Tuesday, December 22, 2009


From NASA's Image of the day: "The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this view of the Chesapeake Bay region as the clouds were clearing on December 20. The snow highlights the courses of the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay. The ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains are similarly highlighted. The forested peaks are darker than the snow-covered valleys."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Beef Stew of Hope

I'm in a complicated but strangely contented mood today: it's a day of long contemplative silences, of playing music, reading, looking at the snow, lying on the floor with the cats, and every so often stirring the pot of stew I've got bubbling away in my oven.

Heat your oven to 300 degrees. Take two or more pounds of good quality non-factory-farmed chuck, two big carrots, two ribs of celery, six cloves of garlic, and a couple of fist-sized potatoes, and cut them into sizes and shapes you wouldn't mind finding in stew. Toss the meat in flour and brown it in bacon fat over medium heat in a well-seasoned cast-iron dutch oven. Do it in small batches. Once the meat is all browned and set aside, add the veggies to the pot and cook them for a few minutes till the onions are translucent. Combine last night's leftover wine with enough beef stock to make four cups or thereabout. Return the meat to the pot and pour in enough of the stock/wine mixture to just cover (add more stock if necessary). Add a couple of branches of thyme, maybe a tablespoon of salt (depending on how salty your stock is), lots of black pepper, and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Cover the pot and put it in your oven. Cook the stew for three hours or more, until it's perfect.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Start this at about 4:00 on a clear, cold Saturday afternoon.

In a small frying pan, toast a teaspoon of cumin seeds until they're light brown and fragrant.

Take a hunk of pork shoulder meat weighing about two pounds and put it in a pot and cover it with water. Throw in a half onion into which you've speared a couple of cloves, four cloves of garlic which you've lightly smashed with the heel of your hand, half your toasted cumin seeds, and five peppercorns. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for an hour or so.

While the simmering is going on, assemble the rest of your meez. Pulverize your remaining cumin seeds in a mortar and combine them with a half-teaspoon each of ground black pepper, ground cloves, and cayenne. Put a spring of oregano where you can find it later. Roast a couple of nice big poblano or New Mexico chiles and peel and chop them. Chop an onion and another three or four cloves of garlic. Open and drain two cans of white hominy. (For the maximum posole experience, you would of course have started soaking four cups of dried hominy the night before. But now it's too late. Canned is fine; the texture will be a little different, but it will taste right.)

All that should keep you busy for an hour or so, after which time pull your meat out of the broth and cut it into stew-appropriate cubes. Strain the broth. Do not strain your broth into the sink: keep the liquid, discard the solids. Open your second beer.

In a big heavy pot, saute the onion and garlic with a tablespoon of salt until the onion is translucent. Add the spices and the oregano and cook for a minute or two more until everything is acquainted. Add the meat, the hominy, the chiles, and five cups of the broth. Simmer, covered, for an hour or more, until the meat and the hominy are tender. Serve topped with cilantro in big bowls, with warm tortillas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The average color of the Universe...

...is pale beige. Or as NASA prefers, cosmic latte.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm still here, honest

See, a long stretch of nonblogging doesn't happen without a bunch of contributing factors. One thing that happened is Facebook, which totally undermined my blogging reflex. Another is that Vaca Estupenda suffered a severe loss of purpose once I decided it wasn't a food blog anymore. During the election I kind of drifted into a vague kind of poliblogging, but once we won that focus, too, fell by the wayside. And there are only so many cute kittycat photos one can post in lieu of substantive content.

But there's tons to write about: I've started a new band with my friend Liza, who's an unearthly great singer, and I never did finish building that damned mandolin, and I do still cook and eat with great enthusiasm. Assuming there's still anybody around who wants to read it, I'm going to make a concerted effort to get this thing going again. So stay tuned.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some Spices Soothe

Just a quick note: you should all go read this new Open Salon blog, which is authored by an old and dear friend of mine. I'm honoring her desire for anonymity, though I think those of you who know her will recognize her instantly.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The music teacher I'd like to be

Paul Reps tells a version of this story in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. A great Zen master was sitting in meditation beside a lake. A man approached him and said, "Master, I've traveled many miles to receive your teaching. I humbly ask that you accept me as your student."

The master grabbed the man by the scruff of the neck, dragged him into the lake, and held his head under the water for a minute or two. When the master finally let the man go, he let him cough and sputter and catch his breath, and then he looked him in the eye and said, "When I was holding your head under the water just now, what did you desire most of all?"

The man said, "Air."

The master said, "Go away. Come back when you desire my teaching as much as you desired air."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No Fun

If you've ever played a crap gig with people you're sick of, if you've ever felt that awful helpless dog-being-given-a-bath kind of humiliation that comes with knowing the music you're playing is sucking worse than anything has ever sucked before and you can't do a damn thing about it, if for any reason you've ever found yourself on a stage wanting to be somewhere, anywhere else, preferably thousands of miles away where you will never have to look at the pathetic bunch of wankers you've gotten roped into doing this stupid gig with ever again, then you will feel Johnny Rotten's pain in this video. This is the last song from the Sex Pistols' last show.