Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Recipe: Killer Butternut Squash Tacos with Salsa Verde

I'm always trying to think of new ways to eat tacos. I never tire of wrapping things in tortillas with some lime and some heat. I've filled tacos with beef and pork and chicken and fish and turkey. I've roasted meat and grilled meat and cooked it stove-top. I've cooked black beans and pinto beans and pidgeon peas for taco filling. And so, not surprisingly, I was thinking about how to make a vegetarian taco that had more vegetables.

Butternut squash to the rescue. I like to serve these with salsa verde, so I've included that recipe, too.

Let me say here that I made this dish for my cousin and her kids (both aged 16). All of them loved it. The point being -- serve this to your family and they won't mind at all missing meat for one night. In fact, I'm having a hankering right now.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Matt Cooke's Baggage

For a decade, Matt Cooke was among the dirtiest players in the NHL. He had a game beyond the cheap stuff, but still, if there was a questionable hit to be thrown, he threw it. If he could take a guy out, he did. When he arrived in Pittsburgh in 2008, I was torn. I absolutely loved the rest of Cooke's game, but the head-hunting bothered me. Watching him over the years, I loved his energy and the way he crashed the net. I loved how hard he played. But the flagrant elbows to the head and the reckless disregard for player safety troubled me. I wrote about how much it bothered me a number of times, in a number of places, but the two I remember writing were after Cooke's hit left Marc Savard positively lifeless on the ice and after he threw a flagrant elbow to the head of Ryan McDonough. Those were some of the worst hits I've seen, the kind of hits which need to be completely eliminated from the game.

After Cooke missed the remainder of the 2010-2011 season (serving the suspension of the McDonough hit), he was basically on notice by the team. Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero told him -- one more strike and you're out. In the summer of 2011, Cooke did some soul searching. He sought advice from a number of sources. He decided to play the game differently and worked hard to learn how to do just that.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Would No Halftime Entertainment at SB XLVIII Be Such a Bad Thing?

As I look out my window at the freezing rain, landing quite nicely on the already icy snow blanketing my yard, I can't help but think:  Yippee! The Super Bowl will be played in weather just like this next year! (That's Super Bowl XLVIII [or 48 for you non-ancient Roman types.])

As a television event, the biggest game of the year is not aimed at nor produced for actual football fans. It has become an event designed to gin up interest in the sport, sell stuff, create a raging river of revenue and appeal to the non-football fans. For those who actually attend, the Super Bowl is an event which is decidedly not designed for people of my ilk, which is to say, football fans. Nay. The Super Bowl is for the suits, the corporate ticket holders and such of that ilk. If they freeze in a snow squall or freezing rain? Well, fine by me.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What if Alex Ovechkin Hired Randy Moss as a Life-Coach?

Randy Moss and Alexander Ovechkin walk into a bar. They sit at table and order drinks. What follows is an exact transcript of their conversation.

"Hey," says Alex, "sorry about the Super Bowl and everything."

"Thanks, man. That does hurt. But you know, I didn't ask you out because of the Supe. I wanted to say something to you I've never said to anybody else."

Alex is puzzled. He gives Randy his best rakish super-villian grin and waits.

"You know, you remind me a lot of me," Randy says.

"I didn't know you watched hockey."

"Nobody knows I do. I keep that on the DL. You know, I have a Hershey Bears sweater? Don't tell anybody, right? Anyway. I really wanted to tell you that ... well, you know how on media day I said that I was the best receiver ever?"

"Heard that."

Randy takes a deep breath, "What I meant to say was that I was the most talented receiver ever."

"I grew up in Moscow and even I know that Jerry Rice does hold the record for most receiving yards," says Alex, flashing that playful KGB grin again.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Best of New Orleans, the 2013 Report

Last year, I made a week long walking, dancing and eating pilgrimage to New Orleans. This year, I returned, for a much shorter trip and the difference from January, 2012 to January, 2013 is remarkable. It feels like, finally, after Katrina and the federal flood, the city has turned a corner. I was hoping to revisit some of the joints I went to last year, particularly Liuzza's (for the world's greatest gumbo) and Parkway for the astronomically great Po'Boys. However, there is only so much eating that one can pack into a short trip, so we hit all new spots.

If you're in New Orleans for the Super Bowl insanity, or will be there for the Mardi Gras insanity, or are planning a trip just because (as I do), these are the some of the highlights of my recent vigil.

Cake Bakery
Cake Bakery. This trip was not the first time I've been to Cake Bakery. It's right around the corner from where I stay in the Crescent City, but proximity is hardly the main recommendation for me. It's a charming little joint full of a diverse clientele -- ordinary looking workaday folks, older people, tattooed crusty punks, transgendered people and even David Simon. (Seriously, we chatted at Cake last year.) But although the clientele is fun, it isn't the main recommendation:  the biscuits are.

Freshly baked biscuits as big as your head, with homeade jam, which is not overly sweet, but rather is very fruity and tart and perfect on these amazing biscuits. Just a biscuit, jam and a side of bacon is plenty of breakfast to get you going all day long.