliced then pulverized w/the flat of the knife
3 knobs turmeric, same treatment as ^^^above^^^
6 cloves black pepper
1 8 0z jar of honey preferably buckwheat
6 - 1 dozen whole lemons, juiced preferably meyer lemons
2 gallons water

boil the root slices together for up to 1 hour. mixture will be extremely spicy & reduced.
cool w/roots & pepper still in liquid
when cool, add lemon juice & honey to taste
serve iced & be well
Happy Eve of Winter...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Mediocrity That Attends Greatness. Amma. Trayvon. ritual foods.

what happened to us?  we once had Malcolm.  we ended up w/Farrakhan.  we once had MLK, & what remains? Jesse-Cut-Loose-the-Juice-Jackson & the Hot Ghetto Mess That  Is Also Known As Sharpton. we once had Marley/Wailers, & are now left w/Shaggy...

i understand that w/the greats, there must be balance, & it must be in the midst of goodness.  however,
why can't the public ever make the distinction between what is great, & what reminds us of greatness?

Case in point:  in the middle of the most pressure-filled, high stakes year of my life, one of my yogini friends called - (you may even remember her? i know i know it's been a while - more about that later. - the tantrika - see 'aphrodisiacs' within this blog) joyfully demanding in that special yogini  'hey! yes.  you're doing this.  be here @ this time.  hurry up, now wait' way that certain spiritualists excell @.

& so i got to javit's center @ 5:30 - okay really @ 6, (almost) on time to get swept up in the living avatar/future orisha that is Mata Amritanandamayi, the hugging guru.

so cute!

she could be anyone's grandma, y'all.  sweet-faced, gloss/frizzy haired, gentle eyes. she is absolutely the cutest thing that you have ever seen/experienced before ever.

years ago, when i was fired up to attend one of her pujas (ritual cleansing/honoring ceremony), my filmmaker friend Scandalous S, barked - 'are you serious. line up w/them corny motherfuckers for a hug that you can get from your grandmother.  disgusting'  & she's right.  my (remaining) grandmother is one of my gurus.  Amma is another.

you can call me corny.  it won't be the first time.  i HAD to see what all the fuss was about.  & that's how i ended up waiting on line after line after line (my FAVORITE ting) for damn near 14 hours in order to get said hug.

i have a storied past w/this particular puja.  i suppose one could call me a workaholic. ok i call myself that.  b/c of shit like:  for the last few YEARS, i have sincerely intended to go - but was loathe to pull from my 100 hour work week to do so.  so dying to no longer feel that life was passing me by as i slaved in a temperature controlled box, i would believe that i could do it - bring friends, hang around for a couple of hours, then rush back to work.

3X is the charm.  having quit said job, & refashioned my life around new career goals/my daughter's schedule, this year, guess what i had?  a day off.  whoooooooooooo-hooooooooooooo!  a long time coming.
so it was a good time had by (almost) all, until...

stumbling around @1AM, after the tantrika's exit - (SO doll-pretty in her ritual clothes!!!) i noticed a tent/curtained off area  that houses about 10 sleeping forms.  eureka!  a cold hard floor in the warm, quaint, wonderful heh-heh javit's center - just what i have always wanted - admittedly i was looking on the bright side -
thinking, 'i will sleep here until my letter is called' - there were @ least 1,000 people on line - i set my alarm, & lay down.  there is something about sleeping in a public place w/a large group for an intended purpose.  adventurous. half thrilled, half dreading the aching soreness that would surely accompany my nap, my head snapped up as a (non-Indian) sari-ed form pointed & barked @ me:
'you have to leave.  i am doing a treatment in here.'
'i don't understand.  i am trying to take a nap like everyone else in this room.  i won't keep you from doing your healing.'
'but you are not sleeping.'
'that's true, ma'am.  i am not sleeping b/c you are yelling.'  @ this point, i am feeling decidedly non-yogic. & yelling, as well. really?  takin' it to tha skreets @ a damn hugging guru session?  tragic. - i refused to take the bait.
the woman w/her attempted to explain: 'she's w/Amma'.  this made my head explode.  her rudeness is ok somehow, b/c she's riding Amma's coattails?  #shefunny.
'i hear you, however there was no question asked, no introduction just orders.  i don't know who she is.  & she made no effort to tell me.'
she smiled ruefully, & followed the woman, as she started whatever healing module - (lolololololololol - sign me right up to get a healing from THIS heifer) that they were exchanging.
presently, eyes got heavy & exhaustion outpaced adrenalin.  relief.

until the sari'd clown kicked me.  you heard me, she kicked me.  yup. you know how cops kick the soles of the feet of homeless men?  yup. (- ps - i always make a popping 'p' sound when i say yup.  i want you to imagine this.)  yup.  this time all bets were off -
'listen.  i don't know who you are, & @ this point do.  not. care.  so do not speak another word to me, & do NOT touch me again.  stop it.'
'you're not sleeping'
'first of all i was -'
@ this point, 2 headwrapped devotees have appeared.  except, they are telling me to be quiet.
' was quietly sleeping until she kicked me.'
@ which point sari clown was put on time out in her corner of the room.  & i?  bitchily did my own personal sit/lay-in, until she left.  now i know, in a profound way, what it means to sleep w/one eye open.

which begs the question:  what's up w/the ignorant/unlovely/mediocrity that attends greatness/brilliance/legend?

one of the lovely women @ the reception table after becoming incensed @ my description of events mentioned wisely that 1) it's merc wretched - & 2) she always knows when Amma's headed to town, b/c in her words. 'all around me, people start acting up!'  lol.
another thought, though, is that our sages, no matter what form they take, are also healers.  who needs healers the most?  that's right the sickest among us.  why may you love a teacher beyond reason, yet feel no need to follow them to the ends of the earth.  i believe this is b/c you are good to go on the teachings that they give you when you see them.  those who actually must travel w/the guru, & seek to alienate anyone not in their circle,  is obviously suffering more than i could ever imagine. a soul is a terrible thing to waste, isn't it?
anywhoo, on such a trivial level, thank good Goddess that the food was official.  the only thing that could have possibly healed me was poori/saag paneer:

these 2 recipies are adapted from my grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl  Madhur Jaffrey, a pure culinary genius.


    1      cup           sifted whole-wheat flour (sift to take out some of the larger bran pieces)
    1      cup           all-purpose flour
    1/2  teaspoon      salt
    2      tablespoons   vegetable oil + more for deep-frying
    1/2  cup           water
 Put the 2 flours and salt in a bowl.  Drizzle the 2 tablespoons oil over the
 top.  Rub the oil in with your fingers so the mixture resembles coarse
 breadcrumbs.  Slowly add the water to form a stiff ball of dough.  Empty the
 ball on to a clean work surface.  Knead it for 10-12 minutes or until it is
 smooth.  Form a ball.  Rub about 1/4 teaspoon oil on the ball and slip it
 into a plastic bag.  Set it aside for 30 minutes.
 Knead the dough again, and divide it into 12 equal balls.  Keep 11 of them
 covered while you work with the twelfth.  Flatten this ball and roll it out
 into a 5-5 1/2 round.  If you have the space, roll out all the pooris and
 keep them in a single layer, covered with plastic wrap.
 Over a medium flame, set about 1 of oil to heat in a small, deep frying pan
 (I used my wok).  Let it get very, very hot.  Meanwhile, line a platter with
 paper towels.  Lift up one poori and lay it carefully over the surface of the
 hot oil.  It might sink to the bottom but it should rise in seconds and begin
 to sizzle.  Using the back of a slotted spoon, push the poori gently into the
 oil with tiny, swift strokes.  Within seconds, the poori will puff up.  Turn
 it over and cook the second side for about 10 seconds.  Remove it with a
 slotted spoon and put it on the platter.  Make all the pooris this way. The
 first layer on the platter may be covered with a layer of paper towls. More
 pooris can then be spread over the top.  Serve the pooris hot (immediately).


2.5cm (1in) cube fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3–6 garlic cloves, peeled
½–1 fresh hot green chilli, sliced roughly
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
150–200g (5–7oz) paneer
¼ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
675g (1½lb) spinach, washed, trimmed, and very finely chopped
3 tablespoons single cream 

Put the ginger, garlic and green chilli into the container of an electric blender or food processor along with 50ml (2fl oz) 
water. Blend until you have a smooth paste. You may need to push down with a rubber spatula once.
Heat the oil in a large, wide, preferably non-stick sauté pan over a medium heat. Put in all the pieces of paneer and fry them
 turning them over gently with a slotted spatula, until they are golden brown on all sides. (This happens fairly quickly.) 
Remove the paneer with a slotted spoon and place on a plate in a single layer. Sprinkle the paneer quickly with 1⁄8 
teaspoon salt, the garam masala and the cayenne pepper. Set aside.
Put the paste from the blender into the hot oil in your pan (keep your face averted) and fry it, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds. Now add the spinach and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir the spinach around for 1 minute. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and let the spinach cook gently with the ginger–garlic paste for 15 minutes. There should be enough water clinging to the spinach leaves to cook them. If all the water evaporates, add 1–2 tablespoons and continue cooking.Nowadd the paneer and cream, stir gently and bring to a simmer. Cover and continue cooking on low heat for another 10 minutes. Stir once or twice during this period. 

i don't usually love crepes, but the dosa specialist was so gangsta.  watching her, i understood endurance/focus/perfecting.  she did nothing but dosa for HOURS.  & from the look on her face, from what i could glean, each one was the first one she had ever made.  & it had to be perfect.  b/c it was ritual food, made in the spirit of the feasts presented to gods.  it is ritual, this type of repetition.  it is mantra/coal-walking/trance:


14 oz patna (an aromatic long grain) or other, such as basmati long grain rice washed in; several changes of water
7 oz urad dal
1 teaspoon salt
10 fl oz vegetable oil

These nutritious pancakes from the Tamil Nadu region are versatile and can be eaten for breakfast as a light lunch or for dinner. They may be eaten plain with coconut chutney, or folded over potatoes.

Soak the rice and urad dal in separate bowls of water for about 2 hours. The water should cover them by around 1 inch. Drain. Blend the urad dal with 6 fl oz water in an electric blender for 5 - 8 minutes until it is pale, smooth, light and airy. Empty the mixture into a large bowl. Put the rice and 6 tablespoons of water into the blender and blend until it turns into a fine granular paste. Add to the dal with the salt and mix gently. Cover and leave in a warm place like an airing cupboard to ferment for 24-26 hours. The batter should double in volume. Add 7 fl oz water fold in gently and leave in a warm place for a further 1 1/2 hours. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan and when hot, drop 4 fl oz of batter in the centre of the pan. Put the rounded bottom of a soup spoon very lightly into the center of the batter and using a slow, gentle and continuous spiral motion, spread the batter outwards with the back of the spoon until you have a pancake around 7 inches in diameter. Dribble 1/2 teaspoon of oil over the pancake and another 1/2 teaspoon round the edges. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, or until the dosa has turned reddish brown. Turn over and cook uncovered for a further minute or until the second side develops reddish spots. TIPS: Urad dal is a small pale yellow split pea. Buy it from Indian grocers or substitute the more familiar yellow split peas available in supermarkets. 

Black/Brown/Asian/Women:  there is nothing on earth more healing than watching the leaders of the free world BOW DOWN to this humble, dark Black Asian woman from the underclass.  & why?  b/c her compassion is the truest thing they have ever felt/seen & it brings them to their knees.

on my hug:  everything that has been said about her is true.  my hug seemed to be over in a split second, although according to witnesses, i was in her embrace for quite a while.  she whispered mantra into my ear.  my spirit understood every word, though my mind has no idea.  something simply twisted, & opened as she held me.  & the tears poured out.  this is so expected as to be a joke, & is no joking matter.  real deal hollyfield, y'all.

she is a true devi & is already walking/levitating her starred path to saint hood.

it is said that there is a particular path to Orisha Obatala, who has been syncretized w/buddha/jesus/kwan yin:

Obatala Yemowo:  she rules/owns eggs, as in ovaries, she forms the child in the womb, has dominion over all creative acts/arts & has extremely expressive hands.  Obatala only draws to the inner circle the best of the best.  this relates directly to Amma's habit of bringing male spiritualists/politicians/dignitaries to their knees, in sobs, begging for a hug...

Although, she also, of course, reminds me of Orisha Yeye-Omo-Eja:  mother of all fishes, who, although she is often childless, grants pregnancies to those who wish for it, & claims omo-eja (all fishes/humans/) as her children.  she walks/levitates on the seven seas, & visits each continent as casually as moving from one room of her house to another.  & when she raises her hands either in prayer or salute, gold/silver/all the riches of the sea falls from them nourishing the hungry.  welp, she could be in Africa today, Paris tomorrow, Asia the day after that.  her devotees ensure that she is either carried wherever she goes, or walks on a bed of rose petals.

& there is an eerie hush before she enters any room.

i have no doubt that she is in possession of every single one of those forms in her ache/prana/chi.  i highly recommend.

but what really had me in teary joyous shock was her philanthropy.  this hugging shit is not. a. game.  'excuse me, US.  you done fucked up w/katrina.  but, i have $1 million to you go - no worries!  more where that came from.'

& killing the US w/that type of kindness, children, is called putting down the mac. lmbao.

love her!


niggas are soaring.

speaking of (DIS)EMPOWERMENT, i had to come out from the underground for this one:  VERDICT, anyone??

thank goddess i was @ amma's or no telling.  burnin/lootin?  possibly.  much more possible: a self inflicted brain-born bullet.

when we came out of Amma's into the early daylight & heard the news, sure, i was horrified.  but not surprised.

the truth?  for women, bowing down to the male principle has left us/our children terribly vulnerable to the whims of man.  it's just like the mother who allows her children to be brutalized by her significant other, b/c she wants to remain attractive.  it's disgusting.  we have to engage in what is so obviously a turf war being waged in/on our plates/homes/streets/tv's/court systems/schools.  we have to fight, we have to fight as women, w/a smile on our lips, joy, in our hearts, our arms wide open, even to our enemies.  we cannot fight the way men do, as we have seen what a crushing failure this has turned out to be.  we must fight injustice in the way we train our men to treat us.  the way we raise empathetic, wise children.  in the way we demonstrate to the world. that patriarchal cruelty  can never stand up to enlightenment.

Fatboy killed the kid in cold blood.  period.  let us have a brief moment of silence.  then pick up our tools & continue the fight:  all is not lost, my friends:  Zimmerman can still go down for violating Trayvon's civil rights:

sooner, rather than later, my dear friends.

i promise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

word/rock/sword, umami! & kundalini foods for healing/magic/bliss!!!

let's talk about dinner parties...

you know? like the one a week before your birthday when a long-lost friend surfaces out of the clear blue, & invites you over to to THROW DOWN on her real, state of the art grill/smoker b/c she knows you're a grill whore?  ok maybe not the greatest hypothetical set up, but there it is.

friends, a few words about grills:

don't buy a gas one.  please?  don't buy a gas one?  there is absolutely NO difference whatsoever between broiling in your oven, & throwing stuff on a GAS grill.

it sucks.

friends, the whole point of grilling is the smoke flavor.  it cannot be obtained in any other way.  you need to start a fire, let the coals/wood go white/red/glowing, then GRILL.   this is why @ a time in civilization when we, as a culinary culture need to be making info on the most fabulous smoking woods (hickory, apple, & mesquite among them),  more generally available, we are instead flipping a switch, & getting no flavor.


not only that, but these gas joints employ all types of technology, & are EXPENSIVE.  K???  & for WHAT?  it is the greatest scam of our time, & so symbolic of where we are as a culture:  expensive, meaningless style over substance.

i had been separated from one of my favorite pastimes for too long.

& since central park has outlawed grilling, & since apparently grilling on a fire escape is a fire hazard (philistines!), my grilling options were SEVERELY limited.  & when my grrrrrrl the epic/alpha/A  reached out, i had to put whatever lingering tensions there were from our last silly argument aside, & roll.  A is a grrrrrrl who is always, without question, the boss.  this can... chafe, if you call yourself a friend & not a staff member.  still, that  FLY-ASSED gas grill:  it haunted me.  finally, a week before my birthday, i woke up w/wisps of grill smoke haunting my barely remembered dreams & said fuck a beef.  what beef you ask?  oh you must be talking about the 10 yes, count them 10 juicy, freshly cut, grass fed porterhouses i got in my refrigerator, right? (stew leonard's, y'all - i travel far & wide for my madness & you should too - it is in white plains, but don't people be traveling for like, casinos???  ya.  so i dispatched my dad - who lives nearby to make it happen & stew's b/c - they are genius.  they have their own farms, & so can offer grass-fed beef @ a cut rate.)


i called epic A:  "i am in."
"yay!"  she trilled.  "& grrrrl, don't even brang nothin!  i got it all covered."

the porterhouses would wait till my next grill trip.

when i got there, she had a perfect grill feast waiting to be marinated...

she had:

zucchini &
yellow squash

she has a palate, & so there was an astute selection of flavorings, as well.  i like to go fairly subtle on some grill flavors, like the salmon, which i marinated in a simple
lemon juice &
sesame oil
joint for about an hour per pound, then prepped the rest.  the salmon ultimately got grilled for about 5  - 7
min on each side.

all the veg - except for the corn - got a brush w/fine olive oil, doused liberally w/sea salt & pepper, then was grilled till marked, & removed to a light drizzling of soy sauce & balsamic vin.

the shrimp got a  15 min soak in habanero hot sauce - cause she had some.  & it was dope! - (you can simply puree 3 habaneros & 6 TBSP apple cider vinegar & use this mixture)
salt, black pepper &
vinegar situation, & got grilled w/the shells on till pink.

in other news, she had in her possession, walkerswood jerk paste.  now the classic recipe for jerk has among the lead flavors:

habanero - this is a recipe that works quite well, actually:

5 scallions (green onions)
5 sprigs of fresh thyme (about 1 tablespoon chopped)
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 scotch bonnet peppers
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1 onion
1/2 cup orange juice
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
* a beautiful secret addition, if you want to ratchet up the flavor a notch:  2 oz rum, & 2 oz angostura bitters...  they do something special to the meat...

blend all ingredients together.  mix w/about 3# chicken cut into serving pieces.  let it hang around for an hour or two.  then grill!!!

but then my grrrl already had the walkerswood, a magical paste that i have seen reduce mainland jamaicans to their knees.  so i was ecstatic.  an ecstatic virgo, nevertheless,  so tinkering was a must:  i added some soy sauce & doubled the garlic.  also, the orange juice became a 1/2 & 1/2 mix of lemon & orange juice, & we were on.

there's a deep love in the pit of my soul for pit grilling, lol.  there is something so ancient/free/primal about it.  people have been cooking this way since the discovery of fire.  & i just love that.

the next week, i was still in possession of the porterhouses.  & then it was Happy Birthday!  to me.  yes, yes happy birthday - i love to cook for friends on these days, or work, or both.  a friend once advised that whatever you are doing on new year's eve, you will most probably be doing for the rest of the year, & i tend to agree.  & for the new year's day of our lives - the day of birth, what could be better?

which is how i found myself on my birthday, in the seafood section of fairway, agonizing over scallops,
not even daring to lust over the live lobsters, those attention seeking bastards, swimming around in their tank...
when my homeboy F swooped in & joyfully called out a request for "6 whole live ones, my man..."  a shopper gazed up @ his beauty, speechless, as if to ask, "why so many?"  @ this invitation, he offered helpfully to the gathered seafood shoppers, "'tis the season.  & you better snap them up this year.  'cause it ain't gonna be this way next year - maine had some sort of crazy surplus...  mark my words."  "good to know"  she beamed.  we were all beaming. F is a portable party.  the all-stars were there:  F, the Siren, the Smartest Bitch I Know, et. al... & it was fabu.  sometime during the fine festivities, F was like, "what do you want to do w/the lobster?  i was thinking thermidor."  a quick google search revealed the recipe:

2 (1 1/2-lb) live lobsters
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 lb mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons medium-dry sherry
1 cup heavy cream, scalded
2 large egg yolks

the recipe i read instructed me to parboil the lobsters. but ever vigilant of the precious flavor lost to even the most minimal cooking of shellfish, we declined.  instead, we split all the lobsters raw.  then cleaned the innards & poured the custard over the lobster halves.


heat butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook mushrooms, stirring, until liquid that mushrooms give off is evaporated and they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. add lobster  claw meat, paprika, salt, and pepper and reduce heat to low. cook, shaking pan gently, 1 minute. add 1 tablespoon sherry and 1/2 cup hot cream and simmer 5 minutes.

 whisk together yolks and remaining tablespoon sherry in a small bowl. slowly pour remaining 1/2 cup hot cream into yolks, whisking constantly, and transfer to a small heavy saucepan. cook custard over very low heat, whisking constantly, until it is slightly thickened.  add custard to lobster mixture, stirring gently.

 preheat broiler.

 arrange lobster tails & shells, cut sides up, in a shallow baking pan and spoon lobster with some of sauce into shells. broil lobsters 6 inches from heat until golden brown, 10 - 15 minutes. serve remaining sauce on the side.

 * when salting water for cooking, use 1 tablespoon salt for every 4 quarts water.

we had tons of great stuff to play w/:  like filet mignon, again smeared w/garlic, copious black pepper, sliced shallots, & the ethiopian spice F still spurns me for:  request after request for the name of said spice still leaves me w/no eye contact... & no answers as to the name of said mysterious ethiopian spice.

friends.  how many of us have them?

oh well.   @ least i have sea scallops.   we did them w/a wild mushroom emulsion:

1 & 1/2 # sea scallops sprinkled w/sea salt,
lemon zest
black pepper
grated garlic

a melange of mushrooms, dried, worked well for my purposes.  they were in one packet, & the mix was black trumpets
reishi - (chinese medicinal mushroom royalty - also good tasting w/great texture)
hydrate in water room temp then chop roughly.

to this i added fresh crimini &
fresh maitake
also chopped rough

get a saute pan going & saute the scallops on one side to a thick brown crust.  turn & sear on the other side for 2 min.  set aside.

then in the same pan saute
6 sliced shallots
6 cloves black garlic
6 cloves roast garlic

& caramelize over medium heat.  raise heat & add the shrooms.  saute till the shrooms give up their liquid & begin to glaze.  pull from the heat. add fish sauce, reduced balsamic vinegar, 2 TBSP, & a few squirts of lemon juice to a blender.  then the shrooms.   pulverize. add olive oil while the blender is running, until the mixture becomes creamy.  stop blending immediately, & pour onto a platter.  arrange the seared scallops, crust up artfully.

what a spread!!!  happy birthday to me.  do i feel old, you ask?  since i am methusula, i will say this:  i have a sneaking suspicion that old  =  strong/sexy/wise.  in which case, yes, i am old.  oh!  & old is rich:

you already have the balsamic vinaigrette recipe that i used for the green salad, just search this blog for balsamic vinaigrette.  & add it to 3x washed greens, in this case romaine, & add walnuts, pomegranate seeds & goat cheese to this, & you have the salad to the left.

the corn was simply boiled & buttered - my favorite!

after this i did a third, yes you heard me, #3! dinner party & repeated the greatest hits of the previous party w/the addition of clams, & a bruschetta for my vegan friend:

broil slices of a nice whole grain bread to desired done-ness. drizzle w/olive oil.
then make a walnut pesto w/1 whole bunch of clean basil
2 hands full walnuts
6 cloves garlic

& some creminis sliced in quarters, & sautee in olive oil till brown @ the edges & seasoned w/sea salt & black pepper.

smear the grilled bread w/the pesto.  randomly smear some st. andre on top of this & add the mushrooms.


enter word rock sword,

& a chance to sample my concepts w/a clan that i love:  the artist/womanyst/creatrix group that makes up a festival of freedom fighting luminaries who gather once a year to bring awareness to the fact of being a woman... anywhere.  this year it was yet another feminist bonanza:  a series of events:  spoken word, short films, outreach to woman prisoners, a concert, & the closing ceremony, to name a few.  as caterer for the closing ceremony, i knew that i would have a grouping of people who don't hold back on the truth w/stellar/well-cared-for/well-traveled taste buds to test my evolving food philosophy on.     word rock sword, a return engagement (see september 2011 for the recipes from last year) that always leaves my soul healed/refreshed/ready to party.  a gathering of some of the most talented/glamorous/hot-to-def ladies get together to wax poetic, dance, do yoga, & sang, do you hear me?  all in the name of supporting women's worldwide rights.  this year a gathering/awareness/city-wide ritual circle like this is IMPERATIVE.  b/c the rethugs are trying to slap women back to the 17th century - & let's not even delve into what they are trying to visit upon black folks. (it has occurred to me more than once that the right wing's tea party is tantamount to haiti's ton-ton macoute:  government terrorizing its own citizens by dressing up as ghosts - i hope y'all are voting...)  it is always heartening to commune w/my sis's who give a fuck what is going to happen to the country & are not afraid to take to the streets/yoga studio/stage to announce it.  & the sight of nashira reaching out to touch her incandescent aunties as they alighted to the stage to set our hearts on fire was priceless.  she & i scored a seat, stage-side, B/C SHE DEMANDED IT, & were right under the nose of the legend the lovely Miss Nona Hendrix as she belted out her ode to Rush Limbaugh & his porky politics. i swear i saw the Siren, S, LJP, TR, & LW levitate.  i swear!

nashira's eyes were like saucers.

& then, the closing ceremony...  which i was catering.

nervous much? - oh always.  especially since, for the first time, my goofiness was caught on film/video by my grrrrrrrl/circle sister E/S, of whom i have always said, "this bitch waves a magic wand in jersey, & there is a tidal wave in Bali" who, among 1 million other skills is the capturer of the most ritual/powerful/beautiful images on film?

this time, the epic musician whose name is power called me, & i was ready.  b/c over the last few months, 2 things have obsessed me: kundalini foods, & the concept of umami:

umami is the japanese word for 'delicious'.

japanese food is, by definition, seafood based, so the prevalent taste of seaweed is a non-issue.  indian food is highly spiced, & it is easier to break down its components & scatter them around a bunch of different dishes, but the healing essence is also less localized than w/japan.

w/regard to kundalini foods, it is my opinion that kundalini demands sexiness/deliciousity/vibrance from its food. it should be food that connects the DNA strand of magickal energy that emanates from us as life force. it should strengthen our organs, soothe our souls, nourish us past the point of any illness or di-ease to wellness, & it should encourage us to use this every day healing w/pure abandon. as far as i am concerned, the japanese & the east indians have mastered this in a way that i can only hope to touch in this life time. the japanese have infused healing seaweed into everything they do. it is the backbone of the cuisine. & it is detoxifying/healing/soothing. east indians have been, for centuries, practicing a special form of alchemy which connects their, what? 3,000 year old system of ayurvedic medicine to their perfume-y sumptuous vittles.

how could i, i wondered, combine the 2 concepts into a series of menus that would work for the local palate?

so my first steps, & you are taking them w/me, were to integrate the seaweed w/taste compatible ingredients.  hence the concepts, & menus...

the main idea:

1  Shakti is the primordial creative force of the Universe that lives as The Goddess, Kundalini Shakti. Shakti Ultimately desires to be united with Her Divine Cosmic Lover, Shiva, who resides at the top of the brain in the crown chakra.

2  The Great Serpent Power, Kundalini, lies coiled, three and 1 half times around our tail bones and can be aroused spontaneously by different means. This is known as a Kundalini Awakening

3  The Microcosmic Orbit is a main energetic circuit that nourishes all the channels and meridians in the body.

4  The Functional Channel starts at the tailbone and moves up past the genitals, stomach, heart, and throat-and ends at the tip of the tongue. 

5  The Governor channel also starts at the tailbone but moves up through the spine into the brain and terminates at the roof of the mouth.

6  The tongue is like a switch that connects the two streams of energy.

i did a kind of demo/presentation/tasting that centered around the concept that

1 - your tongue is a magical tool.

2 - food = magical ingredients. &

3 - when eating for kundalini/manifestation, visualize the area of your body/life that you are stimulating & imagine/visualize the food literally feeding that chakra.


1st chakra,  mooldhara:  root place red/black: survival/elimination -   spicy beet salad w/roast garlic, matsutake mushrooms e.o. bk pepper, & balsamic vin - trying to make the rent? see yourself as successful, as safe/taken care of/secure, & while you are eating your beet salad, also visualize your root chakra as the lovely, juicy, clear red of the beets.  taste the earthiness of the beets, & feel yourself rooted to the soil, cared for/nourished ENRICHED by the soil. 

this is kundalini food magic.

Roast Beet Salad w/Black garlic, Walnuts, & Goat Cheese for 10 - 15 people

roast 6 beets @ about 450 for 45 - min to an hour for medium sizes & allow to cool. skins should slip right off.  then cut them into 1 inch cubes.  add pink himalyan sea salt, copious black pepper, & if desired, 1 drop only - essential oil (e.o.) of black pepper. sautee in
1 TBSP grapeseed oil 
w/roast garlic, 6 cloves chopped roughly,
3 cloves black garlic: 

also chopped roughly, on high heat till the garlic becomes extremely fragrant, but not burnt.
when the beets have given up all their liquid & begun to caramelize, remove from heat & set aside while you dress the greens:

to clean, dry, hand-torn greens, singly or a mixture of red leaf, green leaf, & butter lettuce, add olive or grapeseed oil* to coat. then add the plum/balsamic vinaigrette:

6 cloves garlic
2 anchovies
10 drops fish sauce
2 TBSP soy sauce
6 TBSP umi (plum) vinegar
6 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP lime juice
1 drop black pepper essential oil
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
2 TBSP e. v. olive oil

whir in a blender/food processor everything except for the oils.  in drops, then a mid stream, add the oils one right after the other.  this will render everything creamy, as it emulsifies.  add sea salt to taste - & taste;  you may not need it!

add to the vinaigrette to your discretion.  then toss in

1 - 2 cups shelled walnuts
the cubed beets

& mix.

garnish each plate w/1 tsp.  fresh goat cheese, which looks stunning against the beets, i feel:

grapeseed oil has tons of vitamin e, & has an extremely high smoke point, so for regular saute & even for deep frying, below 400 degrees, there is no chance of rancidity.  it is chock full of healthy, unsaturated fats, a fine balance of omega 3's & 6's & powerful antioxidants.

2nd chakra,  swadisthana: place of one's abode 2nd chakra reproductive - orange

this recipe addresses the 2nd & 3rd chakras: miso is orange, w/yellow properties, re:  the probiotics in miso!!!  miso not only has tons of umami, but also precious probiotics, just like the ones in yogurt that make the system alkaline, restore the natural flora of the intestine, & keep illness far away!
grapefruit yellow, miso is orange...

Miso Perfumed Salmon w/Sake & Butter

2# salmon steaks
4 TBPS miso paste
1/2 cup sake
2 TBSP soy sauce
grapefruit juice
lemon juice
2 TBSP butter, pref. grass fed

marinate salmon in the miso mixture for 1 hour.  sear in melted butter, & set aside. serve w/

superfood caesar salad:

6 anchovies
2 tsp capers
2 TBSP lem j
1 TBSP worchestishire
1 TBSP sriracha
1 TBSP mustard
3 TBSP soy sauce
6 - 8 oz olive oil
1 TBSP blue green algae

add all to a blender.  dress clean dry greens w/this mixture.


3rd chakra,  manipura:  city of sparkling jewels digestion/analysis - in feng shui, this is the taichi -  sacral chakra, yellow:  adrenals/power/ego  spiced yellow dal w/shallots miso, yll. onions, yll. peppers, yll. toms

4th chakra,  anahata: unstuck/heart - creative expression/emotion/love:  watermelon/cucumber salad
or green salad w/balsamic/ume (plum) vinaigrette

5th chakra,  vishudh:  throat/thyroid - purification/communication:

Kombu Wrapped Bluefish w/Sake Glaze

3 # bluefish, fileted & scaled
soy sauce
lime juice
1/2 package kombu soaked briefly in water to cover.  when soft, wrap the fish in the kombu.  let marinate for an hour.

oil a screaming hot pan.  lay the fish skin side down & allow to sear to a crust.  the flesh side facing you will begin to look a bit opaque.   when the skin has browned, flip to the skin side up. another 5 - 10 min, & it is done.

if you want, you can then deglaze the pan w/some of the kombu water, & a touch of sake.  reduce this a bit, then add 2 TBSP butter.  OMG.

just a note - for a non party situation, i would saute some garlic,then spinach in hot oil, then serve the bluefish on top of this.  yes.

6th chakra,  ajna:  pineal/pituitatry gland/nervous system:  command - lavender/lemon tea bread lavender is calming

this one is gluten free - i have all the ingredients for it. when i make it, i shall post pics:

preheat oven to 350

2 Tbsp dried lavender flowers
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 C almond milk
2 cups almond flour
2 tsp lemon zest
2 eggs
4 oz. virgin coconut oil
1 cup honey/maple syrup/brown rice syrup/anything but AGAVE which is cactus' answer to high-fructose corn syrup
4 Tbp yogurt - can be soy/coconut/cashew/dairy yogurt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp cornstarch
optional: 2 - 3 drops e.o. lavender, lemon

cream together the honey & coconut oil.
lightly whisk the eggs & add to the mix.
mix the baking soda into the yogurt then alternately mix 1st amond flour, then yogurt into the honey/eggs/oil.

bake @ 350 till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 - 45 min
smoothness. ♥

ps the frosting: dissolve the cornstarch into 1/2 tsp water, mix w/the 1/2 cup honey, & @ this point add the lavender flowers & if you wish, the lemon &/or the lavender e.o...

7th chakra,  sahasrara:  third eye/base of brain: - clarity

Seared Scallops w/Wild Mushrooms

^^^ see birthday recipe above!^^^

i know artists.  & for the most part, success as an artist has everything to do w/balancing the natural stressors of life while keeping a clear creative channel.  so a spread that energetically focuses on stability/sensuality/prosperity was a must.  all the chakras are presently represented by the menu, w/a concentration on the 1st (red/black/survival), 2nd (orange/will/power), 3rd (yellow/digestive analysis), 4th (green/pink/creativity/love) & 5th (blue/expression).

& it must be said here:  of course, as usual, nashira was the belle of the ball.  & the laughter/sisterhood/beauty that evening!  took on an otherworldly quality.  was it the chakra twiddling?  the level of sorcery/magic/genius in the room?  or what???

no way to know for sure, & nothing to say now but:

jai ma!!!

peace/love/thank you for reading!

chef/healer stefanie kelly