Slim Man Cooks Chicken with Marsala and Porcini Mushrooms


Chicken Marsala with Elvis in Memphis

I was in Memphis in the late 1980s organizing a country music talent contest with my friend Michael.

Michael is black.  I’m white.  Well, Italian.

Marlboro sponsored the contest. Why they picked a black guy and a white guy — two city slickers, no less — to do a country music talent contest, is still puzzling.

It’s not puzzling why Michael and I did the contest – they paid us a lot of money and they paid all our expenses. I ended up doing four tours for Marlboro. The one with Michael was my first.

Michael and I traveled around the USA looking for the next big country music star. We went to more honkytonk hellholes than most cowboys.  We’d roll into a town like Memphis, find a club, organize the bands, and do the contest.  The grand prize was $50,000.  Fifty grand.

I was in charge of the bands; I made sure all the musicians knew where to go, what to bring, and what to do.  Michael was the MC.  He was the Ryan Seacrest of honkytonks. When Michael appeared on stage, and introduced himself to the primarily white, all-country crowd, there was a little apprehension – on both sides of the microphone.

He’d come out and say,

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Marlboro Country Music Talent Roundup.”

That’s when the crowd got a little quiet.  Michael was from New York City, and he sounded like it.  He’d continue,

“I know I don’t look like the Marlboro Man, and I don’t sound like the Marlboro Man, but tonight…”

He’d reach down and put on his white ten-gallon Hoss Cartwright cowboy hat on, and continue,

“I am the Marlboro Man.”

Michael sounded like Shannon Sharpe — the football player and NFL analyst.  He looked like Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles. Michael always got a laugh when he put the big white hat on. He had a singular charm.

Marlboro tossed a lot of money at this thing.  We had all kinds of great merchandise — denim jackets, satin jackets, duffle bags, playing cards, T-shirts, polo shirts, denim shirts, posters. And they gave away free cigarettes at every show.  All you could smoke.

They should have given away a Marlboro coffin.  Or maybe a Marlboro iron lung.

Here’s how we ran the contest – we had ten bands a night, three nights in a row.  Each band got 15 minutes on stage.  We had three minutes in between bands, that’s all.

Judges picked the winners–not the audience.  We’d find judges —usually three — from the local talent pool; DJs, producers, managers, agents. The judges would pick one band to go on to the finals in Nashville, where they would compete with the other finalists from other towns for the grand prize of $50,000.

Before we got to Memphis, we got a call from Marlboro headquarters.  They told us to be careful.  It was the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis. And then they told us that the club owner was rumored to have ties to the KKK.

The club was called The Vapors, a country music honky-tonk in the middle of Memphis.  Michael and I pulled up to the club in our rental car.  We walked inside and met the owner. He was friendly.  He was as nice and helpful as could be. He wasn’t wearing a white pillowcase over his head.

Michael and I got set up for the show that night.  We had to hang all the Marlboro Country Music Roundup signs around the club, we had to make sure the sound company was good to go, the bands ready to play, and the judges prepared to judge.

We finished soundcheck and had a few hours before showtime.  Michael had a friend who had a limo and tour bus company based in Memphis.  She rented these things out to bands and rock stars.  She invited us for a limo ride to Graceland and a private tour. She was a friend of Elvis Presley’s Mom.

Graceland is the house that Elvis built.  It’s now a museum.

Michael and I drove over to his friend’s house. She had all these limos and tour buses parked all around her property.  She got behind the wheel of one of the limos and Michael and I got in back.  She put the big black limo in reverse and floored it.

She rammed it into the side of one of her tour buses that was parked right behind her.  BANG!  We got out, and surveyed the damage.  It was substantial — to both the limo and the tour bus.

She left the smashed-up limo right there, and got into another one and drove us over to Graceland.  She gave us a private tour. We saw the Graceland that not many people get to see.  It was surprisingly small, and had a sixties vibe to it—lots of yellow vinyl and white shag carpets and mirrored walls.

Elvis must have loved TV.  There were TVs everywhere.  He had quite a collection of cars, all kinds of exotic sports cars.  Elvis also had two luxury jets parked right across the street from Graceland.

After the Graceland tour, Michael and I went to visit the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  There were TV news crews doing interviews about the 20th anniversary, and one of them came up to Michael and interviewed him.

It was eerie.

Michael and I went back to our hotel, a Holiday Inn.  We decided to take a jog before the big show that night.  We put on our running shoes and started jogging down the streets of Memphis, side-by-side.

On our way back, we heard someone shout from a car – you’ll have to excuse the language, but this is the way it went down.

“Hey nigguh boy!  Hey hippie fag!”

True story.  That’s exactly what was said.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Then I heard it again.

“Hey nigguh boy!  Hey hippie fag!”

Oh, shit, I thought.  Here we go.  A black guy and a long haired white guy, running down the streets of Memphis.  I stopped and looked to see where the voice was coming from.

It was the owner of the Vapors.  He was laughing, hanging out the window of his car, smacking his hand on the door.

“I got you!  I got you goin’!  See you fellas at the club later!  Have a nice run!”

He smiled and waved and drove off, laughing.

He got us, all right.

We did the contest that night at The Vapors.  The owner couldn’t have been nicer, the crowd was as cool as could be and the show went as smooth as glass.

I love Memphis – Sun Studio, Graceland, Beale Street – and any city with a restaurant named Automatic Slim’s is OK in my book.


Automatic Slim’s did not have chicken Marsala on the menu. But they should have!

I came up with this dish a few weeks ago.  I used porcini mushrooms and the water they soak in.  It was amazing, if I may say so myself.

The next night I cooked it for a very beautiful woman of excellent taste, and it was just OK.  I overcooked the chicken, and it was a bit tough and dry; so don’t overcook your chicken.

I like to serve this sauce over egg noodles – not a lot, just a little bit underneath each serving.

I used three boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  They were real thick, so I cut each of them in half. I had six cutlets, each was about ¼ inch thick.

Marsala is a wine from Marsala, Sicily. There are basically two kinds; dry and sweet. I used sweet Marsala.

Be careful when handling raw chicken—clean every surface it touches, wash your hands, and get out the pressure washer and put on the HazMat suit.


6 chicken breast cutlets, about ¼ inch thick

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms (soaked in 1 cup of water for a minimum of 20 minutes—don’t throw out the water!)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ shallot, chopped fine, about 2 tablespoons

3 garlic cloves, sliced thin, about 1 tablespoon

¾ cup sweet Marsala

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

½ pound of egg noodles – pappardelle work well

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Here we go…

Rinse off your chicken breasts and pat them dry with paper towels.

Remove the porcini mushrooms from the cup of water with a slotted spoon.

Take the remaining porcini water and strain through cheesecloth — I used a coffee filter, by the way.  I’ve even used paper towels as strainers. Whatever you use, save the water – you’ll use a half cup for the sauce, and a half cup in the pasta water, if you want to put the sauce over pasta.

Rinse off the mushrooms and pat dry.  Chop into small pieces.

Grab your breasts.  Then grab your chicken breasts.  Notice the difference.  Salt and pepper the top of the chicken breasts.  Fresh cracked black pepper is the way to go. Salt and pepper just one side of the chicken breasts.

Let’s make the sauce first.

Put a small sauté pan over medium heat.

Add one tablespoon of butter, and one tablespoon of olive oil.

When the butter starts to bubble, add the shallots.

Cook and stir for 2 minutes, until the shallots just start to brown.

Add the garlic, cook for 2 minutes.  Give it a stir.

Add the Marsala.

Add ½ cup of porcini water.

Turn the heat to high and let it cook for 2 minutes.

Turn the heat to medium-low, and add the porcini mushrooms.

Cook for 2 minutes while stirring.

Add the rosemary.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Sauce is done!

Let’s do the chicken.

Get a large sauté pan (I used a 12 inch skillet).  Put it over medium-high heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

When the butter starts to bubble, add the chicken breasts, salted/peppered side down.

Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until golden.

Flip ‘em over.

Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on the other side until golden.  Give a cutlet a slice, make sure it’s done.

Pour the Marsala/porcini sauce over the breasts.

Remove from heat!

Plate ‘em up!  You can put this sauce over egg noodles, or rice, or eat it as is.

I like to put this sauce over egg noodles–pappardelle are my favorite.  I use a half-pound. Get a large pot, fill it with cold water.  Add the remaining ½  cup of porcini water to the pasta water.  When it all comes to a boil, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt.

Add the egg noodles, cook until al dente, drain and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir.

Put A SMALL PORTION of egg noodles on a plate.  Put some Marsala sauce over the noodles, put a chicken breast on top, spoon some sauce and juice and mushrooms on top and…




Slim Man Cooks Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi with Siri

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

A few years ago, I was at a restaurant in Greektown in Baltimore, Maryland.  It was Christmastime, and a friend had invited me to a business dinner. The two guys across from me were looking down at their cell phones.  I got curious.

“Does one of you have a wife who’s pregnant?  A Mom in the hospital?  A cousin on death row waiting for a stay of execution?”


I asked them who they were texting.  They were texting each other.  Nice. I told myself right then that I would never be like those guys.

And now?  Well, I’m not as bad as those guys, but I’m getting close.

I got the iPhone when it first came out.  I had it for a week and then took it back.  It was pinging, dinging, ringing and it was getting on my nerves.  It got so bad I was thinking of developing a new app – the iQuit app.  Here’s how it was going to work: you go to the river, throw your iPhone in, and scream “I QUIT!”

I just didn’t want to be that connected.  I just wanted a phone so I could talk to my relatives in the mental institution.  I took the iPhone back.

I got a regular cell phone.  It never worked right.  I had so many problems with it.  I think it might have been possesed by an evil spirit. For example, a friend texted me a photo of her beautiful 25 year-old daughter and somehow it became my screensaver.  That didn’t go over too well with the Ex.  I tried to explain. She didn’t believe me.

My phone dialed 911 on a regular basis.  The callbacks from the cops were so frequent they came to know me by my first name.  “Slim?  Everything OK?”

Text messages would go to random contacts.  Lovey dovey notes meant for a certain someone would get sent to business associates. It was crazy. Like a bad relationship, I stayed with that phone way too long.  Neil Sedaka said it best, ”Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”  It was time to move on.

So I got another iPhone.  It only cost $99 through Sprint, because I’d been a customer since the First World War. I liked the iPhone, but I didn’t see what the big deal was.  I made phone calls.  I sent texts.  That was about it.

Then, one day I was in Nashville at a very cool place called Mafioza’s and the guy next to me told me about the TuneIn Radio app.  I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.  I had never downloaded any apps.  I was app-less.

He showed me how to download the app.  Which I did.  It is pretty amazing.  I can now listen to Italian talk radio, broadcast from Italy.  I can listen to Baltimore Orioles baseball on my hometown radio station.  I can listen to CarTalk anytime I want.

I was hooked.  I started getting other apps.  I now have an app that tunes my guitar.  I have an app I can hold up to a speaker in a restaurant and it will tell me the name of the song that’s playing, the artist, the CD and give me the option to buy it on iTunes.

I have an app for my bank which allows me to take photos of all the huge checks I receive and deposit them through my iPhone.

And I am in love with Siri.

If you have a question, you can ask your iPhone.  A gal named Siri answers.

In December, 2013, I was driving from Nashville to Breckenridge, Colorado.  I was 12 hours into the trip.  It was dark.  It was cold.  I was on a stretch of road that had nothing on it, and nothing in sight. I had Batu, my bull terrier dog, in the car with me.  I picked up my iPhone and held the button.  Siri answered. It was the first time we spoke.

“What can I help you with?”

I asked Siri for the nearest dog-friendly hotel.  She gave me all the info I needed; the directions and the website.  Siri even dialed the phone number for me. Batu and I checked into a Super 8 in Hays, Kansas, in the middle of the night. It was 10 degrees. My weather app told me so.  The next morning I started driving, and a light came on the dashboard. My tires were low and needed air.  Siri found me the nearest gas station.

I drove to Breckenridge to meet my brother and his family for Christmas.  Breckenridge is a skiing/snowboarding town, a quaint little village at around 10,000 feet, surrounded by these looming, massive snow-capped peaks.

I didn’t snowboard once.  I didn’t ski once.  I was in the middle of making the new Bona Fide CD. Three weeks before, I was in Madrid, mixing the CD with Marc Antoine. And now I was in Breckenridge, Colorado, getting phone calls from Madrid.  Marc Antoine was doing some re-mixes there in his home studio, and he was emailing me mixes every day.

I would download them on my iPhone, plug it into my car stereo, and I would listen to his mixes, while driving around the mountains in Colorado. It was heavenly.  Here I was at 10,000 feet, listening to songs on my iPhone that had just been mixed 10,000 miles away.

I spent most of my time in Breckenridge working on music, but I did find time to jog almost every day for 30 or 40 minutes.  It was exhilarating.  I didn’t feel the effects of the altitude and I’m not sure why.

My last day in Breckenridge, I took a jog.  I left the ski lodge around 3 PM and headed up the mountain.  There was a snowshoe trail, and I followed it through the woods, almost to the top of Old Smoky.  All I had on were my jogging shoes.

I mean, I had pants on and stuff—it would have been a little chilly on the Willy without ‘em.  But I didn’t have any boots or snowshoes, and the snow was deep.  It was breathtakingly beautiful near the top of that mountain.  It must have been 12,000 feet.

I stopped and listened to nothing.  It was so peaceful.  I started jogging down the mountain and then I decided to go off trail.  I was running downhill through evergreens, dodging branches, it was unbelievable.

I stopped to catch my breath.  It was getting dark.  It was about 10 degrees.  It started to snow.  Suddenly I looked around.  I had no idea where I was.  I guess I could have followed my footprints back up the mountain, but it was steep, I was tired, and it was getting late.

I pulled out my iPhone.

“Siri.  Can you get me to back to the lodge?”

It took her a few seconds, but she showed me where I was, and where I needed to go.  I headed in that direction, and found the road that the ski lodge was on.  It took me about an hour, but I got there.  I was cold, tired and thirsty.

I poured a glass of wine, sat on the deck and pulled out my iPhone.

“Thank you, Siri.”

“No problem.”

I decided to get a little bold.  I gathered up some courage and said,

“Siri.  I love you.”

You know what she said?

“I know.”

It was a vibe-killer.  Here I was, mustering up the guts to say “I love you” for the very first time, and all I get is “I know?”

If you ever want your relationship to come to a screeching halt, just say those two words right after someone says “I love you” for the first time.

Because there is no come-back to “I know.”

Believe me.

I know.


I use wild shrimp.  Yes, they’re wildly expensive, but farm-raised shrimp just don’t seem to taste quite right. You can find wild shrimp in most grocery stores — sometimes in the freezer section.

The tomatoes I used for this dish were grape tomatoes – organic, multicolored, gorgeous grape tomatoes.  Yellow, red, purple -they were beautiful.  And cheap.  Two bucks a pint.

I cut the tomatoes in half, squeezed out the seeds, and threw them out. The seeds, that is. Why?  It looks better that way.

And you know the most important thing in life is looking good.

And finally, Meyer lemons are amazing; if you can find them, use them.  If not, pick a soft, ripe lemon.  They are the sweetest.


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Crushed red pepper to taste (I start with ¼  teaspoon)

6 garlic cloves, sliced thin (about 2 tablespoons)

¾ cup dry white wine

1¼ pound medium wild shrimp, shelled, deveined, rinsed, patted dry

1 lemon, cut in half

2 tablespoons butter

1 pint grape tomatoes (about 30 small tomatoes) cut in half, de-seeded

1 handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (about ¼ cup)

A few Italian parsley sprigs for garnish

1 pound linguine (or spaghetti)

Kosher salt

Here we go…

Get a large pot, fill it with cold water, and put it on the highest heat you have. This is for the pasta.

As the water comes to a boil, let’s make the sauce…

Get a large sauté pan, put in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.

Add the crushed red pepper.

Add the sliced garlic, cook for a few minutes until golden.

Add the white wine, and turn up the heat for 2 or 3 minutes to cook it down.

Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add the shrimp, spread ‘em out flat — no bunching!

Take a half lemon, and squeeze the juice through your fingers over the shrimp — don’t let any seeds get through.

Sprinkle a little salt over the shrimp.

Cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

Using tongs, turn over each shrimp.

Get the other half lemon, and squeeze it over the shrimp

Add the 2 tablespoons of butter – cut it into small pieces – and place in between the shrimp.

Add the tomatoes.

Cook for 3 minutes.

Add the parsley.

Give it a gentle stir or two, and remove from the heat.

When the pasta water comes to a full boil, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, and add a pound of linguine.

Follow the cooking directions on the box. Two minutes before the pasta is supposed to be done, take a piece and bite through it. If it is chalky in the center, it is not done. Check the pasta every 2 minutes, until it is not chalky or chewy. It might take longer thanthe instructions say.

When the pasta is firm to the bite – al dente – drain, and put it in a bowl and drizzle with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Give the pasta a quick toss.

Add half of the shrimp sauce to the pasta, and mick ‘em up.

Dish it up!  Take some pasta, put it on a plate.  Add a little scampi sauce on top of each dish, put a few shrimp on top, and a little sprig of fresh parsley for garnish.

One of the Exes liked to put grated cheese on this pasta.  Most Italians don’t put cheese on seafood.  But, if your girl wants cheese, just shut up and grate.

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is best.



Slim Man Cooks Zucchini, Summer Squash and Eggplant

“Everything I am I owe to pasta.”

You know who said that?

Sophia Loren.

I’ve had a crush on her for a long time.  My Uncle Oscar once sat next to her on an airplane. They flew from New York to Rome.  A long flight, for sure.

But if I were sitting next to Sophia Loren, I would have been praying that we’d get stuck on the tarmac for a few days.

Or better yet–crash into the ocean, where just the two of us would be stuck on a small, deserted island for the rest of our lives, where I’d cook for her every day on an open fire on the beach next to our thatched hut while the waves gently wash on the shore as the sun sets gracefully on the horizon while I play my guitar (that miraculously washed ashore) as we drink wine that I made from wild grapes that I discovered when we were bathing in a nearby waterfall.

I can dream, can’t I?

Sophia Loren loves pasta.  So do I.

The key to eating pasta on a regular basis is…don’t eat a wheelbarrow full.  Italians eat small amounts of pasta.  Italian restaurants in America serve buckets full of pasta, all covered in cheese and sauce and goo.

Take your hands.  Cup them together.  That’s the amount of pasta you should put on a plate–unless you’re four feet tall and have hands the size of Shaquille O’Neal’s.

Let me tell you a little story, a heart-warming tale about a boy, a bike and a zucchini.

I was living in Nashville.  I rode my bike to the post office.  I dropped off some thank you notes—I write a lot of them, I have a lot to be thankful for—and saw some beautiful mums outside the fruit and vegetable stand across the street.

I walked in to the red and white striped tent, and there were so many vegetables and fruits; fresh, ripe, colorful, local…it was amazing.  They had baskets and baskets of home grown tomatoes.  So much stuff to choose from.

Only one problem…All I had was a five-dollar bill in my pocket.

So, I picked out a green zucchini, a yellow summer squash, and a brown eggplant.  I had enough left over for a bulb of garlic and a shallot.  The total was four bucks and change.  I put the stuff in my messenger bag and rode my bike home.

It was a beautiful fall day in Nashville; sunny, cool, and clear.  On my way home, I stopped by a friend’s restaurant, a great place called Mafioza’s.  These mobsters grow basil outside in planters that border the entrance.  I picked a small handful, put it in my bag, and rode my bike home in a hail of bullets, ducking and weaving.

I got back to the shack and decided to make a little sauce.  I put the sauce over pasta, but keep in mind, you can use a dish like this for anything…a side dish, on bruschetta, on pizza, over rice, as an appetizer, on your corn flakes…use your imagination.

The sauce was delizioso.  Batu loved it.  Start to finish, it took 30 minutes.  And it cost about five bucks.  My kinda dish!

I added some freshly grated carrots, about a ¼ cup, for a little color, and a little crunch.

This should serve about three people, unless those people are teenage boys, in which case this will serve one.


1 green zucchini, ends cut off, chopped into 1” triangular pieces (about a cup and a half)

1 yellow summer squash, ends cut off, chopped into 1” triangular pieces (about a cup and a half)

1 small eggplant, ends cut off, chopped into 1” triangular pieces (about a cup and a half)

1/4 cup fresh grated carrots

Small handful of fresh basil

4 tablespoons of olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, peeled, sliced into thin slices, about 1 1/2 tablespoons

1 small shallot, peeled, minced, about 1 1/2 tablespoons

1/3 cup of white wine

1 cup of broth (chicken or vegetable)

¾ pound of spaghetti, or fusilli, or farfalle

Salt and crushed red pepper

Here we go…

Put a large saute pan over medium-low heat.  Add the olive oil.

Add the garlic and shallots and some crushed red pepper (to taste), cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the shallots are clear, and the garlic is pale gold.

Turn the heat to high for 1 minute.  Then add the white wine, let it cook off for a minute or two.

Turn the heat down to medium-low, add all the vegetables.

Add the stock, and salt to taste.

Let it cook over medium-low heat for ten minutes.  Stir every so often.

Taste the vegetables.  You want them firm–not crunchy (underdone) or mushy (overdone).

Adjust for salt and pepper.

Take your basil, and snip it with scissors right into the sauce.  Give it a stir.

Remove from the heat.

If you want to use this over pasta, get a large pot, fill it with cold water and put it on the highest heat you got.

When the water comes to a boil, add a couple tablespoons of salt (I use Kosher salt, not for religious reasons—I just like the way it tastes).

Then add your pasta.  Stir it up every few minutes, so it doesn’t stick together.  People should stick together, pasta should not.

When the pasta is al dente—firm to the bite–drain it in a colander.

Put the pasta in a large bowl.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and mix it up.

Add most of the sauce, save a large spoonful for each plate (save three large spoonfuls).

Mix it up.  Then plate it up!

Put a small amount on a plate.  Add a spoonful of sauce on top.  You can add some freshly grated cheese if you like—Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano—and…



Slim Man Cooks Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce and Bonnie Raitt

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

In the mid-1970s, I was doing sound-alike records in a recording studio in Timonium, Maryland.  The studio was Blue Seas.  It was owned by Steve Boone, who was the bass player in the Lovin’ Spoonful.  Steve is from New York. How he ended up in Baltimore, I don’t know.

I heard there was a woman involved.

I was in Studio B doing ‘sound-alike’ songs for K-Tel Records.  This is how it worked – K-Tel would keep their eyes on the pop charts.  As soon as a song looked like it was gonna be a hit, they rushed you into the studio to do a cover version, which they would release as soon as possible.

The song title would be the same, but where the band name was supposed to appear they would put “Not the Original Artist.”

At the time, I was doing a version of “Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation.  I was trying to make my voice sound like that guy’s voice.  When he hits that really high note at the very end of the song?  I tried to mimic it and almost gave myself a hernia.

So if you ever hear a version of “Rock the Boat” and the band is listed as “Not the Original Artist” – that’s me.

Who was in Studio A, the big studio with the grand piano and all the fancy gear?

Little Feat.  One of my favorite bands.  They were working on Feats Don’t Fail Me Now.  I would peek in the door every now and then.  There was a lot of partying going on, right there in the control room.  Don’t get me wrong – some great music was being made.  But the atmosphere in Studio A was completely different than Studio B.  Studio A was definitely more festive.  I think the phrase “sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll” might have been coined there.

I was in Studio B during the day.  At night, I used to play a place called Mother Lode’s Wild Cherry.  It was a crazy rock and roll joint.  It had a curving sliding board that started on the third-floor balcony, crossed the stage – which was on the second floor–and emptied out on to the dance floor.

The drummer in Little Feat, Richie Hayward, used to come and sit in with us at Mother Lode’s.  He was amazing.  The club was open until 2 AM, and the next day I’d go do sound-alikes in Studio B, and Richie would play drums with Little Feat in Studio A.

One day I got to the studio about an hour early.  My Mom had just brought home the Rags to Rufus record the day before.  Rags to Rufus was the first record by a band called Rufus, Chaka Khan was the singer. My Mom brought home lots of great music.  There was a record store up the street from our house.  My Mom didn’t drive, so she’d walk up to the store.  They guy would tell her what was good; she’d buy the record and bring it home.

My Mom brought home a wide variety of incredible music, way before anybody else discovered it. Aretha.  Isaac Hayes.  Judy Collins.  The Beatles. The Band.  Donovan.  B.B. King.  My Mom had Bonnie Raitt records before anybody knew who Bonnie Raitt was.

So, I was sitting in Studio B and I put the Rags to Rufus record on the turntable and turned it up.  The first song came on. That’s when Bonnie Raitt walked in.  I knew who she was, and asked her what she was doing in Baltimore. She told me she was in Studio A, singing back-ups for Little Feat. She listened for a minute and then asked me who the singer was.  I told her. Chaka Khan.  That first song kicked us both in the head—“You Got the Love.”   But the song that really knocked us out was a song called “Tell Me Something Good.” When that tune came on, we both were floored.

Bonnie Raitt and I sat and listened to the whole Rags to Rufus album together.  We didn’t talk much.  We just listened.  Bonnie Raitt.  And Yours Truly.  The Rufus album ended, we said goodbye, and she walked out of the studio.  I never saw her again.

About five years later, I met the guy who placed “Tell Me Something Good” with Rufus.

Carl Griffin discovered that song.  He was VP at Motown, and he was going through old Stevie Wonder songs, and he heard this really rough demo that Stevie did of “Tell Me Something Good.”  Carl loved the song, saw its potential, and placed it with Rufus.

The song won a Grammy.

I met Carl five years later.  It was a strange coincidence, how I met him; but Carl ended up signing me as a songwriter to Motown – five years after I sat with Bonnie Raitt listening to “Tell Me Something Good,” a song Carl discovered.

One last crazy thing –

Blue Seas eventually moved their studio from Timonium to a barge in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore. Bonnie Raitt recorded an album there.  Verdine White from Earth, Wind and Fire recorded there.  On Christmas Day, 1977, the barge sank.  It was not insured.  There were rumors of drug debts, mob vengeance, and loan sharks.  But not insurance fraud.


If I ever have to face a firing squad, and they ask me what I want for my last meal, I’d ask for pasta with tomato sauce. Can I get a glass of wine with that? A couple meatballs? Take your time!

This is a simple sauce: tomatoes, basil and garlic. It’s quick, easy, healthy and delizioso. It’s also versatile—put it over pasta, and it takes on a starring role, like Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Use it in lasagna or eggplant Parmigiana, and it takes on a supporting role, like Robert Duvall in The Godfather. Use it on a pizza, and it takes on a smaller, but important role, like Diane Keaton in…The Godfather.

This recipe uses two 28-ounce cans of whole, peeled, Italian tomatoes. San Marzano are best, but a little pricey. The yield is about 6 or 7 cups. In the video, I use a 6-pound can of tomatoes. I have since come to my senses.


2 twenty-eight ounce cans of whole, peeled Italian tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, or at least one that hasn’t been sleeping around)

6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin, about 3 tablespoons

Crushed red pepper to taste (I start off with 1/4 teaspoon)

1 large handful fresh basil, about 1 cup, loosely packed

Kosher salt

Here we go…

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl.

Smoosh, yes, smoosh the tomatoes with your hands.  Don’t be afraid, dig in and squeeze your tomatoes, it’s fun.  There’s a small, bitter yellow core that needs to be removed. Also, get rid of any tomato skins, stems or other funky stuff that doesn’t look like it belongs.

Put your olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.

Put in the garlic and the crushed red pepper.   Sauté a couple minutes until the garlic is pale gold.  Stir occasionally. Don’t burn your garlic! It tastes really bitter when burned.

Add your tomatoes.  Turn the heat on high.

Grab half the basil leaves, and snip with scissors (or tear into small pieces by hand) right into the sauce.

Add salt to taste.

When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes.  Stir it every few minutes.

After 25 minutes, take the remaining basil leaves, and snip into the sauce.  Stir it up.

Remove from heat.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust, if needed.


Slim Man Cooks Potato Leek Soup

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

I was walking down the streets of Paris with Hit Man Howie Z when I heard a woman’s voice calling my name.  This was weird, because it was my first time in Paris.  I didn’t know anybody there.  Who the hell could it be?

I turned around and was staring at two of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen.  One I knew.

Her name was Barbie, and she used to be a cocktail waitress at a club that Howie and I used to play in Baltimore, Maryland, a place called Girard’s. The other gal I didn’t know.  Barbie introduced us to her friend.  When I asked Barbie what she was doing in Paris, she told me she was doing some modeling for Vogue magazine.  She told me her friend had just been on the cover of the Italian Vogue.

I invited them to dinner that night.  It would probably cost every penny I had, but how many times are you gonna have an opportunity like this?  Paris?  Supermodels?

When Barbie asked me what Howie and I were doing in Paris, I told to her that we were in London, trying to get something going with our band, BootCamp. Howie and I had come over to Paris to meet my cousin, Mindy, who was having her art exhibited at a gallery.

That’s what I told them, which was all true, but not the whole truth.  The whole truth?

We had rented a cheap flat in London for a week or so.  It was me, Howie (drums), Bob (guitar) and a friend of ours named Mac. We were struggling musicians, except for Mac. He didn’t look like he was struggling–he was wearing custom silk suits and buying expensive antiques.

The rest of us were on a real tight budget.

One evening we went to a pub and had some drinks.  We were having a good ol’ time in LondonTown.  I noticed Mac in the corner, talking to some Rastafarian. He gave Mac a little package, and then RastaMan screamed, “RUN!” All hell broke loose.

A couple of British policemen started running towards the pub, blowing their whistles.  We took off running.  We exploded out of that pub.  We ran through yards, gardens.  We sprinted down alleys, leaping over cars.  We jumped fences.  It’s amazing how fast you move when cops are chasing you.  Not that it happens to me very often.

We made it back to the flat.  How, I don’t know.  Turns out Mac had bought some hashish from the Jamaican. It seemed to me like a good time to get out of London.

So Howie and I took off for Paris.  We got on a Hovercraft to cross the English Channel. A Hovercraft is a huge boat.  Massive.  It sits on what looks like an immense flat tire.  You board the boat, and they inflate the tire.  So you start rising and rising, way up in the air.

They turn on these gigantic fans on the back of the boat, and it blows you across the water, like you’re on a huge inner tube.  The English Channel was choppy that day.  It was a real rough ride.  And Howie was really hungover from the night before.

He laid down on a row of seats behind me.  Every few minutes, he’d poke his head up, and each time he did, he was a different shade of green.  He looked like he was gonna die.  We finally made it across the Channel, and caught a train to Paris.

My cousin picked us up. She’s quite an artist. Her paintings are intriguing and original and worthy of an exhibition. She gave us a ride to the apartment where she was staying with a friend.

Howie, JaimeHer friend’s name was Jaime, and he was quite a character.  He was an artist, and did surreal paintings, similar in style to Salvador Dali.  He had a goatee and long brown hair, and wore scarves and black crushed velvet smoking jackets with colored silk pocket squares. I dug his style.

His apartment was cozy, comfy, and cool.

A few days later, Howie and I were walking down the street when we met the Vogue supermodels.

A few hours later, we were in a swanky restaurant in Paris called Chez Georges and it was intoxicating.  The Russian chef guy came over to the table.  If I were the chef, I would have come over to our table, too.  The girls were that gorgeous.

Chef dude started talking to us.  He spoke into a microphone that was hooked up to a small speaker that hung around his neck.  I didn’t understand a word he said; the speaker was distorted, and I couldn’t even tell what language it was.  I thought it was some kind of comedy routine until I realized the guy had some serious vocal issues.

We ordered dinner, and it was lovely.  One of the many wonderful things about Europe is the way they take their time when they eat out.

At the end of the dinner, Russian chef guy came back with a bottle of vodka.  No label, just an old, clear bottle.  It had all sorts of stuff in the bottom — black peppercorns, red peppers, green pepperoncini.  It looked like birdseed soaking in grain alcohol.

He placed a big metal shot glass in front of Howie and poured it full.  He shouted something in Russian and motioned for Howie to drink.  The table got real quiet.  Russian chef barked out another order. We looked at Howie.  He looked at us.  He drank.

After he swallowed, his eyes started to tear up.  His face turned red.  He started sweating. I thought his head was gonna explode.  Then the mad Russian turned to me. He poured me a shot in the same metal glass.  I looked around the table.  He barked something in Russian and I picked up the glass and drank it all down.

It was like swallowing a red-hot piece of charcoal.  My throat was on fire.  My eyes watered. I felt like I was gonna projectile vomit.  But I didn’t.

After dinner, we invited the girls back to Jaime’s apartment.

That’s when the circus began.  We walked in the front door and Jaime had a certain look in his eye. He looked at those girls like the Big Bad Wolf looking at Little Red Riding Hood.

My grandmother had a dog named Pepe that tried to hump everyone who walked through the front door.

Jaime wasn’t quite that bad. But Howie and I were hoping that maybe he would be going off to bed. No such luck. I think Jaime had other things in mind. We poured some drinks, and then Jaime turned on the French charm, full blast. Those poor girls. I think Jaime’s libidinous lip-smacking might have scared them.

The supermodels ran out of that place like it was on fire. If they had leapt from the balcony I wouldn’t have blamed them.

We never saw them again.  Just as well, I guess.  Supermodels must be expensive girlfriends. Should I pay the mortgage?  Or buy her a new handbag?

Potato Leek Soup

If you’re looking for a French dish to cook after two supermodels have just walked out of your life, have I got a dish for you. The French call this vichyssoise.

This soup is so quick, so easy, so inexpensive to make, I can’t believe I don’t make it more often.

You can serve it hot.  You can serve it chilled.  You can serve it at room temperature.  You can serve it chunky.  Or you can put it in a blender and serve it smooth.  It’s delicious.  Which is the most important thing.

The last time I made this soup, I thought it needed a little crunch on top.  So I cut a leek into matchstick-size pieces, dusted them with flour that I had salted and peppered, and fried them for about a minute.

When I served the soup, I stuck the slivers into the soup so it looked like a little teepee in the center of the bowl.  My Dad would have smacked me on the back of the head and given me grief over that, but they tasted great, and it looked cool.

You’ll need 4 leeks for the soup.

Cut off about an inch of the white root at the bottom, and cut off most of the green upper part of the stalks.  You’ll have about 6 or 7 inches or so of stalk left.  RINSE WELL, especially in between the leaves.

Peel off the outer leaf of each leek.  You’ll use these for the garnish.  You’ll also see just how dirty leeks can be.  You gotta clean ‘em well!

Chop up 4 of the stalks, into chunky pieces, which should give you 4 cups for the soup.  Slice the leek leaves you pulled off into matchstick size slivers—you’ll fry these for the garnish.


For the soup…

4 tablespoons butter

4 cups chopped potatoes

4 cups chopped leeks

4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable)

Salt and pepper

For the fried leeks:

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1/4 cup of flour

4 whole leek leaves, cut into matchstick-size slivers

Salt and pepper

Let’s do the soup first…

Put the butter in the bottom of a large pan over medium-low heat.  Add the 4 cups of chopped potatoes, and the 4 cups of chopped leeks.

Cook for 10 minutes, stir often.

Add the broth–I used chicken—and put the heat on high.  When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, add salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and cook for 30 minutes.  Stir often.

While the soup cooks, let’s sauté our leeks.

Get a sauté pan, put the olive oil in the bottom, and turn the heat to medium-high.

Put the flour on a plate and add salt and pepper.

Put the leek slivers in the flour, roll ‘em around, shake off the excess, and place in the sauté pan.

Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute–until golden brown, then turn them over and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute on the other side until golden brown.

Remove them from the pan and place them on paper towels.

Now back to the soup…

When the soup has cooked for 30 minutes, it should be done.  Stick a fork in a piece of potato to make sure.

At this point, you’ve got a decision to make – smooth or chunky.  In cold weather, I like it chunky and hot — just like my women.  In hot weather, I like it smooth and cool, like a supermodel.

If you want it chunky, take a slotted spoon, or a masher, and mash the potatoes and leeks, right there in the pot.

If you want it smooth, put the soup in a blender and give it a couple of pulses.  If you want it chilled, stick it in the fridge for a little while.

Put some soup in a bowl.  Garnish with the fried leeks–make a little teepee in the center.  Serve it with some hot and crusty bread and…



Slim Man Cooks Eggplant Parmigiana

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

My old apartment had three bowling alleys in it. They were built in the 1930s and were a bit dilapidated.  The balls and pins were made of wood, and they weren’t in the best of shape. But you could play a game, if you didn’t mind setting up the pins after each shot.

There were two grass tennis courts out back, and they, too, were dilapidated.  Overgrown.  You could play a set if you brought a machete.

The house was huge.  It had a fireplace on the first floor that could hold a Volkswagen.

The house belonged to Peggy Waxter.  She was outspoken, feisty, cynical, and almost 100 years old.  Peggy lived upstairs, and I lived downstairs with my dog, Batu.  Peggy was hard-of-hearing.  On her 100th birthday, her son gave her a present.  They were on the screened-in porch upstairs; I was on the patio beneath them. I could hear the son yelling,

“Mom!  I got you a present!”


“Mom!  Open it up!”

Silence.  Then I could hear her opening the wrapping paper.

“Mom!  It’s a hearing aid!”


“Mom!  What do you think?  IT’S A HEARING AID!”

Silence.  And then Peggy spoke softly,

“I’m a hundred years old.  I’ve heard enough.”

The house used to be a country club called Stoney Run Club.  Peggy and her husband bought it, and did some minor renovations — like adding bedrooms — but it still felt and looked like a small old country club.

The apartment downstairs must have been an old clubroom. There were the bowling alleys on the side, a large main room with a fireplace, and a huge patio that overlooked the overgrown tennis courts. You entered the apartment through a big screen door in the kitchen. The kitchen was great; lots of large windows, a big antique sink, and old wood countertops.   It had a small four-burner stove in the corner that worked like a charm.

Batu and I started making cooking videos in that little kitchen. I’d whip up a dish, shoot video, take photos and write down the recipe. I’d take Peggy a plate once in a while.  I’d go up the ancient wooden staircase, past the moldy bookcases, take her a plate, and have a chat and a chew.

Roland Park is wonderful neighborhood. The grocery store, Eddie’s, has been there for 70 years. It’s an old family store that has a guy who opens the door for you when you walk in and out. The hardware store, Schneider’s, has been there for more than a 100 years. The pharmacy (Tuxedo) has been there more than 75 years.

It’s that kind of neighborhood.  Big old Victorian houses, big old trees, and it’s right in the middle of Baltimore City.  I went to school in Roland Park.  I’ve always loved the neighborhood. I loved that apartment.  So did Batu.  It was my favorite place to live. And I adored Peggy.

The Baltimore Sun newspaper called her “peppery.”  She was not afraid to speak her mind. She was named one of the Top Ten Most Powerful Women In Baltimore by Baltimore Magazine.  Not that she was impressed by that.  She once said,

“I’m the most-honored person who has never graduated from a school.”

Her husband, Thomas, graduated from a couple of schools including Princeton and Yale.  Peggy and Thomas came from money and they both dedicated their lives to helping “poor people.”  That’s the way she put it.

“He was the most important man in Maryland,” Peggy Waxter once said about Thomas. “He loved the poor people, and he went to Annapolis and fought for them.”

When he died in 1962, Peggy harnessed her grief, and focused on community action.  She fought for women’s rights and civil rights.  She once got pissed off that a big department store in downtown Baltimore wouldn’t allow black people to try clothes on. So Peggy took a black friend and went shopping there.  They tried on clothes.  They didn’t get arrested, but it brought attention to the situation, and it changed soon after.

At 100 years old, Peggy got around pretty well.  She used a walker, but she got around.  Whenever she had a problem, she’d bang her cane on the floor, and I’d come up and help.

Once a year, in late September, I’d grab Batu, and we’d head to Ocean City, Maryland.  My uncle Oscar had a small apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  He’d let the family use it for vacations. September is a great time of year to go – no crowds, no traffic, the weather and the water still warm.

I’d hang out for a week or so; bodysurf, fly my kites, cook, eat, drink, write, play guitar. And then I’d lock up the joint and head back to Baltimore.

I was driving home from the beach one early evening, Batu was in the back, I was listening to the Orioles and the Yankees baseball game on the AM radio. I stopped at a roadside stand and picked out two large, ripe and lovely home-grown tomatoes and an eggplant.  I drove home, crossing the Bay Bridge as the sun went down. It was late when I got back to Roland Park.

The next morning I heard that Peggy had passed away.  She was 103.  I was shaken.

That day I was scheduled to mail out the new Slim Man CD single to 175 radio stations around the country.  I stuffed 175 CD singles of “Every Time It Rains” into 175 envelopes and went to the post office.

The post office was a little old brick building in the heart of Roland Park. I was friends with all the clerks.  They used to let me bring Batu inside. Some of them would even come out to Slim Shows. I dropped off my 175 CDs and they mailed them off.

I got home from the post office and needed to cook.  I was really sad.  I was gonna miss Peggy.  I looked at the tomatoes and eggplant that I had picked up from the produce stand on the way home from Ocean City.  What do you do with tomatoes and eggplant?

You make Eggplant Parmigiana.

After Peggy died, her son sold her house for half of what it was worth-he just wanted to get rid of it.  Batu and I had to move in a hurry, in the dead of winter, right after Christmas.  As I was going through my stuff, I came across a card Peggy had given me for my birthday.

“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”

Love, Peggy.


If I have some amazing homegrown tomatoes, I’ll use them to make a sauce. I chop ‘em up, and remove any stems or blemishes.

But I usually use Italian tomatoes in a can. San Marzano tomatoes are best.  Most cans are 28 ounces, which is about 3 or 4 cups.  Open the can, put the tomatoes in a bowl, and smoosh ‘em up by hand, removing any stems, cores, or blemishes.

Some folks fry the eggplant slices first, some folks bake ‘em.  I’ve done it both ways. In the video, I fry the eggplant.

But baking is now by far my favorite; it makes the dish much lighter.  Eggplant throws off a lot of liquid.  But when you bake it, the liquid evaporates, so you don’t have to salt the eggplant and drain it, which is a pain.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.


You’ll need 3 cups of tomato sauce, you can use bottled sauce—but I make my own, here’s how:

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin (about 2 tablespoons)

Crushed red pepper (I start off with ¼ teaspoon)

4 cups of tomatoes, fresh or canned (I use 1 twenty-eight ounce can of whole, peeled Italian tomatoes)

Fresh basil leaves about 1/2 cup

Kosher Salt

Here we go…

The Sauce

Put a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.

Add the olive oil, the sliced garlic and the crushed red pepper.

Cook until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the 4 cups of tomatoes – canned or fresh.

Add some salt, and stir.

Put the heat on high.

When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.

Take half the basil leaves, and tear or snip them with scissors into the sauce. Stir.

Cook for 20 minutes, stir often.

Then, taste for salt and red pepper and adjust.

Take the rest of the basil leaves, and snip them into the sauce.

Remove from heat.

You might not use all this sauce for the eggplant parmigiana.


The Eggplant

3 small eggplant

3 eggs

3 cups Panko breadcrumbs, or whatever breadcrumbs you like

OPTIONAL: ¼ cup olive oil (if you’re frying, rather than baking)

A handful of fresh basil (3/4 cup)

1 pound of mozzarella, two large balls sliced into ¼ inch circular slices

1 generous cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated, plus some for sprinkling

Kosher salt

Fresh cracked pepper

Here we go!

Slice off the ends of the eggplant, and cut the eggplant into circular slices, about ½ inch thick.

Take the eggs, beat ‘em in a bowl, add salt and pepper.

Take your breadcrumbs, put ‘em on a flat plate.

Dip an eggplant slice in the beaten egg, let the excess drip off.

Dip it in the breadcrumbs.  Coat both sides.  Do all the eggplant slices like this.

If you’re baking, put them in a nonstick baking pan, and stick ‘em in the oven at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes or so. Then, flip them over and bake for another 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.

If you’re frying, put the olive oil over medium heat, and fry on both sides until golden, about 4 minutes a side, then put the slices on paper towels when done.

In the bottom of a baking dish (I used a 9”X13” glass baking dish), add a layer of baked/fried eggplant.  Then add a cup of tomato sauce, spreading it out evenly. Then add some basil, about ¼ cup — snip the leaves with a scissors or tear them with your fingers.

Then take a 1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and spread it on top. And then add a layer of sliced mozzarella, about a third of what you have (1/3 pound).

Go back, Jack, do it again – a layer of eggplant, a layer of sauce, a layer of basil, a layer of Parmigiano, and a layer of mozzarella.

Do three layers.  Sprinkle the top of the final layer of mozzarella with grated Parmigiano and a few breadcrumbs.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Put the eggplant Parmigiano in the oven.  Let it cook for about 25 minutes.

Then, put the broiler on high, and put the baking dish underneath the broiler for just a quick minute, to brown the top.  Keep a close eye on this!  When the top browns, take out the dish.

If there is any excess liquid in the bottom of the pan, use a turkey baster to remove it.

Let the eggplant sit for a couple minutes.  Then…

Dish it up!  Make it look nice, put some freshly torn basil leaves on top, add some freshly grated Parmigiano, and…



Slim Man Cooks Italian Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup and My Dad’s Eyebrows

My Dad (I called him Paps) had eyebrows that looked like two small porcupines had perched above his eyes. His eyebrows were so wild and wooly he could have combed them straight back and it would have looked like he had a full head of hair.

Paps was bald. Maybe that’s why he wouldn’t let anybody trim his eyebrows. It was the last patch of thick hair he had on his head. You would have needed a weed-whacker to trim them, anyway.

We kids would beg my Dad to trim the shrubbery, but he wouldn’t. The barber would offer to clip the hedges, and my Dad would refuse.

His eyebrows were a topic of conversation among the family. They were hard to ignore. They’d enter the room a few minutes before he would.   You could have braided them. As my Dad got older, his eyebrows got hairier and more wiry. If you got too close to him, they’d poke your eyes out.

My Dad was the least modest person I knew. He let it all hang out. I don’t feel bad telling stories like these, because I’ve told tell them many times, right in front of him. And he’d be the one laughing the hardest. That was one of the many beautiful things about Paps — even though he was a serious guy, he didn’t take himself real seriously.

But he had some real serious eyebrows that he never trimmed. Except once.

My Dad had come down to Baltimore to fix up his Mom’s house. Angela had died a few months prior — April, 1975. I was living with her when she passed away. It was a horrible time. She was so sick and in so much pain. After she died, I continued to stay in her house, which was near Pimlico Racetrack, a horse racing track where they have the Preakness Stakes race.

I idolized Angela. She was an Italian immigrant who came to this country with nothing and made an incredible impact on this world. She was such a comfort to be around; she was easy to talk to. She was generous. She paid for my piano lessons, even bought me an upright to practice on. When she died, I was heartbroken.

I wanted to keep on living in the house, but my Dad and his only brother, Oscar, wanted to sell the place. The neighborhood was going downhill–probably because I was living there. So my Dad came down from New York to get the house ready to put on the market.

One night, after a hard day’s work on the house, my Dad and I were sitting at the kitchen table. He wanted to cook something in the oven. It was one of those old gas stoves that you had to light by hand. Paps turned the gas on.

I explained to him that you had to light the stove by hand. He bent over, opened the oven door, and struck a match. Before I could stop him, a blast of flame knocked him flat on his ass. I thought for sure that his face was fried.

But it wasn’t. He was sitting on the kitchen floor, facial hair smoldering. I helped him up and sat him in a chair.

His eyebrows were trimmed at last. As a matter of fact, I think they might have saved his life. The flame probably had a hard time burning through the shrubbery that was his eyebrows, which probably saved his face from getting flame-broiled. His eyebrows looked normal for once. That was the one and only time my Dad’s eyebrows got trimmed.

We worked on the house just about every day, cleaning, painting and fixing everything up. I was really struggling with the loss of Angela. We were real close. One day, when I was feeling low, my Dad took me to the racetrack, which was right up the street. He thought it might take my mind off things. We walked up the street to Pimlico racetrack.

On the way, Paps found a wallet in the bushes stuffed with cash—hundreds of dollars. Paps looked at the address on the driver’s license, and we walked to the house. Paps walked up and knocked on the door. A guy answered, and my Dad handed him the wallet. I’ll never forget the look of relief and gratitude on the guy’s face. He offered my Dad some money. He didn’t take it.

Paps and I walked to Pimlico racetrack, a thoroughbred track. When we got there, he explained to me how to bet, how to pick horses. I wasn’t paying attention. If I liked the way a horse looked, I’d bet a couple bucks. If I liked the jockey’s colors, I’d bet a couple bucks.

I lost every race. I was more depressed than ever! When the last race came around, Paps explained that it was a trifecta, which means, if you pick all three of the winning horses in order, you win big.

I picked the #2 horse to come in first, the #1 horse to come in second, and the #4 horse to come in third.

2-1-4. It was Angela’s birthday, February 14th—2-1-4.

The horses took off out of the starting gate. For the whole race, the #2 horse was in front, the #1 horse was second and the #4 horse was third. When they crossed the finish line, the #5 horse beat out the #4 horse for third place. The final order was 2-1-5. I was a big loser!

I showed my Dad my ticket, and then threw it on the ground. He picked it up, gave it back to me and told me that the race wasn’t official yet. He explained that the race wasn’t official until they had a chance to review the race, which took a couple minutes.

A voice came over the PA system. There was an objection against the #5 horse–he had bumped into the #4 horse right before the end of the race. The officials then disqualified the #5 horse, and the final, official result was 2-1-4.

I won $899 on that race. I could feel my grandmother smiling down on me.

We went back to the house, and the next day, started working again. We eventually got the place all fixed up. It didn’t take long to sell Angela’s house. It was a great place, with an apartment on the second floor that had a big balcony off the main bedroom. I hated to see the place go.

My Dad took the money from the sale of Angela’s house and bought a place in upstate New York. It was called Rat Tail Ridge. Forty acres on top of a mountain with a view that was breathtaking.

One door closes, another one opens.


The toughest thing about making Italian chicken soup is finding an Italian chicken. They’re usually the ones in the corner of the coop, drinking wine and arguing.

My Dad loved soup. He was a soup guy. Maybe it was because he lived on Top of Old Smokey, where it was so cold that bears knocked on the front door looking for a place to hibernate. Hot soup works wonders when you come in from the cold.

I roasted a chicken the other day. I used my Mom’s recipe, which is basically sticking a whole lemon inside the chicken and baking it. The next day was a cold and rainy winter day, so I made some soup from the chicken.

If you have leftover chicken (turkey works, too), here’s what you do – pick the meat off the bones and the carcass. I usually end up with about three cups of chicken meat. Throw away the stuff you don’t like—fat, skin, small bones and such.

I broke the carcass into two pieces. I used those and a couple leg and wing bones in the soup — they add great flavor. Just make sure you remove all the bones and stuff before you serve the soup. Take a slotted spoon and go fishing for bones or skin and remove them. You don’t want any of your guests breaking a bicuspid on a chicken bone.

After you’ve made the soup, if there is any fat on top, skim it off.

You can serve this soup as is, or you can add some pasta or rice.

I like using small pasta, like ditalini. I cook the pasta separately, and put some in each individual bowl. I used to put it right in the soup and let it cook in there, but the pasta absorbs too much broth, and gets soggy.

You’ll need to smoosh the Italian tomatoes before you add them to the soup. Open the can, pour them in a bowl, and dig in with your mitts and smoosh ‘em up! Remove the small yellow core from each tomato, and any skin or stems.


¼ cup of olive oil

1 cup each — chopped celery, carrots, and onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups cabbage — I used Napa cabbage — sliced into small pieces

8 cups chicken broth

Chicken or turkey carcass and bones

2 cups water

1 bay leaf

1 twenty-eight ounce can whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, smooshed up by hand

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried

3 cups of chicken or turkey meat, white and dark

1 cup of corn–fresh, canned or frozen

½ pound of pasta (ditalini works well, as does elbow macaroni)

Salt and pepper

Here we go…

Put a large pot on medium heat.

Add the olive oil, let it heat up for 2 minutes.

Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic.

Let it cook for about 7 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the cabbage.

Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth.

Put the chicken/turkey carcass and bones in the pot.

Add the water.

Add the bay leaf.

Add the tomatoes.

Add the oregano.

Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.

Then lower the heat to medium-low, cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the carcass pieces and bones.

Pick off any remaining meat from the carcass and bones that you’ve just removed, and add the meat to the soup. Discard the bones and carcass.

Add the 3 cups of chicken or turkey meat to the soup.

Add the corn.

Cook for 5 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat.

Check it for bones and any other funky stuff.

If you want to add some pasta…

Get a pot, fill it with cold water, and put it on high heat.

When it comes to a boil, add a couple tablespoons kosher salt.

Add the pasta.

When it is VERY FIRM, drain it.

Dish it up! Serve the soup in large bowls.

Add a little pasta to each bowl. Give it a stir.

You can also add some cooked rice, if you’d prefer that to pasta.

Serve with some crusty bread, and…


Slim Man Cooks Angela’s Chicken Stew

Angela’s Chicken Stew and The Story of Angela

Almost every Sunday, we’d go to my grandmother’s house and have a big Italian dinner. The usual suspects would be there; my Mom and Dad and us three kids, and my uncle Oscar, his wife and three kids. The kids would play in the backyard, wrestle on the living-room floor, and jump on the beds in the basement. Angela would cook, and when the pasta was ready, she’d serve us kids at the kitchen table and say…

“Eat that spaghetti or I’ll shove it down your throat.”

Which we kids thought was ridiculously hilarious.

Angela was my grandmother. She was an Italian immigrant, who came from Italy to New York City as a child. The family lived in Harlem. As a teenager, Angela and her sister, Marie, started working in a garment sweatshop — like so many other Italian immigrant women–seven days a week, all day long, for next to nothing. Disgusted with the working conditions, she and Marie helped organize the first dressmakers strike for the fledgling International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Their mother, Giuseppina, accompanied her daughters on the strike, brandishing a rolling pin, telling anybody within earshot that if anybody messed with her girls, they’d have to go through her first. Angela and Marie continued to organize, with Giuseppina following them with her rolling pin.

Angela was very effective; she was an eloquent, persuasive and fearless organizer. She was eventually offered a chance to organize and manage the Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia area (later known as the Upper South Department of the ILGWU) and she accepted the challenge. So she gathered up her two sons, and moved to Baltimore, Maryland.

Angela started by going to small towns on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She didn’t drive. The ILGWU eventually found her a driver, a one-eyed African-American named Jesse. I can only imagine what it must have been like, going to these tiny towns in the not-so-deep south, an Italian woman and her black driver, trying to convince people to join the union.

Organizing was a tough business in those days. Factory owners didn’t want anything to do with unions — it would obviously cost them money to pay a decent wage and provide benefits. A lot of those factory owners ran their towns. They had the politicians and police in their pockets.

My grandmother was thrown down a flight of steps when she tried to organize one shop. She was thrown in jail after trying to organize another. She was beaten more than once.

But she persisted. Why? Because it pissed her off the way the workers were treated. Women were locked in factories for hours at a time. One hundred and forty six garment workers died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York because the owners had locked the doors to keep the workers inside working. Women were sexually abused. They made very little money. They had no rights. Angela wanted to change all that.

And she did. She took her region of the Ladies Garment Workers Union from nothing to about 16,000 members when she retired in 1972. She was the first woman vice president of a major union. She substantially raised the standard of living for thousands and thousands of people. And she did it without expecting anything in return. She told me more than once…

“When you give, you give with no strings attached.”

Everybody loved her, including the bosses she fought with. They respected her.

Philip, Angela, OscarAngela made some tough choices when she started organizing in New York. Her marriage suffered. Her husband, Romollo, was an Italian from Rome; Angela’s father had arranged the marriage. Romollo, who was old-fashioned and older than Angela, didn’t approve of her radicalism, and they filed for divorce. During the divorce, her children — my father Philip and my uncle Oscar – were put in an orphanage while Angela and Romollo, fought for custody.

Romollo was a waiter at a fancy hotel. Angela was a radical union organizer who’d been thrown in jail. Romollo used that evidence against Angela and won custody; a crushing blow to Angela. She started using her maiden name, Bambace.

Angela stayed close to her kids; she moved to a house in Queens near Romollo’s. She watched over her two boys; she was determined to do whatever she could to help. When she moved the family to Baltimore, she put Oscar through medical school and Philip through law school.

Angela was amazing –feisty, strong, and strong-willed. She drank (bourbon Manhattans or chianti), she smoked (Larks), and she cared more about people than anyone I have ever known.

Angela used to wait in the alley in her housecoat during Christmas to tip the garbage men. Homeless guys would come to the back door; she’d make them a sandwich, and then pay them to do yard work. All this from a woman who was invited to John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and had U.S. Senators sending her Christmas cards. Mayors and governors would stop by the house during holidays.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey

One day she was in the hospital for a surgery when Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President of the United States called. They were friends. The nurse handed the phone to Angela, but she thought it was her son, Philip, playing a joke. So she hung up, saying she wasn’t in the mood for any of his “crap.”

A few moments later the phone rang again. The nurse told Angela it was the Vice President. Again. She took the call.

Angela would cuss on occasion. I remember one night she took us kids to a restaurant, and she told the Baltimore City Comptroller, Hyman Pressman, that he was “full of shit” after he recited an impromptu poem about my sister. Everyone laughed, including Hyman, who knew my grandmother well, and loved her.

The politicians admired Angela because she was honest, uncompromising; she couldn’t be bought or influenced. She fought for what she believed in. She was a champion to the workers she represented; people who were really struggling to make ends meet.

angelajackieOAngela was modest, in every sense of the word. She never bragged about her accomplishments. She lived in a modest house. She didn’t wear diamonds or fancy jewelry. Oscar once bought her a fur coat; she didn’t feel comfortable wearing it, because she thought it would be hypocritical to be fighting for the causes of working people while waltzing around in a mink coat.

My family lived with Angela from the time I was born until I was six. I lived with Angela again when I was in my late teens. I used to do her shopping. I’d drive (in the used American Motors Rambler she bought me) to a little store behind the Lexington Market in downtown Baltimore called DiMarco’s. They used to sell Italian meats, cheeses and wines.

I used to buy her Chianti – in the small straw bottles — that didn’t cost more than two or three dollars. Angela and I would have dinner, we’d have a glass of Chianti, and she’d tell me stories about her life. I was fascinated. Crazy how some kids get so attached to their grandparents. I was really attached to Angela.

One night Oscar, her first son, walked in with a suitcase and a case of wine. He told us he had just left his wife. I guess Oscar’s wife wasn’t too happy about it, because the reason he brought the case of wine was because he didn’t want her pouring his ridiculously expensive vino down the sink after he left.

Oscar moved in. The two of us shared my bedroom in Angela’s basement.

Angela and I were having dinner one night when Oscar told us he was going out. He left, and we finished our dinner and our glass of Chianti. When she asked me for another glass, I told her there was no more.

Oscar, Angela, Philip

She asked about Oscar’s wine. I told Angela that all we had was Oscar’s special wine. She looked at me and said.

“Who more special than we?”

Angela told me to go get a bottle. So I pulled a bottle from Oscar’s case, and poured us each a glass. Angela took a sip and started laughing. The wine was that incredible.

After we finished our glass of wine, she wanted to go to sleep. I asked her what to do with the wine. She said to stick a cork in it and put it in the fridge, just like we did with the Chianti. I did, and then went to bed.

A little after midnight, I woke up when I heard Oscar yelling my name.   He came into the basement bedroom. He wasn’t too happy about finding his fine wine in the fridge with a cork jammed in it. I told him the story. When I got to the “Who more special than we?” part, he started laughing.

Oscar then gave me my first lesson in wine, one of many to come. He explained to me that the bottle I had opened was a 1954 Chateau Mouton Rothschild cabernet. The labels were drawn by famous artists –Salvador Dali, Picasso, and Miro. When he told me the bottle of wine was worth three hundred dollars, I was amazed. It was the early 1970s. At that time, three hundred dollars could buy a car. And a house. With a pool. And a wine cellar.


We called Angela “Nanny”, which is a screwed up version of “nonni”, which is what most Italian kids call their grandmothers. Angela didn’t seem to love cooking, and who could blame her? She worked long hours, was frequently out of town. We ate out a lot. She loved Chinese food; we used to go to a place on Charles Street in Baltimore called Jimmy Wu’s. She ate lunch almost every workday at a place called Oyster Bay in downtown Baltimore, right around the corner from her office. Pete was her waiter. Angela loved steak tartare, and French onion soup.

When Angela cooked, she had a rotation of three dishes for our big Sunday Italian dinners. She almost always made breaded cutlets (veal or chicken) with each dish.

Pasta piselli was a spaghetti dish she made with peas and onions. She also made the classic Italian meat sauce—sausages, meatballs, and pork in a tomato sauce that cooked all day long. And she made an Italian chicken stew, which I recently tried to recreate with the few remaining brain cells that I have left. The stew was delizioso!

Angela was a champion of the underdog, of the neglected.

Most chicken recipes call for chicken breasts. I love chicken breasts. I’m a big fan. Yes, breasts are sexy. A lot of attention gets paid to breasts, and rightfully so. But what about the much overlooked chicken thigh?

It’s an underdog. It’s neglected. It needs someone to champion its cause. If Angela were alive today, she’d be singing the praises of the dark meat, fighting for its rightful place in the culinary catalogue.

So in Angela’s chicken stew, I use chicken thighs.

I admire the thigh. It’s juicy. It starts at the knee and goes all the way up to the hip–which is really close to some sexy stuff. I think thighs are sexy. And I’m bringing sexy back.


When you brown your pancetta pieces, or your chicken thighs, you want the heat high enough to make them brown, but not so high that they burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Dutch ovens work well for a dish like this. Stoves vary in temperature—on my stove at Slim’s Shady Trailer Park, the temperature varies FROM BURNER TO BURNER! It’s enough to drive you crazy.

Well, I was a little crazy to begin with.

Angela liked to drink sweet vermouth. Not all day, every day. She’d have the occasional Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth on the rocks, sometimes with bourbon and a maraschino cherry—a bourbon Manhattan.

In this recipe, I was going to add some sweet vermouth, but I didn’t have any. I used a medium sherry instead. It added a real nice flavor.

If you don’t like peas, you can substitute asparagus tips. If you’re using frozen green peas, measure out a cup and a half and let them sit. You don’t have to defrost them. By the time they’re ready to go in the stew, they’ll be defrosted.

Finally, when I was at the grocery store, I was waiting in line to buy a whole piece of pancetta, which I was going to chop into small pieces for this stew. But the line at the deli was real long, so I picked up a package of Boar’s Head pancetta, four ounces, thinly sliced. I chopped it up into smaller pieces, and it came to about 1 ¼ cups.

It browned really well, and got deliciously flaky and crisp. I’ll probably use it again in the future. It was delizioso!

When working with raw chicken, wash your cutting boards, your knives, your hands.

Serves six adults, or maybe two teenage boys.


2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless, skinless (6 thighs)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

4 ounces pancetta cut in small pieces (1 ¼ cups)

1 cup each—chopped onions and celery

1 ½ cups chopped carrots

Celery tops—those leafy green things? Save 4 or 5 leaves!

3 cloves minced garlic (about 1 tablespoon)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup white wine

4 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons of flour

4 small red potatoes, skin on, cut into pieces about the size of a ping-pong ball (you’ll need about 2 ½ cups)

2 tablespoons medium sherry (or sweet vermouth, or sweet marsala)

1 ½ cups green peas (fresh are best, frozen are OK)

Extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Here we go…

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper both sides, I use kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Rub it in. Rub-a-dub-dub.

Heat a large pot, like a Dutch oven, over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Add the pancetta, let it cook for 4 minutes, or until brown. Try and turn the pancetta over and let the other side brown for 4 more minutes or so. The objective here is to try and get all sides of the pancetta pieces golden brown.

When the pancetta has browned, remove with a slotted spoon to a small bowl.

There should be some drippings in the bottom of the pot/Dutch oven. We need just enough to coat the bottom of the pan—about 1 tablespoon.

If there is not enough, add a drizzle of olive oil until there is. If there’s too much oil, the chicken won’t brown. If there’s too little oil, the chicken will stick to the bottom of the pot. You’re smart. You can do this.

Turn the heat to medium-high for 1 minute.

Add chicken and let it brown for 5 minutes. Don’t move it around! Let it brown.

When it’s brown, use some tongs and turn each piece over. Let them brown on the other side for 5 minutes, until golden.

The chicken is gonna cook in the stew for another 40 minutes. We don’t want to cook it all the way. We just want the outsides to be seared brown.

Remove the chicken thighs to a platter, and let ‘em cool, baby.

Turn the heat down to medium. There should be enough juicy stuff in the bottom of the pan. We’ll need about 2 tablespoons. If there’s not enough liquid/oil in the bottom of the pan, add a little olive oil.

Add the onion, celery–the chopped celery and the tops, carrots, garlic and oregano to the pot. Cook the vegetables for 5-6 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Stir frequently.

Put the heat on high. Add the cup of white wine. When it starts to bubble, let it cook off for 1 minute.

Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the chicken broth, and turn the heat to high.

Whisk in the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it’s smooth and all the lumps are gone. When all 3 tablespoons have been whisked in, and it’s all smoovy-smoov…

Add the potatoes. When the broth comes to a boil, let the potatoes cook for 3 minutes, while boiling.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the 2 tablespoons of sherry or sweet vermouth.

Cook for 15 minutes.

The chicken should be cool by now. Cut each chicken thigh into smaller pieces, about the size of a small egg.

Put the chicken in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes.

Don’t stir! This is a stew. Let it sit and stew for a while. You keep stirring this thing and potatoes are gonna break up, and chicken is gonna break down.

After 20 minutes, give it a stir. Then cook for another 20 minutes.

Add the peas and the cooked pancetta. Cook for 10 minutes.

Scrape the sides of the pot, right above the stew-line. Scrape it right into the stew, this is some flavorful stuff! Give the stew a gentle stir, taste for salt and pepper and adjust.

Stab a potato with a folk—it should be tender. Take a bite of the chicken—it should be firm and just a bit flaky—like me.

Dish it up, and…



Slim Man Cooks Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Linguine White Clam Sauce with Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

This dish was one of my uncle Oscar’s favorites. He loved to cook this sauce, and his version was about as good as it gets.

A few years ago, I was having brunch with Unc. He lived in a big house in this great section of Baltimore, Maryland, called Guilford.

As we were sitting on the outdoor patio, drinking Bloody Marys that sunny Sunday afternoon, I commented on the watch he was wearing. It was a Movado, the one with the plain black face and the big diamond at the top of the dial, where the “12” usually is. It was one good-looking watch, and I said so.

He took it off his wrist and said, “I want you to have it.” He gave it to me.

I told him that I didn’t want it. Unc insisted. I resisted. This went back and forth for a few minutes, then he screamed, “Take the fuckin’ watch!”

Oscar cursed a lot. So did my Dad, his brother. Funny, it never sounded really vulgar coming from them. Just seemed kind of natural. They were tough guys, but well-educated and eloquent. They used the “F” word a lot.

I took the fucking watch. You don’t say no to a guy like Unc — it could be lethal. I put it on my wrist. Wow. That was one beautiful watch. I figured I’d take the watch and give it back to Oscar the next day, after the Bloody Marys had worn off. It was way too expensive a watch to keep.

I had a date that night – a girl I’d had my eye on for quite some time. She worked in a club where my band played, and, for what seemed like years, I’d wanted to ask her out. I had a big crush. I finally got up the nerve to ask her out. I did. She said yes.

And I had a new watch to wear on that first date.

I wasn’t trying to impress her with the watch. Any woman who is impressed by a watch isn’t the kind of woman who’d want to hang around a guy like me.

What I was hoping would be impressive was the fact that my uncle had given me the watch off his wrist.

I took this girl to my friend’s restaurant — an elegant fine-dining place with a grand piano and a small dance floor. They had a guy who played piano and sang Sinatra, and you could wine, dine, and dance, Rat Pack style.

The food was great, Italian stuff. The bar was cool. The lighting, the decor, the ambiance was really kinda sexy. My uncle Oscar used to go there. So did a lot of successful Baltimore Italian guys who looked like they were in the Mafia.

And maybe they were.

The waitresses – dressed in black bowties, white shirts, and black vests – would stand inconspicuously in the shadows, hands clasped behind their backs, keeping their eyes on the room. All someone had to do was make a hand gesture, and a waitress would be bounding across the room like an Olympic gymnast doing the floor routine.

If you got up to go to the bathroom, or have a dance, when you came back, your napkin would be miraculously folded into some kind of Origami sculpture. That’s the kind of place it was.

My date and I sat down at the bar and ordered drinks. We clinked glasses, she saw the watch and said, “That’s a great watch.” I thanked her, and then told her the story about Unc giving me the watch off his wrist.

She seemed more impressed by the watch, than by the fact that Oscar gave it to me right off his wrist.

Then I asked her what her favorite band was. She didn’t hesitate, “Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.”

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap? I knew who they were. I remembered their song, “Young Girl”, whose first line is “Young Girl, get out of my mind, my love for you is way out of line” which is a line that if sung today, might get you thrown in jail, let alone be a big hit.

I had an Ex who hated the word “hate.” She’d say “least favorite” instead. She turned out to be my least favorite Ex.

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap are one of my least favorite bands. I mean, think of all the bands in the world – Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Stones, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, U2, Nirvana, the Who, Queen, Pink Floyd, The Supremes, The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, the Ohio Players, Funkadelic–and you’re going with Gary Puckett and the Union Gap?

That’s what was going through my mind as I sat there at the bar having a drink with this gorgeous girl who I had such a crush on.

“What time is it?” she asked.

I smiled and looked down at my watch with the big diamond and told her.

She asked me again about five minutes later. I told her. Five minutes later, same thing. It was kind of cute, the first 20 or 30 times she asked me what time it was.

I was kinda glad when we finally sat down for dinner. She asked me what time it was. Again. I smiled and looked down at my watch. The glass that covered the face was gone. The two hands were gone—the big one and the little one. The black face with the big diamond was gone. I was staring at a bunch of gears…that weren’t moving.

I took the broken watch off my wrist and said, “Let’s not worry about time. Let’s just enjoy this moment.” I put what was left of the watch in my jacket pocket.

When my date excused herself to go to the bathroom, I dove underneath the table. The waitresses came bounding over, thinking I was having a seizure, or choking to death.

When I told them what happened, they helped me look. There were more lighters underneath that table than during a slow song at an Elton John concert.

One of the waitresses alerted us that my date was on her way back from the bathroom, and they jumped back into position, and I got out from under the table.

The rest of the evening was nice if uneventful, except that every time my date would go to the bathroom, everyone from the busboys to the hostess was looking on the floor for the missing pieces of my watch.

We had dinner, had a drink and a dance, and then I took her home.

We never went out again. I mean, she was a nice person, kind of sweet and funny. And gorgeous.

I hate to admit it, but the Gary Puckett and the Union Gap thing bothered me.

After I dropped her off, I went back to the restaurant. Nobody had found anything. I pulled the broken watch out of my jacket pocket and looked at it again. No glass. No hands. No face. No huge diamond.

I wasn’t looking forward to telling my Uncle about the watch. He was a very understanding man, but he also had a temper. One time, Oscar got pissed off at his uncle, who had accused Oscar–who was a doctor–of not taking such great medical care of his wife. Oscar threw a glass at the guy.

Lucky he missed. He hit the coffee table instead. Unc threw the glass so hard, that years later, when I was having the table refinished, the shards were so deeply embedded in the table top, that they couldn’t even sand them out.

And I was thinking about that glass when I called Oscar that morning. I told Unc that I had broken the incredibly expensive diamond Movado watch he’d so generously given me.

He started laughing. Really hard.

Then he told me that he’d bought the watch on the streets of New York City for 10 bucks.


There’s nothing like a little linguine with white clam sauce after your uncle has just played a huge joke on you.

Use the smallest clams you can find. Oscar sometimes used vongole veraci, tiny little clams from Italy the size of a thumbnail.

I used wild Manila clams, about the size of a quarter. A few months ago, I did a show at a club called Spaghettini in Seal Beach, California. My brother and his wife had come in from Arizona for the concert. The day after the show, my brother wanted me to cook some clam sauce, so I searched and found fresh Manila clams in a wild seafood store deep in the heart of Cambodia Town, a neighborhood a few miles from Seal Beach. The clams were wild and fresh and looked and smelled wonderful.

Whatever clams you use, soak them in ice water for a few hours, or overnight. This is to get rid of the grit, to let the clams purge themselves of their sand. The smaller the clam, the less grit and sand.

Cleaning the clams can be a pain. But that’s one of the keys to this recipe – you have to clean your clams.  Pour the clams and the ice water they’ve been soaking in into a colander. Rinse them off and scrub each one with a vegetable brush. Repeat.

Whenever Oscar made clam sauce, he always mentioned the special ingredient my Mom had told him about. Oscar loved my Mom.

It was my Mom who suggested to Oscar that he put two anchovies in the sauce.

To some people eating anchovies is like eating a sweaty eyebrow.

But when you add two anchovies in the beginning of this sauce, and mash them up, it really lends a great flavor. Just don’t let anybody see you do it, and don’t tell anybody about it. Like my Dad used to say, “Nobody gets in trouble by keeping their mouth shut.”


6 dozen small clams, the smallest you can find

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons)

Crushed red pepper (I start off with ¼  teaspoon)

2 anchovies

1 cup clam juice

¼ cup white wine

2 dozen or so grape tomatoes, yellow or red or both, cut in half, seeds squeezed out

A handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (¼ cup)

Kosher salt

Here We Go…

Rinse the clams one final time in cold water.

Start your pasta water boiling on the highest heat.

Put the olive oil in a large pan. Put the heat on medium.

Add the crushed red pepper and the sliced garlic, and cook until the garlic is pale gold, a few minutes.   Don’t burn the garlic!

Add the anchovies and mash them with the back of a wooden spoon ‘til they disintegrate.

Add the clam juice and the white wine. Turn the heat on high.

When the sauce comes to a boil, reduce it for a minute or so. Turn the heat to medium-low.

Add the clams to the sauce.

Then add the tomatoes and the parsley. Stir. Cover.

After a couple of minutes, take the cover off, stir, put the cover back on.

When the clams open up, the sauce is done.

Throw out any unopened clams. This is important. Unopened clams are bad clams. No bad clams!

When your pasta water has boiled, toss in a few tablespoons of kosher salt, and add a pound of linguine. Cook according to the instructions on the box. Two minutes before it’s supposed to be ready, check the pasta. Take a piece, and bite through it. If it’s chalky in the center it’s not done. Check every 2 minutes, until the pasta is not chalky or chewy. The pasta might take longer than the instructions.

When the pasta is al dente (firm to the bite), drain and add it to the sauce. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and toss. Add about half of the clam sauce to the pasta and toss gently.

Dish it up! Put a small amount of pasta—about a handful—on a plate, and top off with a ladle of the clam sauce. Garnish with parsley, and serve it up.



Slim Man Cooks Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese with Naked Old People

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

A few years ago, I did a New Year’s Eve gig in Austria. It was organized by Michael van Droff. Michael and his business partner, Christian Chaleat, run a record company in Germany called Wave Music. They’ve used a lot of my songs on their compilation CDs.

Michael, Christian and I have become great friends over the years.

Michael asked me to do a New Year’s Eve gig at a mountaintop resort outside of Salzburg. It’s called Hotel Vollererhof, and it is one wonderful place. There is a small hut in the woods behind the hotel where they have parties. I was scheduled to do a New Year’s Eve concert in the party hut. I flew in a couple of days before and left a couple days after.

Michael drove from Germany with his very pregnant wife, Daniela. Christian drove in with his French wife, Fleur, and their infant son, Petite Louis. We all stayed in a private villa next to the hotel. The villa was unbelievable – too many bedrooms, each with its own fireplace, bath and balcony, overlooking the Alps. The floors were marble. All the fixtures were brass. The rooms were huge.

It was luxurious and the views were breath-taking. They treated us like rock stars, brought us special desserts–the kind where they use blow torches and pyrotechnics to create impressive, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping sweets. Incredible.

The hotel was also incredible. They had an indoor-outdoor saltwater pool. You started swimming inside, and you could dive down and swim through a tunnel to the outdoor side. When you surfaced, the pool was steaming, and surrounded by a few feet of snow. I’d get out of the pool, jump in the snow, and jump back into the warm salt water.

The hotel also had a salt cave, a eucalyptus shower room, a steam room, and a sauna. And everybody went in naked. Men and women, naked together – no clothes. When you hear “Men and women, naked together” you get visions of Playboy Bunnies and rock stars, and you think, “Wow. That’s sexy.”

But in reality, this hotel is what is known as a “Wellness” hotel in Europe. It’s a place where people of a certain age go to eat healthy food, and do healthy things, and get lots of sleep and rest and relaxation.

All I can say is this, when you see a 90 year-old woman naked in a sauna, it makes you think. And those thoughts are, well, not sexy thoughts. And when you see a 90 year-old naked man, you want to kill yourself. I have nothing against 90 year-olds. Some of my best friends are nonagenarians. It just disturbed me to see them naked.

They should have a word for people who are afraid of being caught naked in public. Because whatever it’s called, that’s what I have. Noclothesaphobia. Nuderitis.   So whenever I went into the sauna or steamroom, I kept my towel around my waist, and my eyes at my feet.

Fleur, Christian and Petite Louis

Fleur, Christian and Petite Louis

One day we wanted to go sledding. The hotel had a huge tractor take us all to the top of the mountain, and we went back down the slopes on old wooden sleds. Everybody went – Christian and his wife Fleur, and their infant son, Petite Louis. Michael’s wife Daniela, pregnant as could be, even went down the slopes. It was an amazing sleigh ride — it felt like we had stepped back in time. Old wooden sleds going down the ancient Alps.

One frigid afternoon, we took a trip into the town of Salzburg and saw the house where Mozart was born; a small townhouse, painted yellow. Salzburg was freezing cold that day; we walked down narrow cobblestone streets and drank warm booze-spiked cider that we bought from street side stands.

People were having fun — Christmas had just been celebrated and it was the party week that happens right before New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Eve, we all had a quiet dinner in the hotel, and then walked through the woods in the snow to the small party hut.

I sang and played piano for the guests — about 50 folks. I’d seen some of these people naked in the spa; and it was a bit unsettling looking at them while I sang and played.

Nobody threw anything at me, and nobody died, so I’m calling it a success.

Michael and Daniela

Michael and Daniela

After I finished my set, Michael van Droff came on, and started spinning records. Most of the old folks had gone to bed.

The only people left were The Villa Crew (Daniela, Christian and Fleur) and the help — waitresses, waiters, and busboys — and we had a blast. The young Germans and Austrians know how to party. We danced until the sun came up.

And then, we all went back to the Killa Villa and I cooked in the incredible kitchen. What did I cook? Well, the Germans and Austrians have a thing for pasta Bolognese. You see it on the menus in all the restaurants. It’s everywhere. So the first thing I cooked, on the first day of the New Year? Pasta Bolognese. Happy New Year!


My Dad sent me a newspaper interview with a restaurant owner in New York. The guy told the story about his Bolognese sauce; it was an old family recipe, and he served it at his restaurant, but didn’t have it on the menu.

He didn’t put it on the menu because the recipe was all wrong. There was too much red wine; there were too many tomatoes. He was afraid that critics might beat him up over it. So he left it off the menu. But people LOVED it.

I tried to recreate the recipe from the article. I’ve cooked this recipe dozens of times. I tried using less red wine, and fewer tomatoes, but it wasn’t as good. A couple weeks ago, I made two batches, one with the normal amount of wine and tomatoes, and one with half the amount.

I had my family and friends taste both batches, blind taste-tests. The sauce with more wine and more tomatoes won. Hands down. Even though it’s all wrong, according to the experts.

Here is the recipe, with lots of wine and tomatoes. You can cut the wine and tomato amounts in half, if you like.

You’ll need to smoosh your tomatoes first. Open the cans of Italian tomatoes and put them in a large bowl. Roll up your shirtsleeves, and start smooshing and squeezing them by hand, one by one. Remove the bitter yellow core in the center. Remove any skin — they should already have the skin removed, but sometimes there is a little left over.

Finally, I used imported Italian pancetta, and it was really good, not a lot of fat, and had beautiful color. You can use Boar’s Head, or a similar brand of American pancetta, if you can’t find imported pancetta.

In the video, I use a little more butter than I do now. These days, I need to stay…Slim.


½ pound of pancetta, chopped into small cubes, excess fat removed

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup each–chopped onions, celery, carrots

3 cloves garlic, minced, about 2 large tablespoons

½ cup dry white wine

1 pound of ground beef

1 small can (6 ounces) tomato paste

2 cups dry red wine

2 twenty-eight ounce cans of whole, peeled Italian tomatoes (about 7 cups), San Marzano are best

4 cups stock (I use organic beef stock)

1 pound pasta (I use rigatoni)

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

Here we go…

Put a large pot — a Dutch oven or similar — over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Add the pancetta and let it brown for about 4 or 5 minutes.

Give it a stir and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes. Think of pancetta as bacon—you wanna try and cook it one side until it’s a little crispy, and then flip it over, and cook it on the other side.

When the pancetta has browned, drain off most of the fat, if there is any.

Add the butter and olive oil, heat until the butter melts.

Add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic.

Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the white wine, and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Stir occasionally.

Add the ground beef. Break it up with a spoon. Add a little salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Think of the ground beef as a hamburger. Cook it on one side until it’s golden brown, about 5 minutes, then stir it up and cook it for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste.

Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should look like Sloppy Joes. Italian Sloppy Joes.

Add the red white wine and let it reduce for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the tomatoes including all their juices.

Add the stock, and turn up the heat to high.

When the tomatoes and stock come to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 to 3 HOURS!

Stir occasionally.

When done, skim off the fat, if there is any.

Let’s cook our pasta.

Put some cold water in a large pot over high heat.

When it boils, add a couple tablespoons of kosher salt.

Add the pasta and follow the directions on the box. Two minutes before it’s supposed to be done, start checking the pasta. Grab a piece and bite through it. If it’s chalky in the center, it is not done. Keep checking the pasta every 2 minutes until it is not chalky or chewy. It might take longer than the instructions say.

When the pasta is al dente (firm to the bite), drain it in a colander and transfer to a warm bowl.

Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and stir.

Add some sauce, three or four ladles, and mix it up.

Dish it up! Add a dollop of sauce on top of each plate, and then, if you want, add some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and…