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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Your Sunday Sermon and Stud: The God Dionysus

Dionysus, also commonly known by his Roman name Bacchus, appears to be a god who has two distinct origins. On the one hand, Dionysus was the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility of nature, who is also the patron god of the Greek stage. On the other hand, Dionysus also represents the outstanding features of mystery religions, such as those practiced at Eleusis: ecstasy, personal delivery from the daily world through physical or spiritual intoxication, and initiation into secret rites. Scholars have long suspected that the god known as Dionysus is in fact a fusion of a local Greek nature god, and another more potent god imported rather late in Greek pre-history from Phrygia (the central area of modern day Turkey) or Thrace.

According to one myth, Dionysus is the son of the god Zeus and the mortal woman, Semele (daughter of Cadmus of Thebes). Semele is killed by Zeus' lightning bolts while Dionysus is still in her womb. Dionysus is rescued and undergoes a second birth from Zeus after developing in his thigh. Zeus then gives the infant to some nymphs to be raised. In another version, one with more explicit religious overtones, Dionysus, also referred to as Zagreus in this account, is the son of Zeus and Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Hera gets the Titans to lure the infant with toys, and then they rip him to shreds eating everything but Zagreus' heart, which is saved by either Athena, Rhea, or Demeter. Zeus remakes his son from the heart and implants him in Semele who bears a new Dionysus Zagreus. Hence, as in the earlier account, Dionysus is called "twice born." The latter account formed a part of the Orphic religion's religious mythology.

It does seem clear that Dionysus, at least the Phrygian Dionysus, was a late arrival in the Greek world and in Greek mythology. He is hardly mentioned at all in the Homeric epics, and when he is it is with some hostility. A number of his stories are tales of how Dionysus moved into a city, was resisted, and then destroyed those who opposed him. The most famous account of this is that of Euripides in his play the Bacchae. He wrote this play while in the court of King Archelaus of Macedon, and nowhere do we see Dionysus more destructive and his worship more dangerous than in this play. Scholars have speculated not unreasonably that in Macedon Euripides discovered a more extreme form of the religion of Dionysus being practiced than the more civil, quiet forms in Athens.

Briefly, Dionysus returns to Thebes, his putative birthplace, where his cousin Pentheus is king. He has returned to punish the women of Thebes for denying that he was a god and born of a god. Pentheus is enraged at the worship of Dionysus and forbids it, but he cannot stop the women, including his mother Agave, or even the elder statesmen of the kingdom from swarming to the wilds to join the Maenads (a term given to women under the ecstatic spell of Dionysus) in worship. Dionysus lures Pentheus to the wilds where he is killed by the Maenads and then mutilated by Agave.

[text from Encyclopedia Mithica]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thank You and Goodnight Beefcake

Something Mexican for Your Main Saturday Beefcake Meal

Isthmian-Style Scallop Ceviche

Ivy Stark
Dos Caminos
4 to 6 servings

1 pound sea scallops
1 cup lime juice, plus juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons flavorless oil, such as canola or grapeseed
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 grapefruit
2 habanero chiles, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons Maggi seasoning sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Salt to taste

Slice scallops crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices. Place scallop slices in glass or porcelain dish and pour 1 cup lime juice over them. Refrigerate 30 minutes. (Don't marinate too long—the scallops will toughen.)

Drain the scallops and and toss with oil, juice of 1 lime, orange juice, grapefruit juice, habanero chiles, scallions, cilantro, ginger, Maggi sauce, and vinegar. Season with salt to taste.

Saturday Beefcake Classic Puttanesca Redux

And this week's primo piatto before that multiple course entree is a version of the Italian classic named for whores. Not a big stretch.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

400 grams of Spaghetti
50 grams of sliced black olives (spicy semi-bitter)(pitted and sliced)
50 grams of sweet butter
4 filets of anchovy (chopped and de-spined)
2 cloves of garlic (sliced)
spoonful of capers
spoonful of parsley
200 grams of ripe tomatoes (sliced into sections)
olive oil, salt

1. saute the garlic and anchovy in a bit of oil and the butter.
2. In sequence add the capers, the olives and finally the tomatoes and then let the mixture cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
3. Of course, the spaghetti has been cooking and when it's ready marry it well with the above sughetto.
4. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

See last week's first course for how far you can go with this.

Healthy Saturday Beefcake Redux: Puttanesca

We've said this about Pasta Puttanesca—whorish pasta—it is a piquant and easy sauce from the Roman working class, which is now a classic national dish, much like most whores. There are many definitions of what a whore is and many languages have so many different words that refer to it. Sophia Loren used to glory in playing them on screen. The common thread seems to be overt and frequent sexual expression. Like almost anything there's a good and bad side to it. Sometimes it means just having fun. Well, anyway it used to.

Well, this is Ellie Krieger's version. Perhaps it will engender some healthy play time and, of course, here is a healthy specimen or two from Falcon.

Saturday Beefchecca Redux

Only those who are Italo-American among the readers here would verily understand the above's play on words and meaning. Most who come here would also understand the inherent beauty of Italian athletes wearing Italian underwear.

Italian culture, especially that which continues to reside on the European Continent, has consistently had a love/hate relationship with the marginal elements in Society. It's evident in many ways, sometimes in the names given to notable dishes in the cuisine. This web log has already made note of Pasta Puttanesca. Suffice it to say that loose women, remunerated or not, have been revered in a way for centuries on the Italian peninsula, especially in Art, which always imitates life. One need only point to the likes of Musetta and everything the name and the characiter implies.

In a similar fashion the rich culture of the Italian peninsula even in the pejorative sense has much nomenclature applicable to those who practice the love that dare not speak its name. Only it seems that in Italy it has many names and has entered the vocabulary of cuisine much like the kindred loose women. Hey, spice is spice.

Day to day living in Rome will bring to light more than one warm weather recipe for pasta which will call for uncooked sauce one of which has made its way to this side of the Atlantic in more than one version. A tourist in Rome in the early 1980s might have heard it called something like Pasta Primavera probably because the wait staff was making an attempt to be polite. In most cases it is called Pasta alla Checca (Queer Pasta).

The word, Checca [pronounced cake-a, more or less] is what homosexual men are referred to in Rome and sometimes in the Milan area. Actually it's rather diffuse throughout the modern peninsula. It comes from a diminutive for Francesca or Francesco and usually objectifies a somewhat effeminate type although the more masculine term, Checco, does exist.

At any rate there is enough affection for the humanity that this slang and somewhat offensive term designates that there is a great pasta dish that bears its name.

There are a number of versions of the recipe that some research will identify. All of them are uncooked or raw. One has the sauce warmed up so to speak. All of them are delicious just like their namesakes. Is that backwards? Well, you know what we mean.

One reason to choose Alessandro Giuntoli's version from Osteria del Circo of New York City is that he provides a fresh pasta recipe with it. It also has other elements in common with the excellent recipes experienced in the now defunct restaurants La Nonna and Ribollita fresh bufala mozzarella which some recipes surprisingly do not include but are always included in European Italian recipes. Every recipe seems to call for a different type of pasta. Small, thin pasta for this recipe is called for very rarely. It will require at the very least spaghetti to "toss up" as it should.

Giuntoli's recipe has this homemade pasta:

One-half pound durum flour
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice from one-half lemon

Anyone who makes pasta at home knows to make a well with the flour and place all the liquid ingredients in the middle of it. (If you have a pasta machine this is child's play). Mix and then knead everything until it becomes a paste and then 'evolves' into something drier and capable of manipulating. Roll the pasta and cut by hand into tagliolini, long, paper-thin ribbon noodles, about 1/8 inch wide or less.

This is a good type of pasta to use because it cooks up very quicky and while hot it gets tossed up "cooking" the raw queer sauce.

All the recipes call for ripe, fresh tomatoes. It is important that the tomatoes are of a good quality. They can be sliced, blanched, seeded, but they mostly need to be tasty and ripe for the taking.

Pasta alla Checca

400 grams of pasta (Chef Alessandro's tagliolini are good)
200 grams of fresh mozzarella (imported fresh buffalo mozzarella is best)
100 grams of caciotta (a sheep cheese often with bits of wild mushroom or truffle)
4 large ripe tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves sliced into strips
Virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

The caciotta, of course, is optional and while some recipes call for olives and capers (those belong in the whore pasta -- not that gay people can't be whores) and forget the mozzarella, in most recipes it's the mozzarella that makes it what it is.

One suggestion is that the ingredients aside from the cheese should marinate for a few hours.

The cheese should be cubed and, if you like, let it warm in double boiler fashion while the pasta is boiling above the pot.

The idea is this -- that the freshly cooked pasta is tossed with the raw sauce and "cooks it." If all the ingredients are fresh and care is taken to make sure they are of the best quality, this is an excellent taste treat.

This is the first course for 4 everyday people or two Italian men with great thighs in their underwear.

Saturday Beefcake Redux: Fruits of the Sea

It is the sun and sea that embellish summer living. It is the sea that is the source of life and why it is often connected to the mother goddess. After the appetizer, the heat is cranked up a bit here with some very delicious and accessible dishes. The accompanying images have been around for years except for one rather recent one which seems to fit in with the rest. Saturday Beefcake is about enjoying the good things and affirming life. Enjoy.

Fusilli del Marinaio

[Pasta with Scad Sailor Style]

Fusilli, 600 grams
Fresh Scad, 400 grams
Spinach, 300 grams
Black Olives, 200 grams
Tomatoes, Strained Pulp
Dry White Wine, half glass
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Parsley, small bunch
Sea Salt, Ground Pepper

1. Clean, wash and quickly braise the spinach.
2. Once the fish is cleaned, cut into fillets and then cut into small cubes.
3. Chop together the garlic and parsley and then saute them in the olive oil.
4. Add the fish and let it absorb the flavours while cooking for about two minutes and then add the white wine. Let it evaporate.
5. Chop the spinach and add it to the pan. The same goes for the olives.
6. Then add the tomato pulp, salt and pepper.
7. Let it cook for about ten minutes.
8. In the meantime, the fusilli are cooking al dente as all good pasta should.
9. Once the pasta reaches its appropriate level of cottura, toss it with the sughetto in the pan.

Of course, the main course is appropriately named for the denizens of this site and log. Salmon in Whore Sauce. It is very similar to Livornese sauce eaten with fish. Does that mean that Livorno has a lot of whores?

Salmone alla Puttanesca

Onion, One small
Garlic Cloves, three
Kalamata or Gaeta Olives, 12
Anchovy Fillets, six
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salmon Steaks, one kilo (four one inch steaks)
Dry Red Wine, one quarter cup
Red Balsamic Vinegar, two tablespoons
Capers, tablespoon
Sea Salt and Ground Pepper
Pre-heated oven 375F

1. Perhaps it is best to mention the obvious: peel and mince the onion and the garlic; peel, seed and cut the tomatoes into small cubes; pit and coarsely chop the olives; chop the anchovies or puree them with a small sieve in order to eliminate the so-called bone.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof skillet, but don't let it smoke
3. Pat the steaks dry and saute them for about two minutes until slightly coloured. Turn it, cook one minute longer and transfer to a plate.
4. Add the garlic and onion to the pan and saute for about three minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft for about two minutes.
5. Add the red wine and vinegar and bring to a boil.
6. Return the salmon to the skillet, cover and bake for eight to ten minutes.
7. Plate the fish.

8. Bring the sauce in the skillet to a boil, lower the heat and then let it simmer until it thickens, two minutes should be enough.
9. Add olives, capers and anchovies and simmer for another minute; salt and pepper.
10. Pour the resulting sauce over the fish.

Dessert, of course, is from the fruit of the earth--most would simply serve up some fresh seasonal strawberries with fresh lemon juice and lightly sweetened. However, the ambitious may want to try:

Crema Bicolore

Vanilla Pudding Mix
Fresh Strawberries, a pint perhaps
Small Container of Fat Free Yoghurt
Sugar, teaspoon at most
Fresh Mint for garnish

1. Prepare the pudding according to directions.
2. Once it's ready, let it cool, stir it from time to time with a wooden spoon in order that it doesn't form the "skin" on top.
3. In the meantime, the strawberries have been washed and cleaned and dried and cut into small pieces.
4. Place the strawberries, yoghurt and sugar into a blender and blend until it is smooth and creamy.
5. Alternately layer the pudding and yoghurt in appropriate containers. Decorate with mint leaves and strawberries.

No side dish has been suggested for today's four course meal. There are, to be sure, innumerable suggestions given the accompanying images. However, reality and good nutrition suggest, green leafy vegetables in a salad.

A Very Good Beefcake Morning to You

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Feature: Tom Mandel at Ido Sushi

Bryan Adams, Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, David Johansen, B-52s, Cyndi Lauper and Tina Turner among others have someone in common—Tommy Mandel. New York City is chock full of hidden gems and this musician’s musician is one of them. He can be heard creating wondrous sound on the piano at Ido Sushi, another hidden gem in the Big Apple, in lower Manhattan on Seventh Ave South at Bedford. Tom can make wonderful music and with him it's all bout the music. He is a magician when it comes to creating great sounds. Sometimes he is joined by other musical magicians and the creativity simply flows. Tora and Jane Ido provide you with the best Sushi and Japanese cuisine this side of Tokyo. Come join us on Tuesday evenings. It will make your midweek all the more livable. If you're very fortunate Giovanni may sing a pop aria or two.

Where: Ido Sushi 29 Seventh Ave S @ Bedford
When: Tuesdays 7:30pm to 10:45pm

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011