Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SEPTEMBER 23 - PHILADELPHIA, PA - More Fun with Fusion: Ratatouille Manicotti

This is even better prepared ahead of time and served a couple days after it is assembled or baked. I made this yesterday and we (me and the boys in Cheers Elephant) enjoyed it after a morning of successful tracking...


serves 8

Ratatouille Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp sundried tomatoes, minced
3 roasted bell peppers, coursely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tbsp fresh, chopped)
4-6 cloves garlic, mashed
1/3 cup dry white wine
leftover grilled eggplant and zucchini (recipe below)
6 plum tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, and coursely chopped
2 tbsp sugar

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat.
Toss in the sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers and cook for about 3-5 minutes.
Add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, oregano, until the garlic turns a pale brown (about a minute).
Pour in white wine and cook a minute longer.
Add eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and sugar.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.
Simmer for 25-40 minutes.
Taste for seasoning and set aside.

Leftover grilled eggplant and zucchini:

The marinade is a mixture of:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb fairy tail or any slender, firm baby eggplant, halved
2 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/2" ribbons.

Combine marinade ingredients in a medium sized bowl or small baking dish and add vegetables. Marinate for 30 minutes while you preheat your grill.
Grill 10-12 minutes, turning and basting the vegetables occasionally with marinade, until nicely charred and cooked through.


Reserved Ratatouille Sauce
1/2 lb lasagna noodles, cooked in boiling salted water for 4 minutes
1/4 cup grated mozzarella

While the water boils, combine:
1 cup cooked spinach, squeezed dry (either frozen or freshly sautéed... with garlic)
2 cups part skim ricotta
4 oz goat cheese or cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup grated mozzarella
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/4 cup sliced basil
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
plenty of fresh ground black pepper

Adjust your oven racks so that one is placed in the upper third, and the other is in the lower third. Preheat to 375°F.

Place thin layer Ratatouille Sauce at the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.

Spread 2 tablespoons cheese filling into each lasagna noodle, rolling the short side up until you get a nice tube.
Place seam-side down into the baking dish. Repeat with remaining pasta until dish is full (duh).



Cover with remaining sauce and 1/4 cup of mozzarella.
Place aluminum foil on top of dish and place in lower third portion of the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, then remove the foil, set the oven to broil and place the manicotti in the top rack.
Broil for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned.
Cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
Throw some bread in the still-hot-but-off oven while the Manicotti is cooling.
Make a small batch of goilic and when ready to serve, drizzle it over the warmed bread (and what the heck, put some on the Manicotti too).

3 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
handful fresh basil, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Warm (all but basil) for 30 seconds in a small pan if you want to tame the garlic flavor.


... Yeah, those are pitas... I didn't have any baguettes... as I said, we were in the middle of recording...

Monday, September 14, 2009

SEPTEMBER 14 - PHILADELPHIA, PA - Back home and cookin' away!

I was feeling under the weather after the tour - so I could think of nothing more comforting than spending the afternoon in the kitchen, making a nice, big, batch of soup. I had gone food shopping earlier in the day, and excited by all of the local produce I'd missed out on for the past month, I admittedly bought too much. The solution? Throw it all in the soup! I normally would have used zucchini/yellow squash as well, but surprisingly the selection at my (awesome) local-centric corner store was less than stellar. Basically I guess my point is: use whatever veggies you like (and of course, those that are in season where you live, since freshness is paramount).

This soup can easily be made vegan - simply substitute 2-4 tbsp Nutrional Yeast for the cheese rind.

makes a lot... I'd say it serves 8-12

Doctored Veggie Stock
makes about 3 quarts

You can also use this recipe to make all 3 quarts homemade - simply double the veggies and use 12 cups water, instead of 12 cups stock - I just had extra on hand that I wanted to improve.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled*
1 tsp salt
small handful of: coriander seeds (about 12-15), peppercorns, fennel seeds, and thyme
3 cloves garlic*
1 small head of fennel*
2 carrots, peeled*
2 stalks of celery*
1 small leek
small rind (about a 2x4" piece) of Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup Pernod, Ouzo, or any other anise flavored liquor
a few splashes of soy sauce
1-1/2 tbsp Vegetable Boullion+12 cups water or 12 cups of Vegetable stock

*Note: All of the veggies should be roughly chopped (they'll be discarded later)

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and spices. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions begin to turn translucent.
Add the garlic, carrots, fennel, celery, and leek and cook 10 minutes more, until the veggies start to brown.


Add the cheese rind and the vermouth, scraping up the brown bits, for about a minute.
Add the soy sauce, bouillion and water (or broth). Bring to a boil (faster if covered), then reduce the heat to medium low.



Simmer for 20-30 minutes, with the lid slightly off the pot, so that some of the liquid can escape and the stock can become a bit more concentrated.
Remove from heat, put the lid back on the pot all the way, and let rest for a few hours (or overnight in the fridge).
Strain, discarding the solids, and you've got yourself some tasty, Frenchified veg stock.
Proceed with making soup:

The Soup

2-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 onions*
2 carrots*
Just shy 2 bulbs fennel* (I reserved the fronds for garnish, and see below what I did with a little bit of the sliced bulbs)
1 stalk celery*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Dry Vermouth (or any dry white wine)
8 plum tomatoes, peeled and crushed with your hands (this can be done by putting a tiny x at the top and bottom of each one and placing them in boiling, salted water - or stock, when you're making it - for 30 seconds. A quick shock in some ice water, and voilà, the skin comes right off)
2 cups (canned or cooked dried) beans (I used Scarlet Runner Beans that I boiled with a bay leaf and a couple cloves of garlic. I left them a little underdone so they'd finish in the soup.)
2 waxy potatoes* (I used Yukon Gold - Russets or starchy potatoes will dissolve too easily in the soup)
2 quarts Vegetable Stock (see recipe above)
2 ears of corn, kernels cut away and cobs reserved
handful of green beans, chopped into 2" pieces
bunch baby spinach
chopped basil, for garnish

*Note - all of these vegetables should be chopped into a half-inch dice.

Just like making the stock, heat the oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat, and add the onions. Sprinkle with some salt and cook for about 10 minutes, until they begin to turn translucent.
Add the carrots, fennel, celery, and garlic and cook 10 minutes more, until the veggies start to brown and you develop a nice frond at the bottom of the pot.
Deglaze with the wine, again scraping up the nice bits, for about a minute.
Add the crushed tomatoes, corn cobs, potatoes, beans and stock.
Bring to a boil, and reduce to a heat to medium-low, moving the lid slightly ajar. Simmer for about 30 minutes.


Add the corn and string beans. Cook 5 minutes longer.
Add the spinach another 5 minutes, or until the string beans are tender.


Taste for seasoning and add salt and fresh pepper (if necessary).

Serve, topped with sliced basil and fennel fronds and with a side of good, crusty bread or...


Manchego Garlic Toasts
makes 6-8

1 baguette, sliced lengthwise (like a giant roll), and crosswise into 3 or 4 pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1/4 lb Manchego cheese, grated
Fresh ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive oil

Heat baguette pieces in a toaster oven or under the broil until light brown.
Rub each portion with the garlic and top with cheese.
Place back in the oven and toast until the cheese is slightly browned.
Top with black pepper, a drizzle of oil and serve with the soup.

I also served this with a side salad (I ended up having company - even a sick me can't bear to cook for just one or two). I quickly pickled some shallot and sliced fennel (yeah, I took a handful out of what I was gonna throw in the soup) in some white wine vinegar and agave nectar. Add the green of your choice (as you may have guessed, I used Arugula), the best extra virgin olive oil you have, and some fresh pepper. Toss together and top with a little more shaved Manchego (can't have too much cheese).


Wednesday, September 9, 2009


So we left Fall River around 10, hit up a sweet little diner, and headed south to Piermont, NY. We knew it would be a tough one that night: the capacity of the Turning Point is about 75 people, and the stage is roughly two square feet in size. I'm sure you are all aware of our typical, spread-out-wide set-up:

So when we got to the club, we tried to figure out how in the heck we were going to fit us Slicks in our normal spots. André had already begun the daunting task of setting up Ade's equipment in his usual center position (and it was even more difficult that night, as he had to completely re-wire everything to fit the keyboard onstage, which of course had to go right in front of me), so we had to make do, cramming ourselves around pedals and amps. I had a nice cozy nook, behind the keyboard, behind Adrian, on top of guitar amps, and behind the FOH speaker. I felt like the mysterious bass player behind the curtain. Eric arguably had it worse: the only way he could position himself he was off the stage entirely, on the floor and backed up against a foundation column, faced towards the crowd (rather than us).


To say that communication during the show was difficult would be a gross understatement. Luckily, we made it work - and it really wasn't bad at all. The sound was surprisingly great on stage, and we did have a nice meal beforehand (at the Sidewalk Café) that made the trip down pretty worthwhile:



What really made the trip invaluable was a great gift I received from Luke Sheridan (a luthier from Yonkers) who decided to give me his latest piece: a Walnut Burl-finished Zajj Bass with a purple heart neck:


Fear not, dear bassist readers, I'm still a Lakland gal, but this bass is seriously nice and I can't wait to check it out more extensively once I get home. Besides, who could refuse a free (absolutely gorgeous) axe?

After the show, we had our usual meet and greet, though we decided to do this one outside - it was a gorgeous, crisp late summer evening, after all. Well, it was probably not such a wise decision on my part, as I am pretty certain I am known as "Queen Sweet Blood" to mosquitoes worldwide. In a desperate effort to rescue my ankles from further attack, I stood up briskly as the signing ended, and wacked my head on the porch ceiling. Of course my Mom immediately panicked, "OHMYGOD! Are you ok?! We need to take you to the hospital - I don't want a repeat of what happened to Natasha Richardson!" Luckily, I convinced her I was going to fine - I have a nice layer of protection (big curly hair) and a skull made of marble - and it may be full of them too...
I spent the rest of the night with a dripping bag of ice on my head, but at least it felt better in the morning. I was actually more worried that I was ruining a good hair day, hah!

At least it felt fine in the morning...

The next day we awoke early, despite the fact that it was a day off - but for good reason: we had a long drive to make for our next gig in beautiful, familiar Québec City. We grabbed a surprisingly good (and cheap) breakfast on the way out of town (at a place called Skylark) - it was one of the few places open on Labor Day, so the choices were limited. Luckily it all worked out, and with stomachs full, we hit the road.

It was a gorgeous drive for a near-perfect day, going through the Catskills and Adirondacks:




The trip was supposed to last about 8 hours, but we weren't aware that Canadians also celebrate Labor Day (and with further research I discovered that they actually created the darn holiday!). So you can only imagine what the line was like at the border...

We finally arrived in Québec at 9PM, our stomachs feasting on themselves and churning out inhuman sounds so loud we thought we'd wake up Sasquatch - sorry - Le Sasquatch. We had a recommendation for a great resto Le 48 (thanks Patrick!), but our GPS (aka Genie) couldn't find it, so we stopped at the hotel, got directions, and raced to make it before closing time. They probably could have served us sneakers at this place and we'd have hailed it as the greatest meal on Earth, but fortunately they had a nice selection of global cuisine/fusion dishes for us to inhale. The service was also great - our server spoke great English, and even managed to make Adrian a decent Lemon Drop (though it was a bit more sour than usual). The menu was all in french, but I had fun translating it for the table. Ade ended up choosing the Filet Mignon with baby vegetables, and frites. Eric got the Baguette Végétarienne, which consisted of excellently crusty bread surrounding a homemade soy-based patty. I ordered for my Mom - Grilled Salmon with the same baby veggies and basmati rice, topped with a mango-raisin salsa. Not wanting a sandwich, and not a fan of Salmon, I got the only thing I could order (which was a little more expensive than I'd have liked to spend): Shrimp with vanilla star fruit compote, and the same accroutrements as Mama's meal. It was good, not life-changing, but definitely what we needed after that day of long driving.

Québec Jour 1 - dormant drummer.

The next morning, we were Slicks on a mission - Destination: Chez Victor. Challenge: Walk up hills with 45-60º inclines to get there.

Québec Jour 2

We had to pause a few times to help out Mom, but we finally made it (after a mere 30 minutes... of torture for our poor progenitor on cholesterol medecine). Luckily, it was worth the pain:

Québec Jour 2- Chez Victor

Québec Jour 2 - Chez Victor

The walk back was obviously much easier, and it was such a picture perfect day:

Québec Jour 2 - Blue Skies.

Québec Jour 2

When we got to the bottom, we met up with Ade, who was to drive us over to the Théatre Petit Champlain for sound check. More fun ensued, as we came to realize that Genie does not speak fluent French, or understand non-US roads. We were apparently one minute from the venue when she told us to make a seemingly innocent right off a nice, big boulevard to "arrive at destination." Well, we soon noticed the ground beneath us changed into a rocky cobblestoned alley, and that we were surrounded by pedestrians - senior tourists with name tags, who glared into our van as if they wanted to beat us with a wet noodle. Trying to escape, we (foolishly) took Genie's advice to make another left. Now we were really stuck. We were surrounded! I really wish I could have gotten a picture, but we were blue in the face, laughing so darn hard and I simply forgot (d'oh!)

We somehow made it out without running over any blue-haired rubberneckers, and pulled up to the Théatre as if nothing had just happened. I finally caught my breath through the chortling and ran up to the club to set up my gear...

The show was one of the best of the tour, despite some slight inital gear malfunctions. What made it so special was a group of exuberant youngfolk in the front row, who screamed approximately 10-20 times per song, and 2-3 times randomly between songs. Their energy reciprocated back to the stage, where we laughed and jammed away with sheer glee. It was one of the best crowds we've ever played for, hands down. I wish we could hire those kidlets to follow us around to each city and howl like that every night...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 5 - FALL RIVER, MA - Hide the axes!

So this morning my brain feels rather wrinkly, as we played a most excellent show at a packed Arts Center in Fall River. Now I know many of you are thinking (as I was), "Fall River? Why does the name of that town sound familiar?" Well, I'll tell you, as I Wiki'ed it once we got to our lovely rooms: It's the infamous place where young Lizzie Borden brutally murdered her parents with a hatchet in the late 19th century. The main attraction here is actually the house in which this unspeakable crime was committed - and guess what? It's a freakin' BED AND BREAKFAST. Now I'm all for spooky stories and the like, but staying in murder house? No, thanks! It's bad enough a kid we grew up with killed a struggling actor/vagabond down the street from our house... but really, it's a nice neighborhood, I swear.
Anyway, the show itself was a HOT one, literally. It was a crisp and cool pre-fall evening, so I foolishly decided to wear quite possibly the warmest garment I now own: a long sleeved flannel dress-y thing (see, I'm a terrible "girl"). I didn't realize that there was no A/C in the building, and that the lights would make me feel like a convenience store hot dog, wrapped up in a salty, billowy pretzel, spinning round and round, roasting me to rubbery perfection:

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But really, I can't complain: the crowd was wicked awesome. As mentioned earlier, it was packed in that large steam room and though it was a slippery one for us trio members, I think we charmed our crowd pretty well. These Massachusetts fans are really great - they're not afraid to yell and dance, but they also "shush" each other during quieter sections - it's truly a different experience, but one that I definitely enjoy.

Many thanks to everyone: Jason, (for the killer homemade strawberry salad and hummus!) Patrick, and others for havin' us!

Friday, September 4, 2009

SEPTEMBER 4 - MASHPEE, MA - Schmoozin' on the Cape

Last night was a really fun gig on the Cape at the Cotuit Arts Center. Playing these kinds of places can either be great, performing to a well respected audience, or awful, with a disdainful crowd running for the doors in horror (ahem, Villa Montalvo).
Well, we lucked out here in Mashpee - we had not only a nicely sized intellectual group, but also a rather boisterous bunch. Perhaps they were one is the same - it's difficult to know... but we did have an interestingly unique meet and greet PRE-show. An hour before we were set to take the stage, we took to the floor and shook hands, discussed music, and signed things while dedicated fans sipped wine and munched on cheese. It was defintiely different, and I don't know that I hated it - it was actually pretty neat to play for an acquainted audience for once (besides playing in Philly, of course). I just wish I could have had some of that wine and cheese...
Ade played another great show, despite an ailing ankle - hopefully it's better today. And Eric swears he needs to lay off the cheese, as it makes his joints sore (google lactic acid + fibromyalgia). I need to lay low, for I fear I'm next... I'll just keep taking vitamins and avoiding sharp objects or risky activities.

So with that, I leave to eat a nice Brekkie at Persy's Place next door. The free cornbread, though - now that could be risky...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SEPTEMBER 2 - MASHPEE, MA - Playing Ketchup

So as many of you know, we've been on tour for the past couple of weeks. Since operation and maintenance of my Twitter and Facebook pages have become so easy (thank you iPhone - will you marry me?), this blog has fallen by the wayside. I'm still eating tons of great stuff and having an absolute blast on the road, but since we're playing familiar places like Philly and New York (and nary a day off), it's hard to get inspired enough to write a full entry. I'm torn about what to do! I'm wondering if I should just save this space to keep an archive of my recipes, or if I should really try and take the time to keep it updated (although doing so with the fear of sounding redundant). I guess the best way to find out is to just ask you guys, my loyal readers...

So what do ya think? Where would you like to see this blog go?