Movie, garden, poetry

This clematis lived in a pot for five years and is finally in the ground, thriving. It almost died several times, and I wasn’t sure it would make it after the final transplant–it was just a bundle of brown sticks. My landscaper friend said it had no chance. Now it looks better than it ever did in its original home. I love to see it as I come in and out of my house–a reminder not to give up too easily, no matter what the experts say.

This week has been full of events regarding the movie that was partially shot at my house. I got to meet one of my favorite celebrities (and give her a poem), finally got to make dinner for the chef, and am going to be an extra in a scene.

For dinner Larry suggested brisket–something tried and true. It was a hit. Brisket is something not usually on the menu in restaurants, and this one was chock full of vegetables from the garden. I used some tomatoes in the broth for the brisket, and made the rest into a very simple tomato and onion salad, with a light dressing, spread on a plate. We also had squash blossoms redux–without halibut roe.

I started the brisket the night before. It’s always better the next day. A friend who also came for dinner asked for the recipe, and the chef himself asked a lot of questions about how I made it.  I do it slightly differently each time, but here’s the general technique.


2-4 lb brisket
flour, salt. pepper
vegetable oil
pkg dried onion soup
garlic, onions, (leeks or shallots if you like)
stock or bouillon
tomatoes, potatoes
carrots, mushrooms, squash, greens, etc.
herbs, spices and other additions to taste

Prep time: 30 minutes (after meat is room temp, includes chopping veges)
Cooking time: 3+ hours

Trim off as much fat as you can and rinse the meat. Let it come to room temperature. Pat it dry if it hasn’t dried thoroughly. Drench with flour mixed with a bit of salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of your roasting pan and heat it on top of the stove till the oil is hot.  Sear both sides of the brisket till brown–about five minutes a side.  Turn the heat down a bit and add crushed garlic and onion wedges and let them brown.  Add a handful of chopped tomatoes and a few potato chunks. Cook for a few minutes and cover the mixture with stock (beef or chicken stock will do). The stock should almost cover the meat. You can add a packet of dry onion soup mix (if you use this, sprinkle on top of the meat) a little sugar or some chopped ripe fruit, herbs, a chipotle or other hot pepper–whatever you like for flavor and sweetness.

Set the pan uncovered in the oven for at least 2 hours, until a fork goes easily into the meat, but you can’t cut the meat with a fork.  Take out of the oven and let cool.

The liquid will be really greasy. You can either cool overnight in the fridge and peel off the congealed fat or strain and degrease with something like this. In any case, after you degrease the liquid, strain out the cooked veges if you haven’t already, and blend them up and return them to the broth–this acts as a natural thickener. Add all the other vegetable chunks you want–carrots, parsnips, potatoes, cauliflower. Cook in the oven at 350 (or simmer on top of the stove) for about an hour. Now you should be able to cut the meat with a fork. Add any faster cooking veges like celery or zucchini and herbs like parsely, sage, rosemary, and cook for about 15 more minutes. Throw in final greens like chopped kale or spinach, and salt and pepper if necessary.  You can refrigerate and reheat at any point in the process.

And on another note, here’s the poem I was lucky enough to give to one of my favorite actresses:

Split Screen

In the media room, two movies
stream by from different cubes:
one the birth of skateboarding,
the other a sixties Cassavetes’ flick.
He and his pals caper in trench coats and sideburns,
troubled and frantic and utterly honorable,
eyebrows cocked
and ready to fire. Even without sound,
you can tell the dialog is urbane.
All the streets are grey.
While the insouciant Z-boys of Dogtown glide,
neon in their t-shirts and sunbleached hair,
impossibly graceful and doomed and obsessed,
defining what the body can do in air
as they careen into myth
and the boys become brands.

Whatever else we’ve done
at whatever cost,
we’ve given the world this:
New York angst,
California cool.