Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The olive oil flows like water

He stirred the "breadcrumbs" but would not touch the sprouts.
Some trends have emerged from our two most recent Nancy Silverton meals. See if you can spot them.


hanger steak with arugula salad and Parmesan
brussels sprouts with prosciutto breadcrumbs and sherry vinaigrette

Time consuming? Very. A lot of chopping and whisking, many bowls and skillets and much subsequent dish washing.

Olive oil called for: 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons.

Notes: The hanger steak (a cheap and tasty cut) was fabulous. The balsamic marinade: brilliant. Make this recipe, which you can steal right here though I still think this is a book worth purchasing.
The verdict on the brussels sprouts is mixed. First of all, they're laborious. You fry chopped prosciutto, then fry some breadcrumbs, then toast the fried breadcrumbs in the oven, then mix them with the fried prosciutto and some chopped herbs and toast some more. Now make a vinaigrette. Now toss the trimmed, halved sprouts with olive oil and cook them in a bucket of olive oil. With me so far? Now toss the warm, cooked brussels sprouts with the breadcrumbs and squeeze over some lemon. DELICIOUS. Stand at the counter eating the brussels sprouts because they're so good you can't stop yourself and because they're brussels sprouts and they are going to help live forever. What about the vinaigrette? Oops. You forgot the vinaigrette! Add the vinaigrette. Ruin the sprouts. The next day, give the harsh, sour sprouts to the chickens. The obvious lesson: make the sprouts, but skip the vinaigrette. (For the record, I used flaxseed meal instead of breadcrumbs, but I wouldn't do this unless you are experimenting with a crazy diet or happen to love the faint aroma of fish.)

after ruination by vinaigrette


stuffed quail with pancetta, honey, and sage
long-cooked broccoli

Time consuming? Very. Marinating then stuffing then skewering the quail, then wrapping them in pancetta, then grilling, then plating the wee birds and then garnishing them with grilled radicchio and deep fried sage will make you wish you'd just bought a rotisserie chicken.

Olive oil called for: 3 cups

I bet they look better at Mozza.
Notes: As a bird that lives in our neighborhood, I find quail adorable. As a foodstuff, I find quail silly. They are too freaking small. You stuff a quail with pancetta then wrap it in pancetta and what you're eating is pancetta. Good luck finding a bite of bird meat. For that you need tweezers, a crab fork, and your glasses. As for the broccoli, I found it sodden with olive oil. I guess last night's dinner was a bust. I'm sure these dishes are great when you order them at Mozza, but they were not great as prepared by me.

Would you like some broccoli with your olive oil?
Did you spot the trends so subtly highlighted in this post? Bravo! You are very perceptive.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Willard Scott? Willard Scott?


This post has nothing to do with food.

My grandmother -- who has appeared regularly on this blog over the years -- turned 100 on Friday. It felt like a national holiday. Family came from Guatemala and Texas and Rhode Island and friends came from all over the San Francisco Bay Area for the party.  My aunt did an outstanding job with the guest list and the menu and the venue and when it was over I was sad.

Justine and I read a limerick:

"She was born Julia Aida
But to us she's always been Dita.
She grew up in Guatemala City
And word has it she was quite pretty
Which makes sense 'cause she still is at fifty. . ."

It went on, but -- hard to believe! -- deteriorated from there.

I then gave a brief, earnest toast about Dita's wonderfulness as a grandmother, citing her steadiness, her absolute consistency, her ability to listen, all of it true and all of it heartfelt, all of it maybe a little boring and missing the impish je ne sais quoi that is so integral to her charm and character.
1997: Isabel could look a lot better. Dita couldn't.
What I really wanted to say is that my grandmother, who comes across as a very proper and polite, is deep down mischievous and zany. She appears so prim that people approach her like a fragile little doll and sometimes look like they're about to kiss her ring. But encouraged just a tiny bit and she proves to be adventurous and wacky and hilarious, especially after half a beer or a watered-down old fashioned.

1993: after two margaritas in Panajachel
I know better!

At the party with our friend Ayelet
I didn't take a single picture Friday so I had to swipe the photo above off Facebook. Too busy making toasts, swallowing happy tears, swallowing wine (oops), and avoiding the crab cakes. 

*I had this post all written on Saturday but couldn't bring myself to push the button on account of this baby picture. I think it's adorable, but my grandmother detests it. She thinks it makes her look fat. Which it does. But she was a baby and a lifetime of slenderness cancels out a chubby phase circa 1912, doesn't it? I still feel sheepish about posting it, but I'm posting it, mostly because she doesn't read my blog. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Good things come in twos and so do other things

Two salads from Nancy Silverton's Mozza:

1. Nancy's chopped salad. Envision (or just look at the picture above) a mountain of chopped iceberg lettuce, radicchio, red onion, salami, aged provolone, and chickpeas tossed with an oregano vinaigrette. One of the few salads that not only survives, but improves overnight. It does lose crunch and starts to resemble sauerkraut, but it tastes zestier on day 2 than on day 1. Which is good because there was lots left over. Husband: "How many does this serve?" Me: "I think four." Isabel: "Four elephants?" Yes, my saucy daughter. And now it is all gone. What does that tell you? The recipe is here, although the online version calls for twice the quantity of cheese and salami as the version in the book. I think 4 ounces of each was plenty and healthier.

2. Little gems with gorgonzola and dates. I separated all the little gems (found at Whole Foods; like tiny heads of romaine) into individual leaves to wash them, and then it turns out the salad was supposed to be made wedge style, with the leaves not separated. Forged ahead. Tossed the leaves with an incredibly decadent and copious dressing made from yogurt, buttermilk (I used milk), thyme, sherry vinegar and huge chunks of gorgonzola. Served with a few thinly sliced dates. The combination of the sweet-jammy dates, creamy-salty gorgonzola, and crunchy-refreshing lettuce: crazy genius. (Too much dressing though; you can make this salad three times over with the quantity Silverton's recipe produces.) The recipe is here. Try it. Small portions.Very rich.

Two obstacles to full engagement with the glories of Mozza this week:

1. We have two ovens and both of them are broken. The parts have been on order for a month. This eliminates about half the recipes from Mozza, including the veal stracotto, walnut biscotti, and pizzas. Of course that leaves the pastas and the Greek yogurt gelato. Except. Except. Except.

2.  Sheepish about this because I have always thought they were ridiculous and have been opposed philosophically and emotionally, but I am on a reduced carbohydrate diet right now and have to eat my words because I like it and it is working. I was not screwing around when I started a diet back in December, and when the militant calorie counting/exercise yielding dismal results, I changed tactics. Not Atkins or South Beach, just zero starch (grains, potatoes) or processed sugar and almost zero alcohol. A modified version of this. I'm not doing his bizarre exercise program (although I'm curious about it) and he doesn't endorse gorgonzola or salami, not to mention oil, so very modified. Also, he says to eat 10 servings of vegetables per day and I am incapable. I am not, after all, an elephant. More to say about the diet in the future. Prepare yourselves.

Anyway, this is why I am not throwing myself at Silverton's gnocchi with chanterelles or her goat cheese and bacon pizza or her coconut sorbetto. One day I will, although it looks like I'll have to be altogether more moderate going forward than in the past.

Two movies I dread, but will probably see:

1. Albert Nobbs. The preview is a complete turnoff, but then there's this.

2. Melancholia. Kept putting it off. Now someone in the house is insisting.

Monday, January 23, 2012

There are better ways to eat squid

why didn't the boys want to come see Pina with us?
Isabel and I came home from seeing a movie yesterday afternoon and found the house occupied by people watching football, drinking beer, and snarfing up tortilla chips.  Children were eating pretzel sticks and tracking crumbs around like Hansel and Gretel and it was all generally kind of messy and after I said hello and disapprovingly plucked a few wet leaves someone had tracked onto the impractical pink rug, went into the kitchen, made myself a cup of herbal tea, and started cleaning squid for dinner. Diets can be so isolating. Dieting can make me into such a priss.
in fact, not tempting at all
My sister came in to the kitchen and I saw a fork in the road. I could continue drinking tea and feeling aloof, or I could take the other road. The low road. Or was it the high road? I haven't had a good conversation with Justine in a month and if there is ever a time for a dieting person to have wine, this seemed like that time. We had wine. We talked about friends. We talked about shoes. We talked about my experience with the eccentric exercises advocated by Jonathan Bailor. We talked about the Food52 Cookbook, which Justine believes to be almost flawless, albeit confusingly organized. It was very fun. It was definitely the high road.

As we talked and drank, I made Nancy Silverton's red wine braised squid, which entails, as the name suggests, braising squid for an hour in red wine, olive oil, and brandy, along with a chopped orange (rind included), garlic, celery, and carrots. Serve with homemade garlic mayonnaise and garlic toast.

Justine had to take her kids home before the meal was ready, but her husband, Michael, stayed for dinner and to see the end of the game.  I wonder if he was glad he stayed for dinner. I know he was unhappy with the end of the game.

The squid was very tender -- not rubbery at all -- but I actually like the elastic crunch of squid and missed it. The broth was a purplish black and studded with chunks of bright orange peel. It was intimidating to look at. It was a very weird dish.

What we thought:

-Isabel didn't touch the squid or mayonnaise, but ate lots of garlic toast.

-Owen liked the squid, but said he couldn't eat very much because it was "too hard."

-Michael said the squid made him feel like he'd taken a vacation on an Italian island, but he wouldn't come out and say he liked it.

-My husband said the squid was too challenging to eat on its own, but that when he put it on the toast and added mayonnaise it was great. Which is exactly what Silverton writes in the headnote: "The rind gives the sauce a slight bitterness that can seem overwhelming until you eat it on crostini with a dab of mayonnaise, and then it all comes together." My husband, culinary savant.

- I liked it okay. Ate lots of the mayonnaise mixed up with the squid, which was not exactly a glorious diet moment, though I told myself it was acceptable because I skipped the toast. Later, I had bad dreams.

About squid: so cheap. If you're trying to save money at the supermarket, consider squid. At Whole Foods it costs $3.50 per pound cleaned and $2.50 per pound with beaks, globular eyes and lots of translucent jelly that must be squeezed out of the bodies and rinsed down the drain. I bought it uncleaned and spent 25 minutes prepping the cold, slippery squids and cutting off their tiny bulbous heads. By so doing, I saved $2.50 which will buy me a small Diet Coke next time I go see a movie.

Alternatively, I could have spent 25 minutes carefully hand-washing the shirt I was planning to take to the dry cleaner today and saved $6. Or, I could have cleaned out the car, which is a disgrace and causes my heart to sink every time I get in.  Or, I could have read a few good stories in the Sunday newspaper, which remains untouched. Or, I could have wrapped and packed away my mother's wedding china which will otherwise be destroyed in an earthquake. Et cetera.

The correct choice is to buy your squid already cleaned. And yet I know that when I'm standing there at the fish counter again I'll go for uncleaned. I just can't leave $2.50 sitting on the table. This is called thinking small.

On another subject, over at the Tournament of CookbooksTender got a big, wet kiss from Jacob Weisberg today. I would guess that in the final rounds it will come down to some combination of Tender, Mozza, and Super Natural Every Day. Tender would be my last choice among these three for some of  the very reasons Weisberg loved it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bring me flesh and bring me. . . oh, I wish

 You in the heritage apron, what are YOU smiling about?
To make Nancy Silverton's porcini-rubbed rib-eye bistecca from The Mozza Cookbook, you first go to a butcher counter carrying a big wad of cash. Ask for bone-in rib-eye steaks, cut really thick; they should look almost like roasts. (If you remember, tell the butcher to "french" them, but if you don't remember, it's okay. I didn't.) Brace yourself. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut when I saw the price, but am glad I recovered and sucked it up, as you will see below.

Once you've got your hands on the steaks, find the biggest bag of dried porcini mushrooms at the supermarket. The recipe calls for 2 ounces and I thought that would be a wee packet, but it turns out to be a large sack. Porcini are both bulky and light.

Back home in your kitchen, pulverize the mushooms in a spice grinder. Then grind some black pepper and red pepper flakes and mix these with sugar, kosher salt, and the mushroom dust. Spread the dun-colored powder on a big plate and coat your steaks thickly on all sides.  Now, grill them or cook them in a super-hot iron skillet, flipping occasionally, until they are as done as you like them. (Rare!)  Let them rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Slice against the grain and eat with gluttonous abandon, because these steaks are disgustingly expensive and by far the best steaks I have ever cooked.

Why so good? First, I almost never buy such premium meat and it makes a difference. I know I shouldn't, but I often buy the thin, cheap steaks at Safeway and it turns out you get what you pay for. This meat, when cooked, resembled tuna sashimi -- tender, pink, compact, and plump -- and was almost as pleasurable to gaze upon as to eat. I think these would have been the best steaks I've ever cooked even without the porcini coating. But the umami of that mushroom powder pushed them off the charts. I served the steaks with Nancy Silverton's simple and delicious recipe for broccolini sauteed with red pepper flakes and vinegar. (If you make this, you can safely halve the olive oil with no loss of savor.)

As Simon Doonan would say, it was a very heterosexual meal.

Which brings me to the second subject of this post: Gay Men Don't Get Fat by Simon Doonan. This book has brought me even more joy than those steaks. After I ate my 4.6 ounces of beef, I took Gay Men Don't Get Fat to the gym and laughed so hard that I almost fell off the treadmill. (Life with almost no alcohol = walking on the treadmill after dinner.)

Doonan quote relevant to my recent adventures with DIY:

"The fabulous irony of all this Depression era fetishization is particularly piquant for moi. My mother, Betty, left school at the age of thirteen in rural Northern Ireland and was sent to work with a pork butcher. As she hacked off the trotters and ears of the unwittingly organic animals, she dreamed of the day when she could tear of her authentic work wear, escape to the big city, bleach her hair, wear nylons, drink gin cocktails and never step in animal feces again. She would have been amused, as am I, to see people a the apex of urban glamour donning heritage aprons and willingly, ardently, passionately and enthusiastically electing to earn their living by deep-frying artisanal doughnuts in hand-harvested pig lard."

(I have sometimes stepped in animal feces while drinking a gin cocktail.)

The two chapters everyone interested in food should read: "Macaroons are so Gay!" and "Jamie Oliver is a lesbian." If I start quoting from these chapters I won't be able to stop and Doonan's lawyers will come after me for copyright infringement. Sufficeth to say, "lesbian food" is a supremely useful term for farm-to-table cooking that features wholesome grains, locally sourced vegetables, and communal tables. Which is to say, the predominant -- and wonderful -- cooking style of the moment. I wish I were bold enough to drop "lesbian food" into conversation, but I think I would blush and feel the need to explain and worry I was offending someone, which I probably would be. We're not all Simon Doonan.

There is only one chapter -- about the taxonomy and sex lives of bears -- that I hesitate to endorse. Unless you are curious about the subject, you might want to skip "Operation Goldilocks."  I was curious about this subject and appreciated the enlightenment, but even so winced a few times like the prudish straight chick that I am. Chacun a son gout and that chapter might not be to your gout. (Doonan endorses sprinkling your conversation with French.)

Anyway, highest recommendation on this book with one big caveat: If you are my father or my husband or my father-in-law or, come to think of it, maybe just if you are a straight man who has ever in his life worn Dockers or participated in a naff belching contest, don't bother with Gay Men Don't Get Fat. You will not like it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mozza: Opening Night

Isabel savors Nancy Silverton's mussels 
Well, here we go again. Tonight I made the steamed mussels with tomato passata, chiles and herbs from Nancy Silverton's Mozza and they were fabulous -- garlicky, spicy, salty -- but only my husband and I would eat them. Isabel doesn't like shellfish, so she just ate the garlic toast and some tangerines. Owen dipped the garlic toast in the broth, but wouldn't eat the mussels. I ate the mussels but wouldn't -- well, didn't -- eat the garlic toast. My husband ate the toast and mussels both and washed them down with a big, fattening beer.

At least we all sat at the same table.

It's an outstanding recipe, easy and straightforward and delicious. Cook some garlic and scallions in olive oil, add white wine, tomato sauce, and mussels. Steam for 3 minutes, turn off the heat, and stir in masses of fresh oregano, basil, and chives. Serve with the aforementioned garlic toast. Here's the actual recipe. My one suggestion: If you don't love salt, cut the quantity called for by a half teaspoon. I do love salt and would describe the dish as super salty, which means a lot of people will find it far too salty.

I hadn't been all that excited about Mozza, which looked like just another Italian cookbook. Now I'm excited. Given ongoing slimming efforts, I'm not sure how to handle the pizzas, pastas, and rivers of olive oil running through its pages, but will figure it out as we go along.

Incidentally, Mozza is one of the titles competing in the Tournament of Cookbooks, which starts tomorrow and which I have been eagerly awaiting since the last one ended more than a year ago. Roz Chast is judging; I wonder if her verdict will appear in the form of a cartoon.

Most of you were very patient with The Best of the Best from California. Thank you. It was a horrid book. The minute Isabel chose it, I regretted telling her she could choose. But I could not renege.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

At least Betty Friedan had Friedan

That picture is so 5 minutes ago.
Owen and I are in Seattle for the long weekend and day before yesterday we drove out to the Quimper Peninsula where the writer Betty MacDonald lived for a few miserable years in the late 1920s and raised chickens. I'm sorry she suffered, but the experience did provide the material for The Egg and I, and I'm not sorry she wrote that great book. MacDonald's literary reputation is essentially nonexistent today, which is a mystery and a tragedy given her wit, talent, and enormous popularity back in the day. Is it because she was named Betty? It's hard to take a Betty seriously these days. And I don't think MacDonald helps. Nor, come to think of it, does a masterwork called The Egg and I.

MacDonald's onetime hometown of Chimacum, Washington is forlorn and depressing, at least in January. We drove the length of Egg and I* Road and somewhere along that stretch sits the farm where MacDonald was so memorably unhappy. No landmarks, but you get a strong sense of clamminess, chill, and dank houses inhabited by men with bushy gray beards. After our brief tour, we went to Port Townsend and wandered through antiques stores where I refused to buy Owen a $28 vintage Star Wars kit that he insists is a canny investment and will be worth hundreds of dollars in a few years. "When I'm an adult it will sell for $180," he said. "You just don't understand."

a meaningful sight, at least to me
At dusk, we returned to Seattle and ate dinner at Delancey. I've wanted to eat at this Ballard pizzeria ever since I watched it come to life on Orangette. It was exactly as I had expected -- studiously simple and handsome and urban-rustic. There were battered concrete floors and candles in jelly jars. Our young waitress was beautiful, soft-spoken, and tattooed; a lesbian couple with their baby sat at a nearby table. It could have been San Francisco, except that too many of the young men were dressed like lumberjacks. We felt right at home.

The salad -- radicchio, green leaves of something, blood oranges, and pistachios -- could not have been prettier. It was also very delicious, though I might have toasted the pistachios.
proof we were there
The pizza that followed was a nearly perfect rendition of the austere Neapolitan pizza so popular now.

For dessert, Owen ordered the cannoli. Looking back on it, I think the menu might have said "cannoli" not cannoli which should have tipped me off that it was going to be a playful deconstruction rather than a strict interpretation. Instead of crispy pastry tubes filled with cream, he got a few lace cookies sitting atop blobs of cream. No, no, no! That's like serving sliced ham alongside two pieces of bread and calling it a "sandwich." Or putting some raspberries on a plate next to a shortbread cookie and calling it a "tart." Bad trend, this.

Still, other than the cannoli bait-and-switch, thumbs up on Delancey.

Apparently the diet is on hold this weekend.

*can't get Blogger to accept ampersands

Saturday, January 07, 2012

How insulting to Jamaicans

"Fresh from Wisconsin"
I can't decide which is the most revolting recipe in Best of the Best from California.

Is it the chip shot chicken? (Coat chicken thighs in nonfat sour cream, roll in crushed barbecued potato chips, bake.)

Or is it the Jamaican chicken? (Slather chicken breasts in blend of instant coffee and lowfat vanilla yogurt. Bake. Top with pineapple slices.)

How about the hot chicken salad casserole? (Mix chicken meat, canned water chestnuts, canned cream of chicken soup, chopped hard boiled eggs, rice, and mayonnaise in casserole dish. Top with buttered cornflakes.* Bake.)

See? Impossible to choose. The name for this style of cooking is "American Grotesque."

The other night for my husband's birthday I served the lemon chicken pasta, a recipe Isabel had flagged when she chose the book. It sounded pleasant enough, but with Best of the Best even apparently innocuous dishes can turn out to be deeply weird once you start cooking. To make lemon chicken pasta, you saute sliced chicken breasts and mushrooms, then season the mixture with oregano, lemon juice, and Butter Buds. (If you're unfamiliar with Butter Buds, it's a cheap yellow powder that smells like movie theatre popcorn and supposedly contains no fat but loads of butter flavor.) To the chicken-mushroom-Butter Buds mixture, you add some broth and cornstarch to make a really thick sauce that gives the whole dish the shine and slippery, gelatinous mouthfeel of a Chinese stir fry. My husband said, "This is just terrible."

Fortunately, his birthday cake was somewhat better, a mocha torte that calls for only staple ingredients like nuts, chocolate, flour, and cream. The book is inconsistent like that, veering from the synthetic and outlandish to the respectable and pretty good. Confusing!

the rare dessert recipe that doesn't contain instant pudding, Cool Whip, or a can of  fruit cocktail
But even a pretty good mocha torte can't compensate for the overall heinousness of Best of the Best from California. The authors, Gwen McKee and Barbara Moseley, claim to be trying to preserve America's culinary heritage by plucking the most beloved and "popular" recipes from regional spiral-bound cookbooks like The Tahoe Parents Nursery School 40th Anniversary Alumni Cookbook and We're Cookin' in Cucamonga.

A thoughtful anthology of great spiral-bound cookbook recipes would be a wonderful thing, but this isn't it.  No thoughtful anthology would claim that a salad of sugar-free Jell-O, raspberry wine, cranapple juice, crushed pineapple, and pine nuts represents the best of California cooking.

I've made 12 recipes from the book and most of them were either so-so or pretty good. That sounds like a very decent return, but bear in mind those were carefully selected recipes. After perusing the ingredients I was game to tackle Mexican stroganoff and chicken lasagna. But I could not bring myself to make the cream of broccoli  soup spiked with Cheez Whiz. And I had no interest at all in the Tunnel of Spuds meat loaf, which contains hamburger meat, instant mashed potatoes, Parmesan cheese, applesauce, catsup, lemon juice and grape jelly. Call me a food snob. I don't care.

Here are two things I have liked about the book:

a. the recipes are easy

b. I am not even slightly tempted to eat them.

I'm calling it a day with Best of the Best. I may let Isabel choose another title, because I didn't spend very long with this one.

On another subject, if you are in the Bay Area, I am speaking/reading at Omnivore Books in San Francisco on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Please come!

*I have no idea how you butter cornflakes.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Apparently I actually could live on air

It looked better after it was roasted, but not much.
I'm not screwing around with this diet and it's interfering with my blog. I haven't been cooking anything except tedious low-calorie foods like the turkey breast pictured above. The recipe comes from Best of the Best from California and involves making a paste of parsley, garlic, and dried herbs into which you dip thin slices of orange. Then you stuff the coated orange slices under the skin of the turkey and put the turkey in the oven. As far as I could tell, the orange slices did nothing for the flavor of the meat, just made the skin bulge in an ungainly fashion. That said, it was a tasty and juicy turkey breast and 1.3 ounces of the leftover meat made a great lunch today when mixed with 1 chopped celery stick and 1 teaspoon of vinaigrette.

I've been on the diet for 20 days now and have lost 4.5 pounds. The weight is not exactly melting off. What excellent survivalist genes I must have! There have been a few slips, like the night at Animal and New Year's Eve, but mostly abstinence. No alcohol. No baking. Do I have to rename the blog? 

Last night, after a 140 calorie chicken sausage and a spinach salad with 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette (that was before I weighed myself this morning and cut back to a teaspoon), I went to the gym and walked very fast on the treadmill for 90 minutes. I like the treadmill because you can read the newspaper while you exercise. It's remarkable how many newspaper stories deal with having too much or too little to eat.

I read about anorexics.

I read Tara Parker Pope's depressing story about how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off. (You probably should not read this unless you are naturally slim.)

I read about kids in Congo who are so poor that they only eat every other day, a problem that puts my own "problem" in perspective.

I read a lot of other stories, too. It was my New Year's resolution to read the newspaper cover to cover every day, like the Italian mother in The Imperfectionists. Sadly, I'm going to have to modify this very enjoyable resolution because it turns out I don't have three hours a day to read the newspaper which is what the task seems to require, at least when the paper is the New York Times. The obvious solution would be to cut back to reading just the stories that interest me. Except that's what I've always done and means I end up reading mostly stories like this and this. Thoughts? How do other people filter the news so you get enough, but not too much?

Today is my husband's birthday. We are having a festive dinner tonight, including a mocha torte from Best of the Best which means tomorrow I will have something  to write about, even if I won't be able to tell you what it tastes like.