The Koncert for Karine, Starring Champagne

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Like most bad ideas conceived by the husband and his official "bad idea partner", our fearless and always enthusiastic violin-playing friend, I thought "Koncert for Karine" was a drunken moment in time, that would never come to fruition. But, the photos in this post prove otherwise. This bad idea was not only brought to life, but executed with great success. By the end of the performance, I was clapping and cheering with the rest of the tipsy audience.

As I have mentioned here before, I am not a classical music enthusiast. I like classical music just fine when it's raining, when I'm sleepy, when it's in the background and I don't have a choice. But apparently, this is not enough for my friends. They want me to like their classical music. They want me to enjoy the after-dinner jam sessions they like to put on. And in an effort to win me over, they decided to throw a concert in my honor, a concert full of classical pieces and a few theatrical components. I'm not sure if you have friends who adore you so much that they want to orchestrate concerts for you, if you'd like such friends, maybe we can trade?

Well, months went by, nothing happened, and I thought I was safe. But then practice began, additional performers were recruited, and a program began to take shape. After a short delay, a date was finally set, guests invited, programs printed, and lots of champagne purchased.

The husband and friends took care of the details, I showed up to the event and did nothing, like a true guest. My only goal was to capture the event on camera. And I only somewhat succeeded. Apparently, poor lighting and eight glasses of champagne result in...? Hundreds of blurry photos! Luckily, I managed to steady my hands enough to snap a handful of decent shots and document this enchanting night. Because there was no doubt about it, despite my protests, despite the ridiculousness of it all, this turned out to be a truly magical concert.

Even though I'm not convinced I like classical music anymore than I did before the concert, one thing is certain, I had a good time, and I might have even developed a greater appreciation my crazy friends. Maybe.

Plans for Kristmas for Karine are already in production.
My contribution to the program was the performer bios. Based on real facts, these short paragraphs really summed up the essense of each individual. One of our friends went around and asked the talent for their autographs.
There was champagne.
And more champagne.
And even more champagne.
The cool and collected (aka buzzed) performers before the show. They look so uninterested, you'd think they put on concerts every weekend.
Mr. Accordion stole the show with "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".
The ladies playing something French.
The program ended with "Puff the Magic Dragon" performed so well, the crown joined in on the singing. See below for original lyrics to this favorite classic.
What's the best way to enjoy music? Nap through it.
And the long day ended with a dance party.

My first time hearing "Puff the Magic Dragon" was the day-of the concert, when the husband was practicing it in his room. I guess you miss out on a lot when you grow up in Turkmenistan. We sang songs about Lenin, but not dragons. You can see the original lyrics as written by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow here. However, what made this performance so memorable was that our friend, the very talented writer, Mr. Adam Shonkoff, wrote additional verses, just for me. You can judge for yourself, but I'm pretty sure Adam should be writing rhymes for rap stars.  

Karine the magic person lived in Altadena
She liked to cook and drink fine wine, she wanted to be a ballerina
She loved all kinds of music, except the classical style
Those boring horns and violins never made her smile

Her friends they were so downcast, Karine could love no tune
So they put on a special koncert, as brave as Daniel Boone
But smiles still proved elusive, Karine thought the music stunk
But in the end the magic came, because everyone was drunk

Now everyone together!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.


The Everything Chopped Salad

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This is a serious salad, with a big of everything. I fell for chopped salads after tasting a great version at The Luggage Room. Now I am hooked and have been making my own adaptations at home.

On this particular evening, I had no strategy, instead I let my pantry and fridge be my guide. And because we ate this for dinner, I made sure to make it hearty, with salami and chickpeas. In addition, went in red onions, heart of palm, olives, raisins and pistachios. This is how you make iceberg tasty, load it up with good stuff. And because there's so much going on, every bite is nice surprise, and never boring. Writing about this salad is making me hungry. I think I'll go make myself some for lunch tomorrow. Happy Sunday!

Three Squash Soup

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Well it happened. I finally cut myself with the new knife. It was such a quick, clean slice, if it wasn't for the onion juices that burned me, I probably wouldn't have realized it happened. But, it was kind of worth it. I got out of doing the dishes the rest of the day, and there was the delicious soup to soothe me.

This unplanned soup was a way to clean out the fridge. I used all the varieties of squash we had -- patty pan, crookneck and Italian -- along with potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, swiss chard and garbanzo beans. If you wanted to keep this vegetarian, you could use veggie stock instead of chicken. But, since I decided to skip on the sausage, I needed chicken stock for that rich flavor. I also added garlic, tomato paste, and fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary and oregano.

I made a large batch and we've been eating this soup all week. You might think it's been too hot for soup. And you're right. But, this is a light meal, and perfect for a lazy night under the fan. Also, I got tired of eating grilled squash. Soup seemed like a welcome break.


Steak, Wine and Grilled Green Beans

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When I think about vegetarians, I think about steak. And how much I love steak. I'm not sure what life would look like without steak in it, but I hope to never find out. Because even though we don't eat a lot of red meat, when I get a steak craving, and manage to satisfy it, it is one of the most pleasurable food feelings I have.

The husband has claimed Monday night dinners. And, I've happily let him. When I arrived home last Monday, he had his mini charcoal BBQ going, and was clumsily chopping cucumbers and tomatoes, with panic in his eyes. Although I should have made myself a cocktail and taken a seat on our new, comfortable patio cushions, instead I asked, "Yo! Would you like some help?" He did. The meat needed to be seasoned, the green beans tied, the salad finished. All of the sudden I was alone in the kitchen, finishing up the madness he had started.

Luckily, I'm a fast worker, and soon enough we were on the patio, sipping on Pinot Noir from our Napa trip last December, and waiting for the meat to come off the grill. The fine-looking rib eye we had got a generous sprinkling of sea salt (I used vintage merlot), pepper, and just a bit of olive oil. Cooked to medium rare, it melted in my mouth, and made my heart flutter a bit. Perfection.

The sides were simple, grilled green beans, tied into little bundles with scallions, grilled squash, and a fresh salad of cucumbers, tomatoes and heart of palm. Even though the food was tasty, it was the wine that really put this meal on the map. We drink a lot of wine, but not super fancy wine. So when we open a bottle from one of our forgotten wine tasting trips, it's a nice treat. And it makes an already amazing meal, more amazing. Here's to drinking good wine, from a really big glass!
Green Bean Bundles

green beans, trimmed
green onions, nice and long ones
olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Form little stacks of green beans. I think 5-7 beans a stack works well.
2) Using your scallions, tie the green beans together.
3) Drizzle with olive oil, and season.
4) Grill and eat.


Burger Night, with Little (Greasy) Potatoes

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I make pretty awesome turkey burgers, that are filled with all kinds of secret and delicious ingredients. But for my beef burgers, I keep things simple, and don't mess with the meat too much. And these too, end up pretty terrific. Since I didn't start off on the most humble note, there's no use pretending. My burgers are good.

Unlike turkey, which tends to be bland and dry, good beef just needs a few enhancements, some good cheese, and tasty sides. I always like potatoes with my burgers, or with anything. For this burger night, I boiled fingerling potatoes, then threw them on the grill. Now, I should probably stop the sharing right there, and let you think we ate grilled potatoes, but the truth is, that's not the truth. Since we happened to also cook our bacon on the grill, in foil, right next to the potatoes, I couldn't help but take each potato and (lightly) roll it in the bacon grease. Now don't judge. Bacon grease is delicious, and besides, we didn't want it to go to waste. Seasoned (not so lightly) with rosemary sea salt, these little taters were perfection.

Another simple trick that made this meal better was custom sauce. Sounds fancy right? Well, it wasn't. Mayo, sriracha, a little bit of minced garlic and shallots. These four ingredients added a nice little kick. As did the bacon. I'm usually not too excited about bacon on my burgers, but we had bacon, it needed cooking. Remember, waste not!
Keep It Simple Burgers

1 lb ground beef, the fatty kind
green onions, thinly sliced, I used a nice long one from the garden
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp of panko bread crumbs
1-2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Combine your ingredients, and shape burgers. Don't over mix. This is a good time to practice your lazy skills, and take it easy with the meat.