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 Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras
Cezanne, Paul
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 Carnival de Chalon sur Saone
Carnival de Chalon
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 Float In Rex Parade At Mardi Gras, New Orleans, U.S.A.
Float in Rex Parade
at Mardi Gras, New Orleans, U.S.A.

Skrypczak, Witold
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 Michelangelo Caravaggio - Bacchus, c.1596
Bacchus, c.1596
Michelangelo Caravaggio
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 Cupid and Psyche, 1796
Cupid and Psyche, 1796
Canova, Antonio
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 Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden
Psyche Entering Cupid's Garden
Waterhouse, John William
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 The Battle Between Carnival and Lent
The Battle Between Carnival and Lent
Corbis Collection
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What were they thinking???
February 2002
(Alas. We have a similar situation in 2005!)

This is a letter to the gods. The calendar gods. The ones who decided that 2002 did not have enough challenges already. They would just see to it that Valentine’s Day fell on the day after Ash Wednesday. Sheesh! Brilliant. Thanks a heap. Hark! What were you thinking???

So. A dire dilemma indeed. What to do? Without a care in the world we gorge ourselves senseless on Mardi Gras (they don’t call it Fat Tuesday for nothing!) and probably a week or 10 days preceding Mardi Gras as well. This is because we know full well that our penance is about to be paid. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, of course, so we have a full six weeks to repent, regroup, behave like mature adults and try our diet again. You know the one. That diet. Our New Year’s resolution diet. Remember?

I don’t know about you, but this really frosts my windshield. Valentine’s
is supposed to be a day of INDULGENCE, is it not? A Chocolate day.
A day filled with Romance. With Champagne, even, and oysters, and lobster with drawn butter. Mercy, mercy, mercy… Could we not pay tribute to St. Valentine on some other day, just this once? I don’t think so.

Well, then, how about moving Ash Wednesday? Say, push it up a week or
so? Not hardly. Have you ever wondered why Easter falls on a different
date every year? I could not rest until I found the answer to this question:

"Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon (PFM) date
for the year. (Paschal is pronounced "PAS-KUL", not "pas-chal").  See
Christian Prayer Books for proof of this concise definition.
"In June 325 A.D. astronomers approximated astronomical full moon dates
for the Christian church, calling them Ecclesiastical Full Moon (EFM) dates.
From 326 A.D. the PFM date has always been the EFM date after March 20
(which was the equinox date in 325 A.D.)
"Easter Sunday is the date of the annual celebration of Christ's resurrection.
The aim of the Easter Dating Method is to maintain, for each Easter Sunday,
the same season of the year and the same relationship to the preceding astro-
nomical full moon that occurred at the time of his resurrection in 30 A.D.
"This was achieved in 1583 A.D. using skill and common-sense by Pope
Gregory the 13th, and his astronomers and mathematicians, predominantly
Lilius and Clavius, by introducing their new larger (revised) PFM Gregorian
dates table. This replaced the (original) 326 A.D. '19 PFM dates' table in
the Julian calendar."

Enough? If not, everything you have always wanted to know about Easter
but were afraid to ask can be found here:

 Where were we? Oh yes, could we just move Ash Wednesday? Yeah, right.  The dates of Ash Wednesday and Mardi Gras are dependent upon the date
of Easter Sunday. Too late now to petition the Pope, so I suppose we'll
just have to tough it out. Tango on. Here is my plan, starting with lunch…


Mardi Gras

Chef Keegan’s Crab and Mushroom Bisque

Bloody Mary Steaks
Steven Raichlen
Food & Wine June 2000

“Going to Indianapolis without eating at the St. Elmo Steak House is a little like traveling to Agra and missing the Taj Mahal. Since 1902, this landmark restaurant has attracted tourists and locals for the steaks and the legendary Bloody Marys with their explosive amounts of freshly grated horseradish. That set me thinking: Why
not put the two together? I tried it, and came up with a new American classic.”

Servings: 4

2 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup pepper-flavored vodka
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon freshly grated or prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Four 6-ounce filet mignon steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick
Olive oil
Tomato-Horseradish Butter, softened (recipe follows)

1. In a glass baking dish, combine the tomato juice, vodka, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, hot sauce, celery salt and pepper. Add
the steaks and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally. Remove the steaks from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
2. Light a grill. Lightly brush the grate with oil. Drain the steaks and pat dry; brush with olive oil. Season the steaks generously with salt and grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes for medium
rare. Place a dollop of Tomato-Horseradish Butter on each steak and serve.

Tomato-Horseradish Butter

Servings: Makes about 1/4 cup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 sun-dried tomato packed in oil, drained and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated or prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper|
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Make Ahead: The butter can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Let soften briefly before using.

Combine all of the ingredients in a mini-processor and pulse until
smooth. Scrape the butter onto a 12-inch square of plastic wrap
and roll it into a 2-inch cylinder; twist the ends tightly to seal.
Refrigerate the flavored butter just until firm, about 30 minutes.


Artichoke-Potato Gratin
Grace Parisi
Food & Wine November 2000

Servings: 10

1 lemon, halved
8 large artichokes (about 3/4 pound each)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1 large thyme sprig
Kosher salt
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (2 ounces)
1/2 cup coarse dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Make Ahead: The unbaked gratin can be refrigerated overnight.

1. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze the lemon halves into it; add the lemon to the bowl. Cut off all but 1 1/2 inches from the artichoke stems. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, pull off all the green outer leaves,
leaving a cone of pale yellow leaves. With a sharp knife, cut off all but
1 1/2 inches of the leaves. Peel the stem and trim any tough green skin
from the artichoke bottom with a sturdy vegetable peeler. Using a melon
baller or small spoon, scoop out the hairy choke. Drop the trimmed
artichoke heart into the bowl of water. Repeat with the remaining
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cut each artichoke heart
through the stem into 8 wedges. Add the wedges to the boiling water
and cook until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse under
cold water; pat dry.
3. In the same saucepan, combine the stock with the cream, thyme sprig
and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook
over moderately low heat until barely tender, about 8 minutes. Fold in
the artichokes and season with salt and pepper.
4. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or 3-quart gratin dish. Pour the
contents of the saucepan into the dish; discard the thyme sprig. Sprinkle
the Gruyère over the gratin and cover with foil.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the gratin for 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, toss the bread crumbs with the butter. Remove the foil,
sprinkle the crumbs over the gratin and bake for about 30 minutes longer,
or until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the vegetables
are tender.
6. Preheat the broiler. Broil the gratin about 6 inches from the heat for
about 2 minutes, or until the crumbs are crisp and golden; turn the dish
as necessary for even browning. Serve hot.

Spinach, Pear and Green Bean Salad with Riesling Dressing
Commander’s Palace Garlic Bread
Commander’s Palace Kahlúa Mousse Cake

And then, I plan to waddle on down to the Vieux Carré, join in the
revelry, and have a daiquiri or three...  Throw me somethin', Mistah!


Ash Wednesday

8 ounces unsweetened grapefruit juice
2 soft-boiled eggs
8 ounces unsweetened grapefruit juice
2 soft-boiled eggs
Large tossed green salad with vinegar or lemon juice
8 ounces unsweetened grapefruit juice
2 soft-boiled eggs
6 ounces grilled fish
as much asparagus as I can eat


Valentine’s Day

Susan Spicer’s Baked Oysters Italian Style
Shrimp Chippewa

Rosen's Lemon Charred Beef with
Crisp Herbed Spaetzle

Steve Rosen
Food & Wine July 1999

Wine Recommendation: To highlight the tender filet mignon, consider a
plummy California Merlot, such as the 1995 Rosenblum Russian River
Valley or the 1996 Flora Springs Napa Valley.

Servings: 4

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 center-cut filet mignon steaks (about 6 ounces each), tied
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 cup rich beef stock or canned beef broth
1/4 cup sour cream
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 red onion, cut into thick slices
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 pound pencil-thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Herbed Spaetzle (recipe follows) 

1. In a blender, process the lemon juice, lemon zest, brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the olive oil until smooth. Put the beef in a shallow
bowl and add all but 2 tablespoons of the marinade; turn the steaks to
coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Meanwhile, toast the paprika in a small dry skillet over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until the paprika is brick colored, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer
to a plate to cool.
3. In a small saucepan, boil the beef stock until reduced to 2/3 cup. Add
the paprika, sour cream and yellow onion and cook over moderate heat
until slightly thickened, 6 to 7 minutes.
4. Preheat the broiler. Brush the red onion slices with the reserved 2 tablespoons of marinade and arrange them on a broiling pan along with
the red and yellow bell peppers. Broil the onion slices and peppers for
about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Transfer
the peppers to a bowl, cover and let steam for 15 minutes. Coarsely
chop the red onion. Peel, core and seed the peppers and cut them into
1/2-inch pieces.
5. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus
and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and cool under
running water.
6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Heat the canola oil in an ovenproof skillet until shimmering. Drain the steaks and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until browned, about 7 minutes per side.
Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the steaks for 4 to 5 minutes
for medium rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for
10 minutes.
7. Rewarm the sauce. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet. Add the Herbed Spaetzle and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until
crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the peppers, asparagus and
onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until warmed through.
Mound the spaetzle and vegetables on 4 large plates and set the
steaks on top with some spoonfuls of the sauce. Serve at once.

Herbed Spaetzle

1 medium baking potato (1/2 pound), peeled and
cut into large chunks
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon minced dill
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Make Ahead: The spaetzle can be refrigerated for up to 3 days;
toss with a little olive oil before storing.

1. In a medium saucepan of boiling water, cook the potato until tender,
about 8 minutes; drain. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a large bowl.
Mash the potato and then mash with the remaining ingredients to form
a sticky dough.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pat one-quarter of the spaetzle dough into a 3-inch square on a small cutting board with a handle, or
on the back of a square cake pan. Using a moistened chef's knife, cut
off 1/4-inch-thick strips of dough and scrape them into the boiling
water; moisten the knife if it sticks to the dough. Boil the spaetzle for
30 seconds without stirring, then gently stir to separate the strips. Cook
just until the spaetzle rises to the surface. Using a small strainer or a
wire skimmer, transfer the spaetzle to a bowl of ice water. Return the
water in the saucepan to a boil and cook the remaining spaetzle. Drain
well, shaking off the excess water.

Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake)


Mea Culpa  Friday

See Ash Wednesday…


Not to worry. Easter Sunday falls on 20 April in 2003. Which means
that Valentine’s Day will be celebrated long before Ash Wednesday.
Exactly as it should be…

   Be well, stay safe, enjoy yourselves. I wish for you, most of all, love.
And peace.
And until next time, remember,

"Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its
strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility...  It is therefore able to undertake
all things, and it completes many things, and warrants them to take effect,
where he who does not love would faint and lie down. Love is watchful and
slumbereth not. Though weary, it is not tired; though pressed, it is not
straitened; though alarmed, it is not confounded..

~ Thomas A. Kempis (1379 - 1471)


"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without
the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about
love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it…
and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it
is all one."

 - M.F.K. Fisher, from The Art of Eating



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