Thursday, June 28, 2007

2.0 Stuck in the Muddle with You

Starring Erin & Mike
Guest Starring Adam & Josh
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood

There’s a new pub in town (not really). “The Pub” accepts no reservations – we’ll call you (but don’t wait by the phone) – and seats a maximum of four (or six if you include the kittens). It’s a small space doubling as our foyer (and tripling as the dining room). Just open the front door, and there you are! You know it’s a pub because there’s a pub table, which is a cross between a coffee table and an ostrich. And looking down on its patrons, the O’Shaughnessy Coat of Arms – two lions astride a castle turret, beneath a clenched fist holding a rolled-up copy of the TV Guide. But something’s missing. Pub food! And something to wash it down with. Or vice versa.

It was Friday. Erin and I had “one of those weeks”: Work was tragic in its peculiar synthesis of ennui and comic horror; and bad news plagued the lives of friends those last five days. By the evening, we expected, even embraced the thought of the apocalypse – let life begin again, with or without mankind. Dylan’s lyrics “It’s doom alone that counts” looped in my head. So we went to bed.

5:30 a.m. In a seemingly quantum leap from asleep to awake, I found my footing on the crust of Saturday morning. Parting in harmony, the curtains and clouds banished the darkness. Granted a temporary anamnesis, I remembered in a flash how wonderful life can be! Ye gods! It’s the weekend! And tonight’s the reservation for this month’s “In the Sellwood Kitchen!”

Originally we were going to prepare a seasoned pork loin with baked squash for dinner, but instead we opted for our long-rumored “Pub Night.” A perfect opportunity to serve Erin’s now-legendary (just ask my brother Jim) Quesapizzas! And I’d finally get to use those fez-bedecked monkey swizzle sticks my mother had given us that morning at brunch (they’d been burning a whole through my hurricane glass all morning)! We were eager to swizzle something with them!

We invited our friends (and neighbors) Adam and Josh over that evening. Quoting Saturday Night Live with the devotion of storefront preachers, the boys serve double-duty as diners and entertainers. Josh is gluten-intolerant (like me, except for the gluten thing), so every edible offered is preceded by a concerned and often ignorant query. “Hey, Josh, you want some water…Can you have water?” As previewed earlier, the tonight’s menu offered Quesapizzas. He couldn’t have them. Nor The Pub’s featured potable, an improvised concoction Erin would eventually dub a “Sellwood Breeze.”

In the living room, I put some Elvis Costello on the stereo. I suggest you do the same. Try “The Deportees Club” from Punch the Clock.

While our pre-Carter Administration oven heated to 350 degrees, Erin prepared the Quesapizzas. What’s a Quesapizza? No stretch of the imagination is required to figure out this outrageously delicious appetizer (or, if you eat enough, meal) is part quesadilla and part pizza. Oh dear, I’m drooling again, they look so good. Now they’re in the oven. They smell great. 10 minutes to glory!

Buzzzzzzzzzz. They’re done! Out of the oven and divided into slices, they were quickly consumed.

In a mock-Costanza outburst, I exclaimed “These Quesapizzas are making me thirsty!”

Cue Adam: He recounted a cocktail he’d recently been served after requesting “something fruity” from a bartender.

- What was in it? asked Erin.

- Everything! replied Adam.

- Hey, I’ve got that! exclaimed Erin.

Earlier that afternoon, a visit to the West Moreland Liquor Store yielded a bounty of vodka, gin, triple sec (whatever that is) and some pomegranate martini mix. At the Kitchen, we already had oranges, lemons, limes and pineapple.

Voila! The “Sellwood Breeze” was born! Muddle in a martini shaker a slice of orange, a slice of lemon and a slice of lime, three chunks of fresh pineapple, and three leaves of fresh mint (we grow it out on the landing like Hippies!). Add two shots of vodka, a splash of triple sec and a plash of pomegranate martini mix. Add a few ice cubes. Shake with vigor! (The vigor wanes after the third one.)

The evening glides softly into night. Saturday Night Live’s on in 20 minutes. New material for Adam and Josh! But I’m still hungry. Erin stops my whining by whipping up a tray of her Cheesy Breads: Cream cheese and shredded cheddar cheese mashed together with a fork (not blended) and spread on slices of fresh bakery bread (we prefer the organic French batard!). Broiled until melty and bubbly. I wish I were eating them now instead of typing over this tray of Safeway sesame chicken…

While they cool, the booming yet soothing voice of Don Pardo introduces the cast of SNL. We snack heartily, laughing occasionally, content in the warm blue glow of TV. A “Pub Night” success! Adam and Josh stumble home. Erin and I sit for a moment in the living room. The kittens claw the couch. Heading for bed, we avert our eyes from the conglomeration at the kitchen sink. Just let it soak, I think. The Pub’s closed. But before we flip the sign, here’s the recipe for the legendary appetizer:


1 flour tortillas
2 small pre-grilled chicken tenderloins (diced)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped onions
Buffalo sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat flour tortilla with buffalo sauce. Mix cheeses and sprinkle over tortilla. Add layer of grilled chicken. Sprinkle second layer of shredded cheese and chopped onions. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts together (about 10 minutes). Suggested dipping sauce: blue cheese dressing! Feeds one, maybe two. Doubled recipe feeds 2, maybe four. Enjoy!

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

1.0 Love Goes Where My Rosemary Grows

Starring Erin & Mike
Guest Starring Jess & Trent
Filmed in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood

So what I’ll do is yammer on for the length of the article while Erin prepares dinner. Then we’ll eat it. And we’ll conclude with the recipe. Just to set the mood for you, I’m home alone at the moment, with the cat, listening to Duke Ellington & John Coltrane. It’s both my favorite dinner music and a preferred soundtrack for writing, though sometimes I’ll turn up Nikki Sudden or Guided by Voices real loud for inspiration. All right, I’ll stop writing for a moment; I’m just typing to abate my hunger anyway. We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsor.

OK, I’m back. I went to New Seasons for some sweet potatoes. But I just bought one because it was the size of a truck tire. I rolled it home. My potato is a sweet ride. It came with a free bumper sticker.

Erin’s home. She got a birthday package in the mail. Lots of candles. We’re smelling them.

The chicken is defrosting. Erin is unhappy with the shape of the tenderloins; there is an unearthly quality to their mass. I say its fine, cook them anyway. The chicken was not purchased in or near the Sellwood environs. Serves us right!

While the bird parts defrost, we visit some friends, Jess and Trent, down the road. They have painted their kitchen. It’s another Sellwood kitchen! They will be joining us for dinner.

Ye gods! A hailstorm! And to think I wanted to walk! Our car is pummeled on SE Linn! The stones grow bigger down each block and fall harder from driveway to driveway. We make a mad dash for Jess and Trent’s front door. The sky was crying BBs! Trent offers to brew a salad dressing and gathers the ingredients. We return to our apartment.

But then, back to New Seasons! More wine (an Australian batch called “The Little Penguin”) and a lemon is needed! The sky is black and blue. The air is cool, like a wet bicycle. We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsor.

At our apartment, the Art of Cuisine begins. Looking over the pub table into the kitchen, I’m reminded of Hans Namuth’s black and white images of Jackson Pollack dripping his paint like Erin breaking eggs into a bowl. My eyes draw in the colors of our kitchen. See! The reds and yellows of Roy Lichtenstein! The fruit basket dangles like a Calder diorama!

I see breadcrumbs, onions, egg, lemons! Erin has plucked a few sprigs of rosemary from our landing (I call it “square-inch gardening). And the chicken has thawed! What are we making? I don’t know yet. You’ll have to wait until the end. It’ll be a surprise. No, a mystery! It’s a recipe mystery! Jim Thompson meets Julia Child. No, too dire. How about Agatha Christie meets James Beard? Fine.

I’m in the living room, sipping the wine. I hear a fork tinking in a bowl, mixing and aerating. Olive oil bubbles in a pan. Talk turns to civil rights, as handled by students (our friends are both teachers). I decide that kids, like their parents, are stupid. I’m stupid, too. Stupid hungry, that is!

While the sweet potato oven fries bake, more injustices – social, economic – find purchase in our conversations. It’s more depressing than that movie we watched last night, Blood Diamonds. Help, more wine!

“Friend Dinners,” we call these get-togethers. Usually once or twice a week, we go to each other’s homes for a nice meal. Eat, drink, bullroar. Plus, “Lost” is on tonight! That show is bananas! What’s going on?

Ah, dinner’s ready! We take our places around the coffee table, sitting cross-legged on the floor. For one brief, blessed moment following our first bites, silence rules. The food – it is good, no? Yes! Of course, it is! In the Sellwood kitchen, the afterlives of flora and fauna are spent not in vain, their glory is the delivery of ambrosial splendor!

A green salad is offered with the meal. Various strains of lettuce. But what’s this, queries Jess? Stray cilantro or flat-leaf parsley? The leaf is proffered. A debate ensues (I sit out; it’s all lettuce to me). And the verdict is parsley. We drizzle Trent’s lemon-onion dressing on the greens.

Now we talk about writing a book. All of us! It’s about – wait, I can’t tell you, you’ll steal our idea! Jess and I will do the writing and editing; Trent and Erin, cooking and clicking (photography). I zone out for a moment (adrift in the landscape of a car commercial) and when I return to the conversation, I realized I’ve missed something of delightful importance. We’re all excited! I’m excited!

Mojo Magazine’s Southern Soul disk plays in the background. Mavis Staples singing “A House is Not a Home.”

Ok, shh. “Lost” is starting. “Shouldn’t we be having ice cream now?” A Yes! returns with a Gillespiean blat!

Dessert: vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, and butterscotch caramel. How sweet it is to be stuffed from dinner, stuffing yourself with dessert, and wrapped up in a highly-addictive television drama! Roll credits!

The herb-encrusted chicken tenderloins are well complemented by sweet potato oven fries, and a green salad served with home-made lemon-onion dressing. Now for the improvised chicken recipe:

Herb-Encrusted Chicken Tenderloins

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 eggs
A cup and a half or so of bread crumbs.
2 sprigs of fresh diced rosemary
2 cloves diced garlic
A palmful of dried parsley
A palmful of dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Dip chicken in eggs and coat with breadcrumb and herb mixture. Cook tenderloins in pan on medium heat in a layer of EVOO (that’s extra virgin olive oil for you Food Channel-neophytes) on both sides until chicken is not pink and coating is golden brown. Serve. Eat. Wash dishes. Sleep.

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: