Sunday, December 20, 2009

31.0 The Other White Christmas

Starring Erin & Mike and Adam & Josh
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: “Hanover Winter Song” by Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians

“For the wolf-wind is wailing at the doorways”

It’s cold tonight, but not as cold as it’s going to be. Give when you can to the hungry and poor (though, jeez, aren’t we all a bit needy these days). Often Erin and I will look around our apartment, and though it’s no penthouse, we are relatively, in this day and age, well-enough off: roof over our heads, TV, computer, subscription to Netflix… When I complain, it’s briefly, and followed immediately by guilt, and then gratitude.

It’s Christmastime (and the holidays for other faiths and non-faiths as well). But it’s a bit like Whoville this year (though try finding a box of Who-pudding – is it an east coast food, like Sunny Doodles?). What I mean is the obvious – the continuing effects of the recession. I saw three signs that tell me the “Holiday Spirit” has his work cut out for him this year:

The gruel appears to be thinner and perhaps even sourer than Magoo’s.

I saw a sidewalk Santa whose beard was attached with scotch tape. Sadly, it was his own beard.

We’ll only have 10 Days of Christmas this season. The lords a ‘leaping were laid-off, and four calling birds called in sick with, surprisingly, the flu.

But not unlike those Vicar of Winkfield pear-shaped citizens of Whoville, we don’t need “things” to enjoy the magic of this season. We don’t need “stuff” or “junk” to bring us joy. And really, don’t most of us have enough things and stuff and junk already? I mean, really, a portable phone?

The only “stuff” we really need is food, uh, stuff. Luckily, we have food. And Erin and I would like to share it with you. Not the food, per se, but the secret (well, it’s a secret to me) to making the food. Let the Christmas magic begin!

Returning to the Sellwood Kitchen after… Good King Wenceslas, it’s been six months! It’s Adam & Josh (which means we’ve consumed a lot of gluten since then). But now, a delicious gluten-free recipe! I’m almost certain it’s Santa-approved (and judging by the sprawl of his bowlful, a dumpster sundae could find a place on his menu board).

So today’s meal is a dumpster sundae (nah, nah) – it’s Sweet & Sour Pork. With broccoli and steamed rice! Sure, it’s a bit more expensive than tacos, but it’s no filet mignon (who’s eating that anyway these days?). Still, this meal fed four of us and I had leftovers the next day.

And how was it? Hark, the hungry angels (yeah, right) sing:

Erin: It’s so tender it cuts with a fork.

Adam: It’s senior-friendly. (Erin cocks her head toward me. The Boys laugh.)

Mike: What? What’d I miss?

Adam: You – you’re the senior. (Mike groans.)

It’s good to be together, to show our Christmas decorations: The ceramic Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus (the former a twenty-nine year old prize, the latter painted by my mother) in front of the fireplace; the talking leg lamp crate ornament; the ruby-beaded figurine we call Eva Gabor; the framed Christmas albums on the wall.

Earlier we’d visited Adam & Josh’s to view their holiday home (please silently preface each item with the word “antique”): Christmas sheet music; the “Glolite Happi-Santa” (so creepy from a certain angle I suspect heathens were behind its production); baubles & bulbs & books by the sash / they even displayed the last can of Who-hash!

Anyway, may your days be merry & bright and may we bring that same light into the lives of those around us! Merry Christmas from Erin & Mike and the whole gang at the Sellwood Kitchen!


1 Boneless pork loin
Salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, ginger
1 small onion, chopped
½ Cup white wine

The Pork: Heat a skillet on medium high. Season the Pork loin on both sides with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and a dash of ginger. Sear the pork loin for about two minutes on each side, until just it starts to brown. Place browned pork loin in baking dish surrounded by chopped onion, with wine, and into 350 degree oven. Cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let sit for about five minutes before cutting.

Sauce: (double or triple this recipe, it only makes about one cup)
¼ Cup brown sugar
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1/3 Cup Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp Ketchup
2 tsp Corn starch dissolve in 4 Tbsp water

Mix all ingredients except corn starch mixture into sauce pan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer, add corn starch mixture and stir until thickened.

Slice pork and serve over rice with sweet and sour sauce.

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

30.0 A Little Thanksgiving

Starring Erin, Mike and Sarah
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Poems, Prayer & Promises by John Denver

“How long it’s been since yesterday and what about tomorrow?”

Erin’s intro: If I had to pick my favorite thing about Thanksgiving Dinner, I'd pick the leftover mini-sandwiches on rolls. We always use Rhodes rolls, they're in the frozen section, and I think they make the sandwich amazing. Actually I prefer these sandwiches to the Thanksgiving meal its self. Maybe it's just the nostalgia.

Everyone has their own Thanksgiving traditions – this only occurred to me as I got older, of course. We used to have a Turkey Bowl in the pasture. Football, with a break to listen to “Alice's Restaurant” at noon, followed by more football, followed by more food than humans should ever consume in one sitting. Afterwards, we’d lie on the floor in front of the fire, watching movies, until (finally) late night mini leftover sandwiches! Ah, tradition!

Of course things change. We haven't had a Turkey Bowl in a long time. I'm hosting this year for the first time, so Thanksgiving will evolve. We'll start our own traditions like families do. But I will make sure of two things: Always listen to “Alice's Restaurant”, and always save room for the mini sandwiches.

On Sunday, November 8 at 1:58pm, I put on my pajamas (well, my pajama bottoms and a Uniglo Jean-Michel Basquiat Bear t-shirt). My outside errands for the day were done. It was now time to prepare for our Pre-Thanksgiving Pretend After-Thanksgiving Leftover Meal!

Having already donned said sleepwear, I was ahead of the game. When I was younger, the Thanksgiving television viewing tradition, besides watching the Dallas Cowboys play, was the triumvirate of Giant Ape movies: King Kong, Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young. WOR Chanel 9 showed them every year on Long Island (along with a slew of Christmas commercials).

Later in the afternoon (late afternoon, or maybe early evening, or maybe it wasn’t even Thanksgiving Day at all), we’d tune in to WPIX (that’s Ch. 11 to you old New Yorkers) to watch Laurel & Hardy in “March of the Wooden Soldiers”, which I think was officially titled “Babes in Toyland” but syndication had its way with it, and they might’ve been right, since dopey kids my age were more likely to watch a movie about wooden soldiers than babes (boy, we’re we dumb!). Can you imagine? There used to be a time when 12-year olds watched forty-year old black & white films.

Recently, Thanksgiving, as glorious as that day is, has become the “Christmas Eve” of our harvest holiday. The Day after Thanksgiving is the big day now (although, by “big”, we mean small and quiet and comfy. And our NEW television tradition entails the viewing of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Erin made the startling statement that watching LOTR on a rainy day with smells of warm Thanksgiving leftovers in the air is just a notch less wondrous to her than being in Disneyland. A powerful declaration!

SETTING: The pretend morning after fake Thanksgiving. Rainy. Cold. The office is closed (in this fantasy, as opposed to “real life” where I have to “go in for a few hours”).

“That was some parade yesterday, huh? Remember when the girl from that show sang that song the kids dance to?” I mused. Despite eating everything yesterday, I’m hungry again. Is it time for lunch?

“Is it time for lunch?”

“You’re 40 years old – lunch is whenever you want it,” says Erin.

Yes, but what I meant was: is lunch being made for me? Erin knew what I meant. Presently, she and Sarah were redesigning Thanksgiving’s leftovers into phenomenally ambrosial (hence, edible) architecture.

“What are you writing about, the sandwiches?” asks Erin.

“Not yet. I haven’t written enough words about old holiday specials they’ve stopped broadcasting. “

“What’s that one with the weird Mickey Mouse?”

Surely, Erin is referring to “March of the Wooden Soldiers!” Said character resembled Disney’s ambassador. You know, it was a capuchin monkey in a costume! Monkey Mouse. But don’t ever watch the colorized version. It’s dumb. Everything colorized is dumb.

Type, type, type. Sniff, sniff. “Let’s hunt some orc!” the television calls. New traditions are forming – this is the soft thrill, the ironic promise of nostalgia: in this obsession with the past, there is the antidote of renewal. Life constantly, insistently, spools out a fresh past, the best moments of which keep us tethered to the present, and by extension, the future.

“What are you gals working on in there?” The smells were, if this is at all possible (and if it is, the pews in my new church will be hewn from self-rising rolls), even more pleasurable than their virginal releases of yesterday.

“THE BEST MEAL EVER!” they shout back.


Happy Thanksgiving Etcetera from the Sellwood Kitchen!

Thanksgiving Leftover Minis

Shepherd's Pie-Inspired Casserole Ingredients:(From Leftovers)

Green Bean Casserole
Carrots, Onions, Celery from stuffing if you had extra (diced)
Turkey , diced
Mashed Potatoes
Sautéed Mushrooms

This can be assembled in individual ramekins, if you have them, or one large casserole dish if you don't. In the dish, place a layer of green bean casserole with sautéed mushrooms. Add a small amount of carrots, onions and celery if you have it. Then add a layer of diced turkey. Ladle a few spoonfuls of gravy over the ingredients. Next, press a layer of leftover stuffing over the top of the veggies and turkey. If you don't have leftover stuffing, whip up a box of stovetop, you won't be sorry. Finally, cover the casserole with a layer of mashed potatoes, like a shepherd's pie. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, place the mini casseroles on a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees for about a half hour, or until hot through. Serve with Mini Sandwiches and the cutest mini apple pie in the world, or just pie.

Mini Sandwiches

Do whatever you want! Mine always include mayo, cranberry sauce, turkey, maybe stuffing, on a dinner roll. Yum!

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

29.0 You're Out of Your Gourd!

Starring Erin & Mike and Kelly & Celia
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: A potpourri of jazz sides

“Song with Orange”

Autumn. Deep in it. It was raining a bit as I shuffled down Linn through a tarp of wet leaves. Earlier that afternoon, I’d fallen asleep on the couch listening to a live version of Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”. At times my stride matched the dance of Elvin Jones’ drums. But now, through the leaves, all I could hear was the bow across Jimmy Garrison’s bass.

Our autumn began late September in Ohio’s Amish country. The town has an actual name, but I just call it “Amish Country” even though I purchased some delightful cookies from a sweet Mennonite gal. We were visiting our friends Paul & Donna, who made an appearance in the October 2008 episode of ITSK. They have opened a deli in the “big city” near them, a small town center that makes Milwaukie look like Manhattan. Donna is a terrific cook, made all the sweeter by their refusal to take any payment for our meals (which was darn middle-American of them). Also the visit marked thirty years since Paul and I had first met in grade school, and if he HAD charged me for the beef stew (which was out of this world), I would’ve thrown down my cheesecake-covered fork (also on the house) and stormed out of there!

On the Saturday of our visit, the deli participated in the town’s Scarecrow Festival. I bought a cheese-filled sausage and strolled through the fair, judging the entries on my own. “Woodstock Scarecrow” got a “thumbs up,” as did “Scarecrow Spiderman” displayed in a manner on his stake, I found myself silently musing, “Spiderman died for our sins”.

The orange and red sunsets over the cornfields of Ohio made the perfect autumnal entrance for Erin and me.

Back in Sellwood, we embraced the season. To the pumpkin patch! As luck would have it, our friends the elusive (and bitingly satirical) Kelly and Celia were also in the market for gourds. They met us at the Sellwood Kitchen.

Behold! Upon entering our humble abode one encounters the newly constructed O’Shaughnessy Public Library, five bookshelves, charmingly categorized, and containing more unread than read volumes. That’s my fault – I’m a slow reader, but a perpetual collector (though nothing suitable for the Antiques Roadshow, mind you).

Celia seemed more impressed with the library than Kelly who, reflecting on the Travel section’s proximity to the Poetry shelf, offered, “Let’s see what Whitman has to say about Paris.”

Curiously, I don’t have any Whitman.

Off to Alice’s Country Market in Damascus, not so much a pumpkin patch as a pumpkin pile, pre-picked and unmuddied, which was fine with me as I had worn my new Skechers. A hay pyramid, of the Aztec variety, displayed dozens of pumpkins on its ledges. Kelly scaled the monument and in the bright noonday sun, the silhouette looked familiar to the Tanis dig scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

It was an uneasy scaling, and indeed as she wobbled up the bales, she warned all subsequent climbers that this was not “stable hay” as she had presumed. Luckily, she descended unharmed.

Erin made the fortuitous decision to purchase a pair of butternut squash, a gourd whose playful name would serve well as a 1950’s sock hop dance, performed in tight high-waisted slacks. Later that evening she would turn squash to soup, whose shade so closely matched the color of our cat’s coat, we called it Simba Soup. Unofficially of course, because any cook or writer knows that beyond the Middle Ages, “cat” and “soup” is a poor advertisement for a hot, comforting belly-smile of a meal.

Erin’s Intro: Its autumn, you’ve got to eat this soup!

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

2 Butternut squash
1 yellow onion, diced
4 tablespoons butter
3-4 Cups whole milk
1 can broth
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper

Cut each squash in half length wise and scoop out seeds. Coat a roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray and place the squash halves inside cut side down. Roast at 350 degrees for one hour. After squash has cooled slightly, scoop out all of the squash and throw away the skins. Bring a large stock pot to medium heat; add a small amount of oil, the butter, and the diced onion. Cook until onion is translucent, about five minutes. Add the squash, broth and half of the milk. Add seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Using an immersion blender, blend to a smooth consistency. Add more milk to reach your desired consistency, blend again. Heat through but do not simmer. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve and Enjoy!

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

28.0 Black Bean/White Album

Starring Erin, Mike & Sarah
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: The Beatles by the Beatles

“Half of what I say is meaningless…”

So, Erin was supposed to be baking cookies for this month’s article (the announcement of which emptied my salivary glands) but apparently something happened to the dough, and we had a TOTAL #&$%! DISASTER on our hands! Well, not on my hands – I was halfway across the room flipping through a TV Guide from November 1976. I was conjuring the autumns of my youth for this first article of the fall.

When I was a kid, in the 1970s, the fall was the best of times and the worst of times (I just made that up). School restarted, and while I always enjoyed the first few days (what with the fresh notebooks and new dungarees), the seeming endlessness of it, the unbearable distance from the next summer, marked my biological calendar for life. Even today, at September’s cusp, a strange twinge in my gut triggers a phantom panic.

Tonight it’s raining. We still have the windows open, but the telepathy of fall has sent a cool transmission. It is faint, and in the rain. The train passes through and the wind carries the call-and-response of the mournful whistle and the canine baying. I’m reminded of the outro of the Beatles’ “Good Morning, Good Morning.” You know, with the barking…

You do own Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, right? So maybe it’s not the masterpiece it’s held up to be (for my money, there weren’t enough oboes), but it’s certainly influential. Though my brother Jim vehemently disagrees, I’m more impressed with their follow-up, popularly known as the White Album. I’ve owned the LP for years (jeez, I bet I bought it around ‘86?). But I’d never owned the CD until I purchased the new re-mastered version last week.

The Beatles White Album doesn’t have much to do with soup, although the word is uttered once during “Revolution 9”. My cursory research yields this is the only reference to soup in all of the Beatles lyrics. But the White Album holds no shortage of food: “Glass Onion”, “Wild Honey Pie”, and “Savoy Truffle”. “Piggies” sets the protagonists at the dinner table; “Cry Baby Cry” tackles a royal breakfast.

Ah, my thoughts are all a’swirl! You see, with fall approaching, my nostalgia grows a thicker coat, a bit ragged and ursine with each turned page of the calendar. The Fall TV Lineup of 1982, bare trees trembling outside a library window, shopping for Halloween costumes at Richie’s Variety, and the Beatles: these are loose bits in the pockets of my autumns. Especially the Beatles. Especially the White Album.

I close my eyes and see myself crunching through the oranged maple leaves while “Rocky Raccoon” tumbles through my ears. I feel like “Mother Nature’s Son” hiking up the mountain for blackberries. I saw a “Blackbird” fly! It’s such a “Long, Long, Long” walk that when I return home, “I’m So Tired.” “’Good Night’,” I mumble as I slog to the bedroom. But I’ve forgotten something – I’m hungry! The house is a bit chilly; rain and its dark clouds banished a fair piece of heat today. I’m starving! It’s fall!

“It’s black bean soup. You want any?” asks Sarah.

“Nah, I don’t like black beans,” I reply.

“He really doesn’t,” says Erin, “but I’ll have a bowl.”

Later, I’m on the couch eating macaroni & cheese, when my eyes start burning. But in the good way; in the grilling onion way. I peer into Erin’s bowl. A dollop of pure white sour cream floats on the surface of the black bean soup. Erin takes a picture. She swirls the sour cream into the soup. For a moment, the yin and the yang appear. Then yang swallows yin. Or the other way around. Is yang the spicy one?

I try a spoonful. That’s a pretty nice soup, nice and spicy! Then a flash, like a pulse of disco and it’s fall again. The evening sky is pumpkin red. There’s a cold anticipation to the air, as if cooling its jets for the winter. The steam climbs like ivy into the high dark corners of the house. The soup at once is exquisite and comforting.

Soon, the new Fall TV season, Halloween, stuffing & gravy, Time-Life Music Christmas album commercials…

Soon the butter cookies, the apple cider, the leftover bag of Midnight Milky Ways and Snickers Dark…

For now, keep the soup simmering, and I’ll tell you about the walrus & me…


2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
Salt & pepper
1 can beef broth
3 cans black beans, rinsed
1 ½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ginger
½ tsp coriander
Cayenne pepper
Cilantro & sour cream to top

Ina large pot on medium heat, add oil. Sautee diced onions, peppers, and crushed garlic. When softened, add beef broth, rinsed black beans, and spices. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer covered for 10 minutes. Partially mash mixture. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, to thicken. Garnish with tortilla chips, sour cream and parsley. Salt & pepper to taste.
The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

27.0 Orzo It Seems

Starring Erin & Mike
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Shaving Cream by Benny Bell

"Shave everyday and you’ll always look keen"

Just had a haircut and a shave in the bathroom (I’m my own tonsore). Now, in the air-conditioned bedroom, I’m a little chilly. Complaints, complaints. Erin’s scrapbooking (yet another talent) at her desk. And I’m typing in bed. Like Joyce! No, not Joyce. Maybe Saroyan. Probably not Mailer. I’ve got it! Fitzgerald! With his soft hands and all…

Me: Hey, Zelda, can I get you a mint julep?

Erin: (Pause) What?

Me: Oh, nothing.

We didn’t have one of our usual Sellwood Kitchen dinners with the gang tonight. Haven’t in a while. It’s been a busy summer, and, like I said last time (did you read my last article? It was fantastic!), Erin’s been catering her friends’ weddings, so soirees have been put on the backburner until September cools off (both literally and figuratively).

Because the sun looks down on us (not literally) and guffaws hot hales of dry white laughter (figuratively).

Because the sun is a bum what oughta be socked inna nose for getting too close this summer!

Who cares! We’re hungry, whether you dopes eat a big meal or not. What is this – At the Sellwood Borefest or In the Sellwood Kitchen? Give us a recipe!

All right, I’ll get you a recipe.

Me: Hon, do you have a recipe?

Erin: Why mint julep?

Me: Huh?

Erin: Mint julep. Why would I want mint julep?

Me: No, I was saying like if I was F. Scott Fitzgerald, then you’d be Zelda, his wife, and maybe you’d want a mint julep, even though his character, Daisy Buchanan, drank them in “The Great Gatsby” and not his wife…

Erin: (Pause) Orzo.

Me: Ouzo? Ugh, I hate licorice. I’d rather have a mint julep.

Erin: No, write about the orzo salad. God!

I start thinking about too many things at once and don’t pay attention to what’s happening outside my head. The orzo salad. My favorite salad! So cool and refreshing! Perfect for these deep summer days.

Erin created what seemed like gallons of this good stuff for one of the recent matrimonial events. So there were leftovers for me! A side dish, I suppose, but I eat it like a meal. I’d market it as such: Orzo Salad – Eat it Like a Meal!

I wonder if Fitzgerald ever had orzo…

Erin: What?

Me: (Did I say that out loud?) Oh, nothing, I’m just yammering to myself.

You’re telling us! Why don’t you go sort through those two dozen dusty LPs you dragged home from your precious Antique Mall so we can listen to Erin?

Hey, that’s not a bad idea! You see, they closed most of the booths there, so the records were going for cheap! Hmm, should I listen to The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper or Invitation to Yiddish?


Erin’s Intro: The Sellwood Kitchen has been completely taken over by giant trays, chafing dishes, and other oversized food serving paraphernalia. August is wedding season. Granted, I don't have a catering "business", I just seem to enjoy giving up my kitchen, my refrigerator, and 3 days of my life to feed friends of friends at weddings. Why did everyone decide to get married at the coast this year? Oh well, an excuse for a road trip. By the way, a shout out to everyone I know for loaning me coolers this summer. I couldn't have done it without you. The little Disney embellished cooler from our honeymoon isn't up to the task. So, this month, the Sellwood Kitchen hasn't been the usual place to gather with friends to eat and drink wine (we still drink wine though), I don't even remember the last time I cooked a meal for anyone living here... But, it has been a great experience to cook food for 35 to 100 people and walk into a room full of them eating it, and liking it. So, here is one recipe that I used this summer. And don't worry, it's not for 100 servings, but you can always multiply it by 10 if you feel the need...

1 box orzo pasta
1 medium red onion, diced
1 container grape tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on the desired size
1 container feta cheese
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 bottle roasted red pepper vinaigrette
Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Cook Orzo until al dente, strain, and rinse with cold water. Toss with a little EVOO and put in a large bowl. To pasta, add the red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese. Mix together, toss with the vinaigrette. Season with fresh cracked pepper to taste. Let chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours or overnight.

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

26.0 Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-Nine Plus Forty

The writer & his mother (pregnant with the writer) in 2009, recast as 1969

Starring Erin & Mike
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: “Get Older” by Matthew Sweet

"Who cares if you don't know what you want?"

I left the funeral home at one in the morning, embalmed. The fluid was cheap beer. The mortician was the bartender. And the funeral home was The Woods, Sellwood's new music venue on Milwaukie Avenue.

You should know this about me -- I don't like to leave the house after supper. What can the world offer me that my couch does not? But the Woods, the old Wilhelm Funeral Home converted to a music joint, is within walking distance. Plus it's my birthday weekend. And we don't have a recipe this month (which I concur is really the only reason to read this furshlugginer article each month), so I needed something to write about. (Erin's been busy catering a few of her friends' weddings so we’ve been eating a lot of cereal at home.)

Just as well -- what would be an appropriate recipe for my 40th birthday article? Soup? Boring. Delicious, but boring.

Yes, by the time you read this, I'll be 40. Or dead. Which would make it a real keepsake, unless you're reading this 100 years from now in the Sellwood Public Library's digital archives (or on some micro-fiche if you're one of those neo-traditionalists everyone will hear so much about in the 22nd century). In that case, my being dead 100 years from now would be unremarkable. Indeed, if I am still around, wrapped in an electric slankee in my anti-gravity rocking chair, bemoaning the cost of a Rolling Stones concert ticket, be sure to thank me for inventing the full-body wet-nap, a moist towelette coverall for distribution at restaurants with sauce-heavy menus; I hope to have it in production by the end of third decade of this millenium.

I entered the world in a storm, a 12 lb hailstone of a child. Forty years and 138 lbs later, I still prefer the rain to the sun (perhaps nature played a larger role in calling me to Oregon than practical reasons). I was a large child, a fact either doubted or celebrated by the curious, considering my thereafter lean physique. My gargantuan birth weight was the talk of Mary Immaculate Hospital that week. Why such a gentle giant? Laziness. I believe I overextended my stay in the womb. My birth should have coincided with man's first step on the moon; instead Buzz & the boys were already back on Earth, eating ham sandwiches and watching the Johnny Carson show...

I was 3 weeks old as Woodstock sang, swayed and stank 2 hours north in Bethel, New York. I couldn't make it -- Dad was a dyed-in-the-wool folkie in the Brothers Four/Kingston Trio tradition, and if by some cruel twist of Aquarian fate he found himself in the tea-soaked mud, he more likely would have been trying to score an valium rather than the brown acid.

I did attend the Woodstock (Oregon) Festival & Parade the other day. There was considerably less nudity than the famed festival of 1969.

Erin: What are you doing?

Me: Electric daydreaming. I'm taking stock of the last 40 years.

Erin: How's that going?

Me: I’m watching Cookie Monster on Youtube. Sesame Street turns forty as well this year. Yes, Cookie Monster and I are about the same age. We’ve been having an unspoken cookie-eating contest these last four decades. (Don’t tell him, I lost count years ago. Also, don’t tell him because he is a puppet.)

Forty. Well, not 40 yet. One more day (I’m back in real time now). Erin's having a party for me today. I was going to say "in my honor" but that makes me sound 80. Some would say my vocabulary makes me sound like 80. Just because I bring up Margaret Dumont a lot.

I suppose I'm a slightly unusual for my age. I act about thirty years older, but was carded for looking 27-years old the other day (while purchasing a box of wine). No, I mean case of wine. I haven't bought a box of wine in almost 15 years. That was during my Carolina Days, when I lived in Calabash, NC, and my only literary output was editing and contributing to a zine I published with my friend Harry Carbohydrate. "Report to Hell" we called it (a play on Kazantzakis' memoir of Greco). Desperate poetry and clip art -- it was the best of rhymes, it was the worst of rhymes. But I developed a style I utilize today in ITSK. Be thankful this column isn't called "In the Calabash Kitchen" -- after all, how many ways can one prepare macaroni & cheese?For better or worse, I'm at my peak, artistically (though I pray fervently that I have not reached the zenith of my abilities or my legacy may be limited to the aforementioned wet-nap tuxedo).

Why would any of this be interesting to you, my Sellwood/Moreland/Etc neighbors? Oh heavens, I can't imagine it would be at all, at all...

So, in lieu of a recipe, here’s some trivia you can chew on! Get it? With the chewing…?

In 1969: The Beatles Abbey Road, New York Tendaberry by Laura Nyro, Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, and The Velvet Underground were released.

In 1969: Ice Cube, PJ Harvey, Christy Turlington and Dweezil Zappa were born.

In 1969: Paul Chambers, Brian Jones, Josh White and Frank Loesser died (Loesser, on the day I was born).

In 1969: The New York Mets won their first World Series in Game 5 against the Baltimore Orioles.

You see? Even the losers get lucky sometimes. Well, gotta go. The guests are arriving, the hotdogs are bursting…and it’s almost time for my nap.

Oh, and go to The Woods! Someday it’ll be regarded as the CBGBs of Sellwood!

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

25.0 Don't You Know About the Curd

Starring Erin & Mike, Sarah, Adam and Jim & Jessika
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello & the Attractions

“I’m the town crier…”

Before the winds conspired and the leaves and dust and litter rose in a dioramic Ascension, I dreamed of dessert. In moments a soundless fury of wind would rush down SW Morrison like a big baby blowing out his candles. “Lemon curd,” I whispered in my car, waiting for Erin. “Lemon curd,” I whispered again, seeing her step out of her building with her hair aloft. “Must’ve been a rough day,” I thought. Then the atmospheric mood swing hit and I saw a troupe of Marcel Marceaus walking against the wind. Erin struggled to the passenger side and we entered the stop-and-go flow of rush-hour traffic cum mass-hallucination evacuation.

“Wow, this storm came out of nowhere!” said Erin.

“Oh, yeah, I know. Listen. This isn’t going to affect dessert, is it?”

It wasn’t, I was assured. We were having a few friends over for dinner, like we do; but the barbecue, as mouthwatering as it would be, was not the main attraction. It was: Lemon Curd Cupcakes.

Curd? That sounds awful. I know, right! But it’s not skimmed curdled milk, as I first horrifyingly assumed. No, this is something else, a fruit curd, lemon to be precise.

The dinner conversation was as delightful as ever. Jessika, who despite critiquing the décor of our bathroom on her last visit, broached the lively subject of strange human pervasions. We guffawed, howled and snickered. We raised our stubby beers in bawdy approval of our shared love of off-color euphemisms.

But eventually, the noise went white as my blue eyes, green with gluttonous greed, drifted to the oven, wherein those cupcakes quickly gestated in the Hotpoint womb.

The lemon curd, I sensed with feral desperation, cooled in the fridge. I began astral projecting into the appliances when a gale of laughter slapped me back to the table.

“The ‘dinner bell’!” offered Jimmy. Adam lost it!

The table was cleared. Erin and Sarah began filling and frosting the cupcakes. I busied myself with odd distractions: In my head, I tried listing the Seven Dwarves in order of likability (for the record, Bashful is the worst).

I find myself locked in a spell that can only be broken by the taste of lemon curd. Erin detects my non-verbal cue.

She hands me a cupcake. A breeze, smelling of rain, drifts in through the screen door. The world is perfect enough.


Erin’s Intro: This recipe is perfect for a non-diet spring treat. It’s cute and fresh and fun. If you’ve never had fresh lemon curd, you are totally missing out. It tastes like summer, and by itself, it’s gluten free. Add it to these fancied-up cupcakes and homemade butter cream frosting and you have a REAL treat. There are two choices listed, and they are both irresistible. For the frosting, you can find a simple butter cream recipe or use pre-made. We creamed butter, lots of powdered sugar, vanilla and a little milk. It’s a basic recipe and easy to find so we didn’t list it here. These cupcakes are super cute and perfect for spring gatherings. Hope you enjoy!

Lemon Curd:

3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 Cup sugar
½ Cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/3 Cup fresh lemon juice

In a double boiler, mix the above ingredients on low to medium low heat. Whisk regularly until the mixture becomes thick. Remove from heat and strain until it is smooth. Let cool.


1 Box lemon cake mix
1 (3.4oz) box instant lemon pudding mix
8 oz. cream cheese
½ Cup sour cream
¼ Cup water
¼ Cup oil
2 Eggs

In a mixer, cream together cream cheese and sour cream. Add water, oil, eggs and mix well. Add cake mix and pudding and mix until smooth. Batter will be thick. If you have a spring loaded scoop, use it to spoon mixture into muffin tins lined with cupcake wrappers. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Two Options for Lemon Curd Cupcakes:
1) Baked-in: Before baking the muffins, make a dent in the top of the batter and fill it with a spoonful of lemon curd. Bake as directed.
2) Filled-in: After cupcakes cool, cut out a cone from the top of the cupcake. Fill the hole with a spoonful of lemon curd using a piping bag. Level off the cut-out piece of cupcake and place it back on top of the lemon curd. Cover with frosting to set in place.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2009

24.0 Manicotti Redux

Starring Erin & Mike, Adam & Josh and Sarah
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Willoughby by Mike “Sport” Murphy

“So let's go out and act as if it's Saturday - I cannot bear to wait 'til one arrives.”

Madonna mia! Why must writing this article be such a chore? Our present meal in the Sellwood Kitchen tantalized, satisfied and even conjured (the primary effect I seek). Yet here I sit in front of the laptop, sipping on a souvenir Japanese Grapefruit wine cooler, and thinking about what to write (a Zen master would suggest “not-thinking,” a state of consciousness conducive to enlightenment). The wine cooler can (yes, the can) bore only the word “grapefruit” in English. But I’d been forewarned (threatened?) that the contents did contain alcohol. I wonder if there’s some NHK-inspired parody of Bartles & Jaymes in Shibuya.

We wonder if there’s an NHK-inspired parody of you in Shibuya, and if so, can we TiVo it?

That’s terrific. So anyway, I know Erin has similar blocks, scrambling for a recipe before the deadline. With greater ease, she lights upon a lip-smacking dish. Me, I’m as dull-faced as Spencer Pratt at a Richard Feynman lecture. Leave us turn back the hands of time to that delightful day in May from whence derives our episode. (Disclaimer: The following events did not transpire on one day, although we shall proceed as if they had.)

12:05am: Saturday begins as usual at midnight where I find myself at PDX awaiting the arrival of my Aunt Arlene’s flight from New York. She said she was getting in at 9pm (she was wrong); the airline said 11pm (they were wrong); the plane lands at 12:05am (it was correct). Home. Bed. Sleep.

9:05am: I donate a busted TV and dump off a deuce of moldy director’s chair (and I don’t mean Clint Eastwood) at S.M.I.L.E’s annual clean-up day. Five bucks for a good cause. They do it every year.

10:25am: After a quick brunch with Aunt Arlene at my mom’s place, I walk home with an Entenmanns crumb cake, flown in fresh from her carry-on. It’s a beautifully sunny day!

10:28am: I stop by the annual Sherrett Street Book Sale – in essence, the “perfect” garage sale, with proceeds benefitting the Oregon Association for Childhood Education International. I picked up a couple James Joyces, a Styron (the memoir), Loren Eisley’s “The Immense Journey”, two animal books and three LPs, including Johnny Smith on Verve.

Well, aren’t you a modest pseudo-intellectual, complete with just a hint of hip ennui?

Oh, why do you say that? Because I was flipping through Ulysses at the Laundromat?

No, we think your attempts at erudition produce mere fringes of facts, bolstered by bolts of noisy info-tainment. It’s like filling in a manicotti tube with whipped cream.

Wow, tell a fella what you really mean, right? Listen, did you mention manicotti because you read ahead in my rough draft, or was that just a coincidence?

William Burroughs says “In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents.”Also, we read the title up above.

Oh, yeah. Well, then that takes us up to…

7:40pm: I wake up on the couch (where I fell asleep after my busy morning – remember all that walking?). Adam & Josh are seated at the kitchen table.

“The black spots are protein.” Maybe I’m in a waking dream. Adam’s talking about the ants. We have ants.

“No, it’s pepper,” covers Erin mock-heroically. But it’s ants. It’s 7:42 and Sarah and Erin are making manicotti, or “munuhgut” or (dreadfully) “manny cotty.” But to quote “Sixteen Candles”: You don’t spell it, son, you eat it!

There was a gluten issue concerning the purchase of non-Gluten Intolerancy Committee-approved pasta – in this instance, manicotti tubes. So let me now issue this warning: This is not a gluten-free recipe. Let me also exalt this proclamation: This is not a gluten-free recipe!

I don’t think I’ve had manicotti in years. I used to eat it like it was going out of style. Which it did, I guess, or else so many manicotti-less nights wouldn’t have passed without regard. Tonight, this isn't the frozen variety I microwaved in its cardboard crèche, lo, those many years ago (it was my first foray into gourmet) – this is homemade eye-tie!

While Sellwood is by no means the Little Italy of Portland (it's a “little musty,” but that's just because of all the antiques...), we do have our share of ristorantes – Gino's, Portofino, a Cena, Staccato Gelato and the Garden State food cart (that’s a nice sausage sandwich). I’ll add the Sellwood Kitchen to the list (my name’s O’Shaughnessy, but I’m also half Russo).

“…but you can’t make him laugh.” That was the punch line to an alternate article title. I changed the title. Manicotti is a funny word, but it won’t join a comedy troupe. It’s funny on its own and repels any attempts at pun. One can only regard the title of the piece as an essence of the beatific simplicity of the word manicotti. At best, one could affix an obsequious adjective postpositively.

So is manicotti a stuck-up dish? (I once admonished a Fettuccini Alfredo to get off his high horse.)

No matter, manicotti: It’s what’s inside what counts.


Erin’s Intro: Sometimes you just need gluten. Not really, but apparently no one makes gluten-free manicotti shells; I might have to look into manufacturing them someday. I’d have to manufacture GF Ricotta too, because I learned this month that it’s no good for the gluten intolerant. Although I normally would have protested by making something else…well, we needed a recipe STAT! Don’t worry, we didn’t poison Josh, we made a separate dish for him; he loves pasta, literally. Well, this month I decided to kick back and take it easy, so I let Sarah take the lead – she makes a mean manicotti!

8oz. box manicotti noodles
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella, divided
¾ cup grated parmesan, divided
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
10oz box frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 large shallot, minced
3oz. pancetta, chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 twenty-six oz jars pasta sauce
1 cup water
1 tbsp Italian seasoning (optional)

Start with a sauté pan with a touch of oil on medium heat; add the pancetta, sauté for about 4 min. until it begins to brown; add shallots and sauté until translucent and starting to brown. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Set aside to cool. Next, in a large bowl combine ricotta and beaten eggs until smooth. Add 1 cup mozzarella, ½ cup parmesan, salt, pepper, spinach and the pancetta mixture. Mix well. Combine jars of sauce and water (and seasonings if desired); pour 1/3 of this mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Next we stuff the shells! Put the ricotta mixture into a gallon sized plastic bag, cut a one-inch hole in the corner to create a make-shift piping bag to squeeze the filling into the uncooked manicotti shells. Place stuffed shells into baking dish in single layer. (Place any extra stuffed shells into separate smaller casserole dish and freeze for later use). Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Place in 350º oven until noodles are soft in the middle (45 minutes to an hour). Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes and enjoy!

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

23.0 In Cod We Crust

Starring Erin & Mike, Adam & Josh , Sarah & Adam, and Jane
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: Fisherman’s Blues by The Waterboys

“Castin' out my sweet line with abandonment and love”

Actually, we use tilapia, but that’s a great title, right? In Tilapia We Lightly Coat with Corn Meal” doesn’t have the same zing. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a history of fish.

“Fish” was a short-lived (14 episode) sitcom that ran on ABC from 1977-1978. Starring Abe Vigoda as Det. Phil Fish, the series (a spin-off of the abundantly more popular “Barney Miller”) centered around the home life of Fish and his wife Bernice, after their unlikely decision to adopt five troubled foster children. I say “unlikely” because even in ’77 Vigoda looked about a hundred.
What does this have to do with tonight’s meal? Nothing. Let’s continue.

Imagine if you will: Neptune astride Leviathan, a mighty plume of seawater obscuring his beard, flowing bolts of geoduck. On his trident, thrust toward the undrying sun, three perfectly browned and crispy fish sticks. This is the glorious regurgitation of the fathoms, the favored gift of the sea!

That’s a little closer to tonight’s inspired dish. This next bit reels it in.

Every Friday, even beyond the Fridays of Lent, my father returned from work to a fish sticks and spaghetti dinner. It wasn' t

More than anything the ketchup thermostat has colored my impression of all fish (if not all pasta) meals. Isn’t there some quote about fish being a dish best served cold? Putting ketchup on a fish stick is the culinary equivalent of icing down a swollen knee (but more appeasing to the taste buds).

But please don't let me be misunderstood. It was my favorite meal of the week. Also, as a nostalgic trigger, it signaled the beginning of the weekend – my next meal after the fish dinner would be Saturday morning pancakes while watching the Krofft Supershow (1976-1978).

So when the other night, Erin decided we'd be having fish sticks for the Sellwood Kitchen entree, all sorts of questions sprung to my tongue: Is "Donnie & Marie" back on the air? Do we have enough ketchup? Did you convert?

Answers: No, the variety show is dead; no, there's plenty of ketchup (Erin despises it); and no.

I didn't care. I was just anxious that we start defrosting the fish sticks in time for Donny & Marie (thank you, You Tube).

Erin began to explain, as delicately as one can to a 39 year old in the throes of a severe nostalgic episode, that these would not be "your father's fish sticks."

O joy! O rapture! Home made fish sticks! I called my mother. "Wanna come over for dinner? We're having fish sticks! No, we don’t need any ketchup." (On a curious side note worth recording, my mom, aware of Erin's famous chicken skewers, had misinterpreted the nature of the meal. My brother asked her what she'd be eating at my house, and she responded, with waning certainty, "Fish-on-a-Stick?").

We had a full house that night: Our residents Lenny & Squiggy (Josh & Adam); sous chef extraordinaire Sarah MFB and Adam, uh…2 – both Sarah’s boyfriend and Erin’s old college chum; and my mother, popularly known as Jane. It was a Thursday night, Holy Thursday if I recall, and of course in addition to eating, we had gathered for our weekly TV funnies.

Now it was time for the main event ("Remember the Main Event" -- sorry, just a little nautical humor). Served with fresh tartar sauce, with spring rolls on the side, the fish sticks were plated, photographed, and presently consumed. I loved them, but...

Erin wasn't bowled over by it. Something was lacking. The nucleus of the meal was sound, but the electrons needed a little charge.

My taste buds, abused by years of Drake’s coffee cakes and Yodels, could find no fault. But my psychic inner-ear picked up these whisperings from the ocean of archetypes Jung dubbed the Collective Unconscious: You should only serve fish sticks on Fridays!


Erin’s Intro: What’s a minced fish? I don’t know, but we aren’t having any. This isn’t your average frozen fish stick. We’re using fresh Tilapia, and GF ingredients, of course. And for once, we aren’t frying anything. I know, sad. But considering we’ve fried every type of food we can get our hands on in the past six months, it’s time for a break. I first called this recipe “boring”, but I changed it a little, and decided it’s not boring, it’s “simple”, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a great GF meal, especially for kids. Prep them ahead of time and bake them later for an after school snack. Or bake them for a house full of hungry grownups. Either way… preheat oven to 350°.

4 Tilapia fillets
1 Cup Rice Flour
1 ½ Cups Corn Meal
2 Eggs + ½ Cup Milk, whisked
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbs Cajun Seasoning
Fresh Lemon Wedges
Cooking Spray

Put rice flour, corn meal, and egg mixture into three separate shallow dishes. Slice Tilapia fillets into strips, about 4 strips per fillet depending on the size. Lightly season fish with salt and pepper. Mix Cajun seasoning into the corn meal. Dredge each strip in flour, shake off, and coat in egg mixture. Then, press the fillet into the corn meal mixture so it is completely covered. Repeat with remaining Tilapia strips. At this point the fish can be chilled in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Set fish sticks on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spray the fish sticks with cooking spray. Bake about 6-8 minutes, flip and spray the other side, bake 6-8 minutes more. Fish should be white and flaky. Squeeze fresh lemon onto the fish sticks before serving with tartar sauce, or ketchup, if you’re into that.

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