red wine-braised short ribs

Monday, April 30, 2012

Traditionally, audition-wise, April and May are as slow as molasses in January. Pilot season is finished, most TV shows are taking a hiatus. There might be a random independent movie or commercial casting but overall? Slow. I usually spend the first three weeks of April feeling itchy and incomplete. But it never fails, just as I settle into the slowness and upend my office files or bathroom drawers or coat closet for a super thorough organizational session, I get a 16-page audition for one of the few random things that's actually shooting during the Slowest Time of Year. And not just 16 pages, 16 pages for tomorrow. I spent a couple days this week jumping through hoops for one of these 16-pagers: a comedic TV-guest-star role. There was an initial audition, notes, late night calls about script revisions, more notes, and an early morning callback (BTW, what could possibly be funny before 10am?). 

A few things one must know about auditions to fully appreciate this story:

Every audition is different but for the most part, you go into a room that has a single chair (some particularly evil auditioners forgo this courtesy entirely and force you to stand. I might choose to stand anyway but can I at least have a choice?) There's a couch opposite you where the producers judge sit, and casting directors and assistants are peppered around, one manning the camera and one reading the scene with you. (Let's hope they've read it at least once and have a basic understanding of the English language. Oddly, this doesn't always seem to be top priority.)

Auditions pose dilemmas. Since you only have the chair and a small area around it, your movement is limited. You're almost always being filmed so that poses yet more restrictions on how and where you can maneuver. (Not to mention the reminder that your audition lives forever. No pressure!) If it's a restaurant scene, you're golden. Sit in your chair (if you're lucky enough to get one) and look across at your reader (if she's considerate enough to make eye contact) and have at it. But certain activities can be more awkward to navigate: crawling into bed, karate kicking an assailant, being chased, talking with a mouthful of (imaginary) food, making a phone call--and these things have to be considered and worked out. Events that involve physical interactions with others in the scene prove even trickier--getting slapped, say, or having sex. Or having to pick up a small child. Remember--you're in there alone. With a single chair. You need to figure out how to convey these things without miming because miming is not an option. If you mime in an audition you might as well have a giant, flashing neon arrow pointing at you that says, "HEY THERE! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING EXCEPT MAKING YOU UNCOMFORTABLE!"

How does one work it out? Leaning forward a bit with closed eyes and a smile stands in for a kiss.
Sliding down in the chair turns it into a bed. Most of these scenarios can be conveyed by just imagining what's happening but sometimes you need to do a little bit more. Years ago I had to audition a scene wherein my character was mugged, robbed at knifepoint and then stabbed. It specified in the script that she slid down the wall to her death. The chair wasn't gonna cut it. A quick scan when I entered the audition room revealed there was no free wall space behind me where I planned to get mugged. I wound up shoving myself against a knotty pine armoire (I said it was years ago), imagined getting knifed in the gut and slid down to the carpet. I had a nasty bruise on my back from the wardrobe's moulding but I got the job.

Back to this week and the 16-pager. In the millions of years that I've been auditioning, this particular occasion (scene) required an unprecedented feat: the under-the-table hand job. This would've been fairly easy if there were a table. But there wasn't. So what ensued was a lean-down-and-grab-my-own-shin-manuever. I was careful, though, to not fondle my shin as that could potentially fall into the miming category. Perhaps I should've made an exception this time. Perhaps fondling would've gotten me the job.

Oy. Do you see why this business is Crazypants?

After all that hoopla last week, it's back to slow late-April again. In honor of said slowness, I bring you slow-cooked short ribs:) These are wicked delicious. Make them before it gets too hot out. They'd be  perfect for one of the last chilly nights of Spring.

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
serves 4
adapted from Bon Appetit

3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
kosher salt and ground pepper
3 T coconut (or vegetable) oil, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
2 T all-purpose flour
4 t tomato paste (have you seen that Trader Joe's has it in a tube? Very cool.)
1 bottle of dry red wine (minus 1/2 glass for the chef. You're welcome.)
10 sprigs Italian parsley
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh oregano
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves (dry or fresh)
1 head of garlic that's been halved crosswise (it's okay to leave all the skins on there)
4 cups beef stock

Preheat oven to 350. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2T oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Brown the meat (in batches if necessary) on all sides until golden brown and transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining oil (if necessary) along with the onions, carrots and celery. Saute 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and the onions translucent and beginning to brown. Add the flour and tomato paste and stir constantly (or it'll burn) until well combined, 2 minutes. Stir in wine and add the short ribs with their juices. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer (uncovered) until wine is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Add all the herbs (no need to chop) and garlic to the pot. Stir in beef stock. Bring to a boil, cover and transfer to the oven.

Cook, covered, for 3 hours, stirring every 45-60 minutes. Transfer the short ribs to a platter and cover with foil. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer or chinoise, pressing down on the solids to extract more liquid. Discard solids. If necessary, skim any fat off the top of the strained sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve the short ribs with mashed potatoes, spooning the sauce over the top. Dab a little behind your ears if you're feeling frisky. You'll want to.


P.S. Jason Mraz has a new album that is been running on a loop over here. DP is over it but I've only just begun. It's so good! I highly recommend it.

P.P.S. Joeycake now has a fancy email subscription option! Up at the top of your page there's a link if you'd like Joeycake to appear in your inbox:)

scenes from the zappos iPhone app

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I found a whole Mexican dinner in shoe names! Look closely...

And another, equally random name that's appropriate here:

Have they really run out?  

Happy Thursday!!

P.S. I wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of Burritos.

roasted chickpeas

Monday, April 16, 2012

There's a guy in my neighborhood that jogs every morning. We cross paths nearly every day since his regimen is in sync with Lena's bowels. 

He's 60 (if he's a day) and I gotta hand it to him: he's out there rain-or-shine in the same dirty, grey, threadbare sweatshirt, short shorts and bedraggled sneakers. But for someone who has the gumption to run daily (and not just daily--early), he is one grouchy sourpuss. Plus, his feet barely leave the ground. He's perfected a sort of trudge-scuff, reluctantly shuffling down the street like someone has a gun to his back. From bent elbows his hands hang limply, employing a constant wrist-twisting motion suggesting the torture of a couple imaginary marionettes. 

Every time I see him (we're going on FIVE YEARS here, people) I brightly say, "Good Morning!" and he looks out of the outermost corner of the eye closest to me, curls back his upper lip and mutters, "Hmfg," or if I'm lucky, "Mohnf," since I translate that to be a returned salutation.

Sure, he's getting it done day after day. But he's miserable.

There's a fine line between a routine and a rut. I can whole-heartedly get behind routine, especially in this (show) business that is rife with invariability. But ruts, to me, suck. And I think I'm in a few. I'm good at shaking up the physical/action ruts--like quitting dairy or upping my cardio or heck, trying a new restaurant before reading its yelp reviews. It's the thinking ruts that I get caught up on. Despite all the many blessings in my life I get stuck on a handful of things I wish were different. Fixated, even. I know I'm only human and I'm not alone but a few of these things came to a head this week. They started getting more air-time in my brain than what was right in front of me. And I got it: I don't want to waste my one wild and precious life wishing I was somewhere other than Right Here. I don't want to wind up trudge-scuffing through my days trying to get to some imaginary future place where I've (arbitrarily) decided I'll be happier.


This ingenious chickpea preparation shall represent me Shaking Out of My Rut.

I ask you: what's more anti-rut and pro-present moment than roasting a chickpea?

Roasted Chickpeas
serves 2-3

These are so surprisingly good and perfect for a little cocktail-hour snack. The salty/tangy/spicy-ness would go delightfully well with an ice-cold beer. Bonus: they are low-carb and high protein. And they render the beer calorie-free.*


1 can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
1T olive oil
1 1/4 t toasted spice rub*
kosher or sea salt
pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste)
squeeze of lemon

Preheat oven to 400. Meanwhile, drain and rinse chickpeas and spread out on a paper towel-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Place a second paper towel on top and rub the little nuggets between the two in circular motions. This will dry them thoroughly and also help slough off their little outer skins. Discard said skins (don't go crazy over it--if some remain that's cool) along with the paper towels. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with spices and a good pinch of salt. Bake for about 35 minutes or until they are crunchy on the outside with tender, meaty little centers. Pour into a serving bowl and give them a good squeeze of lemon and more salt to taste. Serve pronto. Store leftovers in the fridge.

*I've extolled the virtues of this spice rub here and here--the possibilities of its deliciousness are endless--but if you're not keen to whip it up, substitute with 1/2 t each of cumin and smoked paprika. Keep the cayenne, salt and lemon as per the recipe.

Counting my blessings today (of which you are one:)),

lily pad

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wanna see the little stroller quilt I just made for my new sweet niece, baby Lily?

I continue to drool over/be amazed by all of Alicia's quilts--she inspired me to buy this book and attempt this log-cabin style. I love how there is some structure involved but also room for some haphazard magic...

I love the homey feeling of the hand-tied quilting. This might be my new favorite way...

Welcome, Baby Lily! I love you already!

Yay, babies and quilts!


scenes from a low grocery shelf

Thursday, April 5, 2012

For those of you who don't speak Whole Foods, allow me to translate:



morning-after brown rice pancakes

Monday, April 2, 2012

DP and I went to Chipotle today and it was packed. In the mayhem I noticed a little lady across the room in a white housecoat speckled with pink flowers. It looked like a giant bed sheet and dusted the floor while her pale, thin arms poked out of its gaping sleeves. She was lingering at the soft drink station and I assumed she was having some trouble. Maybe because she looked like an escapee from an old folks' home. Through the crowd I caught a wisp of her blue hair. And a clashing black leather mule. What's that unattended elderly woman doing at Chipotle? I wondered, and should I go help her with the Diet Coke?

That's when she turned just as the crowd parted and I saw her face.

It was a hipster.

Sometimes things are not what they seem. And sometimes one thing turns into something else. Right before your very eyes...

Just like an old lady turning into a hipster, boring leftover rice morphs into a delicious breakfast treat! These are so yummy and won't spike your blood sugar like regular pancakes.

Bonus: these won't make you feel old.


Morning-after Brown Rice Pancakes
yields about nine 4"pancakes

1 small packed container of take-out brown rice (or 2 1/2 cups)
2 eggs
1t vanilla extract
a heaping 1/4 t cinnamon
1/8-1/4 t kosher salt (depending on how much salt you like in your sweet)
1 1/2 T coconut oil/smart balance/canola oil for cooking (olive oil will be too strong)
maple syrup for serving*

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla. Add the rice and mix thoroughly, breaking up any clumps. Add the cinnamon and salt. Stir well.

Heat 1T of oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, spoon the rice mixture into the pan by 1/4 cups. (I always want these pancakes to be the size of my head but I've never been able to flip it without it falling to pieces. Alas, smaller is the way to go.) Cook 3-4 minutes or until you see small bubbles on the top (like you would regular pancakes). Carefully flip and cook another 2 minutes.  As you go, add a little more oil when the pan gets dry. Serve hot with lots of syrup.

*These are also great with honey or jam.

Happy Monday:)
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