Charles Siskin: Making Waves

Monday, December 16, 2013 - by Charles Siskin
Mimosas make the perfect starter for your holiday brunch
Mimosas make the perfect starter for your holiday brunch
- photo by Charles Siskin

Recently, the county closed a portion of our beach road for restoration of one of our rare dune lakes hoping to bring it back to its original pristine state. In order to do this traffic has been rerouted to our street which loops around the lake presenting us with a good bit of unwanted traffic. However there is a bright spot to all this since whenever my little white dog, Madame, and I go out for our morning walk we like to wave at passing motorists and see how often the driver waves back. Or in Madame’s case bark if the occasion requires calling out to other dogs driving by who often respond in kind.

It is cool to live in a small town like we do here outside of Destin in Santa Rosa Beach. Like Chattanooga you know a good many people and even if you don’t if you wave folks wave back.  Well most people do, but there is always that small percentage who are so engrossed in their cell phones I worry they will miss that sharp curve while Madame and I are out on “personal business”.

Later back in the safety of our home Madame and I consider our choices for breakfast. Sometimes she gets a special treat when I’ve prepared chicken the day before. Sometime I slip some yogurt in with her dog food. Variety is what the lady expects especially since we’ve been known to watch the food channel together. Diners and Drive Ins are a favorite.

For me, breakfast is a favorite of mine. I’m big on a protein shake, especially since most mornings I’ve hit to the gym shortly after 5 am. I am also a pushover for peanut butter and recently I discovered Crazy Richard’s (available at Publix) that has a low sodium count as well as zero cholesterol. A couple of spoonfuls are thrown into the blender along with a whole banana and even a handful of dried golden raisins. Tasty when combined with fat free or 1% lactose milk. Sometimes to add a little texture I skip the peanut butter and put in a handful of unsalted almonds. That makes an ear popping sound in your blender to kick start your day.

Even tastier is mashing up a banana with peanut butter to make a spread along with some honey to go on a bagel.  I know that cream cheese is always proper and traditional but here again adding dried fruit to low fat or fat free cream cheese like figs or apricots or minced dates is so good as well.

I sometime steal some of Madame’s chicken to go into a cheese and mushroom omelet. Recently, however, I heard this alarming report about free range chickens. It seems that after a survey of these chicks it appears that they don’t want to be free. No really it appears that chickens like to be pushed around by a rooster or some other authoritative fowl. They are happier cooped up with their buddies in pens not gallivanting around in the wild open spaces.

And all those free range dudes are actually getting all kinds of antibiotic-resistant bacteria anyway.  These chickens don't respond to many of the human medicines designed to kill the bacteria. Okay now hold on to your skullcap as it turns out Kosher chickens tested had the highest levels of antibiotic-resistant E. coli, Oy!  Maybe kosher chicken soup isn’t so good for the soul afterall?

My bride just came home with some instant Irish Oatmeal variety packages. I consider that sacrilegious to the point of blasphemy. Those lovely steel cut oats don’t deserve to co-mingle with the likes of dried blueberries or apples.  Brown sugar? Okay, don’t  mind if I do. And where is the fun in not spending time at your stove stirring those oats rather than slipping some hot water to that instant package.

It put the oats in the same league with instant rice and grits. It makes a joke out of that great polenta recipe that requires you to never leave your stove because you have to keep adding more liquid to your yellow cornmeal or more broth to your risotto. Mama Mia, ya’ll.  I mean where is the joy in leaning over a hot stove to prepare a dish that will knock the socks off guests? Surely you wouldn’t serve anything that difficult to your immediate family?

“Let them eat instant,” Marie A. said just before they chopped off her pompadour head. Obviously she was not a purist. Nevertheless if truth be told here in my house we have those little plastic cartons filled with egg whites which also have been tinted a yellow color so as to fool you into believing you are having old fashioned scrambled eggs like you use to get or still can at the Waffle House.

That is kind of weird to get an egg white omelet that you have paid a princely sum to purchase from the little container that turns out to be yellow. I personally want my egg white omelet to be white! Just like I want my Irish Oatmeal to be dried fruit free.  While on the subject I also don’t want my yogurt to have a slosh of blueberry pie filling lying at the bottom of my 10 for $10 container.

For the holidays, which are almost upon us, we like to have folks in for brunch for a variety of reasons. One of the most important reasons is that those folks go home at a decent hour. Secondly, you can serve up a light on the Champagne Mimosa because no one wants to be picked up drunk in daylight hours. Thirdly, I can slave over a hot stove preparing garlic cheese grits and get the compliments I deserve.  And lastly, by late afternoon our house is clean, dishes are put away and we can try to locate all the new digital channels Mediacom has thrust upon us without a channel guide.

Suggested Holiday Menu

Starters

Bellini’s and Mimosas

Sugared walnuts and pecans

Note: for the uninitiated, a Bellini is simply adding peach nectar to your champagne flute then pour the bubbly over it and garnish with a fresh peach wedge. Also you might consider Prosecco instead of Champagne this year.  It’s the Italian sparkling wine and really a nice change for your guests

Buffet

Omelets with assorted veggie topping including:

Diced: red and yellow peppers, red onions and tomatoes

Sliced: mushrooms, thinly sliced potatoes that have been cooked in advance, artichokes and hearts-of-palm plus fresh spinach leaves

Garlic Cheese Grits Note: I sometime use half and half cream (non-fat or the real stuff for the holidays) to thin out the grits. I’ve used a mix of grated cheeses as well like the Mexican version especially if I’m doing Huevos Rancheros. I might garnish the grits with salsa and sour cream too or just put it on the side for the eggs and the grits.

Feliz Navidad to that.

Mixed Grill of turkey and chicken sausage (serve them whole or slice them into thick slices)

Fresh berries with an assortment of Greek Yogurt, Dried Fruits, Granola

Mixed basket of bagels, biscuits and scones

Dessert

Peppermint ice cream with optional hot fudge sauce garnished with a peppermint candy cane

Note: This happens to be my favorite time of the year because that is the only time I am able to find Peppermint Ice Cream. Honestly I find it much more attractive in its presentation than the current rage, Salted Carmel. That puts me in mind of a high blood pressure black out!

Wishing everyone a truly great 2014.

Some of the main ingredients for your holiday Brunch
Some of the main ingredients for your holiday Brunch
- Photo2 by Charles Siskin

Shula's 347 Grill To Open At 8th And Pine

A Shula's 347 Grill will be opening at 8th and Pine streets in the new district being developed by brothers Ken and Byron Defoor. It is part of the chain of steak emporiums developed by legendary NFL Coach Don Shula. Coach Shula was set to be in Chattanooga on Friday night for a performance by famed folk singer Arlo Guthrie to mark the opening of the district that will be ... (click for more)

Charles Siskin: A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

I was never aware of food courts until I made my first trip to London way too many decades ago. It was there I discovered the Great Food Hall at Harrod’s Department Store. Truthfully I’ve never seen anything comparable since. I have been privileged to visit lots of outdoor stalls and indoor markets in the Far East, South America, Australia, Europe and right here in this country, ... (click for more)

City To Begin Shipping Much Of Its Garbage To Bradley County

City Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said the city plans to begin shipping much of its garbage to Bradley County. He said the deal is projected to extend the life of the city landfill at Birchwood by 15 years. Mr. Holland said Bradley County "has a huge landfill and takes garbage from Knoxville and other municipalities. It's regional." He said Bradley County charges ... (click for more)

Man Says He Did Nothing To Provoke Shooting At Bakewell Gas Station; Suspect Says Victim Was Coming Toward Him

A 33-year-old man who was shot in the face during a clash at a Bakewell gas station said he did nothing to provoke the shooting. The man charged said the victim cursed him, then started toward him. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, after a hearing on Tuesday, bound to the Grand Jury a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Donald Stuard II, 29, of Old Washington ... (click for more)

Jimmy Templeton Will Be Missed At The City Yards

If only we had known about the Chattanooga City Council's planned retirement send off for Jimmy Templeton of Public Works, the room would have been filled to overflowing with his friends and admirers - including me.   I have had the honor of knowing and working with Jimmy since the 1970's (and also knew his father "Big Jim").  Jimmy was a strong right hand for whoever ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vin Scully’s Last Time

It is said that the opening paragraph of my favorite ode to baseball should be the centerpiece for the canon of sports literature. It was written by former commissioner Bart Giamatti in "The Green Fields of the Mind,” a most marvelous essay to the last day of the regular season in the major leagues. “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in ... (click for more)