Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Microwaving chickpeas from scratch

microwaved chickpeas from scratch
Cooking chickpeas from scratch sounds like such a good idea--those 1-lb bags of dried chickpeas make about three or four 15-oz cans' worth at a fraction of the cost, and all it takes are beans, water, heat, and time. And think of all the things you can do with them once they're cooked--make hummus, add curry ingredients to make chole or channa masala, toss them into salads or vegetable soup, blend them for a thickened Greek "fava" soup... eat them straight, even, with a little vinaigrette.

But when boiling chickpeas the traditional way, I have more than once let the pot simmer down and burn a hole in the bottom because I was too lazy/scatterbrained/"good"/involved in a spicy novel to pay attention. Also, I'm impatient. Boiling takes two or three hours sometimes, and you have to stick around and check it.

So I use the microwave, which will usually (um, usually**) turn itself off at the time I tell it to. I can cook the beans for a few minutes and then let them sit in the microwave and absorb the cooking liquid for a couple of hours if I have to go out. If I stick around, I can cook a half a pound of chickpeas (my usual amount) in less than an hour start to finish while I'm doing something else, or a whole pound in a little more if I give them a decent soaking first and the bag is reasonably fresh.

This method works surprisingly well for most types of beans and lentils (black beans, unfortunately, are an exception because they can be tougher). You can freeze any extra cooked beans in plastic bags or containers for a quick start the next time you need a batch of hummus or chili or couscous or soup...

Microwaved Chickpeas

1. Wash, sort, and presoak a pound of dried chickpeas for half an hour or more, or until the chickpeas swell, in a 2.5 quart Pyrex bowl with either its own lid or a Corelle/Corningware dinner plate for a lid...or a similar volume microwave container with a lid.

2. Nuke the covered bowl or container 5-10 minutes on high, whatever's long enough to reach a near-boil in your oven--mine is 1150 watts, judge your times accordingly. Leave the bowl in the (turned-off) microwave with the door shut for 15-20 minutes to absorb the hot water. The microwave makes a very well insulated and energy-efficient environment.

3. Stir the chickpeas and test one or two for doneness. You'll probably need to do at least one more round of nuking and soaking to get them tender. If they've soaked up all the water, add some more to cover. If it takes more than three rounds of cooking, you have either gotten a very old, tough, dried-out bag of chickpeas or your microwave isn't very powerful. One thing that can help a lot is to freeze the chickpeas after cooking 2-3 times, then reheat in water--the freeze/thaw breaks down the cell structure and tenderizes them.

**DON'T BE FOOLED: Just because your microwave will USUALLY turn off by itself doesn't mean it can't slip up. I once set the time for 5 minutes and left the room, only to return 30 minutes later to a horrible smell...the microwave had slipped in an extra zero on the keypad and I hadn't noticed. Not only were the chickpeas burnt to charcoal, but the Pyrex bowl collapsed in sad rings of broken glass, and it took months to get the smoke residue out of the microwave.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Smoky Cod Lasagne

Went over to dinner at our friends' house last weekend and Frank was experimenting with fresh cod. Turns out they bought a huge amount at Costco and were reluctant to just freeze some of it--his wife, YeonJae, is Korean and really particular about fish. I've noticed that a lot of people from east and southeast Asia have much higher standards of fish freshness and more sensitive palates than your average middle-American. Makes you wonder what you're missing. So anyway. Frank, who's from Cologne, went wild and made not one but two beautiful and very original casseroles that were both surprisingly delicious and (maybe? I hope?) fairly simple.

The first was thick cod fillets layered with thin strips of lox--like some kind of exotic fish lasagne. A few herbs, a little white wine, a little water, some slices of onion, and he topped it all, incredibly, with a neue-Deutsch twist, layered slices of ripe fresh plum, skin on. Into the oven to cook--I think covered--in a Corningware square casserole. Came out tender, firm, just smoky enough, not too salty, the plum slices tartly refreshing and bloomed to a gorgeous bronzy pink. Wonderful, and managed to taste fresh and smoked at the same time.

The other casserole he layered the same way but instead of plums he topped it with very peppery seasoned mashed potatoes and let it bake uncovered --at least at the end-- like a shepherd's pie. The fish was a little firmer than in the first casserole, with less broth in the pan, but it all tasted terrific and the potatoes were just a little crusty on top--altogether a bit richer and more solid than the first casserole. On the side, perfectly green beans with browned onions and a mixed salad with vinaigrette. Chardonnay to drink (orange juice in HER VERY OWN BOTTLE and water for our daughter...)

We're so lucky.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Who needs radicchio?

Ever since stowing away on my husband's academic trip to Italy 10 years ago, I've had a thing for insalata mista, especially ones that include arugula. Radicchio, while lovely to look at--practically as beautiful as all those 17th century Dutch engravings of rare tulips that fetched prices higher than today's houses--is much too pricy in America ($6 and up a pound) and redundantly bitter if you've already got arugula on hand. Red cabbage, by contrast, is still under a dollar a pound even at shameless national supermarket chains, and seems a little more versatile. Plus it lasts well for weeks in the refrigerator vegetable bin.

Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini posted a red cabbage and dried fig salad on her site about a year ago. As usual, it looked very lovely (most of her food does, though I have reservations about her asparagus and strawberry tart...) However, my warped Southern childhood memories of red cabbage feature the sad American salad bar standard (all-shredded, all the time, with carrots and raisins in a sweet coleslaw dressing, left out all day to wilt...) So I prefer my cabbage salads less delicate and sweet, more tailored to the bitter/bracing. Red cabbage works well either as the bitter, radishy partner for mild lettuces or as the mild, semisweet foil for a really bitter lettuce.

My version for 2-3 people:

Chunky Red Cabbage Tossed Salad

1/4 or so red cabbage cubed in worthwhile, bite-sized chunks that don't make you feel like a cow eating grass
a good handful or so of torn romaine or arugula
a large red sweet (bell) pepper in bite-sized pieces
a peeled orange OR (not "and") some Roma tomatoes cut into bite-sized pieces
a bit of shredded fresh basil if you have it

It's good with plain olive oil/red wine vinegar/s&p or with a creamy mustard/yogurt dressing (very difficult, a dollop of spicy brown mustard and an equal dollop of plain nonfat yogurt), and it gets better with some toasted walnuts or gorgonzola or chevre sprinkled on top (on individual portions, leftovers wouldn't store well with these mixed in). I don't care that the cabbage and vinegar turn the orange slices silly colors like a badly tie-dyed teeshirt the next day, I still like eating the leftovers (maybe because my young daughter shrieks at the grooviness of it all--magenta is very much her kind of color).

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Fight Los Angelitis with Blintzes

It's the fourth night of Chanukah, and we're home. Sick with the Olympic-level fevered coughing sinusitis known to Californians south of San Jose as "Valley Fever" and to me as Los Angelitis. When I moved out here, I had a student intern who swore that sinus colds laid her out flat for two weeks solid. I'd come from Maryland, where it rains all year round whenever it isn't sleeting, except for the occasional beautiful Wednesday when you're stuck at work. Here in LA it was 80 degrees most days in January. So I wasn't sure I believed her--until I caught it myself a year or so later. Six times. They really don't have this on the East Coast, and my parents, whom we were supposed to fly out and visit this week, made it clear they did not want to start having it either...

So I've lost five pounds this week, yes, on a holiday week, because all I want to do (other than keep my five-year-old from jumping on me) is drink hot tea. Not that I haven't eaten anything, but really. I made latkes only once. The other fried food has been take-in Chinese, which turns out to be an extremely good idea when you've got Los Angelitis. You don't have to cook for a couple of days, everybody else likes it and your finicky five-year-old will eat it happily when she's been shunning all other food for four days straight, you personally don't have the stomach for seconds for a change but a modest portion seems to hit the spot, especially for the Hunan-style dishes. And did I need to point out that it goes with tea? Tofu in black bean sauce (kung pao is even better, but, again, the five-year-old). Broccoli with ginger. And fresh spinach, still jade-green, sauteed with garlic--a great vegetable on its own, but also very good as a broth: just add water or shiitake mushroom broth to a mug with a heaping spoonful of the spinach, and nuke it.

That said (and thank you Panda Garden, my deepest regards), there are a few good dishes to make for Chanukah even when you are stuck at home and trying hard not to gain weight. One is blintzes made with near-skim ricotta. Perfected last Pesach using a surprisingly good crepe recipe from Joan Nathan (who else, really?) that uses eggs, a little potato starch, and some cold water. This one's my non-Pesach version.

Non-Pesach Blintzes--about 12 2x3" blintzes, enough for three or four people

Crepes:
1 whole egg plus 1 white
1/2 c. each flour and skim milk (NB--should/could have used a little more milk for more wrappers; these were a little thicker than my best--let's say maybe 5/8 c. milk)
2-3 drops of vanilla (half-capful, or more to taste--this can overpower such a small batch though)
1 t light olive or salad oil
1 t sugar optional

Filling:
15 oz or so fresh part-skim or better ricotta, fairly dry. My preference is Precious (Sorrento) Low Fat--the skimmest I can find that still tastes decent; I pick up at least one 32-oz carton whenever they go on sale.
1-2 T. orange juice--this actually perks up the taste a lot, don't know why. Don't add more or the filling will be soupy.
1-2 T. sugar
few shakes cinnamon
raisins (optional)

Whisk the crepe ingredients together to form a thin batter--about the consistency of cream. Heat a teflon frying pan and quickly run the end of a stick of cold butter or margarine over the hot surface to grease it as lightly as you can get away with. Pour a 3-4" pool of batter in the pan and quickly tilt the pan around to spread the batter in a wider circle--about 6-8" diameter. Let the crepe fry until the top is just dry and the edges are starting to lift up. Slip a nylon frying spatula under the edge and flip it over. Shake the pan a few seconds, and slide the crepe onto a plate. Cook and stack all the crepes and turn off the heat.

Mix the filling ingredients with a spoon and start to fill the blintzes: Put a heaping soupspoon of filling on the top crepe, fold the side closest to you over the filling and sort of scoot the filling tightly back. Then fold in the sides and roll it up toward the unfolded top edge. Lightly butter the same frying pan (with the heat off) and place each of the blintzes in, flap sides down, in a single layer as you finish rolling them. Turn on the burner to medium-low, cover the frying pan, and brown the blintzes lightly a few minutes on each side--Don't walk off like I sometimes do...Check them! They should be golden brown but not cracklingly stiff...

Serves 2-3 per person for a brunch that's not actually too diet-blowing--notice, no cream cheese or eggs in the filling, only one yolk in the batter, less than 1/2 t butter or margarine per blintz, no sour cream to top it--but feels like a treat anyway. A little all-fruit jam, or applesauce and plain nonfat yogurt, is good with these. That and hot, hotter coffee. And orange juice or better, oranges; you need your vitamin C when you're feeling low. Ok, so if you're really feeling that low, get somebody else to make 'em...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Smell Younger With Grapefruit!

See? now you don't have to worry about wrinkles, cheesecake or no--

Grapefruit May Make Women Seem Younger

By Associated Press

June 20, 2005, 5:43 PM EDT NEW YORK -- A study of smells shows that the scent of grapefruit on women make them seem about six years younger to men. However, grapefruit fragrance on men does nothing for them.

The study by the Smell and Taste Institute in Chicago was conducted by Institute director Alan Hirsch. Hirsch smeared several middle-aged woman with broccoli, banana, spearmint leaves, and lavender but none of those scents made a difference to the men.

But the scent of grapefruit changed men's perceptions. Hirsch said that when male volunteers were asked to write down how old the woman with grapefruit odor was, the age was considerably less than reality.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How to Nuke an Eggplant

Eggplant is one of those warm-climate foods. It's big, cheap, and plentiful (at least outside the U.S.), it's mild and savory at the same time, it's sliceable or pureeable, depending on how you fix it. It goes with everything from garlicky oregano-and-fennel laden tomato sauce and melted cheese to anchovies and olives, to nutmeg-tinged custard or cumin/cinnamon-scented Greek and North African dishes, to complex curries and couscous, to sweet/sour and sesame paste and soy sauce, all with or without the chilies and cilantro. You can deep-fry it, bread it and panfry it, grill it and serve it room-temperature under a glossy layer of olive oil, marinate it, wrap it around other fillings, stuff it, roast it, make spreads with it... There's even an eggplant "spoon sweet" from Greece, and at least one eggplant "jam" from Morocco. To say nothing of pink-tinged sour eggplant pickles, one of my favorite additions at Israeli felafel stands. The only thing you don't really want to do with eggplant is eat it raw.

"But it's such a pain!" I hear you say. Not really--not my way, at least.

The year after college, I spent five months in a big kibbutz kitchen doing unspeakable but entertaining things with eggplant on a daily basis for a crowd of 1000 or so. Israelis, like the French, are not shy or slow to voice opinions when it comes to the daily grub. Couldn't help learning a few things along the way.

Result? I NEVER bother with the usual cookbook directions for eggplant. All of them slavishly recopy instructions from their predecessors without bothering to update, or at least retest, the traditional preparation rituals that make eggplant such a pain. In this day and age, most of them are just plain wrong. So--let's bust up a few myths.

First, you really don't have to fry sliced eggplant two measly pieces at a time in a frying pan and pray it doesn't eat up the whole bottle of olive oil by the time you're done (and haven't restaurant cooks heard of Teflon yet?). Second, you don't have to bake it for an entire hour in the oven just to discover it still has spongy raw spots. Third, you don't even have to salt it heavily, weight it down, and/or keep it in the fridge overnight.

And you know why? Because you're going to nuke it instead, either sliced or whole, depending on your intentions, and it comes out very nicely cooked, no raw spots, and ready to flavor or finish up. In only 10 minutes. Really.

I used to think I was alone in the wilderness on this one, because NO ethnic cookbook--or any other cookbook with eggplant recipes--ever considers the existence of microwaving, much less condones it for cooking actual food. But an Indian acquaintance nods and says that's how she makes bengan bharta at home, like that's been the accepted way to do it in India for decades, and she wonders why America has yet to catch up with the rest of the modern world. So I feel vindicated.

Microwave times, unlike conventional baking times, increase with the quantity of food in the oven. As long as you're only cooking a batch of one or two eggplants, nuking for 10 minutes is more efficient than baking in a conventional oven for an hour. If you're cooking 10 or more eggplants at a time, the time and quantity--even assuming you could fit them all into your microwave--will add up enough to make baking them all at once in a regular oven the better bet.

So anyway, here we go. First we're going to nuke a whole eggplant or so for spreads, then we'll take a look at setting up dishes that call for frying or grilling cubes or slices. The results are a lot more reliable than the traditional, and they taste just as good, but without all the waiting.

Microwaved Eggplant made into Baba Ghanouj (eggplant spread with tehina)

These basic instructions for nuking a whole eggplant can be used for any recipe requiring eggplant pulp. The cooked eggplant or its pulp can be stored by itself in a plastic food bag in the refrigerator for up to a week, maybe even more, without spoiling. A batch of baba ghanouj can also last that long, if nobody eats it first...

1-2 large eggplants--clean, glossy, firm, not too blemished, scrubbed, stem end sliced off (beware of nasty thorns on stem cap!)
Ordinary table salt (optional)

1. Once the eggplant is scrubbed and the top is cut off, wet the eggplant slightly with water and rub a little ordinary table salt over the skin, including the cut end. The salt supposedly toughens the skin and helps it hold together a little better once the eggplant is baked and the insides are ready to scoop out. Or this might just be a myth. You could skip salting it, it's not that big a deal. Or I suppose you could peel the eggplant before you nuke it, thereby leaving you with pure eggplant flesh that then turns into pulp.

2. Put the eggplant on a microwaveable flat plate and nuke it on high for 10 minutes or until it has "collapsed"--become soft and gooey on the inside, and wrinkled on the outside. (press down lightly and carefully-it's hot-with a finger or knife handle to test--it should leave a soft imprint). Let it cool to handling temperature.

3. Poke a hole in the now-toughened cut end with your finger, and let the clear light-brownish syrupy eggplant juices drain out over a colander.

4. Either scoop out the pulp with a soup spoon or do it the kibbutz way using your hands (eggplant MUST be cool for this). Make sure there are no witnesses unless you've done this before, or unless you want to startle them badly:

Starting from the wider uncut end, squeeze the eggplant slowly and gently like a pastry bag or a tube of toothpaste. Do it VERY CAREFULLY so as not to rupture the peel and spray caustic eggplant goop everywhere--hair, eyes, skin, etc. The soft pulp inside will flop down through the hole you poked in the cut end and you can let it drain a little further in the colander. With practice, you can squeeze out all the pulp very efficiently in a few seconds, getting every last bit off the skin without having to open the thing up. Handy for doing 20 in a row... Remember to wash your hands and forearms right afterward or they'll start to itch and burn.

Baba Ghanouj

2-3 heaping tablespoons tehina (pure ground sesame paste), or about 1/3 cup (or more according to taste, desired creaminess, and ambitions for waistline). OR: substitute a mixture of 1:3 tehina/plain non-fat yogurt, or half the tehina and 1/2-1 teaspoon of Chinese toasted sesame oil, or just the sesame oil and yogurt, or...haven't tried adding tofu with the sesame oil. Not sure it would bind right. The more tehina, the creamier/pastier. ANYWAY--
juice of 1-2 lemons
1-2 big cloves of garlic, mashed or finely grated
1/2-1 teaspoons ground cumin
large dollop of plain non- or low-fat yogurt, optional
1/2 -1 teaspoon salt to taste, optional
2-3 drops liquid smoke, optional
1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro leaves, optional

Equipment:
microwave oven (mine is 1150 watts; if yours is significantly less wattage, your cooking times may be a little longer)
Pyrex, Corningware, or other microwaveable large pie plate, mixing bowl, or flat dinner plate with room to sit two largish eggplants on their sides and not jam the microwave turntable
colander
food processor for fine puree or regular knife and fork for coarser spread

5. Puree or hand-chop the cooked eggplant pulp with the other ingredients to taste. Store in the fridge and serve cold or at room temperature with raw dipping vegetables (carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli and cauliflower) or toasted pita (but best of all on fresh home-made pita). Leftover baba ghanouj is also great stirred into hot whole-wheat spaghetti or fettucine as a kind of eggplant sesame noodles.

Quick Grilled Sliced Eggplant

This is even easier than preparing pulp from a whole eggplant. Just wash and stem the eggplant, then cut it into whatever kind of slices you want-crosswise rounds, lengthwise slices for wrapping around ricotta or other fillings, cubes, wedges-whatever. If your recipe calls for other roasted or grilled vegetables, you could slice and layer them with the eggplant and microwave them all together before finishing under a broiler or in a frying pan for a few minutes. Put the pieces on a large Pyrex or other microwaveable dish-pie plate, mixing bowl, casserole, whatever works for you. Nuke them 10 minutes for 1-2 eggplants.

Once they're cooked, you can do what you want with them: Lay them out on oiled foil and broil them, heat a little garlic and curry powder and/or other spices in a spoonful or so of olive oil and stir-fry the cooked cubes of eggplant to brown and flavor them, whatever your recipe calls for.

Two examples:

Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper, and Onion Appetizer (or sandwich filling...)

1-2 sliced eggplants (crosswise, rounds or half-moons, or bite-sized cubes, as you prefer)
1-2 sweet red peppers in bite-sized pieces or long thin slivers, as you prefer
1 yellow onion, peeled and either diced or sliced into quarter-inch or thinner wedges
big fat clove or so of garlic, mashed or grated, in 2-3 tablespoons or so extra-virgin olive oil
pinch or more dry or fresh thyme

Layer or alternate the vegetable slices so that eggplants, peppers, and onions are all mixed together. Nuke for 10 minutes. Pour over the olive oil, garlic, and thyme, stir or distribute. If you want to, pan fry or or grill the mixture briefly to color, or roast for 15-20 minutes in a hot (~400 F) oven. Cool and chill in the fridge-this gets better, more mellow, after a day, and it lasts well over a week if you keep it in a plastic food bag with the air squeezed out. It doesn't need salt but pairs well in hearty sandwiches with feta, hummus, or gorgonzola-type cheeses.

Curried Cubed Eggplant

This is a lot like the appetizer above, but served as a hot dish. Nuke eggplant cubes as above with diced or cubed onion and zucchini or red pepper if you like them and have them on hand-but at least the eggplant and onion. Heat 1-2 teaspoons olive oil in a teflon frying pan. Sprinkle in 1/2-1 teaspoons curry powder and a mashed clove of garlic and stir a few seconds right before adding the cooked eggplant and onion. You can sprinkle in hot red pepper flakes if you want, or grated ginger, or nigella seed, or cardamom, or cilantro, or none of these things... Stirfry the whole mixture enough to brown the vegetables and serve alone, with eggs, on pasta or rice, on pizza with fresh basil and kalamata olives, with curried chickpeas, stuffed into eggplant shells (prenuked, baked....), thrown into vegetarian chili, etc. A little plain yogurt/cucumber sauce or tehina is also good on top.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Welcome to Antiwrinkle Cheesecake!

Why Antiwrinkle Cheesecake? Because it's the impossible dream--to have your cheesecake and eat it too, and get thinner and younger and richer and more glamorous and have a better love life with every bite...

A few years ago, Nancy Silverton (I think?) set the established food world on its ear. How? She baked the world's first cheesecake with no cracks--just by putting the cake pan in a waterbath, like a flan or a quiche. Now, that is innovation, which I prize, and it's certainly not hard to do, which also gets big points with me. It’s one of those ideas that shoulda been obvious. But I can't help thinking all the foodies made way too much fuss over something that was perfectly good in the first place. A no-wrinkle cheesecake won't save the world, nor will it grant you a wrinkle-free face. Not even by applying it directly. You can’t lose weight or improve your cholesterol numbers by eating it. The Dalai Lama and the Baal Shem Tov and Julia Child won’t visit your home to witness the miracle (if you’re savvy enough, Oprah might bring a camera crew). It won’t even taste any different. It just looks better to restaurant chefs and food stylists, none of whom could survive my home kitchen.

Let’s face it, the fact that I use a microwave and teflon pans would send them into a dead faint, and then I’d have to nudge them awake with the toe of my sneaker...or let my five-year-old wake them up the way she does us. A hearty greeting in the ear of “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!” should put them to rights in no time.

My friends (and husband, and lovely smart-aleck kid) often complain I can never just follow a recipe the way it's written in the cookbook or food glam magazine, and I end up saying, "Yeah, but look how it's written! You've gotta be nuts!"

For more than 20 years, I've been keeping a little black polka-dotted "blank book" (remember those?) with my notes on adapting recipes to be kosher, or heart-healthier without losing taste, or with fewer calories, or without meat for dairy meals, or without dairy for meat meals, or without grain products for Passover. Keeping kosher in the modern world, without giving anyone a heart attack or a royal pain in any other of their parts, is the real mother of invention.

I design (or redesign) recipes in what is probably an anti-foodie way. There's a big difference between real-world home cooking and the restaurant-style food that the glam mags are pushing. First of all--time, work, money, and the biggest one--kids. That means doing food quickly, more nutritiously, and the simplest way possible. It means getting dinner on the table, not panicking about expensive extras like the one exotic vinegar you don't have on hand. (Come on, bawl it with me, “You’re not the boss of me!”)

I'm flexible on amounts and flavorings, and I suggest variations whenever I can think of them rather than substituting one expensive ingredient and pretending it's a whole new revelation in gastronomy. I try to figure out the actual best method for each recipe--and it may not be the traditional one or the one recommended in the 4-page recipe from the famous Napa Valley restaurant. Do I really have to bake eggplant in the oven for a whole hour or can I nuke it for ten minutes in the microwave? Should I pour a vat of hot lumpy squash soup into a blender in batches and try to dodge a scalding, or should I blend the squash first without water, dilute it, and then cook up?

I love cheesecake, but it's way too rich for my blood--my family runs to clogged arteries, high cholesterol at a young age, etc. I want to be around when my lovely but smart-alecky five-year-old grows up and has her own lovely but smart-alecky kids, so I can whip out all the photographs of her early childhood and take my revenge. Actually, that'll work for prom night too (revenge is a dish best served soon).

Because it's my cookbook, it has the notes I find most useful. The reminder for deboning a chicken in one piece: "Start with the a**" ... not that I do it more than once a decade now that I have a kid. The list of what we ate in Colonial Williamsburg on our honeymoon. How to make a honeycake in 15 minutes, start to finish (nuke it! really!). How to cook brussels sprouts so they stay jewel green and actually taste good, not like cafeteria kale.

Half of my blank book contains recipes in which at one time or another I attempted the "holy grail" of a good diet-worthy cheesecake: fat-free, low-calorie, real tasting, all at the same time, with the right texture and no fake ingredients like gelatin or pudding mix or...yeah. Well. That's why it's the impossible dream. But I can still joke about it, which is the point of this blog. If you laugh enough, you don't need Botox. (actually, Botox prevents laugh lines by preventing laughter--at least, your own--and what fun is that?)

When I finally devise the perfect Antiwrinkle Cheesecake, it will contain dark chocolate and sour cherries and come with a really long, really hot shower and an even longer, hotter cup of coffee. With no interruptions. It will also remove cellulite, crows' feet, gray hair, the constant annoyance of telemarketers at suppertime, and whining fights staged right before bedtime.