Saturday, August 29, 2009

Recipe: Boeuf Bourguignon

I shared this recipe on my Facebook page, but for those of you who aren't on FB....

This was in the New York Times this week - and it's really terrific. After seeing Julie & Julia the other week, I had a real hankering for BB. But the recipe in my Julia cookbook looked long and somewhat complicated. I had decided to wait until the cold weather, on a weekend day when I felt like spending time in the kitchen, and then I saw this recipe. It appears in a cookbook that the Times refers to as "the French Joy of Cooking," and has only 5 steps. It was yummy!

Boeuf Bourguignon

Adapted from “I Know How to Cook” by Ginette Mathiot

Time: About 3 hours

1 tablespoon oil

3 ounces onions or shallots, chopped

3 1/2 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced

1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces, patted dry

Scant 1/4 cup flour

1 1/4 cups any type of stock, hot

1 1/4 cups red wine

1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)

Black pepper

3 1/2 ounces mushrooms, diced


1. In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove them and set aside; leave fat in pan.

2. Add beef and brown on all sides (work in two batches if needed to avoid crowding).

3. Sprinkle browned beef with flour, stir until browned and add stock. Stir, scraping bottom of pan, then add reserved bacon and onions, the wine and bouquet garni. Season with pepper.

4. Simmer very gently for 2 hours.

5. Add mushrooms and cook 30 minutes more. Season with salt and serve. Or, even better, reheat and serve the next day.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

WW Points: 8 if only 4 servings; 6 for 6 servings

**6 servings would be very tiny ones. I opted for the 4, and served it with noodles. I also used the listed spices rather than making the bouquet garni.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Nick Green, Team Player

Last night's totally awful game was saved in the 8th inning. No, we didn't mount an incredible comeback. No, we didn't batter the White Sox into submission. No, we were instead treated to one of the most entertaining moments of the season.

With the bullpen tired and needing rest, and with the need to not use any of the big guns on a pretty hopeless 9-0 game, Francona decided to get creative. He chose reserve infielder Nick Green as the next reliever out of the pen! I was stunned when Orsillo announced that Green was warming - I had to rewind the DVR to see the evidence with my own eyes! Sure enough, there he was - much to the evident amusement of the crew out there.

But, amazingly, Green pitched two scoreless innings. Sure, he had three walks, but he managed to get six outs. Two of those outs even came on his own fielding efforts!

To me, he is the epitome of the team player. He knew he could have been humiliated. He knew he could have given up a ton of runs - or hit a batter. Yet he sucked it up, and headed out to the bullpen. I suppose he didn't have much choice - when your boss tells you you're going to have to do something, you can complain - but you do it if you want to stay employed.

Still, I can't help but believe that his performance lifted the spirits of a despondent team. It certainly allowed the Fenway Faithful to leave with smiles on their faces.

I just hope we don't have to see him pitch again!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Grandstand Manager's Day

On August 24, 1952, showman/franchise owner Bill Veeck staged a brilliant stunt. His St. Louis Browns (at the time 38-81) were playing the Philadelphia Athletics, and he announced that the game would be played as "Grandstand Manager's Day." Fans found a ballot in the local newspaper, voted on the starting lineup, and mailed in their ballot. Each person who voted received a free ticket to the game. As they entered the game, the fans were given giant placards, with YES on one side and NO on the other. The Browns' publicity manager held up cards (like above) asking fans to vote on what move the team should make.

Here's how Veeck himself described the scene in his memoir Veeck as in Wreck
The fans were brilliant. To begin with, they had made two changes to our regular lineup, putting Sherm Lollar behind the plate and Hand Arft at first base. Lollar collected three of our nine hits, scored three runs and drove in three including the game-winning home run....

As for our regular manager, Zack Taylor, he reclined in a rocking chair on top of the dugout, in civilian clothes and bedroom slippers, and just leaned back and puffed a long, curved pipe. Summers [the chief umpire] told him he had to get off the field, not because of the rocking chair or the pipe but because he wasn't in uniform. So we moved Zack, the rocking chair and the pipe into a box just beside our dugout....

...the game took just over two hours, despite all the tabulating...

We won the game 5-3 to end a four-game losing streak. I retired all my amateur managers with honors, went back to my professional, and lost five of the next six games.
[Thanks to the MLB Network for showcasing this game this morning on Quick Pitch.]

It got me to thinking. Red Sox fans are the greatest armchair managers going. They are all sure they could play a better OF than Drew, or hit the ball harder than Ortiz, or manage better than Francona. Wouldn't it be great to try something like this? Let Tito sit in his smoking jacket and watch - and I suspect he'd have the last laugh.

[You can read in more detail about Grandstand Manager's Day here]

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Sometimes your heart is broken

I don't think I've been as excited about a signing as I was when the Sox signed John Smoltz in the off-season. I'd followed his career for years - the Scenic City is nearly a suburb of Atlanta, so all Atlanta sports get top billing on the local news. Folks around here couldn't believe that the Braves cut Smoltzy lose - and most were interested to see how he'd perform in the AL and as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

I followed his progress all spring and into early summer. I just knew his experience would make him an important figure in the clubhouse, and I witnessed some of his leadership in Detroit in June. Before each game, there would be Smoltz out in left field with Jonathan Papelbon, talking, discussing, coaching. Sometimes they were joined by pitching coach John Farrell, or one of the other veteran pitchers like Wakefield. But you had a sense Smoltz was giving Paps the benefit of his experience as a closer, advice that the brash young closer needs to hear.

Then, suddenly, it looked like he was really going to pitch for the Sox. And - miraculously - his first start was scheduled for a game I was going to be attending. Not only attending, but sitting in a seat right behind home plate. I order my shirt from the Yawkey Way store, charged the camera batteries, and waited to see him in action.

Smoltzy got shelled early in that first start in DC, but then settled in nicely. He ended his outing by striking out the side. My heart soared. This looked good. But then came his other starts. He'd give us a few good innings, then fall apart for one inning. After getting shelled by the Yankees, the Sox had to take a step back and reassess. It looked like the bullpen might be the best place for him, and they offered him that option.

But Smoltz had other ideas. He felt he still had it in him to start. And he found a team willing to take that gamble: the St Louis Cardinals. He started his first game for them this weekend - and set a new Card record for consecutive strike outs, getting the win.

I'm happy (somewhat) for him, but his performance raises a ton of questions. It's too early to say "He's back," certainly. But what does this say about the state of the National League? If the corpse of John Smoltz can beat your team, wow. And it again shows the supremacy of the hitting in the American League. Pitchers of a certain age would do well to watch this as well - it looks like their agents need to start negotiation with the Senior Circuit.

Time will tell how this plays out. We need to see him in another game, because I suspect adrenalin and pride played huge roles in this performance. Plus, they were playing the Padres! And was he really tipping his pitches, as some were suggesting today. If so - why didn't the Sox and John Farrell pick up on this? I can't imagine that such a quick fix was all he needed.

Meanwhile, for me, the feel-good story of the season didn't end the way I had hoped and planned - with Smoltz pitching for the Red Sox in the World Series. But perhaps we will face him there - and kick his butt back into retirement!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Review: (500) Days of Summer

(I actually saw this last week, but I keep forgetting to review it!)

This is the hot movie of the summer - and for good reason. It's a bittersweet love story - or an almost love story. I'm not giving anything away there: the movie begins by saying it's NOT a love story.

Tom and Summer are co-workers at a greeting card firm, and Tom falls hard for her almost immediately. She warns him that she doesn't believe in love, doesn't want to get serious, but he asks her out anyway. They seem to be moving towards a serious relationship, but something goes awry. I won't say any more! But we all have a Summer somewhere in our past - someone that we were sure was THE one, but they seem to have other ideas. We can all relate to the journey that Tom is on.

I thought it was a charming movie. I've admired the work of the two leads for years, and they have terrific chemistry. You might remember Joseph Gordon-Levitt from his costarring role on the tv show "Third Rock From the Sun" - and it's great to see how he's matured as an actor. He seems to be a rare success story - an adolescent actor who's made the transition to adult parts. Zooey Deschanel is always playing a kookie, off-beat character - she played Will Farell's girlfriend in "Elf" and her sister Emily stars in "Bones." The two actors have apparently been friends for years and finally found this film in which to co-star - excellent choice.

The action of the film follows the relationship as it builds, ebbs, and flows over the 500 days. But it's not chronological, which makes the story richer. You see the origin of one in-joke on one of their first dates, then see how thin it has worn by the 300th day. For the most part, the story is told from Tom's viewpoint, which colors our view of the relationship. Yet, when the end comes and the puzzle pieces are linked, we see how it fits.

This is a great summer "romance" film. It is a romantic film, but one that turns the convention on its ear. It's sweet, funny, poignant, charming. Not sure if it's a date film, but my solo girlfriends and I really liked it!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Quick Corn on the Cob

I got this cooking suggestion from one of my Weight Watchers members, and it's a great and easy way to prepare corn on the cob (which is oh-so-good and fresh right now). After you've husked the corn, give it a quick spritz of "spray butter." Put the ear in a Ziplock steamer bag (I love them!), and microwave for 3 minutes. Let it sit for a minute - then enjoy!

The corn is tender, and you don't need to add additional butter! Yum!

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

An Outlander at Gwinnett Stadium

When it was announced in the middle of last week that Tim Wakefield would be making a rehab start for the Pawtucket Red Sox Saturday night at the Gwinnett Braves, I somehow knew I would find myself making the drive down. And, sure enough, there I was Saturday afternoon on my way to the Atlanta area. It was actually a lot farther than I thought - nearly 140 miles each way, because you have to go almost to Atlanta, and then east on 285 and another 20 miles north on 85. Phew.

Gwinnett Stadium was just opened in April, and it's the home of the Atlanta Braves' AAA team. It's a nice park - very open, which allows you to catch a rare August breeze. There are some similarities to the Ted: plenty of the Tomahawk chop, "everybody clap their hands" (aargh), and a nice selection of local drafts (including my favorite from the Ted, Tomahawk Ale). In addition, there was one concession that had all fried things: funnel cakes, fried pickles, fried twinkies, and fried Oreos! Yes, I had to try the oreos. They were covered in funnel cake batter and then deep fried. It made the cookie kind of soft - but, really, you mostly tasted the funnel cake.

I got there in time for batting practice, which was fun. I recognized most of the PawSox guys either from their time with the big club, or from Kelly's photos. There was a great moment, when a young fan who had been soliciting autographs from everyone got manager Ron Johnson's attention. RJ came over, and the boy handed him a baseball card. RJ looked at it, chuckled, and I heard him say, "No that's not me. That's that guy over there" - and he pointed at another coach. Then he stuck out his hand to the boy and said, "Hi, I'm Ron Johnson and I'm the manager." Very cute.

Wake pitched three and 2/3 innings, with 2 runs, 3 hits and 3 Ks. Today's reports say that he was still limping as he left the mound - but I didn't notice it. He had one fielding opportunity, in the 3rd when Timmons hit a comebacker at him. Wake grabbed it and got the runner at 1st - part of a 1-2-3, 10 pitch inning. He finished his day with a strikeout.

From my vantage point, it didn't seem like he threw a lot of knuckleballs - or it wasn't "dancing." Instead he seemed to be tossing fastballs - which would make sense. If they are concerned about his leg/calf, they would certainly want him to test it as much as possible.

I stayed until the bottom of the 6th, when the PawSox defense imploded. In the blink of an eye, the Braves had scored 6 runs! I had already decided to leave by 9pm, so I didn't have to witness that in person. And I was glad I left when I did for other reasons: it was raining heavily and thundering as I hit 285 and 75. Luckily, I drove through it quickly, and made it home in good time. (I can't believe those Atlanta drivers: going 75-80mph in the freakin' rain??)

So, it was a fun little lark. A lot of fellow Red Sox fans in attendance! There were two guys behind me who had some pretty imaginative chants. Like, every time Chris Duncan came up, they cheered for "Donuts." (as in Dunkin...). And of course, for Aaron Bates, "Go Master"!

And here are a few photos:

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Name Game

After covering 10 states and 2300 miles in a little over two weeks, it's taking me some time to get back into a routine. The fact that the Sox did not play well last week is another contributing factor to my lack of posting as well. But I'm trying to get back to normal...

So instead of lamenting the state of the AL East, I'm going to share something that I've been pondering of late.

One of my must-reads in the daily paper (after the sports section!) is the obituary column. I not only read the one in my local paper, but I usually read those in the Providence Journal and the New York Times as well. It's not that I'm morbid, but I find these little slices of someone else's life fascinating to read. You see a young person (the term "young" keeps advancing depending on my age) and wonder, what happened? You read of a person who died at a ripe old age and think, good for you. It's interesting to see what's emphasized - their military career, if they're of a certain age; their jobs; their families; their religious affiliation, which is always included locally; and even their hobbies. Our local paper rarely puts the cause of death, so that can also lead to some speculation.

But something that I've really noticed of late are the names themselves. There seems to be a whole generation of first names that are expiring as well. Today, there was a Nellie, a Hector, and an Alberta. You rarely hear of a baby today named Alberta. I think of my grandmother, Harriet - another rarity. Even Barbara is fading. And you can probably list countless others. George. Wilhelmina. Rita. Howard. Shirley. Martha. Pearl. Eleanor.

I realize that baby names are in constant flux. 100 years from now, some future blogger may be lamenting the lack of Britneys, Mileys, and Jakes. (Although I doubt there will be anger over the lack of Apples, Pilot Inspektors, or Fifi Trixibelles) Certainly, first names are a reflection of their era - whether pop culture influences or historic figures. So future anthropologists can also use these obits as a research tool. And names cycle through. Before too long we'll see some Ruths, Willards, Marians, and Hermans.

But in the meantime, it's with a certain wistfulness that I look at those names each morning.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bon Voyage & Good Luck, Justin

The trade deadline came and went while I was on Block Island, but thanks to the Internet and DirecTV, I was tuned into the whole ordeal. Only time will tell how our trade for Victor Martinez will work out, but I am sad to see Justin Masterson go off to Cleveland. Don't get me wrong, I think this might make him a star - he got his first start last night, althoughhad no decision. He's got a real opportunity to carve a niche for himself on a team that's rebuilding.

And I'm not the only one who will miss him:

“He would give me a hug, and I would feel good about myself.’’
--Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen, in the Globe, on recently traded friend Justin Masterson

So Good Luck! We'll miss you, Justin

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Review: Julie & Julia

I have been waiting for this film all summer. I mean, food, Meryl Streep, cooking, Nora Ephron - it's got all-time favorite written all over it! And I wasn't disappointed.

Nora Ephron - she of "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," and "You've Got Mail" - has taken two memoirs and successfully blended them into one narrative. Based on Julia Child's "My Life in Paris" and Julie Powell's "Julie & Julia," this dual narrative relates the story of Julia Child's journey from being the wife of a civil servant to being a foodie icon, juxtaposed against the story of writer Julie Powell's challenge to herself to cook every recipe in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year - and blog about her progress. Just as Julia blossoms as she taps into her love of food, so does Julie blossom as she channels Julia.

It's a terrific story. The older I get, and the more I see a broader spectrum of films, the more I appreciate Meryl Streep's talent. When I look at the roles she's had in the past year - "Doubt," "Mamma Mia" and now this - I am astounded at her range. She becomes Child in this film - giddy, larger than life, funny, animated. I absolutely love her chemistry with Stanley Tucci as husband Paul Child - they are adoring and sweet, spot on. Amy Adams is one of my favorite young actresses - and she doesn't disappoint here. I did find her half of the film a bit disappointing, however; it just doesn't measure up to the Julia part of the film.

My biggest recommendation if you go see this film: don't go hungry! The food is one of the stars - it all looks so yummy. I had to come home and dig out my own Child cookbook, and I may have to make the famous Boeuf Bourgignon this weekend - my heavens, it looked awesome!!

This is probably Ephron's first non-conventional romantic comedy, but she still shines through. A wonderful cast, a lovely story, beautiful food.... It all adds up to a wonderful film. She even includes Dan Ackroyd's classic SNL skit as Julia - it still makes me laugh so hard I cry!

PS - Look for my high school classmate, Marceline Hugot - she plays Julia's French tutor! Appropriate, since Marceline's dad is French and her mom was our HS French teacher!

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Sunday, August 02, 2009


The sun sets on my summer's hard to believe a whole week has passed here on Block Island, and another week before that. Tomorrow, I'm scheduled on the 8am ferry back to the mainland - and reality. I promise to post pictures from Fenway, Boston, the Block - I got some good stuff! Until next time - when I'll be be posting back in the Scenic City!