Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Here's yet-another recipe from Nonnie that screams to be released into the public domain. This time it's "Nonnie's Mushroom Stew."

You know, Nonnie has only one goal in life: That everyone can eat as well as Fat Sal, yet still fit into his ruffley, pea green High School prom tuxedo. We don't guarantee the latter, but the former is a piece of cake.

Nonnie's Mushroom Stew

* 2 lbs. veal--cut into 1 inch cubes.
* 2 lbs. bulk (i.e., without casings) Italian sausage--hot, mild or combo.
* 2 stalks of celery--diced.
* 1 each of red bell pepper, green bell pepper and hot chile pepper--diced.
* 12 oz mushrooms--psychedelic, non-psychedelic or combo--sliced or quartered.
* 3 cloves garlic--minced or crushed.
* 1 large onion--diced.
* 1 c. red wine.
* 1-28oz can plus 1-12 oz can diced tomatoes.
* 1-28oz can tomato sauce.
* Hot pepper flakes.
* Salt and Pepper.
* Parsely--chopped, a whole lotta
* Thick slices of Italian bread, or polenta, or rice.

Step 1. Fry veal and sausage in olive oil until browned. Remove meat and set aside. Retain enough fat in pot for Step 2.

Step 2. Fry the following in retained fat until softened: Onion, peppers, celery and 'shrooms.

Step 3. Add garlic to mixture and saute for 30 seconds.

Step 4. Add wine and reduce to approx. 1/4 cup.

Step 5. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and meats. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until veal is tender. Could take awhile.

Step 6. Adjust for salt, pepper and picante. Stir in parsely.

Step 7. Place slice of Italian bread at bottom of each serving bowl. Alternatively, you can add polenta or rice instead of bread if you're a WASP or something. Ladle stew over bread slice, polenta or rice. If you're like me, hit it with a drizzle of chile-infused olive oil.

Step 8. Loosen the belt on that prom tuxedo, Cinncinnati-girl!

In our next installment...Nonnie's Fucazzo. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


By this point, you were probably wondering whether my velvet fingertips would ever again stroke the nape of this lonely blog’s neck. To be honest, I was wondering the same.

My life has experienced a tectonic shift over the past few months. In most ways, it’s better. In some ways, it’s worse. But that’s the way life is.

A byproduct of that shift has been a severe curtailing of my blogging time…and energy. Especially blogging energy. I am, quite simply, much busier now. And when a sliver free time presents itself at the end of each day, I don’t want to sit in front a computer and write blog posts. I want to sit in front of a TV and watch “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.”

Christ! What a friggin’ great show!!!

But today I am forcing myself to post. Why? Because I’ve achieved an important life’s goal, and the world needs to hear about it.

* * * * * *

I first learned of durian during an episode of “Michael Palin’s Full Circle ” that I watched in the mid-1990’s. I was intrigued by the prospect of this exotic Asian fruit. A fruit that looked like a rugby ball covered with spikes and is reportedly so stinky that it has been banned from buses and airlines in some countries.

Mr. Palin described durian as being like, “A very smelly custard…rather revolting, really.” But my friends ChiChi and Daffy in Singapore describe it as, “Heavenly.” All things being equal, I don’t take food advice from Brits—Mr. Ramsay notwithstanding, of course.

The durian challenge had therefore lodged itself firmly in my psyche, and I would not rest until I had—for better or for worse—tasted a smelly mouthful. So I embarked on a fervent search for durian in Spain.

Spain, of course, isn’t exactly a “strongly-flavored food-friendly” country. The Spanish seem to believe that strong foods—much like that other risky vice, ice water—causes sore throats, pneumonia and, when conditions are right, death by spontaneous combustion. So…I spent a fair amount of energy criss-crossing Spain trying various means of scoring a durian.

I begged the owners of Thai restaurants in Barcelona and Madrid. Deal or no deal? Hmphff…no deal.

I asked my boss at Acme Low Carb Tongue Depressors, Inc. if he would bring me some when he returned from a business trip to Singapore . He agreed! I was thrilled!!!

When he returned from the trip empty-handed, however, he explained. “I couldn’t bring it on the airplane. It smelled like shit.”

After several years of fruitless (literally and figuratively) efforts, I gave up. I resigned myself to the fact that my dying breath might be tainted with the perfume of absinthe—but certainly not with the funky stench of durian. I accepted fate. I was at peace.


My accordion-squeezing, babushka-wearing, Polka-dancing girlfriend Agatha and I were shopping at H-Mart—an Asian super, supermarket in the Chicago area. And RIGHT THERE—wedged between the fermented dung beetle sweetbreads and the yak’s dong carpaccio—was the King of the Fruits.

We scooped-up the booty, paid the cashier and rushed home.

I then sharpened an 8 inch chef’s knife, laid the durian on a cutting board, and…BONZAI!!! Split the elusive bastard in two before he could escape.

Gazing from afar, I was smitten by the pleasing aesthetics of its multi-chambered, creamy innards. And then—bending over and crinkling my nose—I took a good, long whiff.

I’ve read that durian smells like garbage. I’ve read that it smells like well-ripened gym socks. I’ve read that it smells like poo. But I disagree.

Durian smells like…rotting garlic. Yes, that’s exactly what it smells like. Rotting garlic.

But I wasn’t there to smell. I was there to taste. And once I became acclimated to the King’s formidable funk, I pulled-out a handful of its creamy flesh and took a bite.

Awesome! Addictive, even!

The initial retronasal blast of eye-watering foulness passed quickly. And once my vision and sinuses cleared—I was in heaven.

Durian’s texture is incredible. Rich…creamy…it feels on the tongue like a very firm crème brulee. The taste is mild and slightly sweet. But again…it was the custard-like texture that I couldn’t resist. Nor could Agatha. I ate an entire half of the durian; she nearly finished the other half.

If durian has a love/hate relationship with the human palate, it also (reportedly) has a love/love relationship with the human libido. There is a saying in Singapore that goes, “When the durians go down, the sarongs go up.”

So, you might ask, did the sarongs go up that night? Well…let’s just say that the aphrodisiacal properties of durian are more theoretical than practical.

I mean…would you really want to kiss someone with breath like rotting garlic?


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


One of these days, I'll tell you guys what I've been up to lately.

I'll tell you about my first taste of durian. I'll tell you about my brush with the great Alton Brown. I'll give you a recipe for Nonnie's Mushroom Stew.

Those are matters for a different day. As for today, however, I want you to take this test.