Rustic Strata with Corn, Leek, Mushroom, and Gruyère

The French call french toast pain perdu which translates literally to “bread lost.”  This versatile, bubblin’-and-steamin’-from-the-oven creation is of the same ilk, in that it turns stale bread into a weekend brunch masterpiece.  Corn, leeks, and ‘shrooms are three of my favorite local spring veggies, naturally sweet and nutty with divine textures.  The Gruyère lends a hint of quiche Lorraine which, for those of us past the laughable “real men don’t eat quiche” phase, we can all agree is the gold standard of comfort-food egg dishes.

Strata mucho

Strata Mucho

Most times I make strata, however, I Iron Chef ™ it out of ingredients on hand.  The bread-egg-milk-cheese “master recipe” ratios can be combined with all manner of extras (your leftover veggie kabobs from last night, par example). Should you find yourself winging it like Debra Winger (I love you, Deb!) substitute whatever sautéing veggies you have available, along with whatever cheeses you have, except for of course (mon Dieu!) American.

  • 6 farm eggs
  • 2 cups milk (your choice, I use 1%.  Whole will taste richer, dahling.)
  • 1 TBS grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 3-4 oz. each Parmesan Reggiano and Gruyère cheeses, shredded
  • 5-6 thick slices artisan bread (or 8 slices sandwich bread) cubed*
  • 2 TBS olive oil (plus more)
  • 2 leeks, trimmed; chopped, rinsed, and drained
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, de-kerneled
  • 4-5 oz sliced mushrooms (morel or chanterelle are divine, but crimini are great too)
  • 1 TBS reserved bacon fat (I keep some in the fridge at all times) or 1 TBS butter
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Use some olive oil to grease the inside of a 9×13 (or thereabouts) baking dish.  Heat 1 TBS bacon fat or butter in a sauté pan on med high.  Add leeks, corn, and ‘shrooms.  Sauté until leeks are wilted, adding 1 TBS olive oil along the way.  Add 2 tsp balsamic vinegar plus salt and pepper to taste and continue sautéing until golden brown.  Remove from heat and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk together first 4 ingredients (eggs through pepper) and set aside.  Toss bread cubes in the baking dish with an extra drizzle of olive oil, then spread them out in a layer.  Arrange cooled veggies on top of bread.  (Pro tip:  let a couple oiled bread corners stick up to create crispy brown peaks in the final product.)  Pour egg mixture evenly over bread and veggies (watch for those peaks, perfectionists!).  Sprinkle cheese mixture on top.

That's my bacon fat in the background there.  Next time you make bacon, pour the fat into a container and refrigerate it, mmmkay?

That’s bacon fat in the background.  Save yours the next time you make bacon, mmmkay?

So the cheese will not stick during baking, oil the underside of a piece of tinfoil (rub extra oil into hands, elbows and cuticles) then cover dish tightly.  Bake for 50 minutes or until center is bubbly.  Remove foil and bake another 5-10 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Serve in squares with chopped parsley and a simple green or fruit salad.  Voilà!  Bread found.

*breadnotes:  If bread is soft, strata can be made day-of.  For a decadent, more custard-y treat, try Challah bread.  For stale bread, assemble the night before and store covered in the fridge.  For baseball-bat stale bread, break into chunks and steam covered in a basket with an inch of water for a couple minutes as you would broccoli.

Peter and Wendy, and Anniversaries

I had hoped to release my “Love Song for Cal Anderson” music video today, but (predictably, sigh) Production is citing delays.  Something about “spring break.”  Lame.

The video, which is sure to go viral, features adventurous friends and family members, along with other ideas I might not have considered since becoming a teacher (a good reminder that music is my real boss).  It was primarily filmed in Carmel, CA where, twelve years ago this mother’s day, my husband and I got married.  At the time I was four months pregnant, so I appreciate the additional lens offered each time the 11th happens to fall on mother’s day.

Regardless of delays, I would like to relay the significance of this date, May 7th, and the anniversary it contains, for posterity.

While researching J.M. Barrie, who wrote the play “Peter Pan” in novel form under the name “Peter and Wendy” (a theme in the upcoming video) I came across this remarkable fellow, an american theatre producer named Charles Frohman.  Frohman leased the Duke of York’s theatre in London, where he premiered Barrie’s play “Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.”  Today marks the 99th anniversary of Frohman’s untimely death at sea aboard the RMS Lusitania, which was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat on the day of it’s scheduled arrival in Liverpool.

Though some might think it odd to honor a person on the anniversary of their death, with respect, based on what I’ve read of him, I doubt Frohman would agree.

Last known photo Of Charles Frohman taken aboard the Lusitania c. 1915

Last known photo of Charles Frohman Taken aboard the Lusitania, May 1915

 

The actress Rita Jovilet was also aboard the Lusitania and survived.  She recalled that Frohman was working to tie life jackets to infants in moses baskets who had been sleeping in the ship’s nursery.  He then lit a cigar and stood on the deck, “chatting with friends” while panicked passengers stampeded around him.  Following the torpedo hit, a second internal explosion sent the Lusitania to the bottom in just 18 minutes.  Before he was lost in what Jovilet called, “a great wave [that] swept along the deck,” Frohman paraphrased a line from Peter Pan: “Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure that life gives us.”

In his lifetime, Frohman produced over 700 shows.  A memorial to him resides in Britain, at Marlow on Thames.

Peter and Wendy published 1911

Peter and Wendy Published 1911

 

 

Equivalism not Feminism: Part II A Sterling Reputation

[Equivalism is the word I am using to describe the tenets of Feminism.  The name change is etymologically based (from the latin roots for “equal” and “value”) on the belief that the world would be better if women had equal influence.  It was chosen for reasons outlined in this post as well as posts forthcoming.  It was chosen because I’m a musician, and the sound of a word matters to me (say the word “equivalent,” then change the ending to “ism” or “ist” as needed).]

Although I do not own cable or watch TV, I have been fully inundated by reports of the Donald Sterling scandal via Facebook friends and community conversation.  My favorite op-ed piece was penned by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and contains the following:  “So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.”

Donald Sterling is (finally) beginning to reap his just reward, racism will not be tolerated.  The last line of Jabbar’s words, however, continue to haunt me.  He’s absolutely right:  The praise and celebrity that will undoubtedly be lavished on “girlfriend” V. Stiviano is the sexist equivalent of the NAACP taking money from Donald Sterling while turning a blind eye to his racism.  If Stiviano actually does appear on one of the few female-influenced shows (Ellen, the View, Hoda and Kathie Lee, etc) then I will know how doomed we all really are.  Here is a woman who abused her power, just like Sterling.  Here is a woman, of mixed race herself, who carried on an inappropriate relationship with a married man, a known racist, and received four cars (including not one but two Bentleys) and a 1.2 million dollar LA duplex in the process.  Here is a woman with five aliases, who used illegal means to create a scandal by breaking news that had already been broken many times.

Why is this abuse of power acceptable when Sterling’s isn’t?  Is it because Stiviano is an attractive woman, providing what appears for all the world to be some sort of sexual satisfaction to an elderly man?  Is it because, after three and a half years together, she decided to “uncover” his racism for her own personal gain, even though that racism was available for all the world to see in the form of multiple, public, court-settled discrimination charges?  Though Sterling got what he deserved, Stiviano won’t.  She will be praised.

I ask you, what does that praise communicate to young girls right now?  As long as you stay attractive and available for the taking, you can amass wealth and fame, adulation even, through dishonesty and deceit.

Stiviano and Sterling: birds of a feather

Stiviano and Sterling: birds of a feather

I dare you to listen to the tape again, and this time focus on Stiviano.  Tell me you are not listening to the yogic voice of a practiced sociopath.  Jabbar nails it again: “Man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.” She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.”

Is there any reason, besides corruption, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would accept money from a known racist and in turn bestow him with humanitarian awards?  (Confidential to all non-profits: if there are strings attached to a donation, it’s not charity, it’s money in exchange for your morals.)

Is there any reason, besides corruption, that women (and men) would seek to empower and further the field of influence for V. Stiviano, rather than bring her to justice?

On May 15th, the NAACP planned to bestow Donald Sterling with another humanitarian award, this one for “Lifetime Achievement.”  Following the tape release, LA’s NAACP chapter president Leon Jenkins cancelled the upcoming ceremony and issued the following statements to CNN: “The mission of the NAACP is to eradicate discrimination and racial hatred in all its forms, and each year our executive board votes on who we decide that we are going to honor.”  Jenkins continued, “Mr. Sterling has given out a tremendous amount of scholarships, he has invited numerous African American kids to summer camps, and his donations are bigger than other sports franchises.”

“That is something that shows that there is a consciousness of the plight of African Americans in this country,” Jenkins concludes.

Unless Jenkins lives under a rock, I’m sure he was aware of the high profile discrimination charges filed against Sterling, for which he was found guilty, repeatedly demonstrating the exact opposite of “a consciousness of the plight of African Americans.”  I’m sure the NAACP is also aware of the media construct known as a “PR stunt.”  Perhaps Sterling’s money sent some deserving kids to camp, but what about the determination of his former tenants and their families, who persevered for justice to the point of taking a powerful mogul to court, only to watch hopelessly thereafter as he was continually honored by the very institution entrusted with the task of advancing them?  That degree of injustice smacks of a Kafka novel, it reads like fiction.

Who will hold the NBA and the NAACP accountable for essentially harboring Sterling, in effect protecting him as well as his bigotry?

Similarly, what can be done to stop the glorification of V. Stiviano?   How can we ensure that no more of this blood gets on our hands?  How can we expect to get a woman into presidential office if we are still playing against our own values?  Maybe women have permeated more and more male dominated realms, but what good does that do us if, once there, we keep snapping to the attention of the old rules of engagement?

We are not bound by those rules.  I am reminded of a scene in Anchorman 2, where Ron Burgandy cuts to a live feed of a car chase in order to subvert rival Veronica Corningstone’s interview with Yasser Arafat.  When the car is finally pulled over, the driver is revealed to be an elderly, senile man.  In the movie, this calculated move is directly credited with the downfall of modern media.

Must we all continue to suckle the teat of this train-wreck?  Where is it getting us?  Who can change it?

What would it communicate to the international female community, especially those without free speech, if all female anchors in free nations refused to interview V. Stiviano on account of her abuse of freedom and power?   What if they instead spent that time talking about the importance of rooting out individuals who would undermine the cause of equality, as everyone is now wishing the NAACP and NBA had done with Sterling.  That is influence.  That is news.  That is power.

What the hell, in the spirit of equivalism, why doesn’t everyone snub Stiviano?  How about, instead of Bill O’Reilly ogling her décolleté, he declines the interview and comes tearfully clean about his mommy issues.  Between sobs he will tell us, that it’s women like her (“a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the Sambo””) that make him scared shitless to consider a female president.

In these tumultuous times, when hair-trigger reaction seems to be the norm, I am grateful to Doris Kearns Goodwin for her comprehensive look at Lincoln in Team of Rivals, in which she is careful to include male and female influences.

When Lincoln spoke to a crowd of fifteen hundred at Cooper Union in 1860, shortly before receiving the Republican nomination, he was greeted with palpable tension between pro and anti-slavery factions.  Putting his previously-delivered temperance speech to the test (a quotation from which begins my last post) he refused to meet denunciation with denunciation.

“Let us do nothing through passion and ill temper,” he implored the anti-slavery northerners, “Even though the southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can.”

Inspired by Lincoln’s wisdom, MLK Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the foot of the Lincoln memorial.

Both men sensitively and consistently nurtured, rather than aggressively demanded, the progress of a nation.  It is the dream, not the anger, that needs feeding.  This is why I am in favor of employing “equivalism” over “feminism.”

Lincoln concluded, to thunderous applause: “LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.”

Sadly this approach could not prevent war, but I’ll bet it had something to do with winning.